It has been over a year since I wrote on this blog page. There were a number of times I tried to write, whether for the blog or for other outputs, but I just didn’t feel it. So I decided not to. I enjoyed that decision. Whenever I try and force things, I find they’re often not as enjoyable. Sometimes I seem to put pressure on things that really don’t have to have pressure, overthinking outcomes or outputs. Whilst some element of foresight and planning can be useful, I find an increasing joy in undertaking a task for the sheer sake of undertaking it. It’s a continual process to find the balance but I find overall joy when living a flexible flow.
I was recently asked a question about whether I am inquisitive and part of me experienced the question as also asking whether I want to find answers, to any range of questions. My mind was blank; I found it difficult to respond in that moment and so opted for the answer “I don’t know”, which felt okay.
A couple of hours later, a phrase popped into my head in response to this question – “I used to want to know, now I like to learn”. This response immediately resonated with me. It may have arrived in slightly different wording at first, but it reshaped into those words. I’d like to explore the words by separating the sentence and comparing two parts alongside each other;
- I used to want to know
- Now I like to learn
“I used to” vs “Now I”
Here, I’m struck by the change in tense. The first part is past tense, i.e., I used to do something, whereas the second part is present tense, i.e., now, it is always now. For me, this highlights the importance of the present moment, of working with what is arising in this moment, though it should be added that by combining the two parts into one whole sentence, ‘now’ gives a sense of recognising the role of the past in the present, to a point.
“want to” vs “like to”
Here, there is a change in the amount of clinging and desire which pervades my life. I continually work to remove the necessity of wants and needs, and try to find joy and passion in each thing that I do; I experience more peace when I reduce trying to achieve or accomplish things; instead I focus on undertaking the present task and actually, I find I still undertake all ranges of challenges and new experiences throughout all aspects of life, with a bit more peace.
“know” vs “learn”
I don’t know if anything can be truly known. Similar to ‘want’ and ‘like’, I find this distinguishing of “know” and “learn” represents my efforts to release the suffering that comes with wanting to know. I find that when wanting to know something, I create this narrative of being somebody who knows something, and I can end up attaching to ideas in a desperate search to prove something to be right. I may even end up trying to know something that I don’t even wish to know – consequently, I lose focus on enjoying that which I am doing.
By holding the perspective of everything being something to learn, with no over attachment to an end goal or end product, I find myself open to new ideas, new subjects of learning, and I find I am less offended if an idea or thought I have is challenged, allowing me to further learn from other people, reshaping and remodelling my views and experiences.
After publishing each chapter of the book here in the blog section, I have now created a separate link for it so it has its own section on the website, making it easier to read in an orderly fashion. You can find this at the top of the website. I will likely return back to random blogging entries in this section.
However, in the spirit of where I currently find myself in life, I have nothing to say at this point. My thoughts circle away but I currently do not wish to engage them, its much more peaceful just taking each second as it comes. I'm sure I'll return to write at some point....
As a side note, I've just realised I'm publishing this on 31 December...Happy New Years :)
I mentioned in my introductory blog post that I have an interest in promoting philosophy further within society. Though I had enjoyed writing the couple of blog posts that I have so far presented, something didn’t quite feel right. I pondered, “what is it that I want these to be?”. I reflected back on the book I recently completed and the sole aim of that book was to write about the questions and aspects of life which I think may relate or be of interest to us all, in hope that anybody can take that information to process their own views and questions of life, either within their own writing and reflections, or through discussion with friends, family and well, anybody.
Though I initially considered interviewing people about questions of life and presenting this through a podcast, I realised that this didn’t quite feel like the right process, for a variety of reasons.
As such, after further reflection, I have decided that I will release my book in a phased blog format, through this webpage.
Each blog post will present a new part of the book, the topic of which will be outlined in the contents page.
The book is entitled
“What is life? A 21st century perspective”
I shall say no more on the book as I will swiftly release the opening introduction chapter following publication of this blog post. In the opening chapter, I explain exactly what the book is, what it’s about and what it will contain.
