“I’m lost.”

“No, you’re not.”

“I am.”

“How can you say that?”

“Because I don’t know where I am.”

“You’re here!”

“But where’s here?”

“Why does it matter? Where do you want to be?”

“That’s the point. I don’t know where here is; and I don’t know where I . . . Well, actually, I do know where I want to be, and I’m not there.”

“How do you know?”

“I don’t. That’s what’s so confusing. I’m not sure I can really explain it.

“You see, I look around and I’m in a jungle between lots of trees with a dense fog, all around. There’s no clear path out. I can’t even work out how I got here. Yet I’m also not sure that I don’t want to be here. I mean, it could be said that I’m here by choice, couldn’t it. So, if I’m here by choice, I probably want to be here. But why would I want to be here?”

“Why do you think you want to be here?”

“I don’t know. Am I hiding from something? Or someone? Who? I feel like I’m hiding from . . . myself! Why would I do that? Am I trying to deceive myself? Why? There’s something I need to do and . . . and I’m afraid to do it; somewhere I have to go, but I’m afraid to go there.”

“”Where do you have to go? And what do you have to do?”

“I have no idea.

“Well, actually, that’s not quite true. I have to go inside and search.”

“Inside? Inside what?”

“Not what? Who? I have to go inside myself. And that’s scary.”

“Not many people can do that.”

“Tell me something I don’t know. Too many people go off to ‘find themselves’ and never come back. No wonder it’s scary.

“Yet, really, I know where I am. I’m here; wherever here is. I’m not really lost. I know where I am; I’m here. I just don’t know where here is.”

“If you did know where ‘here’ is, what would you do with that information? After all, you said there are no visible paths. So it would not matter which direction you go in.”

“True. But at least . . . at least if I’m moving, it would be easier to turn.”


“And I’ll never find my way unless I can see where I’m headed for.

“I suppose the real question is where I want to be headed for. If I’m searching for myself, and I know I’m here, then haven’t I already found myself? Haven’t I already reached my destination?

“No. That’s not quite true. The idea of a destination suggests that the journey will end. Yet the journey never ends, does it. Life goes on and the journey doesn’t end. After all, once we reach our destination we look around for somewhere else to go. The journey never ends. And, since I know that I’m here, this is just a stopping off point on my journey.

“So why can I not see which way to go? Because I have no clear direction? Where do I want to be? No. Why do I want to be here?”

“Good question. Why do you want to be here?”

“Because I need a rest. I need some time without the demands of other people tugging at my resources. Yet I also don’t want to ignore the needs of those who matter to me. That’s why I’m afraid to search for myself – I don’t want to lose those I care about.”

“And yet you know where you are.”

“So I don’t need to search! I’m here.

“And the mist is clearing. Mist? Fog? What’s the difference? It’s clearing. There is always a path between the trees. It may not be a well-worn path, but it’s still a path. It’s a path I have to make for myself. It’s my life; my journey; my path.”

“So what does that mean?”

“It means I know where I am. And I know where I’m going.

“I’m here, and I’m going to keep going. I’m simply going to walk between two trees and keep going.

“That’s strange.”

“What is?”

“Where did that path come from? Did I just make that path? Yes. It’s my path.”

“Where does it lead?”

“Wherever I want it to lead. I am in control of my life. I can choose to stay here or I can choose to move on. It’s my choice.”

“And what have you chosen?”

“To move on.”

“Where to?”

“Wherever my journey takes me . . . No . . . Wherever I want to go. And I want to go and look after those I care about; which includes myself. After all, I’m actually in a clearing between trees.

Now, look between those two trees. What do you see?”

“It’s not about what I see. It’s about what you see. But I see a path.”

“ Of course you do. It may not be much of a path, but it’s my path. It’s my way forward. Thanks for listening.

“So. Are you coming?”

“Do I have a choice?”

“Not really.”

Daily Post

Daily Post Challenge: Dialogue See the challenge at: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/09/16/writing-challenge-dialogue/


Take a Deep Breath – It Will Improve Your Vision

A colleague once offered a very interesting observation on life. There are at least three sides to every story: There is your view, there is my view, and there is the truth, usually found somewhere in between.

