A friend experienced neighbour difficulties recently. She was being harassed and it had got to the point where she didn’t want to leave the house, felt physically sick when she saw the neighbours and was contemplating selling. This resonated with me as I have encountered neighbour stress in the past on several occasions and it’s very unpleasant. Like my friend, the first time it happened, the mere sight of the neighbour was enough to give me palpitations and the issue became all-consuming when I was at home and spoilt the enjoyment of my long-awaited dream property where I had my horses at home for the first time.
Even after all the verbal and written interchanges ceased and my neighbour and I reached an impasse, the mere sight of him continued to evoke a panic response in me. Having turned my life upside down to move to this property and invested everything in its renovation, the building of equestrian facilities and getting 20 acres ship-shape, there was a lot at stake.
It was in the middle of nowhere, except for two neighbours, one on either side of me. Basically a hamlet of three cottages. This had concerned me when I purchased it but I convinced myself the upside was that I wouldn’t be completely isolated as I was living alone and the one neighbour I had met, I liked. I contemplated moving but decided against it as I hadn’t found a way to neutralise the anxiety and I was concerned it might become a repeating experience, albeit in different circumstances, in the future.
But how do you deal with something so subtle and so personal? After much introspection, I realised I needed to ‘own’ the fact that I had a right to be there and my existence should at least be acknowledged, if not respected. It’s one thing to know this though and another to believe it. But if I could pull it off, I knew I would exude an air of self-assurance and self-esteem that could change the subtle dynamics of the situation. I understood the power of thought and how it has energy which interacts with the world around us.
However, anxiety is rooted in fear which can run very deep and while this intellectual exercise worked to a point, I needed to do more to change my vibe. After more cogitation, I came up with a visualisation strategy which I had used successfully in sport. So, whenever I saw the neighbour (who was usually with his wife), I imagined them as Mr and Mrs Clown with oversized shiny, floppy shoes, big red noses, white faces and high eyebrows, wearing ridiculous spotted onesies and hats which sprouted a large daisy, just like in the circus.
With practise, it became easier to imagine them looking like this as they went about their business and, in time, I found myself chuckling at the vision I had created which I continued to embellish. To my amazement, once I could laugh at the troublesome neighbours, the fear vanished and I had finally neutralised my reaction of anxiety to them. As if by magic, all intimidation stopped. Like the inner game of tennis, when you drop the ball there is no play!
More recently, I have added another ingredient to this type of scenario. Many years ago, I bought a painting by contemporary artist Susan Jayne Hocking. I saw it at a gallery in London and was mesmerised by it. It’s the only time I have ever bought original art. It’s called ‘Namaste’. I didn’t know what this meant at the time and didn’t think to find out either. I just loved the painting. Years later, through amazing synchronisity, the idea of ‘Namaste’ has become an important part of my life. It means, “The God in me greets the God in you”, a greeting used by millions of people on the planet but, sadly, not in the Western world.
What does it do for neighbour relations? It means that there is a spark of divinity (the creative source, God, call it what you like) in all of us, which is the same – though we have free choice to acknowledge it or not and use it in our lives. So, I endeavour to honour this in everyone, even if they cause me grief – it’s a work in progress which is challenging but not impossible. Don’t get me wrong, if I have to defend myself or my property, I will (and have done) because I have a right to be there, remember? But I do it without any fearful emotional reaction that could potentially escalate the situation. Thought has energy and one thing we have control of, is what we think.
Pic: ‘Namaste’ by Susan Jayne Hocking (the photo doesn’t do it justice)
Videos & podcasts: Videos can be found in the Vlog section of this site and on Youtube. Podcasts can be found here too and in the iTunes store (search ‘Fiona Price practical spirituality for everyday living’).
NB. If you enjoy my content, please spread the word. Thank you.