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About the Book

We’ve all experienced that wonderful holiday feeling. With the sand between our toes and bathed in the sun’s warm rays, we feel relaxed, happy and contented, far away from the stresses and strains of everyday life.

All too often, though, we leave this feeling behind with the empty bottle of suntan lotion. The dramas and anxieties of modern life creep back in and once again reality takes its hold.

But what if you could capture that elusive holiday feeling in your everyday life? Alexandra Massey argues that you don’t need to jet off to some far-flung location to enjoy that ‘glad to be alive’ feeling – it’s accessible to everyone at any time.

Discover how to bring the holiday feeling back home with you

Learn to kick back and avoid letting everyday stress get to you

Nurture your emotional wellbeing and discover harmony within yourself

Achieve a sense of liberation within your hectic lifestyle

Take practical steps to getting more fulfilment out of your everyday life

Drawing on the elements of holidays that make us feel positive about our lives, Life’s a Beach will show you how a few small, but dynamic, changes can help you feel happier, more relaxed and able to enjoy that holiday feeling all year round.

About the Author

Alexandra Massey is a bestselling author of Beat Depression, Super Foods, and Happy Kids and has written extensively about recovery from depression. Alexandra is based in Hampshire.

Also by Alexandra Massey:

Beat Depression and Reclaim Your Life

Super Foods to Boost Your Mood

Happy Kids: Understanding Childhood Depression and
How to Nurture a Happy, Well-balanced Child

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This ebook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author’s and publisher’s rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.

Version 1.0

Epub ISBN 9780753519035

www.randomhouse.co.uk

First published in Great Britain in 2008 by
Virgin Books Ltd
Thames Wharf Studios
Rainville Road
London
W6 9HA

Copyright © Alexandra Massey 2008

The right of Alexandra Massey to be identified as the Author of this Work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.

This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior written consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

ISBN 978 0 7535 1393 4

1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2

CONTENTS

COVER

ABOUT THE BOOK

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

ALSO BY ALEXANDRA MASSEY

TITLE PAGE

INTRODUCTION: BEACH LIFE

THE JOURNEY THERE

The Stillness

Everyone has access to the Stillness

You don’t have to give anything up

A stress-busting meditation

UNPACKING YOUR BAG – YES, BUT I CAN’T, BECAUSE …

I’m not happy in my relationship

I’m too ill

I’m too stressed

I have to go to work

I’ve got too many dramas

I’m too miserable

I’ve got too many problems

ENJOYING THE RIDE: BEING THERE

Sun, sea, sand, sangria and sex

Blowing in the wind

Exploring the beach

Blending in with the locals

Happiness versus pleasure

Sitting in the shade

The path of least resistance

The shoreline

REPACKING YOUR BAG: REFLECTION

Travelling en-lightened

The competition commission

Keeping body and soul together

Money, money, money

Great expectations

Freedom from fear

COMING HOME: LIBERATION

Echoes of the heart

A new sense of power

The science of joy

Enjoying the view

Liberation

INDEX

COPYRIGHT

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INTRODUCTION: BEACH LIFE

If there’s one thing in the year that we all look forward to, it’s a holiday. Oh, that glorious ‘sinking into the sun lounger’ feeling with the sand between our toes and the sunrays feeding us large doses of happy vitamins to make up for our winter depletion. With a drink in one hand and not a worry in the world … It is wonderful to let go of all concerns for a week or two. No thoughts of what we’ve forgotten to do, what’s gone wrong at work or what we meant to tell to whom. Who cares about the office politics, the lists that never got completed or those nagging doubts about the way your childcare arrangements are going? On holiday, those life hiccups seem so far away and so irrelevant to what really matters – just feeling great. The simple things can be so much fun: even food shopping is a pleasant experience, not to mention all the extra things you do on holiday, like eating out or taking a walk, which are pure joy.

But why is it that, when you return home, that holiday feeling disappears after a few days or weeks? No matter how hard you try to maintain the holiday high, it doesn’t take long before you slump into the old routine and those days of pure enlightenment seem so far away. Before you know it, the whole trip seems like a dream, you are back to ‘normal’ and that familiar feeling of dissatisfaction creeps its way back in. It can seem that the only way to get that sense of space and freedom is to book lots of time out – then you’ll be able to get back to that great feeling of being away! Realistically, it would be so much better if you had more happiness in your everyday life, rather than just waiting for those two or three weeks away on holiday.

