Training, your body and taking a step back

Approaching the end of the year I find myself at that sort of reflective ‘How has my year gone’ phase and ‘How am I moving forward?’

As I have been climbing for the last 10 years, everything usually revolves around that!  Training, planning and going on trips, thinking of the next adventure or goal.

However, when I sat down a couple of weeks ago thinking about training and climbing, I knew something had been niggling at me for a while.  I knew deep down that I needed a break, that my constant training and planning needed to be put aside for a while.  I’ve had a little shoulder issue for a couple of months now and it is time to get on the path to mending it.  After slightly ignoring it and hoping it would get better with some attention and all of my regular training, I've finally realised that it will take dedicated attention and that means time off climbing and off training.

But it’s not always easy to know when to back off from training and what we are used to.

For everyone there can be a lot of pressure out there to TRAIN HARD! To work out, to look good, to perform better.

It is hard to take a step back out of this pressure to BEING BETTER.

Golden Rule!

Its important to know when training, or participating in your sports/hobbies that sometimes things are not very linear.  We all want to believe that the answer is train, get strong, train, get better, train and then bingo! your goals are achieved, success and move on!

But what starts to happen when the next goal doesn't seem to be within your grasp, when it seems like you are not getting stronger, when it seems like there is no progression.

Mostly there are a number for reasons for this happening but what we tend to do is answer this problem with ‘oh I should probably just train harder, or more often, or just keep doing what Im doing and hope I still get better’!

It may seem obvious but the above approach will not help and you probably don't even know when you are the one doing that.

Progression can be stinted as I said for a number of reasons and the only way to really figure out what it is for you, is to take a step back, to review your goals, what it is you actually would like to be doing and formulate an idea of how to go about it and the potential factors that need to be worked on to get you there.

When I took my recent step back, I realised I've been wanting to figure out some things about my shoulders for a while now.  I want to build on some obvious weaknesses, I want to increase mobility and improve my overall core strength.  I want to do all this not only to benefit activities like climbing or my practice in Yoga but so that I can enjoy moving in my body better, pain free and confidently.  Taking a long term perspective on your body, your health and your overall goals can really hep to take the immediate pressure off of needing to ‘perform’!

These revelations can only come through taking that step back and asking yourself what are you trying to achieve.

Finding Your Purpose in Training/Sports etc

Try imagining this yourself:

Every time you train, you are working towards something bigger; think about what this is for you.

It might be that when you reach a certain age you still want to be able to perform a particular skill, for example, a cartwheel; or if you have children you want to have the energy to play with them. Whatever it is, use it as a way of putting your physical health and your training into perspective.

Be in the moment each time you train, remaining mindful of your reasons why and what you want for your future.

Mostly I would say that if you keep perspective you will stay true to your own values, for me I find that I am motivated most to enjoy myself, to enjoy my body, to feel freedom and any 'pressure' beyond that creates tension and restriction.  

Allowing Movement to Free You, Rather Than Restrict You

There is a much bigger picture, but only if we want to see it.  Movement should allow you to free yourself from fear, doubt, pain, allow you to feel strong, confident, energised…the list goes on.

Rather than getting stuck on the path of pushing to perform or restricted by our ego’s pushing us to the limits in this attempt to be better.

We can all get too caught up with how we think we should be and what we think we should want or what other expect of us.

Every time you train it’s not just about right now – it’s also an investment in your future and for your health. 

I know I don’t want to train excessively for the next ten years only to end up with an injury that forces me to slow down or worse, stop altogether. I also don’t want to close myself off to other opportunities I might come across in my life.

What it Means to Find Balance

To be balanced means relinquishing some of the “control” that we hold onto and think we have, but that actually controls us.

It means letting things go to make space for something else or someone else in your life.

It’s being given that permission, from either yourself or someone else, to expand your tunnel vision and see everything outside of the focus you have solely on your training. Look left, you see adventure, look right, there may be opportunities for fun, excitement, time with friends, family etc.  Stepping back from the training routine may open up a whole new way of looking at things for you.

