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GalaxyIf you were to look down upon the world like you were looking down upon an ants’ nest, seeing everyone going about their own business, sorting out their own little problems. Millions of them. What are they all doing? How are they experiencing the very same moment in time?

They are walking around on the same ball of dirt under the same sky as you; equally exposed to the physical and emotional dangers and opportunities as you.

In the grand scheme of things, there are millions of hearts being broken at exactly the same time that millions of people are falling in love. Millions mourning the passing of a loved one at the same time as millions of newborns are arriving.  Jobs being lost as promotions are celebrated.

Thinking about all of this, what are the chances of you ever living a perfect life unaffected by anything or anyone going on around you? This is a continuous cycle. The world doesn’t change through your success or misfortune, it only appears so because your view of it changes.

Nobody really knows for sure the purpose of life (if there is one) or why you are alive at all in this particular form in this particular moment, but consider this: the universe may only exist within your consciousness… as little more than a dream… because your consciousness is what creates your life as you know it.

If that sounds a little far fetched then also consider that the chair that you are sitting on feels pretty solid; it is supporting the weight of your body which also feels pretty solid but we know they are both composed of atoms. Atoms are mostly empty space and the elements that make up the atoms are also mostly empty space. So how come we don’t pass right through the chair?

Our eyes see the light from the red to the violet part spectrum, but we don’t see infrared, ultraviolet, microwaves, radio waves or x-rays etc These are all the same form of electromagnetic energy, but at different frequencies, and we are only aware of a very narrow band experienced as visible light.

Clearly, how we experience the world is not the whole truth since our perception of it is limited by what we see, hear and touch. Reality isn’t simply a collection of decoded events and circumstances. It is our interpretation of what our senses are telling us after we sort, name, categorise and associate the incoming data with past experience.

All this means that it is you that is the creator of your reality. We may all share the space and time here at this moment but nobody experiences the world exactly the same as you do.

We all create our own meaning in life whether we intend to or not, we all create our own experiences, and it follows that we all internally create our own feelings… and then most of us mistake the cause of our feelings as coming purely from external events and circumstances.

So when you look around you, remember that the world as you know it doesn’t exist without you here to observe it. You are not playing a role in someone else’s dream. All of this is unique to you and it all goes with you when you die.

Therefore, from this point forward, it’s up to you to create the world how you would like it instead of blindly accepting the world how it appears to be. That is not to say you should wish that the events and circumstances were different themselves, but to start to accept that everything you experience is your own creation.

You need no-one else to complete you and no-one else can stand in your way. If you’ve lost someone then they were always a mirror of yourself. If someone is standing in your way then they are a mirror of yourself too. The love or fear isn’t in them, it is inside you. That is always the illusion.

What’s stopping you creating the life you want from now on? Every moment, you have the ability to choose; whether that is for choosing to continue your story where you left off yesterday or for turning a fresh page and beginning a brand new chapter today.

Look into the mirror and make friends with your creator…

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Identity

fingerprint

We confuse identity as something that’s real and fixed, like it’s carved in stone. We bundle up our fears, habits and emotions and tell everyone “That’s my personality.” It’s a convenient mechanism to avoid facing our fears and for absolving responsibility for our feelings and reactions. “That’s just the way I am.” we say. And so the matter is closed and our ‘identity’ is preserved unchallenged.

Identity is nothing but a perception of how we see ourselves, or the mask we choose to present to the world. e.g. Someone might claim they are shy in order to avoid speaking up in public and this then label acts as the perfect licence for avoiding it forever after; like waving about a sick-note at school in order to get out of sports. Someone might claim they can’t diet because they are a chocoholic and this label then acts as a free-pass for continuing to eat chocolate while absolving all responsibility about being overweight.

In truth, our identity is the result of how we think we are seen by others, which can be something totally different to our own perception of ourselves.

This idea of the identity being something rigid and unchangeable leads us to two illusions. Firstly, the belief that we should be someone other than ourselves, which means that we give up living as our natural selves and sacrificing the effortless flow of life for enslaving ourselves to others preconceptions of how life should be lived. A life that mismatches our own feelings and values. Secondly, the assumption that everybody thinks and does the same as we do, which means we’ll expect our partner (or anyone else) to act in ways that are outside their own ideas of how life should be lived. This assumption exposes a mismatch between our perceptions and reality, often presenting us with an unfulfilled expectation, the chief foundation for upset.

