There was a fierce storm in the UK last Thursday. All throughout the night we could hear the wind and rain. It was almost deafening. In the morning, our garden was strewn with torn-off branches of trees.
I was due to drive from my home in central Scotland to London. Each year in December, my publisher (Hay House) organises a Christmas party in London for the European authors. My plan was to drive because I needed a car to get to and from a speaking event 2 days later.
I delayed my early morning departure by a few hours until the weather had much improved, then set off on what is usually a simple 7-hour drive.
When I was about half way, an accident had occurred just up ahead. It was on the M6 motorway, just west of Manchester, and the M6 was now being closed. Over the next few hours, a long queue of very-slow-moving traffic was moved off the motorway and headed towards the town of Warrington to pick up a main road back onto the M6 at the next junction.
With not much else to do in a stationary traffic queue, I checked the BBC Travel News website to get real-time updates on the roads. I learned that there were two closures of the M6. The other one was about 100 miles farther, near Birmingham. I would meet that one too. At these times, most people act in one of two ways.
The first is frustration. A man in a blue car behind me was so angry when we were funnelled off the M6 that he started banging on his steering wheel – with his head! The other option is to accept what is happening in the moment. It’s not always easy to do, but I reasoned that there wasn’t really anything I could do to change the situation. I would most likely miss the party. It’s either frustration or find a way of enjoying the journey. I chose option 2.
Even the thought of having that choice was quite relaxing. I felt empowered as I dwelled on idea that I am in control of my own mind, and therefore how I feel. Just then, I caught sight of a car pulling out of a housing state and had a sudden intuition that there was probably a quicker route through the estates that would bypass the traffic queues.
I decided that trusting my intuition might be a good way to enjoy the journey a bit, regardless of whether it actually got me to my destination any quicker or not. I checked the ‘Maps’ app on my iPhone and I could, indeed, see a route through the streets. I pulled off the main road and into the streets lined with houses.
As I drove along, I felt a little buzz of crazy excitement – to be 300km from home and instead of being on the M6, I was driving though quiet streets lined with houses. It felt good to be trusting my intuition on purpose and I determined to continue trusting it, regardless of where it might take me. I passed a street called, ‘ELIZABETH DRIVE. I smiled, as that’s the name of my partner…the Elizabeth bit.
I figured it would actually be quite nice to go back and take a photograph of the sign and then text it to Elizabeth, so I did. It’s little things like these that bring complete contrast to what we could or should be doing that can actually help us to feel good. It further removed my mind from the stress of the whole ‘getting-to-my-destination’ thing.
About two minutes later, I passed another street name and, of course, I had to stop and take another photograph. This one was for ‘DAVENHAM AVENUE’. I laughed out loud.
The little intuitive side-step into the housing estates probably saved me about an hour. By the time I picked up the road back onto the M6, I began to wonder if the time-saving I’d made would actually help me get to London on time for the party. Perhaps the M6 at Birmingham would be reopened by the time I got there, I wondered. Then I’d definitely make it. I felt a little burst of satisfaction at having listened to my intuition.
But back on the M6 and heading towards Birmingham, I began to wonder why we all seem so future-focused, including myself. Why was I now turning an enjoyable experience of intuition and contrast into being ‘the reason’ I’d get to the party? It felt like I was cheapening the experience, like I was taking something away from it, that it was merely a means to an end.
We all do this, don’t we? We try to explain why everything happens to us. But does there always need to be a reason? Does the present always need to be a means to get us to the future? Such thinking is a recipe for unhappiness and, to be honest, it’s a dish that most of us serve up to ourselves on a daily basis.
Perhaps if, from time to time, we stop looking for reasons, we stop looking to the future, and just meet the moments, the experiences, as if they are the last we’ll ever have.
I had such fun diverting out of the traffic jam and into the streets of houses. Taking those photographs of the road signs might seem unimportant to many people, especially in a future-focused mindset, but it mattered to me. It was something I laughed at in the moment and it is what I most remember about my day in traffic. It’s these seemingly tiny moments that we most remember later in life. If we’re always looking to the future, our main memories are the goals we achieve. And these are short-lived, because we quickly come up with another goal. We miss so many of the moments in between. We forget about the journey.
I was soon caught up in traffic again. The M6 hadn’t reopened and I moved about 1km in 2 and a half hours. I was stationary much of the time. Great, I thought.
