What success looks or feels like to you?

IMG_5608

Does success matter much to you? If so, how does it look or feel like? Will you know if and when you achieve it?

For me, success used to mean climbing up the academic ladder. Then that ladder wobbled and I decided I wanted to be a best-selling author (I know, I know, even owning that feels a bit edgy). Having said that, what does it even mean to be a best-selling author? I have no idea. Perhaps it’s something that can sustain me financially? How much is it then? (I can hear crickets in response….)

In my experience, success was an idea that ‘when I have/do/know x, y and z’, I’ll finally be happy and feel better about myself. But guess what, that idea is a sure way to fail, because success is an ever-moving target.

Because most of the time success is externally determined.

– Professors at University are successful (compared to lecturers).
– Best-selling authors made it (compared to aspiring authors).
– Those who are rich are at the top of their game (compared to those who are just starting up).

Not only society dictates the rules on what being successful means, but it involves comparison. And by God there’s always someone who has more, does more and knows more….

By this point, you may disown the whole concept of ‘success’. Who cares what others think. Fair enough. But if somewhere in the back of your mind you do want to be successful at what you do, then a lack of clarity about what it feels or looks like will hold you back. Because if you don’t know what it means to you, how would you even recognise it?

Why do you then hold back from getting clear on what ‘success’ means to you?

Is it about committing to something and fear that you may get disappointed if you don’t ‘make it’? Is it fear to name what you want? Or perhaps it’s sitting with the discomfort of not knowing the answer. Because ultimately the only person who can define ‘success’ for you is… you.

Success can be sustainable only when it’s determined from within.

P.S. Enjoyed this post? Join me here to learn how I help writers to be successful at what they do.

P.P.S. No post from me next week. My kid is off school, so we’ll be catching up on play time.

What happens when your dreams come true

IMG_3262

 

When I was in my late teens, I had a university friend who had big dreams. I saw her twice a year, as we studied by correspondence. Back then I envied everything about her (confidence, amazing outfits, generosity, beauty), except for one thing: she was a high-class call girl. Money poured into her life at an astounding speed, and every time I saw her after the class, she was fretting about yet another big dream. The first year it was a car. By the time we finished our summer exams, she was driving a virgin Hyundai Sonata with a fancy number plate. The next examination period was plagued by the anxiety of getting a bigger flat. It didn’t feel long enough before she flashed the keys to the new flat, and, of course, she was now after the new big dream: a baby.

The moment she achieved her dream, she moved on to the next one.

She came to my mind the other day when I was walking towards the European Commission’s building in Luxembourg. The second round of trainings that I and my colleagues were offering there and in Brussels was coming to an end. If you asked me 10 years ago whether I’d be teaching for the European Commission, I’d think you were mad. The dream was too big to even imagine it. Perhaps even five years ago, I’d think it’d be pretty cool to even visit the Commission, never mind train its staff. Today, it felt so normal to walk into the reception with ease and confidence, to know the procedure, to connect with the participants – it didn’t even feel like a dream.

My dream is my new ‘normal’ now.

So my invitation to you today is to appreciate the dream that’s your reality now. Perhaps you were dreaming of becoming a published author or a mum, to live abroad or to travel a lot.

Which of your dreams are you living today?

 

Enjoyed this post? Please join my newsletter and find out how I can help you to live your dreams.

How Presence Heals

IMAG0460

I’m walking down Bristol Road in Birmingham. It’s Sunday and the sun is shining. I just finished the third weekend event on writer’s block. The sense of achievement and satisfaction expands my chest and lights me up from the inside. On top of all that, I’m going to have a girly time with my friend, so the day is young.

‘Excuse me,’ a young man says as I am a few steps away from him.

Please, don’t ask me for money. I never hand over money on the street. I’ve been having a good day, please, don’t spoil it.

‘Excuse me,’ he says again.

Why can’t he just say what he wants? I look at his face and try to read his expression. His glassy eyes are sad and he looks kind of pale.