I like the idea. Too many complications come from misunderstandings. People have been killed because of seeing things from different perspectives. So how can we simplify our lives in our interactions with other people?

Take a Deep Breath

Deep breathing has long been proven to be a fine method for calming the nerves. Many people who practice meditation use their breathing as a point of focus. This makes sense. After all, our breathing is one of the few things that we take with us wherever we go. Also, since it is essential for life, there is a psychological link to better physical health; and better physical health often leads to better mental health.

Here, however, we want to concentrate on our relationships with other people. How can we use our breathing to improve these relationships?

Both Sides of the Story

One of the greatest causes of conflict is an entrenched viewpoint. We see our side of the story and we cannot, or even will not, see any other side. Our point of view “must” be correct. How can it not be?

To a certain extent, that’s true, of course. What we see is what we see. The issue is whether we see the whole picture. The problem is whether we want to.

For now, though, let’s assume that we have good motives and we want to be peacemakers. Let’s assume that we want to understand the other person’s point of view. What can we do?

This is where deep breathing becomes useful.

Time to Think

Taking a few deep breaths gives us time to think. Even when the conversation is getting intense, with lots of quick-fire comments, we can ease the pressure by taking a few deep breaths. We can compare it with any other activity. Let’s say that you are driving along the road at a fairly good speed when you notice a situation developing up ahead. You are not involved, but, as a good driver, you automatically slow down so that you can deal with things as they develop, and you get through safely. That’s why we have fewer and less damaging accidents when walking; the situation is developing at a more rational speed, allowing us time to preempt dangers.

Now apply the lesson. You’re in the middle of a heated debate. Comments are becoming increasingly contentious, and there is a danger that you are about to start tackling each other, rather than the issues involved. So you take a deep breath. It’s just long enough to give your mind chance to throw in a quick thought: “Be careful. This conversation is in danger of becoming angry.” That triggers you to do something. So you lower your head, which is a submissive gesture that demonstrates a desire to be at peace, take a few more deep breaths, and what happens? Usually, your antagonist experiences difficulty continuing the barrage and the conversation slows down and calms down.

Even if your taking time to breathe does not calm your antagonist, it will calm you. It allows you time to order your thoughts and determine the best plan of action, even if that means walking away.

It’s also very difficult to keep being aggressive with someone who is not responding aggressively. So when we calm down, it can have a similar effect on our antagonist. Thus, we develop a reputation as a peacemaker and problem-solver, even though we may not have said anything!

Improve Your Vision

The other benefit of deep breathing is that it improves your vision. No. I’m not suggesting that your physical eyesight will improve by deep breathing, though it may; speak to your optician or doctor to find that out.

What I am saying is that breathing deeply allows us time to consider the other person’s point of view. Is it possible that they have a valid opinion? Is it possible that they can see the flaws in our reasoning, but we cannot? Is it possible that their idea will work better than ours? Or is it possible that we can combine the two ideas into an even better solution?

All these things, and many more, are involved in seeing the big picture. We need to understand the full effects of what we are proposing or experiencing. We need to look beyond our own entrenched viewpoint and see things as the other person sees them. Until we can say, “I can see why you think that way,” we do not have the full picture. Taking a few deep breaths can allow us the time to see better.

Sometimes, of course, when we go silent in thought, the person we are speaking with will prompt us to respond. A good reply is, “Please give me a minute. I think I can see what you are trying to tell me but I need to consider it for a few moments.” Then, having considered their viewpoint, maybe we will see things differently.


This ability to be calm and rational, and to see things as others see them, does not come automatically, the first time we try it. It takes practise. Practising daily helps in several ways. The most obvious way it helps is that it gets us into good habits; we learn to deal with situations because we have exercised our abilities and imagined how to use them in daily life.

Another way that it helps is that we become generally calmer. We start to deal with our own issues. We learn that we do not need to fly into a rage about every little thing. We can deal with life. Once we come to realize that we are in control of our lives, we have less reason to worry about other people’s superciliousness. We don’t need to worry about whether they, or we, are right or wrong. We can deal with their intransigent manners and views.

