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At The Happy Starfish we are dedicated to providing a wealth of information, products, workshops and articles all aimed at celebrating health, happiness and peaceful living. We believe that life should be an awesome adventure filled with love; love life and life will love you back. Are you willing to surrender what you think you are for what you could become? Are you ready?

Monday, 23 December 2013

Your New Year's Resolution should be this

"Love yourself first and everything else falls into line". Lucille Ball
Are you making New Year’s resolutions? Many of us are hurtling towards 2014 with good intentions and the hope that next year we can transform ourselves into the people we want to be.
Put the brakes on; there is only one thing you need to develop next year. Self-love. Yep, it’s that simple. If we take a look at five of the most common resolutions of 2013 you will see why.
1) Eat healthily
If you practice self-love you will begin to respect your body in a way you never thought possible. Naturally you will want to fuel yourself with the cleanest foods available meaning a healthier, slimmer you.
2)  Drink less alcohol
There is nothing wrong with the odd social drink if you choose to do so but practice self-love and any excess bingeing borne out of self loathing will naturally grind to a halt.
3) Quit smoking
With self-love comes gratitude. The human body is awesome and capable of so many great things, you won’t want to potentially affect your health through cigarettes.
4) Save money
With self-love comes an inner tranquility and contentment. The need to fill time with activities or shopping to give ourselves that endorphin release becomes a thing of the past. There is happiness to be found in just Being.
5) Better work/life balance
Through self-love you learn to recognise your own value, know that it’s ok to say no, set boundaries and put your own needs first. You can be a team player at work without compromising your family and social time.

So ditch the lists, you don’t need them, or the hard time you may give yourself if your resolve weakens (a slice of chocolate cake on 2nd January does not make you a bad person). Instead, love yourself as though your life depends on it and everything else will just fall into place.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Gifts from a stranger

"Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love". Hamilton Wright Mabie
There is nothing like a random act of kindness to give me a warm fuzzy feeling and although it really is the little things that can touch someone's heart the generosity of Greg Parady has blown me away.
Greg, the owner of Parady Financial Group was shopping in a Walmart in Florida for bikes for the Toys for Tots charity when he overheard a conversation that upset him
A customer was talking worriedly about money, she couldn't pay off her layaway and was upset she couldn't buy gifts for her children. 
Without hesitation Greg whipped out his credit card and not only paid off her bill but at least half of every customer's layaway. In total Greg spent over $20,000.
While Christmas shouldn't be about the material and this is, without a doubt, a huge amount of money to spend, thanks to a stranger's generosity there will be many a happy child opening their Christmas presents this year, overlooked by relaxed parents who haven't had to fall into debt buying the gifts.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Have yourself a stress free little christmas

"Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas". Calvin Coolidge
Wow, it's hard to believe we are in December already, this year has flown by so fast. Have you written your cards? Wrapped your gifts? Feel in control of your pre-holiday preparations?
If the thought of the impending celebrations make you want to cower under the kitchen table you’re not alone. Follow my tips for a stress-free Christmas. 
Look after yourself. This has to be number one. It's only natural to worry about everyone else making sure they have what they need to enjoy the festive period but if you are not ok your family is not ok. Frantically running around in your lunch break searching for the perfect gifts will take its toll on your emotional and physical health. Take regular time out to rejuvenate. 10 minutes mindful breathing a day will do wonders for your stress levels. Delegate where you can - who says you have to do it all on your own?
Take a reality check. You may have a to-do list a mile long but what would actually happen if you didn't do everything on it? The world wouldn't end if everything wasn't perfectly co-ordinated or if the place cards weren't handmade. Condense your list down and don't sweat the small stuff.
Let go of traditions that don't work for you. You probably have an idea of the 'right' way to celebrate christmas that comes from childhood traditions but do they actually work for you and your family? My friend refuses to cook, spends all day in her pyjamas and has pizza for dinner and has the best time. 
Embrace the imperfection. It is natural to want the day to be perfect but demanding perfection is a form of control and that never goes well! Relax. So the kids want to decorate the tree their way, the decorations are hand made, not symmetrically hung and would never be featured in a glossy magazine. Who cares really but you?
Cheat if you want to. I used to be THE worst for having to have everything home made. Stuffing, bread sauce, you name it I would have slaved over a saucepan to create it. Now I am happy to buy store bought to make the day easier for me. I get to spend more quality time with my children and nobody notices the difference. Everyone remembers a big family meal around a table. The love, the laughter and the sharing. Nobody really actually cares whether the cranberry sauce comes out of a jar or not. 
Ditch the judgement. Your Uncle Jack is notoriously hard to buy for but you have found him the perfect gift. He opens it, frowns and places it to one side. How do you feel? Don't let the negative committee in your head tell you that you got it spectacularly wrong, that you have failed in some way or even that he is an ungrateful pig. Take a breath and move on.
Memories not material. If you can't afford it, don't buy it. It's not worth starting a new year stressed out and debt ridden. Ultimately the most important thing about the holidays is the memories you create. In ten years time your children will never remember what presents they received but they will remember the togetherness. Find perfection in the love not the stuff.
Happy holidays 

