Today I wept for women

“Women are going to form a chain, a greater sisterhood than the world has ever known.”
― Nellie L. McClung

“Because there’’s one thing stronger than magic: sisterhood.”
― Robin Benway,

“There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”
― Madeleine K. Albright

I sat in a weaving circle today and wept with joy for the sacred space that was created. I wept with understanding and acknowledgement of the simple but powerful message taught. I wept too for the lack of such an ancient practice in my life and the desire to seek and create opportunities for more.

Women’s circles have been the basis of many cultures and traditions around the world and throughout history. For centuries women came together, in circle, to share and learn and support each other. It is a place for finding out about the world and your own nature. In circle women are united as equals for a common purpose.  Today’s purpose was to learn to weave.

Our vibrant and wise teacher, Hannah Gutchen taught us a lightning weave. Using a strip of coconut palm we wove and folded each leaf over and behind the spine to create a stunning pattern. One leaf began as the leader, the other the follower. Then the roles reversed so the follower became the leader and the leader the follower and this became the gentle flow of creating our lightening pattern.  We quickly learnt the traditional way of utilising both hands throughout the weaving process so no hand was dominant or favoured but both used equally.  On establishing the circle Hannah told us we were all leaders and followers.  We all had responsibility for watching out for the women either side of us, to work together and ensure no one was left behind.

The idea that one does not nor, perhaps, should not always be a leader or a follower was suggested and we pondered the wisdom in that. Ideas flowed and were shared unself-consciously.  The conversation, like our weaving, took on a rhythm of its own. I was quite struck by the ease with which we slipped into it.

What an honour it was to sit with a group of women and develop so quickly a bond where each works with the other and checks in on the other.  Where conversation and support were so freely and generously given. It got me thinking about the incredible power women have to heal and nurture. I lament that many of us have lost sight of the power of sisterhood.  Too often I observe women competing with each other and disregarding each other through selfish choices. Imagine what could be achieved if women sat beside each other and built each other up instead of tearing each other down. Imagine what could be achieved if women united and honoured each other rather than taking from each other. Imagine if we could heal our individual wounds by taking up ancient practices. Imagine if we re-established practices where we helped each other reignite our dimmed inner lights ― how bright the combined luminosity would be.

I believe if we regained the ability to sit and talk and use metaphor as was taught in today’s weaving circle we would connect with each other better as well as reconnect with nature on a different level. If we could come together as communities rather than consumers we could make a difference and save this planet and ourselves in the process.

A year of inspiration: Inspired by First Nations artists Hannah Gutchen and Maryann Talia Pau and the One Million Stars to End Domestic Violence project.

Samoan-Australian artist and practising weaver Maryann Talia Pau is the founder of the One Million Stars to End Violence project and co-founder of the Pacific Women’s Weaving Circle. Hannah Gutchen, is a Torres Strait Islander traditional weaver and artist currently practising in Brisbane. Gutchen has been passed down sacred knowledge of creative practices that inspire self-expression, self-healing, sharing culture and connecting stories.

 

 

 

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Journaling – an everyday ritual performed everyday

I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn. Anne Frank

There is something enriching about watching the sunrise and set. There is a sense of wholeness to a day when you witness both the sunrise and the sunset of a single day. To top and tail each day and create a deeper sense of wholeness, I have introduced a daily ritual that has been as enriching as seeing the rising and setting of the sun. I guess you could call it journalling.

Journalling conjures thoughts of laborious daily entries and the need for a descent amount of uninterrupted time. This daily ritual is not an arduous or lengthy practice. It’s an everyday ritual that devotes some intentional consideration and reflection at the beginning and end of each day and takes no more than five minutes at each sitting.

I began in mid December. Feeling gloomy, a lack of connection and a general malaise that had no root in the physical body I knew I was not feeding my spirit. Beginning at the end of the year I hoped to make my new ritual a devotional practice, one that would treat the symptoms and cure the ailing spirit and help me to begin the new year much improved.