Maybe you are now looking for something more. Do you remember your younger days when you thought you would feel free and happy at the age you have now reached? You were convinced that you would have enough money by now and your career path would be clear and that all your problems would be ‘sorted’ and you would be in charge of your life? Instead you find that you are a few steps behind your ambitions and you are still trying to figure out what you really want to do! Or you are lurching from one drama to another and feel as if it’s other people who seem to be calling the shots?

Whether it’s pressure at work, your children’s constant demands, frustration at your partner’s inability to understand you or the size of your mortgage, it’s hard to see how you got here and you certainly never planned it to be this way. Perhaps you want something else, maybe more freedom or more hope. Maybe you are questioning the way it’s turned out and you want more – more happiness – and this is why you have picked up this book.

There is a different way and getting there is simple but profound. If you glance around, you will see that there are some people who have tapped into that different path. These people seem to be living their life like us but also as if they were on one long holiday. They go through the everyday dramas, stresses and strains that we do, but they seem to take it in their stride and the situations that might drive you and me demented just don’t seem to affect them in the same way. How do they do this?

You don’t need to hide in a retreat for weeks or months or give up all worldly possessions to get that ‘glad to be alive’ feeling. It is accessible to anyone. It also doesn’t require you to change your lifestyle: you can have the same size of mortgage, the equivalent office politics and the same humdrum routine, yet feel that life is a delight and joy comes at a moment’s notice. Yes, joy at a moment’s notice – it really is possible.

When you go on holiday, certain things happen to you that allow you to feel happy, full of fun and pleased to be there. This book will show you how you can bring that same intelligence home to get that ‘Beach Life’ feeling all year round. As you move through the book, it will bring your attention closer and closer, gravitating towards the profoundness that is at the centre of your capacity to feel great joy. This evolution may happen over time but it could happen very quickly. It is different with everyone, but one thing is certain: if you look in the right place, you can attain the contentment you crave.

Using This Book

The book is divided into five parts and it will look at the elements of being on holiday that affect you in a positive way and that help you to feel happier and enjoy your life more. So many of us seem to be working frantically to get ahead but don’t have the time to enjoy the fruits of our diligence. The cost of this frenzied lifestyle may be that you have no time left to kick back and relax. Is it feasible to live life with more time and less stress without packing up and moving to the country? Yes, it is. And, the steps to get there are irresistibly simple.

The first part delves straight into the heart of the Beach Life philosophy by teaching you the Stillness. This is the name I give to the place holding the source of your joy, and it is so attainable when you are surrounded by holiday beatitude but can seem so elusive in your day-to-day life. The techniques outlined to achieve the Stillness are simple and manageable. Once you have experienced it, you will never look at your life in the same way again.

The second part answers those questions that so often come up, starting with Yes, but … and continues to explain why the Stillness will work for everyone including the person asking. The third part, ‘Enjoying the Ride’, explains why you have that feeling of liberation when you’re away from home. It will identify those areas that you have allowed to hold you back – for example, always feeling that you are dancing to someone else’s tune or not having enough fun. This section will show you how to transform your life from an emotional perspective so you will progressively guide yourself towards personal fulfilment. And the steps towards getting there are simple yet dynamic. The fourth part, ‘Repacking Your Bag’, reflects on the essence of dealing with the stuff back home that trips you up. The arguments compel you to see ordinary life in a new way so that it becomes extraordinary. The final part, ‘Coming Home’, puts the arguments into a new perspective of living and breathing that liberated feeling without changing anything on the outside of your life.

The hardest thing to overcome in order to achieve that holiday feeling is your fettered mind. But there’s no hurry, and no one waiting with a stopwatch. The philosophy of this book is drawn from the teachings of many Masters over thousands of years but is brought to you in a practical and pragmatic format.

The book’s structure is designed to draw you gradually in towards true liberation, where the book will end and your Beach Life will begin.

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THE JOURNEY THERE

The Stillness

YOU’RE ON HOLIDAY and everything is perfect. The scenery is gorgeous, the scent of the air is exquisite, the sun is shining and you are doing exactly what you want to do. There’s no routine to follow and you feel liberated, vibrant and happy to be alive. For a few moments, life is perfect and you want this feeling to go on for ever.

Look a little deeper into the ‘few moments’. It’s more than happiness alone: it’s a path into a richer, deeper experience which feels full yet tranquil. On sensing this tranquillity for more than a ‘few moments’, you may sense the presence of something bigger and deeper than you normally feel. Ah! Everything is OK! It’s a great feeling, one you would like to experience all the time yet struggle to maintain once you get back from holiday.