Friday, 29 November 2013

Celebrity chef turns to mindful eating

“How we prepare our food, how we consume our food really makes a difference in how our food satisfies us and shapes the role we give food in our lives. Is it something we stuff in to satisfy an urge or something we savor to feed us physically and sustain us spiritually?” Mary De Turris Poust
Celebrity Chef Heston Blumenthal's temper used to be as notorious as his food. Documented as chasing his enemies with a meat cleaver, a car and even threatening someone with a gun he admitted to suffering from fits of rage. Heston's ex-wife often urged him to seek help with his anger which he did through a therapist, a cranial osteopath and a faith healer. Unable to sustain a sense of calm Heston turned to mindfulness two years after his divorce.
Heston now says his temper is under control due to integrating mindfulness into his daily life especially at meal times. 
Heston says "Mindfulness is just brilliant. It's about being completely in the moment". He says he has not lost his temper at all since he developed a practice "not even a frown. It's like I'm a different person".
To learn how you can develop a mindfulness practice contact us.

A mindful government?


“Breathe and let be”. Jon Kabat-Zinn
I should imagine being an MP can be quite a stressful job and the Houses of Parliament a high pressured environment.
I think it’s fantastic therefore that politicians are being taught mindfulness techniques to allow them to stop ruminating and find a calm space within which allows them to focus on important issues with enhanced clarity.
An 8 week mindfulness course devised by Jon Kabat-Zinn is planned for February 2014. There has been great interest from MP’s eager to join the 50 who have already attended previous sessions.
Chris Ruane, the parliament’s leading advocate of mindfulness describes it as “the breath that allows us to anchor ourselves in the present”. Chris, a former primary school teacher, hopes that there will be a steady increase in MP’s incorporating mindfulness into their daily lives. “The more we can develop mindfulness in the heart of parliament and in the heart of government the more mindful policies we can develop”.
With Mindfulness being approved by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) for treating stress and depression it definitely has a legitimate place within the corporate setting. 
Ruane sums up perfectly “The whole pace of life has speeded up. We are all on a hedonic treadmill. You get on it in the morning and you’re on it all day long. How fast do you want to go on a treadmill? Have you got the means and mechanisms to slow yourself down or step off? I think mindfulness can help. It’s helped for me. And those MPs and Lords speak about rebalancing their lives, re-prioritising, deciding what’s important”.
If you are interested in the 8 week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Course devised by Jon Kabat-Zinn please contact me for dates and prices of our next intake (please note this is also available over Skype and on a 1-1 basis). 

