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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?

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Have yourself a stress-free Christmas

“Christmas doesn't come from a store, maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more....” Dr Seuss.
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, 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. 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 slave 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 remembers whether the cranberry sauce came 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 x

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Tell me I can't? Watch me.


You are never too old to set a new goal or dream a new dream - C.S. Lewis

I used to believe that everything, anyone told me was the absolute truth. If I announced a desire to do something I would listen earnestly to my family, friends, doctors, the person in the post office queue, if they didn't think it was a good idea, I didn't try. After all everyone has my best interests at heart, right?

Actually, not always, no. I'm not sure why some people try to deter others, to keep them from their goals. I don't believe it is always malicious, or jealousy. I think sometimes it seems inconceivable that someone could accomplish something that may be seemingly unobtainable to other. Imagine the reaction when Thomas Eddison first announced he wanted to make a lightbulb. Maybe there is a desire to stop someone potentially getting hurt by failing. To me though, the only failure is not to try.

I have learnt over the past few years, through mindfulness, to establish a loving, kindly relationship with myself and to trust and respect my own opinion. I have cultivated a self belief I never would have dreamed was possible a few years ago. That's why, when several months ago, I decided to try to write a novel, with no creative writing experience I was prepared for the negativity that followed.

'It takes at least three years to write a first book.' 'Most people give up before the end.' 'The first book you ever write will be rubbish.' 'There is so much completion, it's not even worth trying.' 'You have neither the time, nor the energy to do it.'

You name it, I heard it, but I heard something stronger. A little voice inside whispering, watch me.
I am really happy that I have now completed the first draft of my novel and feedback from early readers has been really positive.  I believed I could and I did.

What if......?


'But you don't know how,' taunts doubt. 

'You're not good enough, strong enough or clever enough,’ whispers negativity.

'But what if you tried?' urges hope fluttering its tiny wings, vibrations course through me, propelling me forwards.

It is time to make a choice. 

I stand of the precipice of fear, close my eyes and jump.

I fly.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

The Scent of Happiness


I wrote a 100 word piece of Flash Fiction this week called The Scent of Happiness. (You can read here if you wish).

Our sense of smell is inordinately powerful. It can make us mentally time travel to a past experience within seconds. The smell of home baking transports me back to my Nana's kitchen, the smell of suncream links me to building sandcastles on a beach with my children. These are all pleasant experiences to revisit. The smell of Gin however, reminds me of teenage heartbreak, of drinking too much in an effort to console my poor, broken heart.
We are often not consciously aware of these sensory links. We may smell something that links us to an unpleasant memory, like the one above, and find ourselves in a low mood, without quite understanding why. In the case of a pleasant memory we may feel sad it has gone, wishing we could cling on to the happy feelings, scared we will never feel that way again.

Through Mindfulness we learn to recognise these sensory links and the physical sensations that may accompany them and observe them in a kindly, non judgemental way. Rather than resisting or ignoring the emotions that are present for us, (what we resist persist) we learn to let them be, to practice acceptance and self compassion, in a way that fully supports our health and wellbeing.

To find out more about our Mindfulness courses or one to one coaching (also available via Skype) please visit our website and contact us for further information.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Nobody's perfect (that's why pencils have erasers)

“If we judge people we have no time to love them”. Mother Teresa 

I am a long-term gold member of weight watchers and attend the obligatory 5 meetings a year to keep my membership active. 

At my last meeting the Leader was talking about WW headquarters and how some of the girls that work there can’t reach or stay at their target weights. Perfectly acceptable I thought. Other members of my group clearly didn’t think so.

Numerous comments were made insinuating that weight watchers shouldn’t employ staff that haven’t got their weight under control. 

It’s crazy that people think like that. No-one is infallible. I was so tempted to stand up and say “my name’s Louise, I’m a nutritional therapist and I ate too much cake’.