I did a meditation (the traffic was completely stationary, I had my engine switched off, and I did it with my eyes open). It was wonderful, and made more so with the excited edge to my emotions because I was meditating in a traffic jam. I bounced on my seat a few times afterwards. How many people could say they did a self-love meditation on the M6, I wondered?
I also listened to some great music on the radio, using the ‘Shazam’ app on my iPhone to get the name of the songs for downloading later when I could pick up a wifi connection.
I also made a few calls to friends and enjoyed a good laugh. One of my friends said, ‘Poor you, to be stuck on the road all day and miss the party’. My response was, truthfully, ‘I’ve had a great time!’ And I had.
I arrived at my hotel in London way too late for the party but I sat in the restaurant and had a lovely meal and a nice glass of red wine, and the service was excellent – smiling staff who did everything to ensure I enjoyed my stay.
Imagine if we applied this kind of thinking to our lives! My journey on the road could just as easily be the story of your life. Don’t you recognise it?
Don’t get me wrong, there is a time for future-thinking. It gives direction to our lives. But perhaps we don’t need to give it quite so much attention.
Do you want to live for the future and forget to live today, or do you want to squeeze every ounce of experience out of the moments of your life as the journey unfolds?
It’s up to you. You have that power of choice.
1) They’re good for the heart
Positive experiences with friends and family produce the hormone oxytocin. Research shows that oxytocin helps to lower blood pressure and also helps keep the chemical precursors to cardiovascular disease at bay. It is a ‘cardioprotective’ hormone (protects the cardiovascular system) and therefore good relationships with friends and family are also cardioprotective.
In fact, a 1960’s US census found substantially lower levels of heart disease in people from the town of Roseto. After years of scientific investigation into the seeming anomaly (no one under the age of 50 in the town had ever died of heart disease), it turned out that their social connectedness was they key to this. This was a highly ‘connected’ small town, where everyone knew everyone else and many households had 4 generations of family living there.
2) They help us to live longer
Most longevity research in the past has taught us that among the keys to living a long, healthy life are that we eat well, sleep well, exercise well, and manage our stress levels. But more recent research is now telling us that social interaction is actually one of THE most important factors in living a long, healthy life.
In fact, a 2010 study that looked at 188 Australians over the age of 100 found that a close network of family and friends was highly significant in determining their lifespan.
And here’s one for the men: Large-scale studies that compare men in relationships with men who are single show that cardiovascular health is better in married men, and as cardiovascular disease is a major cause of reduced lifespan, being in a relationship actually helps us (especially men) live longer.
3) They’re good for our emotional health
Having positive interactions with friends and family make us feel good. We laugh more, we feel joy, we smile more. Our spirits are generally lifted compared with not having these relationships.
Research that examines the connectivity in social networks has found that people who are more connected tend to be happier than people who have less interaction with friends and family.
And an added bonus is that we tend to be contagious when we’re happy; not in the infectious disease way but in that happiness spreads from person to person. It’s known as Emotional Contagion. Positive interactions make us happier and then we spread that happiness in the rest of the interactions we have.
4) They buffer the difficult times
Friends and family help us through difficult times in our lives. They provide shoulders to cry on when we’re struggling and they help us to find emotional and spiritual strength. Most people have lent on that shoulder and have also been that shoulder for someone else. The connection is something that is necessary for our thriving.
One study where people were given a stressful task found that they recovered faster if they were simply reminded of some of their positive relationships.
5) They’re good for the immune system
Connections with others are important for the human species as a whole. Having relationships actually ensured the survival of our species over millions of years of evolution. It’s why the oxytocin gene (which produces oxytocin and helps us bond with one another) is one of the oldest in the human genome (500 million years old).
It should be no surprise to learn, then, that having good relationships is linked with the immune system, since it is so crucial for the human species.
Indeed, a simple study where 334 volunteers were exposed to the common cold found that those who had strong relationships were about 50% less likely to develop symptoms.
Yes, you are a chemist! As you think, you shape the chemistry of your brain and blood, you shape the chemistry of your relationships, and you also shape the chemistry of your life.
I have a PhD in chemistry and was once a professional chemist. I trained in how to build molecules and found myself working as a scientist with one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies.
I loved ‘organic chemistry’, which is where we stick atoms together in various combinations to construct a particular shape of molecule. My specialist fields were cardiovascular disease and cancer.