Monday, 11 November 2013

The king and his sons

"When you find peace within yourself, you become the kind of person who can live at peace with others". Peace Pilgrim
I want to share the story of a king who had 3 sons. The first was handsome and very popular. When he was 21, his father built a palace in the city for him. The second son was intelligent and also very popular. When he became 21, his father built a palace in the city for him as well. The third son, neither handsome nor intelligent, was unfriendly and unpopular. When he was 21 the king’s counselors said: “there is no further room in the city. Have a palace built outside the city for your son. You can have it built so it will be strong. You can send some of your guards to prevent it being attacked by the ruffians who live outside the city walls”. So the king built such a palace and sent some of his soldiers to protect it.
A year later, the son sent a message to his father. “I cannot live here. The ruffians are too strong”. So the counsellors said, “build another palace bigger and stronger and 20 miles away from the city and the ruffians. With more soldiers, it will easily be able to withstand attacks from the nomadic tribes that pass that way”. So the king built such a palace and sent 100 of his soldiers to protect it.
A year later, a message came from the son: “I cannot live here the tribes are too strong”. So the counsellors said “Build a castle, a large castle 100 miles away. It will be big enough to house 500 soldiers and strong enough to withstand attacks from the people who live over the border”. So the king built such a castle and sent 500 of his soldiers to protect it.
A year later the son sent another message to the king. “Father the attacks of the neighbouring people are too strong. They have attacked twice and if they attack a third time I fear for my life and the lives of your soldiers”.
And the King said to his counsellors “let him come home and he can live in the palace with me. For it is better that I learn to live my son than spend all the energy and resources of my kingdom keeping him at a distance”.
I love this story. We expel so much energy sometimes fighting against things that aren't exactly as we think they should be causing us huge amounts of physical and emotional stress. Learning the art of acceptance and allowing brings a sense of freedom, improving our health and well-being. After all 'what we resist, persists'. The easiest way to learn to let go of the idea that things need to be different, to stop wanting to fix,change and improve things is through meditation. Are you ready to let this moment be enough?

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Little lights


“We’re born with millions of little lights shining in the dark
And they show us the way
One lights up, every time you feel love in your heart
One dies when it moves away”

I love listening to music, even more so when the lyrics really resonate with me.
One of my favourite albums this year is Passenger’s Little Lights - (watch on Youtube)
The title track is beautiful. It refers to ‘little lights’ we are all born with in our hearts. When something negative happens to us or because of us one of the lights will extinguish but through love and living a good life we are always igniting more.
I love the image these lyrics instill. It’s true we are born with infinite love, our lights shine brightly with no judgements or expectations in place to diminish them. As we grow and develop a belief system we begin to lose our connection to our inner stillness and we may not shine as brightly as we once did.
As life progresses it’s inevitable we love, we laugh, we cry, we grieve, we feel hope and disappointment, but no matter what life throws at us we always get the chance to light a new light. Each moment is a new beginning, a chance to ensure we are never in darkness. 
How brightly are you shining today?

Monday, 28 October 2013

A lovely surprise

“Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you”. Princess Diana.
I received a fabulous surprise this morning when I woke up and checked my emails. The lovely traveling couple we had the pleasure of meeting at Sweetheart Abbey had sent us the photos they had taken of Tim and I on our wedding day.

The quality of the images are phenomenal. The thing with eloping meant the majority of the photos were taken with my iphone. I had thought they were ok until I saw how vibrant and sharp Wendy and Geoff’s (as we now know they are called) pictures are.

I am so grateful they took the time to do this. They have edited each photo and sent them via individual emails as the file size is so large and they thoughtfully didn’t want to diminish the quality. As they apparently have 9000 of their own photos from their trip to get through I am really touched they did this for us. 
Anyone who knows me (and many of you who don’t)! know I am a huge advocate of pay it forward. I believe the way to change the world is by one act of kindness at a time. A simple act, a thought, being shown compassion and kindness can be life changing. It’s not solely about making someone feel good in the moment. Such acts can provoke huge feelings of gratitude and joy we recall again and again. When you pay it forward you could be creating a memory someone will draw upon during their darkest days; how phenomenal is that?
Maya Angelou said, "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."
Many of us have a positive effect on someone most days without consciously realising it. Imagine if we all consciously tried to carry out an act of kindness everyday too, it’s possible whatever your circumstances; a smile is the easiest way to start. Who knows how far the ripple effect will travel?
It’s fast approaching World Kindness Day (November 13th 2013). What can you do for someone on this date? The warm fuzzy feeling of kindness is too good not to share. Happiness is contagious - be a carrier.