I know for me now that I am changing my routine a little, at first this was a bit daunting and I felt pressure to still train and climb, but now I feel like I can enjoy a whole range of other things and get excited at being a beginner in activities again.  I know that in the long run when I return to climbing I will feel better for having taken an holistic long term approach.

Get What You Really Want Out of Life

Whatever age we are it’s so important to take care of our bodies. We want to be strong and healthy to be there for the people who need us, but we have to start with being there for ourselves.

 

It’s about finding balance and staying aware of what we are experiencing with our training and with life.

Sometimes we need that reminder from someone else to slow down, or think about how what we are doing will effect us in the long run.  It is better ultimately to make this choice and feel empowered rather than having an injury or burn out force us into decisions.

Movement makes our quality of life better if we respect and take care of our bodies.

When I climb or practice yoga, I’m constantly looking to find balance, and it’s the same with the rest of my life as well.

I’m looking for balance and trying to take things a little less seriously, so I can enjoy my life with the freedom I have to move in my body.

 

Too much information can be Toxic

I heard this phrase recently and it got me thinking....

I would have to say I definitely agree.  With so much information available to us these days right at our finger tips, it can remove us from the joy of actually experiencing something.  Like anything in life when it goes beyond a certain point, over informing can be detrimental.

The surest way to remove yourself from opinion mode and into experiencing mode is to 'do' something.  In my case, be it with climbing or yoga, as soon as I feel Im getting a little too theoretical or overloading with information, the simplest cure is to get on my mat or go climbing!  When I 'do' what I love, everything else falls away, nothing else matters, I go into the moment.

I definitely think information helps, and education is the key to success in anything but its achieving that balance, allowing time for the mind and the body.

I hear from many people new to yoga about their confusion surrounding everything 'Yoga' and its understandable as to why there may be confusion.  With so many different mixed messages on the internet, pictures, articles, videos.  This can create a great sense of overwhelm and distract us from the heart of the matter.

I find personally as soon as I spend too much time reading, viewing and generally perusing the internet, I find my mind start to go a little foggy and I find I do start questioning. With so many opinions or options or ideas being thrown out there, it can distract from what you actually enjoy or believe yourself.

In Yoga, it is spoken about in many texts the concept of going beyond thoughts, controlling your awareness in a focused way to experience a greater connection to yourself and sense of enlightenment, applying that to our modern day life, with so much going on in the mind it is important to let it go every so often.

I also have had in recent times conversations with more experienced yogis and heard similar confusion and doubt expressed with regard to which training they should pursue next or where they should study.  There is SO much information out there and trying to decipher which will be beneficial or will be of value is not so clear.

In the cases of people new to Yoga or any activity for that matter or those more experienced I would say DO more.  Go to classes, get a feel for how you sit with the practice, observe how you feel afterwards and what effects the practice has on you.  The more and more you connect to yourself the better.  Let yourself experience your body and breath connection, practice and practice some more and listen.  Questions will emerge naturally and as they do you will know what kind of information you want to seek out and what you are looking for.

Then pick up a book or two, read direct from the source, read about why yoga started, read about its evolution.  Then and only then begin to read interpretations, philosophies and modern day 'takes' on everything yoga.  Once you have established a grounding in yourself and your understanding of yoga, you can read how others understand it and you can take or leave what resonates with you.

For those more experienced yogi's looking for the next training, I would almost say the same.  Often with all the types, styles and abundance of teachers and classes we can attend it can become a little blurry as to why we entered the practice in the first place.  If you find you are ever confused, go back to your mat, sit a little longer and with time, questions will emerge, you will begin to realise what you are looking for and where you would like to go next.  Finding the training then will fall into place as you have a greater understanding of your needs.

