Making space

Where I live in Lymm I can see the moorland fire on Winter Hill in the distance. For over a week now the smoke has been visible daily. I’ve watched it edge towards me, starting by coming from behind the summit and then slowly working its way over and down the south side.

Depending on the wind direction, sometimes it has appeared that the fires have gone out – no smoke is visible. Other times I can see it being blown in one direction or another, and when the wind is coming from the north it simply hides the hill in a haze.

But all the while the heat is there. Even when it appears to have gone out completely I know that the peat is still smouldering, holding all that heat in, waiting for the air to begin moving again. Once it does, the flames leap into life once more and resume their destructive work.

What I cannot see, yet know will be happening, is the process of renewal beginning on the far side of the hill. Where the flames have been and gone there will be millions of seeds lying on the surface, waiting for the rain to quicken them. When it comes they will put roots down deep into the fertile soil that has been enriched by the fires and begin the process of growing something fresh and new.

This strikes me as a good way of looking at counselling. The visible smoke is like the feelings that cause us discomfort and uncertainty, make us feel low or angry or upset. The feelings themselves aren’t the cause, they are only the manifestation of what is going on beneath the surface.

Sometimes during counselling, it can feel like we are losing something, and we’ll fight to hold onto whatever it is because it is familiar. It’s a part of us, and it can be very difficult to let parts of us go even when those parts are causing us pain. But by allowing the process to unfold, by seeing it as a necessary part of our evolution, we can allow those things that no longer serve us to pass away. They have done their job; their purpose is fulfilled.

We have made the space inside to create something new, something that will serve us better now than the old things ever could, something that we need going forward. We feel happier because we’re not dragging the old, outdated stuff around anymore, and stronger because we had the courage to face the smoke and flames.

Posted by Steve in blog

What does “Spirituality” refer to?

“Spirituality” is a word that has a lot of associations these days. It can relate to traditional religions, new age practices, eastern traditions such as Buddhism and a hundred other things.

When I use the word, I don’t preclude any of the above, but I mean it in a more general sense. Spirituality for me really means how we are living our lives. Are we living in such a way that we feel good about ourselves?

Every one of us is unique – we all have our own dreams, desires, needs and wants, strengths and weaknesses, areas in life that are good and others that are challenging. The trouble is that the society we live in doesn’t really value our uniqueness. It isn’t set up in a way that encourages it. Instead it asks us to conform, to slot ourselves into predefined roles that fit the “average” person.

I’m in my mid forties now, and I have yet to meet an “average” person!

We tend to do what is expected by society. We go to school, get a job or career, find a partner, get a car, have kids, get a house, maybe a pet, and so on. Nothing wrong with any of that. But underneath roles such as parent, manager, worker, dog walker etc. those dreams and desires still exist. They haven’t gone anywhere. Rather we’ve buried them, so we don’t have to look at them.

We all have the drive to grow and develop, to become more than we are. Are we giving that inner voice expression, or are we silencing it with the things we’re doing? Do we drink too much, watch too much TV, spend money on things we don’t even want? We can ignore it for a while, for years and decades even, but it gets louder and louder when it’s ignored. It can give rise to depression, anger, and destructive behaviours. These things then impact those around us, putting a strain on our relationships with family, friends and colleagues, not to mention our own health and sense of wellbeing.

So, in this sense, spirituality is about how aligned we are with our own inner self. If we aren’t doing that well, it’s about looking at how we can bring those inner desires into our lives more. It’s about finding ways to makes changes in how we approach the world, big or small, that allow that true self to come into focus.

When it comes to bringing more of our true self into the world, small changes can bring big improvements.

Posted by Steve in blog
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