The foundation of my journalling is based on the Five Minute Journal. Each morning I identify three things I am grateful for, three things that will make the day great and I write three affirmations for the day. At the end of the day, before bed, I list three great things that happened during the day and three ways I could have made the day better (I love this accountability and reflection).

Since the new year began I have included a couple of extras. Each morning I read the daily slip from You are a Badass calendar, gifted to me by my son for Christmas (I so love his endearing encouragement of me). Often times the calendar provides inspiration for my affirmations.

I include a short tarot reading in the morning or draw an oracle card. This part is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea, though for me it’s part of stepping back into ritual and reconnecting with my intuition again.

Why I like this morning and evening ritual.

Gratitude: – even when things seem bleak there is always something, even if it’s small, to be grateful for. I find this raises my spirits immensely.

Making a great day:- listing several things that would make the day great establishes an expectation that inspires action.  It also means that even though not everything may go as planned, if those small things you list are achieved, it’s been a day well lived. I like the sense of achievement that comes with this. I haven’t focused so much on making sure everything on my list is achieved but bonus points if they are.

Affirming yourself:- there is much written about affirmations that speak to their potential. I am currently enjoying this practice because it helps me to fill my head with positive thoughts. We reap what we focus our intention on. My head easily fogs up with the negative so spending time with positive intention is good for me mentally and spiritually.

Acknowledging the greatness in the day:- it’s like gratitude. Finding three good things in the day salvages even the hardest day. It elevates the heart and the mind.

Accepting responsibility:- this is awesome. It is easy to blame others or just file the day away as being shitty but when you reflect on how you could have made it better it sets you up to do better another day or in similar situations or, if you had no control over anything that happened, this part of the ritual helps you realise you can do something to make things good for you – it could have been to go out for a walk, drink more water, eat a healthier lunch.

Added bonus:-I was interested to learn the practice of journalling can improve your physical wellbeing by strengthening immune cells, decreasing symptoms of several common ailments and reducing stress. So far I am finding this daily ritual a pleasing practice.   I look forward to it each day and I will be interested in a month or so to read back over my entries to see if common threads appear.

Journalling – an everyday ritual performed everyday. Have you tried it?

 

A year of inspiration: Inspired by Tim Ferriss and The Five Minute Journal

Inspired by ritual – setting an intention that welcomes mystery and wonder

Inspired – Of external quality, as if arising from some external impulse.

Inspired. That’s my word for the year. It came to me on a hike across the top of the Blue Mountains on New Year’s Day.

Selecting a word of intention, of direction, guidance or positivity as a focus was once an annual ritual of mine. I can’t remember when I let the habit slip. Perhaps it was several years ago that I selected a word and it trickled through my fingers like sand and was forgotten. Thanks to my friend Gay, from Create, I was reminded of this lovely New Year ritual and was overjoyed when the word came to me while out in the Australian bush.

With the beating sun upon me, cicadas chirruping above and the open track ahead, I mulled over possible words. Productive came to mind instantly. I pondered, “would I set myself up for more of the same? Could the intention here see me manic and stressed, as I had been in 2017, refusing to rest?” It didn’t feel quite right. Purposeful rose up as a butterfly hovered across my path. That’s a good word. I have always wanted to live a life of purpose and authenticity. Grace, I’d selected before. Ease rated a mention. To glide through life with a sense of ease would be delightful. Words alighted momentarily, like the butterflies, then flittered away. I was not perturbed. I walked on, the intention still in mind.

Then it came to me – inspired. This year my intention is to be inspired. This word is a guiding light, it will help me navigate the way forward even in the heaviest fog. After a hiatus; a time of feeling adrift, bored, directionless. A time of isolation and limited social contact I felt a new energy and desire to move on. Inspired is perfect for me now. After many years of being goal driven and focused the last several years have seen me beached. I’ve found it hard to identify the niggling need inside me, I’ve found it hard to know what direction to take, what action to fill the gaping hole, how to satisfy a tormented mind and itchy fingers. I’ve been on the edges of a terrifying chasm and longed to step back but wasn’t sure how.