But even though we think of chemists as people who work in labs, everyone is a chemist and the labs we work in are the laboratories of our bodies, our homes, and the laboratories of our own lives. Here’s the different ways you’re a chemist.
1) How you practice brain chemistry
As you think, you practice brain and blood chemistry. When you think about someone or something that stresses you, then you produce stress chemistry in your brain and blood stream.
You elevate levels of cortisol, adrenalin, norepinephrine, and histamine. Prolonged thinking like this often leads to a build up of free radicals and inflammatory cytokines in your bloodstream. These are chemicals that play a role in heart disease and ageing. And you’re doing this with your mind!
If you were to think of someone that you love instead, or think of a moment of affection, so you produce different chemistry. You elevate levels of dopamine, serotonin, growth hormone, and oxytocin.
If you consistently think in this way, so you increase oxytocin in your bloodstream, which helps sweep those damaging free radicals and cytokines out of your blood. It is a ‘cardioprotective’ hormone. And again, you’re doing this with your mind.
To take a scientific example, research shows that a hostile mindset is linked with cardiovascular disease. People who tend to be most hostile and aggressive have a much higher risk of heart disease than the general population. An attitude of love, compassion and kindness, on the other hand, is associated with better cardiovascular health.
2) How you practice relationship chemistry
A hostile or aggressive mindset also shatters relationship quality. It steers conversations towards complaints and criticism and guides us away from the things that really matter.
When we overly focus on what’s wrong with things or what’s wrong in the world, we get so caught up in the emotions of anger and frustration that we actually miss out on savouring special moments that happen around us. During these times, we move farther away, emotionally, from those who matter most to us.
When we point the mind towards the heart and focus on what’s good and the good qualities in people, on the other hand, we sow seeds of emotional closeness. People find us more approachable and more enjoyable to be around. We gradually move closer, emotionally, to those who matter most to us, as well as build a network of people who value us for who we are.
3) How you practice life chemistry
Our thinking also shapes the events and circumstances of our lives. We move towards, or attract, those things that we give most attention to.
The trouble most of us have is that while we might have a goal or aspiration, we only give it a fraction of our focus. Throughout the day, a whole manner of things occupy a greater portion of our minds: how crap our current state of affairs is, how such and such a person is causing us stress, how we have too much month left at the end of our money, as well as, of course, a lot of happy thoughts too. But most of us generally apportion a larger percentage of our thinking to where we are and the woes of the past than to imagining and visioning our future. We need to flip this around a bit and learn to direct a better portion of our attention to where we want to go.
Even if it’s not an event or ‘thing’ you want but a state, learn to direct more of your attention inwards, perhaps through meditation.
So everyone is a chemist. I like to reflect on the fact that I started out as a chemist, left that role to study and write about the power of the mind (initially based on the placebo effect. You may have read my bestseller, ‘How Your Mind Can Heal Your Body’), and only years later realised that I never stopped being a chemist at all. I’ve just learned to practice different kinds of chemistry, kinds of chemistry that we’re all practicing in every moment of our lives. We just don’t realise that we’re doing it.
Now if we do realise it, we can impact our health in a favourable way, we can nurture and build our relationships, and we can use our chemistry prowess to shape the landscape of our lives.
Most people grow up with the idea that the mind is impotent, that its only function is to interpret life, think and make decisions. But the mind can be thought of as a force, one that pushes chemistry in the brain and body, one that brings love into our lives, and one that pushes outwards to create our hopes and dreams.
You are much more than you think you are and far more capable than you think you are! Now believe in yourself!
On Sunday last week, I was about to start teaching the final day of a 3-day ‘I Heart Me: The Science of Self-Love’ workshop. I was a little early so I had just popped into a coffee shop and sat down to enjoy a warm mug before walking to the venue.
The workshop was being held in Bridge of Allan, the village in central Scotland we moved to a few months ago.
Elizabeth had driven and dropped me off as she and Oscar (our 13-month old Labrador) were going for a walk up in the woods.
After about 20-minutes I received a frantic phone call from Elizabeth. All I heard at first was heavy breathing. My heart began to race. Then Elizabeth cried out, “I’ve lost Oscar.” He’d got the scent of a female dog in season and, well, just bolted. At first she thought he had just run a little bit ahead, as he often does. We usually just shout his name or blow on the whistle and he comes straight back. But this time he didn’t.
