Wellness

Self-care beyond spas - powering you to succeed

Self-care is something I talk about a lot and also one of my non negotiables.  I learned the hard way, back in my corporate world days where the busier I thought I was the more valued I felt, the more hours I worked the more status I achieved and the more money I earned the happier I thought I’d be.  It turns out this isn’t the formula and whilst I’m still busy these days I’ve mastered the art of balance.

I use self-care as the foundation from which I build and if I feel good and have plenty of energy everything else seems so much easier, even when the tough times hit.  Self-care is a critical part of building our resilience but also giving us the mental clarity to create and the energy to succeed.

Self Care - Jess Stuart

When you read articles from some of the most successful people in our society they talk about their morning routines, their self-care, how they centre themselves.  I believe this is the key to our success and how we reach our potential because I’ve seen the difference it’s made for me.

I don’t mind admitting I’m in bed most nights before 10pm.  It means I wake up fresh and ready for the day.  I spent years dragging myself out of bed and was desperately attached to the snooze button.  As a result I’d feel sluggish most of the morning and it’d take a few cups of caffeine to lift the brain fog.  I find these days my morning routine is so important to starting the day well.  My brain functions better and my mind is more clear and therefore creative.

I get up early, do some stretches and sit for 10 minutes to meditate, sometimes longer if I’ve got the time and sometimes not at all if I’ve not.  I believe in the 80:20 rule and if you’re doing things 80% of the time the 20% you miss is inconsequential.  I then have breakfast and get ready for the day.  I also like to get outside and walk the dog.

Exercise is key for me as is being out in nature.  I make sure this happens in some form most lunchtimes.  I also make sure I’m getting to a yoga class at least once a week to offset all the sitting I do.  Failing that I so some stretches or sit with my legs up the wall for 5 minutes, this releases my lower back and helps calm the mind too.

It’s so often the small, simple stuff that makes the difference, the things that don’t cost money or take up much extra time because let’s face it we need this stuff most because we’re so short on time!

Those who know me know I’m a fan of the sauna, particularly in winter.  It’s a warm, quiet dark space and I feel instantly relaxed when I’m in there.  It’s also where a lot of my thinking happens so important processing time.

I’m also a fan of the spa and a massage but self-care is so much more than this.  These are the basics that keep us well but self-care extends far beyond this.  A lot of self-care is how we allow ourselves to be treated.  The people we hang out with, how we allow others to treat us, the voice inside our head and how we let it talk to us.  The food we put into our body, the way we feel when we look in the mirror, how busy we allow ourselves to be and if we care enough about ourselves to make time for ourselves.

As women it’s too easy to feel guilty or selfish when we take time for us.  Especially if we have dependants and other people relying on our time and energy.  However, if we do take time for us it’s not only ourselves that benefit.  Imagine what a better partner, parent, worker, colleague we’d be if we weren’t tired and stressed, how much more we could give others, the quality of our relationships and how we’d respond to conflict and bumps in the road?

When we take time for self-care everyone around us benefits too.  If we’re compassionate by nature we can often find we’re last on our own list – but then how can we give to others if we’re pouring from an empty cup?  It’s the ‘put your own oxygen mask on first’ adage.

When we take time for self-care everyone around us benefits too.

So how else can we take care of ourselves and invest in self-care to keep us at our best?

Taking a break from technology once a month for a day or two helps clear my mind and give me a break from the constant social media messaging and body image, comparison, not good enough spiral that it’s easy to get caught up in – this is an act of self-care.

Simply sitting in silence for a few minutes before the rest of the house wakes – this is also an act of self-care.

Leaving a company that doesn’t align to your values, a boss who mis-treats you, a partner who doesn’t respect you – these are all acts of self-care.  As is saying no to demands when you’re overscheduled.

This is a tough one, when we’re conditioned to put others first and the please people, when we’ve based our identity on helping others and being all things to all people, saying no does not come naturally for many women.  Often saying no can leave us feeling guilty and selfish, like we’ve let people down.

I’ve never been good in this space and that’s why I get so busy.  Either because I don’t want to let people down or I’m worried about offending them.  I’m also a people pleaser and I also want to help others, not to mention feeling proud that they’ve come to me in the first place and therefore wanting to deliver for them (the drive to succeed plays a role here too).  This may resonate with many of you.

Over the last year or so as I’ve become more well known the demands on my time have increased.  More people want to meet for coffee, to pick my brains or simply to connect and it’s something I love to do.  However there are only so many hours a day and often this can dominate my schedule and take me away from my work.  It’s led me to reflect; where do you draw the line and how can we get comfortable saying no?

I think saying no has evolved to be selfish, negative and avoidable in our eyes.  If we’re superwoman and succeeding in all areas of life surely we say yes to everything and saying no is a sign we’re not good enough or up to the job?

Flipping the narrative here and knowing that saying no is how we deliver on our superwoman ideal has helped me.  Saying no to protect myself and to ensure I stay on top form to be able to deliver on expectations and be good to others.  Saying no to the one extra meeting when the week is full means I’ve more energy when I get home to be with my family.  Saying no to another 6 am start because they’ve happened all week means that when I get on stage people get the full me not a 60% tired version.

No doesn’t have to be no, it doesn’t have to be a negative or a sign I don’t care or a feeling of not delivering or letting people down.  It can be

“Not right now, maybe when I’m less busy”. 

“No but thanks for asking I really appreciate that you thought of me”

“No but I might know someone else that can help”

“No, not this time but feel free to ask next time”

“No but I’d have loved to if I had the time”

“No because I’m doing x, y, and z in stead”

“I already have plans” or “something else has come up”

“I’m not available but let’s reschedule”

So next time you’re overscheduled see balancing the busyness as an act of self-care

Next time you’re in an uneven relationship or a negative conversation see removing yourself as an act of self-care.  Next time you have to say no, see it as looking after yourself so you’re able to give more to others and deliver on your own expectations.

Self-care is our foundation, is where everything else builds from and it’s how we stay our best.  It’s so often the small things and that’s why we tend to overlook them but they make such a big difference.

Being a good person isn't always enough

The spotlight is well and truly on violence against women since the recent murder of Grace Millane. And whilst many may question, why the outrage now when so many others have gone before? I was at the vigil last night in Wellington with many others and something resonated. When asked to put up our hands if we’d travelled alone offshore, felt unsafe, had families fear for our safety the majority of the women there did – we could have been Grace, we identified with her story and we can walk in her shoes. Like Grace, at 22 I arrived in Auckland from England on my OE over a decade ago, this is our reality that’s why it resonates.

But regardless of the name on the vigil there are many names that sit alongside, lesser profile perhaps but equally important lives - the statistics speak for themselves. It’s a sad fact that it took a young, white foreign tourist to die in this way on our shores to bring violence against women in NZ into the spotlight and the undeniable fact that in the vast majority of cases this is at the hands of men.

But we all know and love many men who don’t fit into this category, these same men join us in our outrage but is that enough? What are we doing as men (and women) to stop violence against women. To talk to our men and boys about their responsibility in how we treat women and how to balance out the power dynamic when it comes to gender.

Are we calling out the men (and women) who still assume when this happens a woman must be, in some way, to blame – she was out late at night, unaccompanied, using a dating app, wearing the wrong thing, behaving inappropriately. Why should it rest purely on women’s shoulders to try and protect themselves from men or to justify why they didn’t deserve to be victims of violence – don’t we all deserve the right to live safe?