Yes I may know, in theory, the perfect diet, but when I developed a chronic health condition several years ago, I, as many others do, turned to food for comfort.

Of course it didn’t take long for me to accept my new, unhealthy diet was exacerbating my already high levels of pain which far outweighed any temporary high sugar was giving me. 

Getting back to the wholesome, clean food I was used to and removing any excess weight from my already inflamed joints was such a relief.

But my point is we are all human. People generally put enough pressure on themselves without others offering judgements. If we didn’t slip up we would never learn, grow and inadvertently create new opportunities in this crazy life of ours. Nobody is perfect and I for one am glad.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Are you living your best life?


“Listen--are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?  Mary Oliver

Today I feel humbled, full of blessings and more than slightly in awe of the incredible lady I met today. She is in her 60's, terminally ill, housebound and one of the most positive people I have ever met. She contacted me through the awesome charity Stages to ask if I would go to her home to teach her mindfulness. She had been reading a lot about it and was curious. I had heard her backstory before I went and aside from her ill health this lady has been through a LOT.

I feel grateful to have had the privilege to meet this lady. Although I am teaching her mindfulness over the next few weeks I have a feeling she will be teaching me far more about living. To retain dignity, hope and a sense of curiosity in such difficult circumstances was really inspirational to me.  Having a disability I do try to always focus on the things I can do, rather than the things I can't and this morning was a great reminder that you are never too old, sick or immobile to seek out a new experience and find some joy in life. Are you making the best of yours?

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” 

Friday, 5 September 2014

Super Sprouting

"If you don't look after your body; where are you going to live"?

I often talk to people who really want to improve their diet and overall health but genuinely can’t afford to spend more than they already are on their weekly grocery bill, which sometimes in this economic climate, is next to nothing.

Sprouting is something I often recommend. A sprout is the transitional stage between seed and plant. For very little expenditure and effort sprouted pluses, nuts and grains are nutritious, fresh, tasty and, I believe, one of the most underestimated foods available to us today.

With virtually zero effort, no preparation or cooking they are the ideal food for a busy lifestyle. Grown in your own home they are a clean safe food eaten raw, ensuring nothing is destroyed or altered in the cooking process.

Grains are the staple diet of much of the world’s population, generally ground, baked or boiled making it difficult to extract the nutrients as these processes damage the food.

Our digestive systems are not equipped to digest raw grains and pulses, of which many contain enzyme inhibitors that interfere with our digestion. Enzyme inhibitors are there to prevent seeds sprouting prematurely and can cause us headaches, stomach pains and gas, but are destroyed during the cooking process.

To sprout a seed and then consume it is a totally natural form of eating, great for your overall health. Try it and watch your energy levels shoot up and your hair, skin and nails improve.

What to sprout – There are so many to choose from! My personal favourites are; Alfalfa (contains alkaline protein, vitamins B & E, unsaturated fatty acids and calcium). Mung (amino acids, iron, potassium and vitamin C). Aduki (Vitamin C, iron and amino acids). Sunflower (vitamin B, E, amino acids, calcium, phosphorus, iron, magnesium and potassium). Have a look around your local health food store – there are plenty on offer.

Equipment - You can buy sprouting jars, alternatively any large glass jars with a neck large enough to fit your hand inside is sufficient if you cover the top with muslin or nylon mesh and secure with a rubber band or string. Sprouting jars will come with a stand which allows them to drain at 45O, if you using a regular jar be sure to have some place to prop them against.

Method – Place the required amount of seed in the jar and half fill with water. Cover the jar with cloth or screw on lid if using a sprouting jar. Leave to soak for the required length of time (each seed is different and instructions should be on bag). Drain the water off and wash thoroughly. Drain at 45o for 2 minutes.

Place the somewhere not too warm or bright (they will dry out too much) to grow. Sprouts do well in the temperature and humidity which suits us best.

Rinse and drain sprouts once a day for the next two to five days until they are sprouting and ready to eat.

