It might have been...
Several years ago I was handed a suitcase of old papers by the widow of a well known local magician, the hope was that I could find something to share with the magical community so as to "leave something" to remember him by.
Among the tattered and sepia papers in the case were ideas of routines, comedic sketches and magical effects. These were shared with members of the local magic community in a special publication.
Within the pages of one of the note books I found the following poem...
Of all the sad, sad words that pass men’s lips,
The saddest of them all is these — “It might have been”
It might have been — It might have been
Four little words, yet what do they mean?
They tell us of misery, ruin and loss,
Of the fortune that’s gone on the turn or the toss
Of a card or a coin
They tell of the dear ones gone pass recall
A memory now though she once was his all.
It might have been.
Of shame and repentance and who knows but you
In the depths your heart holds memories too…
Memories, memories, shattered cracked dreams
Things that once had been secure in your grasp.
Now well, they might have been
They pass ever before us in ghastly array,
Their skeleton chains rattle by day,
And worse in the night they come back to torment us,
To mock and to say,
“We’re the ghosts of your promises your hopes and your dreams
We’re the things that you worked for,
Your plans and your schemes.
We’re far away from you
There’s a gulf in between,
We’re gone now for ever,
But once might have been”.
I came across an article about Bronnie Ware – an Australian nurse and counsellor – worked in palliative care; taking care of terminally ill people, most of whom had less than 12 weeks to live. And a lot of her work involved providing counselling and relief from the physical and mental stresses that come naturally when a human being comes face to face with their mortality. During her conversations she would talk about regrets and might have been's...
It is from the lips of the dying then, that the living can take advice for here are the top five regrets reported by Bronnie Ware:
1) I wish I pursued my dreams and aspirations, and not the life others expected of me
The lesson - if you know what really makes you happy, do it!
2) I wish I didn’t work so hard
The lesson - simplifying your lifestyle; making better choices, so you may not need all that money you're chasing
3) I wish I had the courage to express my feelings and speak my mind
The lesson - speak your mind, express your true feelings so reduce the build up stores of bitterness that cause distress
4) I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends
The lesson - stay connected, really connected
5) I wish I had let myself be happier
The lesson - happiness is, perhaps a choice.? Work towards letting go of past hurts, pains and negativity whilst be empowered by pasts successes, loves and joys. We can't change our pasts, but we can change the way we react to it.
An interesting phrase 'Self Improvement" ...
What 'self' is being improved and why??
I guess it can mean being a better person, learning something new, accomplishing more, or simply figuring out how to better enjoy the life you have.
I saw a post on Facebook which announced something along the lines of "I need a change in my life soon because I'm sick and tired of this same old routine every day"
Who of us hasn't felt something like that at some time or another?
I suppose the first thing to do is work out what are we 'sick' about - the routine itself; the demands that routine is making on our lives?
The next thing to consider is, perhaps.how much of that routine is the result of choice and how much is beyond your scope of control?
If we're really honest with ourselves there will be much of "the routine that makes us sick' is because of choices we either made or did not make at some point in our past.
We work and need to bring in money, to pay the bills for things we have chosen to 'have' at some point in the past.
We believe we have no other choices in how we can pay those bills, and we can't immediately unchoose the house, family, the lifestyle we aspired too - so we are 'trapped' in a life we have, at some point, decided is less than what we want now.
Perhaps taking responsibility for the reality of past choices, and being specific about what we want is the first step into 'self-improvement'.
Of course, there are things which affect our lives that are genuinely beyond our control and influence - and perhaps we need to consider how we can view these differently and stop beating our heads against the walls that we haven't built.
If life is shit, consider what you can do to change it ... kinds simple I guess.
Here's an interesting set of "measures for personal development" that might help focus your thoughts...
Each one of these dimensions is something we can do something about ...
Think in terms of improving (or developing) some of these dimensions...
Intellectual - study, developing thinking skills, or otherwise improving the mind.
Physical - becoming stronger, faster, fitter - developing stamina
Acquiring Talents - unlike the previous two items, which are relatively general, talents might have both a mental and physical component but are really about doing a distinctive thing. Learning how to juggle, for instance, or playing an instrument, or learning an art or craft.
Organizational - cleaning, decluttering, time management - develop systems and processes to organise yourself
Interpersonal - connecting. Improving the quality of relationships, from the most casual of co-workers to the most significant of others.
Experiential - seeking out new sensations and experiences. This could be as involved as international travel, or as simple as savouring a pleasant aroma.
Removal - getting rid of bad habits, or reducing negative effects on your life. Clearing the physical, emotional and spiritual clutter.
These are based on the 7th Paths to Self Development by Aaron Rath
What would happen if you gave yourself score out of ten for each of these dimensions (10 meaning that you'd totally 'cracked' that facet of your life)?
Would such an assessment help you consider how you could bring about change?
Positive Thinking - The Problems
A quick look beyond the covers of any self-help book and you will find the same, possibly dangerous, rhetoric of positive thinking.\
You have a really bad day at work - just think positively...
Your relationship ends terribly - just think positively, there is a silver lining...
Superficially subscribers to what is termed Positive Thinking , tend to be endorsing an attitude to lief in which 'the darker side' is repressed, or given short shrift. Indeed any philosophical approach in which personal realities are polished or shrouded may contain a problem.
Put more directly, if you focus on only the positive aspects of your life, then you are in danger of discounting (repressing) other parts of you life.