I slow down without stopping.

‘Yes?’

‘Excuse me….’

Why can’t he just speak?! I stop and wait.

‘Do you have a phone?’

OK, at least he’s not asking for money.

‘Yes.’

‘Can you call my mum and say I’m going to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital? I’m not ok.’

‘What’s the number?’

I dial it.

‘What’s your name?’

‘James.’

‘Hello, James asked me to call you. We are on Bristol Road. Number… 333. He’s not well. He’s heading to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. He just wanted you to know.’

‘I think you’ve got a wrong number.’

‘I’m really sorry about it. I’ve been asked to call this number.’ I hold the phone down: ‘James, what are the names of your parents?’ He says and I continue. ‘Does John and Sarah live at this number?’

‘Yes, this is John.’

‘I’m with your son James.’ I repeat myself. It takes a few moments before John speaks again.

‘We are in such a shock. Can we speak to him?’

I pass the phone to James. Never mind that I’ve got two credit cards tucked into the phone cover…. I relax when I get my phone back and ready myself to depart.

‘Thank you so much for stopping. Thank you. No one stopped. No one. You proved that there’re kind people in the world.’

He starts sobbing, his broad shoulders hunched and shaking. I lead him to a low wall of the property next to us, and sit with him. Never mind I’m running late. I’ll wait until his parents arrive.

It turns out James is a drug addict. He was thinking of committing suicide today and it was the thought of his parents’ suffering that stopped him in the end. He is not sure though how long he can hold out given how deeply unhappy he is. He tells me how much he hates himself for failing in life, for letting down his parents, for being such a looser. I listen, not sure what I can offer. It’s not appropriate for me to ‘process’ him. All I can give him is my presence. So he continues. All those visits to psychiatrists, drugs, invasive treatments. An awful relationship when he was 16 and everything went downhill from there. He tells me he’s 24 and he’s a sex addict. My body tenses up and despite his distress he feels the change in me.

‘It’s not like I’m going to have sex with you here. Don’t worry.’

‘Oh good.’ I force a smile.

So he talks some more, his shoulders relaxing, his sobs subsiding. By the time a car pulled up on the side of the road and his mum ran out of the car and hugged him tightly, he seemed much calmer. I genuinely hoped that he’d find his way to recovery and self-love. Of course, he needs a lot more support than a stranger stopping by and being caring towards him, but I pray that our encounter helped him to step onto the path of healing.

As I turned around to mentally wish him well, I saw his mum running towards me. We hugged. Mother to mother. I hope this doesn’t happen to my child, but I do hope someone would stop for him if he needs their help. Her gratitude enveloped me in our embrace and we parted as if we have known each other all our lives.

Sometimes, all you need is to feel seen and heard, like really seen and heard without someone trying to fix you. For someone to be fully present to you, without judgment or an agenda.

Presence is healing in its own right.

Combined with gentle and powerful healing tools, its transformative.

That’s what I do in my healing work: I truly listen to your stories and lovingly help you to script a new path – one paved with deep healing and empowerment.

Please subscribe to my newsletter here to find out more about my work, and if you need healing and transformation, please get in touch at gularav@gmail.com.

4 Common Reasons Why People Avoid Inner Healing

 

IMG_3760.JPG

I was having a 1:1 session with a talented young woman recently. We’ve been working for a number of years now. She knows what the inner work can do. After all, it helped her through her A-levels and admission to medical school.

But this last session was intense. A lot of pain and raw emotion was surfacing. She’s incredibly brave so she was staying with the process. Yet I could ‘hear’ some resistance coming up in the background. Why go through this pain? Why not just shut down? It’s all too much.

And here’s why not. When you shut down uncomfortable emotions, they don’t disappear. They settle in your body biding their time. Every time a similar situation arises, those same feelings resurface. Except with each time they get stronger. Have you experienced a situation where you exploded over something seemingly minor? Well, that’s probably because you haven’t had the opportunity to express your feelings in the moment many times before. So, it does come out eventually, and normally, it’s not pretty.

