The War Against Ourselves

As we enter a further three weeks of lock down in a national and global effort to halt the spread of coronavirus, people are beginning to wonder if there is any end in sight. Loneliness and isolation are having an impact on people’s mental health, so too is close proximity to spouses, children, parents and siblings for longer periods of time that in normal circumstances. The lonely, long to be near friends and family, and those in family groups or dysfunctional relationships, long to be left alone. Being alone with our own thoughts and the shadows they throw across the mind is a daunting prospect, something I can attest to but so too, is living in close quarters with a person who is controlling and manipulative. In both scenarios we must either face up to our thoughts and feelings about the situation or be consumed by them. The war against the virus has become the war against ourselves.

One thing I know for sure, life is transient and this current situation will pass. It is our underlying thoughts and belief systems that can leave us feeling victimised and overwhelmed. Depression casts a long shadow across our inner light duping us to believe life is unfair and hopeless. But despair not, there is a way through the darkness. When I found myself in such hopeless circumstances eight years ago, surrounded by damning thoughts, which in turn attracted hostile living conditions, I realised no one could save me but myself. Having a victim mentality only gives others power over you, particularly a controlling personality. No matter what the intentions, whether to exploit or to advise, giving someone control over your emotions leads to high emotional anxiety and mental agitation. The way out for me was by owning my emotions, the anger, the grief, the guilt and the despair. The underlying unfelt emotions fuelled a barrage of difficult thoughts which in turn darkened my view of myself and those around me. Owning my feelings, no matter how painful, led to a release from my emotional and mental imprisonment, which in turn set me free from a toxic living arrangement.

Depression goes undetected in many people, it is only when there is a threat to life that it is diagnosed. The unfortunate effect of depression in some cases is the alienation of family and friends. In many cases, the person is unaware of what is happening to their mental and emotional state, their fear of pushing away loved ones causes them to bury their feelings. Tragically it is only after a suicide attempt, the gravity of mental illness is highlighted to family members.

In many ways, we are all trying to flee from our damning thoughts through our busy lifestyles. When that is suspended due to the current worldwide pandemic, we have nowhere to run. We can try to fill the extra time with chores, gardening, Netflix, alcohol and food. As the time drags on into further weeks of lockdown and possibly months, anyone affected by dark thoughts and anxiety will have to face the cause. The cause is unfelt emotions lurking in the subconscious from past fears and trauma.

Set your intention for healing and awareness, for mental and emotional well being. Spend quality time alone, try not to avoid loneliness, rather try to understand why you are lonely. Listen to the inner voice as you would a loved one. Putting someone else at the centre of your world through dependence leaves you weak and vulnerable. It takes time to change a habit of a lifetime. Take small steps toward your liberation, by sitting for ten to fifteen minutes each morning in a meditative state. Thoughts will come and go, some mildly looking for attention, others aggressively trying to take you away from inner peace. Let them be. Sink deeper into the feeling body, feel where the sensation arises in your body, this is the fuel that causes thought. Be with the emotion as long as you can, by giving full attention to the feeling it will be released. This may be experienced as deep sobs or a sharp sensation, either way by releasing the emotion, it can no longer fuel shadow thoughts.

By putting ourselves at the centre of our world we can best be available to others. Be kind to yourself. How you treat yourself sets the bar for how others treat you. In the words of Ram Dass, ‘We are all just walking each other Home.’

Collette O’Mahony 18/04/2020

Image; Brooke Shaden

Himalayan Life

From March 2015 until September 2018 I lived in the Himalayan region of Himachal Pradesh in India. I went on a six-month visa to expand my horizons, and hoped to gain perspective and wisdom. The Buddhist towns and villages high up in the Himalayan foothills were a perfect place to remove myself from the demands of living in a capitalist society, and the accompanying thought patterns. The sound of mantras, the smell of incense and the colourful prayer flags imbibed calm on an overworked western mind, allowing a deeper connection to the elusive realm of spirit.

The journey that began as a three to six month sabbatical, ending up as a three-and-a-half year life changing experience. With intermittent return journeys to the UK and Nepal for visas, life in the main was lived simply among the people and creatures of the Himalayas. It was not an easy journey from the outset, my conditioned mind patterns tripped me up at every turn, nagging me about comforts, or lack thereof. The ego doesn’t welcome change unless it’s on terms it understands. Being thrown into a completely different culture with reduced conveniences does not bode well with the ego. The haranguing inner dialogue often kept me awake long into the night demanding to know if I had a death wish, doubly so when I had to side-step a scorpion on the way to the bathroom.