In short you are creating a fluffy reality - one in which the gulf between what you are feeling and you are allowing yourself to feel grows.
Jung spoke of the idea of our shadow and maintained that enlightenment was not about finding the light, but shining the light into the darkness.
In terms of our ability to 'bounce' back from difficulties, our emotional resilience, denying the light in the shadow and the shadow in the light does not the 'skill' of 'bouncing back' to be practised or developed.
No I am not for one minute saying that we should adopt morose attitude to life, what I am saying is that there needs to be a desire to 'walk in balance'. It's as ok to 'sad' as it is to be 'happy' as long as you 'own' those feelings as yours. Such ownership can encourage deeper and more relevant personal development.
Again to put another spin on things...
If you refuse to see the pain, does not mean that the pain ceases to exist.
I may not like the darkness, and I may prefer to stay in the light, but simply thinking about the light does not mean we actually have 24 hours of sunlight.
The challenge is about exploring the causes (attachments to) of sadness as well the causes (attachments to) happiness. In a forthcoming book I explore the idea of happiness in a bit more detail, but for now its worth your consideration to question 'what happiness means to me?'
Stoic philosophers maintained that any event is just an event. It is the meaning that we attach to each event which gives it its importance.
To be mindlessly happy despite the intensity of any event is to fail to explore the real attachments you place upon it.
In a spiritual sense, such denial does make personal enlightenment a bit of a challenge.
I came across this on The Learning Mind and thought it was very interesting.
Like all of these visualisation approaches it relies on the hypotheses that there are certain common themes, images and ideas that 'speak' to the unconscious.
Jung spoke about the 'collective unconscious' and archetypes, which feeds directly into this kind of analysis.
So here's , The Castle Visualisation...
Imagine that you are in front of a castle.
The scenario then unfolds through the questions that follow.
Take paper and pencil, note the responses and learn more about your character, through this imaginary walk in the castle.
1. You are in front of the door of the castle. How exactly do you imagine it?
It is a simple door
It is covered by plants and is somewhat hard to find
It is a huge wooden door with metal details and it looks a little frightening
2. You pass the door of the castle what is the first thing you see?
A huge library, wall to wall full of books
A huge fireplace and a hot fire burning
A large banquet hall with huge chandeliers and red carpets
A long corridor with many closed doors
3. You look around and find a staircase. You decide to climb the stairs. What does the staircase look like?
It looks sharp and massive like not leading anywhere
It is an impressive spiral, grand staircase
4. After you climb the stairs, you reach a small room in which there is only one window. How big is it?
It is a normal window
It’s too small, almost skylight
The window is huge, so that it takes almost the entire surface of the wall
5. You look out the window. What do you see?
Large waves crashing furiously on rocks
A snowy forest
A green valley
A small, vibrant city
6. You go down the stairs and you’re back in the area where you were when you first entered the castle. You go ahead and find a door at the rear of the building. You open it and go out in a yard. What exactly does it look like?
It is full of plants, grasses, broken wood and fallen barbed wire
It is impeccably maintained with countless colorful flowers
It’s a little jungle, but you can imagine how beautiful it would be if someone cleaned and put it in order.
The door represents your attitude to new experiences. If you imagined a simple, everyday door, you probably are not afraid of any new challenge and will test your luck in new things and situations without a second thought.
If you have chosen the hidden door, you probably do not know what you need to do in the future and your life in it, and it looks blurry and undefined.
Of course, if you have chosen a big, scary door, then you probably are afraid of the unknown and find it difficult to get out of your comfort zone and try new experiences.
The space inside the castle is the idea that you believe others to have of you. If for example you saw a library, you probably think that you are the person who supports others and helps them find answers to their problems.
A large fireplace gives a feeling of warmth and passion that you think you cause in people.
A fancy ballroom suggests that you feel that you can dazzle people around you and that you have a lot to give.
If you ended up in a long corridor with closed doors, you feel that you are difficult to understand and others will have to try much to ‘penetrate’ more within you.
The stairway shows the image that you have of life. The sharp and massive staircase shows a person who sees life as suffering, with many difficulties. Unlike the beautiful spiral staircase which shows how romantic a person is.
The window is the way you feel right now. A small window means that you feel depressed and trapped in your life. It may feel like there’s no way out of what you are experiencing in this period.
A normal window shows a person with realistic demands and expectations of life at this stage. You realize that there are limitations, but the future is here and it looks clear for you.
Conversely, if the window is gigantic, you probably feel invincible, free and able to achieve what you want.
The View from the Window
The view from the window is the overview of your whole life! A stormy sea shows a hectic and erratic life, while a snowy forest is associated with a person who lived isolated and detached from the crowds.
A green valley suggests that your life is calm and steady, without much stress and anxiety. Finally, the vibrant city is related to someone who generally lives full life socialising with lots of people.
The Courtyard of the Castle
The image of the courtyard is the image that you have in mind of your future!
So if your garden is neat and shiny, then you feel that your future will be heavenly.
On the other, a picture of a promising but neglected garden shows an optimistic person, who is worried if he can find the energy to take control of his life and make his future more beautiful.
Those who chose the grassy, damaged garden are pessimistic that do not have a nice picture of the future.
As with all of these kinds of 'tests' use them for personal reflection and not for any form of diagnosis.
Dr Alan B Jones
Director Inspire NLP
Coach, Trainer, Author