The first reason why you may avoid exploring your inner landscape is because it can be intense and painful.

Instead, you may resort to shutting down. There’s nothing wrong with shutting down, by the way. Humans are incredibly resourceful. If you couldn’t shut down at some points in our life, you wouldn’t be able to function in this world. But there comes a point when you are strong enough and can look at your ‘stuff’, because carrying it becomes more unbearable than the prospect of feeling it.

A second reason why you may resist turning within is because you have to re-experience something which you’d rather you hadn’t experienced in the first place.

I was working with someone recently who said, ‘I feel like I’m acting like a 7 year old.’ Interestingly, something similar had happened when she was 7. The circumstances were different of course, but the feeling was the same. When you are young and difficult things happen in your life, you often don’t have the vocabulary, capacity or the right support to process it. The best you can do at that time is to stuff the feeling down, pretend all is well and march through life like nothing bad had happened. Except, the feeling gets stirred up from time to time reminding you that there’s some unfinished business that requires your attention. (Un)Fortunately, until you feel and consciously release that pain, it’s not going to ‘just’ disappear.

A third reason why you may struggle with the inner work is because it’s often involves those near and dear to us.

Most of your patterns form when you are very little. Guess who are the people involved in those situations? Your mum and dad, brother(s) and sister(s), favourite teachers and close friends. Discomfort in feeling ‘negative’ feelings can be palpable: it’s as if you are being disloyal or disrespectful towards them. I remember working with another young woman who connected with the younger version of herself who hated her mother. The shock and discomfort in her voice was tangible.

But here’s the thing: your loved ones did their very best with the resources that they had at their disposal at that time. The point of healing old wounds is not to judge them, but rather to feel whatever you felt towards them in that moment. Whatever your feelings, it’s not the whole truth. The fact that you hated them at a certain point doesn’t mean that you didn’t love them wholeheartedly as well. Here’s the paradox of the work I do: if you allow yourself to feel those old feelings, you can set yourself free, along with your loved ones.

Finally, you may evade inner work because you fear to open up the floodgates.

I certainly had that resistance myself. My story was that I had so much stored anger that if I opened up, it’d overwhelm me and I won’t be able to function. It was never a good time.

In my experience of healing and helping others, stuff comes up in proportions that we can handle right now. If something is coming up, you are strong enough to face it.

One final observation: resistance is to be celebrated. It comes up when there’s something worthwhile to look at. It’s not to be feared or judged.

Please share this post. Thank you.

P.S. After I wrote this post, I realised that you may have no idea what I do and why I do it. So here’s a brief summary of what I do and who I help:

  • Are you trying to finish a book or a project which is not moving forward as fast as you’d like? Perhaps you procrastinate a lot? Or get stuck from time to time?
  • Or perhaps you are a published author, but despite all your efforts at marketing, you can’t sell many books?
  • Maybe you feel like you can’t be fully ‘you’ in your job and relationship?
  • While you love being creative, you are constantly plagued with
    – What if no one cares what I’ve got to say?
    – What if they reject me?
    – What if my writing is not literary enough?
    – What if I fail?
    – What if I succeed?
    – ….

It’s not easy to express yourself clearly without self-censorship, when your self-doubts and fear of rejection get in the way. Not only they stifle your creativity, but they also stop you from approaching the best agent or publisher, because deep down you believe your writing is not good enough. You miss on opportunities and may settle for whatever you can get.

I can help you to release your what if’s and fears so that the world can hear your stories.
My biggest passion is to help women to be heard and seen. I can help you to release your fears of judgment, rejection or criticism so that you can put your writing out into the world and connect with as many readers as you meant to. It’s a deeply healing work, and once you learn the techniques, you can do them anywhere anytime.

Why do I do this?