Friday, 11 October 2013

Mediate don't medicate

"Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional".
I had a great appointment at Birmingham Orthopaedic Hospital yesterday. The fantastic team there have never given up on my health and have been beside me every step of the way during my recovery the past few years. I am eternally grateful to them for their treatments and support, especially since my own local hospital were unable to offer me any sort of help past physiotherapy.
I was excited to finally be given the go ahead to start their functional restoration programme in the new year. I have been assessed for this before but never deemed strong enough until now. This approach combines strengthening exercises with natural movements my body has 'forgotten' how to do alongside Mindfulness and relaxation techniques.
Being a Mindfulness Coach (I don't honestly know how I would cope with my pain/condition without it). I am excited to see how they integrate this into the NHS. Chatting to David who will be co-running the programme he acknowledged that when just a physical approach to recovery was taken the results often weren't sustainable. When people had natural flare-ups of pain if they were not taught techniques to cope emotionally their recovery slid dramatically backwards. This hospital recognises the importance of treating mind and body together and their phenomenal results prove just how effective their methods are. 
After spending years managing my own health condition I can't wait to launch my own programme next year to help others in similar situations cope with chronic health conditions. If we are not fully living in the present moment those of us with ill health do tend to suffer twice. Once when we live in fear of the future pain, and then again when we actually experience it. Once fear is eradicated pain naturally reduces and there comes a sense of freedom no matter what physical limitations there are.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Maths, Science and Mindfulness?

“Respond, don’t react. Listen, don’t talk. Think, don’t assume.” Raji Lukkoor
I was invited to a meeting at my son's school yesterday evening, to discuss his forthcoming exams and how best parents can support their children during this potentially stressful period.
I was pleasantly surprised when one of the teachers presented a section on the school's responsibility for the emotional well-being of its students and how they have begun to successfully use Mindfulness to alleviate pupil's anxiety.
As a Mindfulness Coach I was interested to stay behind to chat to this teacher afterwards and learned he had been researching Mindfulness personally for a long time and had fought hard to get it included within the school. He had been quite nervous publicly talking about it, anticipating he may be met with scepticism. He strongly believed however that since using Mindfulness techniques with the children that wanted to take part, exams results had improved, absences declined and the feedback from teachers and children alike was that a huge calming effect had taken place.
Having used these techniques for my eldest son who completed his A'Levels last year I know Mindfulness is an invaluable and lifelong tool that I hope to see as standard on curriculum's everywhere eventually. One of the most beneficial things we can ever learn is how to take care of our minds. Once we develop the ability to look inward and fully connect to the present moment anxiety and stress reduces and calmness and clarity prevails - an optimum condition for learning.
With league tables being scrutinised and Ofsted reports demanding a higher and higher teaching standard there is no doubt the world of education is becoming more and more pressured for both staff and pupils.
I was saddened to learn last night that although there is plenty of support in place for the children the staff were not being offered the same. With teacher absences through stress and sickness at an all time high I hope staff well-being comes high on the list of priorities. After all, if we don't care for the staff who will ultimately educate our children?

