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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?

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.