A lot of what we are talking about is not only relevant to relationships but for living life as a whole. It’s about how we see ourselves; discovering, deep down, who we really are and about how we would like to choose to spend our time on this planet. Our relationships are just one part of that. Inevitably, what we choose to do here – what we choose to do in order to overcome the highs and lows of life and how we deal with wins and losses – will contribute to our personal evolution

Who are we then if we are not our current idea of our identity? At the risk of digressing into an area of which a whole library of books can be written, you are your authentic-self while you are not thinking about it; while you are not being self-conscious. You are who you really are when you’re so engrossed in something that gives you so much pleasure that you aren’t thinking of anything else; and before you know it, hours have flown by in the matter of minutes. With the dissolution of identity comes the question of purpose. If we are not who we think we are then why are we here and what is our purpose? But is this question really important if immersion in awareness drowns out self-consciousness?

Along the way, our collective concern about identity and purpose has given us the illusion that we are separate and superior to nature. Whatever we think, and however powerful we think we are, we are still bound by natural law. We birth, we grow, we reproduce, we die. Therefore, we need go no further than nature to find our purpose.

What is the purpose of an oak tree? An oak tree grows, produces seeds from which other oak trees grow, food and shelter for animals and helps oxygenate the atmosphere. Does the tree worry about it’s purpose? No, it is just being an oak tree and naturally lives into its role. If we are to re-find our purpose we must learn to release the idea of our identity and it’s associated self-consciousness.

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unselfish

In trying to find favour with anyone, or in attempting to repair relationships, we have to be careful to not fall into a trap of trying to appear unselfish. Not only will we be betraying our values and falling into both traps of identity and morality, adapting ‘chameleon like’ into how we think we should be seen by others, but trying to appear unselfish is in itself a selfish act, since there is always a hidden agenda underneath.

This illusion of unselfishness is the belief that if we give up all we can (even by sacrificing our own needs) then we might receive some proportionate appreciation or reward in return. This ‘giving,’ in order to get what you want, is ultimately a passive form of manipulation. It never works out as intended. This is the illusion of the concept that ‘Life is Fair’. You sacrifice in the name of hope but it’s ultimately a hopeless situation. In reality, life just isn’t fair… life is life and owes you nothing more than the time given to you here and now. What you do with your time is up to you. What others do with their time is up to them. And never the twain shall meet…

Your results in life are not linked to your sacrifices. Your results are linked to how you BE and then what you DO in alignment with your natural self. It’s like a marathon: you can only last the course by being your natural self. Trying to mould yourself to fit in to others expectations is like setting off at a sprint in a marathon – it can be done, but it won’t be long before you lose your energy and fall back to your old ways of being.

Any time we make self-sacrificing choices that are designed to avoid being labelled “selfish,” we are betraying ourselves in order to control an outcome. We might well have a bona fide interest in someone’s well-being, and ‘giving’ can be a gratifying experience in itself but only as long as we are giving for its own sake and genuinely not expecting anything in return. We’re in a trap if we do such things in order to appear unselfish in the hope that there will be some payoff for us somewhere down the line.

The desire to appear unselfish has no relevance to how worthy we might appear, and the attempt to appear worthy is in itself an act of self-betrayal. By all means look after other’s interests but remember to look after yourself first. Looking after your own interests first is not being selfish, it is the foundation for your own well-being and for everything good that you can then offer. It is a far more generous act for you to live to your own values and to be your authentic self beyond your self-created identity… if you haven’t attended to your own needs, then you have nothing of substance to offer others.

Remember what the air hostess says in the safety briefing “Put on your own oxygen mask first before helping others …” There is nothing noble in suffocating by trying to be seen as the hero.

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Astronaut

Just like looking through tinted sunglasses, we filter our experience of the world through our thoughts and perceptions. These filters are created out of our own unique experiences, emotions and opinions. Therefore, we develop a unique view of the world: uniquely different from everybody else’s.

We evolve over time, developing our experiences and opinions as we go, which means our tinted view of the world changes as well.

