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Intimate understanding of your life

“For it is not so much knowledge that fills and satisfies the soul, but the intimate understanding and relishing of the truth” – I explain a nugget of wisdom from Ignatius Loyola, a 16th century master of psychology and spirituality. I give examples in the context of contemplative practice and my own life, and I invite you to reflect on “what you were put on this planet to do”.

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Comfort in the discomfort

Compassion begins with the soothing look, the disarming stare and the gaze of wonder.

I threw myself into one of the best stories ever told by contemplating its significance with my senses, feelings and easing of the body. The Story of the Good Samaritan gripped me once again as I imagined being the bruised and battered man on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. Robbers did their job most effectively by emptying me of my pockets and they attempted to take away my dignity. The priest and priest’s assistant passed me by, but the Good Samaritan stopped, looked me in the eyes and was totally present to my painful condition. His eyes seemed to say it all and I felt redeemed, worthy and loved.

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Yin and yang of Yeats

Seeing beauty is not always like the way a lover meets his beloved for the first time. Sometimes it means seeing black as white and white as black.

Do you ever wonder what goes on when you pray or meditate? Perhaps you maintain an upright posture, breathe rhythmically, and behold an image in your mind’s eye. But what exactly is going on? I invite you to accompany me as I meditate on two of Jack B Yeats’ paintings: The Singing Horseman (1949) » and For the Road (1951) ». Each work contains an animal and human figure offering a profound insight on how we see reality today.

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Keys to a secret garden

I was given privileged access to the Ards Friary Walled Garden in Ards, County Donegal during a one-week stay with the Capuchin contemplative community. Brother Ade brought another man and me through the five-acre land one day and it was a sheer delight in discovering its secrets. After the initial visit, Ade gave me a loan of the keys letting me wander around on my own. I felt like I was given permission to a secret paradise.

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A deeply peaceful Christmas

A mental health professional recently told me that while most people have their ups and downs in life, they don’t normally have to worry about being unbalanced. It got me thinking… if people don’t really worry about being unbalanced, do they care enough to be deeply balanced?

I had good reason to explore deep peace and balance in my own life as I participated in an 8-week wellness course organised by Aware, the Irish mental health organisation. Here are eight tips I learned from the course. I believe they may help us all live well this holiday season:

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Flourishing in the face of anxiety

Sadly, few of us know what it is like to be in harmony with our minds. We are so often subject to our thoughts, feelings, and impulses. We get dragged around as if by an ox, when it is the ox that ought to be following us.

Thankfully, there are ways to ‘tame our ox-mind’ as we transition back to ordinary living. One is to separate unproductive worry from productive worry. In the case of someone who is returning to the office on a regular basis, unproductive worry focuses on the ‘what ifs’.

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Facing anxiety of the ‘new normal’

Have you recently noticed a nervousness in the air? Something you may not have been aware of before? We may feel tension in our bodies as we try to live in a ‘new normal’ world. There may be a tightness in our heads, chests and bellies as we return to our physical work buildings and meet our colleagues or go shopping again on a busy street or socialise more with our friends.

Research shows that even positive change can lead to anxiety, and it can take time to readjust to things we have not done for a while. Although feelings of post-lockdown anxiety are likely to pass, it’s important to take care of our mental health.

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