Especially when all the evidence suggests the rules we’ve been taught to follow for so many years still do not protect us, summed up perfectly in this article by Emily Writes. And even if they did is it fair that we should live life differently, more cautious, less privileged and free to our male counterparts because of the threat they pose to our life?

So what is the answer and how do we ensure this is not just another women’s issue that women alone try to resolve because we know that’s only got us so far.

I had the privilege to see Author Clementine Ford speak recently when she was over in NZ. Having written a book with a similar title to mine and spoken a lot about empowering women I was intrigued. One thing she mentioned really stuck with me. She talked about those who we put in the ‘bad’ category – perpetrators of violence against women, those who discriminate or harass/bully females in the work place. Then on the other hand those who are ‘good’ people, obviously we do none of this, in fact we condemn it but is that enough? Clementine talked about the many men (and women) who may be in the ‘good people’ category but still are too passive, we stand by as this stuff goes on and feel because we’re opposed to it and refuse to partake that’s enough, but is it?

You see I’m not the protest type, I’ve never seen myself as a feminist (although I respect those that are and the work they’ve done massively). My mantra is that we focus on ourselves and empower each other to deal with this rather than what happens externally.

However it is apparent that we can’t do this alone and the success of women relies on us bringing our male counterparts along on the journey. The balance of equality and making our country safer for women is something men must help with – we can’t do this alone, we are in this together and we must take action together – all of us.

I’m aware that I prefer to stand in the background, I prefer quiet, subtle action and have always shied away from conflict. I’ve no desire to be the lighting rod for abuse that Clementine Ford admits to having become. But sometimes this is at the risk of me being too passive. I’m a good person but what use is that unless I’m actively doing something to help, speaking out, having the right conversations?

I’ve worked with many good men (and women) and indeed outside of work too but so many of us (myself included) are passive in this space. We think that because we’re not perpetrators of violence against women or believe we would never discriminate based on gender that we put ourselves firmly in the ‘good’ category. However, how much change does simply not being bad create? Is more than that required? Given the statistics 125 years after women won the right to vote in NZ it may suggest that yes, more is required.

Whilst I’m not ready to pick up my placards and hit the streets it has given me food for thought, along with other ‘good’ people. Standing by passively being good people is sometimes not enough. And that’s not to say we need to be protesting or petitioning our governments (although that can help too), it’s thinking about the conversations we have with each other, the small actions we can do and how we can use our privileged positions for greater advantage and change in this space.

Detox Lessons

As my 10 day detox draws to a close I’m reflecting on what I’ve learned and how I might take some lessons forward to make sustainable tweaks to the way I live.  To keep it going but in a more moderated way, some middle ground – both with food and technology!

The detox has been like pressing pause and a kick start for healthier habits but beyond this it’s made me so much more aware.

It wasn’t as hard as I’d imagined and at times I found myself actually enjoying it – and other times I’d wish I’d never thought of the idea!  Particularly the first few days before the headaches wore off and my body ached liked I was getting the flu – apparently though this was just the toxins working their way out.

Admittedly there’s been a few breaks in the 10 day detox, a treat cup of tea with milk – the caffeine high lasted all morning and left my feeling like I was a bit drunk!  And a couple of healthy meals when I needed that extra boost.  But the strange thing is despite thinking about pizza so often I don’t actually want any.  My cravings now are for the simple things I missed; a cup of tea with milk, a piece of cheese on a cracker, toast with butter!  It seems the more healthily we eat the less junk food we crave and I suppose the reverse is also true.  That’s why it’s so easy to get stuck in unhealthy cycles.  That’s been my main lesson from this experiment – the power of habits and our ability to form new habits, press reset.

So I’ve lost a few kilos but that’s just a bonus in terms of the real benefits, the way I feel – which is somehow just brighter and lighter, how my body functions and the lessons I’ve learned.  So what have I learned and what might I do differently now?

To create some healthier habits around my device, not having it in the bedroom so it doesn’t become the last thing I do at night and the first thing I reach for in the morning.  Resolving to check it only at certain times of the day to reduce that habit of constantly reaching for it.  Removing the notifications from apps so each time I use my phone I’m not distracted by these little calls for attention and promises of social validation.

The food detox has really increased my awareness around my relationship with food.  We’ve been brought up to clear out plates, don’t leave the table until you’ve eaten all your dinner.  Even when we’re out for dinner there’s a feeling of eating more to get value.  I’ve become much more mindful about what I eat and why.  Stopping when I’m full and knowing that that’s after less food than my brain often believes.  Being more aware of emotional eating and not just reaching for food because its midday or we’ve been invited to a party and there’s snacks.

It’s been an interesting experiment and one that’s benefited my health but I’m also keen to return to something more balanced and moderated – that will be the big test!

The Detox Continues

This is the week of detox.  Following on from this weekends impromptu digital detox I’m now trying the food version, it’s the end of day 3 of a 12 day detox.  They say the first few days are the hardest so I thought it’d be a good time to share my thoughts.
 
It’s true I’ve been indulging over the past few months and have picked up some unhealthy habits I feel I need to address.  By doing this detox I’m hoping to kick start a new healthy routine and give my health some much needed attention.  It’s a first for me, whilst I’ve had yoga ashram diets and lived very healthily at times I’ve never done a detox so I’m intrigued what I find.
 
I have a love of food (bread in particular) and knew I’d been getting into unhealthy habits.  I also knew this would be a real challenge for me given my attachment to food but I’ve surprised myself by sticking to it religiously so far and not kicking and screaming anywhere near what I was expecting!
 
It mainly involves eating nothing but raw fruit and veg, mostly blended.  Three meals and snacks but no caffeine, meat, dairy, wheat, sugar or alcohol.  Gentle exercise of 30 minutes a day is recommended which even for me is achievable and what’s more it recommends I stay out of the gym and away from high intensity workouts (a bonus!)  The bits I love most are the rest days, saunas and massage on the schedule though.
 
I have always loved food and am aware I often eat for reasons other than being hungry.  I have attachment issues with food.  It’s not just the steady weight gain though that forces me to action but the drain on my energy, the clarity of my skin, my concentration levels and how fit I feel when I exercise.  I’ve been aware for a while that all of this needs improving and there’s a bigger issue at play but it’s easier not to bother sometimes and reach for those foods and habits that comfort us.  But eventually I am at a point where action is necessary and I am ready.  Especially as we head into winter.
 
So I’ve taken the plunge and so far surviving well.  Yes there’s been cravings and temptations but there’s not been as much hunger as I’d imagined, however that’s not always the reason that we reach for food I know.
 
It’s amazing how much time we spend thinking of food, what we’re having to eat, buying the ingredients and then preparing meals.  Once we’ve done our morning juice that’s it for the day (aside from some raw veg snacks and nuts and seeds).  There’s much more time in the day.  However, much more time spend day dreaming about food since I’ve been detoxing – mostly pizza!
 