Let’s cut to the chase: exactly what is at the centre of that ‘holiday feeling’? It is called the Stillness. It is a silent but profound presence underneath your bubbling thoughts. It is the bliss consciousness that feels almost like another sense. It’s a place where you are free of any worries. Indeed, you are free of any mental chatter. It’s a glorious reunion with the deepest part of you. It’s a moment of pure awareness in your true centre. This is your birthright. It is a natural state of being.

The Stillness is not a new phenomenon: it has been spoken and written about for as long as man has been on Earth. It is Zen, according to Buddhism; it is the ‘Awakening’ according to Sanskrit literature; and it is the ‘Kingdom of God within you’ according to Christian teachings. The renowned psychologist Abraham Maslow called it the ‘peak experience’. He explained this experience as a feeling of pure, positive happiness when all doubts and fears were absent and weaknesses and reticence were left behind. He said it was a feeling of completeness, a feeling of belonging rather than feeling isolated as if you were outside looking in. He found that these occurrences were not limited to particular groups but happened to all sorts of people. You did not have to be special or religious to feel joy in this way.

Once you begin to feel that ‘still’ feeling, you will come to rely on it as an ever-present attendant. It will become the one constant in your life that you can always return to when you need solace and peace. You will begin to realise that it doesn’t matter so much what goes on around you because your sanctuary is within you. You will place less attachment on outcomes. Although you will have preferred outcomes, you will not really mind what the result will be.

Everyone has Access to the Stillness

It is what connects all of us together. It’s what we all have in common. You have already experienced it, perhaps only fleetingly but maybe for longer periods of time. You may have experienced it when you felt ‘at one’ with nature or while breathing in a spectacular view. You may have experienced it when you undertook an extreme sport, such as ice climbing, and reached the top of the thousand-metre ice cliff; the sheer magnitude of your achievement could have taken your breath away. You could have experienced it while you were holding a sleeping baby and you felt the awe of new life. Perhaps great sex was the way for you. These experiences naturally draw us into the Stillness. But if you thought it was because of the experience that you became aware of the Stillness then you may believe that you have to recreate the experience to get that wondrous moment back. But you don’t.

You don’t have to recreate your holiday to get that holiday feeling back.

It’s Not Religious: It’s Physiological

Many teachings regard the Stillness as a spiritual experience that comes from the belief of a religion, but it does not require you to believe in any religion and it is not a religious experience. If you have been on holiday and had that wonderful moment of complete bliss, it was not because you believed in a ‘god’: it was because you had stopped being caught up in the mental chatter that runs your mind.

How to access the Stillness comes later, but for now it is important to understand that the feelings of joy and peace are a physiological process and not a mystical experience. The problem comes in the language. Because you are not used to the language, you may find it too esoteric. This is only because these words have been linked to mystical or religious sources that may seem unfamiliar. As the human race evolves, these words will become more exoteric and more commonly used. For now, don’t be concerned with the language, but understand the experience and the language will be of no consequence.

The Stillness is one term in thousands that attempt to describe something that cannot be described in words. But because the world is focused more on material gain than inner joy, the terms used for the physiological process of gaining inner joy have been left up to the mystics and not defined by scientists. If we had more scientific terms describing the procedure of touching the Stillness, then perhaps these new terms would overcome the barriers of assuming that the Stillness is steeped in religion. Even in this book some of the terms to describe the Stillness may seem a little ‘hippy-dippy’. This is because our language hasn’t advanced as fast as our understanding and we have to use what’s both available and widely understood.

You do not have to believe in anything ‘godly’ to gain from the wisdom of the centuries. There are modern-day therapy groups that help people to go beyond thought and stress to touch the Stillness in a matter-of-fact, clinical environment. The process to do this is not magical or supernatural. The process is purely practical. We all have the potential to feel joy, but we have to be taught the steps to get there. It’s not a mysterious process but it may feel mysterious if we haven’t felt that depth of bliss before. We might think it’s a ‘holy’ encounter simply because the feelings are so wonderfully joyous, but they are simply the feelings of contentment that we have missed because we are so tied up in modern life and its associated stress. Do you remember your parents teaching you how to touch the Stillness (or use other words to describe inner peace, contentment and joy) so that you could find a quietness from which to draw strength and happiness? Probably not – it’s a rare occurrence.

What’s Stopping You?

All of us have the potential to feel that holiday feeling any time we like. What stops us from feeling it is stress and its connection to thought. Stress has been accepted as a normal part of our lives. Many doctors believe that at least 75 per cent of modern illness is rooted in stress. That doesn’t mean we have to agree to it. How much we tune into the Stillness is directly related to how much we allow our stress and thought to overtake us.

