How to handle the shadow side of goals

worried-looking-person

In my 20s and 30s I was very keen on goals.  ‘If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never get there,’ was a premise that made perfect sense to me.  I read books and articles on goals.  I faithfully documented and reviewed my goals.  I was aware that goals should be SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound).  I was also aware they should be ‘big and hairy’(i.e. exciting!)

But do you know what?  Having goals made me miserable.

None of the workshops, programs and books addressed the simple fact that, if we’re not careful, goals can morph from being helpful motivators to a cause of dejection and self-loathing.

Failing to meet our goals?

If we aim to be a C-level executive, but despite our constant striving, can’t make it out of middle management, we may start giving up on ourselves.  Ditto, if our efforts to find someone to share our life with, end in disappointment or rejection.

Our spiritual path, especially, can become a cause for disillusionment.  What if, after years on the meditation cushion, we feel that our mind is still out of control.  We still lash out at people reactively, instead of being the embodiment of Zen-like calm.  We still can’t be as spontaneously open-hearted as we aspire to be.  Taking an unflinching look at our own behaviour, we may decide that, despite years of study, practice and sincere aspiration, we are still the same bundle of deeply ingrained negative attitudes and behaviours that we were when we started.  Compared to where we want to be, we may feel like a big, fat zero!

When goals become necessary to our happiness

Goals can turn especially nasty if we allow them to make that subtle but critical shift from being an objective we set ourselves, to achievements which are necessary for our happiness. Instead of wanting to have a book published one day being a goal, we turn it into ‘My happiness depends on me having a book published.’  I became expert at this very specific form of self-sabotage in my 20s.  Because I hadn’t had a book published at that time, in a very real way I felt unworthy.  A loser.  Someone who had failed at the only ambition he had ever set himself.

‘I’ll be happy when …’

‘I’ll be happy when …’ is a game many of us unwittingly play – and it rarely has a happy outcome.  In the words of George Bernard Shaw, “There are two disappointments in life.  Not getting what you want, and getting it.”  When I did, eventually, have my first book published, I discovered how little it mattered. I was still the same person, doing the same things.  One of the best pieces of advice I ever read from a literary agent emphasized this very point: getting a book published is unlikely to change your life.  “Ah yes,” I told myself.  “But it would have been different if the book had been a best seller.  What I really need is to write a book that sells by the truck load.”

And so it goes on.  In Tibetan Buddhism this is sometimes likened to drinking salt water.  The more you drink, the more you have to drink … and there is no end to it.  It can take a while for the penny to drop that our happiness is not, in fact, directly related to the achievement of goals – or external circumstances- but actually comes from within.  As long as we obsess about external measurements and achievements we are inevitably going to come away disappointed, or feeling we have to climb an even higher mountain to get the same buzz.  When our focus is on cultivating compassion – not least of all, for ourselves – dealing with the outside world becomes very much more rewarding.

Does this mean we should give up on goals?

How to relate to our goals

Not at all. The importance of having goals to give purpose to our life is a key theme in The Queen’s Corgi: On Purpose.  But how do we deal with the gulf that exists between aspiration and reality?  How should we relate to our goals?

Three suggestions are woven into the book:

Achieving goals is not a true cause of happiness.  If it was, everyone who had achieved that same goal would be in a state of unending bliss – which is demonstrably not true.  When we recognise that our experience of happiness arises from a compassionate focus on the wellbeing of others, as well as ourselves – and you can pick whichever others, human or animal, you choose to focus on – you will be far more likely to achieve happiness.  And curiously, studies show that happiness leads to success, not the other way around.

The more you crave, grasp and clutch at a goal, the less likely you are to achieve it.  Most sales training programs recognise this simple fact.  The salesman who is confident in his product and pitch, and genuinely doesn’t mind if you buy from him or not, is in a much stronger psychological position than the one who is desperate to close the deal to meet his monthly target.  Being non-attached to outcomes, paradoxically, makes them more, rather than less likely to happen.

We don’t have to achieve our goals to accept ourselves.  Self-acceptance lies at the heart of the goal vs reality dilemma.  In a society where the not-so-underlying messages are that being thin, rich and powerful are the goals to which we should generally aspire, if, on our own goal-ometer, we just aren’t measuring up, it can be hard to accept ourselves.  Truth is, if we use external yardsticks, we never will.  We will always be at least one imperfection away from acceptability.

In The Queen’s Corgi, a book about what gives life purpose, our canine hero Nelson finds himself in a situation where he has to do things he feels are beyond him – fear not, my fellow subject, I won’t throw a spoiler in here.  It is Her Majesty who points out that we shouldn’t wait till we are perfect to accept ourselves, or we never will.

Most of us are unlikely to feel that we have got there, made it, or fully realized our goals.  But we don’t have to be perfect to accept ourselves.  Nor do we need the sanction of any other being to do so – only we can give ourselves permission.  It’s okay being you, right here and now.

Close your eyes.  Take a few deep breaths.  Try out the following affirmation:

I love and approve of myself where I am right now.  I choose joy and self-acceptance.

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(Image at top of this blog courtesy of: https://scpeanutgallery.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/worried.jpg)

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To read the first 12 pages of The Queen’s Corgi – go to: http://davidmichie.com/blog/2016/09/06/read-the-first-12-pages-of-the-queens-corgi-on-purpose/

For your own personal copy of The Queen’s Corgi: On Purpose, go to:

USA Print : https://www.createspace.com/5931618

USA Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01LPBOP2G

UK Print: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Queens-Corgi-Purpose-David-Michie/dp/0994488106/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1472638665&sr=8-1&keywords=The+queen%27s+corgi+david+michie

UK Kindle: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01LPBOP2G

Australia print: http://www.booktopia.com.au/the-queen-s-corgi-david-michie/prod9781401950699.html

And in bookstores throughout Australia – always support your local shop!

What happens when the Dalai Lama’s Cat is visited by the Queen’s Corgi?

dlc-portraitfb-portrait

Picture the following scene, dear reader.  It is a busy morning at the Himalaya Book Café.  With less than an hour before lunch service, I am sitting on my customary spot on magazine rack, nostrils flaring as I try to identify the delightful aromas wafting from the kitchen, where the Dragpa brothers are working their usual culinary magic.  In my mind a question arises that has challenged all the Greatest Thinkers since the time of the Buddha himself: what is for lunch?

I am ruminating on just this when a small dog appears at the front door.  He is looking directly at me.  Being a feline of considerable beauty and fame – the very reason, in fact, that many tourists beat a pathway to Dharamsala – I am quite used to being the focus of others’ attention.  Though not often a dog’s.

Dozing under the Reception counter, Marcel and Kyi Kyi are awoken by the olfactory alert of the visitor and instantly prick their heads up above their baskets.  They take in the corgi, who is on a leash, led by an elegantly-attired, no-nonsense sort of woman.  They require only a moment to decide that there is no cause for alarm.  Their heads settle down again.

Head Waiter Kusali, the omniscient Jeeves of the establishment, smoothly ushers the lady visitor and her canine friend to the banquette at the back of the dining room – which is also the one closest to me.  The visitor settles, orders a pot of English Breakfast Tea, and picks up a copy of that day’s Times of India, which happens to be lying on the table.  She is soon engrossed in the front page story.

Dear reader, given your undoubted powers of clairvoyance, arising from the countless hours you spend in calm abiding on your meditation cushion, I am sure you will already know exactly what happened next.

That’s right: the small corgi made his way surreptitiously from under the table towards the magazine rack.  He placed his two front paws on the lowest shelf, levering his low-level body upwards so that he was looking directly into my sapphire blue eyes.

“How do you do HHC, Rinpoche, The Most Beautiful Cat in the World and Muse of the Animal Realm!’ he greeted me, in a tone that somehow combined sincere reverence with great warmth.

I regarded him carefully.

I won’t pretend that dogs rank high on my likeability index, but there was something about this particular one that was instantly engaging.  Cute, even.  I shocked myself with my own benevolence towards this unknown canine.  Or was my sense of bodhichitta finally evolving?

‘Good morning,’ I managed, trying to maintain my Himalaya-cool demeanour.

‘I hope I didn’t miss any of them out,’ he cocked his head with a smile.

I had no idea what he was talking about.  ‘Any of what out?’ I asked.

‘Any of your titles.  I know you are a cat of many titles.’

‘Oh.  I see,’ I took in the friendly brown eyes, the tongue lolling from his wide mouth.  Barely out of puppyhood, he had an awareness of diplomatic niceties well beyond his tender years.  Where was he from?

‘We don’t worry about that sort of thing up here,’ I enlightened him.  ‘It’s not titles that matter, but what we think, say and do.’

‘You see, I knew we’d be on the same wavelength!’ he enthused, propping himself even higher up the magazine rack, the stump of what used to be a tail, twitching with excitement.

Usually, such a move from an unknown dog would have provoked a lightning-swift thwack to the nose.  But so undisguised was this one’s appreciation that the thought never even occurred to me.

‘As it happens,’ I said, ‘you used a title I’ve never heard before.’