It’s a good chance to rest too as for the first few days I didn’t feel like doing much else.  It’s funny that I’m eating more healthily than ever yet I feel worse!  It’s those initial few days whilst your body starts getting rid of the toxins and withdraws from things like sugar and caffeine that are the worst.  I'm glad to say my 2 day headache has now gone though :-)
 
The energy levels are much improved once the body has adjusted, not to mention better skin, a flatter stomach and just that feeling of health.  Healthy food tastes better and the cravings for junk food are diminishing (although I do still spend a lot of time thinking about pizza).
 
Support has been an key ingredient.  My partner and I are on this journey together which when you live together makes this so much easier, it also gives me someone to compare notes with, encouragement and a feeling of not being alone in the challenge.
 
So I’ll keep going and let you know what next week brings at the conclusion of this challenge.

Digital Detox

It’s not the first time I’ve done digital detox but it’s been a while so I decided on Friday night when I turned off my phone I’d put it away until Monday. Now I tend not to go into my office to be on my laptop over the weekend anyway as that is family time but it’s amazing how much work I can do on my phone! The news feeds, information gathering, social catching up and sometimes just mindless scrolling. Especially on quiet weekends I’ve lost count of the number of times I reach for my phone; for some information, social interaction or validation of some kind.

So what did I miss? Initially it felt like I was missing something as my actions shone a light on the habits I’ve formed with technology. First thing in the morning it is common for me to reach for my phone, it wasn’t there. When I wanted to see when it would stop raining, the weather app was not available even my meditation app made me think twice about having to meditate without my device (ironically). It made ordering a curry difficult and choosing what movie to watch but nothing we could not get around!

What did I gain? More time and a more clear mind not to mention a certain sense of calm that comes from switching off from the outside world for a while and just being. There’s a natural inclination to turn inwards, especially on a quiet weekend at home nursing a cold!

Instead I was able to spend time being present, with those I loved, being aware of my surroundings, reading a book, walking the dog and being 100% present when doing those things not distracted by what photos I could take or what posts I might create and how many likes they’d get.

Now my business relies on social media and having friends and family around the world, so do I but I am aware of the habits it forms and the impacts its use has on our brain. I'm aware of the impacts of information overload and the addictive nature of our devices but it’s less about the device and more about our relationship with them. It’s not something I’d give up completely but I am a fan of the digital detox and it is something I plan to do more often to keep me aware of this and to be mindful of some of those no so healthy habits we form with our devices.

The detox theme has continued and this week I'm trying it with food! Stay tuned for more about my food detox tomorrow

The Art of Mindfulness

The Art of Mindfulness: Busy Life, Peaceful Mind.  Staying sane in a crazy world, keeping calm amid the chaos.

Click here to download 

Master the art of mindfulness.  Stop worrying and start living.  Learn how to bring Mindfulness into your life to make you happier, calmer and more effective.  Achieve better stress management and resilience and realise the benefits of mindfulness and how we harness the power of our mind. 

Develop a regular practice to tame your monkey mind, achieve a more positive mindset and free yourself from worry.  Discover skills that help you bounce back from the tough times, stay in the present more often and achieve balance.  Create more space in the mind and train the brain to be more clear and focused and a more positive place to be.

Understand how Mindfulness aids our effectiveness, the impacts of emotional intelligence and how we can use this skill at work.https://youtu.be/FE5IqFHRzIs

A Mindfulness teacher with a daily practice of 7 years.  Training from teachers from around the world in many cultures and countries.  Without any religious affiliations, I bring eastern techniques to benefit our western world modified in a way that is easily applied to modern life.  Experienced course instructor, described by others as authentic, uplifting and inspiring.

Discover the basics of meditation and how to deal with a busy mind or negative thoughts.  Achieve the skills to apply Mindfulness into your daily life and work to become more focused, clear and effective and develop a regular practice to sustain you well beyond this course.

Suitable for beginners to mindfulness or those who have done some before and are looking to learn new ways to bring this to life and create a regular practice

Over 2 hours of content, one lecture per day and some practical exercises to download as well as bonus material and resources.Available online and through your device with lifetime access once purchased

Volunteering; why it’s not just others that benefit

Compassion and kindness are key ingredients for happiness.It leads us to want to do good without expecting anything in return, to look after each other and our environment.

When I hit 30 I was unfulfilled and unhappy, despite having every material I could ever have wished for.

I had a good upbringing, climbed the corporate ladders, earned good money, had a company car and a house by the beach so why was I unhappy?At this point I set off on a journey that lead to understanding there was another way, the path to happiness and how to create a life we love.

I discovered what I valued, how to balance life, learned a new relationship with money and rediscovered what mattered. During this journey which I wrote about in my first book A Rough Guide to a Smooth Life I discovered my authenticity, made life more simple and rebuilt my life around my passions to find meaning and purpose.Part of this involved quitting the corporate world and volunteering overseas.

I trained to be a yoga teacher, practiced mindfulness daily and did my life coaching certificate.

I now write books and run my own business and still enjoy volunteering.In celebration of volunteer week I’d like to share why it’s so important as well as give thanks and gratitude to all those volunteers out there who give their time to good causes.Vietnamese Zen Monk Thich Nhat Hanh said “The word compassion is a verb”.Just think back to the last time you performed the action of helping someone in need.How good did you feel?Buddhists have a saying; “All the happiness there is in the world comes from us wishing others to be happy.”

Our natural response to seeing someone in distress is the impulse to help, we care about the suffering of others and we feel good when that suffering is released.This applies if we do it ourselves, see it in a movie or witness it in real life.

It makes us feel good.Feeling like we’re making a difference in the world and helping those who need it brings us joy, it gives us meaning James Baraz quotes statistics on why giving is good for you in his book; ‘Awakening Joy’.“According to the measures of Social Capital Community Benchmark survey those who gave contributions of time or money were 42% more likely to be happy than those who didn’t.

Psychologists even have a term for the state of euphoria reported by those who give, it’s called ‘helpers high’ and is based on the theory that neuroscience is now backing up; giving produces endorphins in the brain that make us feel good, this activates the same part of the brain as receiving rewards or experiencing pleasure does”.

You may say, that’s easy if you’re happy, have money and the time to help.But when you’re busy, worried and burned out it’s not so easy to find the space in your heart or mind to be compassionate.Yes, it does make it harder but not impossible and can in fact be the opening to more joy in your life at a time when you need it most.

I must admit that when I’m working full time and trying to run my own business I don’t get the time I’d like to volunteer but when I have periods between contracts and can focus on one job I make sure it incorporate a day to volunteer.

Not only does it give me a break from writing it gets me out mixing with others and that feeling of contributing to the community, being of service and doing some good for others.It’s not just for others though, it’s good for our souls, our sense of meaning and purpose, learning new things, social connection. All the things that are fundamental to our health and happiness.

It helps us think more positively about the world and our own contribution to it too.It’s the voluntary work I’ve done over the years that I’ve enjoyed most above any paid job, no matter what the salary or benefits.I spent time in Thailand teaching English to Buddhist monks, worked at yoga ashrams and Buddhist centres as well as doing the soup run for the homeless and volunteering to teach IT to the over 50’s and coordinate activities at elderly day care centres. I enjoy the company and get a sense of satisfaction from this work.Studies are also showing there are physical health benefits of compassion and giving through the form of voluntary work.United Health Group commissioned a national survey of 3,351 adults and found that the overwhelming majority of participants reported feeling mentally and physically healthier after a volunteer experience.·76 percent of people who volunteered in the last twelve months said that volunteering has made them feel healthier·94 percent of people who volunteered in the last twelve months said that volunteering improved their mood·78 percent of them said that volunteering lowered their stress levels·96 percent reported that volunteering enriched their sense of purpose in life·Volunteering also improved their self-esteem

Researchers at the University of Exeter Medical School in England analyzed data from 40 published studies and found evidence that volunteers had a 20 percent lower risk of death than their peers who do not volunteer. The study also found that volunteers had lower levels of depression, increased life satisfaction and enhanced well-being.It doesn’t have to be money, it doesn’t have to be a lot of time if you’re short on that.