How to eat – Can be added to salads, as a garnish, sandwiches, finger snacks, soups, casseroles, on crackers, stir fry, juices.

Experiment and have some fun with it. Happy sprouting.

Oh Spirulina, you taste so bad (and smell even worse)

Spirulina, a highly nutritious micro salt plant, is ridiculously good for you. A complete protein containing all the essential amino acids, it also containing a range of vitamins and minerals. This super food has many potential health benefits including boosting the immune system and energy levels, improving digestion, controlling appetite, it supports the vital organs and, due to the chlorophyll, it is a great all round detoxer. 
To aid my health condition I have taken spirulina supplements regularly due to the high levels of the essential fatty acid gamma linolenic acid (GLA) which is proven to reduce inflammation and the iron and B vitamins help combat my fatigue.
Last time I decided to have a change from capsules and bought some powder to add to my raw juice each day. I was chatting to my son as I opened the packet and he visibly recoiled as the smell came wafting out. "Mum, you've taken health too far" he said as he slowly backed away. Sniffing the contents I had to agree he had a point.
The first time I added it to my juice didn't go well. It wasn't entirely the taste (although that was bad enough) but the stench turned my stomach every time I took a sip.
Now braver people than I may be able to add this to water and knock it back but not me so I set off on a quest to make it more palatable.
There are a myriad of recipes online all claiming to make spirulina more palatable and I have tried many. I couldn't find one which masked the smell and I found them hard to tolerate. When it came to juices the only way I found to tone down the taste was to add 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar. 
Next I decided to add to food. I tried David Wolfe's spirulina and chocolate ball recipe. 
¼ cup hempseed
½ cup raw cacao powder
1-2 tbsp spirulina
3 tbsp virgin coconut oil
2 tbsp raw honey
1 pinch sea salt
You mix all ingredients together, roll into balls and freeze for 15 minutes. You can eat straight from the freezer.
My husband liked these but I could still taste the spirulina, although I couldn't smell it anymore. (it is worth noting that different brands have slightly different taste and smells so it is worth shopping around to find a brand that suits you).
As a last ditch attempt before I added the powered to empty vegetarian capsules I thought I would try a smoothie. I blended almond milk with a handful of frozen berries, 2 tsp spirulina, 2 tsp cacao powder, 2 tsp flax seeds and 1 tsp agave nectar. Success - it tastes (and smells) fantastic.
I would love to know of your spirulina experiences. 

Make your own Almond Milk

It is super easy to make your own almond milk with a little forward planning.  Loaded with minerals, vitamin E, calcium, magnesium and potassium - this dairy free milk also tastes delicious.
To make you will need 1.5 cups of raw almonds and a straining bag. (Most people used blanched almonds but I don't worry as you strain it all at the end anyway).
Soak the almonds in water to soften - overnight is best but at least 4 hours.
Strain the water from the almonds and place in blender with 1 cup of water. 


Blend until they become a smooth paste (this doesn't take long at all). Don't worry too much about the appearance at this stage. This is particularly unattractive as the almonds weren't blanched.
Add another 3 cups of water and blend again until smooth and frothy.

Now you can, if you wish, add something to sweeten the milk and give another blitz (i.e a couple of dates, cinnamon, honey, syrup or vanilla). I personally sweeten mine when I wish to drink but leave unsweetened in the fridge so I can cook savoury sauces with it. 
Strain (I use a jam straining bag).  You can (just) see the skins are retained in the bag.

Bottle and enjoy. IMG_3239

Store the milk in the fridge until you want to use. I freeze some too (remember not to overfill containers as will explained a little when frozen).