The lack of ritual tore the chasm wider. Routine helped a little but too much structure only made me more rigid. Something was missing. There was no mystery or magic. No celebration of belief or faith. Selecting a word for the year is a step away from the edge and a return to myself. It’s also trusting the universe, a higher power.

Establishing this word for the year ritual allows me to drop the resolutions, the need to create lists I won’t refer to and the anxiety from not ticking things off the list. A single word sets a positive intention. It encapsulates how I want to feel and what I want to experience in the year ahead.

There is no one way to choose a word. I let mine float up on it’s own. I will either meditate or go for a walk with the question – ‘what might my word for the year be?’ You might make a list or do a search for positive words or adjectives, find a theme or link among the words and then identify one word that sums up a particular theme. You might spend several days simply noticing what words stand out as you go about your daily tasks. Thoughts about how you want to feel or not feel can help. Sometimes the way we don’t want to feel is a good pointer to identifying our true north. For instance, if you keep feeling bored perhaps your word might be inspired or capable or inventive. Look at the goals you want to achieve. How would you sum them up – aligned, bountiful, complete?

I am keen to see where this year’s word and all it’s connotations take me. I am excited to see where inspiration arises and the form it will take. Do you select a word for the year to live by, to focus on, to lean on? Do you have an alternate ritual that acts as a compass to steer you toward the mystery and magic of life?

 

A year of inspiration. Inspired by Gay Landetta, 

Finding your true north in a crowded world

Ritual is the passage way of the soul into the infinite.   Algernon Blackwood

In our society many of the old rituals have lost much of their power. New ones have not yet arisen.    R.D. Laing

Each year it’s the same. The new year rolls around and the tabloids and media are brimming with the latest trends, top ten things to help you get fit, be happier, smarter, more likeable. What we really need is less input. What we really need is less information, fewer overwhelming statistics, fewer fads to follow, superfoods to eat or workouts to try. What we really need is some simple rituals.

Rituals? I don’t mean dancing around naked under a full moon. Though you could if you were inclined. I refer to small practices that hold meaning for us. Small truths we can return to daily, weekly or when needed to replenish us. Practices or customs that allow us to step away from the constant focus on the physical and material. Everyday rituals act as compass points that bring us back to ourselves, not our personas as mother, executive, fitness fanatic. But truths that help us shrug off all the labels and hats we wear and remind us of who we are under the layers of societal silt. Small, everyday rituals allow us to settle into our skin and know who we are.

I have written before about the void a lack of religion has created in our daily lives. Many of us would not recognise or admit this. But I believe the constant seeking, looking for more, trying to have more, be more, do more is a result of a shift in our society away from community, ritual and ceremony. If you aren’t particularly interested in returning to dogma inspired worship you can enrich life with some everyday rituals.

Ritual is not to be confused with routine. We have routines that help stave off chaos: we rise and eat breakfast at the same time each day, we catch the bus from the nearest bus stop, and we go to the gym or yoga on certain days of the week. Routines keep us on track and make us feel in control. Routines provide structure and order and allow everything to run like clockwork. Routine is good; it reduces decision-making and ensures things get done. It can also strangle and constrain. Rituals, while also offering a stabilising anchor in the craziness of an overcrowded life, are gentler, less rigid and bring a sense of mystery and, dare I say, magic to life.

Ritual strengthens me spiritually. You may prefer to think of ritual as providing a sense of belonging and stabilisation. Ritual brings the beauty of life back into focus. Ritual reconnects us with the natural world, the inner world and rewards us in ways status, money and the latest HIIT workout cannot. In essence, ritual provides time out from daily routine, it helps us re-evaluate our path and provides us with ways to author our own lives.

Certainly some rituals may become habits and thus thought of as routines but the distinction is always there. Rising early to watch the sunrise could become a habit but the ritual comes from being present and enjoying the sights, sounds and the emotion of the moment. Soaking in a bubble bath each Friday could become a routine but the ritual comes with the intention for the week’s worries and stress to recede as the bubbles pop. Other everyday rituals might include investing in our loved ones by setting the table, serving a meal without television, phones or distractions but a focus on conversation and listening. Lighting a candle on the anniversary of a loved one’s passing. These small practices enrich us.

