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At The Happy Starfish we are dedicated to providing a wealth of information, products, workshops and articles all aimed at celebrating health, happiness and peaceful living. We believe that life should be an awesome adventure filled with love; love life and life will love you back. Are you willing to surrender what you think you are for what you could become? Are you ready?

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Facing demons (last night I saw true courage)


“Confront the dark parts of yourself, and work to banish them with illumination and forgiveness. Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing.” August Wilson

Last night we began teaching the first week of our mindfulness programme for recovering addicts, on behalf of the wonderful local charity STAGES.

There was a lovely guy there who was literally on the first day of his journey to live an alcohol free life. He was seeking all the support he could, fiercely determined to succeed.

We regularly hear stories about bravery, passers-by intervening in muggings or rescuing a stranger from a fire, and these acts really do deserve commendation.

We mustn't forget however, that  one of the most courageous acts we can perform is facing our fears. When we confront the demons inside we strip away everything we think we are, everything we pretend to be. We see the things we try to hide from everyone, including ourselves. 

Eckhart Tolle says in The Power of Now, “Every addiction arises from an unconscious refusal to face and move through your own pain. Every addiction starts with pain and ends with pain. Whatever the substance you are addicted to — alcohol, food, legal or illegal drugs, or a person — you are using something or somebody to cover up your pain”.

To let go of coping strategies, crutches, we have put in place for evading difficulties, leaving ourselves open, exposed and vulnerable can feel like the most terrifying thing in the world. When you let go of what you’re not, you find out what you are, and self-awareness is the first step towards real self love and creating a meaningful existence.

Last night I may not have witnessed a crime or seen any burning buildings but I saw true courage and feel privileged to have done so.

Monday, 16 June 2014

A good day out and a dollop of judgment


'What other people think of me is none of my business.'
I had a lovely day out this weekend with friend. Although we have known each other for years we generally socialise at one another's houses, where my mobility restrictions are not an issue.
We drove up to the venue we were visiting and asked for directions to disabled parking. The attendant replied 'it's for people who are disabled'. Umm yes, that would be me, with my badge clearly on display on my dashboard which I showed him. He then tried to stick his head through the open window and aggresively enquired where my wheelchair was. After pointing out my crutches he reluctantly let us through the gate.
At the other end was a gentleman directing cars into spaces. I politely asked if we could park on the space at the end or on the row near the entrance. No, we were (impolitely) told to drive to the other side of the field when there were nearer spaces.
My friend, by now, was quite upset. 'Why is everyone so rude to you?' 
It's because many people make instant judgements. I don't look like they think a 'disabled' person should look. I am not old (enough), physically deformed, there is nothing glaringly obviously wrong with me when you look at me. I make people uncomfortable. They don't understand what they can't see and therefore make snap decisions, there is nothing wrong with me, I am probably just lazy wanting to park nearer. How dare I?
When we got out of the car and headed towards the entrance the same attendant was totally different. He became really friendly and apologetic. Is this because he could see my crutches then, my obvious discomfort, something tangible he could understand?
It was interesting to witness the reaction of my friend in various situations throughout the day. I don't generally notice the judgements of others any more. I am not sure whether it is through my mindfulness practice enabling to consciously see the judgements of others and not attach to them or whether I have had so many years now of peoples reactions I am just immune to them. I no longer let the actions of others dictate how my day goes. I can't choose what others think or say but I can choose the way I react and feel, and this with compassion, both towards them and myself.
We all, often subconsciously, make judgements, an event happens, a person acts and we immediately label it as good, bad, right, wrong, better or worse. My challenge to you is to try to notice your judgements over the next 24 hours and see if you can suspend them. Let things be exactly as they are without the need for labels. I would love to hear how you get on.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Exploring Acceptance

“The moment that judgement stops through acceptance of what it is, you are free of the mind. You have made room for love, for joy, for peace.” Eckhart Tolle

Yesterday evening we arrived at the lovely venue we work from to teach week 5 of our latest 8 week Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy Course.

Walking into our teaching area we realised there was an unknown lady already there talking to couple. We politely enquired how long she would be and realised there was a huge time overlap. We explained that we were about to set up for our weekly meditation group and asked her if she would please mind using a different room as the building was empty but this was the only room large enough to house our group. She refused to move ‘as she was there first, and had paid to be there.’ We had to call the manager who talked to her over the phone and explained that she was supposed to be in a room upstairs. The lady still, very unpleasantly, refused to move leaving my group now waiting in the corridor, and the manager feeling bad that something, totally beyond her control had happened in her extremely well run clinic.

We were left with the option of cancelling or squeezing into a small room. The room was hot and there was no space to lie down but the group remained upbeat and helped moving chairs etc around. When everyone was seated I was asked what the weekly theme was and we had to laugh when I told them it was acceptance of difficult situations and people. What could have marred the evening was actually a great starting point for a discussion.

There was a time when a situation like this would really have upset me, the lady’s attitude would instantly have cultivated automatic ruminative thoughts such as ‘Why is she being horrible to me? What have I done? How can I fix it?’

The truth is, in situations such as these, rarely are other people’s words or actions meant to hurt us personally. Many people have a default automatic reaction they call upon whenever they are feeling wronged or stressed. (Road rage is another good example of this).

We can never control the way other people react or treat us but what we can control is the way we feel about it. Do we dwell on unpleasant events going over them again and again, possibly envisaging different outcomes. ‘I wish I had of said/done………….’.

Through Mindfulness I have learned to change my negative, self limiting thought patterns. George Orwell once said “Happiness can exist only in acceptance”. I choose to be happy.