The Reach Approach is all about helping the individual reach his/her potential and fulfill his/her purpose. Much of the way we work is based on you looking honestly at yourself, but not in a negative, self-critical way, walking along the path of victimhood… Our reason for inviting closer scrutiny of the self is because we live in a world that is increasingly externalized, where the individual is encouraged to look ‘out’ for everything, where the notion of a ‘jewel within’ seems ‘new-agey’ and even a little bit suspect. The joy and the benefits of introspection have been lost to so many as if it were some strange activity only to be pursued by a few. This loss of respect for the inward journey is the reason that so many of us are divorced from ourselves and our reason for being. We simply operate in a robot-like way, in a world that no longer sees our individuality and uniqueness, it merely demands some end product. The world seems to care little for who we are and what price we have to pay to produce what it demands. Does this feel right to you? Is there really any benefit in living a life divorced from yourself, simply fulfilling a set of expectations that you’ve not even chosen? We believe this is a hollow existence, which has no heart at its centre. It is a poor imitation of life and we are sure, given the choice, you would choose something better, more satisfying and fulfilling. Well, here’s your chance.
‘Who are you when no one is looking?’ is something we all need to ask ourselves. Can you answer this question? Take a few moments now, before reading on, to answer this for yourself….. It may be a question you will have to come back to again and again before you can clearly feel and see the answer. Or, it may be that the answer is already present but you don’t like what you see and so you’re busy hiding ‘it’ from the world. Whoever you are when no one is looking gives you the most accurate picture of yourself. This isn’t the public image that’s often far too busy trying to be liked, trying to belong, compromising itself at almost any cost. No, this is the you that doesn’t need to pretend, the warts-and-all version. For many, it’s not an image that’s greatly liked, which is a big part of the problem. If you don’t like who you are when no one is looking, there is no chance of being the best you you can be. The quiet self-loathing that will run through your veins will serve to undermine you again and again and again. This largely invisible ‘you’ houses so many truths. It is the part of you that carries most of the hurt and the pain. It is often described as the ‘wounded self’. It needs unconditional love if it is to heal.
Spend some time trying to get to know who you are when no one is looking. This version of you has more to teach you than you know and if you dare to become its friend, its student, it will show you the way to your solution. Whilst we live in a place of contradiction (see Inventory of Incongruence) the subtle lies of that position will deny us everything we ache for. This is not a journey of shame, although it often begins that way. It is a journey of love and acceptance.
‘Who you are when no one is looking?’ is nearer to the truth than anything else in your reality. Do not be afraid of anything it has to say. Listen with compassion (see Change Through Compassion). It asks only for your understanding and care. Face it and befriend it without negative judgment and it will set you free and within that freedom you will discover the ultimate prize, the real you!
Being “still” for most of us is an alien experience, something we run away from rather than run towards. It is an activity that many would describe as boring, un-inspiring and at times even frightening, hence our general unwillingness to make it part of our lives. Where it is a feature of our existence it tends to be by default rather than by design, and so when we are “still” we anxiously look for ways to escape those moments just in case the “stillness” extends itself and takes us into unfamiliar and uncomfortable territory.
Our “un-ease” with stillness and all that it contains is one of the greatest tragedies of modern life. The merciless pace at which much of our lives hurries along denies us so much. Rather than grasping the detail and the significance of life, we grasp only fragments of reality, while substantial portions pass us by and become nothing more than a blur. Robbing us of the richness latent in our experiences and so what we do manage to extract bears little resemblance to what is really on offer. In order that we can grow towards wholeness and well being we need to transcend our ignorance, fear and our impatience with regards to being still and discover the wealth that is inherent within this state of being.
“Still time” is largely a self explanatory activity; all it requires is the space and time in which to engage in this insightful pastime. Regular short spells of practice is better than long infrequent sessions. When you attempt the art of being still, sit comfortably rather than lie down, the aim of being still is not to go to sleep, in this context sleep is simply another diversion. The aim is to be still, not distracted and to be alert, it is by being alert that the “eye of consciousness” can begin to look in, rather than out. It is crucial at times of practice to take off phones, not to have music or television on in the background, or to allow yourself to be diverted in any other way.