Like many, I suffer when my inner world is ignored. I love tarot, astrology and psychic stuff. I am also a realist. I work in the mainstream, need to address people in a range of settings so I understand and respect conventional societal norms and boundaries. I don’t have the luxury of casting off and living atop a mountain to brew my potions and commune with the elements daily, though I am invested in developing spiritually because it makes me whole points me toward my true north. With this in mind I’ll share a couple of rituals I have been practicing in the following posts that aren’t too ‘woo woo’ or freaky that help create balance in a crowded, information driven world.  Do you have some you could share?

A year of inspiration. Inspired by: Sunday Telegraph January 7, 2018

Pass the popcorn ― how to have more fun

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It’s crazy, waiting for the universe to knock on the door and offer fulfilment on a platter.  ― Shannyn Steel

If there’s one thing I learned, it’s that nobody is here forever. You have to live for the moment, each and every day . . . the here, the now.”    ― Simone Elkeles

I’ve been marking time. Waiting for something to happen. Waiting for something to change. Waiting to find the thing that would propel me into the joyful, purposeful life I’d hoped for. Toward the end of last year the penny dropped and I suddenly understood what I already knew but wasn’t able to acknowledge. It’s crazy waiting for the universe to knock on the door and offer fulfilment on a platter.

After all that waiting I’ve finally twigged that the trick to this whole fulfilment thing is to get out there and do stuff that I want more of in life. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

A startling discovery, made as a result of this brain wave, is that the one thing I want more of in my life right now is not time, not spiritual connection, not more authentic relationships, though that would be nice too. What I want more of in my life right now is fun. Yes, fun. Now don’t get me wrong. My life is not devoid of enjoyment. There are plenty of things that bring me joy; spotting a flower dewy with raindrops; the smell, texture and colour of soggy leaves on the forest floor after a thunderstorm; the smell of freshly cut grass and the sound of kookaburras laughing from the great pine tree in my neighbour’s yard. Those things and more fill me with joy. I also have many pleasant ways to pass the time that would constitute enjoyment too. Long strolls on the beach, reclining with a good book, baking a batch of cookies for my beloved’s lunch. Those things are enjoyable to me. What I’m after is in a whole different category.

Fun to me is more outrageous than enjoyment. It’s buzzy and exciting and perhaps more “in the moment” rather than a slow burn. Do you see the difference?

I have begun gathering a list of big fun and little fun activities in earnest.  Big fun activities are those that may cost a bit of money and require a little planning like indoor skydiving, parasailing, swinging on a trapeze. Little fun is something that could be undertaken on the spur of the moment, is relatively inexpensive and something that could raise the fun factor on any given day. Such as jumping on a swing in the local park and throwing your head back to drink in the sky.

Maybe you’d like to do the same. As ideas come to mind they could be written on a piece of paper, thrown into a big bowl with the intention of pulling an idea from the ‘popcorn’ bowl to infuse life with fun.  I’m going to experience ‘popcorn’ fun weekly and plan big fun, depending on the scale of it, monthly or quarterly. Oh, and I am going to scheduled those big fun activities to give me something to look forward to and to ensure having more  fun becomes a reality rather than a hope, wish or a dream.

Here are some popcorn fun ideas my friend Margaret, a kid at heart who  hasn’t lost sight of how much fun life can be, shared with me to start filling the bowl. I hope you get some ideas to add to your list.

Build a sandcastle or mermaid on the beach.
Water pistol shooting
Play SNAP (the card game)
Bubble blowing
Slide on a flying fox
Chew bubble gum and pop it.
Watch a funny cartoon
Singing in the shower
Dancing nude under the moon
Walk barefooted to the park
Feed the birds
Read Dr Seuss aloud
Pull weird faces and take pictures to replay
Walk on stilts
Dress up as a chicken
Three legged race
Sand dune sliding on cardboard

The magic of mornings

You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine. ~John C. Maxwell

I’ve been interested to learn about the morning routines of various entrepreneurs from as far-reaching backgrounds as science, fitness, entertainment and politics. All of these high-flying high achievers have a ritual they perform daily that sets them up for a winning day. Many of these morning routines have some common features such as meditation or focus time, movement, journalling and healthy eating.