It can even be as simple as starting with some random acts of kindness throughout your day.When we think of giving we often think of charitable donations but it doesn’t have to involve money.

Donating items to charity collections, baking cakes for local events, helping out at a local animal shelter or using some of your skills to help others are all forms of giving.Giving is not always about your time or money.We all have skills and strengths we can share with others, we can all choose to be compassionate.

Even if we have very little material wealth, we all have infinite non material wealth we can share.Take the project ‘Random Acts of Kindness’ for example.They have many ideas of acts of kindness we can perform for complete strangers and at the same time encourage those who have been the recipient of an act of kindness to pass it on and do something kind for someone else.This can be as simple as helping an elderly neighbor with their shopping, paying the toll fee for the car behind you, holding the door open for a stranger or making coffee for a busy colleague.

It doesn’t have to be hard or take up a lot of time, there are so many ways to help and by doing so we’re not just helping the recipients we’re helping ourselves too.

In a world where we’re increasing too busy for kindness see if you can make space to volunteer yourself in some capacity – your health and happiness will thank you.#NVW2107

10 things you need to know about happiness

Last week was international happiness day and I’ve been celebrating all week by reminding myself of what makes me happy and sharing my advice on happiness with others.  It’s something we’re all in pursuit of yet so often missing the mark.  It’s the question we’re all trying to find the answer to.  What is happiness and how do we get it?  Happiness is not the mere absence of suffering or temporary cessation of unhappiness.  It’s less about elation and perfection more about how we react to challenges, about purpose and fulfilment, being connected to who you are.  To mark the close of my week long celebration of happiness here are 10 things we need to know about happiness

It’s the journey not the destination

We seem to think that happiness is not possible in the here and now.  It’s a struggle now so we can enjoy happiness later (perhaps when we retire?)  We seem to think happiness is always some far off destination we’re aiming for.  A point we eventually reach, a place where everything is perfect. But tomorrow never comes and nor does perfection.  The good and bad will come and go but every day we have a chance to be happy, in how we chose to live, how we react and how we treat ourselves and others.

We spend so much of our time worrying about the future or going over the past that we often miss the here and now and therefore the moments of happiness that exist in the present.  If we are too busy looking for the pot of gold we miss the beauty of the rainbow.

It’s not a thing we search for and find

We see happiness as something outside of ourselves, something external we have to pursue and ‘find’.We fill our lives with the business of searching for many things and all this pursuit is for one reason, our happiness, yet the very pursuit is taking us further away from the goal.  You may want a house, car, job, partner but all you really want is the feeling these things bring; love, status, wealth.  The pursuit of all these things is for the sake of happiness.  I think we’ve all been there, thinking; “If I could just have this then I’ll be happy”, but when you get this it becomes a case of, “I just want that then I’ll be happy”.  It’s a bottomless bucket of constant craving with no fulfilment.

Caught in this pursuit of happiness it is easy to believe the grass is greener on the other side, but even when you get there the future will always seem better.  This leads to permanent dissatisfaction and un-fulfilment.  We know this because the car we drive and the house we live in at one point were new and it was amazing but the novelty eventually wears off and leaves us wanting more, needing to be fulfilled again

It’s the small things

In celebration every day last week I posted a photo of something that made me happy. Generally this was the wonderful food I ate, the sun shining, getting outside in nature, cuddling up on the sofa with my partner, talking to my family, patting the cute dog that we met in the park and being on the beach.  It wasn’t my house, my bank balance, my car (because I don’t have one) or my job title.  It was the small things, often free things that meant the most and brought a smile to my face.  As Brene Brown says, so often we are so busy chasing down the extraordinary moments that we think will bring us happiness that we miss the ordinary moments of joy that already exist in each day.It is in fact the little things that are the big things – like our health, love, the food on our table and the roof over our head.Read the rest of the article here published by elephant journal

Weathering the storms

How many of us have started 2017 thinking; “This year I want life to be less tough”? It may have felt like 2016 was tough, doesn’t every year feel that way by December?We heard a lot in the media about how awful 2016 had been, how many celebrities and top musicians we lost, the US election, the NZ Earthquake. I’m sure like most years 2016 has had its ups and downs for all of us, but in reality it’s less about what happens to us and more about how we react to it.

Toughtimes are always going to come so how do we navigate them better?

This quote sums it up well I think and puts us back in control.Unfortunately we all have a tendency to focus on the bad and remember the negative more so than any positives, it’s how our brains are wired.But how do we break this cycle?Now it’s not about ignoring the bad and being Pollyanna or unreal, but more about remembering to acknowledge the good too.  I found this particularly true reflecting on the end of the year.Like most 2016 had been a long year of hard work, I’d achieved a lot and I’d had some failures too, things had gone wrong and there were goals I’d missed.

I found myself reflecting on a recent failure to deliver on a personal milestone (which admittedly in hindsight was way over ambitious!) and feeling like 2016 had not been a good one as a result.What I wasn’t thinking about was all the wins I’d had along the way, the previous 11 months that had gone well and all the things I’d achieved throughout the year.  There were plenty of wins when I did sit a think about it so why was this one failure (albeit very recent) weighing on my mind?We can be too quick to move on from our successes and too slow to wallow in our failures, giving us the perception that if a few bad things have happened everything is bad, it’s been a bad year and life is hard.What about all the good things, even the little things, especially the little things.

How often do we ever pause to consider all the things that have gone right?Why don’t we take a minute to do that now?

List all the things that went well last year and all the things you’re currently grateful for and lucky to have – it may surprise you how long this list can be and how little time we may have spent celebrating the items on it.It’s never all bad so let’s spend some time remembering the good.

Think of all the things now you’re lucky to have; family, friends, health, money in the bank (even a small amount), food in the fridge and roof over your head and all the things that make life good that so often we take for granted.This came home to me recently when I took my annual trip back to the UK to see family over Christmas and whilst this meant leaving summer behind and a new relationship I was excited to reconnect with loved ones.As sometimes is the case though, things don’t turn out how we expected, bad things happen and things don’t turn out the way we planned. This was one such occasion.

After a 33 hour trip I landed in London to make my way to my parents house. Unbeknownst to me my 90 year old grandmother had a massive stroke the night before and was not expected to live.My first port of call upon landing became a hospital stroke unit, and then for many days after as she struggled to let go of the life that was clearly leaving her.Shortly after arriving I got sick, the kind of respiratory infection you only seem to get after long haul flights or English winters!It left me bedridden with energy for nothing.

I was trying to enjoy being back but really I just wanted to be curled up at home in the sun with my girlfriend. I found myself feeling guilty that I only get this chance once a year and people are looking forward to seeing me and I can’t be happy about it. I also find myself feeling like a failure when I become unhappy, after all it’s what I teach others!