This means that to change the world, you only have to change your view of it: for to change the world you only need to change yourself. Now you might be thinking that there is poverty and war throughout the world and you can’t change that. Well, you might or you might not – it depends what you do about it but still, those sort of things are what they are – they don’t mean anything by themselves without us bringing our own interpretation to them, and while it’s possible for these external acts and environmental factors to threaten your physical existence, they are separate from your view of the world and, as such, you can then choose whether or not your thoughts about these external events run your life or not.

“As above, so below, as within, so without, as the universe, so the soul…”
― Hermes Trismegistus

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Dawn

The darkness is the sadness brought up by feelings of loss, and the uncertainty that anything good can be had in the future. This is your subconscious mind bringing your fears and doubts to the surface.

There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with feeling sad since sadness gives you a contrast for the times you feel happy, like the darkness gives contrast to the light. More importantly, sadness can give you the opportunity to grieve and heal your soul.

Your feeling of sadness occurs as a result of you either living in the past or living in the future. You may still be recalling all your past memories and dreams now lost to your future.

The problem is that being stuck in the negative cycle of memories and shattered dreams can eat away at the time you have left to live your life, while you are busy being unhappy, you are losing that time for being or doing anything else. How you are being and what you do in this moment determines your path for the future. The future will arrive anyway but how the future unfolds is totally up to what you think and do in this moment. The question is, how long are you going to give it before you allow yourself to feel better?

Darkness is simply an absence of light. Just because you can’t see anything it doesn’t mean there is nothing there. You can look through night vision goggles to see the truth of this. Light is a narrow band of electromagnetic radiation that is detectable by our eyes. The night vision goggles detect normally invisible infra red radiation and translate it to a visible wavelength. The darkness is an illusion and we are fooled by our perception (or lack of perception) that nothing else exists within it. Likewise, just because you experience sadness, it doesn’t mean happiness doesn’t exist. Accept sadness for what it is, it has it’s own purpose. Fighting against things causes their persistence, accepting things without resisting often means they dissolve away entirely due to lack of attention..

While your emotional darkness is generated by living in the past or future, the emotional light that drives it away exists only now, in this present moment. If you can bring your focus fully to this moment then your heavy feelings melt away like a candle drives away the dark. You’ve probably already witnessed this effect by being totally engaged in a task just before the thoughts of your loss snapped back into your consciousness. One minute you were fine and the next you got that knot in your stomach again. Nothing really happened outside of yourself, it’s all in your own head.

The state in which you find yourself now holds a perfect opportunity for you to create the rest of your life how you would like it to be. Accept that your sadness is a product of your own automatic thinking – and that there is nothing wrong with sadness in itself.

It doesn’t matter whether or not, right now, you see any future available to you, once you break out of the loop of replaying your ‘happy’ memories and lose the accompanying sense of emptiness then you will create a new space in your life in order to attract new opportunities. Allow the darkness to play its part in the process of the beauty of a new dawn, but don’t dwell under the illusion that there is no sunrise at the end of even the longest and darkest night.

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buddha

A question before we start. Are you currently breathing in or out?

Congratulations, you have successfully meditated, print out your certificate at the bottom of the page.

If you missed it, the moment you checked whether you were breathing in or out you were focussed in the present moment without a thought for anything else. It may not have been for long but it’s an experience you should never forget and be able to recall at will. Forget the crossed legs and orange robes just check whether you are breathing in or out. It doesn’t matter which, it’s the checking that counts.

certificate-of-achievement

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RocksMeditation is a valuable tool in maintain psychological well-being and achieving balance in your every day life. You hear about Buddhist monks locking themselves away and spending years to achieve enlightenment but it doesn’t have to be that mysterious or difficult at all.

There are no real rules for meditation, all we are trying to do is stem the mind-chatter and  all that internal criticism and judgement that seems to automatically run our lives from behind the scenes.

The quick and easy way to meditate is observe completely on something in your immediate environment:  a dripping tap, the sound of birds in the garden, a candle flame, watching the flames in your fireplace or even watching the movement of people and things in the scenery around you. Observe without thinking about it or letting your mind wander. It will but the trick is to bring the mind back again to your observing.