‘We came up with it at the Palace,’ he wagged his stump. ‘I spend a bit of time with the Chief of Protocol.  I thought ‘Muse of the Animal Realm’ had a certain ring to it.’

‘Indeed.  A certain je ne sais quoi,’ I purred, feeling suddenly intellectual.  ‘But why “muse”?’

‘That’s the reason I’ve come to see you,’ he said excitedly.  ‘I wanted to tell you that you’ve been a muse to me!  It was your example that gave me the confidence to write my own book.’

‘Who are you?’ I prompted.

‘I’m Nelson.  The Queen’s Corgi.’

Things quickly fell into place.  I knew, from that morning’s meeting between His Holiness and Tenzin, one of his private secretaries, that the Queen of the United Kingdom would be visiting that morning.

‘I see,’ I replied.  ‘I had thought about staying up the hill to meet your person.  Maybe to sit on her lap.  But the food here …’

‘I know what you mean,’ he glowed as our eyes met in a moment of mutual understanding.  Queen or no queen, few things could compete with a delicious plate of sole meuniere … to name just one example.

‘What is she like, in real life?’ I asked.

Nelson’s smile broadened.  ‘Wonderful!’ he smiled.  ‘I mean, she looks just like you would expect her to.  But when you are actually with her, you feel this …’

‘Presence?’ I suggested.

He nodded.  ‘You would know.’

‘I do,’ I agreed.  ‘His Holiness is famous for his Presence.  When beings are with him, it’s like they melt.  They seem to understand that, whatever else is going on in their lives, beneath the surface, all is well.’

Given that there was no imminent sign of lunch from the direction of the kitchen, I decided to probe further: ‘What is Her Majesty’s Presence like?’

‘She has this way about her,’ explained Nelson, ‘- this benevolent but firm expectation that everyone she meets is trying to be the best that they can be.  Because she leads such a purposeful life, she inspires other beings to be more purposeful too.’

For a moment my whiskers tingled.  ‘Purposeful?’

‘That’s what my book is about.  The Queen’s Corgi: On Purpose.’

‘Intriguing.’

‘It’s exactly the same as the books you have written,’ said Nelson.  ‘But different.’

‘A dog’s eye, behind-the-scenes account of life with The Queen?’ I queried, playing the part of the Grand Old Feline of Letters challenging her canine novice.

‘Exactly!’

‘Profound wisdom and life-enhancing insights richly embroidered into every chapter?’

‘The same!’

‘Plenty of warm, cuddlesome moments that make you simply burst with good feeling?’

‘You understand completely!’

‘What you’re saying, young man,’ I delivered my most imperious, blue-eyed gaze, ‘is that you’re a thief who has stolen my idea.’

Nelson’s face was filled with horror.  ‘It’s not like that, HHC!’ he took a step back down the magazine rack.  ‘I would never … I mean …’

The sight of his charming little face so troubled made me bring my teasing to a swift end.  ‘I was only joking.  You can’t steal an idea.  Only the expression of an idea.  And I’m sure your expression is much more …’

‘Canine?’

‘Exactly.’

Relief restoring his golden features to their puppy-ish charm, he stepped back up towards me.

‘Actually, I was hoping you might endorse my book.’

Celebrity has brought me many things over the years.  But this was the first time I’d been asked to endorse the work of a fellow sentient being.  And a dog at that.  But what could be more delightfully Buddhist and ecumenical than agreeing to his request?

‘What sort of thing would you like me to say?’

‘That’s up to you, HHC.  Perhaps, “This book is more delightful than a roll in my local catnip patch.”

It seemed that the Queen’s Corgi was familiar with the events described in my work.

‘“As aglow with benevolence-” I proposed, ‘”- as a rainy afternoon spent meditating with the Dalai Lama”?’

‘What about-’ Nelson was enthusiastic, ‘-“better than Mrs Trinci’s diced chicken liver”?’

‘That would never work,’ I had to stop him in his tracks before he became completely deranged.

‘Why not?’

‘An endorsement has to be believable.’

His head slumped.  ‘I s’pose.’

I took in his despondent expression.  ‘Don’t worry, young man.  I’ll come up with something.  I just have one question: why Nelson?’

‘After Nelson Mandela.’

‘You’re good at bringing people together?’ I asked.

‘That part of it,’ he agreed, glancing away.

‘And the other part?’

For the first time, the Queen’s corgi looked a little sheepish, if such a thing could be attributed to a member of a breed with strong herding instincts.  ‘Nelson was the only person who called the Queen by her first name.  It was thought by some of the courtiers to be a bit … over-familiar.’

My ever-perceptive whiskers were tingling again.  ‘And you were over-familiar too?’ I asked the novice, eyes narrowing.

‘It was a long time ago,’ he confessed.  ‘And it wasn’t really a person I was over-familiar with.’

‘Not a person?’

‘No.’  His sheepishness seemed only to be deepening.  Nelson was becoming more sheep-like by the second.  Keep going at this rate, and he would start sprouting wool and bleating.

‘Well, if it wasn’t a person, then who, exactly, were you over-familiar with?  Out with it young man?’

After the most awkward of pauses, Nelson finally admitted to his shameful secret,

‘It was a person’s leg.’

‘Indeed!’ my eyes gleamed curiously.  ‘Anyone I might have met?’

His expression was rueful.  ‘You almost certainly have.’

‘You naughty pup!’ I mock-scolded him.  ‘Well, are you going to tell me who?’

It was at that precise moment that the Queen’s Lady in Waiting, having torn herself away from the front page of The Times of India, spotted Nelson near the bookshelf and called out to him in a cut-crystal, two-tone voice, ‘Nel-son!’

Kusali, who happened to be walking past, paused in his tracks.

‘I’m sorry,’ explained the woman as they took in the two of us.  ‘He’s very gregarious.  Can’t resist a chat.’

Kusali regarded Nelson closely, instantly surmising who he was.  ‘I am sure the two of them have much to chat about,’ said he.

And that, dear reader, was that.  I’m afraid Nelson never got to tell me whose leg he had been over-familiar with.  Not personally.  But I found out when I read his book.  And the answer to this enigmatic question was …. No!  I won’t spoil the surprise.  If you want to find out, you will simply have to read the book for yourself.

Dear reader, I have no doubt at all that you will find The Queen’s Corgi every bit as engaging, intriguing, stimulating, insightful and warm-hearted as my own, quite delightful compositions.

And so, here goes for the endorsement: “The Queen’s Corgi: On Purpose is nearly as good as Mrs Trinci’s diced chicken liver.

There.  The most effusive, but believable approval I could ever bestow!

Front cover larger

For your own personal copy of The Queen’s Corgi: On Purpose, go to:

USA Print : https://www.createspace.com/5931618

USA Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01LPBOP2G

UK Print: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Queens-Corgi-Purpose-David-Michie/dp/0994488106/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1472638665&sr=8-1&keywords=The+queen%27s+corgi+david+michie

UK Kindle: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01LPBOP2G

Australia print: http://www.booktopia.com.au/the-queen-s-corgi-david-michie/prod9781401950699.html

And in bookstores throughout Australia – always support your local shop!

(  )~ prrrrrrrr

Canada print: https://www.amazon.ca/Queens-Corgi-Purpose-David-Michie/dp/0994488106/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1472638760&sr=8-1&keywords=david+michie+the+queen%27s+corgi

Canada Kindle: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B01LPBOP2G

The Dalai Lama’s Cat is visited by The Queen’s Corgi

dlc-portraitfb-portrait

Picture the following scene, dear reader.  It is a busy morning at the Himalaya Book Café.  With less than an hour before lunch service, I am sitting on my customary spot on magazine rack, nostrils flaring as I try to identify the delightful aromas wafting from the kitchen, where the Dragpa brothers are working their usual culinary magic.  In my mind a question arises that has challenged all the Greatest Thinkers since the time of the Buddha himself: what is for lunch?

I am ruminating on just this when a small dog appears at the front door.  He is looking directly at me.  Being a feline of considerable beauty and fame – the very reason, in fact, that many tourists beat a pathway to Dharamsala – I am quite used to being the focus of others’ attention.  Though not often a dog’s.

Dozing under the Reception counter, Marcel and Kyi Kyi are awoken by the olfactory alert of the visitor and instantly prick their heads up above their baskets.  They take in the corgi, who is on a leash, led by an elegantly-attired, no-nonsense sort of woman.  They require only a moment to decide that there is no cause for alarm.  Their heads settle down again.

Head Waiter Kusali, the omniscient Jeeves of the establishment, smoothly ushers the lady visitor and her canine friend to the banquette at the back of the dining room – which is also the one closest to me.  The visitor settles, orders a pot of English Breakfast Tea, and picks up a copy of that day’s Times of India, which happens to be lying on the table.  She is soon engrossed in the front page story.

Dear reader, given your undoubted powers of clairvoyance, arising from the countless hours you spend in calm abiding on your meditation cushion, I am sure you will already know exactly what happened next.

That’s right: the small corgi made his way surreptitiously from under the table towards the magazine rack.  He placed his two front paws on the lowest shelf, levering his low-level body upwards so that he was looking directly into my sapphire blue eyes.

