I have been thinking a lot about ‘the third way’ recently. I was listening to a podcast a few months ago and the subject was about complex loss, such as when a loved one goes missing and there are no answers as to what happened to them. Dealing with these traumatic emotions and grief is somewhat different to more clearly defined loss, like a death from natural causes. During the conversation they discussed closure, whether it can be achieved after a complex loss, they said closure is not necessarily the aim or the end result, that there is a third way. The third way in this instance was rather than be swallowed by the grief and stay in the obsession of the loss, or shut it out in an attempt to reach ‘closure’, there is a messy, uncomfortable, but more authentic, third way. This third way is acknowledging the suffering and feeling the painful emotions, along with reaching for and moving towards the future without necessarily having a sense of closure. Can you feel in that description the third way feels vulnerable and messy, and yet honest and real?
In so many cases the third way is the way of healing and most true way to move through challenging times. In my case I have been trying to reconcile, in my mind and heart, a failed marriage; it was toxic and painful, but there was deep love and connection. The first way to process it could be; it was toxic therefore it was bad and unhealthy so chalk it up to a negative experience – put it in the ‘bad’ box. The second way could be; the love was so deep that I may never get over it, or feel that way again, the love of my life is lost, wallowing in the loss. And then there’s the much messier, but more authentic third way; there were parts that were unhealthy and toxic, they were bad. There were parts that were magical and loving, they were good. There is no box to put it in, it moves between the two extremes. This means there is no closure per se, it’s an ongoing organic process; there are happy memories which can hurt because it’s over, and there are painful, angry memories which can bring relief that the situation isn’t current anymore.
The third way runs between the first and second ways, which are both the more extreme options. The third way combines the two, it’s therefore a meandering path that traverses both sides without a pre-planned route or destination. This is what makes the third way so uncomfortable for us humans; we like to know exactly where we’re going and how to get there. I feel it’s so important to honour both the beauty and the pain, to feel the full spectrum of the feelings and flow with the third way.
This concept of the third way is applicable in so many facets of life; politics, health, the environment, day-to-day experience. For example when it comes to drinking alcohol, we have a growing binge drinking problem in the UK; large numbers of people don’t drink during the week then drink as much as they can at the weekend. Both of these are extremes; no alcohol and all the alcohol. The third way is the way of moderation, in this case it might be having a few drinks a couple of times a week. You often hear people say they find it possible to either not drink at all, or binge drink, that the discipline of moderation is the most difficult. You see the same when it comes to food; people yo-yoing between eating whatever they want, often to excess, then going on very restrictive diets in an attempt to counter balance the excess. When in actual fact the balanced approach of listening to your body and eating what you need, with some treats thrown in for fun, is the healthiest approach.
In Buddhism it is called the middle way; The Middle Way refers to the Buddha’s enlightened view of life and also the actions or attitudes that will create happiness for oneself and others. It is the rejection of extremes, which is depicted in the story of Shakyamuni; he first lathered himself in luxury, then deprived himself of everything, he realised neither extreme would take him any closer to spiritual enlightenment. ‘In his rejection of both self-mortification and self-indulgence, Shakyamuni awakened to the true nature of life—its eternity, its deep wellspring of unbounded vitality and wisdom.’
The Cambridge English Dictionary explains ‘the third way’ as a political movement in which the development of business is balanced with the needs of society. It is proposed to be the third way between capitalism and socialism. Taking the example of American politics at the moment, in some ways its easier for people dehumanise President Trump and his followers, and even hate them, than it is for them to have their own opinions and at the same time have compassion for, and see the humanness in, the opposition.
The tricky thing is choosing either extreme can often feel more exhilarating; there is usually adrenaline associated with the high of excess, and there may even be a sense of accomplishment in the extreme of denial. Taking the third way can feel unstimulating, boring and overly measured. There are of course circumstances which require an extreme response; a high level of adrenaline and life or death commitment to a cause. For example it took a World War to neutralise the threat and horrifying atrocities committed on behalf of Hitler.