I come from a small town in Azerbaijan where women had to be invisible to survive. Women’s voices and what they had to say didn’t count. I witnessed women around me playing small. On top of that cultural layer, the Soviet ideology taught people not to stick out.

So at some point in my life, I decided to speak up on behalf of people who may never be heard otherwise. I did a PhD in law championing the rights of minorities. I figured that was the least I could do to help the marginalised. Ten+ years on, I realise how ineffective and even patronising it is to speak up on behalf of others.

This is why I’m working with women, helping them to get out of their own way. You can speak up for yourself, in the way only you can. If you are struggling to be more visible, I can help.

Sign up to my newsletter to find out how I can serve you.

Both – And

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” Rumi

IMG_6011

I remember my first therapy session like it was yesterday. On 9 April 2009, I entered a therapy centre shaking like a leaf. I felt cold as fear coursed through my veins. Could I even articulate the stuff that weighed me down? I didn’t let myself acknowledge it, never mind discuss it with a stranger. What if I was too damaged and beyond repair?

A few weeks before that visit I met a man. There was a possibility of something in the air, but I could feel all my unhealthy patterns raring their ugly heads. I was getting needy and insecure, and while I knew intellectually that there was nothing worse than that behaviour, I couldn’t help myself. I just needed a quick fix, so that I could finally have a healthy relationship.

My therapist was a young woman. Within the first 15 minutes of our session, I told her about my history of sexual trauma, abusive relationships, dysfunctional family…. I wasn’t ready to explore all those issues, I just wanted her to know what she was letting herself into.

‘Will you take me on despite all of this?’ I asked as we were finishing.

‘Yes, of course.’

‘I’m going to see you until the end.’ I added.

‘What do you mean?’

‘Well, until I heal completely.’

She didn’t say anything. I was hoping she’d say ‘Yes, sure’, and contradict my housemate who kept telling me that she was in therapy for eight years and still couldn’t have a relationship. Eight years! I didn’t have that much time. Maybe she just healed slowly. Maybe she wasn’t consistent enough. Maybe she was too broken. I’ll be different.

I dived into every single approach that came within my line of vision:

  • psychotherapy,
  • family constellations,
  • movement of being,
  • birthworks,
  • five rhythms dance,
  • Reiki,
  • acupuncture,
  • Journey by Brandon Bays,
  • Compassion Key,
  • Non-personal awareness,
  • Emotional Freedom Technique (tapping)
  • the list goes on and on.

I travelled around the UK and even abroad to attend workshops, retreats and have 1:1 support. I’m not talking about one off occasional treatments. I dedicated myself to each practice for years on end.

Well, eight long years, to be precise.

Here’s what I didn’t understand back then. I thought I was going to a therapist so that she ‘fixed’ me.

There are no fixes. This a journey with no destination. And you can’t rush it either.

To me nowadays, the healing path is about growth and transformation. No matter how well you do, when you release limiting beliefs, you can do much better.

At the same time, paradoxically, there is nothing to fix. We are already whole.

Yes, this is not to deny that there are hurt aspects of ourselves too. Both – And, as one of my teachers says, meaning that both statements are true: we are both whole and we have wounded parts too.

Our wounded aspects can sometimes run the show. Just like with that relationship I mentioned at the start: I was so ‘identified’ with needy and insecure parts of myself, I couldn’t fully appreciate who I truly was.

Today, I don’t feel broken anymore. I can connect with the wholeness of myself, which remained pure despite life circumstances. At the same time, life happens. In no way do I want to pretend that I’ve got all my sh*t together. I get triggered and upset from time to time. Like everyone else, I face challenges, because having tools to support others does not make me immune to problems. But I walk my talk. I use all the methods I know day in and day out. If I get stuck, I tap, I do self-directed compassion, and non-personal awareness. I regularly see a range of therapists and healers, and pay a lot of money to get the support I need.

I’ve already arrived. And my journey continues. Both – And.

