What Do You Resist?

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On 28 November 2011, I got into my instructor’s car and started it with a shaking hand. My examiner, a man in his late fifties, sat rigidly next to me and waited while I buckled my seatbelt.

‘Whenever you are ready…,’ he said.

Heart-pounding, I drove the car and watched him ticking boxes on a form as I clocked my own mistakes.

When he said I’d passed my test, I couldn’t believe my ears. I did? Only minor mistakes? Surely I climbed a pavement, at least twice. I wasn’t planning to argue with him though. My ego was pleased that I ‘d passed on the first attempt.

The truth is I wasn’t ready to pass the test. With hindsight I wish he’d failed me because it’d have forced me to practice more. My attempts to practice with my husband in a passenger seat were short lived. He’s a much better driver than a passenger. So, very quickly my newly acquired skill got rusty and my confidence plummeted with the every passing year.

For the next few years I always had an excuse why not now: I’m pregnant; I have a baby; I’m pregnant again; I now have two babies…. It was never the right time. Until my husband had a heart attack this summer and I was forced to taxi around dropping kids off at two separate nurseries, shopping and doing all the other tasks that my husband does on a daily basis.

In other words, I got my wake-up call.

Getting an instructor was not difficult, and having had nine hours of driving lessons so far, I can drive around the block with a reasonable amount of confidence (my favourite time is Sunday morning – I excel at driving on empty roads!). And every time I do it, I get more relaxed.

You can excel at pretty much anything you want.

That’s what I teach my son. I tell him that when he does it for the first time, he probably won’t be very good at it, but with time and practice, he can shine. It applies to anything, including writing.

Another point of my driving story is that we do things in our own time.

Sometimes you can have masses of resistance to doing a task. Resistance happens for a good reason though. Perhaps you are not ready. Can you be gentle with yourself?

Stop fighting your resistance.

Resistance itself isn’t a problem; it’s when you resist your own resistance you get blocked. Say you don’t want to write today. You could  give yourself a hard time for not writing, being too lazy, falling behind, etc. and before you know it you feel stuck. The longer you feel stuck the more entrenched is the feeling.

But what if you could soften around your resistance and accept  it. You’d be amazed how quickly you can move through the feeling and transform a seemingly impossible situation.

Join my community here and let me show how you can do it.

Can You Stay True to Yourself?

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About ten years ago, I used to go to a tai-chi class. We normally had a break between two classes, and I sat in the lobby of the local Buddhist centre where the class took place. Our break coincided with the tea break of a meditation group. One day, a woman sat next to me. Normally, I’m pretty shy around other people, but I felt reasonably comfortable with her. She told me about meditation classes, something I’d wanted to try out for a while.

‘Are you free on Thursday?’ She asked.

‘Yes, why?’

‘There’s an introductory meditation class on that day. I normally don’t come to that one, but I’m free this Thursday and could come to hold your hand.’

Now, back then, no one was holding my hand. Partly, I didn’t know how to allow others to help me, and partly I was very lonely working on my PhD away from my home country. I felt deeply touched by the willingness of this stranger to park her plans for Thursday and come along to support me. (These days, I get that it was her choice, but back then it felt incredibly generous of her).

So, I said yes.

On Thursday, I showed up to my first meditation class. It felt like a big deal, somehow. I’ve seen pictures of peaceful people sitting with backs so straight, it was as if they swallowed a broomstick. With trepidation, I entered a semi-dark room and sat on the floor. The woman was there already.

‘Would you like some cushions to support your back? You could use a chair…,’ she offered.

‘No,’ I said, ‘I’ll sit on a floor.’

Within the first 3 minutes I realised how uncomfortable I was. My back, which was exposed to a lot of slouching in front of a computer, had no idea how to stay straight. Frozen in a rigid posture, I tried my best to follow the instructions of an uninspiring old man who was leading the class.

I sat like that for an hour because I didn’t want to let this woman down.

The ‘good girl’ in me wanted to show that her time-investment wasn’t wasted, that I could actually be good at this meditation thing, that not only can I be good, I can do it perfectly from the first go.

Needless to say it was a complete disaster.

When everyone left to enjoy a cuppa during a break, I rolled on a floor in a vain attempt to release the pressure from my back and somehow to soothe the discomfort which grew into stabbing pain under my right shoulder blade. To date, I still get that type of pain when I try to sit straight and force a ‘good’ posture on my back. I was reminded of this incident as I was reflecting on how I can twist myself into something that I’m not in order to please others.

Whether your intention is to impress, show gratitude, or to defy others, when you shape-shift into something that’s not your natural state, it’s going to hurt. 

I’m pretty sure that woman would rather I’d sat on a chair and came to every meditation class for years to come, rather than tolerated that much pain and then refused to have anything to do with meditation for the next seven years. Even now, most of the time when I meditate I lie down….

Another point of this story is that what you think others expect from you may be very different to what they actually want.

There’s often no knowing for sure, and so the best thing to do is to follow your own internal radar rather than second-guessing what others want. I know, it’s easier said than done, and I’m in the process of learning this myself. What’s different now is that I know there’s an easier way. Way easier….

Join my community here, and let me show you how to stay true to yourself.

P.S. No post from me next week. I’m teaching a live workshop on overcoming fear of failure instead. Details are here.

Axe the Dr.

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A couple of weeks ago, I saw a Facebook post of a friend of mine who wants to publish her poems. ‘Should I do it under my own name or the more poetic name she uses on FB.’

Someone replied: ‘I’d do this under your own name. Your [nickname] sounds pretentious and off-putting, but perhaps it’s just me.’

God, that was harsh, I thought, even though I fully agreed with this person. Half an hour later, I was on a call with my writing buddy.

‘Can I give you feedback on how your present yourself in the world,’ she said unexpectedly.

‘Yes sure’.

‘Why do you use ‘Dr’ on your website? It must be such a turn off to some people.’

‘Does it?’ The comment stung a bit, but I carried on exploring this with her nonetheless. ‘Doesn’t it suggest that I’m not someone flaky? Besides, I’ve done years of academic writing before I wrote creatively. The blocks are the same, irrespective of the writing you do.’

We went back and forth on this, and eventually I came to admit that my title was some sort of a shield. When I started blogging I was so insecure. Every time I pressed ‘publish’ button, I died a little bit. My title was there to show some credibility, to give weight to my words and to what I offer. In other words, it was a sort of ‘protection’ mechanism.

Back in October 2014, to show up as I was felt vulnerable.

I’m strong enough now to axe the ‘Dr’. I don’t need big titles to earn your respect and my credibility. It’s not to disown my academic credentials, but to recognise that it doesn’t add anything to my writing or healing work.

So I’m curious. How do you present yourself in the world? Are you strong enough to show up soft and open, exactly as you are? If not, what is your ‘armour’ made of?

P.S. Ready to shed your ‘armour’ and to show up exactly as you are? Sign up here to find out about healing work I do with writers.

What success looks or feels like to you?

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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

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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?

 

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How Presence Heals

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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

 

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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.