My well long-standing morning routine has suffered some neglect of late and slipped into a regrettably haphazard, hit and miss, come what may state. I feel the lack of it weighing on me like a heavy wet cloak. Determined to reinstate my winning beginning to each day I have distilled my leanings, reflected on what has worked for me in the past and considered some new ideas.  My intended routine is fairly simple, it’s nothing ground breaking or earth shattering; I don’t have a cryogenic chamber or cold water plunge pool like Tony Robbins (though I could just take a cold shower to boost my immunity though I’m not terribly excited by this water torture technique), nor am I going to be as obsessive as Beethoven was in counting out precisely 60 beans of coffee for his morning java.

First thought:  On waking and before opening my eyes my first thought is always one of thanks and gratitude for another day on this wonderful planet. Test the difference between holding a thought of gratitude and holding one of wishing to sleep longer, being bummed the alarm has gone off, cranky it’s a work day.

Meditation: Always before this step I clean my teeth and wash my face. It just doesn’t feel right to settle into a meditation without having cleansed in some way. I’m not a great meditator but I do enjoy the peace it brings me, even if I spend only 10 minutes in this state.

Journalling: My journalling usually falls out of my meditation practice.  Thoughts and insights that have arisen in that time are written down. Sometimes I draw an tarot or oracle card to provide some guidance or insight for the day ahead or an issue I am facing and journal a stream of consciousness piece that arises from that stimulus.  I have explored Julia Cameron’s morning pages idea and engaged in that regularly for a period of time. Now, though, I am keen to explore some new ideas with regard to my morning journalling that include a focus on gratitude, guidance and intent. Check out the five minute journal.

How do you think you’d feel if you began your day by identifying three things you were grateful for, reading a poignant quote, piece of poetry or spiritual guidance and zeroing in on one thing that must be accomplished in the day? Would you feel more present? Mindful? Full of intent? I’m going to experiment to see what impact it has.

Movement: My steady yoga practice stagnated and died a slow and agonising death when my enthusiasm waned in the absence of a much-needed injection of new inspiration and stimulation. Sadly, my yoga mat languishes in a dusty corner.  I wish to reclaim my morning movement regime, my body is demanding it and my mind needs it, so I am going to experiment with a combination of yoga, stretching and brain gym.  Rather than leap back into a full on hour  and a half Ashtanga yoga practice I will commit to a half hour session of whatever postures feel right combined with some strength training exercises such as basic push ups, sit ups, squats and isometrics, along with some brain gym movements.

I avidly used Braingym routines many years ago in classrooms to increase student performance and focus.  I’ve begun using these again recently and I am keen to pull out my books and charts to refresh my memory to contribute to a vital and healthy morning practice.

How long will all this take? That’s the million dollar question isn’t it? How early does one begin, how much time should one commit to a morning routine? I don’t believe there are any rules. People’s morning routines vary in length from 10 minutes to 90 minutes and longer.  When rethinking my morning routines I allocated 20 minutes to meditation and journalling and 40 minutes to an hour for movement. An hour forty sounds like a lot of time before heading off to work at 7am when showering, dressing and eating breakfast all need to be achieved before walking out the door. Being an early riser helps but a more realistic estimation may be 10 minutes, give or take a few, allocated to the first two areas and then 30 minutes for movement. That’s definitely achievable while allowing room for expansion as the need and desire arise.  To be honest, I don’t think it matters how much time you commit, and I don’t believe you need to be rigid in following each step faithfully each day. Joy in life comes from being flexible and open to spontaneous redirection. Five focused minutes of setting your intention for the day is better than rolling out of bed, eyes half closed, mindlessly and robotically beginning the daily grind.

How might a more focused start to your day change your life?