“But,” you may ask, “Doesn’t that lead to being abused?” Frankly, no, it doesn’t. Such inner peace often leads to being seen as the sort of person who can be relied upon to come up with sensible solutions. People will often bow to your views, even when they have their own entrenched ideas. Yet, even if that does not happen, you have the peace of mind in knowing that you have kept calm. You have preserved your own dignity and integrity. You have been true to yourself and your principles.

Strangely, when we allow other people to have their way, even when can see the flaws in their plans, we are more highly respected. Then, when their plans fall short of the ideal, when the plans fail to achieve the desired result, it is not uncommon for them to eventually seek our views. At that point, it is even more important to take a deep breath. We must avoid the I told you so mentality and work with them to find a solution.

So learn to breath deeply. We need air to fuel our thought processes. Without air, we panic, and things go wrong. By learning to breath deeply, we are able to calm ourselves, and often calm others, too. And, finally, it will improve our vision as we see the whole picture and respond appropriately.

Care – But Not Too Much


Yes. I know. How can you care too much? That’s a very good question which I hope to answer.

Consider a pride of lions. Each member is concerned with the welfare of his or her family. But he or she would also walk away if the circumstances dictated. If one of the pride was to die, he or she would have no worries about eating it. Not that I’m suggestion eating our friends, of course!

One of the best ways to find peace in our lives is to give of ourselves. Look around you. How many people are smiling? What about you? Are you smiling? Life, today, can be very hectic, leading to stress, misery, and ill health. In my previous post, Be Yourself – or Change, I mentioned that one way to change for the better involves taking an interest in other people. In The Power of Two I highlighted that we can all benefit from a trusted confidante.

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Be Yourself – Or Change

Actors in the ancient Greek theatres would use masks to portray different characters. Even today, the international symbol for theatres is a pair of masks, one happy, one sad. The ancient Greek word for actor was hypokrites. It came to refer to one playing false, or putting on a pretense. It’s where we get the English word hypocrite.

The problem with trying to be something or someone else is that we are never going to be comfortable with the role. The best way to get comfortable is simply to be yourself; no pretense; no masks, no hypocrisy. Just be yourself. It is the most natural thing for us.

Of course, it’s always possible that we don’t like the person that we have become. Notice: The person that we have become. This is deliberate. We may have experienced a traumatic upbringing. Maybe our parents were always arguing. Or maybe we were surrounded by people with characteristics that we cannot respect. Maybe our learned behaviour leaves a lot to be desired.

If we learned that behaviour, we can learn new behaviour. We can change. If we have become that person, we can become someone else. But we have to be genuine in this. No masks. No pretense. No hypocrisy.

“But,” you may ask, “Where do I begin?”

A good place to start is your bed. Yes. Your bed. Before getting out of bed each morning, spend a few minutes calming your breathing. Then meditate (think deeply) about a time when you were not happy with your interaction with a close friend; it might even be your partner, parents, children, or siblings. Now. In what way could you have acted differently, or what could you have said differently, that would allow you to look back on that interaction with pleasure? How can you change to make you happier with yourself?

Notice that these changes are in the way that you behave. You cannot change other people. If there are to be changes, it’s up to you to make them.

The problem with this, of course, is that if we were raised to believe that the best way to solve issues was through confrontation, we may not even realise that we have a problem. We may feel uncomfortable in our interactions, but not know why.

If you have this feeling, have the courage to ask for help. Seek out the experience of someone else; preferably a trusted friend who has been through the process of change. Learn from their experience. If they are genuine, they will be more than happy to support you as you change.

This brings us to another way to change. It involves our interest in others. But that’s a discussion in its own right.

My Choice

We have looked at the value of solitude, confidants, and groups. We have looked at how to deal with other people’s choices when they impact on our lives. Now it’s time to look at the things that we can control. And it’s important to start with our choices.

We have already touched on this subject in the previous post, Not My Choice, where we looked at our circles of influence and concern. We highlighted the need to concentrate on those matters that we can influence. Now let’s go deeper.

One of the big problems that I see in people, today, is an inability, or even a lack of willingness to accept responsibility for their choices. “Everything” is someone else’s fault. There is no concept of suffering the consequences of any actions or decisions. The view is, “Whatever happened, I’m not responsible. And it’s up to someone else to fix it.”

Why is this important? Because we can only be at peace when we accept that every decision that we make, every action that we take, every word that we speak has consequences.

