Love is the foundation of all belonging

Over the last few weeks I have been exploring the topic of belonging and what it means to belong, both to yourself and your community. As my project comes to an end, I wanted to reflect on what I have learnt and what I feel brings me into belonging with myself and my surroundings.

Always choose love

One thing I have learnt is to try to always choose love in a given scenario. Whether that’s seeing the bright side, picking out someone else’s best character traits or forgiving someone in order to move on, it creates a positive buzz of energy.

But we’re not superheros, there are days when you feel angry, hurt or upset and you can’t even think about looking for the love. It’s about balance and trying to choose love more often than anything else.

Make time for your feelings

It’s all too easy to bury our feelings and emotions deep into a pit inside us, without acknowledging that they are even there. I’ve realised that it is ok to recognise these feelings and let them air out in the open, then release them. It means we don’t have to bottle everything up inside us, until an inevitable meltdown.

Learn to say no

Just as it is important to say yes to new experiences, it is also vital to learn your limits and know when to say no to things. Sometimes it’s because you need to honour your own feelings, sometimes it’s because the people aren’t people you want to spend time with or maybe it’s because of the moon cycle. Learning to say no can be hard, especially if you’ve been used to pleasing people, but we need to learn it at some stage to preserve our own sanity.

Remain open to opportunities

Opportunities often present themselves in mysterious ways. Sometimes a bad day leads to a new contract, or a moment of sadness leads to a brilliant creation. By remaining open to opportunities and not closing off when we hit hard times, we allow the Universe to present us with exactly what we need to progress.

Belonging is a journey, it never really stops but we build up a stronger sense of belonging through love, self-care and being open-minded.

Love and belonging Brene Brown

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Practise acceptance to free yourself

My task to myself last week was to see how thick my skin was by practising not taking things so personally. Well the Universe certainly tested me!

I had accusations at work, leaving me feeling defensive and vulnerable, I had to deal with criticism and feedback from a few people in my network and also obstacles in my personal life. I did grow a thicker skin as a result. At the start of the week, hit full force by work, I felt humiliated and unsure but as the week progressed, I started to put things into perspective and mentally filed them into a box of ‘Things not to take personally’. By the end of the week I could laugh at myself and brush off remarks more easily.

Nobody is perfect and it can be hard to deal with things like this when you are a naturally sensitive person. I’m not trying to get rid of that, just learn to deal with it better. I still have emotions, I still respond to things with feeling, but only to things that matter to me. I am conserving my emotional supply if you like.

As a result of my week, I ended up reading some articles around acceptance of self and others and came across a blog post from Gabby Bernstein about the importance of accepting others in order to free yourself. This idea appeals to me a lot, that you don’t have to hold onto people who don’t serve you, but to be free from pain, you must first accept them.

GB Acceptance Quote

It led me to have this as my focus for this coming week. To evaluate my network of people and relationships and chart out who adds to my life and who doesn’t. Those who don’t will be drawn up to the limelight, seen for who they really are, then let go to serve someone else.

It’s a freeing and liberating task and I’m hoping to come away with a clearer sense of my tribe and also an overall sense of acceptance for myself, my work in this world and for the people who give me energy to do that.

Accept and let go

Now seems like a good time to be doing this, to be cleansing out and focusing on manifesting what I want in the future.  I have never been so aware of my energies and I am becoming increasingly interested in how my energy changes depending on who I am with or where I am.

It’s time to free up that energy to pursue my own dreams with only those I choose to be in my life.

 

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Working out the thickness of your skin

Last week was all about senses and trying to pay more attention to small things in order to maintain a sense of calm and control. I have to say it was something I found hard, as it was a particularly challenging week for my emotions.

For various reasons, I had to deal with sadness, anger, worry and grief and it all came within a few days so my stress levels were high.

I took lots of moments to breathe, to listen to music loudly and to notice the small things, like how the thistles disperse their seeds and the sound of grasshoppers in the sunshine. But there were also times where I needed that release. To cry, to be angry and then to be quiet again.

I would say that I am a fairly forgiving person but some things in life get to us, they go against our values. For me, one of those things is getting let down by people I consider friends. Those last minute cancellations, poor excuses or just finding other plans. Perhaps, I should ask are they really friends? Do I belong within their realm? But it also leads to another interesting point around not being overly sensitive, and trying to make a distinction between things that are personal and things that affect you but are not personal.