I’m sure you can think of many circumstances, in your own life and globally, where navigating a third way between the extremes would bring more peace and healing. However as we have seen it’s not necessarily the easy option for us, in most cases it takes discipline, vulnerability and radical honesty. Cultivating this third way in our own lives, in our own struggles, and on a global scale, is a worthy practice. It will feel messy and uncomfortable, the path may not be clear, but it is where we find wisdom, acceptance and true healing.
My very special mentor once said to me ‘just because you’re doing nothing, doesn’t mean nothing is being done’. This phrase has been playing over and over in my head recently; it means we don’t only have to rely on our own individual actions or power to create and experience life, we have the whole universe to support us.
This concept is pertinent at the moment because I’m in a place where I need to wait, be patient and be very gentle with myself, rather than steaming ahead taking bucket loads of action. Don’t get me wrong, taking action is essential and wonderful, but there are also times when it’s in our highest good to step back and slow down to create space and a sense of peace. Even if we want to create something amazing and huge, you could argue especially if you want to create something huge, allowing space for the universe to birth it through you is a key part of the manifestation process.
I have been talking about this with one of my clients recently; she is creating a beautiful, soulful business and she feels guided to slow down and drop into the feminine energy of allowing, rather than the masculine energy of pushing. I can totally relate; I’m a doer, proactive and if there’s a problem or a goal I want to ‘do’ something about it. Doing makes me feel like I’ve achieved something, like I’m moving forward, like I’m a little bit more deserving of what it is that I want. But at this time I’m being strongly guided to ‘do’ less and ‘be’ more.
Some of the things I do to create space and slow down are; watch tv for as long as I feel like, take a walk with no destination and in no hurry, take my time to cook a beautiful meal just for me, lie on my bed with my cats doing nothing, meditate, practice yoga, read a novel, have a bath with no distractions, daytime naps (my favourite!).
Sometimes doing less and giving myself time to just do nothing, or do things which feel good but are unproductive in a practical sense, feels very uncomfortable for me. My mind can start to get anxious that I haven’t done enough, that I’m missing an opportunity, that there’s no forward motion. When I do allow myself space, time and stop doing for a while, I can feel my creativity blossoming and all the cells in my body start to hum with a contented peacefulness. It feels good! And feeling good is the best possible space from to attract what you most want into your life, according to the Law of Attraction.
It takes a little faith, patience and surrender to really create the space inside of you, and in your life, for the universe to come along and fill it up with more than you could have ever imagined. Not to mention you get to feel like you’re on a bed of marshmallows surrounded by chocolate fountains of ease and grace along the way 😉
📷 credit The Londoner
Listening to Tony Robbins, Life Coach extraordinare, and Iyanla Vanzant, creator of The TV show Fix My Life and incredible speaker, they both focused on the same practice at the core of spiritual growth and living in alignment with your true purpose…connecting with your heart (your intuition, God, the universe). One of my mentors, Sonia Tully, has taught me a very similar practice that I use all the time to get guidance and I love it because it’s quick, easy and so clear.
Tony describes choosing something in your life that you’re struggling with at a level of 7 out of 10. Closing your eyes and putting your hand on your heart and bringing to mind 3 separate experiences you are grateful for e.g. The birth of your child, achieving a goal or a special time with friends. Then once you’ve got yourself into the state (vibration) of gratitude you ask your heart what to do about the problem you are facing and listen for the guidance.
Iyanla talks about being in the God space in prayer, feeling completely connected and at one with creation. She emphasises that your intuition is key to the choices you make and is how we receive guidance from God. Oprah says if you’re out of alignment with your higher purpose God hits you first with a pebble, then if you don’t listen the rock gets bigger and bigger until it’s a boulder. This is a metaphor for the intuitive nudges we get that we ignore, for example if you bring on a new business partner you may have some misgivings but ignore them. Then a few things start to go wrong in your business, but you soldier on. Eventually the business may fail and you go bankrupt (the boulder!). This is not a punishment from God or the universe, it’s purely because that situation or relationship, in the form it’s in, it’s untenable for you and out of alignment with your deepest desires. So eventually it has to break down completely if you don’t listen and act on the red flags.