A more effective method for the long term practice of meditation is to regularly focus on your breathing for a set period preferably at the same time each day.  There are several reasons why:

  1. The same time each day develops a habit like in going to the gym. Once you’ve established the practice it becomes an automatic apart of your day. First thing in the morning is commonly best because your mind is at its least stressed and you can integrate it into your morning routine easily if you awake just a little earlier.
  2. A set time each day means that it’s easy to reserve time for it.  If you can’t do half an hour, do twenty minutes, fifteen or ten. Even five minutes is worth while. Little and often is the key – much like the gym.
  3. The reason why breathing is an effective focus is that it is always with you; independent of your environment where you can easily select something to observe. More importantly, breathing is both a conscious and a subconscious act and bridges the conscious mind and the sub-conscious mind. You can consciously hold your breath until the subconscious kicks in and you feel your body urging you to take in some more oxygen.

People argue that there is a difference between mindfulness and meditation. Whatever they are called they achieve a similar purpose: to shut that voice up in your head. If you are thinking “I haven’t got a voice in my head.” That’s the one I’m talking about. I’ll cover both meditation and mindfulness here.

Meditation:

Many teachers say you shouldn’t lie down to meditate but it’s up to you. I wouldn’t recommend it as it is so easy to fall asleep and sleep isn’t meditation. Try meditating while lying down but if you find you fall asleep, give it up and find a comfortable sitting position. The best position is sitting upright with a straight back. The problem is that your legs influence the position of your hips, which influences your back posture. If you sit cross legged without a cushion, you are likely to end up slouching forward with a curved back, and that’s not good. The old image of the traditional posture is misleading for many of us but if you have a few cushions to sit on this position can be very comfortable. But sitting on a chair with your feet on the floor is just as good as long as you are not reclining. The aim is to focus on your mind, not on how you look. Find your own comfortable position that you can sit for between five and thirty minutes.

There is and old saying that if you think you are too busy to meditate for fifteen minutes then you should meditate for an hour. Once you experience some of the benefits then you’ll naturally fall into your own time frame. Anything is better than nothing.

You might find a clock useful but it isn’t really necessary. Resist the temptation of looking at it every few minutes if you have one though, Sometimes I have meditated for thirty minutes and swore it was only ten.

Once you are comfortable take a few deep breaths and focus on the area between your top lip and your nostrils, like being a sentry monitoring what’s coming and going. After you feel settled with a few deep controlled breaths, relax and watch yourself breath naturally. It doesn’t matter if you can’t tell whether it’s you consciously controlling your breath or not, just relax and observe and let it be.

What you will find is that after a few seconds your mind will wander off and try to think about something else. It is your job to return to focussing on the breath as soon as you notice. It doesn’t matter if you catch it within five seconds or you’ve been on five minute mystery tour of the past and future, the magic is in the coming back to the breath. Meditation isn’t about sitting there with a blank mind for half an hour, that’s impossible. It’s more like dog training. As soon as your mind takes off it’s up to you to go after it, reel it back in and find stillness by watching the breath and just to keep doing that every time.

It’s probably best to stick to the same time each day. In the morning after waking is a good time to manage as well as you are still relatively relaxed to start with. It’s up to you.

Mindfulness:

Mindfulness is the act of focussing on what you are doing. Watch carefully what you are doing, notice how it feels and how you are interacting. See what’s happening all around you. It’s about being present. You can even do this in the queue at the supermarket.

How often have you driven to work and not remembered how you’ve got there? What were you thinking about? Mindfulness in any task is beneficially. It is similar to meditation in that, if your mind takes off like a dog off its leash, it’s up to you to fetch it back and focus on driving, putting up shelves, washing the dishes or whatever you are doing.

The hardest thing about mindfulness is that it’s easy for you to forget to be doing it and carry on regardless. Good practices for focus are things like art and crafts and other hobbies. Writing and painting forces you to focus by default.

Summary:

Meditation:
1. Get comfortable
2. Focus on the breath
3. Fetch your wandering mind back
4. Return to step 2 and repeat as often as necessary.

Mindfulness
1. Engage your senses in whatever you are doing. Both, focus on your task and expand your awareness.
2. Fetch your wandering mind back.
3. Return to step 1 and repeat as often as necessary.