The reality is we are all human and life is always going to be imperfect, rough and smooth.Tough times will always come and sometimes all we can do is feel the pain, grieve a little and then move on.It’s ok not to be ok, but it’s not ok to stay there.

My grandma passed away just after Christmas.I was in bed by 730pm Christmas Eve and again at 5pm on Christmas Day. Yet during the times I was awake I made the best of those moments.

I played with my nephews, had dinner with my parents, walked the dog and spent time with friends.There is always a silver lining in every cloud but just sometimes we have to look real hard. If we are alive then we have something to be grateful for and it’s being grateful for the small things that helps us through the tough times, gives us perspective and strength to weather the storms.

And knowing when the storms hit that this will pass, it always gets better eventually.

As the saying goes, you can’t calm the storm but what you can do is calm yourself and the storm will pass.

Permission to fail; slowing down

I don’t know about you but towards the end of the year I get jaded.  The last few weeks always seem a bit hard and I find myself counting down to a break over Christmas and the lure of the reset a New Year brings.  A chance to regroup and a clean slate to push on into another year.It’s also a point I look at what I’ve achieved over this year, I’d set some lofty goals and being ambitious always want to ensure they’ve all been ticked off the list by the end of the year. Usually I’ll make sure of it, in the past even at the cost of my health, juggling many balls in the air making sure none dropped.These days I try to spend more time being and less time doing, we live in such a busy, driven, over achieving world that it’s all too easy to lose our balance.  This might be why so many of us reach the end of the year longing for a break and limping over the finish line.

As I looked at the things I’d not quite done yet and the time left this year, my over committed schedule and the nice to haves I’d like to fit it (yoga, time with my girlfriend, Christmas shopping) I felt a little overwhelmed.  I also felt so short on energy that I lost all motivation to even want to do things nice to haves. I couldn’t even get excited by Christmas and the impending opportunity to visit my family, even buying them gifts seemed like an effort I didn’t have the time for and for me this is unusual. 

I was so close to launching my online course, my last goal for 2016, and felt pressure to do this to coincide with the New Year and time was quickly running out. I’d had so much else on of late though and a packed travel schedule that I also felt like I didn’t have the energy to even know where to start.I had one free weekend left so I figured I could work 12 hour days to cover some of this off, but then how good would it be, I really ought to be spending more time getting prepared and getting this right I thought.  But that would mean not completing this in 2016 as I had set in my goals – this would mean failure!

This is something that’s not normally an option for me but for the first time I allowed myself to fail and be comfortable with that, knowing I’d made the right choice.  I made peace with not having to get this done now, the fact that I’d overpromised and not allowed myself time for everything I’d wanted to do. I also remembered that without energy, rest and health how was I going to achieve any of my goals?  Self-care and balance really are the foundations for everything we do thereafter.I’d had a lot of travel of late and needed to reground, I also knew I felt very tired and needed some rest.  I’d spent so much time doing that I’d left little time for being and this is so important to my health, not to mention my creativity and focus.  So I didn’t work 12 hour days, I let go of the notion of having to do everything and achieve all the goals I’d ambitiously set.  I allowed my overflowing schedule to relent for the weekend and spent the time on what I needed the most – rest, recharge and balance.  I used that time to go for walks, sleep in, meditate, rest and recharge, read and catch up with friends and family, I also got some Christmas shopping done and post recharge I feel excited about Christmas and am looking forwarding to spending time with my family overseas, I also feel slightly more prepared!Balance is the key and knowing when to reprioritise and ensure we always do the things that matter first. 

Whilst I’ll set more goals for 2017 I’m sure, as is my habit I’ll be over ambitious and need to re-tweak as we go through the year but this is less about failing and more about balance.  Knowing what’s important and ensuring we look after ourselves in the process of achieving our dreams.  Understanding that whilst we can do anything we want we can’t do everything and it doesn’t all have to be done now!I’ve also taken the time to reflect on all the things I have achieved this year, rather than just dwelling on the misses. 

I suggest you do too as we are always inclined to focus on what we missed rather than all of the little wins along the way.We do have a tendency to over estimate all we can achieve, particularly in the 24 hours we get in a day!  I’m learning (slowly) that whilst we can do anything we want, we can’t do everything we want. Realising this helps me reprioritise what’s in my overly ambitious schedule to make it more manageable and realistic.So as we prepare to enter into another new year I have set my goals but I’ll also know my priorities and when things get busy (as they do) I’ll make sure I manage them, even if that means some have to get reprioritised and pushed down the list. 

The good news is the online course will be out next year and it’ll have had the time and effort put in that it so deserves which I hope brings a better product. I certainly feel like I have the energy required to put into the project now and have also learned another valuable lesson for balancing our busy over achieving schedules with what’s most important

.It’s ok to take time out, to say no, to admit something can’t be done and relook at our to do list and reprioritise.  In fact it’s often necessary to us being able to carry on effectively and not burn out, particularly at this time of year.  It’s critical we prioritise the things that matter and that we find time to look after ourselves, otherwise it’s very difficult to get anything done.

Perspective in the face of disaster

My 10th floor CBD apartment following the 7.8 magnitude earthquakeThis week has been particularly unsettling in New Zealand following the recent 7.8 earthquake, one of the largest in NZ in 150 years. It struck in the middle of the night, was followed by damage, loss of life and tsunami evacuations.

We’d gone about the usual Sunday night routine that consisted of thoughts of work Monday and the week ahead.  Things that seemed like issues and problems upon going to sleep suddenly paled into insignificance.  When something like this happens this all changes, you think about only what is important and it’s a stark reminder of what that is.  We went to bed saying we’d rather not have to get up and go to the office tomorrow, the Monday morning feeling, but had not quite imagined this.As what happened sunk in we reflected on lucky escapes – thank god we stayed at yours not my 10th floor apartment (pictured).  Concern for family overseas watching it unfolding on the news and worrying for our safety.  Realising just how much those we love mean to us.  Loved ones headed out of the door to work, with long shifts ahead and without much sleep, like so many who keep the country going in times like this and put the safety of others before their own.

Our Monday morning conversations usually about plans for the evening, what the work day looks like became emergency plans, arranging where to meet should there be a significant aftershock and phones be out.  Events like this truly put perspective about what’s important in life.  How lucky we are, how everything can change in a moment and how important it is that those we care about know and are our priority.

My 10am meeting now doesn’t seem so important, in fact it can’t have been because it won’t be happening now, nor will any other the other ‘important’ events of the day.  The conversations that were ‘what’s for tea?’ ‘have you put the bins out?’ now become ‘stay safe, I love you’ and discussions about how we’ll know each other are safe.

The work to do list that occupied my mind and seemed so important last night is now nothing more than a distant memory so the question is, was it really that important in the scheme of things?  No-one is missing it now, the world still continues to turn and the sun will come up tomorrow.  So often our worries, our concerns, our priorities are not a reflection of what really matters and events like this put perspective around this.  It also highlights all we have to be grateful for, even when that’s no power and no way of leaving the house.  I am unable to return to CBD to check on my apartment but really there’s nothing in there I couldn’t lose, not compared to my life and those I love.