5 mindful ways to start your day


“The best way to capture moments is to pay attention. This is how we cultivate mindfulness. Mindfulness means being awake. It means knowing what you are doing.” ― Jon Kabat-Zinn
What do you do when you wake up? Do you instantly lurch headlong into a world full of status updates and tweets, or ease yourself mindfully into the day ahead? The way we choose to spend those first precious moments after waking can set the tone for the hours that follow. 
It is all too easy to reach for the smartphone to turn off the alarm and automatically start checking emails, social networking sites and the news. Our minds go into overdrive. Our thought train has gone from resting to racing, absorbing depressing news stories, frantically compiling a list of things we absolutely mustn't forget to do. Beginning the day in such a busy way can cause underlying anxiety and agitation affecting the way we react to inevitable forthcoming challenges.
Integrate these five steps into your morning routine and notice how centred you feel as you go about the rest of your day.
1) When you wake carry out a mindful check in. Start by becoming aware of your breathing. Feel the weight of your body on the bed. Notice your temperature, any physical sensations that are present. Spend a few moments noticing any thoughts and emotions that are present. What is your underlying mood today?
2) When getting out of bed, fully feel your feet on the floor. Ease into some mindful movement. Bringing awareness to your movement trains your focus, a tool you can use in everyday life.
3) Bring presence to your routine. When showering become aware of the sensations of the water on your body. Hear the sound of the cascading water. Notice the scent of the products you use. Fully feel your fingertips massaging your scalp as you wash your hair. How does it feel to fully experience the present moment?
4) Eat your breakfast mindfully. Fully connect with the pleasures of eating, without feeling the need to be multi tasking. Notice the texture, the smell and the flavours of your food.
 5) Before leaving for work meditate for 5 minutes. Sit and notice the breath where it makes itself most predominantly known to you, be it the abdomen, nostrils or chest. If it helps you concentrate count each breath, the in breath as 1, the out breath as 2 etc. until you get to ten and then begin again. 
Prioritising your internal world and leaving the external world where it is for a few moments longer eases you gently into the day with calmness and purpose enabling you to react to any challenges with clarity.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

What I have learned in my first year of marriage


A year ago today I was lucky enough to marry my best friend. Those that read My Gretna Green Wedding blog know that we chose to elope and had an amazing week, with the minimum of planning, completely living in the present moment. We were full of love, joy and completely open to adventure. So what happened when we came home and reality hit?

Well, I learned:

To retain my sense of self - 'They,' (and I am not quite sure who 'they' are) say the first year of marriage is the hardest.  I wasn't expecting to have a period of adjustment. After all we lived together and had a family, but surprisingly, I did initially question my identity. I had spent many years since acquiring a disability learning to love and accept myself exactly who I was. I didn't want to revert from having complete acceptance to being labelled a 'wife,' and risk losing a little of myself. It was for this reason I refrained from changing my surname. I may do this in the future but I quite like the feeling of independence retaining my maiden name has given me. Of course, not many people feel the need to do this but it has been a long, hard road emotionally to get to where I am today. I make my own choices, for my own good, because I can.

Always take your partner seriously - It is awesome to feel that someone has my back no matter what I do or say and that support is wholeheartedly given back. As a writer my imagination is often in overdrive (which is why I use mindfulness so much to balance it out). I know no matter how inane the things I think or say are (and I do have some crazy thoughts) Tim will give all my fears, ideas and plans equal consideration. We never belittle each others dreams, or use them as entertaining dinner party conversation. There are enough people in the world who run you down. Love and support the one who backs you up.

Communicate. Talk, talk and then talk some more - There is a tale I tell in my classes sometimes about a couple. She asks 'would you like steak or fish for dinner?' He replies 'I don't mind.' Months later, at couples counselling she recounts this story as 'I asked him what he wanted for dinner and he said he didn't care.' 'Oh no,' he said, 'I was trying to make life easier for you. Whatever you cook is delicious and I really appreciate it.' A basic example but it is so easy to misconstrue what someone tells you. Every day we make sure we are on the same page.