Elizabeth was distraught. By the time she phoned me he had been lost for almost ten minutes. I immediately got up from my table, left my bag, laptop and notes lying there, and sprinted out of the door with a passing shout to the waitress that I’d be back.
It’s funny what you can do when adrenalin is pumping. I used to be a sprinter and long-jumper in competitive athletics so I suppose I have a decent technical running style when I sprint. I took off, in full sprinter style (it attracted funny looks, given that I was wearing jeans, shoes, and a leather jacket), and ran at about 90% pace for around 600 metres, with the last part being up a steep hill. Yes, it’s amazing what you can do at these times.
When I was half way up the steep hill, the pace I’d been running at registered in my body and my legs felt like they’d suddenly turned to concrete. I could hardly move. Then I heard Elizabeth’s whistle – I wasn’t far away – and just gritted my teeth and started running again. It never ceases to amaze me how much the mind can over rule the body.
Once I reached the woods, we moved together for a hundred metres or so before we thought it best to spread out. Despite the stressful situation, I felt a strange sense of knowing that everything was OK. On one level, I knew I needed to be strong to help Elizabeth keep it together. But there was something else. I just knew he was safe and I also felt I knew where to find him.
Elizabeth moved off in the direction of the road, in case Oscar took that route. She worried that he might have gone that way and then get run over, as he does have this thing about chasing cars. My instinct was that Oscar was much higher up in the woods.
Of all the multiple interlocking paths leading upwards, I went on intuition alone, hardly thinking, like a dog with its nose to the ground following a scent, just following what seemed to be the right path.
After about 5 minutes I found him playing with a small female spaniel. He’d been there the whole time. Since he hadn’t gone away the owners had begun to back track down through the woods, following the route they had taken. They suspected that the dog (Oscar) had got lost so decided it best to go back the direction they’d come in the hope that they could find the owners.
I was so relieved. And thank goodness for mobile phones! I rang Elizabeth, who broke down in tears of relief, and we arranged where to meet.
By the time I got back to the workshop, I was only ten minutes late. Fortunately I’d met one of the participants as I had earlier bolted out of the coffee shop and briefly relayed what had happened, and asked if she could explain that I’d be there as soon as I could.
The group were so nice. When I arrived, one of them carried my bags through to the seminar room and someone else offered me coffee and some water.
I’ve often said that I’ve felt like a parent since we got Oscar (we don’t have children yet) so I suspect many people who read this can relate to what we were feeling. It’s a scary experience but I’m just glad my intuition was guiding me that day.
Funnily enough, one of the self-love meditations I taught through the weekend was imagining yourself as a being of light, connected to all things. The more we acknowledge that we are connected to everyone and everything, the more connected we feel, and the more those connections can guide us at the most important of times. Sunday, for me, was one of those times!
You probably know by now that I have a fascination for how stuff works, and this has come through in my books and blogs. Well, let me share with you a wee cluster of 4 amazing synchronicities that have recently occurred in my life or that of my close family or friends.
1) Connection on a flight from Canada
My friend Allyson was flying home to Scotland from Canada last week. She got talking to the man sitting beside her and learned that he lived in Bridge of Allan in central Scotland. “Oh, my friends have just moved to Bridge of Allan,” she replied. It turned out that he just moved out of the house right next door to the one we just moved into. And he was the tenant of the people who were living in the house we moved into. They’re now living in the house he vacated.
2) You look like Lulu
A lady in shop said a friend of Elizabeth’s looks a bit like the singer Lulu. Later that day, when her friend was at work, a song by Lulu came on the radio. At that moment she looked out of the window and the lady who said she looked like Lulu walked past.
3) A Hen
Elizabeth’s Dad was driving to watch his beloved Dundee football club play a league match. He car shares with a friend. The friend handed Peter a box of fresh eggs laid by his hens. He said one of his new hens wasn’t fitting in and was upsetting the others. He asked if, perhaps, Elizabeth would like a hen. At that moment a car overtook and pulled in front of them. The registration was ‘A Hen’.
4) Just can’t get enough of Lulu
Elizabeth and I were discussing these synchronicities while watching ‘You’ve Been Framed’, the comedy show where people send in funny moments caught on camera. This is when Elizabeth told me about the Lulu story. Just as she finished sharing it, the presenter of the show, Harry Hill, started talking about Lulu.
Well being me, I can’t just smile these away. I just have to understand things like this. I can’t help it. It’s a disease. Lol.