 

The great human endeavour

purpose

You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.  Albert Camus

Have you noticed a preoccupation with discovering the meaning of life? Meaning making is a great human endeavour. We witness people go on soul journeys, sea changes or pilgrimages to discover themselves and their place in the world, to seek answers and meaning.  We hunger to be part of something. There exists a gnawing unrelenting need when we lack community, a sense of belonging and purpose. The sense that life is meaningless could be the most desolate of thoughts. Desolate is the one who finds themselves alone, unattached, adrift in life.

This phenomenon, I imagine, has always existed though there seems to me to be an intensification in recent times, a swell of seekers.  My limited view and observations lead me to believe this is a side effect borne mainly by those in western cultures. Could it be due to a lack of traditions, of ritual, of religion, of an intimacy and belief in story and myth? Professor of sociology, John Carroll suggests there is an emerging poverty in western cultures due to a move away from myth.

Myths have been central to all cultures. I recently listened to Saga Land, a radio podcast by Richard Fidler, about the Icelandic sagas. These stories have endured for centuries and link the people to their ancestors and heritage. My childhood was full of the stories of the Australian Dreamtime. The stories, songs and dance of the traditional owners of the country I call home still captivate and educate me.  I was educated in catholic schools and am familiar with many Christian myths.

Why are myths important? Why might a lack of myth in our life affect us so very much?

Myths are enduring, they are rich with metaphorical weight.  Myths give us a sense of ourselves in relation to others. Hugh Mackay, author and social researcher, deduces that myth and story help us identify where we place our faith and that faith unites us and equips us to live with doubt and uncertainty. Through his research he has found that humans yearn something beyond the material, something other than themselves to use as a reference point to draw strength from, something that inspires them.

Religion and attending church used to fill that yearning, satisfy the hunger, give us something to inspire us and provide a sense of community. The role of religion has been to provide potent narratives to guide us along our journey to discover meaning. Interestingly only 8% of Australians are regular church goers. Why have so many turned away from the church? Perhaps it’s because the myths and narratives are served up as doctrine and often expected to be swallowed whole. For me, my move away from the church was the incongruence between doctrine and the behaviours of those most strongly advocating it. Mackay has found that dogma definitely divides us. He advocates faith beyond dogma.

I can attest that faith can exist without a literal adherence to dogma.  I can also attest to the desire for community. While my faith is strong I do not worship in a church and I do at times crave to be part of a community.  For a time I found it in a group of like-minded souls. We learned together, we practiced ritual, we communed and we grew individually and as a group. It was quenching. It was so deeply satisfying I wanted for nothing more. We eventually drifted apart, each to go their own way to continue our individual journeys. I miss that gathering of minds and souls. I miss the kinship.

It’s fascinating this hardwired need in humans to have a story that keeps the darkness at bay and to satisfy our longing to belong.  It is, I believe, the impetus for the great human endeavour – to seek meaning and purpose in life.

365 days of gratitude changed my brain

This is what 365 days of gratitude looks like.

This is what 365 days of gratitude looks like.

“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.” Eckhart Tolle

Did you know you can rewire your brain to become more positive?

In 2015 my son gifted me an ordinary, relatively inexpensive, empty glass jar for Christmas. It was one of the most thoughtful gifts he could have chosen for me and the timing was perfect. You see, while it was an ordinary jar it had a significant purpose.  It was to be the receptacle for positivity, gratefulness and happiness.

Each day, for a year, I wrote one thing (sometimes more) I was grateful for on a slip of paper and popped it into my gratitude jar.  If I travelled I took my little slips of paper with me. I loved this practice. It was nice to end each day in reflection and thanks. It helped me to focus on the good and what I wanted more in my life rather than the negative.

Now that the new year has begun, I feel at a loss, searching for some new ‘project’.  In 2014 I took a photo a day of something that caught my eye, stirred my emotions, interested me in some way.  2015 was my gratitude challenge. What small routine, I’ve been wondering, can I focus on this year to build positivity and happiness?  I’ve had a few ideas and then I heard a TED talk by psychologist Shawn Achor that gave me a few more.

What, you ask, does all this have to do with rewiring your brain?  Well, what I learnt from Achor’s illuminating talk, “The happy secret to better work”, was that in modern society we link happiness to success. Sadly, this paring ensures we never get there.  Why? Because we constantly shift the goal posts of success. Once we reach a goal, we move it, we are compulsively reaching to be more successful because we believe we will be happier.

