What if everything happens for no reason?

By Gabs Brown

A few years ago my life suddenly started to feel completely and utterly meaningful. My days seemed littered with coincidences that provided guidance or confirmation. My yoga practice went from being a largely physical experience to something energetic and profoundly insightful. A creative block I had been struggling with for years lifted. My meditation practice became almost trippy: I would have visions that appeared to resolve my every quandary – I started to look forward to meditating in the same way I had previously looked forward to going on a wild night out:  What was going to happen this time? Overall, I found myself feeling a strong and deep trust in myself, the Universe and my future within it. I felt I had connected with something bigger and wiser than myself, and that this ‘thing’ was guiding me along my rightful path – a path I had been struggling to find for years.

I became interested in the Law of Attraction and dutifully prepped gratitude lists and vision boards. I sought out soothsayers and healers whose words confirmed my beliefs at the time: that I was on the cusp of something big. I felt that at last I was being shown the truth of who I was. I felt as though a power greater than myself had taken me by the hand and was guiding me into becoming the magnificent person I was meant to be.

And then…

And then…

Well, nothing.

Life carried on, with its ups and downs. I had success with some things I had been plugging away at, but failure at others – including those I had been ‘told’ would be roaring triumphs. Slowly, the coincidences stopped seeming so meaningful, and certainly not very useful. I started to resent my vision boards and anything related to the Law of Attraction. I thought it a bit unfair that only those people who knew about the Law and who could then grasp how to properly apply it should have such an enormous advantage over the rest of us. Could the Universe be so conditional? So selective? My meditation practice settled back down into a more mundane sphere. I revisited those healers and intuitives who I had felt helped me to connect with my ‘bigger picture’, but I found their words more stifling than useful. Their guidance about my future was clouding my ability to make up my own mind about my present – perhaps these people could see into my future, in a way, but how was it useful for me to have these murky insights? Was it even safe?

I rolled my eyeballs at every quote on Facebook or Instagram that urged me to follow my heart, or even more annoyingly, to ‘just let go!’. Let go! Let go! And then what? AND THEN WHAT? Why wasn’t anyone talking about the, and then what?

I had lost faith in all the little tools and navigations systems I had been relying on to give me confidence about what I was doing with my life. I had lost my map. I felt as if the Universe had let go of my hand, and I was alone.

This was a terrifying realisation. I became numb, cynical, angry. I felt as though I had been tricked. I felt embarrassed. I had been wandering about in bare-footed bliss, bathing in self-assurance, feeling that I was more ‘awake’ than most, believing that I was transforming, growing, overcoming…now where was I? Lost, ashamed, confused, poorer?

I had to start thinking about my life, my dreams and my destiny differently. I couldn’t look out for coincidences to bring me insight or guidance. I didn’t want to draw up gratitude lists or vision boards. I couldn’t book an appointment with Mystic Michael or Clairvoyant Carol to know whether Project X was going to reap the rewards I so desperately wanted.

All I had was myself. The only things I could trust were my own instincts, my own feelings, my own thoughts, my own actions, my own ability to decide what I should be doing, how I should do it, and when. I had to accept that absolutely nothing about my future was guaranteed or knowable. I had to learn to be OK with the possibility that my dreams might never come true. I had to accept that whereas my life might be mapped out for me, I was never going to see that map. I wasn’t meant to see that map.

And I soon realised that this was amazing.

I realised I had been lost in a haze of false awakening. I had duped myself into thinking I had connected with the deepest part of myself whereas in fact, I had done the opposite. I had been obsessively seeking out external experiences and signposts to tell me where to go and what to do with my life. I had been trying to find hidden meaning in everything. I had been living my life as though it were a puzzle to be deciphered – or one of those 3D pictures that only becomes clear after you’ve settled your gaze in a particular way.  

I had been acting as though the Universe had laid out a dot-to-dot picture for me to follow, believing that if I dutifully linked the numbers and drew the lines then eventually the big picture will be revealed and everything will make sense.

But now I believe, and prefer, the scarier alternative: that my life is a blank page, and it’s up to me to draw whatever picture I want. And it’s up to me to decide what its meaning is, or even if indeed it needs any meaning. I have no idea if what I’ll come up with will ‘make sense’ or be any good, or even be decipherable at all. My paints might be rubbish. My brushes might snap. My paper might tear in places. But at least I am the artist, not a child clutching a crayon and following the numbers wondering if I’m getting it right. I can’t get it right, and I can’t get it wrong. All I can do is dream, create, observe and repeat.

And I will do so with unconditional heart-filled ambition.




The most helpful thing anyone has ever said to me

By Gabs Brown

Overall, I am not an anxious person, but like most humans every now and then I latch on to a worry and get a little more preoccupied with it than perhaps seems rational. The reality of the situation, the facts and the statistics, do nothing to quell the “what if this all goes wrong?” thoughts.

One such occasion when I found myself swamped by disproportionate doubts was when I was around 20 weeks pregnant, almost four years ago. I had just got through morning sickness, just started to (almost) like the idea of becoming a mother and just started to feel a bond forming between myself and the little person growing inside me. We knew it was going to be a girl, and I had just started to feel her move – it was an alien feeling, though somehow also familiar, comforting and magical.  But alongside all this, however, a new feeling erupted: fear. 