For everyone in anything in life, staying grounded admits the drama, the noise and all those around you, will help you stay true to yourself and release any need to worry about anything someone else is doing or what is being shown on the internet!  You know what you enjoy, you know what you love and you also know even beyond all that, who you are, so any other information is toxic and crowds the mind.


What are your priorities?

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog on my experience with Gratitude.  This practice has really shifted my perspective in a lot of ways and continues to surprise me.

I began to notice so many good things in my life and value and appreciate them.  This creates a general feeling of happiness which is great!  I recognise with greater clarity that which is important to me and what my priorities are.

Priorities

With the help of a friend recently I was asked what are my top priorities in life?  What do I place importance on, what do I value most, what do I need in my life as such?

What I have realised in looking at my life, is that there are a number of things I would call my top priorities (I've actually 5 to be precise!) It is not necessarily relevant what mine are but perhaps ask yourself the same question, what is most important to you in your life?

In looking at my 5 priorities, I became suddenly very clear that no one priority was more important than another.  I realised that to lead a happy, content and balanced life, each will take about 20% on a daily to weekly basis.  Throughout your life at any time one priority may take a greater percentage of your time and energy and the others will be sacrificed, but are you willing to make this sacrifice where it is needed and be content with that e.g. if you have an end of month work deadline which means you cannot socialise or if you have a family member or friend who needs your help which means you cannot go on your weekend away.

As long as we recognise that there will be some shifts from time to time but most of the time all our priorities are being taken care of and in harmony then your life will be a very full one.  That is also as long as we recognise the effort needed to maintain this balance in our priorities and we will then have greater equanimity and balance, e.g. call that friend you say you have been meaning to or take your sister/brother/mother out for lunch or clean the house-whatever your priorities are!

What I have noticed is that some problems arise when we place too much emphasis and importance on certain aspects of our life and fail to notice all that we have, hence how my gratitude practice here has helped me a lot!  

For a long time I was convinced that Climbing was my No.1 priority in life, I was thinking about it a lot, obsessing even! Thinking about trips, going climbing, what I would like to do and where I would like to go.  This constant thinking about climbing was not exactly making me happy, in fact it often made me sad.  I felt I was never where I wanted to be, that I wanted to be somewhere else, that I wanted to be doing something else, that if only I could have climbing more often, I would be happier.

In all of this spiral of thinking, I failed to appreciate all of the other priorities in my life that are equally important.  I failed to really be grateful for those and appreciate that climbing is not everything.

Climbing is definitely still important to me and I love it, when I go training, when Im in the outdoors, all of it.  I feel now that my perspective has shifted, I appreciate what it adds to my life without the constant 'wanting' more.  I still strive to improve and am enthusiastic and motivated but its without the chasing and missing out on everything else that is around me.

With perspective and gratitude we can really see how full our lives are, we can pursue good ends with good means but not get wrapped up in running after that which we believe will make us happier.  Its about being in the moment and being content with what that moment has to give, thats what brings peace of mind.

What is it you wish to do with your life?

What is it you wish to do with your life?.....Read on if you are interested in taking the time to really think about this!

Throughout our day we often think about many different things and for some it boils down to a gnawing desire to find their true lives purpose.  We often ask the same questions over and over and give ourselves the same answers.  We can often feel stuck in certain situations and not know how to break cycles or repeated patterns, or how to encourage and embrace a life that we truly love and enjoy that which we are truly passionate about.

To break these cycles, it is really important to go beyond the everyday questions, to go beyond the everyday drama of who said what and when.  To go beyond dislikes of certain people in work or how this or that person behaves.  When we dig a little deeper we come to the realisation that the only reason we get caught up with any of that is because we are unsatisfied or not answering the bigger questions.

It may seem time consuming or not worthwhile but for anyone who is consumed daily with repeated thought patterns or sequences of events, that certainly becomes all in all more time consuming!

Below are some interesting thoughts and questions if you wish to reflect and think about what your lives purpose may be.......

