On Life & Love

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Where lovers stay

Where lovers stay

Inner Cage by Deviant At

With fingertips I brush your skin
It feels my heart, it lets me in
That touch is sure, it hears you breathe
My hands don’t ever want to leave
the place they crave upon your flesh
where lovers stay

But still your mind won’t disengage
The walls are raised, your inner cage
The feelings peak…., but disappear
Desire’s loss in face of fear

The dance starts now, we feel the flow
I say yes, as you say no
The rhythm’s there, but out of line
I draw away, it's not our time

You take control and pull me back
My head spins at my heart’s attack
I whisper softly in your ear
But now it’s mine, that inner fear
My hands are tied I cannot reach
where lovers stay

And now my mind can’t disengage
The walls are raised, my inner cage
The feelings peak…., but disappear
Desire’s loss in face of fear

And still we dance and feel the flow
You say yes, as I say no
The rhythm’s there, but out of line
You draw away, it's not our time

The question hangs, I can’t let go
If I say yes, will you say no?
Our minds control our every move
We stay apart and sing the blues
Even though I long to be
Where lovers stay

Releasing fear is hard to do
Let walls come down and see it through
But when fear is strong, it’s strength belies
The power of feeling that it hides
That soft and secret desire to be
Where lovers stay

Heart or mind, which will it be?
If they could be in harmony
The truth would let itself reveal
The tender depth of what we feel
And all that fear would disappear
In face of what should be so clear
That love is where this dance must lead
Desire’s win will set us free

Let’s start again, this dance is new
I say yes… will you say it too..?
The rhythm’s there, let’s get in line
Draw together, make now our time

My fingertips will brush your skin
And now I know your heart is in
I’ll whisper softly in your ear
The words I know you want to hear
And when we dance, in rhythm, whole
We’ll feel the movements in our souls

This poem is copyright of Elaine Sturgess, please do not reproduce either in part or full without permission of the author. Image credit Deviant Art.

On freedom and fear

On freedom and fear

The Emerald Lagoon, Quillatoa, Ecuador

We all want freedom, don’t we? And some of us may be we believe we have it. Particularly in the Western World, the lands of privilege where we might believe we are in control of our lives, that we are free to make our own choices, where we can pretty much have what we want – if we work hard enough for it. And where tyranny or poverty are not an every day fact of life.

But is that really freedom? I’m not sure it is.

Because in the Western World, our cultures have some common themes that trap us – we are as nations, primarily obsessed with power and control and burdened by the driving force of economic growth. Material possession, wealth, ownership, and competition are just some of the factors that actually keep us from the real freedoms that might help us enjoy life more.

I recently travelled to South America on an adventure trip with my 19 year old niece Natalie. One of the countries we visited was Ecuador, and its stunning Volcanic landscapes. With the equator running through it and closest to the sun, for me the exceptional and unique nature of the views came from the melding of amazing cloud formations with the land below. It is where the earth meets the sky.  We travelled through the valley of the Volcanoes (there are over 70 volcanoes across Ecuador), trekked down to an exquisite emerald lagoon in the middle of an extinct collapsed volcano called Quilatoa, climbed on snow-capped Cotopaxi, rode horses up into the mountains and zip-lined through exotic cloud forests. Thrilling and mind-blowingly beautiful experiences that most will never have the good fortune to enjoy. We are privileged.

One of the themes that kept coming back to me as we travelled to remote villages at high altitude, was that of freedom. Ecuador, at this point, is relatively undeveloped. Mostly visited by backpackers and adventurers, tourism has not yet taken hold and outside the major cities the sparsely populated land is inhabited by people who still live a very simple life. As we climbed the steep mountainsides in our comfortable air-conditioned mini van, every now and then we would see someone walking on the roadside, literally miles from anywhere, in bright coloured ponchos with hats pulled down of their eyes to keep out the sun’s glare. Or there would be a remote shack in a scratched out piece of farmed land with someone toiling on the earth to raise a crop or two.