First of all, I absolutely never write these kinds of things off as random events. Everyone and everything is interconnected and seemingly strange things occasionally occur as invisible connections draw people and circumstances together in often surprising ways that might seem against the odds.
Here’s what I think: Physical matter clumps together. I guess that’s one way of thinking about the human body. Subatomic particles cluster into atoms; atoms cluster into molecules; molecules cluster into life; people cluster into families, towns, cities, and social networks; planets cluster into solar systems; stars into galaxies; and galaxies into galactic clusters. The same pattern seems to repeat itself.
The view from a plane on a clear night shows us clusters of lights and little threads of light connecting them as we see the lights from towns and cities linked by roads. Placing this image side-by-side with an image of a galactic cluster (and even human brain networks) reveals the same kind of pattern.
Clusters of ‘stuff’ connected to other stuff is the way of things. Why should it be any different in human life? It’s certainly the same if you draw a social network; the pattern is there again. People cluster together and some bridge the clusters into other clusters, just like the connections between towns, galaxies, and brain cells.
The pattern of clusters connected to other clusters repeating on different scales is called a ‘fractal’, from the Latin ‘fractus’, meaning ‘broken’.
What if there are patterns in our own consciousness – deep in our unconscious minds – so that we draw ourselves together in seemingly strange ways, and even draw events to ourselves? And as we’re all connected (I’ve written about this in other blogs), we unconsciously make sure that we time things just right.
That’s the way I look at things. It can facilitate the strangest things. I was in New York City a few years ago. I’d been speaking at the ‘You Can Heal Your Life’ conference at the Javits Centre where, funnily enough, I’d briefly spoken about interconnections. Next day, Elizabeth and I had a conversation about Joan Rivers. About an hour or so later we literally bumped into her on the streets of New York, which is not exactly a small place with a tiny population!
Some people are clustered together so that we feel more connected to some people than others. Fractals occur in time too. So there are people whom you are strongly connected to whom you’ve not met yet, but the chances are you’ll make all the right choices, and so will they, so that you will come into each other’s lives, where you’ll remain there for a ‘reason, a season, or a lifetime’. The force of these connections can be strong, I believe, so that the effect is like a whirlpool in a river pulling your boat towards it. Chances are, wherever you paddle you’ll end up there!
So I think there’s more to life than we’d ordinarily think and there’s more going on beneath the surface of events than we’d imagine.
Pay attention to the synchronicities in your life. They might reveal something about what’s going on in your mind, or they may be pointing the way to something (or someone) that’s just around the corner. Hey, maybe I’m about to meet Lulu!
When we think of side effects the first thing that springs to mind are the side effects of drugs. But who’d have thought that kindness could have side effects too?
Well, it does! And positive ones at that.
1) Kindness Makes us Happier
When we do something kind for someone else, we feel good. On a spiritual level, many people feel that this is because it is the right thing to do and so we’re tapping into something deep and profound inside of us that says, ‘This is who I am.’
On a biochemical level, it is believed that the good feeling we get is due to elevated levels of the brain’s natural versions of morphine and heroin, which we know as endogenous opioids. They cause elevated levels of dopamine in the brain and so we get a natural high, often referred to as ‘Helper’s High’.
2) Kindness Gives us Healthier Hearts
Acts of kindness are often accompanied by emotional warmth. Emotional warmth produces the hormone, oxytocin, in the brain and throughout the body. Of recent interest is its significant role in the cardiovascular system.
Oxytocin causes the release of a chemical called nitric oxide in blood vessels, which dilates (expands) the blood vessels. This reduces blood pressure and therefore oxytocin is known as a ‘cardioprotective’ hormone because it protects the heart (by lowering blood pressure). The key is that acts kindness can produce oxytocin and therefore kindness can be said to be cardioprotective.
3) Kindness Slows Ageing
Ageing on a biochemical level is a combination of many things, but two culprits that speed the process are Free Radicals and Inflammation, both of which result from making unhealthy lifestyle choices.
But remarkable research now shows that oxytocin (that we produce through emotional warmth) reduces levels of free radicals and inflammation in the cardiovascular system and so slows ageing at source. Incidentally these two culprits also play a major role in heart disease so this is also another reason why kindness is good for the heart.