Interestingly, our brains work the other way around. If we are happy we’ll be more successful.  When we raise our level of positivity in the present, our brain experiences a happiness advantage. In this state intelligence, creativity, productivity and energy levels rise thanks to a neat chemical called dopamine. Dopamine floods into your system when you’re positive, making you happier.  It also turns on the learning centers in your brain.

Can you imagine the advantages of utilising this theory in the classroom, at work, and in your personal life?

According to Achor’s research you can rewire your brain simply and easily.  Below are a some ideas, like my gratitude jar exercise, that can, if done for 21 days in a row, allow your brain to work more positively and henceforth successfully.

Try one of these:

1. Write down three new things that you are grateful for for 21 days in a row.  At the end of this time your brain starts to retain a pattern of scanning the world for the positive first.

2. Journal about one positive experience you’ve had over the past 24 hours. This practice allows your brain to relive it. Multiple exposures to positive events and emotions helps to create new patterns of behaviour and thought.  Your brain can’t tell the difference between an actual event or a relived/ remembered event.

“Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” Charles Dickens

3. Exercise teaches your brain that your behavior matters. Do a two minute workout – try squats or push ups while the kettle boils or take a 20 minute walk at lunch time.

4. Meditate.  It doesn’t have to be long. Start with 5 -10 minutes a day. Meditation allows your brain a break from the frenetic, fast paced, multitasking we engage in daily and allows your brain to focus.

5. Practice conscious acts of kindness. One idea is to write one positive email praising or thanking somebody in your support network/ work team each day for 21 days.

Research has found that by doing these, or similar, activities and by training the brain we can create ripples of positivity.  It takes only 21 days to create habit, and only about two minutes a day for most of the actions above. Simple.  Easy.  Fun too.  Is it worth giving it a shot?

Each new and unexperienced day is a celebration, the key is to see the specialness of each day so you can tap into the science of happiness.

 

 

 

Kissed by the silver light of a blue moon

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Blue moon, heart light

 cast your silver shawl across the sweet earth.

I am drawn to you.

Gossamer threads pull me, hold me captivated in your glow.

Ancient connections weave our histories together;

earth wisdom, magic and mysteries

so strong, so powerful, so present.

I am, modern woman,

remembering.

My ritual, small and intimate, rekindles flames within.

Blue moon

Sacred Mother

before you I release and let go

beneath you I dream and create.

The tortoise and the hare both finished the race but…

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Image courtesy of cumberlainincubator

“Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going too fast – you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.” ― Eddie Cantor

“One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was from a horse master. He told me to go slow to go fast. I think that applies to everything in life. We live as though there aren’t enough hours in the day but if we do each thing calmly and carefully we will get it done quicker and with much less stress.”

Viggo Mortensen

The tale of the tortoise and the hare, where slow and steady wins the race doesn’t seem to sit well in modern western life.  We wake up, race off to the gym, or work, fit in back to back meetings, gulp down lunch at our desks, collect a handful of groceries on the way home from work, cook dinner while a load of washing is on, make lunches for the following day, complete some unfinished work correspondence or projects. Then, if we are still awake, squeeze in a little reading or television viewing before lopping off to bed to do it all over again the next day.  Faster is better, more is approved of and fitting in as much as possible, in our already busy lives, is seen to be normal, or at least the norm.

On a trek, in Nepal, I realised things can be different.  “Slow, slow” is the mantra. Plodding is accepted and encouraged. There is no hurry. Basically, one’s body does not function well at a fast pace when dealing with altitude.  Mentally this is challenging at first. Slow is so unfamiliar, so strange that the mind does not settle into slow comfortably.

The Nepalese people are a gentle and slow-moving people. Life is hard in the remote villages we visited. They carry massive loads over great distances and food is prepared from scratch. Rice is hand ground in stone mortars for making Momos and bread. Milk is not bought from a local store but milked from yaks and goats. Vegetables and herbs are grown in patches around homes and yak dung is  collected, rolled into balls and flattened to dry in the sun for later use as fuel for fires.