Thoughts and Stress

There is a direct link between the number of thoughts you undergo and the amount of stress you experience. This is the mind–body connection. Think about it: when you worry about deadlines, finances, other people, etc., your body gets stressed. You might get a headache, a bad stomach or something more serious. The connection is indisputable.

But, likewise, if you clear your mind of thought, you become calmer, clearer and more content. This, though, goes right against our society, which tells us that thinking is good and productive. In fact, we get paid for thinking and acting on it. But today thinking has gone beyond the productive stage and into the epidemic of ‘mind racing’, which is a tool we use to keep us stressed. There is a compulsion to do nothing but think, think, think – and you may find yourself feeling guilty even considering not thinking.


Try this now: Stop thinking for one minute. How easy was that? You may have found it to be near on impossible. However, you may have found that for a split second you had stopped thinking and you felt the faint brush of The Stillness. And, how long did it take you to climb back into compulsive thinking? Seconds at best?


Because of the mind–body connection, you can gauge how stressed you are by how much compulsive mind racing you are doing. If you find that you are so stressed you can’t sit for more than a few minutes without reading a paper or watching some television, your mind will be a bombardment of thoughts. But in those veritable moments of bliss consciousness, because you have put aside your mental chatter, you have allowed your stress levels to drop to a minimum.

Here is a powerful visualisation to illustrate further the power of the mind–body connection:


Think about one problem that has been wearing you down for weeks. See how the stress feels in your body. Is it in your neck, stomach or perhaps at the back of your eyes?

Just for thirty seconds suspend your belief and think about the one thing you would like to happen which would resolve all your problems in an instant. Now feel your body and sense the difference. It’s a big difference!


The Balance

You don’t have to leave your life and meditate in a cave to feel peace and happiness and you don’t have to practise accessing the Stillness all the time. As you move more towards it you will find a natural balance between the Stillness and activity, which is everything you do when you’re thinking. As you tune into the resources of the Stillness you will find a peace and contentment that will pervade all your activity and simply make everything more enjoyable. You will feel more creative but more focused. You will giggle more at the commotion of life. You will be able to stand back and take a view that was once unattainable. You will feel much happier. You will laugh at yourself more. You will enjoy the very essence of life. The state at which you find yourself connected to both your outer active life and the Stillness is pure bliss.

Accessing that Beach-life Feeling

Over thousands of years Masters have shared their techniques to access the Stillness. Many of these techniques are complex and involve a lot of time, perhaps going somewhere remote for a week or two or a series of tutoring on complicated chanting to achieve that Beach Life experience. But we can’t always afford the time or the money to trek off to an ashram or hole up in a meditation retreat to learn these techniques. We don’t always have that commitment to ourselves and, no matter how many times we hear it’s going to change our life, we are not motivated to spend the time and money.

The Stillness has been referred to in many different forms: the Divine Source, Omnipotent Presence, the Transcendent, the Almighty or the Godly inner self. However, these words conjure up celestial and intangible practices that only the very ‘deep’ have access to. It’s a misguided image because any of us can practise the techniques in this book; they can be accessed immediately and are available to everyone. You don’t have to ‘try’ and you don’t have to ‘make yourself’ do anything.

If you did nothing else but read the four access points into the Stillness and left it at that, it would be enough. The essence of the whole book lies in the next few pages and, as you read the rest of the book, keep coming back to these four access points because they are pivotal for turning your life into feeling like every day’s a holiday.

1. Moment to Moment

Being in the ‘moment’ is the most direct access point into the Stillness. This phrase is well used in spiritual and personal-growth texts but all too often it is not fully explained in plain words. Being in the moment is as it states: to be present in this second. As we grow up we are not taught this skill, and yet it is the simplest tool to slice through all of life’s dramas and, in one instant, bring us to a point of joy.

What keeps you from being in the moment is your mental clutter and emotional drama. This manifests itself as anguish, stress, pressure, angst, depression, worry and fear. This is as a result of your mind’s chronic racing and emotional drama. Mind racing and emotional drama go hand in hand and they need each other to keep up their momentum. They feed each other to become bigger than their sum.

But you don’t have to stop them before you feel happy – it’s a matter of separating them out. You can find that peaceful place yet still be fully involved in all your personal theatre. What you will find is that, as you become more integrated in the Stillness, your dramas will lessen and become less dominant. They will naturally relieve themselves of tomfoolery as you feel yourself becoming a little more objective. This replicates that Beach Life feeling when you simply allow yourself to relax and forget about your problems at home. Here’s how to do it.