I have a sensitive nature, which means I am affected by the emotions of others around me and I tend to take things to heart. It’s one of the reasons I have found it hard to deal with constructive criticism in the workplace because, to me, it feels like a personal criticism. I’m getting better at this as time goes on but it’s something I wanted to cover in the subject of belonging because it involves partly detaching yourself from yourself in order to deal with such things.

To receive and process a criticism, you must first detach it from your personal self and put out a barrier in which to openly receive it. Barriers in this case are not blockers but more receptacles. This protective barrier makes the criticism less personal and allows you to see it from a distance for what it really is. Barriers come in different forms, they could be words, like ‘That is your opinion’, or it could be the way you receive the comments, by email or in person.

A lot of our perceptions come from the way we interpret information. Like seeing a post on Facebook of your friend having fun with another girl friend and then assuming they don’t like you as much because they didn’t invite you. Or it could be thinking your boss doesn’t think much of your work because they haven’t acknowledged it. When actually it turns out your friend saw this other girl once a year and they knew each from school, or your boss has been swamped in emails and hasn’t had chance to look at your work. We are quick to judge and slow to forgive.

So this week, thinking about perceptions, criticism and protective barriers, I am going to focus on ‘thickening my skin’. Basically, trying to let things wash over me rather than soaking under the surface and causing me to overthink things.

Some people say the best way to do this is to do more, so you don’t have time to think. However, I know that I can’t be busy 24/7 and that I need some downtime, so instead I want to receive remarks, give them space to air and then practice letting them go.

Having a protective layer around you is important but it needs to be thick enough to let things wash off. We don’t have the mental capacity to always be dealing with a stream of emotions.

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Engaging all five senses

Last week was all about switching off from tasks and letting my heart lead with things I wanted to do, rather than things I had to do. The best bit was that when I looked at my to-do list, I realised that most of the things on there weren’t urgent, they could wait a few weeks.

I put a lot of pressure on myself to get things done as soon as I can. It’s one of the reasons I admire my partner because he’s very good at doing things when he can, rather than right this minute. He’s a bit more chilled about that and, when things aren’t urgent, I’m definitely getting better at prioritising.

So where did my week lead me? I got up and did things that I’ve been meaning to do for a while, like plant out some seeds, wash my car, get in touch with old friends and arrange meet ups. It gave me space in my business to be creative and to make a start on my growth plan, which left me feeling more in control.

The funny thing was that there were moments in the week where I felt lost and not sure what to do with myself. That time of being bored, of being at a loss of what to do, were the times I needed. Instead of checking the list and going flying off to do something else, I simply sat and stared, or went out for a walk, or danced around the living room or read my book. It was very refreshing.

Looking up at the trees

It led me to think about the senses and how simple things like smelling roses, walking barefoot on the sand, watching a sunset, listening to music or having a delicious meal can all give us a lot of pleasure.

In an age when we do tend to rush around, engaging the five senses can bring us back down to Earth and re-centre us. The simple things are often the best.

So this week, I’m focusing in on my five senses and using them to calm down, refresh and connect in a deeper way to the things around me. Whether that’s simply listening to the sound of birdsong before leaving the house in the morning, or smelling a freshly brewed tea before I drink it, just taking extra time to connect.

It is very connected to mindfulness and slow living and all the other buzz words we have going around but, at the root of it, it’s just about using our senses in whatever way we can as much as we can.

Magic things and senses

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Not everything is a task

This week I was using an app called Let’s Meditate to practice meditation every day. At first I started with just 5 minutes and through the week build it up to 15 minutes. I didn’t know what to make of it, so I kept an open mind, but I did really enjoy it.

Meditation brings a lot of benefit and adds a focus to your day. I found I liked to do mine before work in the morning but at weekends, I preferred to do it in the afternoon. It can be hard to take those 5, 10 minutes to just breathe and focus, particularly if you share the house with someone and you’re conscious they may disturb your peace, but I quickly learnt to relax. So much so, that even 15 minutes seemed too short by the time Sunday rolled around.

It also taught me something more about myself. That everything I do tends to end up on my to-do list, regardless of whether it’s something I enjoy or not. So cleaning the bathroom goes alongside reading my book, and writing my blog can be found on the same list as sorting out my business budget.

During this week – finding time to meditate – it occurred to me that this too was a form of task in my head, and I tried to schedule it in. There are arguments for and against this way of doing things. On the one hand, adding the nice things to your to-do list add variety and can be a good reminder. On the other hand, it can end up adding to your overall sense of overwhelm, or you start to resent certain things.