But why does it take a significant event like this to underline the things we already know.  To remind us of what’s important?  Maybe we get too carried away with the busyness of life we lose touch with our perspective.  Beyond life and death there are too many things to worry about these days and it’s this that takes our thoughts, our energy, our significance.  Often at the expense of what really matters.  Maybe it’s the brush with death that brings the realisation of how small we really are and how little we do have control over a life that we try to plan down to the last detail.

The ‘what ifs’ start to circle.  What if this had been in the day time not the middle of the night, the Capital city which was deserted would have been full of people, traffic, life.  But in a few weeks we’ll have forgotten about this, buildings will be fixed up, roads cleared and life will return to normal.  Our to do lists will fill up, life will become busy and the perspective will fade.Each aftershock a stark reminder that life can change in a moments notice and no-one is immune to that.  They are also a reminder of everything this event has brought to mind, everything we should try and remind ourselves at every opportunity not just in the face of disaster.

Material things can be replaced – every single item in every cupboard fell out, the only thing that didn’t smash was one solitary wine glass.  But the things I hold dear, the things that are irreplaceable all survived and they aren’t actually things at all.

Out of tragedy comes kindness.  Seeing the events unfold and the media coverage of the worst hit areas, towns at the epicentre cut off and houses crumbling to the ground.  Out of these stories of devastation came acts of kindness; yoga studios opening with free classes, people welcoming displaced strangers into their homes, volunteers cleaning up and providing food and supplies to those who needed it.  After a few days of walking around shell shocked, on edge, with a lack of sleep and a nervous disposition life began to return to normal, people got on with it.  Buildings were fixed, the CBD cleaned up and we built a little more resilience.  We learned that we may bend but we don’t break, we get knocked down but we get up again and whilst the earth moves often in New Zealand, it always continues to turn as well.As aftershocks continue and those with lucky escapes wonder if they’ll ever be able to live in a high-rise apartment again we allow ourselves to come together. To discuss near misses, our stories and the ‘what ifs’.  Feeling the connection of a shared experience, we comfort each other, reassure and understand that it’s ok not to be ok.  Often the emotional impacts of such an event can be felt long after the structural damage is repaired. The frayed nerves, the sea sick feeling of constantly moving ground, the fear of what’s coming next, the probability of further quakes.  This all adds to the unsettled feeling that comes naturally when the solid ground you live on, your bedrock, your earth becomes so unstable.

It’s all a stark reminder that life is too short, we never know what’s around the corner and we are rarely in control no matter how many plans we have in place.  But like a glimmer of light on the horizon and the dust clears, we have so much to be grateful for.  Being alive for a start, the safety of those we love and a whole life ahead of us and whilst it may be uncertain it’s also ours to live.

6 life lessons learned from writing a book

capture

It’s on most people’s bucket lists—everyone has a book inside them, waiting to be written.

It’s such a big task though, where do we start? That’s why so many great books just stay inside people’s heads, unwritten.I loved writing poetry as a kid, but these days, my writing skills are utilized more in the form of reports, emails and letters to staff. I was just about to quit my corporate job because I was unhappy, but I wasn’t sure what else I was going to do. I decided to take a year off to fix a life that had recently fallen apart and rebuild it into something that vaguely resembled happiness.I set off around the world to live my dreams, to do all the things that made my heart sing and discover my passion. I trained to be a yoga teacher, visited many countries and experienced different cultures. I studied mindfulness and meditation and I volunteered, teaching English to Buddhist monks. I learned a lot about life and so much about myself and what it takes to create our own happiness.Along the way I wrote—more for my own needs than anything else. I loved what I was learning and took notes as I went. This newly found wisdom, plus my own personal transformation, became a powerful message I wanted to share with others—and by the end of that year I was a blogger.But a full-fledged author? That was another step—maybe one too far. I’d never really thought about it before, but as the notes piled up, I almost felt like there could be a book there. For a few months, I wrote in secret, before I was comfortable telling people about my dream. I’d never considered myself an author before, but here it was an actual book that I had written.I overhauled my life and learned so much in the transformation, I wanted to share my story. What started off as my own personal writing therapy became something that now inspires others on similar journeys of self discovery. But as I wrote a book to share lessons I’d learned, the process itself taught me a host of other lessons too.https://youtu.be/L-nGXE33LesAdvice for life and how to make the best of it from a writer.  Read the full post here

Take the risk, face your fears

Capture

I’ve always had a tendency to play it safe. For many years, there were lots of things I liked the idea of doing, but the effort required go outside my comfort zone stopped me.

When I sat and thought about the risks involved and all the what-ifs associated, I always wimped out.So this left me conforming to the norm, living a life others expected of me and generally putting my dreams on hold so that I could remain safe and comfortable. Except it wasn’t comfortable, I was unhappy and deeply unfulfilled and only when the cost of standing still exceed the cost of change did I finally get more comfortable with the idea of taking the risk and heading into the unknown.I left a long-term relationship that I’d outgrown, I quit my soul-crushing corporate job and I traveled overseas on my own to see the world and learn about facing risks.The risk of leaving a secure relationship and being on my own for the first time in many years filled me with doubt—what if this was as good as it got? What if I end up single forever? I’m getting older now, all my friends have settled down and started families, maybe I’ll get left on the shelf?One of the most difficult things was the risk I took turning my back on an 11-year career, a well-paying job without any qualifications to do anything else. I ran the risk of running out of money, being unemployed and becoming homeless. It had been the security of my 9 to 5 pay check that kept me stuck in a job I didn’t enjoy for many years, scared of exactly these risks.But I took the risk, I spent a year doing what I loved, I trained to be a yoga teacher, travelled, wrote a book and fueled my passions. I created a life I loved and whilst it wasn’t always rosy, I wouldn’t go back and change it.So now, a couple of years down the track, you’d think I’d be used to taking risks, having faced the music, navigated the tough times and still remained happy. Surely risk taking is now within my comfort zone? Not so much.Click here to read the full article and my top tips on how we face our fears and take the risk