I hope you enjoy reading it
I find hugging to be such an interesting aspect of life. Interactions with friends and family all seem to have unwritten rules of conduct built in, with each person adapting the rules according to their personality and level of relationship with people. Yet in each interaction, there is an inevitable moment of goodbye in which we may be left reflecting on what did or didn’t occur. We may be left feeling a post goodbye connection with somebody, or we may be left with a slight sense of disconnection, depending on how we said goodbye.
I recently attended a social event with work colleagues and the inevitable unknown of ‘goodbye’ arrived. For the majority of the year, workplace goodbyes are kept to a nod of the head, some passing words of good wishes for the weekend, and generally pretty formal. All of a sudden, a social event, a ‘works do’ brings us together in a different time and space, and goodbye becomes a whole other ball game. There often seems to be two approaches to these moments.
One approach is the group departure, when everybody leaves at the same time. This ending is tricky as invariably, there will be people in the group who are huggers. All of a sudden, there is a moment of wonder as colleagues work out just where their friendship is at. Sometimes, I find myself at the end of a line or circle of people, everybody else prior to me has hugged, so the person and I approach each other within a thought of, ‘well, here we are, everybody else has hugged and though this feels a little different and awkward to our usual interactions, it would almost be awkward not to hug...let’s just go for it’. Admittedly, this sort of deliberation seems to occur more often in male-female interactions. Male colleagues generally go for the handshake, though even this has the potential to progress into a sports style shoulder to shoulder hug, and in moments of closeness or merry influence, a “man hug” may occur - though it’s also true that some male-female and female-female interactions, depending on the nature of the workplace interaction, specifically in relation to the perceived level of authority in the relationship, may also be suited to a handshake. Of course, I write from a male point of view and I could have things completely wrong; it would be interesting to hear whether females encounter this moment of hesitation when saying goodbye to each other?
However, returning to the case of a potential hugging type of relationship; there are times when I have been at the start of the goodbye line (or circle). All of a sudden, the pressure is on to determine just what style of goodbye this is going to be. In a moment of awkwardness, I play it overly safe and don’t go for a hug, and yet, I’m then left to watch as the departed enters into a hug with everybody else, and part of me is left feeling as if I’m then slightly disconnected – deep down, I wish I’d gone for the hug.
The other type of departure is the individual departure, i.e., when somebody exits a group but everybody else will still be remaining. I find goodbyes become more distant in these situations. There's a moment when I realise, ‘if I hug one person who I know well, how do I say goodbye to other people without offending them’. Sometimes there’s a work colleague who you just really don’t know, or somebody has brought somebody as a friend or family member, and a hug may seem inappropriate, so I find it easier to just give a holistic goodbye. This is carried out by kind of speaking and waving to the group as a whole, “okay, see you later”, and retreating out of the situation in a swift fashion. Yet, I then feel slightly disconnected from the person who I am closest to, who I have spent the evening chatting with but who I included in this holistic goodbye. I may end up trying to send a text, in hope of some way trying to cement and confirm the enjoyable connection that we formed through the evening.
What I’ve come to realise and accept is that there are varying levels of goodbye, and it's just about feeling and trusting in undertaking the appropriate level of goodbye – it’s all about finding the balance. There are times when merely verbally saying goodbye feels right, perhaps because I’ve only just met somebody. But sometimes I may not even say goodbye to such a person, and I walk away feeling slightly off within myself - not in an overly bad way, but as if my inner sense realised that I didn’t connect with that person during our goodbye in the way that was right for us. I believe part of this off-feeling will not only be from our own internal feeling, but will also be due to conscious and unconscious communication with the other person. Without saying it, it’s as if both you and the other know what you would like the goodbye to be, and if for various reasons this goodbye doesn't occur, you each silently communicate an awareness of this, even if we don’t consciously admit it. The same thing may occur with somebody who I have a closer friendship with. In this moment, the off feeling may occur because, even though we do actually say goodbye, we don’t hug, and internally, that’s where it felt our relationship had progressed to in this social engagement – perhaps we were already social acquaintances outside of work.