Days are filled with hand washing clothes, preparing food, farming, herding animals long distances and surviving the harsh elements. Nothing is wasted. Resources are respected and utilised to the full. The throw away mentality doesn’t seem to be prevalent. The fast pace I’d left behind was also nowhere to be seen.

Despite the harshness and seemingly difficult lifestyle, compared to my own, the Nepalese are extremely generous, they find joy in the simple things. They value family and relationships weigh in strongly. Time is taken to watch children play, there is much laughter and many ready smiles. Attention is given to the task at hand, without concern for the next.

Once I got my head wrapped around what my body knew was the value of “slow, slow”, the benefits revealed themselves. Each day, we stopped for a tea break. For an hour. Yes. An hour. It was such a terrible waste of time to my pre-programmed run, run, run mode.  Lunch was a leisurely two-hour break.  Hard to fathom when I’ve not taken a lunch break in over ten years.  These opportunities to pause were strange to me. Physically I needed them but mentally I was totally challenged by the down time, at first.  When you stop, you take in the surroundings. When you stop, you talk to people. When you stop, you can meditate and be grateful and breathe deeply. When you stop you get a better perspective of where you are and from where you have come. Making decisions on how to proceed become easier.

Slow and steady has benefits.

One very cold morning, walking up a steep hill, I moved aside to allow an elderly couple to pass. While waiting I rubbed my hands together for warmth. After exchanging namastes  the elderly woman reached up with her right hand and covered both of mine. She made an exclamation which conveyed “cold”. I responded that hers was warm. She rubbed my cold, reddened hands with her strong, broad, warm hand and my heart soared as I stared into her wizened face. We’d connected in that moment on a mountainside far from my daily grind and rapid routine. Had I been focused on racing to my end point, I’d have missed this beautiful exchange.

At morning tea another day having stopped at a tea house I was resting; head reclined and wrapped against the cool breeze, when  I heard a woman’s reproach, one another mother easily discerns. Before I could open my eyes I felt a small hand on my back. When I turned, a small red-cheeked child was beaming at me from under her yak hair beanie, delighted at having surprised and roused me from my slumber.  We two were caught in a moment of mutual fascination and joy.

The long afternoons and  evenings were filled with conversation, laughter, card playing and story telling. The lack of distractions, the forced pause, enabled us to connect with others around us. We could take quiet moments for introspection,  for journaling, for just being.

These moments are not restricted to treks in Nepal. They can be experienced anywhere, if only we make the time to slow down, just a little, to take in all around us, to observe and to consider others. Being more deliberate, slowing down and taking time to pause gives us an opportunity to connect with ourselves, our journey and those around us.

“Yes. but …” I hear you say, “that’s all well and good on holiday.”  I admit, I haven’t exactly taken an hour lunch break since returning but nor have I missed a deadline by slowing down. Each day I consciously take the time to appreciate my world. At lunch, I have taken a moment to look at my food, to notice the colours and the textures before digging in. I’ve enjoyed the smells and savoured that first mouthful. I chew rather than gulp. When my colleagues arrive each day, instead of calling a half-interested greeting over my shoulder, I stop, turn, look at them. Notice them. Then wish them a good morning and inquire about their evening, their health, comment on their outfit or some idea we shared the day before. It’s just a short exchange but it’s a lovely way to begin the day.  On waking, instead of jumping out of bed and racing off to the first task I take a moment to wiggle my fingers and toes. To stretch, to smile and be grateful for a new day. Instead of taking and making calls in the car as I’m travelling to work, I enjoy the time to gather my thoughts and to notice the little things happening in each neighbourhood I pass through. My phone calls are taken later, when I can devote my undivided attention to my caller.

I’ve not become ineffective. If anything my head is clearer, my heart is happier and I feel more connected to my life. My advice would be, in the words of my Nepalese friends, “Slow, slow”. Plod occasionally. Stop briefly. Look and listen often. Breathe deeply and enjoy life.

The tortoise and the hare both finished the race but who enjoyed the journey more?

Shannyn