Sonia, my mentor, teaches a beautiful tool called ‘My heads says….and my heart says….’ Choose something your worried about or struggling with, then speak out loud ‘my head says….’ and say all the thoughts and stuff your head is saying to you e.g. I’m not sure I can do this, am I good enough? What will they say? Etc. Then take a deep breath, put your hand on your heart and tune in – then say ‘my heart says…’ and allow the words to come naturally. Can you feel the difference in energy of your head and your heart? What do they both feel like?
I love that there is so much emphasis on how essential it is to connect to your heart and your intuition. That is the space we create from and heal in.
Sending love ❤️
Image credit: upliftconnect.com
There have been times in my life when I was super good at being very structured and disciplined. I had my time mapped out each day and was taking heaps of action to build my business, stay healthy etc. etc. I was doing all the RIGHT things. But I wasn’t moving very quickly, or successfully, to the realisation of my dreams and goals. There have been other times when I was deeply connected to my spirit and my intuition but wasn’t taking much action at all, and again little forward motion. I have learnt that balancing being present and listening to my inner guidance, artfully combined with following that guidance by taking specific actions, is the sweet spot. In this place synchronicities flood in, what I need to reach goal after goal is magically available and the journey is fun and energising.
When I was living mostly from my intellect, or ego, I was very busy and got lots done, but the progress was slow and laboured. I had somewhere along the line of growing up, figuring out how to fit in with life and the people around me, disconnected from my intuition. Meaning that I could take as much action as I liked but the flow and ease wasn’t there. This was exhausting and I actually ended up being diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. The causes of autoimmune illness are never that simple, but it was certainly a contributing factor.
Being so disconnected from my intuition meant I was giving 110% but often times in the wrong directions and to the wrong people or projects. The result was I was keeping myself stuck on a kind of never-ending merry-go-round. Finally my body had had enough and shut down; so many of our intuitive messages come through the body, it never lies. My brain was focused and determined on the path I was on, but my body knew better and thankfully stepped in to call a huge time-out.
While I was tapped out of the majority of ‘life occasions’ by my illness I had time to reflect and I started to study and learn how to re-connect with myself, my spirit and my own inner guidance system. This system is the most incredible and well informed way to make our choices and live our lives. The knowing we can access from our higher selves goes way beyond what the limited intellect can figure out. This is where miracles come from, and impossibly perfect timing and magical synchronicity. Not that I am not extremely grateful to my intellect, it is excellent when put to good use in service of my true purpose. However is not great at running the show, as it is by its very nature limited to our 5 senses. The sixth sense, that we all (without exception) have access to is where the magic happens.
Now that I’ve created a good balance of tuning into my intuition and taking action that is aligned with my dreams I am guided to find the information I need, or connect with the person who can help me or go to the event that speaks directly to what I’m struggling with. For example I was invited to a business presentation a few weeks ago, initially I decided no as it was last minute, I had other plans and rearranging them would be a mission. Also I was pretty nervous about going for a number of reasons, but when I tuned in I felt it was the right move. So I reorganised my calendar and put my big girl panties on and went. While I was there I talked to one person who had 100% experienced what I’m going through right now in my personal life, and she was able to support me so I didn’t feel like a terrible, crazy person. Another friend who I haven’t seen for yonks completely validated a brand new business idea I had and shared numerous resources which have helped me immeasurably! It really did feel magical – like the universe was giving me gift after gift in the space of just a few hours.
Combine your sixth sense, your intuition or your inner guidance system with aligned actions and you have a divine recipe for a beautifully fulfilling and successful life. I am not saying life will be all beers and skittles if you follow this recipe, life will still throw us curve balls and as humans we are messy by nature. However the tools you gain by learning to connect to your own, personal Google Maps of life and taking inspired action will support you through the wonders and the depths of this life has in store for you.