Mindfulness for Change

picRecently I attended a Mindfulness retreat, this is not unusual I have been to many but this was different. It was a Hui set up by Mindfulness for Change to bring together those in the Mindfulness community and discuss how we might work together to create change. I was excited but also a little apprehensive and not sure what to expect. Torn between the relaxed anticipation of a retreat and the less relaxed prospect of having to do some work and contribute something intelligent!We arrived at Riverslea Retreat in Otaki in darkness after the Friday night traffic from Wellington and the end of a long week. Immediately I noticed how many people there were, so many strangers I’d not met yet and the introvert within my groaned. At the same time I was torn between wanting to get to know these like-minded souls, learn from them and connect with them but not overjoyed at the prospect of having to make an effort to interact and socialise with so many strangers. Usually I’m perfectly content to retreat into my shell, meditate in solitude and appreciate the natural environment I found myself in on a rare trip out of the city. In fact it’s one of the things I love about retreats!The set up was interesting; 40 people crammed together inside as the rain beat down around us, only 2 showers to share and bunk rooms shared with 8 others. I reflected with a new friend that this would usually be the recipe for a social disaster on the scale of the Big Brother house as all human emotions, frustrations and personalities clash with dramatic effect. But not here. Surrounded by so many compassionate, considerate individuals the kindness was evident. People held doors open, smiled, hugged one another on greeting, queued patiently for food and offered up their seats. Trust and respect was evident but we didn’t even know one another. Is this a recipe for how a new society could be born, I thought?The room seemed full of such happy people who believe there is hope and that people are good and the world can work, despite being acutely aware that it’s currently a bit broken. It’s not that these people had privileged lives or a life without problems. In fact each shared moving stories of their own challenges, grief and difficulties in life. From struggling to belong and fit it, losing loved ones, battles with health and lives turned upside down yet each had emerged with a compassionate heart, a love for human kind and a wish to do good in the world.What amazed me most was the mix of ages, gender, backgrounds and the impact this had on our collective ideas and conversations. A room where doctors sat alongside yoga teachers, psychologists alongside students. We were all so different yet uniquely the same as well. The combination of youthful hope and excitement with the experience and wisdom of others was inspiring. I was humbled by the gratitude everyone showed for the presence of others and the acknowledgement that everybody present brought something to the table.I had always put Mindfulness down to changing my life as if it made me a different person. But what I now know is that, the person was there all along and is in all of us. Life was like this all along I’m just seeing through new eyes, like a fog has lifted. I feel aware, awake and alive and incidentally that’s Mindfulness in a nutshell.It turns out I loved the combination of stimulating discussion with silent reflection time. The ability to connect with others but also to go inwards and connect with ourselves. I learned more about Mindfulness but also about myself. In fact the self-awareness and reflection was just as important as the acquired wisdom from the conversations and experience.I also learned something new about how we connect with others. By the time the weekend was up I had formed such strong bonds with people I’d barely spoken to. This connection to people was beyond speaking, a deep connection in a short space of time united by common goals and similar values. An environment of trust where some shared things even their friends did not know. It touched my heart to witness such an outpouring of emotion but a groundswell of support made possible by the environment of non-judgement and compassion.When it was time to leave and many hugs had been exchanged with new special friends and plans for action and future progress were written up on the walls. Back in the outside world I feel oddly calm and centred as if something has shifted. Excited about the future and full of hope that there are good people in the world. As I walked back through the city towards my apartment I saw an argument and a road rage incident and wondered why can’t all people be like this? And then I realise they are. Compassion is within us all it’s just buried a bit deeper in some. Mindfulness is how we set about uncovering that in each other and reconnecting with what matters.Mindfulness for Change is for people who want to contribute to a mindful, compassionate, flourishing society so that together we can help co-create true social and environmental change.Interested in getting involved; check out the facebook page

Advice for Life

CaptureAdvice for LifeLife seems so hard these days and often like it’s spiraled out of our control.  It shouldn’t be this hard, I’d love more time to do the things I enjoy, there’s so much to worry about and so much other stuff that needs doing.It’s almost as though we’re stuck on a treadmill that someone else controls and we can’t seem to get off.  Does any of this sound familiar?  Many of us leave our homes and families every day to go out and earn a living but how many of us actually make a life as well?I spent the last 3 years of my life rebuilding what I thought I knew about how life worked to find the way to creating a life I love.  Not with a lotto win or a soul mate but in my ordinary day to day, working 9-5, living alone, paying the bills, general ‘real life’ stuff but in a way that felt good, where I had time to do the things that mattered and could live in a way that nourished my soul.Growing up I wished I’d been offered some advice for life but instead I figured this out through my experiences and sought out those who could help me learn.  From my personal journey and the resulting book,  here’s my advice for life:Read my 9 tips on advice for life with the full article here https://www.personalgrowth.com/9-pieces-of-advice-for-life/

Happiness Life Hacks

12661808_965565320158288_1820903136093652989_nLife seems complicated these days.  We’re all busy pursuing happiness, yet how many of us ever reach that goal?Success, money, and busyness are top of our priority list, yet deep in our hearts we’d prefer time, love, and security.It’s the age of making a living, but perhaps at the cost of making a life.  What really makes us happy, and how do we find it?Read the full article; here and watch the video blog here

How to be beautiful

sunflower fields

Beauty isn’t about having a pretty face. It’s about having a pretty mind, kind heart and most importantly a beautiful soul.

Watch the video blog How to be Beautiful hereIn today’s society body image is given such importance, fuelled by the media it fuels worries from guys and girls in their teens right through to middle age. The media present us with unrealistic expectations of body image that we’ll never achieve. Much of what we see has been airbrushed and perfected until it’s no longer possible to recreate naturally. We are being set up to fail.It often leads to self doubt, lack of confidence and not feeling good enough. Our obsession with self image can often get in the way of self love which is critical to our happiness. So many of us want to change our body in some way or dislike what we see in the mirror. Even when those around us think we look fine and perhaps envy the very bits we’re wanting to trade! It’s all relative, if you’re size 18 you may envy a size 14 yet they are envying size 10’s and even they are envying someone smaller/prettier than them! It may also be true that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, what we dislike, others can love. Like art or music, we all have different tastes. Some of us prefer brown eyes, others blue but really it’s less about the colour of the eyes and more about what they tell us when we look into them.As far back as I can remember in my teens I was conscious of how I looked. I was short, ‘stocky’ as my grandad would say. My thighs were too big, my nose stuck out, I never felt comfortable in heels and I had a constant battle with my weight, even though most of the time my weight was fine! It wasn’t until I matured I began to realise there’s so much more to it than this. All those things I’d spent hours agonising over and trying to change ignoring the positives within just because they were not as visible. Throughout school I wanted to be like the pretty girls but as we’ve all aged some may not be as pretty anymore and those things on the surface that I’ve worried about for so long have changed over time and will continue to do so. The difference is my acceptance of who I am and the comfort in my own skin, what ever that looks like because it feels good.It sounds like a cliché “your beauty is on the inside” but think about it. We’ve all met people who look good on the outside but as soon as they speak we take an instant dislike to them, based on the fact that if they are unattractive on the inside we see they are not beautiful at all. Our beauty does not lie in what we can see. As people we have inner beauty, our bodies are just a container for our soul, this is the bit that matters and it doesn’t appear in magazines, it is not vain and it does not need plastic surgery.You know that body that we obsess over so much, the one we put so much of our time and effort into trying to look beautiful. The workouts, the clothes, the beauty products, the diets. The constant worry that we’re too round, not tanned enough. The comparison to others who seem to always be fitter, slimmer and better in some way. The worry that eating that piece of cake might just mean that extra pound we’re trying to shift will stay put – yes that body!Well it’s going to change and it’s not always going to look like this and for some, this may be the best it ever ‘looks’! This is true of everyone, even the rich and famous age. But why do we worry? It is after all just our body. It is not our kindness, our love, our courage, our empathy. It is not our intellect, our strength, our creativity or our wisdom. All the things that make us special and all the things that really make us beautiful.Do you know when you look most beautiful? Regardless of if you’ve just stepped off the beach or you’re dressed to kill? It’s when you’re comfortable in your own skin, accepting of yourself, at home with who you are and this is evident whether we are in our jeans and t-shirt or our Sunday best, without the hair cut, the make up the fake tan or anything else on the surface, it comes from within and is a deep unmistakable beauty.If this is not yet your current state then stop worrying about all the things you’re not and start celebrating all that you are. There are people out there that love you, probably for reasons you don’t even know. Often they see what we don’t, our inner beauty.We should look after our bodies, yes, this is a measure of our self respect. This means loving what we have, treating it right, feeding it well and resting it often. After all it is the container for what is most important and most beautiful about us all. Our soul, our essence, the parts of us that make us the person we are.