At first sight, for many of us snapping away with our mobile devices and sophisticated cameras, this might appear a hard existence. A back breaking way to eek out a life in the harsh climate and climes of the mountains. But in fact this for me, represents real freedom. These people are not burdened by the need for possession. They lead a simple life where they are completely self sufficient. The don’t have cars, TVs, playstations or laptops. They live off the land. They don’t have peer groups pressuring them to earn more, to have more. There’s no media creating a vision of how they should look or be, their homes are a basic roof over their head with the essential comforts they need and no more.

When I was videoing the amazing emerald lake at Quillatoa where one of these small local communities is based in the mountains, I looked down to see two little girls looking up at me (you can see them in the tiny video clip below). After I stopped the video, I reached into my pocket and gave them a dollar. A single dollar. You should have seen the smiles on their faces, I wish I had kept the video going. They were ecstatic and skipped off like they’d won the lottery.

The freedom they have is dependent though. On nature. It is their provider and their existence is reliant on its unpredictability, they can do their best to manage their lives within its whims, but ultimately they must trust that whatever happens, they will survive.  Their certainty and security is limited.

And therein lies a huge dilemma for the majority of us who, given the opportunity for real freedom, are unable to face the fear that such uncertainty inevitably generates.

From my own perspective, I understand this feeling. I recently made a decision to let go of pretty much everything from the past and start again. Circumstances made that a transition feel necessary. It is the freest I have been in my life. I have few ties, I can go anywhere – and given that I have this romantic notion that we are all capable of doing pretty much anything if we really want to, I’m also open to (or maybe lost in) – the opportunity to change what I do for the rest of my time on this planet. So how does it feel? It’s frightening. It feels like jumping of a cliff with no idea where to fly to – or floating in a vast ocean, floating, but with no sense of the direction to swim in because you can’t see any land. There’s a desperate desire to head straight back to some sense of security or safety.  Ultimately, freedom involves uncertainty and that makes us fearful.

So what do you do? Well be grateful that you can you fly, or swim and just do it. It doesn’t matter what the direction is, because you just have to trust that at some point you will find what you need, what you are looking for (whether you have any idea of what that is or not) and that nature, the universe will provide whatever is necessary.

Easier said than done. But when you finally settle into the notion that you are free to do anything and stay open to the possibilities, your opportunities are endless. And your needs are actually very simple. Well that’s the theory 😉

Our conditioning, our experience, means we often overcomplicate it. Make it harder than we need to make it. We want rather than need. We overthink everything and that thinking often succumbs to the pressures of our external world. Thinking often stops us doing. I loved the simplicity of the lives of those people on the mountains of Ecuador. It seemed to me that if we think that our sophisticated way of living is the result of a progressive evolution, then we still have a lot to learn. X.

Quilotoa, Ecuador

Losing our senses: the devolution of touch

Losing our senses: the devolution of touch

Anna Garcia Cuartero - exquisite touch

Our five senses are obviously the miraculous ways in which we experience the wonder of our world. They offer us the awe inspiring ability to create a sensual understanding of what is happening around us and to us – they feed our mind, body, heart and spirit.

My own awareness of the world around me has been heightened in the last few years and I totally delight in enjoying its wonders with every ounce of the senses I can apply to my experiences. But developing a better appreciation has led me to believe that we might be in danger of losing one of our senses – touch. And I mean that seriously. The expansion of non physical communication really does have the potential to affect our human evolution.

And I think we’re losing it not just in its physical form but in its definition as the ability to touch in a wider sense, as an emotional connection.

With online and mobile communication ever dominating our lives, the need for the physical presence of other people is rapidly diminishing. We don’t need meetings when we have google hangouts and skype. Social lives can be largely fulfilled with texting, Whatsapp and social media. And who needs a date when you can exchange words, pictures and videos online? It’s extraordinary how many relationships start and end now with a fast and furious exchange of sexts. I find it a huge irony that is is the expansion of touch based technology that is largely leading to the erosion of our human experience of physical connection.