A couple of my friends had lost babies well into their pregnancies – weeks after the supposed ‘safe point’ of three months – and the reality of what they had been through started to hit me. Before I had been pregnant myself, I could understand such a loss intellectually, but now, I could almost feel the pain a mother would experience in such a situation, and the possibility of it happening to me seemed somehow more real because I had witnessed it close-hand. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I felt vulnerable and open to a tragedy from which I had previously been protected. 

This fear started to erupt while I was in California visiting my sister. I had just completed my Level 1 iRest Training with Richard Miller and I although I was feeling particularly aware of my feelings I was perhaps not yet skilled at navigating through them. I was also jet lagged and probably a bit hormonal. One morning, my sister took me to her local farmers’ market where I bought a vegan raw chocolate drink that looked fairly innocuous, but after polishing off the entire bottle I suddenly felt my heart race, and then the baby kick and spin and go completely wild inside my stomach. I read through the ingredients list on the bottle only to realise I had consumed an inordinate amount of caffeine.  

And then came a pain. A shooting, knotting sensation in my lower abdomen. I freaked out. I convinced myself I was going to miscarry there and then.

After twenty minutes things calmed down, and probably most importantly, I calmed down. My sister all the while had remained unruffled. Perhaps to a rational non-pregnant person, the idea that you could lose a baby after drinking a raw chocolate vegan mylk is beyond ridiculous. But to me, it felt real. It felt imminent.

“I just can’t imagine losing her,” I said to my sister. “Not now.”

My sister turned to me and said, quite frankly, “The thing is Gabs, you would get over it.”

“What?” I said. Her response took me by surprise. I was expecting something more along the lines of, “Don’t be silly,” as seems the standard comeback to anyone expressing irrational fears. 

“You would get over it,” my sister continued. “If you lose the baby now, you will, in time, be OK.”

I thought about this. Was my sister right? Would I get over it? 

I knew I would be heart-broken, and the physical experience would be in itself traumatic, but then I also started to feel into the possibility that after all that, I would heal. I would move on. I would be changed, but I would be OK. There were people out there with far worse things happening to them…all the time. Overall, my life was good. I was healthy. I was strong. I would be OK.

Miraculously, my sister acknowledged that my fear was not founded in impossibility while at the same time she made me feel OK about this. She allowed for the fact that there was a chance that the very worst thing could happen, and then she reminded me it is also possible that I would cope. 

After this exchange, I still worried about losing the baby but my fears started to co-exist with an equal amount of calm. 

Now, whenever I find myself obsessing over the very worst thing happening, I remind myself that it is still possible for me, and my life, to be OK regardless. This way I am not denying my worry; I am allowing it to be there while diminishing its ability to overwhelm me. Bad things can and do happen, and I can still be OK.  

It’s certainly easier to feel good when everything’s going your way, but your wellbeing is not dependent on it. Your fears, even those irrational crazy-sounding ones, are never ‘silly’. The truth is, life is a shifty character and you never know what's going to happen next. Sometimes, against the odds, our worst fears are realised. Sometimes tragedy strikes, or things go completely wrong, or nothing much happens at all and we feel empty, frustrated or depressed and don't really know why, but that doesn’t mean we are any less alive, or any less well, or without any less potential to thrive. 

I used to think my fears were something I should overcome – a burden, an obstacle in the way of me living to my full capability. But the truth is, the simple act of being alive involves risk and uncertainty, and the trick is to sail amidst these unknown waters recognising that fear, for all its discomfort and irrational tendencies, is a powerful reminder that life is unpredictable and therefore also exciting, magical, mysterious, and awesome. 

Today, I do not try to overcome my fears. Instead, I allow them to be there as a reminder of the unknowable mystery of life and my potential within that mystery to do things I never thought possible.

Fear, you are welcome.

Book recommendation

Just a quick post today to recommend this book:

It considers the impact of having constant distractions and unending responsibilities (e.g. responding to emails) on the brain, and what happens when you stop and instead choose to go deeper into a single task. A great read for anyone feeling overwhelmed, as well as those of you wondering why it is that the moment you stop 'thinking' about a problem, is the moment the solution comes to you...

Do you wear a mask?

A poem for you today. I'll leave you to interpret it however you wish:

The Right Mask
- By Brian Patten

One night a poem came up to a poet
From now on, it said, you must wear a mask.
What kind of mask? asked the poet.
A rose mask, said the poem.
I've used it already, said the poet,
I've exhausted it.
Then wear the mask that's made out of
a nightingale's song, use that mask.
Oh, it's an old mask, said the poet,
it's all used up.
Nonsense, said the poem, it's the perfect mask,
still, try on the god mask,
now that mask illuminates heaven.
It's a tight mask, said the poet,
and the stars crawl about in it like ants.
Then try on the troubador's mask, or the singer's mask,
try on all the popular masks.
I have, said the poet, but they fit so easily.

The poem was getting impatient,
it stamped its feet like a child,
it screamed. Then try on your own face,
try the one mask that terrifies,
the mask only you could possibly use,
the mask only you could wear out.

The poet tore at his face til it bled,
this mask? he yelled, this mask?
Yes, said the poem, yes.

But the poet was tired of masks,
he had lived too long with them,
he snatched at the poem and stuck it in his face.
Its screams were muffled, it wept, it tried to be lyrical,
it wriggled into his eyes and mouth.

Next day his friends were afraid of him,
he looked so distorted.
Now it's the right mask, said the poem, the right mask.
It clung to him lovingly and never let go again.