When you sit, particularly in the early stages, do not give your mind an agenda to follow, let it find its own way, let it unveil that which it needs to. Trust your instincts to lead the way. Be an observer of the process, try to be a witness to all the happenings; the changes in mood, the visual images, the fantasies, the absurdities and all the other events that are put on display on the “screen of the mind”. The more you stand outside yourself and watch from the sidelines what is going on, the more your inner world will communicate its deep seated thoughts and feelings. Thoughts and feelings that lurk around in the background of your life, but for the most part are ignored, denied and overlooked. Still time will illustrate how much is really going on inside you and yet you have so little knowledge of it, because you are so focused on external events. Your inner world is like a crowd of people screaming and shouting, all struggling to be heard and acknowledged whilst you remain largely entangled in your everyday life. Only by being still long enough can you hear the shouts and cries from within, and only when you hear those many competing voices and act on the wisdom and insight they offer can you really move forward.
Our own experience is our greatest tutor, if only we would be still long enough to observe the inner landscape and listen to its sounds and many messages, so many pearls of wisdom would then become ours. Try being still at some point every day or at least at regular intervals during the course of a week, do not deny yourself the immense wealth waiting to be claimed inside of you, do not commit the ultimate sin and say, “I do not have the time,” because to not have time to do what is beneficial for oneself is to have truly lost one’s way. “Still time” costs nothing and yet offers immense treasures in return, where else would you get such a deal?
STILL TIME CONTINUED….
Life at a much deeper level is about the magical interplay between silence and sound. Both silence and sound are like large orchestras playing intricate and sophisticated melodies quite separate and independent of each other and yet there is such a spirit of co-operation that exists between them. The musical matrimony of silence and sound gives life an amazing depth and meaning, it also offers us rare insights into the abyss of life and can introduce us to higher and altered states of consciousness if we would only take the time to participate. Our ability to hear the subtle nuances and the unusual accents contained within the rich and cleverly constructed musical pieces of silence and sound is dependent upon finding time to be still and the refinement of our listening skills. Without both these things we extract so little from the symphony of life and the tragedy is that most of us live our lives without really listening or finding time to be still. The orchestras of silence and sound play continually their varied, hypnotic melodies but without “active listening” we are unable to hear their magic, instead we are deafened by the chaos of everyday life, and so we do not fully engage in the dance of the universe because we are caught up in the myth that the material world offers us all we need.
Still time is where we reclaim ourselves, it is the time we spend learning the art of listening to ourselves and life. When we are still we are able to disentangle ourselves from the hazardous and hectic pace of life and see more clearly what it is that we need to be doing to grow and improve. Still time shows us the way, unlike any other activity it focuses the mind on the fine details and those things that regularly get over looked because our minds are often pulling in so many different directions. When we are still, our inner power is able to gather and group all its energies and potential, so rather than us functioning in a fragmented way there is cohesion and co-operation, this creates a “collective consciousness”. In other words our power moves as a united force in one direction which means there is less wastage of energy, greater clarity of thought and enhanced powers of discrimination. Still time helps us find our way back to ourselves and so the more we indulge in its splendour, the more we are bestowed with its gifts.
Like all personal development activity the key to success is consistency, without this, the fruits we so desperately want to taste and savour will always be out of our reach. Therefore, if still time is to shower us with its beauty we need to engage in this practice at regular intervals, if not daily at least 2 or 3 times a week. It is better to do a little regularly, than a lot all at once. Structure your life in such a way that at least 15-20 minutes of your time can be surrendered to being still each time you engage in this activity. Remember consistency is what counts and establishing some kind of routine is one of the best ways of creating consistency. When we establish a routine a rhythm develops and that rhythm goes on to create its own momentum, and the wonderful thing about momentum is once it has reached a certain point it takes care of itself and becomes a self propelling force. This self propelling force is what is more commonly known as a habit, which is the tendency to perform or engage in an act with very little or no conscious thought.
When a positive act is elevated to the status of habit our desire to be more complete and to live closer to our real nature is made so much easier, so our mission is to embroider as many positive activities as we can into our lives and through consistency encourage habit formation. Then the momentum of what is good and positive will carry us onwards and upwards. Once still time is an integral part of our lives the symphony of silence and sound is not something we merely listen to or observe, it becomes an event in which we are active participants. Be still and discover its magic for yourself.
What does mindfulness mean? It means to be completely connected to the self and each moment, to be totally present in the now. Fully focusing one’s mind on whatever one is doing or experiencing. Mindfulness is the practice and the art of being so present within the wonderful perimeter of the self that only the present moment matters. One is neither being consumed by the past nor distracted by the future. Mindfulness is a state of being which understands that the past has gone and cannot be changed and the future is determined by what one does today. If we let the moment called ‘now’ pass us by, then the sands of time literally slip through our fingers and with it the opportunity to positively influence our destiny. To be present, connected to oneself and each moment is to truly be alive. Mindfulness gives us access to inner peace, contentment, insight, balance and joy.