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writing

Everything has a value, not least someone’s time on the planet. How can you put a value on something that is finite and cannot be reclaimed? It’s a difficult task to say the least – because there are no real benchmarks apart from the ones we impose on ourself.

Value is largely based on belief, your own personal belief. This belief is not fixed, it is always evolving along with your experience in this game of life. Those that are living their dream and earn a living from doing what they love often say they cannot believe they get paid for what they do.

Others who feel stuck in jobs they hate are trading their time for a distant vision of some future fulfilment, or more often than not, the avoidance of some sort of future loss. Commonly, the mortgage or rent is at the root of this fear. If the rent is not paid then a vital human need is taken away:  shelter. If a wage is not earned then more is at risk: food, warmth and shelter.

The route to happiness is not just the accumulation of funds for the  protection of your basic human needs; not even the accumulation of funds for some sort of future dream, be it happiness or of your definition of future success. No, the key to winning at the game of life is how you experience your journey through time in the here and now – this very moment.

There is no future except as a thought. The future doesn’t exist in the here and now. There is no past either except as a thought. The past and future exists only in the mind for either reference or entertainment.

Think about this if you are stuck in an office in a job you hate, or if in the morning you have to drive a truck load of widgets – for which you have no idea what function – to somewhere you don’t even care about. Why are you really doing it and what is it really costing you?

My Manifesto? Today I am a ‘freedom-preneur.’  There are no rules to this game but to live simply;  free from the effects of coercion, blackmail and control. To live with gratitude and appreciation, in a state of freedom and abundance. To seek out good feelings and to leave every experience, situation, encounter and passing moment in a better state by having travelled through it.

Notice, this is different from goal setting. Goal setting sets up a future expectation. It can drive you forward but it can leave you experiencing dissatisfaction along the way. You want a million dollars? That means you don’t have it now and you currently experience lack. A goal is a destination which necessitates creation of a route toward it.

My manifesto contains no goal. It is not bound by circumstances. This manifesto is not a route to a destination but a method of travelling. If I want to create a goal I can, but it is separate from my manifesto for good reason.

Create your own personal manifesto without any goals and start living by it. If you hate your job, first find out why. Does your job fit with your manifesto? See if you can find a good reason to stay other than for the money. It might be to gather skills necessary for starting a business doing something you like later on.

If you do this right, your manifesto will bring you the feelings that you think achieving a goal can provide. But the difference is that these feelings can be sustained from moment to moment.

Goal hopping is like chasing mirages. You get the good feelings but six months after that new car, house, wife or husband the feelings have evaporated and you’re probably on your way to a new goal under the burden of a new feeling of lack.

With a well thought out manifesto your feelings are detached from your circumstances. You create and achieve goals for reasons other than for the good feelings because those good feelings already exist within you.

Steps for creating your own personal manifesto:

  1. Daydream, brainstorm and take plenty of notes with pen and paper. [Important because pen has a different relationship with your brain than keyboard.] Write, write, write.
  2. Look at what others have written, things will pop out that feel so obvious that that they escape your consciousness.
  3. List the values and beliefs that are important to you. Keep it bold and positive. For instance, if you have something like “I hate injustice and unfairness” change it to “I’m a champion of justice and equality.” My manifesto has a questionable line about control and coercion but it feels important to me so I left it in, but it could well be changed tomorrow. Also, look out for futurisms like “I want to.., I will.., I am going to…” and replace them with “I am.., I do.., I…”
  4. Edit it and keep goals separate and out of your manifesto. This is a method of travelling, not a map. Keep it simple. Edit, edit, edit.
  5. Carry it with you or keep it somewhere you will see it regularly.
  6. Live it boldly and rigorously.
  7. Re-write it regularly – even if nothing needs changing. It’s a living document and can nourish you each time of writing.
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Surfer

Observed from the shore, the sea moves in and out seemingly of its own accord. We focus on the water ebbing and flowing but it is not the sea that causes the tides but the gravity of the moon that pulls upon the oceans. Your emotions are like the tides: you focus on your circumstances or problems but it’s not them that is causing the anxiety or upset, but your own thoughts about them… they are not the same.

Nothing outside of ourselves has the gravity to pull directly on our emotions, only our own thoughts can do that – and, unless we stop to think about it, we automatically mistake the facts, for our ‘thoughts’ and opinions. There’s a lot more going on in our minds than we notice at the surface level and we mistake it all for reality.