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Create a vision board - create your future

“The action of Mind plants that nucleus which, if allowed to grow undisturbed, will eventually attract to itself all the conditions necessary for its manifestation in outward visible form.” Thomas Troward
I had great fun yesterday afternoon when I spent a few hours focusing positive energy into achieving my goals.
The Law of Attraction is not a new idea, the phrase has been the basis of many books since the early 1900’s. 
As everything is energy it follows that focusing on negative thoughts will bring negative results. Thankfully it also follows that by throwing out positive energy you can help to shape your own reality.
Author Napoleon Hill published a book in1937 which insisted thoughts have the ability to attract other thoughts and learning to control one’s thoughts can result in manifesting what you want into a physical form. Very cool.
I have found one of the best ways to do this is through a vision board. 
Having a visual aid of what you want your future to consist of can add clarity to desire and ensure your chosen images are firmly lodged in the subconscious. 
Think about it. Everything manmade in our world started off as the seeds of creation in someone’s mind and no matter how unachievable they were told their goals were and regardless of the opinions of others, through belief and determination these ideas became a reality.
Ready to go grab the future you want? 
To make a board spend some time gathering images, headlines and random words; anything that catches your eye in a magazine (or print from online). Be completely open and do this from the heart. Be guided by your inner knowing. If an image provokes a positive feeling in your body cut it out. Leave your head out of it. Yes it’s easy to want a new house, car and loads of money but these probably aren’t the things that will really offer you sustainable happiness once the high has worn off.
Don’t try to analyse too much what the stuff you are gathering means at this stage. 
After you have a substantial pile get your piece of board ready and go through again discarding anything that doesn’t resonate as strongly with you this time around.
Glue what’s left onto your board and leave it somewhere you can see it every day.
Don’t worry if some of the images don’t make sense to you at this stage. Be patient and wait and see what happens, it should all become clear.
Alternatively you can make a board specific to goals you already have in mind, using inspirational quotes as well as images.
I would love to see pictures of your finished boards.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Why I ran away to get married

"All you need is love, love is all you need".
I have to be honest I never thought I was the marrying kind. I was always slightly in awe of those who made the ultimate commitment to each other. I was a great believer in the sanctity of marriage but I wasn't sure it was for me. Although I could be certain of what I felt in the present moment, the next 10, 20, 30 years was a different matter and right now was all I thought I could ever guarantee. 
When my partner Tim proposed however, I had no doubts about our future. I treasure our relationship where I have total freedom to be myself. There is no judgement and we love each other unconditionally. We have found mutual support and our lives together are fluid enough to have coped with unexpected change and I am certain, if we maintain our level of communication, together we can face anything life throws at us. I wanted to honour our relationship and become his wife and therefore didn't hesitate at all in accepting. 
I am not the sort of girl who has spent years visualising her wedding, imagining the dress, the flowers and everything else you are supposed to want for your special day. I wasn't sure what I wanted but I was certain of what I didn't want. I didn’t want months of planning and stress, putting everyone else’s wants and needs before our own. I also didn’t want to be paying for it after the event. If we couldn’t afford it we would go without. We were adamant the most important part of our day would be our love and if wedding favours and table decorations didn’t feature it wouldn’t take anything away from our unwavering commitment to each other. 
It was with a feeling of trepidation we decided to sit down and pick a venue. We are no different to most couples in that we have some family complications and limited funds. Our families are based in two different locations (3 if you count us) so the first dilemma was always going to be where should the ceremony take place.
Approximately 5 minutes into the first tentative planning conversation I’d had enough. The wedding should be purely about us. We joked it would be easier to run away and get married without telling anybody. We laughed, and then we looked at each other, and then we weren't laughing anymore. Could we? Should we?
It wasn't a decision we took lightly. People have expectations when it comes to weddings. Was it selfish to put our needs first with no compromises?
We were undecided and subsequently kept our engagement secret. What would be the right thing to do? Was there such a thing as the right thing? We decided to individually make a decision then reveal them to each other and hope they matched.
Ultimately I had to ask myself two real questions.
 What did I really want?  
Used to a lifetime of following my heart I knew this was so huge my head needed to be part of the equation. I made a pros and cons list. Although I wanted to share my day with my loved ones ultimately I wanted to be Tim’s wife in a stress free, debt free, least amount of planning way as possible. 
Could I stick with my decision and be happy with it?
This really simplifies any big decision. Generally only one option (at a time) works. To acknowledge a decision has been made and it is the right one for you eliminates lots of angst. It is easy to half heartedly make a decision and then wildly yoyo between “it’s right” and “well should I? could I?”. Accepting I am happy with my decision eradicates any future “what ifs”. 
Eloping seemed the perfect choice and thankfully that was the conclusion Tim had also come to. So, we were running away then.
We called Gretna Green in Scotland to see what planning a wedding there entails and came off the phone 20 minutes later having booked the venue, registrar, hotel, florist, photographer, witnesses, a dvd and discussed our music options. Half an hour after this we had ordered wedding outfits online and that was pretty much that.  Wedding booked. Now exhale and relax.
Our wedding was beautiful in its simplicity. when Etta James sang “At Last” the words took on a whole new meaning. Not only could we apply them to our day, our love, it was also probably one of the only times either of us have wholly put ourselves totally first. Doing what we wanted rather than adapting and compromising to suit others. That in itself should be celebrated.
I don’t feel I have missed out not having a traditional day. We are all individual and what suits some would be another’s worst nightmare. For me though I had all I needed on the day. My best friend was there. I was marrying him.
You can read more about my wedding week here.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Make like Kanye West