I am a great believer in balance and everything in moderation but I have also realised that parts of my life which were once spontaneous or heart-driven, have become task-orientated. It means I have left myself hardly any time to be bored, to explore and to adventure. There are some days where I wake up and just feel my way through the day, deciding what to do next based on what my heart tells me, and other days where I am so focused on knocking 10 tasks off my list that I forget everything else.

So this week, I am giving myself permission to wipe clean my to-do list. Things will get done because either they need to be, I remember them or I want to do them. No lists. I want to explore how my mind works when it is free of tasks, what it prioritises and what it doesn’t. It is an exercise in self-exploration and freedom. It is about being present, being right here, right now doing what you’re doing.

Live in the moment

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Your body will thank you for rest

Last week I was focusing on rest. On trying to honour what my body needed at this time. It was another gorgeous, sunny week and so I was determined to be out in it, enjoying the summer weather.

I had a growing to do list that included things like finishing reading books, weeding the garden and cleaning the house. The sort of jobs that you don’t always prioritise during the week.

As most of my rest time came at the weekend, I made a promise to myself to do nothing, plan nothing and commit to nothing for Saturday and Sunday. This meant I woke up on Saturday with a full, clear day ahead. At first, I felt a little uneasy with it and started searching for things to do nearby, not used to this sudden freedom. Then I decided to run with it, tune in to what I needed to do for me.

Which is how I ended up taking a picnic to a nearby woodland, doing yoga in a clearing, then sitting and reading my book in the sun. It’s how I ended up weeding my garden and watering my plants. And, it’s how I ended up cleaning the whole house before relaxing on the sofa with a bunch of magazines.

Picnic at Evenley Wood Garden

Picnic in the woods

It’s also the way I led myself into Sunday. Waking up and listening to the birds, taking a stroll in the morning sunshine, completing a craft project and clearing my desk of odd jobs ready for the week ahead.

Instead of feeling exhausted or drained from doing so much, I felt alive and energised. I’d done what my body needed and wanted. I’d fed my mind, body and soul with rich, meaningful activities that give so much back.

I love having plans, and there’s nothing wrong with having them, but this week has taught me that just being with yourself holds so much value and that you don’t always need to be doing things to feel at peace.

It sometimes takes time to relax into just being. But the more you practice, the easier it becomes and I have now earmarked days in my calendar with a note saying ‘Enjoy nothingness’, as a reminder to myself to not plan anything in and just go with the flow.

On the theme of energy, and having recently read a lot about meditation, I want to focus this week on strengthening myself through meditation. It has been shown through studies how beneficial it can be for memory, anxiety and general wellbeing, and there are many apps out there to guide you through it (I’m using a free one called Let’s Meditate, but there are so many to choose from). I’m going to start with 10 minutes of meditation and see if I feel able to build it up throughout the week and the months ahead.

Whilst the sun continues to shine, it’s also a good excuse to sit outside for a while and meditate amongst nature, to feel a part of something bigger and to absorb the sounds, smells and feel of that which surrounds you.

To the mind that is still

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Listen carefully to learn more

Belonging is defined in the dictionary as “an affinity for a place or situation”. An affinity is defined as “a natural liking for and understanding of someone or something”. Belonging, then, is a natural liking and understanding of some place or some person. That’s why we use phrases like ‘feeling at home’ and ‘being amongst friends’.

We have a gut feeling about a place or person that determines our natural liking towards them, perhaps also influenced by things we have heard about them prior to our experience, but mostly just an instant reaction. It’s why we ‘click’ with certain people and not with others and it is also why some places feel just right, whilst others leave us feeling unsettled.

I have found that in this past week, whilst trying to understand my shadows, that I also unearthed this understanding of gut feeling and how it relates to our sense of belonging. It has been a busy week for me, so I haven’t had as much time to stop and stare as I would have liked, but in those quiet moments I have been aware of this stirring sensation. It’s like something grinding away inside me that I don’t notice until I am still. To me, it is a sign that I am doing too much.

Our bodies have ways of telling us to slow down, to stop and relax, but we have become so good at ignoring them. However, I have decided that to move forward and explore my potential and grow my business, I must first step back. I heard a nice analogy for this the other day about a bow and arrow. To shoot the arrow, you must first draw it back on the bow.

This week is going to be about prioritising plans and not being afraid to cancel things if I don’t feel they serve me. It’s going to be about spending my evening in the garden, rather than in front of a screen, or reading my book instead of going out to a show. It’s about saying to yourself, “I am important. I am worthy. I am my own priority.”

You have to put yourself first because if you don’t slow down, your body will find a way to do it for you.

Here’s to a restful week ahead, full of things that bring joy and fill the heart with happiness.

Calm water sunset

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