Our life’s purpose has a number of names – some call it a calling, others their dharma, some reference as their passion or niche, but in essence what all these labels have in common is that they are unique expression of something that only you can offer the world.

Your life’s purpose is deeply personal, and it’s so ingrained in us that sometimes we overlook it, or even take it for granted.

If you’re ready to illuminate your true calling; if you’re ready to tap into your most authentic self and discover the gifts, teachings, and messages that only you can bring to the world, I invite you to take some time for self-reflection and answer the questions below.

What do you feel called to do, teach, or share?

Is there something is your life that calls to you. Remember, this calling may have little to do with your vocation or even your hobbies. Perhaps you find yourself offering advice whenever you get the chance in order to help people overcome life’s obstacles, or maybe you love to share the teachings in the latest green living book you read. Notice what you innately are called to do – are you a teacher, an observer, a care giver, a healer? It will tell you a lot about what you were put here on this earth to do.

What do people ask your advice about?

When people come to you for advice, what do they ask you about? Parenting? Healthy living? Cars? Spirituality? Technology? Home repairs? There’s no right or wrong answer here. We all have a unique set of talents and gifts, none are more valuable than others, and they are all needed.


What do people compliment you about?

If you receive a compliment, do you really listen to it and appreciate it, or do you brush it off? If you’re anything like most people out there, you likely downplay it. Instead of discouraging compliments, view them as insights into your soul. When someone gives you genuine praise, listen to what they’re telling you. They’re likely valuing an innate talent or gift that you possess, and it might be one that you don’t even think about or notice. The thing is, oftentimes the elements of ourselves that are most valued are the ones we take for granted because they seem second nature to us. We think, “doesn’t everyone love organizing?” or “doesn’t everyone feel empathy for homeless pets?”, but the truth is not everyone does feel that way or possess that talent – it’s unique to you! And, it may just be the key to your life’s purpose.

What lights you up?

What could you spend hours doing without tiring? What could you talk about endless without hitting a wall of boredom? If you had a totally free day, how would you spend it? When you take inventory of what lights you up, you start to get clear on the special role that’s been carved out just for you. Though you may think that anyone would get pleasure from spending a day hiking in the woods, it’s simply not the case. Though you may assume anyone would love to curl up with a classic novel and a cup of tea, it’s not so. There are certain things that light you up, and they light you up for a reason. Explore it.

Who do you love spending your time with?

This is a really important question to consider as you investigate your life’s purpose. Sure, we’ll likely all say we love spending time with our family and friends, but let’s dive a little deeper. What kind of person brings out the best in you? Someone who’s high-energy and a total go-getter, or would that kind of person burn you out? Perhaps, you prefer the devil’s advocate who helps you weigh life’s many possibilities, or maybe you feel you’re at your best when surrounded by the youthful energy of children. When you come to realize who you’re at your best with, you’ll also begin to realize why you’re at your best with them. You’ll notice what they’re igniting in you, and it may just be your life’s purpose.
 

What's all this Yoga about and How did I start??!

A colleague of mine asked me to write up a few words during the week about how I first started Yoga.  As I wrote, it got me thinking about what Yoga means to me now and why I continue to practice.

Often people in my classes ask me the question, 'What is Yoga?' and its funny, the more I learn, the harder and harder it gets to answer the question in a concise way.  I begin to feel like Yoga means so many things, and different things on different days!

As I continue to learn and teach the stack of notebooks gets higher and higher!

As I continue to learn and teach the stack of notebooks gets higher and higher!

It has been the same to an extent with Climbing, when people would ask 'why do you climb?' and 'what does it mean to you?', the answer feels a little more difficult to source the longer I am involved in the activity.

Both Yoga and Climbing offer me so much in terms of overall happiness in my life and contentment.  The truth is, this joy can be found in many activities in your own life but for me the wonder of yoga is the non invasive way in which it allows you to open, heal, strengthen and relax your body and mind that means at any age one can experience a sense of health and peace in themselves.

