Sunday, 24 July 2016

Free the Heart and the Mind Will Follow

Last Sunday was quite a day. I along with 31 other men had been called through to the Slimming World "Man of the Year" semi-final and finals day. It is quite an honour to be one of the 32 out of some 50,000 male members in this country.

There was a beautiful moment of synchronicity that I became aware of as I switched on my computer and logged on to Facebook before setting off that morning. It showed me a memory from exactly a year before of a journey I had taken with my brother and sister to Devon to attend our nephew Joe’s wedding. During the journey my sister spent several hours selling the merits of Slimming World to me. I listened, tried to evade, but I listened. She was speaking to me because she loves me; she spoke only in and through love. She spoke the language of the heart and I was able to listen with the ears of my heart. I believed that I was always going to be the way I was and to get to a physically healthier place was just too much for me. A price it would seem I was not willing to pay. I believed that the only way to achieve weight loss would be to starve myself. This has not been the case at all, Slimming World and its method of “Food Optimising” is about healthy eating, group support, healthy living and personal responsibility. At its its core is love, it speaks another language of the heart and that day I began to have ears that could hear once again. That weekend was the turning point and I loved reliving the memory of the journey to the wedding as I enjoyed the journey to Slimming World headquarters with my group consultant Janet Cullin. I also loved the synchronicity of it all…My whole life seems to be led by it and the more I am open to it the more it seems to speak to me, constantly drawing me on to endless possibilities. Synchronicity to me is the invisible voice of love always calling to those who have ears that can hear.

It was an amazing day listening to many inspirational men who had embarked on the same journey as myself and were now living amazing lives. I got through to the final and then waited for the final result…Of which I cannot yet reveal as they have asked the finalists to remain silent about the result for at least the next few days…So you will have to watch this space if you want to know who the winner is…

Now during the day the former professional footballer and current TV presenter Dion Dublin gave us an inspirational talk before the semi-finals began. I listened intently to what he said. What stood out was him talking about how every time he was injured and presented with disappointments he had to face and question his beliefs about his ability to overcome them and to carry on with his career. The pinnacle for him being when he finally played for England at Wembley. He compared this to the journeys we all had been on, something he couldn’t identify with as he had always been a fit athlete. That said he did suggest that our journeys must have begun with our own minds, with us challenging our beliefs about ourselves and lives and that it must have taken great courage to keep journeying on. As he said "If the mind is right, the body will follow."  He came across as warm and caring, I really liked him. More than that I believe that he understood exactly the journey we had been on, certainly mine.

As I shared my story in the semi-final and final I spoke about beliefs about myself that had been ingrained from a young age, beliefs that at the time had given me a certain amount of security and stability but had eventually tethered, tied me down, enslaved me. Over the years I have challenged many things that I believed about myself and life in general. I have changed my mind many times. This is never an easy task. It is amazing how these beliefs can cling and at times re-emerge seemingly from nowhere.

I am not done with my changes…Are any of us?

There is a poster in the small schoolroom at Dunham Road chapel that reads “Anyone who is a slave to anything is not free. The first step to freedom is to free the mind.”

It has been up there for a few years now and I have noticed many people comment on it on a number of occasions. A friend did so just the other day as he reflected on how he had been enslaved by his own thinking, even though he would consider himself quite a rational man. I identify with him strongly, as I have said many times before I have become enslaved many times by my own beliefs. The very things that I thought gave me security and the illusion of stability, that gave me an anchor on which I could depend, were actually chains that enslaved me, kept me trapped and stopped me flying free.

Bob Marley once sang “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds.”

There is real truth in this statement. No one else can set us free from our own self-created mental slavery. If they could wouldn’t that be the worst kind of slavery? The enslavement of handing over responsibility for our own lives to another. There is no freedom in this. One of things I love about Slimming World is that while it offers you a simple method and there is a great deal of mutual support, in the end responsibility is with the individual. It is up to us to live this way, day by day. I see this as vital as it build genuine self-esteem. At its core is of course love and support, but also a development of true love for self also.

So how do we then free our minds from our own mental slavery and live the lives we are born to live? Well I actually believe it takes more than just questioning our thinking. Yes that is part of it, but it isn’t the full picture; yes discernment is a vital aspect, but it is not enough on its own. For me it begins with spirit and it comes alive in and through love.

Everything worthwhile in my life has to come through love. True religious community is built on love and lives through love. The 12 Step Fellowships I have belonged to have at their core the simple principle of love. Slimming World is about love. To me they are all about love, love for self, love for other, love for life; they are about love for self, love for neighbour and love for whatever it is that we experience is at the core of all life, God for me.

I have discovered that it is by living in and through love that one is then able to truly question ones beliefs, for love is about more than belief it is about faith, something deeper than belief and it is this that sets one free to live and be in love.

If my life has taught me anything it has taught me that in order to change your mind and therefore change your life requires first and foremost a change of heart, or perhaps more accurately an opening an awakening of the heart.

So how do we bring the heart alive, how do we live in love?

Well I believe it requires attention and application. Love is not soft and mushy. It is not about sentimentality. It requires discipline. It is about raising our heads and observing where love is present in life, rather than merely focusing on what is wrong with both ourselves and our world. It requires us to live in the solution, rather than the problem. It requires us to live fully open to the love out there as well as the love in here. It requires courage, which of course means heart, it means love, from the French word “Cour” meaning heart.

It requires spiritual discipline too. For me that means practising prayer and meditation each day and throughout  the day. It’s about taking sacred moments, so as to connect more fully to the love within each and every one of us and the love present in life.

It requires attention to one another. To support one another and encourage one another when it is needed, without taking over one another’s lives. This is because love requires responsibility for our own lives. For if we don’t we will not bring to life the love present deep within us and we will not be free.

Freedom begins in love and continues through love. To free the mind the first requirement is to live in and through love. Freedom does not begin in the mind, it is much deeper than that, although I was once a slave to the former belief. To free the mind you must first free the heart, this is the first step to freedom. Free to what? Well free to be love…

The key to freedom's gateway is love…Love for self, love for other and love for God…First and last and always love…Love is all that we need…We need it to begin and we need it to continue…

So keep on rocking in the free world all you groovers and shakers out there...It's the only way to be...Yeh, really free...May we always have ears to hear life's redemption songs...

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