“How do you do HHC, Rinpoche, The Most Beautiful Cat in the World and Muse of the Animal Realm!’ he greeted me, in a tone that somehow combined sincere reverence with great warmth.

I regarded him carefully.

I won’t pretend that dogs rank high on my likeability index, but there was something about this particular one that was instantly engaging.  Cute, even.  I shocked myself with my own benevolence towards this unknown canine.  Or was my sense of bodhichitta finally evolving?

‘Good morning,’ I managed, trying to maintain my Himalaya-cool demeanour.

‘I hope I didn’t miss any of them out,’ he cocked his head with a smile.

I had no idea what he was talking about.  ‘Any of what out?’ I asked.

‘Any of your titles.  I know you are a cat of many titles.’

‘Oh.  I see,’ I took in the friendly brown eyes, the tongue lolling from his wide mouth.  Barely out of puppyhood, he had an awareness of diplomatic niceties well beyond his tender years.  Where was he from?

‘We don’t worry about that sort of thing up here,’ I enlightened him.  ‘It’s not titles that matter, but what we think, say and do.’

‘You see, I knew we’d be on the same wavelength!’ he enthused, propping himself even higher up the magazine rack, the stump of what used to be a tail, twitching with excitement.

Usually, such a move from an unknown dog would have provoked a lightning-swift thwack to the nose.  But so undisguised was this one’s appreciation that the thought never even occurred to me.

‘As it happens,’ I said, ‘you used a title I’ve never heard before.’

‘We came up with it at the Palace,’ he wagged his stump. ‘I spend a bit of time with the Chief of Protocol.  I thought ‘Muse of the Animal Realm’ had a certain ring to it.’

‘Indeed.  A certain je ne sais quoi,’ I purred, feeling suddenly intellectual.  ‘But why “muse”?’

‘That’s the reason I’ve come to see you,’ he said excitedly.  ‘I wanted to tell you that you’ve been a muse to me!  It was your example that gave me the confidence to write my own book.’

‘Who are you?’ I prompted.

‘I’m Nelson.  The Queen’s Corgi.’

Things quickly fell into place.  I knew, from that morning’s meeting between His Holiness and Tenzin, one of his private secretaries, that the Queen of the United Kingdom would be visiting that morning.

‘I see,’ I replied.  ‘I had thought about staying up the hill to meet your person.  Maybe to sit on her lap.  But the food here …’

‘I know what you mean,’ he glowed as our eyes met in a moment of mutual understanding.  Queen or no queen, few things could compete with a delicious plate of sole meuniere … to name just one example.

‘What is she like, in real life?’ I asked.

Nelson’s smile broadened.  ‘Wonderful!’ he smiled.  ‘I mean, she looks just like you would expect her to.  But when you are actually with her, you feel this …’

‘Presence?’ I suggested.

He nodded.  ‘You would know.’

‘I do,’ I agreed.  ‘His Holiness is famous for his Presence.  When beings are with him, it’s like they melt.  They seem to understand that, whatever else is going on in their lives, beneath the surface, all is well.’

Given that there was no imminent sign of lunch from the direction of the kitchen, I decided to probe further: ‘What is Her Majesty’s Presence like?’

‘She has this way about her,’ explained Nelson, ‘- this benevolent but firm expectation that everyone she meets is trying to be the best that they can be.  Because she leads such a purposeful life, she inspires other beings to be more purposeful too.’

For a moment my whiskers tingled.  ‘Purposeful?’

‘That’s what my book is about.  The Queen’s Corgi: On Purpose.’

‘Intriguing.’

‘It’s exactly the same as the books you have written,’ said Nelson.  ‘But different.’

‘A dog’s eye, behind-the-scenes account of life with The Queen?’ I queried, playing the part of the Grand Old Feline of Letters challenging her canine novice.

‘Exactly!’

‘Profound wisdom and life-enhancing insights richly embroidered into every chapter?’

‘The same!’

‘Plenty of warm, cuddlesome moments that make you simply burst with good feeling?’

‘You understand completely!’

‘What you’re saying, young man,’ I delivered my most imperious, blue-eyed gaze, ‘is that you’re a thief who has stolen my idea.’

Nelson’s face was filled with horror.  ‘It’s not like that, HHC!’ he took a step back down the magazine rack.  ‘I would never … I mean …’

The sight of his charming little face so troubled made me bring my teasing to a swift end.  ‘I was only joking.  You can’t steal an idea.  Only the expression of an idea.  And I’m sure your expression is much more …’

‘Canine?’

‘Exactly.’

Relief restoring his golden features to their puppy-ish charm, he stepped back up towards me.

‘Actually, I was hoping you might endorse my book.’

Celebrity has brought me many things over the years.  But this was the first time I’d been asked to endorse the work of a fellow sentient being.  And a dog at that.  But what could be more delightfully Buddhist and ecumenical than agreeing to his request?

‘What sort of thing would you like me to say?’

‘That’s up to you, HHC.  Perhaps, “This book is more delightful than a roll in my local catnip patch.”

It seemed that the Queen’s Corgi was familiar with the events described in my work.

‘“As aglow with benevolence-” I proposed, ‘”- as a rainy afternoon spent meditating with the Dalai Lama”?’

‘What about-’ Nelson was enthusiastic, ‘-“better than Mrs Trinci’s diced chicken liver”?’

‘That would never work,’ I had to stop him in his tracks before he became completely deranged.

‘Why not?’

‘An endorsement has to be believable.’

His head slumped.  ‘I s’pose.’

I took in his despondent expression.  ‘Don’t worry, young man.  I’ll come up with something.  I just have one question: why Nelson?’

‘After Nelson Mandela.’

‘You’re good at bringing people together?’ I asked.

‘That part of it,’ he agreed, glancing away.

‘And the other part?’

For the first time, the Queen’s corgi looked a little sheepish, if such a thing could be attributed to a member of a breed with strong herding instincts.  ‘Nelson was the only person who called the Queen by her first name.  It was thought by some of the courtiers to be a bit … over-familiar.’

My ever-perceptive whiskers were tingling again.  ‘And you were over-familiar too?’ I asked the novice, eyes narrowing.

‘It was a long time ago,’ he confessed.  ‘And it wasn’t really a person I was over-familiar with.’

‘Not a person?’

‘No.’  His sheepishness seemed only to be deepening.  Nelson was becoming more sheep-like by the second.  Keep going at this rate, and he would start sprouting wool and bleating.

‘Well, if it wasn’t a person, then who, exactly, were you over-familiar with?  Out with it young man?’

After the most awkward of pauses, Nelson finally admitted to his shameful secret,

‘It was a person’s leg.’

‘Indeed!’ my eyes gleamed curiously.  ‘Anyone I might have met?’

His expression was rueful.  ‘You almost certainly have.’

‘You naughty pup!’ I mock-scolded him.  ‘Well, are you going to tell me who?’

It was at that precise moment that the Queen’s Lady in Waiting, having torn herself away from the front page of The Times of India, spotted Nelson near the bookshelf and called out to him in a cut-crystal, two-tone voice, ‘Nel-son!’

Kusali, who happened to be walking past, paused in his tracks.

‘I’m sorry,’ explained the woman as they took in the two of us.  ‘He’s very gregarious.  Can’t resist a chat.’

Kusali regarded Nelson closely, instantly surmising who he was.  ‘I am sure the two of them have much to chat about,’ said he.

 

And that, dear reader, was that.  I’m afraid Nelson never got to tell me whose leg he had been over-familiar with.  Not personally.  But I found out when I read his book.  And the answer to this enigmatic question was …. No!  I won’t spoil the surprise.  If you want to find out, you will simply have to read the book for yourself.

Dear reader, I have no doubt at all that you will find The Queen’s Corgi every bit as engaging, intriguing, stimulating, insightful and warm-hearted as my own, quite delightful compositions.

And so, here goes for the endorsement: “The Queen’s Corgi: On Purpose is nearly as good as Mrs Trinci’s diced chicken liver.

There.  The most effusive, but believable approval I could ever bestow!

Front cover larger

For your own personal copy of The Queen’s Corgi: On Purpose, go to:

USA Print : https://www.createspace.com/5931618

USA Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01LPBOP2G

UK Print: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Queens-Corgi-Purpose-David-Michie/dp/0994488106/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1472638665&sr=8-1&keywords=The+queen%27s+corgi+david+michie

UK Kindle: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01LPBOP2G

Australia print: http://www.booktopia.com.au/the-queen-s-corgi-david-michie/prod9781401950699.html

And in bookstores throughout Australia – always support your local shop!

(  )~ prrrrrrrr

Canada print: https://www.amazon.ca/Queens-Corgi-Purpose-David-Michie/dp/0994488106/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1472638760&sr=8-1&keywords=david+michie+the+queen%27s+corgi

Canada Kindle: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B01LPBOP2G

 

Read the first 12 pages of The Queen’s Corgi: On Purpose

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Dear Blog readers,

I am delighted to share with you the first 12 pages of my new book, The Queen’s Corgi: On Purpose – launched this month!