“If you are patient in one moment of anger, you will escape 100 days of sorrow”. Chinese Proverb.
I read with interest last week that Kim Kardashian has issued an ultimatum to Kayne West regarding his erratic behaviour and has hired a meditation coach in an attempt to curb Kayne’s anger. Kayne is often in the news for his hot headed exploits and often loses his temper. It is reported Kanye will be meditating for an hour a day, seven days a week.
So could it work? Absolutely. Meditation allows you to become aware of the thoughts and feelings in your body in a non-judgmental way. Recognising these sensations when they arise and putting into practice breathing techniques allows you to observe your feelings with kindness and compassion. Kayne will be taught how to let go of his thoughts, and if that is not always possible, different techniques to deal with them as an alternative to lashing out. 
Becoming an observer of your anger allows you to also see what may be behind it. Often anger masks deeper feelings such as fear, guilt or shame. Once you can understand what leads you to anger you can apply a kindness to yourself, without self-criticism, which then also positively impacts on all your relationships.
Will it work? It’s difficult to say. If Kayne has taken responsibility for his behavior and made a decision to find a new way to be then yes. However, loved ones, with the best will in the world, often try to force a change on someone who isn’t ready. It’s like trying to give up smoking because your family lectures you on the health risks all the time. Until you decide you are ready and most importantly, want a change, anything you try is unlikely to become a sustainable way of life.
I wish them lots of luck.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Who are you?

"Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn"
Harriet Beecher Stowe

Well yesterday I had a day out with my family and actually did some walking. Some of you may know I have mobility problems (my story) and yesterday was probably the most active I have been for the past 7 years. It did get to a stage when I was in so much pain and so fatigued I couldn’t carry on and then the lovely people at National Trust sent an elderly man in a golf buggy called Derek to come and pick me up.

Derek asked what was wrong with me and when I told him he said “it’s great you’ve kept trying for so long to improve your health”. He explained many people he had known throughout his life who developed health problems eventually really become them, totally giving up on themselves.

It’s so easy to get in a situation which, if it persists over time we come to think of it as our natural state. It is often labels others put on us that we let define us “you are disabled”. Actually I am me, I just happen to have a health condition.

Friends and family can often inadvertently make us feel inferior too, often unintentionally by describing others as “the clever one”, “the pretty one”, “the funny one”, and we forget we are also all these things and more too. 

We are all beautifully unique and if we can let go of what we are not we can fully embrace what we are.

One of the meditations I like to do is really helpful (you can adapt the words to suit you).

