How to navigate your emotional storms (from Cygnus Review)

lighthouseblogYou know those intense emotional moments – like when you are feeling anxious or afraid about something, or pessimistic about the news, or dealing with a relationship issue – where so many approaches just don’t help you? Well that’s why I wrote my new book Lighthouse: Navigate the emotional storms of life and discover the power within you.

Three easy steps to a better life?

Be happy. Visualise what you want (not what you don’t want). Love yourself. Forgive everyone. “Just let go”. It all sounds good in theory – but these one-liners don’t help when you are in the middle of dealing with emotional storms. Trying to follow those “three steps” to create your life is challenging at the best of times but when swept up in a storm of difficult emotions and overthinking – it’s near impossible. On top of this, when you find yourself unable to follow those ideas you’ve read about, you pile on the self-hatred because “you can’t even do what the books say”.

In my own life, self development had become just another battering ram to use on myself as a way to say that “I’m just not good enough”. I felt bad… and then these books made me feel bad about feeling bad, warning me that if I didn’t feel good quickly then I’d manifest more unpleasantness.

The evolution of Life

This questionable teachings that say that you “shouldn’t be negative” only make people more negative, because what you resist, persists. Just like resistance training at the gym – the negative tension of thought has in fact has many benefits. In the theory of evolution, a species evolves through challenges. If you get rid of the challenge, you get rid of the potential for improvement. It’s the same with life. And so it’s less about trying to avoid the negative thinking or feeling states – which doesn’t work anyway –  and more about working with them. It’s more about gaining the benefits they are bringing to you.

You’re not the only one who has been struggling with applying the self-help theory you’ve read about. After facilitating well over 600 groups and workshops at venues as diverse as Mind Body Spirit Festival, HMP Brixton and The Healing Trust –  and meeting thousands of people from all walks of life there, I can tell you that the same struggles go on with person after person – and many of those steps don’t even work for the authors of those books. So you can be easier on yourself. Relax. And read on.

Relaxing out of mind chatter – and into your ideal life

You can’t think your way to what you want, despite how many times certain books say that you can. All the good in life comes when you sweep your mind clear of thoughts. That’s when the miracles of life start to happen. That’s when you can begin to discover the power within you.

My approach in this book is how to not think; how to relax- because thinking, I’ve found, is not the route to solutions – but the problem itself. Thoughts evolve us, yes – but then we want to find a way to step aside from thoughts, which become the biggest adversary we face. It’s about what to do when you’re in a storm of mind chatter… and then how to step aside from this.

What to do depends on your current mood

What mood you are in, right now, depends on what to do. For example trying to visualise a dream life doesn’t make you feel good and doesn’t have power, when you are mired in unhappiness. Trying to feel confident when you are in a strong current of self-criticism is useless too, and often makes people feel worse. In my book, there are 3 sections: Feeling Low, Feeling Uninspired and Feeling Good. It’s an open-at-random practical section specifically designed to soothe you no matter where you are, what’s going on or how you are feeling – and it works.

People who have attended my events (a weekly group in London’s Covent Garden that has been going for eight years, and numerous workshops around the country) have found a way to improve the quality of their lives using the easy-to-use techniques you will read about here. And perhaps best of all, people have found a way to more often let loose of that “inner critic” mind chatter and discover that sense of inner peace within, fully enjoying life at a whole new level.

Light in the Shadows (with Teal Swan)

original-2Finding Self-love, purpose and peace within the murky challenges of everyday living

When I first met Teal Swan back in 2014 we instantly connected.  I remember the moment clearly. In St James Park, London, we got talking and I found myself instantly at ease with her, saying way more than I’m used to on a first meeting. We shared a feeling of familiarity like old friends coming back together.

After that first meeting in the park, what followed was hours of conversation on Skype about the meaning of life and everything – including one of my favourite topics: Practical spirituality. We offered one another insights and helped one another through the challenges of everyday life – not knowing at the time how it was all one of those perfect synchronicities for building material for our workshop, Light in the Shadows, which we are presenting together at the Mind Body Spirit Festival this May.

When Mel Carlyle from Mind Body Spirit asked us to team up, it was an instant “yes” from both of us. By this point we had already discussed co-writing a book –  and this organisation, which I love, seemed the perfect place to make our debut together.

Years before we had met, both of us had always wanted to go to an event like the one we are going to present; one in which the speakers get real and share their insights about how to handle those “murky  challenges of everyday living” that everyone encounters. The relationship struggles, health worries, body image concerns and other fears. We will be sharing the ways we have mastered feeling good when things “out there” are proving difficult. It won’t be another of those “Five steps to get everything you want” – but something more authentic and helpful to this human experience.

Lighthouse in a storm

In my own life I’ve reached many lows. There was a time when it seemed like the darkness would never end. Finding a way out of this darkness is what has led me to be able to help others help themselves out of their personal hell. Someone who hasn’t been to the depths, without any knowledge of this emotional terrain, cannot guide those who have. They can simply offer a vacant “cheer up”, perhaps – but this is both annoying and totally useless to those lost in a tangle of thoughts.

Another benefit of these dark times is that these moments forged my best qualities and life experiences: The rags of life create the riches. Without the shadows, I wouldn’t have evolved so much. And it’s the same for everyone, of course.

The benefit of the shadows

Ferocious thoughts are needed for a phenomenal life just as heavy weights are needed to create great muscle. The thing is to leave thoughts be, to do their thing. We don’t analyse and go crazy at every detail of the heavy weights – we just lift them. Let the tension of the mind be. Leave those thoughts and feelings- they are not you. These shadows are nothing to do with who you are, they are just a machine, evolving you.

So if you are aware of what I’m talking about when I talk about ferocious emotional storms- good. You are an Olympian, not a regular amateur.

Depths of emotion

I was interested in Teal’s “Shadow Work” – an area of exploration I wasn’t so familiar with. And Teal appreciated my way of soothing people “like a lighthouse” wherever they were emotionally – and however life was for them. Both of us are teachers who are open with our own struggles – and both of us had also struggled with much of the personal development material out there in our own lives – and had seen others go through the same.

From my experience working with people, it seems everyone has their own personal hell – yet we often keep our own a secret. The illusory perfection of social media like Instagram and Facebook can beat us down – and being told to “be positive” or “just let go” is useless information and knocks us down further. Especially when we are in a low mood. But that’s what so many of the books we had read told us to do – and it was hard to do it. Myself and Teal both relate to the depths of human emotion and have found ourselves as guiding lights to many others, helping them out of their own personal storms.

Diving for treasure

We all know that feeling after a stormy time in life – we feel incredible after. Not only the relief that comes from it begin over, but we actually emerge better off: more evolved, in so many ways.

When we go into the shadows, it’s like a deep sea dive for treasure. It may feel harsh – but on our return to the surface, we are better, we have new insights – and perhaps we have been “nudged” to change our life in some positive way.

Michael and Teal collaborate

We started to get messages requesting that we combined our approaches. When we met in London last summer the timing was all wrong. So here it is, our first collaboration- and it’s happening live at the Mind Body Spirit Festival in London on May 2 2016: Light in the Shadows: Finding self love, purpose and peace within the murky challenges of everyday living. 

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