Life sometimes (ALL the time!) throws us curve balls - what's the best way for us to handle them?

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Find Your Still Space

DECEMBER 2014: I had the next twelve months figured out. 2015 was to be spent blissfully developing a project I was extremely passionate about, preparing to take it to the next level. Life was sweet and abundant. I was living the creative dream. Looking forward to crashing out for that awesome bridge of 'permission to do nothing time' between Christmas and New Year, ready to make an invigorated start come January but then disaster struck. On Christmas Eve, the sole patron of the project asked to hit pause on the project for at least 6 months - with reasonable notice, that included the ceasing of my payment.

I sat in silence for a good long while. Staring at the email. Wondering if I'd misread the last bit about taking such a long break. This was a project I was completely wedded to. Fine if he wanted to take some time out but how on earth was I supposed to hit pause myself? So then I panicked. What was I going to do about money? Had I saved enough? What was I going to do about the next few months? Why couldn't I continue the project and bring him what I'd worked on once he was ready? Should I try and do it on my own? Was that heartless? Was I a terrible human? Could I pick up another creative project in the meantime? Did this actually mean that the project was over?!

That line of irrational, ego-fear driven questioning continued for another few minutes until I allowed myself a deep exhale, and gave my inner voice a chance to poke its head round the corner and have its rather cheerful, calm, knowing say; "Remember that every obstacle is an opportunity - to choose a different solution to the problem or a different direction altogether". Ok. So if I changed the course of my thinking, perhaps I wouldn't have to clamber my way through a minefield of catastrophic drama fuelled 'what ifs' - all of which I was creating for myself! - and instead find some clarity. Suddenly, the smoke cleared and I was able to see quite clearly that I had just been gifted a window of time.

The inner voice sensing that it had my attention, hurriedly whispered: "Go to LA". A bolt of something I know not what, shot up my spine. I'd been flirting with the idea of going to Los Angeles, but just for a two week holiday in the Spring to visit friends - whilst secretly knowing of course that if you work in the acting industry, as I do, one of the best times to go to LA is really January/February time. Again the inner voice chimed in with encouragement as it felt my nerve slipping: "What's stopping you? Why not go and see how you feel about the place? Wouldn't it be amazing to spend your Winter in the sunshine? Maybe you'll even make some connections that will benefit the project.".

The prospect of this felt overwhelmingly exciting and just as I reached for my laptop to start tentatively researching flights, my charming ego, fearing I was getting ahead of myself, crossed its arms, stepped into my path and with a smug sense of superiority on its face chipped in: "What's your agent going to say? What does someone with as little screen experience as you stand to gain from going to LA? Why would anyone want to help you? Most people you know hate the place. You don't know what you're doing. You can't even drive." and so on. Isn't she lovely?

Another deep exhale.

On the one hand was an unknown adventure, filled with potential peril but also, possibility. On the other hand, I could maybe sort some temp work, hope my agent sent through some auditions, try to get on with a different creative project. Smile on encouragingly as my friends who'd dared to dream posted pictures of hilltop hikes and beach days and games nights and laughter and....... f**k it!

I chose to trust the inner voice. She seemed to have kinder words to say, to truly have my best interests at heart and she was empowered that day, too strong for my ego in any case and a little over a year ago, I was sat on a plane to the west coast of North America. A resounding victory to the heart and not the head.

I ended up spending nearly eight months in Los Angeles over the course of 2015. I made some of the best friends I have had the blessing to encounter. I experienced some of the deepest kindnesses I have ever known. I fell in love with a city as though I had come home. I stepped into a bigger version of myself than I have ever allowed myself to become. I got incredibly happy and as a result, healthier than I have been for a very long time. I challenged myself to take on endeavours I wouldn't have dreamed of a few months before. And I created Still Space, inspired by something someone said off the cuff, that reminded me of a joyful spark of an idea from a long time ago.

What would have happened if I'd listened to my ego I wonder? If I had let fear stop me from living my life to the fullest? There were so many reasons not to leave the country. On paper it looked frankly, ridiculous! But sometimes even if you think your intuition MUST have got it wrong this time, it hasn't. Come September when my financial situation was nowhere near as secure as it had been at the beginning of the year, I had another opportunity to return to LA, so I grabbed it. Why? Not because it was the 'right' thing to do but because my heart once again, said 'Yes'. Now I don't want to be too damning of my ego or say we should always fling caution to the wind - we need fear for our basic human survival, to provide a sense of identity, to know our boundaries. It's a part of ourselves which fascinates me and I want to explore a lot more in future posts. But it's important to recognise your ego's voice and also its intention, to ensure that it's serving your highest interests rather than enslaving you with the need to control, which more often than not, can prevent you from becoming your best, most empowered self and living the life of your dreams. I don't know that I'd be sat here now, writing this message, if I hadn't taken that initial leap of faith.