Find yourself a nice, snuggly spot for a few minutes and enjoy!

Find details below the extract on where to get the book, in print and Kindle!

Warm wishes,

David

 

Prologue

 

This book is being written by royal decree.

Well, sort of.

It all began on my favourite day of the year – the first of the Queen’s annual summer visit to Balmoral Castle in Scotland. We three royal corgis were in a state of high excitement.

Having travelled up from Windsor with the household staff the previous day, we had arrived too late to see the Queen, who had already retired for the evening. Still closeted in a downstairs scullery when the family had left for church that morning, we were released just a few minutes before they were expected home.

The three of us romped through the ground floor, reacquainting ourselves with favourite suntraps and hidey-holes. We snuffled at the hearthrugs on which we had spent many a happy evening toasting ourselves before glowing log fires. We poked our snouts into half-forgotten corners, and raised them inquisitively towards the window, taking in the scents of gorse and heather, evocations of rambling country walks in summers past.

Winston, older than the Queen herself – albeit in dog years – headed with unusual haste towards the drawing room: the scene of his most tantalising discovery to date. It was behind a leather wing chair in the room, five years earlier, that he had come upon an overlooked and entirely uneaten plate of lobster vol-au-vents. He had devoured the snack in minutes. No matter how many unrewarded return visits he made to the room, whenever he turned in its direction the memory of that glorious find would light up his grizzled features.

Margaret, meantime, was trotting through the corridors, ears pointed and eyes alert. Her herding instincts stronger than most royal corgis, and her demand for service absolute, she was especially watchful of the staff. As every liveried helper in the royal household was painfully aware, the slightest infraction or delay could provoke a cautioning nip to the ankles.

I soon found my way to the large bay window in the dining room, and hopped up onto the broad, tartan-cushioned sill overlooking a corner of the garden. Twelve months before, that corner had been Football’s favourite spot. Over the years I had struck up a special friendship with the large, marmalade cat who was a permanent resident of Balmoral. But scanning the landscape I could see no sign of him at present.

The sound of footmen and security heading towards the main entrance had all three of us racing from different parts of the castle as fast as our short legs would carry us. The front door was opened and from it we watched as the familiar convoy of cars approached the castle before slowing to a gracious stop. We scrambled down the short flight of steps. No matter which of the cars the Queen occupied, our canine instincts always led us unerringly to it.

You may very well wonder what it is like to find yourself in the presence of the Queen. Having seen a million of images of her on TV and in the papers, encountering her profile daily on banknotes, coins and postage stamps, it is only natural that you’d be curious to know how it feels to encounter one of the world’s most famous people directly and in person.

Well, my fellow subject, let me enlighten you. When you meet the Queen, she is exactly as you would expect her to be – in appearance, at least. But she has another quality that catches most people by surprise. A quality which no television camera can capture and which few members of the media pack, corralled firmly behind ever-present railings, gets close enough to discover. You see, such is the Queen’s sense of calling that, wherever she goes, she carries with her an almost-tangible expectation that your own deepest wish, like hers, is to serve a greater purpose.

To say that most people are caught unawares by this sensation would be an understatement. Expecting restrained and aloof, when they encounter Her Majesty’s gentle but firm expectation of benevolence, they find themselves wishing – perhaps to their own surprise – to be the best that they can be. To act in accord with their highest ideals. I have witnessed many people who are so taken aback by this unspoken appeal to their own better natures that they’re quite overcome with emotion.

‘Hello, my little ones!’ the Queen greeted us that day as she emerged from the car. Winston and Margaret were red and white Pembrokes, while I had the distinction of a sable-coloured saddle on my back. All three of us rushed about her ankles, our tail stubs wagging frenziedly. We were as delighted to feel her gloved hands patting our necks as she seemed thrilled to see us after more than 24 hours apart.

Soon the whole family was heading inside.

‘Very nice service,’ the Queen remarked as they made their way to the drawing room.

‘Kenneth always has something sensible to say,’ agreed Camilla.

‘Outside the church was a bit worrying,’ observed Charles. ‘How many journalists?’ Tugging at his earlobe, he used much the same tone of voice as if querying a troubling aphid infestation at his rose garden at Highgrove.

‘Twice as many as last year,’ said William.

‘The numbers are growing.’ The Queen was apprehensive.

One of the reasons she so enjoyed these visits to Scotland was the opportunity to get away from the constant prying of telephoto lenses and long-range microphones.

As Her Majesty settled on a sofa, Philip eased himself down gingerly beside her. He looked over at her, with a fiercely protective expression, lips quivering.

‘Bloody journalists!’ he said.

‘One of them called out to Kate wanting an interview,’ announced William.

‘The nerve!’ harrumphed Charles. The church in nearby Crathie had traditionally been a photo opportunity-only venue, with journalists expected to keep their distance.

As the rest of the family sat down, the household staff brought in tea and scones.

‘Well, I shan’t let them spoil my holiday,’ declared Anne. ‘I shall simply ignore them.’

The expressions of the others suggested that this was advice they found difficult to follow.

‘They won’t go away, Gran.’ Unlike the other family members, Harry was sitting on the floor massaging Margaret’s ears as she gazed at him beatifically. ‘Unless,’ he continued, ‘you give them something.’

The Queen, like Margaret, had always had a soft spot for Harry, valuing him as a direct conduit to the younger generation. ‘What might that be?’ she asked.

He shrugged. ‘Not sure. We’d have to come up with something.’

Kate was nodding. ‘Something safe and light-hearted. Something summer-y.’

‘Like who designed your T-shirt?’ joked William.

‘And,’ she responded, ‘whether it was … Made in Britain?’ The last three words were chorused by all the younger royals, having learned, to their cost, the furore that would accompany their purchase of items that weren’t manufactured in the UK – or a Commonwealth country at least.

‘Such a pity the media insist on running page after page of drivel,’ Charles repeated his oft-made observation. ‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful if newspapers did more to share stories and insights that were really meaningful? Things that might help people lead more purposeful lives.’

The Queen glanced over at him, uncertainly. ‘Tricky business, persuading the media to lift their sights from terror and trivia. Every one of us has tried.’

Pushing myself up so that I was balancing on my rear end, I fixed Kate with a pleading expression. She was a soft touch when it came to scones.

There was a pause while the family glanced in my direction. Before Kate said, ‘Well, not every family member.’

‘Genius!’ congratulated Harry. Then, responding to the bafflement of the older royals, ‘We offer the media a story about the royal corgis. Videos and photos. A few words about their personalities. Then they can skedaddle for the summer, leaving us in peace.’

William raised an eyebrow. ‘Worth a try.’

‘We might even get one of the corgis to say something meaningful,’ joked Harry, trying to win his father around.

‘I’m sure Winston would have a great deal to say if he didn’t get sidetracked,’ replied Charles drolly.

Harry pulled a face, and, in a stage whisper, said, ‘Vol-au-vents!’

The family laughed.

‘You can forget Margaret,’ said Anne. ‘Given half a chance she’d leave them all bleeding at the ankles.’

At this point Her Majesty, who had yet to comment on the idea, observed, ‘It would have to be Nelson. He has always been the most diplomatic of the corgis.’

Realising that my attempt to coax a scone out of Duchess Kate was futile – she was not going to do so in front of the Queen – I dropped to the floor and made my way over to Her Majesty.

‘Perhaps you could say something meaningful on our behalf? Something about purpose?’ the Queen enquired looking directly at me.

‘After the life he’s led,’ observed Kate, ‘he could write a whole book.’

‘Splendid idea,’ the Queen replied, smiling. ‘The Queen’s Corgi! One would be most interested to read it.’

 

And so, in a metaphorical sense, the ball was thrown.

Mulling over the conversation in the glorious days that followed, I began to realize just how true Kate’s observation was. It was a rare week when I didn’t come nose to ankle – if not snout to groin – with the most famous people in showbiz, arts, sports and spirituality. There were few of the world’s most pre-eminent politicians, pop stars or philosophers who weren’t, at some point, ushered into the royal presence. I had sniffed them all, even peed on a few, but let’s not spoil this first chapter by bringing dog-eating despots into it.

Not only had I met a richly varied and colourful range of human beings, along with a great many bores, I had also been witness to extraordinary encounters that most people will never see. I had eavesdropped on intriguing insights from the highest-level advisers, the best of the best, with whom Her Majesty consults.

What’s more, it struck me that the never-ending flow of TV and press coverage, films and books about the royal family had one singular thing in common – they were all from a human perspective. Where was the dog’s-eye view? The under-the-table account? What people discovered about the Queen, from the perspective of her most diplomatic of Pembroke Welsh Corgis would, I had no doubt at all, prove refreshingly different.

So here we are, you and me embarking on this journey together. One filled with intriguing aromas, wagging tail stumps and something else I am supposed to remember. What was it again? Ah, yes – purpose.

What’s the point of it all, people sometimes ask? The crowns and castles. The pomp and circumstance. Why bother? Who cares? How can the royal family possibly add to the sum of human happiness – and, let’s not forget, canine, feline and other -ine happiness too?