  1. Be comfortable, ideally sitting upright on the floor or a chair with your spine as straight as possible. If you have a health condition that makes this posture uncomfortable find a position that works for you.
  1. Allow your attention to focus on your breath. This could be the air coming in and out of your nostrils or your chest or abdomen gently rising and falling.
  1. Feel each in breath and out breath whilst breathing naturally - you do not need to consciously slow down your breathing.
  1. Breathe in and gently think “I am aware of pain” (or whatever you want to work on).
  1. Breathe out “I know I am not my pain”.
  1. Repeat this cycle for at least 10 minutes every day. Each time you meditate it will be different so start each session with no pre-conceived expectations.

Remember you are awesome and if you are interested in finding out more about the techniques I have used to help myself check out The Happy Starfish.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Giving while living

"If you haven't got any charity in your heart then you have the worst kind of heart trouble". Bob Hope

I love a good pay it forward story and they don't get much bigger than the phenomenal generosity of Chuck Feeny. Chuck, an Irish-American, made a fortune from duty free shopping and quietly in the 1980's began giving much of his fortune away. To date he has given an incredible $7.5 billion/£4.9 billion to good causes including health, science and education. 

"People who have money have an obligation", Chuck said. "I wouldn’t say I’m entitled to tell them what to do with it but to use it wisely".

Chuck has his feet firmly on the ground, wearing a $15 dollar watch, and made his children work to support themselves during college.

"I became convinced that there was greater satisfaction from giving my money away and seeing something come out of the ground, like a hospital or a university", he stated during an interview. "It just seemed logical to put the money to good use rather than putting it into a bank account and letting it accumulate and accumulate. I concluded that if you hung on to a piece of the action for yourself you’d always be worrying about that piece. People used to ask me how I got my jollies, and I guess I’m happy when what I’m doing is helping people and unhappy when what I’m doing isn’t helping people".

Chuck currently has around $2 million left which he plans to also donate before he dies. A great believer in 'giving while living' he says "I want the last cheque I write to bounce".

What an incredible guy. While we can't match his cash donations we can all be generous in our own way. Giving our time can be as important to the recipient as money.

Pay it forward. Be kind wherever possible; it's always possible.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Yonana (what's my name)?

“A crust eaten in peace is better than a banquet partaken in anxiety.” Aesop 

I will hold my hands up and admit I am a nutritional therapist with a sweet tooth. I may know all about the ultimate diet but that doesn’t stop me wanting the odd slice of cake. Dining out on special occasions I always check out the dessert options on the menu before selecting my main course.

I was more than just a little bit excited therefore when I heard about the Yonanas machine, a contraption that claimed to turn frozen fruit into soft serve ice-cream in minutes. 

Having some Amazon vouchers I decided the chance of fat free, guilt free, nutrient packed desserts too tempting to resist and before I knew it I had clicked to purchase and it was on its way.

So are they as good as they claim? Yes. Simply freeze the fruit of your choice, remove from the freezer 5 minutes or so before you use and insert into the machines chute pushing down with a plunger. 

To produce an ice cream consistency you need a banana base which you can either eat as it comes for a pudding packed full of vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, copper, and even protein. Add in other fruits and nuts like raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, peanuts and almonds you add more nutrition including vitamin K, magnesium, folate, calcium, manganese, and dietary fibre, and loads of antioxidants, making Yonanas one of the healthiest desserts around.

I have experimented every night with various fruits (omitting the bananas produces a sorbet)  We had great fun the other evening with friends over customising our own and adding a variety of other ingredients such as mint chocolate, frozen expresso cubes and cookies.

All in all I am really happy with my purchase. The children have been having one every day in the hot weather not noticing the difference between the Yonanas and ice cream. Although I still monitor their sugar intake (even natural sugars contained in fruit) I don’t have to consider all the nasties you find in a tub of store bought ice cream.

Easy to use, economical (you don’t need huge amounts of fruit) and quick to clean, this is one gadget that won’t be gathering dust in the back of the cupboard.

