It was just before 6am on a cold February morning, a week before Valentine’s Day when the call came. I was due to wake up anyway but it still took me a few moments to realise that the sound emanating from my phone was actually a ringtone and not the usual alarm.
Both were unwelcome.
I knew straight away who was calling, and why. Regardless, I had to stare at the screen for a few moments before answering; readying myself for what I knew was coming.
Whilst it wasn’t a shock I cried as if it were as I picked up the phone and my mum told me the news; her mum, my grandma, had died.
She’d been in hospital since before Christmas and we all knew it was just a matter of time but it didn’t make it any easier. She’d deteriorated fast these last few weeks, being no longer able to feed herself. Every visit she seemed weaker, smaller, more frail.
Still she’d always had a smile for us when we visited despite the cruel, relentlessness of her condition.
The months that followed were a lesson in how to survive heartbreak – but then it had been a sad few years.
You see my grandma, once the strong, loving, matriarch of the family, had been suffering from dementia for quite some time. Her memory slowly retreating over the years until it now consisted of nothing but a few scattered and hazy images.
On the surface now, the woman she once was had gone.
Because I’d always been very close to my grandparents. My grandma was a kind, loving and creative person, so very good with children. She would probably have made an amazing artist of some kind if she’d lived a different life, in a different time; if her family hadn’t needed her to leave school at 15 to help support her ten brothers and sisters.
Now with those kind of numbers there’ll be no prizes for guessing we are a catholic family. Irish blood, English hearts. We went to church ever weekend when I was little, yet personally I’d never gelled with the whole religion thing. It wasn’t for me. I remember even at an early age being filled with an awareness that ‘God’ was just a nice idea, a belief we could hold onto that made us feel good, but one that really only fitted alongside other ‘nice ideas’, like the tooth fairy and Santa. Not an actual thing.
As I grew older my atheism grew more pronounced. There was no solace of an afterlife for me to fall back on now my grandma was no longer here, and I wasn’t going to start simply because it was convenient to my suffering, thank you very much.
However, one of the big reasons for my lack of belief had always been the logistics of how any kind of heaven might exist for people. For instance, would my Aunt be there with her first husband, who had sadly died young, or her second one? Wouldn’t that be just really awkward?
And in my Grandma’s case. If she was now on her way to a better place was she damned to an eternity of living in her muted shell of a being, her memories and thoughts not her own?
That seemed a pretty crappy way to spend eternity.
Up to this point my overriding belief had always been that all we are in essence are a collection of memories and our thoughts about these memories. I believed it was these two things that truly defined us as people. The things that made us who we were.
Thus I thought, if our memories are no longer there what really is the point?
Yet as I mused on these matters in the days since my Grandma died I also realised something else that had an immense effect on me. You see the more I considered it the more I realised I’d been looking at this all wrong. I’d been thinking of the whole concept of the mind from too much of a clear-cut perspective.
The thing that eventually changed my thinking was my Grandma’s illness. And who she was, and who she continued to be despite everything. Because even in these last few years, despite her not knowing what day it was, or that her parents had died, or even that the young toddler she kept scanning the room for was actually the 30 year old man (me) in front of her; despite all this; ‘she’ was still in there somewhere.
Even though her memories were gone and her neural pathways were increasingly becoming dead ends, my grandma was still in there somewhere. She still had the same caring presence, she still smiled lovingly at us all, there was still a strong connection. Her eyes still lit up when she looked at my Grandad.
And with this came a powerful realisation for me. That despite everything I’d believed up to now, we aren’t our memories. Our essence isn’t contained in our thoughts but is somewhere else entirely. Somewhere different from what the prescribed, usual idea of our ‘self’ is.
I realised that this ‘inner core’ is actually what makes us who we are, not our thoughts.
And this inner core, this innate wisdom, this essence, it never leaves.
Even if our memories fade and our thoughts cloud WE still exist.
Now I use the term inner core but this could easily be a synonym for consciousness, wisdom, god-force, universal energy. Its what’s inside. Our essential life force. The source of inspiration and high-performance.
In the interim years then I’ve spent lots of time investigating this idea of inner core ad innate wisdom. Trying to discover the best ways to stay connected with my own, and in doing so help others connect with theirs so they can stay longer in a good-feeling flow state that breeds new ideas and ways of doing things.
When we can step behind our thoughts and ego and understand that our pure essence lies somewhere else we give ourselves the freedom to create ourselves as the person we want to be.
From work to relationships, to just being more content with our lives, we take the pressure off and we can find that answers come to us a lot easier.
The good news too is that your inner core is always with you. Even when I had yet to define it I kind of knew I was going to be OK. I had this innate sense of wellbeing that never really left. Even when my life was in chaos.
It was what I held onto through tough times, how I learnt how to survive heartbreak and darkness. It was what kept me going when even though I felt scared I knew deep down that I’d be OK. I knew I’d be fine because of this inner core that I was connected to.
And I’d read The Power of Now, I’d studied countless new age books on the ideas of consciousness and higher power, but it wasn’t until I could relate it to my own life that I could finally embody these concepts and understood fully the ideas they were suggesting. And what this has meant more than anything is how much I value the notion that we are not our thoughts, that we all have a deeper, more essential part of ourselves that make us who we are.
And if you’re still to fully take on board these concepts don’t worry, keep looking in this direction and you will get there.
As I’ve gone forward with these ideas I’ve discovered that the more connected I am with my inner core, my wisdom, the happier I am. The better my relationships. The more successful my businesses.
This wisdom is always there. You aren’t looking to connect with something outside of you. It is you. The essential you. That part of you that sits in silent peace, like the moment of happy release following a big sigh. You know the feeling.
The beautiful thing here too is that like a lot of the life-changing ideas the first step is simply awareness.
The process of seeing your thoughts for what they are can be life changing. By understanding it is always just thought you are experiencing means you pay less attention to them and instead have better access to this innate wisdom, this creative inner core.
For now begin to play around with the idea that you are not your thoughts or your memories but something deeper, something much more beautiful. When you see this and start showing up from this place it will mean you have more impact in your work and relationships.
And the thing is, whether this inner core, or consciousness (or whatever you want to call it) continues on somewhere after our earthly bodies fail isn’t important. What is important is to understand that whilst we’re here on this planet, by connecting these ideas and concepts we gain the strength and self-acceptance that allows us to live, love and work from a place of ease, flow and creativity.
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