Perhaps the answers to some of those questions will be revealed in the pages that follow.

Perhaps not.

But one thing I am sure of, my fellow subject: it is not by chance that you hold this book in your hands.

 

 

Chapter One

 

From my earliest days I was aware of a place called ‘the shed’. To begin with I had no idea where it was. But on the very rare occasions that the Grimsleys paid me any attention, ‘the shed’ was invoked. And even as a puppy only a few weeks old, I knew instinctively that it was a place where terrible things happened.

I was born into the most humble of circumstances, under the kitchen sink in a cramped terraced house in Slough. The youngest in a litter of five pups, and very much smaller than the others, I soon found myself competing for space and attention not only with my immediate brothers and sisters, who shared a sack in the carcass of what used to be a kitchen cupboard, but also with two older and sturdier litters belonging to other mothers in the house. There were over twenty of us in all.

It was not an even competition. My size counted against me, as did my right ear which, instead of standing, flopped. Desperate for the same affection the Grimsleys bestowed on the other pups, it seemed that my dysfunctional ear rendered me unloveable.

In the rough and ready chaos of discarded pizza boxes and crushed cans of Fosters beer, dirty laundry and the ever-present, pungent aroma of kipper, the house was completely given over to corgis. We were everywhere: under the kitchen bench, where cupboard doors had been removed to create kennels; nesting behind sitting room sofas; suckling and scratching under the Grimsleys’ bed.

On the rare occasion I came to the attention of Mrs Grimsley, she’d jab her cigarette towards me in distaste. ‘Still not standing,’ she’d say with a sigh, exhaling a stream of acrid smoke.

Mr Grimsley, a very large man in worn, denim overalls with watery blue eyes, would stare at me in slack-jawed silence.

‘You’re going to have to take it down the shed,’ Mrs Grimsley would instruct.

‘Give it time,’ Mr Grimsley might say. ‘Perhaps he’s a late bloomer.’

‘That’s always been your problem, Reg.’ Mrs Grimsley’s voice was brittle. ‘Too soft. Waste of Kibbles, that one.’

None of the corgis knew exactly what happened in the shed. Other dogs were said to have been taken there in the past – all of them stunted in some way. The only thing known for certain was that once a corgi went to the shed, it was never seen again.

On Saturday mornings, the Grimsleys would be transformed, Mr Grimsley appearing downstairs first, having squeezed uncomfortably into a dark suit, followed by pencil-thin Mrs Grimsley, all blonde hair and red lipstick, talking in her Kennel Club voice.

‘Are Tarquin and Annabelle in the car?’ she’d want to know. ‘In their show collars? Where’s Tudor’s pedigree?’

A lengthy and restive day indoors for all the dogs would be followed by an even-lengthier evening waiting for the Grimsleys to get home from whichever home county they had visited, usually followed by a lock-in at the local pub, The Crown. Being small and vulnerable, I usually avoided the scamper and tumble of the other corgis, only venturing far from the kitchen cupboard in the reassuring presence of my eldest brother, Jasper.

‘Hurry up, Number Five.’ He’d cock his head playfully, trying to coax me out; I was the only corgi in the house that had no name. ‘There’s a whole week’s laundry to get our teeth into!’

In the early hours of a Sunday morning, Mrs Grimsley would lurch through the front door, Mr Grimsley stumbling after her in his great, dark, tent of a suit, and Tarquin and Annabelle plodding behind, exhausted by a day trapped in cage and car.

‘Don’t you just love corgis?!’ Mrs Grimsley would slump into a chair, grabbing banknotes out of her handbag and tossing them up in the air so that they fluttered, confetti-like, all around her. ‘Eight hundred pounds! And another seven pups as good as sold. Oh, Annabelle, my little darling!’ she’d croon in a way that she never did for me. ‘What a wonder you are!’

One by one, as the older pups reached a certain age, they were taken out to meet their new owners in the nearby park. The Grimsleys avoided having buyers to their home, the front door being hard to access on account of the two Morris Minors rusting on bricks in the driveway. They had been a decaying fixture for as long as anyone knew, awaiting the day that Mr Grimsley began to restore them to classic glory.

On the rare occasion that a visitor unavoidably came to the house, I was hastily shut in the upstairs box room. ‘Ruin our reputation, it would,’ Mrs Grimsley used to declare, ‘having this one seen with its ear. We can’t having people thinking we breed bitsas.’

There could be no harsher condemnation than for a dog than to be described as a ‘bitsa’, as the Grimsleys referred to dogs of uncertain breeding – a bit of this and a bit of that.

As the weeks passed, Mrs Grimsley took more and more of the older dogs to the park, returning alone, an unused lead wrapped around one hand, and bulging wallet in the other. Then my own immediate brothers and sisters began to be sold off. The once-cramped conditions under the kitchen sink became strangely spacious, the reassuring crush of bodies less dense.

As I became more and more visible, I was the focus of the same, sinister conversation. Mrs Grimsley’s demand that I be taken to the shed became increasingly shrill. Mr Grimsley dropped all talk of me being a late bloomer.

‘I’ll see to it,’ he’d promise her, darkly.

One day I turned to Jasper and asked what Mr Grimsley meant.

‘Hard to guess, Number Five, but I wouldn’t worry about it.’ He looked away. ‘According to our mother, he’s been saying he’ll see to the two Morris Minors since the time of our great-grandparents.’

I knew Jasper was trying to be reassuring. But I could sense his disquiet.

And Mrs Grimsley wasn’t letting go. Things reached an all-time low the afternoon that she returned alone from having taken Jasper himself to the park, with the rolled-up lead in one hand and an envelope in the other. I realised what had happened but still stared foolishly at the front door as though I could somehow will my big brother back to the house. Eventually I looked up. Mrs Grimsley was staring at me with an expression of cold determination.

‘It’s no good, Reg!’ She shouted to her husband, who was coming down the stairs. ‘You’re going to have to take it down the shed.’

‘But –’

‘Gone on long enough.’ She was insistent. ‘Today!’

‘I’m just on my way out –’

‘Right now.’

‘Alright.’ He flapped his heavy arms in surrender. ‘Alright. When I get back from The Crown.’

‘I’ll hold you do it.’

‘I’ll see to it then.’

Returning to the cupboard under the kitchen sink, I slumped down in a state of abject misery. Even though it was hard being a stunted, unloved corgi in a house filled with bright-eyed pedigrees who were lavished with affection, I preferred staying where I was than to having to face the unknown horror at the bottom of the garden.

Front cover larger

To keep reading, get your own copy at:

USA Print : https://www.createspace.com/5931618

USA Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01LPBOP2G

UK Print: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Queens-Corgi-Purpose-David-Michie/dp/0994488106/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1472638665&sr=8-1&keywords=The+queen%27s+corgi+david+michie

UK Kindle: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01LPBOP2G

Australia print: http://www.booktopia.com.au/the-queen-s-corgi-david-michie/prod9781401950699.html

Canada print: https://www.amazon.ca/Queens-Corgi-Purpose-David-Michie/dp/0994488106/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1472638760&sr=8-1&keywords=david+michie+the+queen%27s+corgi

Canada Kindle: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B01LPBOP2G

The Queen’s Corgi is available from bookshops in Australia, but can only be ordered online elsewhere in the world.  A Kindle edition will be available within the next two weeks – keep an eye on my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/davidmichieauthor/

 

 

New novel from David Michie out now!

Hi Everyone,

I am very excited to let you know that my new novel, The Queen’s Corgi: On Purpose is published this week!

In the same style as The Dalai Lama’s Cat, in The Queen’s Corgi our narrator, Nelson, provides a dog’s-eye view of life with the royal family.  Along with a lot of fun and games, he comes to understand what makes for a purposeful life – something that Her Majesty embodies.

Find out more about the book – and get your own copy at:

USA : https://www.createspace.com/5931618

UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Queens-Corgi-Purpose-David-Michie/dp/0994488106/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1472638665&sr=8-1&keywords=The+queen%27s+corgi+david+michie

Australia: http://www.booktopia.com.au/the-queen-s-corgi-david-michie/prod9781401950699.html

Canada: https://www.amazon.ca/Queens-Corgi-Purpose-David-Michie/dp/0994488106/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1472638760&sr=8-1&keywords=david+michie+the+queen%27s+corgi

The Queen’s Corgi is available from bookshops in Australia, but can only be ordered online elsewhere in the world.  A Kindle edition will be available within the next two weeks – keep an eye on my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/davidmichieauthor/

A few endorsements:

In the tradition of David Michie’s bestselling The Dalai Lama’s Cat series, this charming, poignant and humorous novel about a dog’s life with the royal family packs a deceptively powerful punch as it offers profound life lessons that will leave the reader transformed at a deeper level.

Ingrid King, award winning author of Buckley’s Story: Lessons from a Feline Master Teacher and publisher of The Conscious Cat.

Delightfully engaging and with an intriguing mystical flavour, this book not only entertains – it also takes us on a fascinating inner journey.  David weaves in wise nuggets of wisdom which will make you stop, ponder and want to apply to your own life. Another glorious book from David Michie!

