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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?

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.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Why I am glad my air con broke

"When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude".

Gilbert K. Chesterton

Last year the air-con in my car broke. It was the end of the summer anyway so it kept getting moved to the bottom of my to-do list until, eventually, it was left off all together. 

Enter this summer's heat wave.

I am not great in the heat to be fair. You are more likely to find me in the shade sipping a cool drink than stretched out soaking up the rays. Therefore the first trip in my mobile sauna of a car almost caused me to faint.

Arriving home I fell through our front door, hot, sticky and an alarming shade of purple. My partner agreed to take it to be fixed at the weekend.

The next day I opened all the windows, slid open the sunroof and vowed to make the best of my journey without complaining. Driving along I started thinking about how cars had progressed since I first passed my test. Back then we had to manually wind down the windows and virtually nobody had a sunroof. If you had a cassette tape player you thought yourself lucky.

As years passed air conditioning, electric windows and CD players were introduced as optional extras that only the wealthy could afford. Now these come as standard in the majority of cars.

Driving along I started to feel grateful. Grateful I had a car. Grateful that things are being introduced all the time for our comfort. Grateful I was alive to see all the wild and wacky things this beautiful world of ours has to offer. Inventions that were once the seeds of thought in someone's mind come to creation.

Subsequent journeys that week triggered thoughts as to what else I, despite regularly practicing gratitude, take for granted. Electric, water, gas. I envisaged a life without these and the hardships it would entail.

This has also prompted conversations with my children when they first travelled in the sweat box on wheels and complained about the heat. What did they take for granted? The answers have been enlightening to say the least.

So despite the fact I gratitude journal regularly, living without something I was very used to has really made to offer up a prayer of thanks for all I do have.

The garage appointment was cancelled. I like my daily reminder to be thankful just as it is.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Your prescription is a CD

“If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.” Albert Einstein

I wrote a post a few months back called What's your prozac playlist? after Neuroscientist Dr Jack Lewis came up with the ultimate feel good playlist, using music to help combat depression.

I am a huge music lover and was pleased that the University of Alberta have conducted further studies into the link between music and the brain in terms of pain relief. Children were split into two groups and all needed an IV. One group had music playing when the procedure took place and the other didn't.

The children's distress, perceived pain levels and heart rates were recorded and it's no surprise to learn that the group who had music playing felt less pain and had a quicker recovery period. In addition the healthcare provider who administered the IV's stated this groups were easier to treat.

Being a chronic pain sufferer myself and a believer in all things natural I hope such research on the effect of music on the brain continues. With more and more people turning their back on orthodox medicine it's great to learn about alternative methods of treatment.

This is my one song that never fails to give me a lift, what's yours?

ELO - Mr Blue Sky

Friday, 12 July 2013

The ultimate act of kindness

"Love is a fruit in season at all times and within reach of every hand". Mother Teresa

Dan Black was paralysed four years ago after being knocked off his bike but never gave up faith that he would walk again. After years of fundraising he reached £20,000 and his dream of medical treatment was becoming closer all the time. 

Dan, from South Wales, then came across the story of Brecon Vaughan, a five year old local boy with rare spastic diplegia cerebral palsy. Brecon's family were trying to raise £60,000 for an operation in America which would help him walk unaided for the first time.

As, the treatment Dan needed is still being developed, Brecon has a better chance of walking than Dan, causing Dan selflessly gave the money he had raised for his own operation to the young boy. Brecon now has over half the money he needs for his life changing op.

‘I know for me that things aren’t going to get better any time soon,’ Dan said. ‘I just wanted to do something that could help someone whose life could get better.

‘Brecon can definitely walk if he has the surgery. I wouldn’t wish being paralysed on anyone, so if I can help someone walk, I will.’


He continued: ‘While there is hope for Brecon, I will do everything I can, because I don’t want to see a young boy suffer.

‘I’m incredibly grateful to everyone who has helped me out but this boy needs it more than I do at the moment.

‘It would make me very happy to see the difference made to Brecon’s life. I just hope when I give the money it encourages others to [give].’

Brecon's mother said ‘What Dan has done is brilliant. So many people have helped Brecon and we are grateful to them all.’Mr Black's mother, Michaela, said: 'That little boy needs to be out playing football with his friends in the sunshine, not at home asking his mummy why he can't. I'm so proud of Daniel'

Brecon’s father Rob Vaughan, also 44, added: ‘Dan has given us a phenomenal amount of money. I don’t think it is even possible to say how grateful we are, or to put into words what it means.

‘It is incredible. How do you even start saying thank you for something like that?’