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” Rumi

 

 

Where To Find Great Stories

photo

I check my phone again and shift from one leg to the other. My comfortable one-hour transfer at Frankfurt airport is squeezed into an uncomfortable half-an-hour. Squashed between other passengers, I’m gripping the handle of my suitcase, ready to charge to the exit. Eventually the queue is moving and I burst out into fresh air. It’s sunny and warm, but I haven’t got time to enjoy it. Running down the steps, I get on the first of two busses waiting for passengers. My heart is pounding. Come on, come on, come on! With a sinking heart, I watch the second bus depart first. Damn! 20 minutes to the take off. Surely, they’ll wait for me. It was their fault that my plane was delayed.

Eventually, I’m at the terminal. I run to the first official-looking man and ask for help.

‘My plane was late, I need to catch my connection.’

There are no shortcuts, he explains. You’ve got to go through security.

Grace and dignity gone out of window, I run. Breasts jiggling, my free arm flailing, frazzled and out of breath, I get to my gate, and thrust my passport and boarding pass at the woman sitting at the check-in desk.

‘It’s too late, the gate is closed.’

Without warning, tears spill out of my eyes. She looks surprised.

‘We’ve put you on the next plane. It’ll be departing at 22:30.’

I take my new boarding pass and drag my feet to the nearest seat. Tears are flowing freely now, and I’m making no effort to contain them anymore. So much for travelling via Frankfurt. I wanted to make it to the hotel in a daylight, to find my way around better. Now I’ll be arriving around 3am, if I’m lucky. Will I find any trains to Bayreuth in the middle of the night? I cry more. I’m so tired holding it all together.

Eventually, my tears dry out. I message my husband and prepare for a six hour wait at the airport.

‘Travel by train,’ my husband encourages.

‘But I don’t know how to find my way around.’ I mumble my excuses, snuggle up on a seat and open a book on my phone I’ve started on the plane. It’s called ‘Long Story Short: The Only Storytelling Guide You’ll Ever Need’ by Margot Leitman.

Here’s what I read:

“I am not a self-help guru by any means, so apologies if this gets a little self-help-y. But in order to be a great storyteller, you must start saying yes to scary things again. Go to a party where you don’t really know anyone. Go to your high school reunion. When a situation gets a little strange, as long as you aren’t putting yourself in physical danger, try diving into the crazy instead of running from it. When you bump into someone from your past, perhaps someone who broke your heart, don’t hide. Say yes to scary things! Say hi and see what happens. Don’t get stuck in the rut of a monotonous life that nothing interesting ever happens in. In order to create more stories, you have to be open to new experiences.”

You know that feeling when the universe delivers what you need to hear? It was like a light-bulb moment, which spurred me (encouraged by my husband) to find the information desk and change my ticket for train. In the process, I discovered that German punctuality is a myth! My train was late too (and so were my return flights)….
The first big opportunity to practice her advice presented itself on my first day in Germany. The colleague who was hosting me invited to dinner at his house. Now normally I’m really shy. My immediate impulse was to say ‘No, thank you. I arrived to the hotel way after 1am, had a busy teaching day, etc. etc. etc..’ Instead, I said a graceful,

‘Yes, please.’

We agreed that he’d pick me up at 6pm. I returned to my hotel after a busy teaching day, took a bath and passed out. When I woke up, it was 5:30pm. My phone was ringing and it was my German colleague.

‘I’m ready when you are,’ I tried to sound as chirpy as I could.

‘There’s a slight complication. The car is not available, so I don’t know when I can pick you up. But… I could come by a motorbike.’

Now, I remember fondly exhilarating rides with my husband in London in the early days of our courtship, but the idea of hugging a beer-belly of a senior German colleague did not excite me straightaway. Still, I stuck with this new attitude to life and said,

‘Why not?’

Here’s why I should have said no. Apart from anything else, the helmet was too small. After wrestling with it for a couple of minutes, I managed to squeeze in my head. My circulation stopped, of that I’m sure. I could hardly breathe, so I took it off straightaway.