Tara Taylor, Intuitive Counselor, Motivational Speaker and Hay House Author of Through Indigo’s Eyes series

The Queen’s Corgi captivates from first page to last as the adorable puppy escapes death, and is carried into Windsor Castle to begin life as a royal corgi. David Michie’s compelling writing style will keep you turning the pages of this heart-warming book with an understanding of dogs and the mysteries of life. Dog lovers of all ages will fall in love with The Queen’s Corgi. Highly Recommended!

Darlene Arden, Certified Animal Behavior Consultant and author of  Small Dogs, Big Hearts: A Guide to Caring for your Little Dog.

David Michie talks for two minutes about The Queen’s Corgi: On Purpose

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Hi Everyone,

I am very excited today to be launching my new novel, The Queen’s Corgi.  Subtitled: On Purpose.

In the same style as The Dalai Lama’s Cat, in The Queen’s Corgi our narrator, Nelson, provides a dog’s-eye view of life with the royal family.  Along with a lot of fun and games, he comes to understand what makes for a purposeful life – something that Her Majesty embodies.

Here’s a two minute summary:

 

Front cover larger

 

Find out more about the book – and get your own copy at:

USA : https://www.createspace.com/5931618

UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Queens-Corgi-Purpose-David-Michie/dp/0994488106/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1472638665&sr=8-1&keywords=The+queen%27s+corgi+david+michie

Australia: http://www.booktopia.com.au/the-queen-s-corgi-david-michie/prod9781401950699.html

Canada: https://www.amazon.ca/Queens-Corgi-Purpose-David-Michie/dp/0994488106/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1472638760&sr=8-1&keywords=david+michie+the+queen%27s+corgi

The Queen’s Corgi is available from bookshops in Australia, but can only be ordered online elsewhere in the world.  A Kindle edition will be available within the next two weeks – keep an eye on my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/davidmichieauthor/

A few endorsements:

In the tradition of David Michie’s bestselling The Dalai Lama’s Cat series, this charming, poignant and humorous novel about a dog’s life with the royal family packs a deceptively powerful punch as it offers profound life lessons that will leave the reader transformed at a deeper level.

Ingrid King, award winning author of Buckley’s Story: Lessons from a Feline Master Teacher and publisher of The Conscious Cat.

Delightfully engaging and with an intriguing mystical flavour, this book not only entertains – it also takes us on a fascinating inner journey.  David weaves in wise nuggets of wisdom which will make you stop, ponder and want to apply to your own life. Another glorious book from David Michie!

Tara Taylor, Intuitive Counselor, Motivational Speaker and Hay House Author of Through Indigo’s Eyes series

The Queen’s Corgi captivates from first page to last as the adorable puppy escapes death, and is carried into Windsor Castle to begin life as a royal corgi. David Michie’s compelling writing style will keep you turning the pages of this heart-warming book with an understanding of dogs and the mysteries of life. Dog lovers of all ages will fall in love with The Queen’s Corgi. Highly Recommended!

Darlene Arden, Certified Animal Behavior Consultant and author of  Small Dogs, Big Hearts: A Guide to Caring for your Little Dog.

 

 

 

Two good reasons to stop beating yourself up: a Buddhist perspective

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Many readers of this blog may not have to travel far to meet their harshest and most unyielding critic.  A few steps to the nearest mirror will probably do the trick.  There you can look into the eyes of the person who talks to you in a way that they would never dream of talking to their friends.   The person who cuts you far less slack than they do even their vaguest acquaintances. The fault-finder so relentlessly carping that any triumphs you experience can be savoured only briefly, any failures must be constantly remembered, and who seems to believe that you will never amount to much.

When the Dalai Lama first encountered the self-loathing and low self-esteem felt by so many of us in the West, he not only found it hard to fathom.  He was actually moved to tears.  Why is it that we feel so compelled to treat ourselves this way?  Where did the habit come from? What is the point of beating ourselves up?

There are good reasons to place a high value on self-examination and humility, especially in an era of unfettered narcissism.  But the self-criticism I’m referring to here is not one of constructive reflection so much as the kind that robs us of any sense of wellbeing, and condemns us to a bleak emotional existence entirely of our own making.

From a Buddhist perspective, there are two very compelling reasons why it’s time to quit the habit of self-loathing.

  1. Self-compassion is necessary to empower our own inner journey

Buddhism defines compassion as ‘the wish to free others from suffering.’ Self-compassion is therefore the wish to free ourselves from suffering.

This is a very different attitude from one of relentless self-criticism. In practising self-compassion, we let go of seeing the self from the perspective of conventional reality as a loser, a failure, a being who constantly falls short of expectations.  Instead we see them from the perspective of ultimate reality as one who has achieved a precious, but all-too-brief, human life, who has the rare opportunity to purify negative karma and create virtue, and whose worldly accomplishments are, frankly, neither here nor there compared to the far more panoramic purpose of inner growth (See: http://davidmichie.com/blog/2016/07/28/too-busy-to-be-happy-a-buddhist-perspective/).

In using a different yardstick by which to evaluate our situation, we dramatically shift the way we see ourselves and what we do in the world. We are less hung up on concerns that are of only temporary, extrinsic value, as we focus more on those which offer more enduring, intrinsic purpose.  Perhaps for the first time, we may begin to experience what it means to feel a sense of wellbeing, contentment and inner peace.

  1. Self-compassion is necessary if we wish to help others

If we give ourselves hell, it’s highly likely that our feelings will overflow to affect our family, friends, work colleagues and even perhaps long-suffering pets.  How can we possibly be available to others if we are caught up in a storm of self-reproach and self-recrimination?  We may be at the other end of the spectrum from the egotist or narcissist but, like them, if we are so caught up with ourselves, we may find we have little room in our hearts for others.

In the words of the Dalai Lama: ‘There is something about the dynamics of self-absorption, or worrying about ourselves too much, which tends to magnify our suffering.  Conversely, when we come to see it in relation to others’ suffering, we begin to recognise that, relatively speaking, it is not all that unbearable.  This enables us to maintain our peace of mind much more easily than if we concentrate on our problems to the exclusion of all else’.

Beating ourselves up may be a pattern of behaviour that began from the noble wish to be the best that we can be, to fulfil our potential, to make the most of our life – perhaps fostered or encouraged by parents who wanted the best for us too.  But when it becomes a compulsion, it’s a habit that can transform into the most awful form of self-sabotage.

So lighten up already!  Don’t take yourself so seriously!  Recognise the horrible double standards you so cruelly apply to that poor soul in the mirror and cut him or her a bit of slack.  Self-compassion offers a far more effective – and very much happier – way for you to be of benefit both to yourself as well as to others.

Please ‘Share’ this blog if you know others who may find it helpful.

If you would like to receive blogs from me in the future, please click the ‘Follow’ button at the bottom right hand of your screen now!

(Image of woman looking into mirror courtesy of: http://img1.liveinternet.ru/images/attach/c/2/74/318/74318997_womanlookinginmirror.jpg)

My introductory book to Tibetan Buddhism, Buddhism for Busy People, can be ordered from your local bookstore or bought online.  It has different covers in different countries, but the content is the same:

BBP - Oz coverBBP US cover

USA

http://www.amazon.com/Buddhism-Busy-People-Happiness-Uncertain/dp/1559392983/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1461405216&sr=1-1&keywords=buddhism+for+busy+people

UK

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Buddhism-Busy-People-Happiness-Uncertain/dp/1559392983/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1461405353&sr=1-1&keywords=buddhism+for+busy+people

Australia

https://www.dymocks.com.au/book/buddhism-for-busy-people-by-david-michie-9781741752137/#.VxtHk49OK1s

Enlightenment to Go, an introduction to Shantiva’s famous work ‘A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life’ is for readers who’d like to explore Tibetan Buddhism a little more deeply.  Again, different covers in different countries:

ETG - Australian coverETG US cover

USA

http://www.amazon.com/Enlightenment-Go-Shantideva-Compassion-Transform/dp/0861717570/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1461405307&sr=1-1&keywords=enlightenment+to+go

UK

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Enlightenment-Go-Power-Compassion-Transform/dp/0861717570/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1461405442&sr=8-1&keywords=enlightenment+to+go

Australia

https://www.dymocks.com.au/book/enlightenment-to-go-by-david-michie-9781742372228/#.VxtH8I9OK1s

OR If you prefer to digest things in a fictional format:

DLC cover pic

The Dalai Lama’s Cat: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1401940587/ref=s9_simh_gw_p14_d2_i3?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=desktop-1&pf_rd_r=0T83FJJTV5TNMR5TDRA6&pf_rd_t=36701&pf_rd_p=2253014322&pf_rd_i=desktop

US art of purring

The Dalai Lama’s Cat and The Art of Purring: http://www.amazon.com/The-Dalai-Lamas-Cat-Purring/dp/1401943276/ref=pd_sim_14_2?ie=UTF8&dpID=41RbJ11U9BL&dpSrc=sims&preST=_AC_UL160_SR102%2C160_&refRID=1AWKQCF80MTYC75Y90B4

Meow US cover

The Dalai Lama’s Cat and The Power of Meow: http://www.amazon.com/The-Dalai-Lamas-Power-Meow/dp/1401946240/ref=pd_sim_14_1?ie=UTF8&dpID=51hqtNkmV4L&dpSrc=sims&preST=_AC_UL160_SR104%2C160_&refRID=0ZE2FWJW6FNWKECTBFRK

(NB Different countries sometimes have different covers, but the content is the same).