I don’t feel there are any set rules or levels of friendship where we can say, “okay, we are in the hugging zone now”, I think we just feel it, our internal worlds are aware of it.
So what are the “various reasons” which may prevent our true goodbyes occurring? It’s hard to answer this question as, though there may be general common aspects, it truly will be an individual thing. It will also depend on the type of relationship between colleagues. But, even without going into the details, it is safe to say that a large portion will relate to worrying about what the other person and/or people around us may think. Again, this may be conscious, but it may also be unconscious. We may not necessarily cognitively think “what if they don’t want to hug me, or say goodbye, or shake hands etc.”, but we internalise this. So, I feel it can be useful to try and reduce this process of worry or care from our thoughts. When saying goodbye, if we tune in and just let things flow, whether this is making the effort to cross over to the other side of the room and tell a colleague that you really enjoyed meeting and talking with them this evening and that you look forward to talking again, or if you’ve had a personal and meaningful conversation with a colleague you know well and feel like a hug would be nice, even if only a quick brief hug, rather than an all embracing hug, trust this feeling. Next time you say goodbye at a work social, watch your feeling, let your thoughts float away, and go with the flow of goodbye. If it doesn’t quite feel right, never mind, perhaps we’ll get it right next time. If you’re unsure, as can often be the case, maybe literally ask the person, “how shall we say goodbye?” and the unspoken mutual understanding may be given words and subsequent action. Don’t get me wrong, a hug is not always appropriate, even if one person wants it, the other may feel it’s important to keep a boundary. But I think we truly pick up on this. Your inner sense will pick it out.
All I can say is that there are times when I’ve not undertaken a goodbye - whether a nod of the head, a handshake or a hug - and felt a missed connection with somebody. Connecting with other people is something I feel can be important for our well-being and it can bring a great unitary experience to each of our lives if we trust ourselves to find (and carry out) the right balance of goodbye.
In fact, I would say this process can be applied to all aspects of goodbyes, whether friends, family or work colleagues. I suppose there are just so many factors which add to the fascinating question…when do I hug my colleagues?
I live in the city centre and there are a number of pigeons in the vicinity. Is it just me, or are they growing in confidence? I was sat in a café courtyard recently and a pigeon was pecking at food, right around my foot. In years gone by, I remember almost feeling sad because a pigeon felt it couldn't trust me to approach a couple of crumbs within my locality. They would kind of okey kokey their way towards me but never commit. However, there is a sense that this is changing. I’m unsure if this is because they have become so hungry that the reward of food outweighs the risk of attack. I also wonder if, after decades of living alongside humans, they are beginning to trust us more. From an evolutionary point of view, it could be argued that it is those pigeons which take the gamble and go for food in risky situations which are more likely to survive and thus pass on their genes to their children (I think pigeon’s offspring are called children?). Recently, I feel like pigeons have been getting closer and closer to human contact. If I walk down the main city centre street, they seem to come in for military style landings, hovering right above my head and the heads of others as they prepare to land. I’ve always felt like there's no need to make an excessive avoidance as they won’t connect, but a number of people have informed me that they have felt the claw/talon/foot of a pigeon upon their head in recent times. I wonder where the line will be. At the moment, we seem to live in peace with pigeons, even if they appear to cause the occasional nuisance to some pedestrians, most people just seem to let them get on with things. I recently saw a child chasing some pigeons and the child appeared to be gently reprimanded by their parent. I think this is a lovely demonstration of our innate care. On one hand, the parent likely asked the child to stop chasing the pigeons because either they carry germs which they do not want their child to inherit, or that the quickly dispersing pigeons may disgruntle other people in the vicinity, but I also like to believe that there is a part of the parent who is asking the child to not overly complicate the pigeons' lives, which in reality, is an act of care and compassion.