There have also been suggestions in the scientific journals of the strong link between compassion and the activity of the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve, as well as regulating heart rate, also controls inflammation levels in the body. One study that used the Tibetan Buddhist’s ‘Loving Kindness Compassion’ meditation found that kindness and compassion did, in fact, reduce inflammation in the body, mostly likely due to its effects on the vagus nerve.
4) Kindness Makes for Better Relationships
This is one of the most obvious points. We all know that we like people who show us kindness. This is because kindness reduces the emotional distance between two people and so we feel more ‘bonded’. It’s something that is so strong in us that it’s actually a genetic thing. We are wired for kindness.
Our evolutionary ancestors had to learn to cooperate with one another. The stronger the emotional bonds within groups, the greater were the chances of survival and so ‘kindness genes’ were etched into the human genome.
So today when we are kind to each other we feel a connection and new relationships are forged, or existing ones strengthened.
5) Kindness is Contagious
When we’re kind we inspire others to be kind and studies show that it actually creates a ripple effect that spreads outwards to our friends’ friends’ friends – to 3-degrees of separation. Just as a pebble creates waves when it is dropped in a pond, so acts of kindness ripple outwards touching others’ lives and inspiring kindness everywhere the wave goes.
A recent scientific study reported than an anonymous 28-year-old person walked into a clinic and donated a kidney. It set off a ‘pay it forward’ type ripple effect where the spouses or other family members of recipients of a kidney donated one of theirs to someone else in need. The ‘domino effect’, as it was called in the New England Journal of Medicine report, spanned the length and breadth of the United States of America, where 10 people received a new kidney as a consequence of that anonymous donor.
This information and all scientific references can be found in more detail in my books, ‘Why Kindness is Good for You’ (Hay House, 2010) and ‘The Contagious Power of Thinking’ (Hay House, 2011).
If you’re like most people, you’ve probably wondered whether things are meant to be – are you destined to be with that special person, or to have that job, or that friend, that dog, or that really difficult time in your life? Or do we create it all as we go along?
If you’re like me, I wrestled with it for years. There were things that I felt strongly were meant to be in my life: like going to the University I attended and also doing my PhD in the research group I ended up in, to even not getting the job I wanted in the pharmaceutical industry but instead getting one that exposed me to evidence of the placebo effect. This facilitated my route into writing books about the power of the mind, which I believe is my ‘destiny’.
But at the same time I am 100% certain that I shape my own life too, sometimes through taking action to make things happen and other times when seemingly coincidental things happen shortly after I’ve been thinking about them.
I wrote my book, ‘Is Your Life Mapped Out?: Unravelling the mystery of destiny vs free will’ to attempt to set my own mind at rest. This is what I came up with:
Before you go, “whhooooaaaaa, hey what’s with the math?” it’s actually much simpler than you think. Let me explain what the letters mean.
‘R’ is the letter I use for ‘The Reality that you experience’ and it’s caused by the letters that come after it. Here’s what they mean:
‘I’ is your intention. It’s the force of you Intending for something to happen, which often results in you acting on your intentions, or subconsciously setting in motion a chain of events that move you towards your goal.
‘E’ stands for your emotions. Emotion is a powerful force. If you have an intention to achieve something but your overall emotion about it is negative then emotion usually over rules intention and you don’t go anywhere. Alternatively, when you have a goal and you feel strongly positive when you think about it, you tend to move towards it (or attract it to you).
‘B’ stands for your beliefs. Beliefs can propel you to where you want to go or they can sabotage your efforts. Say you had a desire to be financially abundant but had a belief that it’s wrong to have money because people are starving, or that people with money are selfish or unkind, or that money is the ‘root of all evil’, for instance, then chances are these beliefs will over rule your intention to have money. No matter how hard you try, something will always seem to block your efforts.
You can usually tell what kind of beliefs you have about something by looking at your life. Stuff and experiences in your life that you are happy with, that tend to come easily to you, usually represent positive beliefs. Stuff and experiences you feel frustrated you’re not having usually signal negative beliefs in those areas. It’s best if your beliefs are in line with what you want to achieve.
‘p’ stands for ‘momentum of your current experience’. Just like a large ship in the ocean can’t make a sudden 90 degree turn, but turns throughout a large arc due to it’s weight, or momentum, so most people, when they decide to make a life change, still experience elements (circumstances, types of people, etc) of their old life for a while as their life turns in an arc rather than in a sudden straight line off to the right or left. Intention works a lot with momentum because the stronger your intention, the faster you break your momentum and the shorter the turning arc in your life.