 

Too busy to be happy? A Buddhist perspective.

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In our era of unprecedented busy-ness, constant communication and relentless deadlines, it’s easy to feel that we have no time for an inner life. When so many of us feel burdened by the imperative for immediate, round-the-clock responsiveness, and the constant need to do more with less, it’s understandable that as we reach the end of each day, it’s all we can do to crumple into an exhausted heap on the sofa.  To take the edge off our frazzled state with a glass or two of wine. To turn on the TV for some undemanding pap.

Deep down inside, a small voice may be telling us that we’re missing out on something.  Potentially something quite important.  But it’s easy to silence that voice with the conviction that we simply have no choice.  Not for the moment, at least.  Perhaps when things get quieter at work, or when the kids have grown up, or when we retire, then we’ll have time to do the things we know are important for our ultimate wellbeing.

Buddhism offers a very different perspective on reality.  One that dramatically challenges our priorities.

Our life, right now, is extraordinary.  To be born as a human being in a relatively affluent country, with a level of intelligence, education and available time – that means you, dear reader! – is spectacularly unlikely.  Just look at the other seven billion humans on planet earth.  The countless billions of sentient animals.  So extraordinary is your good fortune that, to use Buddha’s own analogy, it’s like a blind, crippled turtle that surfaces from the ocean every hundred years just happening to stick his head through a wooden yoke floating on the water.

This rare opportunity is definitely going to end – perhaps sooner than you think.  Death is certain, the time of death is uncertain and the only thing of value when you die is the state of your mind.  You are going to leave behind your home, family, pets, toys, status, wealth and everything that makes up your sense of conventional reality.

If you are a materialist – that is, someone who believes that matter is all that exists – contemplating death may help you treasure each day all the more.  Time is finite.  Experiences are precious.  Nothing can be taken for granted.

If, on the other hand, you are open to the idea that your mind – that formless continuum of clarity and cognition – moves from this lifetime into a new reality, then what we do with our mind in this lifetime is the only thing that endures.  The imprints we create, the conditioning we generate, the karmic causes for future effects – however you wish to describe it, these are what matter.  These we take with us. (See: Can you be a Buddhist if you don’t believe in karma and reincarnation? http://davidmichie.com/blog/2016/04/26/can-you-be-a-buddhist-if-you-dont-believe-in-karma-and-reincarnation/).

Your inner life is where you cultivate happiness – now and in the future. If it’s true that mind endures, that the causes we create in this lifetime will ripen into effects in the future, then doesn’t it make sense to focus on long-term planning?  In the conventional world, retirement planning is the longest-term most people ever think.  Buddhists have a much wider time horizon!  If you are a Buddhist financial planner, you practice generosity in this lifetime, as the cause of wealth in the future.  Patience, to ensure you are drop-dead gorgeous!  Respect, if it is status you seek.

But better yet, bodhichitta, or the mind of enlightenment, to transcend conventional reality altogether and, while remaining in a state of abiding bliss, to be of maximum benefit to others who still believe in the world as it appears to them.

What if Buddhists have it wrong, and there is no life after this one?  What if consciousness really is nothing more than brain activity (See: Where does consciousness come from? http://davidmichie.com/blog/2016/01/28/where-does-consciousness-come-from/). The wonderful truth is that cultivating generosity, ethics and patience, and a mind of loving kindness is still the best thing you can possibly do, because these are the true cause of inner peace, here and now.

Despite our fixation, as a society, on re-arranging the externals of our lives, the truth as many psychologists attest, is that it is how we interpret reality that makes us happy or unhappy.  It’s not what’s going on out there, but how we think about it that makes us feel one thing or another.  Change our interpretation, and we change the feelings.  What’s more, as a growing bank of research studies show, it is when we practice generosity, benevolence and connection with others that we experience eudemonia, our most profound states of wellbeing.

We have no way of doing any of this unless we have some awareness of what’s going on in our minds.  So we’re back to our old friend mindfulness, and the need to cultivate it through meditation.  Our inner life is where we cultivate contentment, for this lifetime and the future. If we have no contentment within, it doesn’t matter what our external circumstances are, we cannot be happy.

This is why saying you are too busy for an inner life is a bit like saying you are too busy to be happy.

Life is short.  This opportunity is precious.  As the Dalai Lama reminds people, don’t leave this island of jewels empty handed.

(Photograph courtesy of: http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/02580/stressed_2580348b.jpg)

Please ‘Share’ this blog if you know others who may find it helpful.

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My introductory book to Tibetan Buddhism, Buddhism for Busy People, can be ordered from your local bookstore or bought online.  It has different covers in different countries, but the content is the same:

BBP - Oz coverBBP US cover

USA

http://www.amazon.com/Buddhism-Busy-People-Happiness-Uncertain/dp/1559392983/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1461405216&sr=1-1&keywords=buddhism+for+busy+people

UK

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Buddhism-Busy-People-Happiness-Uncertain/dp/1559392983/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1461405353&sr=1-1&keywords=buddhism+for+busy+people

Australia

https://www.dymocks.com.au/book/buddhism-for-busy-people-by-david-michie-9781741752137/#.VxtHk49OK1s

Enlightenment to Go, an introduction to Shantiva’s famous work ‘A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life’ is for readers who’d like to explore Tibetan Buddhism a little more deeply.  Again, different covers in different countries:

ETG - Australian coverETG US cover

USA

http://www.amazon.com/Enlightenment-Go-Shantideva-Compassion-Transform/dp/0861717570/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1461405307&sr=1-1&keywords=enlightenment+to+go

UK

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Enlightenment-Go-Power-Compassion-Transform/dp/0861717570/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1461405442&sr=8-1&keywords=enlightenment+to+go

Australia

https://www.dymocks.com.au/book/enlightenment-to-go-by-david-michie-9781742372228/#.VxtH8I9OK1s

OR If you prefer to digest things in a fictional format:

DLC cover pic

The Dalai Lama’s Cat: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1401940587/ref=s9_simh_gw_p14_d2_i3?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=desktop-1&pf_rd_r=0T83FJJTV5TNMR5TDRA6&pf_rd_t=36701&pf_rd_p=2253014322&pf_rd_i=desktop

US art of purring

The Dalai Lama’s Cat and The Art of Purring: http://www.amazon.com/The-Dalai-Lamas-Cat-Purring/dp/1401943276/ref=pd_sim_14_2?ie=UTF8&dpID=41RbJ11U9BL&dpSrc=sims&preST=_AC_UL160_SR102%2C160_&refRID=1AWKQCF80MTYC75Y90B4

Meow US cover

The Dalai Lama’s Cat and The Power of Meow: http://www.amazon.com/The-Dalai-Lamas-Power-Meow/dp/1401946240/ref=pd_sim_14_1?ie=UTF8&dpID=51hqtNkmV4L&dpSrc=sims&preST=_AC_UL160_SR104%2C160_&refRID=0ZE2FWJW6FNWKECTBFRK

(NB Different countries sometimes have different covers, but the content is the same).

Finding it hard to let go of past hurts? A mindful perspective.

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clouds and sun2

Every one of us will experience hurt, betrayal and disappointment.  What matters is how we deal with these feelings.  As the Dalai Lama says, ‘Pain is inevitable.  Suffering is optional.’  What he means is that although it’s impossible to avoid upsetting experiences, we do have a say about whether negative events or people continue to affect us.

Interestingly, the word ‘suffer’ comes from a Latin root meaning ‘to carry’.  Do we continue to carry around with us our bitterness or feelings of being wounded?  Or can we let go of these emotions and get on with our lives?

In my time I have been a highly successful sufferer.  For years, in my twenties, I carried with me the hurt and loss of rejection by a girlfriend.  Although I should have known better – having studied psychology – I didn’t know how to let go of what I believed to be my deep feelings for her, or the desolation that she no longer wanted to be part of my life.  My real problem was that I didn’t have the tools to deal with emotional pain.

Many of us don’t.  We may find it hard to let go of the bitterness of betrayal.  We may feel aggrieved by flagrant injustice.   Barely beneath the surface, we seethe with resentment against the person, people or system that has done this to us.

So how do we let go?  The practice of mindfulness offers several helpful perspectives.

  1. It is in our own best interests to let go

We may find it easier to let go – and, where necessary, forgive – when we recognise how much suffering we are causing ourselves by not doing so.  On some level we may know that our unhappy thoughts and feelings do not serve us well.   They rob us of the capacity to find pleasure in everyday life.  They steal our sleep, perhaps even pervade our dreams.  On a biological level, negative emotion stimulates all manner of changes to our production of hormones and neurotransmitters – none of them conducive to physical flourishing.