Camille - the exquisite art of touch
Camille - the exquisite art of touch

And of course there’s the knock on effect in the context of touching each other emotionally. Relationships are becoming more a function of practical necessity, more about exchange of information and the sharing of resources than of emotion, more disposable, more easily swapped in for the next option because people perceive they might find a better, newer model on the market. Like the latest phone or the latest car. Why bother to take the time to attach to what you have when you might want the next upgrade? Even procreation is becoming less reliant on physical interaction.

Touch is the most critical of the five senses in connecting us, in establishing our collective humanity. The closest to our spirit. And perhaps it’s the diminishing of that physical and emotional connection that’s one of the factors in the growing violence and tragedy we are seeing. If we do not touch each other, we do not feel for each other. We are removed emotionally, we lack compassion for others because they do not touch us, nor we them.

Touch is an essential part of existence. It’s also a huge pleasure in life. In a physical sense the experience of texture, the flow of feeling that is generated from contact, is joyful, sensuous, it feeds our souls. Form the perspective of connection, it is vital. It is a fundamental expression of love.

If we’re going to evolve, we had better start to understand that we need to touch, be touched, be in touch with each other. To connect. At the risk of being over cheesy in what I think is a serious issue, maybe we could all be a bit more Diana Ross and reach out and touch every day, it really could make the world a better place.

For interesting reading on the nature of relationships and love, take a look at Liquid Love by Zigmunt Bauman, frightening and enlightening at the same time.

Love Is Not a Piece of Cake

Love Is Not a Piece of Cake

Love Is Not A Piece of Cake
Don't give a piece of your heart... give all of it
Don't take a piece of my heart... take all of it

There have been a lot of relationship changes in my life in the last few years. Some of which have caused me a huge amount of sadness – and the circumstances of those changes and experience of loss have made me think about the nature of love and why it can cause us more pain than perhaps it should.

Our perception of love is defined as much by how we feel it as how it is expressed by another. One of the challenges is that so many people see love like a cake. Both their own love and what they receive. It is finite and we slice it up and share it out. When the slices have been given out, then we compare how big our slice is to others – and when it’s gone, there’s no more cake. So if someone new comes along and needs some love, then we all perceive that we have to have a smaller slice of cake. And we’re not very good at sharing. So then we feel hard done by. Or we try to compete for a larger slice. It’s this perception that leads to so much resentment and jealousy.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can view it differently. Because although there are many things in our lives that are finite – time, resources – love is not. It is infinite. We can give love endlessly and boundlessly if we choose to – and we can also choose to receive it endlessly and boundlessly. If we detached love from the measured vehicles of its expression, we would all feel it so much more – another of life’s inevitable ironies.

And somehow in this world dominated by control and materialism, we also seem to have lost touch with the fact that love is a feeling undefined by anything other than its pure expression. If we attach something else to it – like time, gifts, then we are adding a value that creates an expectation. That expectation can then lead to unnecessary disappointment – we feel loved more or less only by the level to which we receive those attachments.

If I spend less time with you this week than I did last week, does it mean I loves you less? If I give you a less valuable gift this Christmas than I did last, does it mean my love has diminished in equal value? If I write a greater number of words in your Birthday Card does it mean I love you more? And if another human being comes into my life and I love them, does it mean I have less to give to you? Well unless I tell you so, the answer is no. Because my love for you is whole, regardless.

The point is not that we can’t enjoy those things as declarations of love, just that we need to stop measuring and comparing them – and if we feel a change and it hurts us, then we communicate with each other about the feeling that leaves us with.

And the wholeness is essential because it is not defined or constricted by the love a person gives to anyone else. It is not a competition. It is solely a connection between two people and even if they share connections elsewhere, or they individually have connections elsewhere, that doesn’t have to mean there is less energy in the relationship directly between them.  And if you regard it as always whole, then you will not feel short changed. At any point in time, we can only give what we can. If we make the assumption that someone who loves us is always giving at their ultimate level, then we will feel loved by them both constantly and completely.

We all define love and feel love in different ways. Taking responsibility for understanding how we feel love and for how another person feels love, transforms our ability to love and be loved.