As you are reading this sentence, bring your attention to this moment. Not what happenend ten seconds ago; not what you have to do in a minute’s time. But right now. Become aware of this moment. This may seem impossible at first but persist. Clear away all of your past and all of your future in one fell swoop. Bring your awareness into right now. You don’t have to close your eyes: you can do it while you are reading this sentence.

You may feel the moment for only a split second, then it’s gone. Don’t worry. That’s good enough. The split second will grow into a whole second and then into two or three seconds in a row. Whenever you remember, just come back into the moment. Not remembering you are in the moment is as good as realising you are in the moment because your awareness is right here.

Do you sense a bubbling of angst taking place in your mind? That is your life drama, it is not you. You (your real life) lie beneath your life drama. Can you feel the difference between the two? Can you feel the space opening up between life and life drama?

You may say, ‘Yes, but, I have too many problems to worry about to be “in this moment”.’ Answer this question: exactly what problems do you have right now? Not problems you may have in five minutes, not something you have to attend to later tonight, but what problems do you have right now?

You don’t have any problems at this second … nothing … in this moment …

If you think you do, you are simply projecting a fear of the future, so come back to this moment and out of the future.

For this second, release your life drama. Everyone has life drama. Everyone. For this moment release it. Let it go and feel the power of this moment.

Do you feel the intensity of this moment? Do you feel the vibrancy of this second? Do you feel its wonder? Feel it, smell it, be it.


If you are still struggling to get hold of the moment, imagine the following.


Your life dramas are laid out on the kitchen work surface. There is a huge heap of stuff piled up in front of you and laid out as far as the kitchen surface stretches. The dramas of your past life are broadly stretched on your left side and your future worries are broadly stretched out on your right side.

Put your hands together at chest height. Now bring them down and push into your dramas until you feel the surface of the kitchen worktop. Gently but firmly spread your hands apart until you have created a space and you can now see the worktop.

Feel the moment as you do this. It’s right there in front of you.


When you feel the joy spontaneously rise up, but only for a split second, do not despair. Whenever you remember, come back to this image and the time you stay in the moment will increase from a split second to a whole second … from a whole second to three seconds … from three seconds to half a minute … and, when you get to half a minute, that is as much as you need to form a firm base on which to grow your experience of the Stillness.

The one thing that holds you back from being in the moment is your mind racing. Take another look at this mind racing and slow the thoughts down until you can get hold of them. Just as you would slow down a child’s roundabout in a park. The mind racing is usually whizzing in and out of sets of ‘problems’. When you were on your last holiday, how did you deal with all the ‘problems’ you had back home? The chances are you put them to one side and didn’t let them affect you. You simply wafted them away if they came into your mind and, as the week or two went on, they seemed less and less important. You saw them more like a challenge to be dealt with and less like a personal threat to your existence.

When you arrived home you probably let them back into your life and resumed your constant mental chatter. But the ‘problems’ hadn’t changed between your going away and coming home. What changed was that you didn’t allow them to dominate you when you were away and you had a feel for your life rather than your life drama. When you came back you resumed your normal modus operandi. This demonstrates that you have the ability to do this again and you don’t have to ‘be on holiday’ to achieve it.

When you focus on a problem, you are focusing on the future. You will be hoping and wishing for a certain outcome. But you have no control over a future outcome and going over and over a problem is a futile exercise. You may have something that needs to be attended to and what you do is attend to it now to the best of your ability. It’s the worrying over an outcome that you cannot foresee that keeps you from the moment.

Many teachers talk of this very thing and will tell you that there are no problems or that all our problems are of our own making. This is a very enlightened approach to life and one that is hard to assimilate.

However, there is a universal truth in this philosophy which is:

When you dwell on a problem, you create an associated fear

Here is a diagram to illustrate this:

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By dwelling on a problem about which you can do nothing, you create an associated fear about the future outcome and this produces anxiety, which develops into more fear and other problems. It’s a vicious circle, which dominates your thinking and takes you far from the very heart of your happiness. This is what takes up the majority of your mental chatter – worrying about things you can’t do anything about. How nutty is that?

If you think about all the things you are worrying about today, the chances are that you worried about 90 per cent of them yesterday and you will probably worry about 90 per cent of them tomorrow. Constantly going over and over something without putting any changes in place creates stress and fear. When you go on holiday, you let go of this chronic projection, you relax and let it go.