Suffice it to say, that as soon as I settled on my 'Yes', everything conspired in my favour to make that trip a reality. It was incredibly easy to organise everything - most of it was done for me. Indeed the whole process was effortless. Even whilst I was there. I was in an astounding flow of receiving. I believe, because I gave in to something to which I had attached no outcome. There was no expectation other than a sense of adventure. I was utterly surrendered to the unknown. But remember the catalyst for that decision almost sent me into a dangerous downward spiral of 'I'm screwed'. I could very easily have allowed myself to become so crippled with fear to not be able to take any action. A few years ago, that's precisely what would have happened. So what was it that helped me turn that around, shift my perspective so swiftly and see a potential disaster as an opportunity? What was it that made the difference? What was it that opened me up to a flow of unknown joys? My breath. And the relationship to myself and time, that that connection to my breath gifts me.

Grab your free meditation here if you’d like to explore your relationship to your breath more deeply, or if you're new to meditation, or keen to develop a more regular practice, or even if you just love a guided audio!

So, was last year as rich, inspiring and surprising as I had envisioned? YES. And so much more. It was one of the most fulfilling year's of my life. But not in the way I had planned it. Not in any way did it resemble Sian's 2015 map of how things were going to pan out. And I am someone who likes to be in control. Who likes order and organisation. Who wants a firm plan that can be stuck to.

I wouldn't take a second of last year back. That's not to say there weren't lows as well as highs but I gave in to it all with equal value. I learnt from my mistakes. I chose to see my failures as part of the process. I embraced all conflicts with others as opportunities for growth - to look at my own behaviour and make necessary and compassion driven changes.

An infinite number of untold adventures await us all in 2016. If we can consistently connect to that authentic part of ourselves, embrace our best, most empowered, creative and compassionate self, it will likely be the most rewarding year of our lives yet.

Thank you so so much for reading! If you liked this post, please VOTE for me by registering and clicking the "VOTE UP" button. If you'd like to know more about Still Space click here.

What's your tendency? Head or heart? Freeze or action? What unexpected challenges have you been presented with in recent months and how have you responded? What are your top tips for handling moments like these? Pop your experiences in the comments below. I'd love to hear from you. I believe sharing stories is one of the most powerful ways for us to connect, heal and evolve with one another.

Find Your Still Space

Psychologies and Hay House ran a competition in January 2016 to find the wisest new voice for 2016. We have now shortlisted our favourite five entrants. We were looking for a fresh and distinctive voice with a relevant message for our current times. If you enjoyed Sian's entry then please vote.

Ignite is a day-long event dedicated to your wellbeing in London this March and you can get £10 off the ticket price here.

Sian Clifford

Founder, Still Space

Hello hello! I'm Sian Clifford. Utterly overwhelmed, delighted and excited to have been shortlisted for the Hay House and Psychologies 'New Wise Voice' competition! If you enjoy my content I would be so super grateful for your votes - just click the 'VOTE UP' button on any (or all if you're feeling particularly generous!) of my posts. You can also follow me to keep up to date with all my latest blogs. I am the founder of Still Space, dedicated to connecting people to their best, most authentic and creative selves through meditation and the art of doing nothing! I am also an actor, writer and producer. I am deeply passionate about finding new ways to be my best self, because I believe if you want to change the world that's where you've got to start! I think humans are amazing, more powerful and kinder than we could ever truly comprehend. I believe in less doing more being, but that's not always an easy balance to find. So I'm here to share my adventures along the way because I believe the most important lessons that we're here to learn, are also what we're here to teach, and the power of storytelling is one of the most incredible tools we have to connect with one another. To discover. To evolve. To heal. If you're reading this I believe you're part of a movement so big, it's going to change the face of humanity. Let's swap some tales. I LOVE pictures too, so Instagram is one of my fave hangouts. You can find me on @stillspacemeditation


Go to the profile of Richard Storey
over 5 years ago
Just read your Head or Heart piece. You write beautifully, perceptively. I have a friend who espouses the Drain or Radiator theory. I expect you're familiar with it but in case... Drains are those people who, when you see them coming towards you, put you in to flight mode; you duck into a shop doorway, cross the road, pretend you haven't seen them. They take so much from you, draining your positivity. Radiators are a joy to meet. Your heart beats a little faster, you suck up their positive outlook and leave uplifted. Moving on, your (impulsive?) decision to get on a plane to LA is the stuff of Radiators. You have returned, written your piece about the experience and cheered me up as well as inspired me. Thank you, Sian.