Below is my story of how I began practicing and what Yoga means to me now.....

When I was a teenager, I found some of my Mums old books on Yoga and spent some time copying the postures and reading about the benefits and deciding on the ones that I thought would be best for me.

One of my first Yoga Books

One of my first Yoga Books

I first attended yoga with my friend in University, (at the time she was helping some students with a research project to discover if breathing practices such as those taught in yoga classes could increase her lung capacity and transfer to activities such as free diving.)

I cannot remember if I and any idea of what the class would be about or what would be involved and to be honest I can even remember what we did, I do remember lying on the ground though and hearing the music outside in the sports hall for aerobics and thinking I would have of preferred to be there!  As I was quite active in my college course, studying Physical Education and being involved in a number of sports, the idea of relaxing didn't quite come to me at first!

Some time after University when I moved to Dublin, I took a 6 week course of classes in UCD where I also trained for rock climbing at the time. I remember really enjoying the classes, the teacher was really nice and I felt really inspired and interested in trying out Yoga more. I began to feel the links between effective breathing and moving and allowing myself to feel a little more at ease with relaxing and not having to push all the time.

Following that course I spent a year travelling the world and tried more and more Yoga in India, Nepal, New Zealand and America. I tried varying styles, in very different settings, from Ashrams in the mountains to city studios.

When the practice on my own really began was during the summer of 2010, I spent the time in France with my now husband, he had given me a book by Godfrey Defraux and I spent time everyday, reading and practicing outdoors. I loved reading about the benefits and all the facets of Yoga as much as physically practicing.  The practice was providing a medium through which I could answer questions about myself, the world and how I understood myself within the world.

I undertook my teacher training then in 2010 in Dublin. The teacher training at the time suited me perfectly as I felt I was moving into a sense of my own practice and discovering what Yoga meant for me.  Since my original teacher training, I have travelled to India to complete a Diploma in Advanced Yogis Studies and have continued to study with national and international teachers.  The practice is always evolving for me and changes as I change.

I know now, more than ever what yoga means to me and what it meant for me when I first started. I have always been a thinker, mulling over situations in my head and trying to find my place as I grew up.

I find it hard to make decisions and often find it difficult to find clarity admits confusion. Yoga provided a medium for me to enjoy my body, to feel active in a calming and relaxing way and in that way to find moments of clarity, to find peace from thoughts, to gain a greater understanding of myself and of others. Yoga enabled me to feel more grounded, to accept my flaws, embrace my strengths and work on my weaknesses.

Yoga has given me a means to find a great sense of compassion and understanding for others, to find less at fault with myself and in turn those around me.  

The teachings of Yoga have served as a platform for me in the last number of years in which I can feel I can now move through with world with greater ease and contentment.

If I was asked to some up my practice in one word, I would say ‘Balance’.
Providing balance when you have a lot of energy, when you lack energy, when you feel weak, when you feel strong, when you feel happy or sad, insecure or confident, the practice can compliment and balance and enable one to move freely rather than spiral or burn out, to move with clarity rather than stumble off track. It can enable me to balance the use of my body in activities such as climbing and running and most importantly keeps the ego in check if it starts to control the show!

I certainly owe as much off the mat to Yoga as I do on the mat!
 

As I continue to learn, I always seek to find ways in which I can improve as a teacher and enable others to open up to all the beauty they hold within.

Namaste**

Learning in Headstand in the outdoors

Learning in Headstand in the outdoors

Body Image-The Sexy Lie

Below is an interesting Ted talk I came across addressing the issue of Body Image or rather sexualised body images portrayed in the media and the effects on mostly women. This honest article also reviews this talk and the issues raised.

These issues can be at times delicate among women and often kept private as many try to hide their insecurities or how they really feel.