I was lucky enough to be in a long term romantic relationship where all of that was innate – it’s taken me a long time to work out consciously why it was so extraordinary and to understand the elements that made it work. Perhaps ultimately, we were lucky to have shared values and were both people whose thoughts were primarily driven by our feelings, rather than the other way round. We wanted to feel for each other, so we did. But it was only the pain of the relationships that have fractured that offered enlightenment on that.

Now I know how incredibly fortunate I am and that it’s not always that easy… love is not a piece of cake, is it? But when we taste it unconditionally and without boundaries, it is infinitely more delicious…

 

P.S If you’d like to find out more about how you feel love – and how some one you love might, take a look at the 5 Love Languages on this link…

Connection: Soul Relationships

Connection: Soul Relationships

It is the silent moments of perfect connection in life that can have the most profound impact.

The realisation and recognition of a wonderful soul connection sometimes only happens long after it
becomes a sweet – or bittersweet – memory. And for some, sadly, it never happens at all

One of the realisations for me in my recent journey in life, is that soul connections are not always in lasting relationships. Sometimes they are fleeting or short term, sometimes they involve romantic love and sometimes they do not, sometimes they are with other people and sometimes they are not, because all life forms have a soul. The thing they all have in common is that they have the potential to be life changing.

It seems that one of the reasons so many people do not experience soul connection and the magnificence of it, is because they are not open, aware or accepting of its possibility. And perhaps that’s because they don’t have a connection to the most important soul of all – their own.

In the human perspective, many of us see love as the greatest experience we can have in life and that it is in a romantic relationship that we will find our “soul mate” – and for many soul is equivalent to sole, the belief that we can only ever find one. We tend to define that experience by the impact it has on our five senses, the emotion it generates in our hearts and the physical sensations that it so potently inspires in our bodies.

I believe a soul connection is different. It is something you can experience as much in the silence, in moments where you are entwined in the presence of another and feel so connected to their being that the two of you feel like one. It is the feeling that you have known them forever. It is pure bliss, wSoul connections in arthen the world goes away entirely and your mind is finally empty of its chatter. There is no sense of time, because you are entirely in that moment, there is no future and no past, just the intense joy of “being”. There is no fear, no anxiety, no stress because you are not affected by your ego. It is full of happiness, peace and love, love, love…

Sometimes these soul connections occur in a relationship that is not otherwise sustainable or fulfilling. Sometimes we experience those connections in a relationship that is otherwise full of turmoil and chaos, pain and suffering. But that may be the very reason why we are in that soul connection, to learn and grow, to experience, to wake up to ourselves and others, to make changes in our lives. And though the intensity of the joy in some of the time we are together is so compelling, the circumstances that surround it sometimes mean we have let go, because it is the only way we can really appreciate the value it has had and understand the lessons we should learn as a result. Such is the irony of life.

I have done a great deal of searching in recent years, for answers about life, about pain and grief about the nature of humanity and relationships – and about myself. And in the process have read and absorbed information from some truly amazing and wise people. It’s all had an impact on where I am now and has changed dramatically my perceptions and understanding (including the fact that we all have our own unique understanding and truths and this article is a reflection of only mine!). I encountered two sources of information recently that  have influenced my belief about connection, the first is a book called Seat of The Soul by Gary Zukav, which is utterly brilliant in its premise – understanding the need to align our personality, our senses, who we typically define ourselves as being, with our soul – it is fascinating and enlightening beyond measure. I not so much wanted to read it, but completely absorb it.

The second is a quote that Elizabeth Gilbert makes in her book Eat, Pray, Love. It says this about soul mates:

“People think your soul mate is your perfect fit. And that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention, so you change your life.”

Perhaps it is my own recent relationship experience and the need to understand it that made reading that definition a lightbulb moment. What I know is that I have been lucky enough to experience more than one soul connection– though I did not necessarily have full awareness of it as being that at the time. And those relationships were in many other respects, entirely different. What I do know is that both gave me times of pure joy – and (though both as a result of intense pain) the opportunity to grow and learn and change myself and my experience of life.

I believe that soul connections never end – though we may no longer be in the physical presence of the other being, we remain eternally connected. That has been a source of great comfort.

So I will be forever grateful to know – and to have known – this experience.