There are some moments when you come to see a pattern in your life. I have just had one of these moments and I wonder if you have ever suddenly seen how one event has led to the next and brought you to where you are now? How there is a pattern to your life’s journey, if you take the time to stand back and look at it? How one seemingly random thing connects to another?
I have had a few moments like this in the past – my fascination with Russian literature and the fact that I have just written a novel set partly in post-Gorbachev Russia. How I was once a corporate wife laying tables and welcoming clients and guests for dinner one moment and then the next, when I was running Positiveworks, I was laying up the tables and welcoming delegates for corporate workshops. How the realm of ideas has always intrigued me and how my teenage friends would comment that I would burst into a café and bat on about a new idea or concept that I had just read about in some book. These are just small things but definite themes or threads in my life. I wonder what yours were?
And always there was an interest in how what I was reading or thinking about could help us live life well. So this week when I attended a course on the Italian Renaissance philosopher Ficino I suddenly saw how I had begun this journey back in my teens, reading, thinking, writing, then lost it a little when my sons were small and I was busy, but picked up on it again when I studied Renaissance philosophy and the History of Political Ideas at King’s London. Then studying Cognitive-Behavioural psychology with its Socratic dialogue, NLP, and Tony Buzan’s teachings on mind and body.
And of course philosophy is, in its many forms, about how to live well and wisely, to make sense of our lives as human beings. And this was what I was endeavouring to do, in my small way, in coaching and training during those years in Positiveworks, and each of the books I wrote at that time were equally trying to help young, old, working and retired people to make the most of themselves and their lives.
The philosophy retreat at Waterperry House gave me time to reflect and to see how the dots connected. Here I met some wonderful and interesting people and we came together to study, meditate, contemplate. It was an inspiring couple of days and the retreat leader helped us reflect on the texts that illustrate how philosophy enables us to apply these words in a practical way in our lives, helping ourselves and others to live well and to make the most of this life we have been gifted.
The endless noise of negativity that we receive from the media and social media, plus visual images of violent and warring online games and apps, television series on the Yorkshire Ripper or Jimmy Savile, and the crime dramas that fill our screens with dead bodies, particularly of women, hardly help us to rise up to higher thoughts of how to make life good. Wouldn’t it be great if people used their creativity to give us something uplifting, something inspirational – after all, there is no shortage of amazing and miraculous events and stories that they could show us if the directors and writers chose to focus on people who have created some kind of breakthrough, or pushed through difficulty to reach success.
For what are young people seeing to help them understand that they have the choice to be drawn to the baser elements of life or focus less on themselves and how they look, with or without Botox or pec muscles, and focus more on what they could create for the greater good? For this will impact their happiness, without a doubt, and we can see from the rise in mental health issues in young people that they are not learning how to be resilient or how to screen out the negative and focus on what is positive or beautiful or wondrous. And we do have this choice. We do have control of where our minds go. We can learn the skills to do this and these help us make the difficult decisions we will inevitably have to make in life.
One of the delegates told me a story of how she was at a parking meter and as she put the money in a whole stream of money fell from the meter into her hand. It was about £50 or more. She could have kept it. Noone would have known. But she knew. She knew it was wrong to keep it and made the effort to go to the parking office and give it back because if she had kept it, she would have experienced disharmony within. For we know when we do something wrong, when we lie or cheat, and we then have to live with ourselves.
I have made plenty of mistakes in my life, gone in wrong directions, and I am sure we have all done some things of which we are not proud. We know how it feels inside us. Hopefully we learn a little something from those times, for we are all fallible. But what came out for me as I studied the philosophical writings, was that realisation of each decision leading to the next, even if we don’t realise it at the time. It made me think how important it is to take the time out to consider where you are now and how you got there. Whose voices have you listened to? A parent? A teacher? A priest? A friend? Who do you listen to now? What was happening when you made significant choices? What were your turning points, or the sliding doors moments when you could have gone one way or another, caught the train or missed it. What did your mistakes, failures and successes teach you and what decisions might you make now when you think back over them?
Now more than ever we need a world call for peace, for calm, for cooperation instead of division and war. It takes each one of us to influence these outcomes. We can either tap into the negatives, moans, divisions, offences and complaints or we can draw attention to what is beautiful in this world, what holds us together as human beings. The choice is ours.
When you look at how your life is unfolding do you know where the dots are leading? When you look at that progression and tap into the qualities you value within yourself where would you like it to take you next?