The point I find interesting that she mentions is where we need to raise girls (and also females in general) to see bodies as tools for mastering our environment.  When I first joined the mountaineering and climbing club in University I remember that I enjoyed hillwalking and the other activities so much.  I remember thinking that during those activities, I was so proud of my body for accomplishing things, I was out of my head for a while, out of thinking etc and just enjoying the activity and feeling healthy.  When I started Yoga, I had a similar experience in some of my first classes and on top of that I saw and remember clearly thinking how everyone in the room was equal, we could all enjoy movement, we could all have our own learning experiences and what we looked like or what size we were didn't really matter.  In both these experiences in my life, I came to see and use my body as a tool to master my environment and I became proud of all the great things about my body.

I am vulnerable at times like many females into falling into negative thought patterns with regard to image, but through activities in my life I have learnt to let go of these thoughts and mostly not have them in the first place!

Im sure this discussion on body image perception could be debated forever, what is important is to observe the thoughts for yourself.  As yoga encourages, observe, ask yourself 'Do these thoughts serve me?', 'Are they of value?'.  As Caroline Heldman mentions in her talk, self esteem is not a finite resource, we do not need to compete for it and we certainly don't need to feel as if you will never have it.  

I know in my own experience that the more I enjoy using my body in activities, the less I worry about what it looks like, or if someone else looks better etc etc.  The body given to us is ours forever, ENJOY it, rather than berate it.  

There are a lot of fun things in life your body can be used for, not to mention your thoughts! If one is constantly consumed by and feels all their worth, all their value is based on how they look then the measurement system is very skewed.  If you feel you are less worthy or less valuable because of you look, then again the measurement system you are using is skewed.

Value of oneself must take into account the whole picture, an individual is more than just an image.

Stripped of an image, stripped of your position on your career ladder, stripped of material possessions and even relationships, ask yourself what is there left to value? When you value this, then you will experience much greater peace and contentment.

The Good Life

Todays Link is a video featuring some beautiful surfing footage.  The reason I love this video so much is not necessarily the surfing and this may not appeal to you either, the reason I linked to it is because coming to the end of 2013 I feel the message this video is portraying is something very pertinent for me at the moment-'Living the good Life'.  

In 2012 I decided to uproot and change the direction of my life, as I reflect on 2013 I am happy with many things I have done.  I do know though that I am bound continuously by a perception of what I believe to be 'right' or 'accepted' or the 'norm'.  If I was to write down a list of things that I would do if there were no limitations, no expectations, just a complete honest list of what I would like to do in the coming year/s, I know there are a few more things I would like to do just because I want to!

So for the coming year I am going to make that list and make it with the conviction that to enjoy life, to feel it wholly and fully, one must follow what they believe in.  Ive often gone to make this list before and then the immediate thoughts that follow are...oh but what if this? and what if that? surely Im not allowed to do just what I want? immense amounts of guilt have often kept me from pursuing things.  Ive had the feeling often that I should not be allowed to be so happy...that its not 'normal', life should be endured and sometimes we might get to enjoy stuff!

Now, Im changing my attitude to these habitual thoughts, if there is anything I wish to do, Im now looking at how to make it possible rather than thinking of the reasons why its not.  There is no right or wrong, everyone is trying to figure it out and what Im learning is that if I keep limiting myself, I keep stopping myself in my tracks, the only one who really feels the effects is me.

Do you have a list? do you have things that you would like to do? What does living the good life mean to you?

The Secret of Work

Work. One word can elicit so many thoughts, debates, discussions.  For the past number of years and if Im honest, since graduating, work and what 'to do' in life has been a prevailing question. 

I have always wanted in my life to do work that I am passionate about, that I believe in and that I truly feel offers something to others.  Where conflict arises for me is to fulfil these categories while also maintaining a steady or sustainable income in order to have a good quality of life and to have enough time to enjoy my life/hobbies/sports. 

There is also the concept of personal motives, challenging oneself, feeling that gifts, talents and experience are being utilised and valued. 