This human core of care and compassion is something I feel when I attend yoga classes. I recently attended hot yoga, and like many other yoga classes, there is a lovely feeling within the room for each and every class. I’d tried yoga at home and whilst it was enjoyable, the feeling of positive united connection and energy which comes from collective group activity is a great feeling. Yoga encourages people to be compassionate to themselves which, though for some that may sound almost hippy-esque, is something I try to carry out every day and it is something that I believe brings an ultimate sense of peace to our lives. I have come across a range of scientific research which demonstrates the benefit of self and other compassion on our brains and subjective well-being, but it is by truly experiencing it within yourself that you may get the greatest evidence. Next time you feel angry at yourself, perhaps take a moment to hold off from beating yourself up, just remove all thoughts, look at the feeling of anger within yourself, perhaps a fiery stomach or a pounding heart, and literally smile, remove the self-judgements and just observe the feeling for as long as possible. Smile, internally and externally. Offer yourself a deep breath and an internal pat on the back. It is from being kind and compassionate to ourselves that we can extend to others, which in turn reflects back to our own well-being. Our internal thoughts can be quick to self-criticise, which subsequently can lead to the criticism of others, making both us and the other feel bad. Sometimes both we and others get things wrong, and this can be reviewed and learned from, in a peaceful manner. If you angrily shout to somebody, “don’t do that, it’s wrong”, they may stop what they're doing, but they may also feel foolish for being shouted at. It is possible that this feeling may even lead them to continuing their act or feeling anger towards you. You may then feel raged by their action and by their response, and the cycle continues. If we merely gently say, “I’m not sure that it is the best thing to do, what do you feel, how come you are doing it?” We bring an open and peaceful sense to proceedings which will truly pave the way for learning. We may even learn something from the other which is of use to ourselves. If we can reach a point where each of our actions is based on not intentionally causing harm to others or to ourselves, I believe we will each find the core peace with us. This process of self-compassion is not a quick one, especially if we have become used to self-defeating thoughts. So take time with it; be careful not to beat yourself up for beating yourself up. There is a compassion in the world that unities us with the pigeons, you deserve it too.
Hello and thanks for coming to the Zence Psychology website.
I feel I want a blog page for the website, but I'm not entirely sure what I want it to contain. I see so many websites with blog posts which, after one or two initial entries, have not been updated for a while. It almost makes me feel a little sad, so many unwritten words left wandering the universe. I was hesitant of starting a blog in case this same fate occurred for me, starting with exuberance in May, yet failing to register another entry further on. However, I met a lovely person when I was out having a cup of coffee recently and they set me straight, highlighting that it is in my hands to prevent this from happening. So I committed to maintaining a blog; I then had to decide upon the contents.
I am currently writing a book which is a philosophical and psychological commentary on topics I find interesting life, questioning and reflecting on topics which are at the root of what it means to be human. I wondered if I could release aspects of this book through the blog. But then I had another idea. I feel at this point, the book belongs with the book. However, every time I step out the door, every time I walk the streets, I'm filled with amazement and enjoyment of life. I love learning about human nature. It is innate within me, I think that's probably why I became a psychologist. Despite what people sometimes ask me, psychologists (as far as I am aware) cannot read minds. Being a psychologist is not about trying to manipulate or out think people, for me it is about connecting with people on a deep level, with a wish to develop understanding together. And so, I decided that I will use this space as a reflective area. Whenever something comes up for me, internally or externally, I will make an attempt to share this with you, the reader, in hope that my experiences and reflections may be something of interest to you. We all live different lives, with different choices and views. My words are certainly not going to be focused on what people should or shouldn't do. They will be focused on observations and experiences which occur in my everyday existence. I merely wish to provide my reflections on paper (well, on screen) so that as humans, we can spend time together, undertaking a process of learning about ourselves.
I have no anticipated timescale for the blog entries, I suppose the intensity of an experience and reflection will determine when a new entry occurs. If you have any topics that you would like me to discuss, please feel free to email me firstname.lastname@example.org