‘Fe’ stands for external forces. These are forces in your environment that have an impact on your life and the kind of choices you make. They can be the weather, ‘chronobiological’, in terms of how the Earth’s rotation, the sun, and the moon can impact biology, they can be effects of food, or anything else that represents how we interact with our natural environment. They can even represent the physical or social environment a person lives in, which can be a very strong force for some.
‘Fi’ stands for internal forces. These are what I refer to as spiritual forces. I believe that consciousness transcends time and space and thus ‘You’ existed in some form or other before you were born on Earth. Rather than your life being a random event, then, it is likely that you were born at a particular time (given the entire span of Earth’s history) in a particular place, into a particular set of social and economic conditions, even into a particular family environment, and often with a latent skill set or direction you intended to move towards. These ‘preconditions’ would set the tone of the early years of your life, which would then have a strong bearing on the kind of adult you become and the direction of your life. When I talk of ‘destiny’, this is what I refer to.
‘O’ stands for the effect of other people on you. We’re all influenced by other people – either directly, by family, friends, colleagues, or even people we meet throughout our day, or indirectly, as world events affect the financial or social environment that we live and move in, or as our choices are influenced by marketing efforts, propaganda, or just information we pick up through watching or reading the media.
‘X’ is for any other forces that I haven’t though of. I’m sure I’ve not thought of everything.
So the reality that you experience is related to your intentions, your emotions, your beliefs, the momentum of what’s currently happening in your life, external forces, internal (spiritual) forces, and the influence of other people.
So how do these forces interact with one another? Well, I think we are born into a set of conditions and circumstances that set the landscape of our lives and its colour tones. As we travel through our landscape, we are occasionally pulled left and right and even nudged back or sucked forwards from time to time. But amid these ‘winds’, we are always choosing, always creating, always shaping our lives. It is impossible not to. Thoughts are creative. What we focus on we move towards. That, too me, is a Law. Some call it the ‘Law of Attraction’ or the ‘Secret’.
Some people believe in destiny, others don’t. What I’ve written here is just my belief, coloured, perhaps, by the influences I’ve experienced in my life and also by what I’ve always sensed. In some ways I’ve sought scientific evidence to explain what I’ve always believed.
Whether you take comfort in an overall direction you feel you’re supposed to be going in or whether you’re more motivated in taking the actions that are necessary to get to where you want to get to is up to you. We’re all different. Some are more comfortable with the former, some with the latter.
As long as you’re comfortable with whatever you personally believe, then great. Happiness and contentedness arise when we’re comfortable with our own beliefs, regardless of whether there is an ultimate truth or not.
Personally, I think destiny and free will interact constantly, just as nature and nurture interact. Genes do not act out with their environment, but in relationship with it.
So, too, do our hopes and dreams play out in relationship to our environment – both physical and spiritual.
Dr David R Hamilton, ‘Is Your Life Mapped Out? Unravelling the mystery of destiny vs free will’ (Hay House, 2012). (Amazon.co.uk paperback) (Amazon.co.uk kindle) (Amazon.com paperback) (Amazon.com kindle)
“It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.
“My favourite day,” said Pooh.
I began the first phase of moving house at the weekend. House moves can be stressful, as many of you might be aware, but it turned out to be the easiest, most enjoyable move I’ve ever been involved in. The secret was being in the moment.
It was helped a lot by my friend, Bryce Redford, who is an NLP master trainer, coach, and hypnotherapist. Sometimes we benefit from a supportive friend who can hold a space of peace even when things get challenging, as Bryce definitely did for me.
We’re moving from Windsor, outside London, to Bridge of Allan, on the outskirts of Stirling, in central Scotland. Bridge of Allan resembles a mini version of Windsor, with stunning views of the Scottish hills, Stirling Castle, and the monument of William Wallace (Braveheart). We’re pretty close to the main airports too, which makes travel really easy.
We got up early to finish packing but we soon realised that things were taking longer than we had hoped. By the time we’d done everything we needed to do, we were already late for picking up the van we’d hired. But this is where being in the moment began.
Rather than rush, my partner Elizabeth said we should have a relaxing breakfast first before rushing out, even though we had to collect the van, empty the house into it, and then make a seven and a half hour drive to Scotland. But committed to the present moment, I relaxed into the breakfast and enjoyed my coffee, determined to be in the moment for the whole day.
