I apologise for my long absence. The difficulty I have been having is getting out of bed in the mornings. Left to my own devices I can sleep until lunchtime. I dread waking up and coming back to reality. My first waking thoughts are “How has my life gone so wrong?” followed closely by “What is going to go wrong next?”
Sheldon phones me at 9 a.m. every morning. “Lily, are you out of bed?” It’s a great help, not only because I sometimes actually get up but also because a quick conversation with a friend derails my negative train of thought.
Getting to sleep is equally problematic. To divert my attention from my own head I often listen to the radio. Last night, being Sunday, Radio 4 broadcast a quasi-spiritual-religious-philosophical programme called Something Understood. The topic was trust, or the lack of it. There was discussion of how, as a society, we have grown less trusting of one another. Yes, there are a lot of unscrupulous people out there and it is wise to take care. Only last week a friend of mine nearly fell victim to a rent deposit scam. But our own actions go a long way towards promoting this atmosphere of fear and suspicion. In our pursuit of a ‘me first’ life we seldom consider how our actions may be damaging those around us. Do we stop and think: is what I am about to do going to destroy another person’s trust? Yet trust is the cement that binds friends, families, couples, businesses and institutions together. Without it our society would disintegrate.
The presenter summarised: “Loss of trust is corrosive. It leads to despair.”
Anyway, this is all a long-winded way of explaining how I come to be teetering up the gangplank of a houseboat moored at Chelsea Reach on the river Thames. I have come to visit Suzanne Thomas, a highly recommended hypnotherapist and counsellor. I duck and enter her sanctum, minding not to hit my head on the ceiling. Once safely sitting down I tell Suzanne my story and the source of my despair. Having been so thoroughly let down, first by my body and then by the man I loved, I have lost trust in the world.
“This is not your fault Lily,” Suzanne reassures me, “You’ve experienced a huge shock and a terrible betrayal. Really cruel. Your ex-boyfriend sounds like a classic case of a man suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder.”
I have heard these very words from many different lips yet I still need to hear them again. And again.
Anxiety, Suzanne says, is living in the future, constantly obsessing about “What if...?” Depression, on the other hand, is living in the past. “If only...” To be healthy and happy, we can only operate in the present moment. What Eckhart Tolle calls the now.
But how do I do that? “Wiggle your toes,” says Suzanne. “When you’re anxious, trying to live in the future, or depressed, trying to live in the past, actually you’ve lost touch with your body. So wiggle your toes. It immediately drags you back into the present. Then notice all your senses one by one. See what you see, hear what you hear, touch what you touch, smell what you smell, taste what you taste. It will root you in the present. It’s a much less scary place to be. I can see that lamp. It’s orange with green bits. I can hear the traffic. I can feel my elbows resting on the cool arms of the chair, my hand holding this coffee cup. I can smell that the air is warm and fresh today. I can taste the coffee in my mouth.”
“Another rule to remember,” says Suzanne, “is that the true opposite of fear is love. The two things are mutually exclusive. You can’t have love where there is fear and you can’t have fear where there is love. So surrounding yourself with as much love as possible is a very good idea. Some people are in the middle of a circle of loving friends and family. That is fantastic though it’s got its definite drawbacks as well. But for many of us that is not the case. You may be doing this more or less by yourself but that doesn’t mean that you can’t receive love equally.”
Suzanne’s exercise to bring love into your life.
Sit in a chair. Imagine drawing around you at arm’s length a golden circle. Trace around and around that golden circle. Know that this is no ordinary golden circle. It’s a golden circle of love and protection. You’re in the centre of it.
As you trace around and around you notice that, high above the centre of your golden circle is the source of whatever you think of as your higher power. From that point golden light is pouring down on you. You are bathed in love and protection.
As you trace around and around your golden circle you see that there is a stream of blue, travelling in a clockwise direction, just inside your golden circle. Going around like a stream. Make any adjustments to the colour or the speed until you’re happy with it. That blue is drawing strength to you.
You remain in your golden circle, with golden light pouring down on you. You notice that if you look a little wider around you, you can see for miles, to the horizon, all the way around.
From every point on the horizon, figures are approaching. People. Animals. Maybe too far away to recognise at first. But as they get closer you begin to see who they are. Friends, family, animals you may know or have known. And the more they come the more they come.
There are people here who you haven’t seen for years. People who may have died. People who you’ve had serious and deep relationships with, other people, maybe an old lady at a bus stop who you once had a chat with or your best friend at primary school. And the more they come, the more they come.
They’re forming a circle around you. Not too close but close enough. And that circle is added to and added to. Now you are in the centre of your golden circle. You don’t need to do a thing. Your heart receives love all by itself. And love flows back to them. There’s nothing you need to do. Just let that happen.
Once you do this exercise from time to time, you can start to recall it when you’re just chatting to people or waiting for the train. “Yes, I’m in my golden circle.” You can’t possibly feel stressed when you’re in it. Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, you’re always in your golden circle. And that’s wonderful. You can just enjoy it.