It's so heartwarming to come across a selfless act of kindness such as this. However crazy the world seems to get there are always good people doing good things. I applaud them.



Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Talent with toilet rolls

"Creativity is not the finding of a thing, but the making something out of it after it is found". James Russell Lowell

I often like to blog about all things beautiful. The Happy Starfish is, after all, a celebration of happiness and stumbling across artist Anastassia Eilas has certainly brightened up my day.

These awesome creations are amazingly crafted out of old toilet rolls. Anastassia painstakingly carves her chosen image out of the inside of the cardboard tube with a scalpel, leaving the outside intact.

Anastassia, who resides in France usually paints canvasses but decided to start experimenting with different materials.


Monday, 8 July 2013

Andy Murray pays it forward

"True charity is the desire to be useful to others with no thought of recompense". Emanuel Swedenborg

It was hard not to get carried away with the feeling of patriotism that swept the country yesterday after Andy Murray's Wimbledon victory. His 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 defeat of Novak Djokovic was well deserved.

However it was today's news that Murray has reportedly donated his 1.6 million prize fund to a cancer charity that really left me with a warm, fuzzy feeling inside. (Murray is yet to confirm this publicly).

Murray last month donated £73,000 to The Royal Marsden Hospital, his winnings from securing his third Queens Club Title. This hospital had been treating his bests friend Ross Hutchins for Hodgkins Lymphoma.

The feeling of being the first British man in 77 years to hold the cup at Wimbledon must be overwhelming but combine that with the fact the prize money could potentially transform many lives is truly humbling. What a man.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Meditation, why bother?

“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”  Thich Nhat Hanh
I was speaking to a friend last week about meditation. “I can’t be bothered”, she said. “There are so many other, more enjoyable things to do”. Continuing the conversation it became clear that she filled her spare time mainly with tv and reading.  I wouldn’t criticise anyones lifestyle choices, if you have something that makes you happy then great. 
I find though we sometimes use many of our activities as a temporary distraction technique, trying to focus on something, anything, to keep our thoughts at bay. This works to an extent but awareness always creeps in when we least expect or want it. That stomach churning feeling that randomly occurs halfway through our favourite tv programme, when we start thinking about what we have to do the next day, or out enjoying time with friends when we inexplicably start worrying about the bills. That nagging, gnawing feeling that something’s missing, just won’t go away, no matter how much we try to feed it with material possessions or divert our attention away from it.
We all experience life’s highs and lows and it is natural to want to chase the highs. We may embark on a new relationship, change job and for a while feel all is well. We either relax and enjoy that feeling or experience an undercurrent of “this won’t last”, “I don’t deserve this”. Then when the temporary feeling of euphoria does gradually fade away becoming a memory, what next?
We can find ourselves back on the periphery of happiness waiting until things are fixed, changed or improved to get better again. We get caught in the cycle of “when .......... happens I will be happy”. Always waiting, life becomes a perpetual struggle.
We are not born with these feelings of dissatisfaction. They build up bit by bit gradually consuming us and disconnecting us from our conscious awareness, the inner peace that’s always present that we have forgotten we have. Rumi said “we wander from room to room searching for the diamond necklace that is already around your neck”. Call off the search; we are what we seek.
Over time we have constructed a set of conditioned responses we call upon in every situation. When an event happens we label good we fruitlessly try to hang on to that feeling. When a situation we deem bad arises we resist and try to push it away causing us untold stress. We impossibly only want the good. The truth is we are human beings not human doings and we have gotten so busy doing that many of us forget to just Be.
Life is subject to flux. It’s beautifully wild, uncontrollable and ever changing. Recognising that the only thing we can realistically control in the long term is where we focus our attention is the first step on the peace path. 
Through a regular meditation practice  it is possible to change your relationship with your mind, dispelling the negativity enabling you to reconnect to the ever loving, still, silent space within.
Try the following simple meditation: - 
  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.
  2. 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.
  3. Feel each in breath and out breath whilst breathing naturally - you do not need to consciously slow down your breathing.
  4. When you notice you have been off thinking (which you will, this is perfectly natural) gently return your focus to the breath without judgement. (It is important to understand that everyone has thoughts when they meditate, it doesn’t make you ‘bad’ at meditating or mean it isn’t working for you).
  5. 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.
So why bother? Well for me it has really cleansed my thought process. Any fear, jealousy and anxiety has been replaced by a sustainable feeling of completeness. I feel an inner serenity that’s always with me. Ultimately the only way you can find out is by giving it a go yourself.
To attend a meditation workshop or receive one to one coaching and support (also available via Skype) contact me. Next workshop date 13th July, Northamptonshire.