Taking our responsibility for our choices means that we have to think more carefully about those choices. So does that mean we will make fewer mistakes? Possibly. After all, how many people would have chosen their most recent foolish action if they had anticipated the outcome?

And yet, even if we still get it wrong, even if we have to suffer from the results of our mistakes, taking responsibility means that we can accept those results with equanimity. We are calmer in the face of adversity.

An added bonus from taking responsibility for our own choices is that we have better relations with others. Being at peace with ourselves gives us a calm disposition that overflows into our relationships with other people. Even if they are the root cause of any frustrations that come our way, we can deal with them in a calm manner because we are in control of our own emotions. No one can “make” us angry. It’s our choice.

So how do we get to this level of calm? There are many things that we can do and I hope to explore some of them in this space. But the first thing to do is simply to accept that, whatever happens to us, we have a choice as to how we respond. We chose our moods,we choose our actions, and we choose our words.

We have the power within ourselves to be calm in the face of adversity. We have the strength to overcome pressures and trials. Even if we need to seek help, from time to time, that is a choice that we can make.

So let’s start right now with a choice. Choose, right now, to be calm for the rest of the day, regardless of what life throws at you. Decide, right now, to accept with equanimity the consequences of your choices. Be determined that, whatever happens, your response will be your choice. Then, at the end of the day, you will be able to say, “Today was a day when I made my own choices.”

The Power of One

We all need other people. We are designed for companionship. We thrive when we are in good company, especially in times of trial or adversity. In fact, that’s when we need each other most.

Yet we also need time on our own. We need time to contemplate the things that affect our lives and the lives of those we care about, no matter where they might live and no matter whether we know them personally or not.

That’s where personal time comes in. We need to be alone, sometimes, just to be able to make sense of life. We could say we need time to breathe; to refresh ourselves; to clear everyone else’s clutter from our minds so that we can get on with dealing with our own issues.

So what do we mean by “time alone”? It can mean different things in different circumstances. Sometimes we may want to just kick off our shoes, stretch out on the sofa, close our eyes, and listen to our favourite music. But there is so much benefit in simply enjoying silence. Our lives are so full of noise, these days, and we need to switch off from it so that we can hear those things that really matter.

One word of caution, though. We must not isolate ourselves. As the opening paragraph says, we need other people around us. Isolating ourselves too much can lead to selfish thinking and actually cause more problems than it solves.

One good suggestion is to take yourself out for a meal. Go to a nice restaurant on your own and eat a meal on your own. It’s a fantastic experience. And you will still have other people around you.

Still, look for opportunities to have some time alone each week. Give yourself a break. Life will be so much easier to deal with when you start looking after yourself. You’ll feel refreshed and ready to deal with anything.

Read Widely

When it comes to peace of mind the advantages of reading can be very underrated. Reading slows down the pace of life. It creates an oasis in the desert of our lives. It gives us the time to sit quietly and breathe, activities known to calm shattered nerves.

But, to be effective in developing inner peace, our reading must not be hurried. Take time over it. Savour the words and phrases. We need to imagine ourselves in the scene. Even if our reading material is academic we can still drift into the picture by imagining that we are explaining the material to someone else.

Most importantly, spending time reading forces us to spend time on ourselves without the distractions of pampering to other people. This does not have to make us selfish. Bringing peace and calm to our own lives gives us the strength to radiate that peace to others. How?

When we are not anxious we are in a better position to be in control of any situation. And such control reduces our own anxiety. It’s a wonderful spiral to be in. That spiral then becomes a vortex, pulling our companions in and helping them to see that things are seldom as bad as we might think. And, if others around us are too stressed to find the way out, we are better able to offer the leadership that they need to find their own path.

Reading also gives us something on which to meditate, rather than letting our minds drift aimlessly. We learn new skills and principles that we can utilise in our daily lives.

One word of caution, though. To be refreshing and beneficial our reading must be of the best quality. Read material that makes you think; that challenges you to change; upbuilding material. Don’t read anything that will incite the wrong emotions. Especially do not read material that encourages anger, violence, or depravity. These things only add stress.

So, read widely and often. Try to spend some time each day reading upbuilding material. And feel the peace that develops in your own life and in the lives of those around you.