Relationships were also tricky. Trying to interact with Buddhist, Hindu and Sikhs from a western framed mindset leads to more than just a confusion of language, but an emotional frustration when the ego-self is met with a calm shoulder shrug or bemused head wobble. Navigating a relationship with a man brought up in the Tibetan-Buddhist tradition was a real challenge for me but also an immensely rewarding one for the soul, as time and time again, it had to make several leaps forward to overcome the ego’s sabotage of love. Humility alone, was the one saving grace for my fledgling soul as it bowed its head to the long list of wrongdoings levelled against it while under the duress of the ego. Living an authentic life is not for the fainthearted.

Meditation and retreat does not guarantee an immediate blissful transcendence into inner peace and love, true it provides an opening, but for me the journey was both turbulent and humbling as I faced my human flaws in the mirror of self-reflection.

Long periods of self-isolation and reflection in the Himalayas prepared me for my current circumstances during UK lock down. As I sit and reflect on our current situation as a national and global community, I am eternally grateful for the self imposed quarantine of my ego in a Himalayan village. It gave me the tools to face any situation with equanimity. The old ego pattern still has its say, but it fades quickly without the energy of unresolved fear. Lifting the lid on old behaviour patterns revealed childhood fears of lack, abandonment and inadequacy. Facing past pain released me from slavery to an ego formed from circumstance and necessity in order to cope with unresolved emotions. I felt tethered to a role that I was sick of playing, and its continuous rehearsals playing out in my head. Casting aside my role has been the most challenging and liberating experience of my existence.

I hope you use this time of self-isolation to face some of your unwanted behaviour patterns and kick them into touch with the help of humility and kindness.

Collette O’Mahony 13/04/2020

The Himalayan Caves where Padmasambhava gave his Buddhist teachings in the 8th Century.

The Soul in Words Poetry Book

I am very excited to tell you that my poetry book ‘THE SOUL IN WORDS’ is now available to purchase in Paperback. It contains 16 full-length poems and 144 verses set against a backdrop of love and loss, light and shade, and the forces of nature. If you’d like a sneak preview, follow the link below. Collette x

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Soul-Words-Collection-Poetry-Verse/dp/1916007910/

 

An Invitation to Believe in Better Times

This is an invitation to believe in better times.

Believe in crimson sunsets and sparkling azure seas.

Believe in towering trees with leaves unfurling in the spring sunshine.

Believe in walks in the park holding hands with your loved ones.

Believe in the simple pleasure of sipping coffee

on the pavement outside a café.

Most of all, believe that the earth is waiting for you

and longs for the touch of your footsteps once more.

Collette O’Mahony 07/04/2020

The shadow virus

There is a parallel rate of infection happening as we move through the global pandemic caused by coronavirus. Moving along one line is the infection rate arising from the virus and also alarmingly, is a shadow line indicating the mental infection in the population from fear and anxiety. The fallout is enormous.

Being denied basic rights such as freedom of movement and a job to earn a living causes a restless and potentially eruptive energy in the general population. Lock downs around the world are in place because there is no known way to immunise or treat covid-19. However, there have been several warnings, since the SARS virus in 2002, of a serious threat to the global community should another coronavirus make the leap from animals to humans.

According to the World Health Organisation, one person dies every 40 seconds from suicide. Several governments across the world say they are committed to improving mental health and reducing the number of deaths from suicide. Yet, these are the countries who ignored the World Health Organisation’s warning about another coronavirus pandemic, failing to put in place a contingency plan. When the prediction finally materialised as covid-19, their only response, given the lack of planning, was to enforce national lock downs. While this is proving to slow the rate of viral infection, it adds to the anxiety and stress of the population, particularly the most vulnerable. Even the mentally robust individual is wilting under the hot house of social distancing and being shut off from their loved ones living in other households.

The tide of coronavirus came like a massive tsunami across the world making it too late to run for cover. The measures being taken to stop the spread of the virus are having severe impacts on the most vulnerable sections of society, the elderly and those with mental health issues. So while we receive death tolls as graphs on a page, each life that adds to that line is someone’s wife, father, mother, son.

The invisible line that shadows the death from covid-19 is the rate of deaths from suicide. The child who can’t take another moment of being cooped up with his abusive parent, the young girl who is continually sexually abused by the man who is meant to protect her. The husband who slips further into despair as his wife hurls verbal abuse at his inadequacies, or the woman who uses make-up to hide her black eye from her children.

There are many questions to be asked about the inadequate preparation for a global pandemic, but more importantly we have a question to ask ourselves, individually and nationally; Can we continue to ignore our mental health and well being? We must invest, not just money, but time and effort into mindfulness, inner peace and meditation. Spend a few moments on conscious breathing. The more we watch our breathing, the deeper it becomes. Feel gratitude for this simple process that keeps us alive. Our immune system depends on it. Our well being depends upon it. We never know how much we depend on something until it is taken away, in some cases we find new ways to adapt. But that is not the case with breathing. There is no substitute for it, if we stop breathing we die.