Maybe next time…. It wasn’t meant to be….

I took a deep breath in and pushed through it again. Except this time he started fiddling with the straps. It had to be properly strapped on.

Finally, we were ready to go.

‘Is it far?’ I asked belatedly.

‘No, it’s close.’

No, it wasn’t. As my palms were sweating profusely onto his light yellow shirt and my oxygen levels were dropping dramatically, I tried to reassure myself that it was all worth it because one day, it’ll make a good story.

I hope it did.

It also made me think of this:

Life is a story. No matter what your circumstances, tell that story well.

You don’t even have to be a writer or a blogger. Do you see friends? Go to social events? Talk to your family? We tell stories all the time. Why not make it more engaging?

But even more importantly:

Get mindful of the stories you tell yourself.

Do you constantly focus on what goes wrong in life? We all do that from time to time. But if you can get conscious of what you are telling yourself and others about you, your loved ones, your job, your life – you may have an opportunity to change the narrative of your life. Awareness is power.

Here’s a great video to help you tip the balance towards the positivity by fabulous Marie Forleo.

So, where do you find stories, dear reader, and what stories do you tell yourself?

How to Get What You Really Want

IMG_5095

I’m standing in a shop staring at the most exquisite piece of clothing I’ve ever seen. It’s the colour of milk chocolate and has silky texture.

I’m 18 and there is nothing I had wanted more in my entire life than this pair of trousers with legs so wide that they could be mistaken for a skirt. The trousers are long, probably ankle-length, so modest enough for me to wear to work. Normally, I’m not allowed to wear trousers. My family is too conservative for these frivolities. But this…. Perhaps this could be an exception.

Except, I don’t have the money.

They cost 90 USD. Even if I worked for months at the prosecutor’s office where I’m a typist, I won’t be able to make that kind of money. Besides, I give all my earnings to my grandma and then have to ask for my bus fare back. It’s not like I could ask her for that amount. She’d think I’m crazy to spend that much on clothing. She’d rather buy me an ironing board or something else I might need as a part of my dowry.

I walk home in tears saying a mental goodbye to the trousers. In that moment, I let go. It wasn’t meant to be….

That night I go to bed early. I fall asleep instantly, only to be awakened by an unexpected noise a couple of hours later. The iron gates outside of my windows are banging. What’s going on? I run downstairs and to my utter surprise my younger uncle is closing the gates. It’s well after midnight and for a moment I think I’m still dreaming. My uncle lives in Moscow and hasn’t visited for the past three years. After hugging each other and doing a double take on his presence, he surprises me again by pressing something into my palm. It’s only when I’m in the house I open my palm.

I’m holding a 100 USD bill.

Never before (or after) did my uncle give me money. Tears stream down my face and I don’t know whether to thank my uncle or the universe.

Needless to say, the next morning I got my precious trousers.

I remember this experience so vividly for a simple reason:

When we ask universe for what we want and surrender, it delivers.

My problem was (and has been for a long time) that I try to work out solutions with my mind. Mind is great, I love my mind. But mind can offer only a limited range of solutions.

When we release attachment to the outcome and ask for help, the universe can deliver in unexpected ways.

I know, it’s easier said than done sometimes, but it’s possible. Personally, I’m in the process of re-learning the art of letting go. I’ve been trying to control pretty much every aspect of my life and having ideas about what should happen to my book, business, work, life. Frankly, none of those areas has been working very well lately. So I’m releasing my attachment to having it my way, and surrendering to the Universe and to my highest self to lead the way. My mind got me this far, but to move forward in life, I need to let go.

Have you had experience of wanting something so badly you couldn’t stop thinking about it? What did you do? Did you get it? Were you able to manifest it in an unexpected way which turned out to be way better than any ideas conjured up by your mind?

Please share, I’d love to hear from you.