If you were reading this handout in a truly mindful way there would be total absorption in each word, sentence and every phrase. There would be more than an intellectual appreciation of the words drafted on the page, there would be an emotional, even spiritual experience as you unravelled and embraced the full force of what is really being presented to you. In the main, we are not fully aware of our own thoughts and where they are taking us. We have become ‘driven’, driven erratically towards a destination, often unsure where the destination is. Most of us are now so consumed by the pace of modern living we have forgotten where we are even going and why ! Confusion and chaos reign. Before you can be clear about where you are actually going and whether it’s worthwhile going there, you need to develop the art of watching yourself, connecting with yourself and taking back control (see Understanding Your Blind Spot). By taking the first steps towards mindfulness you will see how the drama of your life significantly and in many instances drastically changes.
You will find when you start practising single-minded awareness (focusing fully on whatever you are doing or experiencing) that your mind will often rebel against the channelling of your energy in this way. This will unquestionably interfere with your efforts to focus. Single-minded awareness takes regular practice and patience so don’t expect to overturn mental chaos without making concerted efforts. Having said that, to practice little and often will give enormous rewards quite quickly (within a few weeks). So, begin today by fully immersing yourself in this moment, then practice this for the rest of the day. However mundane your task there is a joy to be experienced when you are totally present in the moment. It is a joy missed by most of us because we are so busy thinking of something else as the moment slips through our fingers. Cup your hands together and capture the sands of time with the following simple practice. Give your full attention, your focus, to the moment and what you are doing. If you are listening to someone, really listen, really appreciate what it is that they are saying. Try and step into their world. This will give you a better understanding of the meaning behind their words and help forge a true connection. If you are nurturing and caring for anyone, do it with a real sense of the value and importance of such an act. There is always value and meaning in life but sometimes it is hidden. If you are doing that which is perceived to be mundane and ordinary, something probably taken for granted and undervalued even by yourself, look into the eyes of the moment and see the real significance of what you are doing. The more you practice being present the more you will see the meaning and significance of what is happening around you. Mindfulness makes you a true observer of life, a true traveler through time and means that you drive your life forward, rather than being driven by the force of circumstances.
The journey of personal growth depends on listening. Listening is the critical ingredient in the positive change process; without it we simply remain stuck in the very things we are desperate to leave behind. If you keep going round the same loop and despite your best efforts you continue to be bullied by old familiar habits, patterns and moods, then there is ‘something’ missing. There is ‘something’ you haven’t seen, heard or understood and until you find out what that is you will remain frustrated and trapped. It is generally at this point we look to blame other things or people for our predicament (see The Blame Game and Personal Responsibility), but the truth is usually found in the mirror– you! Although you may find some temporary comfort and relief in the game of blame, all you really achieve is inertia, as you are unable to move away from all that binds you.
Blame is a mirage that promises you much but in the end provides you with an illusion because none of your answers and solutions will ever be found in that place. Look closely at your life and be really honest with yourself and you’ll see blame is an excuse that distracts you from the REAL problem, which lives within you. You will find under closer scrutiny (see Who are You when no-one is Looking) that the real problem lies somewhere in your shame, fear, doubt, anger, guilt, pain and resentment just to name a few. In order to respond to what’s really going on and discover what’s missing, the journey needs to begin with listening. Sadly this is a journey few have taken. Ask yourself this question: are you really listening or simply waiting to speak? If you’re honest, far too often you’re simply waiting to speak– you’re waiting for your turn because it’s when you next speak ‘they’ are bound to understand that you’re indeed right. If you look even closer you’ll begin to see that most of your conversations are with your own assumptions and projections; you’re not even able to hear the other person because you’re too busy with your own internal dialogue! It’s this absence of listening that most keeps you stuck. Not only do you not hear what is being offered from the outside world, but even worse you are unable to hear the whisperings of your own heart. This ‘waiting to speak’ is not listening to the heart; it is a destructive habit that is largely a defence mechanism. It is either driven by your desperation to be right or your fear of being found out. Essentially it is about fear and shame.