Success: reach your potential

Click here to see the newsletter in full; Newsletter April 2016We’re capable of more than we thinkI hope you’ve been able to enjoy some rest over the Easter break. Life always seems so busy and we achieve so much yet so often we under estimate our abilities and this stops us reaching our potential.We feel we might just be too ordinary to achieve great things yet those who succeed begin as ordinary people, the difference is they realise their potential, the potential that is within all of us because nobody is really just ordinaryI was stuck in a life I needed to change but frozen by fear; of the unknown, of failure. What if I’m just not good enough to realise these crazy dreams that live inside my head? But by taking small steps towards my goals and changing my life to revolve around my passions and authenticity, I discovered extra ordinary things I’d never thought I was capable of.Never stop dreaming and don’t put limits on what we can achieve. “Inside every ordinary person there is extraordinary potential”Quote2Recent InspirationUnleash your hero within [click to view] No-body is just an ordinary person, realise your potential [read now]5 ways to tap into your inner wisdom [read now]When it gets tough, how not to give up on your dreams [read now] Disconnecting to reconnect [click to view] How to stay sane in a crazy world [read now] Be in with a chance to win a free e-copy of my book to gift to a friend by leaving a review on Amazon http://amzn.com/1504343816book stubs  

How to stay sane in a crazy world

Calm-Woman“You can’t calm the storm so stop trying. What you can do is calm yourself and the storm will pass.” ~Timber HawkeyeAfter another driver pulled out in front of me and narrowly missed a collision, I put on my brakes and waited for the car to stop. As the other driver sailed off ahead of me, my hysterical passenger screamed, “What an idiot! Didn’t you see him? Why didn’t you blast the horn? These people shouldn’t be on the road!”I realized my reaction, or lack of reaction, was out of the ordinary, and I also noticed that despite the circumstance I had remained equanimous—I hadn’t let it disturb my peace of mind.I wasn’t angry with the driver, my blood pressure hadn’t increased, and no damage had been done. I was at peace.It hadn’t always been this way. I inherited a short fuse from my dad (at least, that’s the excuse I used for years).Imagine a day where very little upsets you and in the face of annoyances you just sail through, calm, peaceful, and happy? It may seem like an impossibility, but when I look at where I was and where I am now, I can assure you it’s not.It’s a long journey, it doesn’t happen overnight, and like with everything it takes practice.Before I could do anything about controlling them, the first step was just to notice them. I spent a long time at this point prior to progressing! But with awareness comes progress and just noticing the emotions arise is a huge step in the right direction. I used to think it was an unattainable goal. I’d look at monks and nuns being zen and think, Well surely it’s easy to be zen if you live on a mountain top away from the world. But as one old monk (who looked very young) told me, while they may not have the outside pressures like traffic jams, shopping, and emails to test their equanimity, they still have human internal pressures.He explained to me about his separation from his mother when he was a young child, living through a war, the death of his brother, and his overcoming cancer. There’s enough there to make any human mind an unpeaceful place!Our minds are so precious and powerful it makes sense we should keep them as peaceful as possible. Not only does it impact on our mood, our relationships, and our effectiveness, but also our health.Imagine how different life could be if the ups and downs and little annoyances didn’t affect us anymore, if our brains were trained to not react, not suppressing anger but not having the to need to supress it.Imagine what a different place the world would be if we could all learn equanimity. Well, be the change you want to see and start today! Bringing stillness to our mind also brings peace, and when we are at peace nothing disturbs our equanimity.Watch the video blog here and read the article in full at Tiny Buddha

Uncover your inner wisdom & live a life that feels great

20160210_143542_resized5 ways to hear what your heart’s sayingFor a long time I never even knew my heart had a voice. I’d make logical ‘head’ decisions but was always wondering why I never felt fulfilled. I would pursue promotions up the corporate ladder even though my true passion was in health and wellness. I thought earning more money would make up for the lack of life I was able to lead. I chose to work late in stead of go to the gym, I slept in at weekends in stead of spending time with my partner and I worried about what people would think if for one minute I doubted that this norm was in fact anything but!I was too busy to spend time in stillness and life was too noisy for me to be able to hear and if I could hear I was sure I’d have listened. I preferred distracts, entertainment and anything really that kept me from being alone with my thoughts. The way my thoughts would haunt me when I paid them any attention made me think this was not a nice place to be, so for a long time I avoided it.It’s only since a regular meditation practice and many retreats later that I’ve adjusted to stillness, silence and being alone with myself and it’s now I can see the benefits this has brought. In the stillness I began to hear things, either I was going mad or I’d found my inner voice!I guess it’d been there the whole time, probably saying the same stuff, it’s just that I’d never given myself the opportunity to hear it, much less listen to its wisdom. Our inner voice, our intuition, it knows stuff. Decisions that come from the heart and the very core of who you are and what you want rather than the logic and expectation that can preside in our heads; what will people think, what if it’s wrong, what if I can’t do it? All those lenses that we so often put across our thoughts suddenly are replaced with an inner knowing, beyond thought, beyond logic. It feels so right it can’t be wrong and if it’s in sync with our deepest desires and comes from our hearts then generally it’s not wrong.Read the rest of the article and the top 5 tips hereHow life feels is more important than how it looksI’d built a life around what success should look like and I’d got my house by the beach, the promotion and settled down with my partner but whilst life looked great from the outside inside was a different story. I wanted more from life so I let go of everything that didn’t make me happy and went in search of what would.It takes courage to make sweeping changes and transform our life and often it’s not until things get too bad to bare that we’re forced into the required transformational steps. Whilst I’d put myself on the right track, it wasn’t all a bed of roses. Sometimes it has to get worse before it can get better.Within a year I was single, jobless and homeless at 32, life couldn’t have been more different but for the first time it felt good. It probably looked like a complete disaster from the outside though! Queuing up at the job centre, cleaning toilets in an ashram, house sitting because I couldn’t afford rent. But at the same time teaching yoga, spending time with family, taking walks on the beach, writing a book and getting to do what I loved everyday.I thought once you followed your calling the universe had it covered, wasn’t this supposed to be easy. I was doing what I loved but it felt like such hard work. I didn’t get much support because most people thought I was crazy, I sometimes wondered myself! Some days I’d be consumed by fear and self doubt, this was new territory, the unknown and I wasn’t sure if I was really up to it.Then came by biggest lesson; it’s not about how life looks, it about how it feels. Everything happens for our greater good and where we are is where we’re meant to be, the tough times were my lessons. Without failure I could never have learned what I needed to know for success. I learned a lot of lessons from that time.So often in todays society our focus is on how life looks. What car we drive, what street we live in, our job title, if we can get a promotion, sending our kids to the right school or just simply the clothes we wear and the supermarket we shop at. And this is further fuelled by comparison to what other people’s lives look like, when we try and keep up with the Joneses. It’s too easy to get carried away living a life according to what looks good, but what use is this unless it also feels good. If we are working more hours so that we can take five star holidays and shop at the designers stores but we’d rather be finishing work early to spend time with our kids aren’t we missing the point?Read the full article hereAnd for when times do get tough, how do we continue to strive and not give up on our dreams?  Read the latest blog the answers that here