Meantime, the other person, people or system is unaffected by our anger or unhappiness.  Chances are, they are getting on with their own life, completely oblivious to our thoughts or feelings.

What’s more, our preoccupation is using up the only commodity that is finite – time – preventing us from focusing on more positive, useful and enjoyable activities.

We are causing only ourselves psychological and physical harm with our ongoing obsession.  It is in our own best interests to let go of what happened and move on.  This isn’t about winning or losing, or about who was right or wrong.  It’s about taking care of our own well-being.

  1. We are in charge of our own feelings

It is understandable to feel victimised when we are the one who was ruled against, violated, insulted, dumped or had some other bad thing done to us.  But it’s important to also recognise that we are the one running our own mind – not the other person.  They did what they did.  But that was then and this is now.  They are not forcing us to keep thinking about it, dwelling on it or obsessing over it.  That is our choice.

Stories constantly appear in the media about people who have been offended by slurs against the race, religion or sexual orientation with which they identify.  The chorus of outrage and condemnation that follows may be well intentioned, but it seems to me that a subject vital to our wellbeing is often completely ignored – the ownership that the offended person has of their own feelings of offence.

The reaction of two people to exactly the same abuse may be quite different.  Much will depend on the thoughts they have about the event, or how they frame it.  This will then determine how they feel.  We have a choice on how we think about what happened to us – or if we even think about it at all.  Cognitive behaviour therapy focuses on the interpretations we give to events, offering more positive, happiness-creating alternatives to the ones that cause us unhappiness.

What’s important is to recognise that we can help the way we feel – in fact, we are the only ones who can.  The meaning, importance and impact that any external event has on us is our decision.  We are in charge of our own feelings.  The last person to whom we should abdicate responsibility for our emotions is the person who inflicted the pain.

  1. Mindfulness is key to managing our feelings. 

You may be thinking “These suggestions are all very well but I have no control over what happens in my mind.  Thoughts just come and go without any involvement from me.”

So it may seem.  But when we practice mindfulness of mind (you can download both an explanation of this practice as well as a guided meditation free by signing up on the front page of this website) we begin to recognise that what goes on in our mind is not as random as may appear.  Thoughts only remain and recur because we energize them with our attention.  Our minds are as untainted by the thoughts that pass through them as the sky is by passing clouds.  Every thought we’ve ever had is temporary.  No matter how obsessed you may have been by a thought, it is not in your mind at this very moment.

The truth is that we can take control of our own mind.  Step by step, we can let go of negative cognition and bring our suffering to an end.

Learning to let go of past hurts may be difficult.  But not nearly as difficult as not learning to.

Please ‘Share’ this blog with any friends you feel may benefit from it!

Click the ‘Follow’ button on the bottom right of your screen now to receive future blogs from me.

You can join me on Linked In here: www.linkedin.com/in/davidmichie

You’ll find much more about the power of mindfulness of mind in my book, Why Mindfulness is better than Chocolate.  Different covers in different countries, but same content

(Clouds and sun image courtesy of: http://www.lovethesepics.com/2013/02/38-great-hearts-in-nature-to-you/

USA and Canada:

US cover

http://www.amazon.com/Mindfulness-Better-Than-Chocolate-Distractions/dp/1615192581/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1461727997&sr=1-1&keywords=mindfulness+is+better+than+chocolate

UK

Chocolate front cover

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Why-Mindfulness-Better-Than-Chocolate/dp/1743319134/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1461728061&sr=8-1&keywords=why+mindfulness+is+better+than

Australia

Chocolate front cover

http://www.booktopia.com.au/why-mindfulness-is-better-than-chocolate-david-michie/prod9781743319130.html

Spain

Chocolate - Spain cover

https://www.amazon.es/Mindfulness-Chocolate-AGUILAR-OPERACIONES-EDITOR/dp/8403014988/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1461728215&sr=8-1&keywords=david+michie

Audio

I had fun narrating this:

chocolate - audio cover

http://www.booktopia.com.au/audio-books/why-mindfulness-is-better-than-chocolate-david-michie/prod9781486245291.html

7 Reasons to Practice Mindfulness in Nature

ClaudiaSchnellSafaris-Lions_014

Never have humans been so dislocated from nature as we are today.  For most of our existence, whether as hunter gatherers or farmers, our lives have depended on the natural world.  Understanding the subtle signals of other animals, the cycle of the seasons and the growth of crops were an assumed part of human survival.

Compare this to what passes for a completely normal day today: 8 hours in an office, shop or industrial park, an hour or two commuting by car or train, more hours spent on TV/social media/gaming.  In a matter of just a few hundred years – the blinking of an eye in evolutionary terms – most of us have moved from creatures engrained in the very fabric of nature, to beings so profoundly disengaged that we mostly have no idea about the origins of the food we eat, clothes we wear or homes we live in.

Of course the industrial and information revolutions have delivered massive benefits.  But our rapid, collective alienation from nature and shift to our current way of life has come at a price.  A yearning to recapture elements of our more natural past are implicit in many green initiatives with their emphasis on organic, raw and whole foods, local produce, natural fibres and so on.  A wish to find balance for our hyper-agitated lifestyles is helping propel the growing interest in mindfulness and meditation.

I believe that combining mindfulness with immersion in nature offers a powerful counterbalance to the challenges of contemporary, urban living.  When we practise mindfulness in nature:

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  1. We come back to our senses – what neuroscientists call ‘direct’ mode, as opposed to the ‘narrative’ mode when we are focused on our own inner narrative. In familiar environments like our home, office, car or public transport, we are much likelier to be focused on our thoughts, slipping onto autopilot to perform routine tasks.  But moving into a natural setting we are much more likely to be tuned into what we can see, hear, smell and feel.  Sure we may get caught up in our thoughts again, but something will happen – a gust of wind, a spray of sea – and we are returned to the here and now.
  2. We are powerfully reminded of our connection to nature. Abiding in nature, the restrictive, separate self we often assume ourselves to be in everyday life, falls away from our focus.  The truth is that we are part of nature, as it is of us – only most of the time we are so distracted we don’t recognise the basic reality of our inter-connectedness.
  3. Focusing on what is happening around us, we are put back in touch with the rhythm of the natural world. Instead of the schedule, deadlines and imperatives of our 8 – 5 life, we observe the birds, animals, insects and plants operating according to the timeless principles of our own primordial past.
  4. When this happens, we find it easier simply to let go and be in the present. All else in the natural world is operating in this moment, here and now.  The observable, natural world isn’t based on ideas like ‘I’ll be happy when …’ or ‘I wish it was Friday!’  There is only this moment, now, whatever it may be.  When we are in nature, it’s easier to feel a part of the ever-changing present.
  5. It’s also easier to feel more alive. If we’re not dulled by the conflicting demands and imperatives of our work and families, or caught up in thought about the future and the past, when we can focus vividly on what is here and now, we quite naturally come to recognise the extraordinary world in which we live.  Things may not have changed, but we see them through new eyes.  There is a vitality and freshness to our subjective experience.
  6. Our awareness of the fragility of so many life forms, how their very survival hangs, moment by moment, in the balance, quite naturally awakens our compassion. Instead of focusing on the problems we personally may be facing, we cannot but become aware of the far greater existential challenges faced by other beings with whom we share the world.
  7. In so doing, we come to recognise our own extremely good fortune. With a very much broadened perspective, we return to our own lives with a fresh appreciation and feeling of gratitude for the great many things we take for granted.

If you’re interesting in joining me on Mindful Safari this year, and sitting at dawn in the rondavel pictured at the top of my blog, we have just one room left!  Go to: http://www.davidmichie.com/safari.html

David with Claudia Robin and Barb

Please ‘Share’ this blog with any friends you feel may benefit from it!

Click the ‘Follow’ button on the bottom right of your screen now to receive future blogs from me.

Sincere thanks for the gorgeous lion image to Claudia Schnell, who will be our host again on this year’s Mindful Safari!

You’ll find much more about the power of mindfulness of mind in my book, Why Mindfulness is better than Chocolate.  Different covers in different countries, but same content

USA and Canada:

US cover

http://www.amazon.com/Mindfulness-Better-Than-Chocolate-Distractions/dp/1615192581/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1461727997&sr=1-1&keywords=mindfulness+is+better+than+chocolate

UK

Chocolate front cover

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Why-Mindfulness-Better-Than-Chocolate/dp/1743319134/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1461728061&sr=8-1&keywords=why+mindfulness+is+better+than

Australia

Chocolate front cover

http://www.booktopia.com.au/why-mindfulness-is-better-than-chocolate-david-michie/prod9781743319130.html

Spain

Chocolate - Spain cover

https://www.amazon.es/Mindfulness-Chocolate-AGUILAR-OPERACIONES-EDITOR/dp/8403014988/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1461728215&sr=8-1&keywords=david+michie

Audio

Read by me:

chocolate - audio cover

http://www.booktopia.com.au/audio-books/why-mindfulness-is-better-than-chocolate-david-michie/prod9781486245291.html