‘Listening-in’ is the practice of sitting with oneself and being present in that moment. It is the beautiful practice of asking your heart to reveal its secrets to you. Listening-in recognises that what we know, by itself, will never free us: it’s what we do that counts! Doing what needs to be done comes from the power of realisation. Knowing is to have the information within your grasp and therefore the possibility of change; whereas realisation is to understand the deep significance of that information and to apply its meaning to your own life. So to know means very little but to realise means everything. Realisation depends on both listening to the world and ‘listening-in’ to the sounds of the heart and mind. This takes practice. Find 5– 10 minutes every day, or at least every other day, to sit with the question ‘dearest heart and mind, what more is there for me to see, understand and learn?’ Let this question gently resonate inside you. Don’t force it; be patient and keep reciting it every minute or so. Don’t be concerned about getting answers: they will come in their own time. Let your concern be to give yourself this gift of listening-in. You could also say: ‘dearest heart and mind, probably for the first time I’m really listening, I’m not afraid or unwilling to hear your secrets’: ‘so please tell me what I need to know’. Practise this simple drill and you’ll find ‘listening-in’ will also enhance your ‘listening- out’, which in turn will deepen your insights and reveal even more secrets; it’s a beautiful eternal loop. Try it and see for yourself.
Listening is a quiet, gentle, attentive skill. The more you practice it the more it becomes an art which enables you to see life with all its depth and subtleties. Listening makes the complex simple, it makes the unknown visible, and it explains the ‘un-said’, leaving no mystery un-resolved. Listening offers you the ‘gift of truth’ but it requires your patience and attention; without these it will not offer up its countless revelations and secrets.
‘Listening-out’ is the willingness to hear what the world is saying to you. Much more can be learned by listening and then cross-referencing what you hear with the sounds of your own heart and mind. It is not possible for one person to experience everything in one lifetime but it is possible to ‘understand’ everything in your lifetime if there is sufficient humility. Humility is not a weak and submissive virtue; it offers you real power, incredible depth and the keys to wisdom. A wisdom that takes a 360 degree look at one’s self and reality. It’s the willingness (humility) to listen to what life and others are really saying that gives you access to all you need to know. Humility does not need to be right, in fact it is so obsessed with truth it doesn’t concern itself with needing to be right, or with the fear of looking silly. Humility knows that denial, justification and generating smoke screens to conceal the self are a prison that never offers parole! So free yourself by ‘listening-out’: there is so much to learn and your journey can’t really begin until you do. It must be said ‘listening-out’ without also ‘listening-in’ will eventually lead you down blind alleys and crooked paths. You must have both practices sitting side by side. One who only ‘listens-out’ will never develop the discrimination to know what should be embraced and what should be discarded. Without discrimination you will be deceived, manipulated and lose your own identity in order to fit into a world that demands constant change from you. So as necessary and valuable as ‘listening-out’ is, it must be balanced with ‘listening in’ to ensure you don’t lose your way.
‘Listening-in’ requires finding time regularly to sit in solitude, even 5 or 10 minutes will do, but it must be regular otherwise you simply won’t develop the rapport with yourself. Listening to what is going on in your inner world, then decoding and understanding its many messages takes time. So sit often, but without expectation. This is critical. Listening has no expectation, it’s too busy absorbing what it can hear, even if it’s only silence– for it knows even silence has a language all of its own. The more you practice sitting and listening to your mind, heart and body the more you will make ‘conscious contact’ with yourself. When there is conscious contact your body will tell you what its needs are. In fact it’s doing this all the time but if you check carefully, you’ll find that you’re rarely paying attention. And yet the body continues to patiently work in your best interest (see Persuading the Body series). If you could hear your body’s cries, you would support it and work with it rather than against it. Your heart (feelings) offers an unlimited set of insights, a knowing beyond the limitations of logic and yet you ignore its cries too. Your heart is your best internal guidance system, it’s like a compass pointing you in the right direction, but without learning to listen you’ll rarely hear what it advises. The mind (thoughts) is a powerhouse of potential and opportunity; it hungrily feeds off knowledge in an attempt to fuel its hopes and endeavours. The mind is also a magician ready to disclose its secrets but without the practice of ‘listening-in’ we become confused because we don’t know which of our thoughts to trust.
As with ‘listening-out’ if we only ‘listen-in’ we can be deceived. To only ‘listen-in’ can mean we become trapped in believing those things we’ve inherited which have lived in our minds for so long that we’ve come to believe them. What you believe, you make true, so don’t fall into the lethal trap of simply believing your thoughts. ‘Listening-in’, as well as ‘out’, enables you to properly vet the heart and mind and discern what’s real and true from what is fake and habitual. Both kinds of listening will free you from this prison of limitation, ignorance and victimhood. All that is needed is practice– little and often, and your life will open up in ways you couldn’t even have imagined.