Rushing to get the van would be starting off in a hurry and a sure-fire way to cause the rest of the day to follow like that. I sometimes find that how we start the day ripples on through time; beginning in a stressed state seems to colour the rest of the day like that. Obstacles get in the way, stuff breaks, etc. Stopping to have a nice breakfast and some tasty coffee was an act of calm; and just as stress can colour a day, so calm does so also.
As we approached the van hire depot we were an hour behind schedule and I had an intuition that the large van I’d asked for earlier in the week wasn’t available. The large vans were all approximately the same specification but some were larger and some towards the smaller end of the spec. I’d asked for the largest because I figured we’d need it. A small one would never be large enough no matter how efficiently we packed it. When we arrived, my intuition had been correct and the one they offered us was smaller, in no way large enough for all our stuff.
When you’re calm and in the moment it’s much easier to find solutions. We become more resourceful and I also find that little pieces of magic happen. I calmly explained to the receptionist that I had ordered a largest van as I was moving house and politely asked if there was anything she could do. She went in the back to ask the manager. I could overhear them speaking but they concluded that there were just no more large vans.
Bryce was in the moment too. This was when he spotted an even larger van driving into the depot. It didn’t have any of the hire company logo on it, but while I spoke with the manager Bryce went outside and asked the driver if he was returning it after a hire. It turned out that he was. In his typically cheerful, buoyant state, Bryce came back inside and asked if we could have that van instead.
The manager hadn’t seen it arrive but kindly agreed to let us take it. It was even bigger than the one I’d picked out a few days earlier. This one was a Mercedes Sprinter. It was perfect. With hindsight, even the one I’d previously asked for wouldn’t have been large enough. We had needed this one all along.
I’ve noticed that when my attention is in the moment little helpful things are more likely to occur that are even better than my best laid plans.
If we hadn’t committed to being ‘in the moment’ but stressed to keep on schedule, we’d have turned up an hour earlier and ended up with a smaller van for sure, which would not have been big enough.
Next we had to fill the van at the house. It took so long, even with the help of our friends Marek and Martina. Our original plan was to have the van packed by around 10.30am/11am, but by the time we’d actually filled the van it was closer to 1.30pm. It’s the small things that take longest. We still had the seven and a half hour drive ahead of us.
Being in the moment, I’d enjoyed emptying the house into the van. I’d viewed it as a challenge – packing the van efficiently – and walking up and down the stairs a hundred of so times carrying furniture and boxes as good exercise.
When we were done, I decided to have a shower to freshen up. It was 25 degrees so everyone was really hot. But even after my shower, I found myself sitting calmly on the floor, in no hurry whatsoever, but just enjoying the moment.
I wasn’t at all thinking about the drive we needed to make, nor how long it had taken us to fill the van and that we were now around 3 hours behind ‘schedule’. I just felt calm, at peace. That’s when we decided to walk into town and have some lunch rather than set off right away.
In the moment we were feeling hungry and could do with a pleasant rest. We had a lovely lunch in a nice little café and finally set off on the drive at around 2.45pm, now about 4 hours later than planned. The outcome of focusing on the moment, I find, is that I find it easier to feel relaxed and calm. The more we practice it, the easier it gets.
There was no stress, no concern about how we might possibly feel tired during the long drive ahead, especially after lifting heavy boxes and furniture all morning. I was just aware of a calm, relaxed, and happy internal feeling. Bryce was the same and it made us feel energised during the drive rather than tired.
The drive was easy and the time just flew past. At the other end, my mum, two of my sisters, and my nephews Ryan and Jake were all waiting to help unload the van at around 10pm. Amazingly, we did it all in about 25 minutes.
The whole day for me was a nice reminder of how things can work out when we’re not stressing about stuff, when we commit to being in the moment and just taking one step at a time, attending to whatever is turning up in each moment.
It reminded me of a conversation I had with my friend Bruce while we walked the Inca Trail in Peru a few years ago. As we emerged from the cloud forest, up above the canopy of trees, I asked Bruce where we were. He replied, “We’re here.” Then I asked him what time it was. He replied, “It’s now!” He then said, “You’re here and the time is now!”
I think if we remember this it helps us to take one step at a time and not fret too much about what lies ahead or what has just been, but just attend to what’s happening now, where you are now.
I find that doing this we experience more of the present and are able to spot the magic and connections all around us that we ordinarily miss while our attention is directed elsewhere.