So by achieving balance in these areas, there in lies the dream job! Helping others, earning a sustainable income, having quality free time and feeling personally valued and motivated for the work. Easy!

Is it always that easy or simple? 

When I feel confused or find myself thinking a lot about certain things, I find reading from others or turning to ancient texts for wisdom and inspiration helps to put things in perspective. 

Indias Ancient Scriptures describe life as resting on two unshakable pillars, the first is Rita, which is deeply connected to Dharma, our life purpose, that which supports us and holds us together. 

The second pillar is Yajna, the 'offering' principal of service, giving of oneself for the welfare of others.  In practical terms, Yajna means that everything we do should be for the welfare of all those around us.

These pillars show us and guide us to the realisation that life is not given to us for pure enjoyment, our highest duty is to give back to life.   When you ask yourself what work you should do, do not consider salary or prestige as first and foremost but how you can make the world a little better.

Here the Bhagavad Gita gives us a precious secret: how we work is as important as what we do. Your job may be nothing more glamorous than a janitor in a hospital, but if you are following right occupation and doing your best to put the welfare of those around you first, you will be contributing to other people’s lives, even though you may not see it happening. These are spiritual laws.

We don’t have to envy others because the jobs they do seem to be more prestigious or creative or because other people seem to have more skill. We are where we are, doing what we are doing, because we have something to learn from that particular context. What and who we are – all that we have thought, done, and desired, our upbringing and our education – has brought us to that job and to those co-workers, and that makes it just the situation we need to grow. With growth will come a new context to work in, new people, new challenges, greater opportunities for service.

Is there any job that is 100 percent perfect? Is there any position where you do only what you think you should, where your employer gives you meditation breaks and allows you to tell her/him how to conduct her business according to your interpretation?

Every job has its requirements that are not our own. Very few jobs are pure. No occupation is free from conflict; no task guarantees to protect us from stressful situations or from people with different views. And no job is free from drudgery; every line of work has a certain amount of routine. So the Gita says, Don’t ask if you like the work, if it is creative, if it always offers something new. Ask if you are part of work that benefits people. If you are, give it your best. In that spirit, every beneficial job can become a spiritual offering.

Our lives have become so physically oriented that we expect the spiritual person to have some kind of insignia, some special aura. The only aura that the spiritual person emits is kindness. One Western mystic sums up the spiritual life in one short phrase: “Be kind, be kind, be kind” – kind to those who are kind to you, kind to those who are not kind to you. It is one of the surest tests of wisdom. A ship is not tested in the harbour, where the water is quiet; it is tested on the open seas. The greatest scientist, the bravest soldier, the most brilliant artist can go to pieces in times of personal trial – the loss of something they valued, a sudden reversal of fortune, a tragedy in the family. The mystics ask, What use is a ship that is seaworthy only in good weather? And for most of us, the best test is not the big storms but the innumerable little squalls of daily living.

When you go to work, it should be the same. Wisdom is not simply for the home; if it is genuine, it will show everywhere. It’s easy to smile when a colleague remembers your birthday with a card, but that is no test; your ship is still in harbour. What do you do when he takes an early evening and leaves all his old files in your box of things to do? How do you respond when a colleague asks you to watch her desk for fifteen minutes and comes back an hour later with a big shopping bag on her arm? What do you do when your boss calls you in at five minutes to five and wants to talk over mistakes on your current project? The person who is established in wisdom won’t become defensive; he or she will slowly try to calm the storm. He knows he gives his best to his work, so he is secure; he can remain courteous and listen objectively while his boss rants and raves. Afterwards, instead of cold treatment, such people often get the red carpet. They are an asset everywhere: because they cannot be agitated, they help everybody around them to stay calm too.

Whatever our occupation, we can make our whole life a work of art, so that everybody who comes in contact with us benefits from our patience, our understanding, our love and wisdom.