Friday, 26 July 2013

What meditation isn't

"Meditation is the tongue of the soul and the language of our spirit". Jeremy Taylor

As a meditation teacher I often find people have preconceived ideas of meditation. There are many great articles around on what meditation is and its benefits, so I thought I would write one on what meditation isn’t to try to dispel some of the more common misconceptions I have come across.

Meditation is purely a relaxation technique

I hear “but there are other things I do that relax me, I don’t need to meditate” a lot. It’s certainly true that relaxation is a byproduct of a regular meditation practice but it’s so much more. You can consciously choose to live being perfectly present and fully experiencing life right now, freeing yourself of the limiting negative mental chatter that can sometimes feel relentless. We can do this through reconnecting with the still, silent space inside of us, rather than seeking temporary periods of true happiness through external measures. 

Meditation is a religious practice

You don’t need to shave your head, join a monastery or give away all your money. You are making a commitment to love and honor the real you by reconnecting with the peace and love that resides inside that has been slowly consumed through years of modern day living. 

Meditation makes you an emotionless robot

Meditation does not remove emotions but it makes you more attuned to emotional changes. I used to worry all the time, believing the commentator in my head to be very true, which caused me lots of energy and stress. (“Wow, could that really happen - that would be terrible”). Lots of the emotions I had were very fear based surrounding the future.    Meditation has increased my clarity allowing me to think more logically rather than emotionally. Living in the present moment helped me to disengage from my unhealthy emotional states but I still feel things very deeply.

Meditation is too hard

It’s a complete alien concept to many to just sit and be. No distractions, no entertainment, no planning the future. Meditation is not hard but it is helpful to have someone guide you when you start practicing.

Meditation takes years to work

It is called meditation practice for a reason. It takes time to cultivate the habit of directing our attention inward. It’s not an instant fix but changes will be gentle and consistent. Gradually you will break free from the cycle of thinking too much and you will reconnect to your natural state of peace and love. The longer you put off starting your practice the longer you will remain in disharmony.

Meditation takes too much time

Spare time is a luxury that many of us do not have in excess of with the demands of modern day living, but everyone can create a few minutes in their day (I have periods where I switch my smartphone off so I can’t keep checking it to free up time). People who say they don’t have the time to meditate are usually the ones that really need to. Try just 10 minutes a day for 6 weeks, it’s enough to see a difference. 

To meditate you need to stop having thoughts

I have been meditating for years, and my mentors even longer, and I honestly don’t know of anyone who doesn’t have any thoughts. We are human beings with human nervous systems and will probably remain having thoughts for the rest of our lives. Meditation offers you the freedom to chose which thoughts you engage with. 

Meditation is an escape from reality

Personally my reality pre meditation was full of fear and panic and generally full of angst. I am now free from remorsefully thinking about the past or anxiously trying to foresee the future. You can’t get much more real than the present moment.

Meditation doesn’t work for everyone

There are many types of meditation all with the ultimate aim of enabling you to be present. There is something for everyone. I believe the majority of people give up as they feel they are ‘bad’ at it due to the amount of thoughts they have when they try. Never judge a meditation on the time you spend meditating but rather on the after effects. i.e. do you sleep better, have improved clarity, less worry etc.?

Meditation is selfish

I struggled initially with taking time out of my day to meditate that could have been spent with my children or a million other things. It felt extremely self indulgent and uncomfortable. However  my practice has made me calmer, happier and generally a lot nicer to be around. Those surrounding you will reap the benefits almost as much as you do.

Meditation is the answer to all 

Life is subject to flux and we will all have times where our circumstances become more difficult. Unfortunately meditation does not guarantee you a problem free existence. What it does do though is give you the tools you need to navigate your way through with a calmness and clarity and a knowing that this too shall pass. 

To attend a meditation workshop or receive one-to-one coaching and support (also available via Skype) contact me. Next one day workshop dates 7th September, 5th October, 16th November, Northamptonshire.