Just like an iceberg, there is much more is below the surface of the mind than is noticeable above. the part above the surface is your conscious mind. It is the you that is awake during the day. The you that solves problems and goes to work. The you that makes decisions, pays the bills, argues and tells jokes. Your conscious mind is what’s above the waves – your waking state…

If your conscious mind was all there was what was, then you’d be able to consciously decide to end your suffering and be happy and that would be the end of that matter, wouldn’t it?

But there’s so much more at work below the surface. This is your subconscious: the part of your mind that beats your heart and inflates and deflates your lungs without your conscious command, tells you when you are hungry, has you fall in love, laugh and beats your heart faster under stress.

90% of the iceberg is below the surface. It doesn’t matter how strongly the wind blows or how hard the waves crash on the 10% above it’s not going to overcome the power of the tides and undercurrents acting on the 90% below. The same goes for your subconscious. You cannot feel better by hiding your emotions or looking for distractions like drink, drugs or sex. All this is merely wind and waves on the top 10% of the iceberg.

You’ll need to work with how the underlying tides and currents of your thinking influence your emotions: master your thoughts and their gravity will pull your emotions along with them… this link between your emotions and thoughts are what move you greater than any conscious will or intent.

If you want a simple tool for mastering emotional control, develop a habit of meditation. Meditation is the practice of replacing thinking with awareness and is an effective tool for removing unwanted emotions. As the thoughts are swept away, the emotions are swept away with them.

Meditation is much like sweeping water from a flooded hallway, once you stop sweeping, the water starts flowing back. Which is why it needs to be a constant practice and not just a one off exercise. Five minutes may be enough to make a difference but the longer the better.

Once you experience for yourself that thought influences emotion, you are able to choose other thoughts that make you feel better. Alternatively, you can indulge the original emotion knowing that this is a choice and not an effect. Grief is a good example.

Grief cannot be thought of as a desired emotion but, in the loss of a loved one, grief may feel necessary for personal healing and an honouring of that time with that person. Without the experience of thoughts affecting emotions, grief can leave you at the mercy of sadness for a long time. But if you’ve directly experienced the effect of influencing your emotions by controlling your thoughts, you are able to choose when to grieve and how long to do it for.

Eventually it can be as simple as asking yourself: “How do I feel… do I want to feel this way… if so, for how long?”

First, start with meditation to begin to master your thinking.

When you are ready, and regularly become aware of the small spaces created in your meditation, either consciously choose other thoughts that create a future for you to live toward, or indulge the original emotion and know that it’s a choice. Knoiwng that it is a choice makes a big difference.

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judgmentalism-snobbery

The actual cause of your break-up is probably not the cause you think it is. There can be many factors leading up to your break-up that you haven’t noticed, even now. The thing is, searching for the ultimate cause is a pointless task – finding the cause is not going to undo what has already been done. Finding out who left the stable door open won’t bring the horse back.

Yes, I would love to have found the cause of my break up and to have found it to have been her fault – if only to feel righteous and absolved of blame; feeling righteous is a way of inflating the ego, not boosting self-esteem. We get a feeling of superiority over the other person but this feeling is unsustainable and is often supported by a desire to be seen as being right by others. Why should we care about what people think? Caring what people think has no sustainable value either. It’s pointless for living your life.

Better than the blaming of either yourself or your partner, is to first become aware that looking for the cause of your break up is a needless internal craving for making yourself feel better; and then to let that craving go. You are then free to take responsibility on how you yourself are going to deal with your own life and relationships now in this moment, since this moment is all we truly have.

Through becoming aware of the present moment and letting go of the desire for blame, you start to let go of caring what others think of you and relax into your true self. Often this awareness is all it takes to provide the feeling you were originally searching for by trying to find the cause of your break up: a feeling of resolution. But rather than a resolution by who was to blame, a resolution by releasing some baggage and taking a step toward self discovery. Your break-up is already history – nothing can be done except by changing your view of it and then allowing yourself to take responsibility for yourself from this moment forward.

Searching for the cause, blaming, looking for redemption? All a waste of time and energy. It’s less about searching for the answer and more about discovering the reason you want it.

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