Love yourself first - I wouldn't be able to love my husband as wholeheartedly as I do if I didn't love myself. Those who have issues in relationships surrounding jealously, putting each other down, being over clingy or distant need to work on their relationship with themselves. I take time each day to meditate. By practicing mindfulness I can connect with any emotions and thoughts as they arise and observe them in a non-judgemental, kindly way.  I am secure in myself and therefore secure in my relationship.

Make couple time - Urgghh, I almost didn't put this in as it is so cliched but it is so important. It's easy to stop really seeing your partner, to take them for granted. I know as parents we are often so focused on the children weeks go by and we have not really had anytime to ourselves. We diarise us time whenever we can, writing it on the calendar as if it's an appointment (but way more enjoyable). I love my husband so much I have chosen to share the rest of my life with him. It seems crazy to not schedule regular alone time. 

Make your love for each other more important than any obstacles or temptations life puts in your way. Always.


Monday, 28 July 2014

Where would the world be?

I wrote a short story on my fiction blog on Saturday called 'Where would the world be,' (you can read below).
If I was granted one wish in this lifetime it would be to make people a little kinder towards each other. Often it can be hard to know how, or ever when to help but I firmly believe there are small acts of kindness we could carry out almost daily. These small acts could truly enrich the lives of others and if we all led by example and paid it forward just imagine the overall effect on humanity. but, and here's the thing, everyone needs to do something.
There are those, like Janet, in the story below, who does one thing, to validate her self worth but is blinkered when it comes to others genuinely needing a bit of support, those whose second nature it is to help whenever and wherever possible and those that rarely do anything. I like to think that those who do nothing just haven't needed a random act of kindness themselves and don't understand the huge impact they could make by carrying one out.
Kindness. Let's spread it around.
Where would the world be?
‘You are good,’ said Father Brian admiring the patchwork of colour Janet had created. Containers of sweet peas, peonies and lavender bought a warmth to the cool, dark church. ‘I wish more people were like you. The world would be a better place.’
‘I do my best,’ blushed Janet.’‘See you tomorrow Father.’
Janet turned into the High Street towards home. The sound of crying sliced through her thoughts. About 40 yards ahead of her was a lone girl of around 6, her face as pink as her torn dress. Long blonde hair hung in matted clumps around her face which was sodden with tears. Blood oozed down her leg from a cut knee, staining her white ankle sock crimson.
Janet pretended to search in her bag for something as she crossed the street. It wouldn’t do to approach a child nowadays. You could be accused of anything. Anyway, she was certain the mother would turn up soon.
Outside the chemist a man hunkered down wrapped in a grimy blanket and sheets of sorrow. His face dark with dirt and loss. A shabby cap was placed in front of him, as he tried to collect loose change and hope from a world that had turned its back long ago. Avoiding eye contact Janet stepped over his dreams of a hot dinner. What was the world coming to begging in the streets? This was England for heavens sake!
At the crossroads the Big Issue seller smiled at Janet. ‘A magazine to help the homeless?’ he proffered. Janet didn’t break her stride, her gaze fixed firmly on a spot in the distance as she bustled ahead.
Turning right into Brown Street Janet was relieved to be home. As she turned her door key she could hear the fumbling of her neighbour unlocking her door.  Stepping over her threshold Janet slammed the door behind her. Old Mrs Davies always wanted a chat. ‘It’s not my problem her husband has died and her children don’t visit’, thought Janet. ‘Besides, my programme starts in 10 minutes.’
The shrill sound of the telephone shattered the silence.
‘Hello Janet. I’ve been trying you all afternoon.’
Hello Doris. It was my afternoon for volunteering at the church, doing the flowers for the service tomorrow.’
‘You are such a good person Janet. Always thinking of others.’
‘I know. But where would the world be if we didn’t all do our bit?’

Chia seed puddings

Chia seeds are insanely good for you. They come from the desert plant Salvia hispanics and are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, fibre, protein and minerals. Recent research suggest that regular consumption of chia may low cholesterol and blood pressure.
I sprinkle chia over my breakfast every day.
This chocolate chia dessert feels really indulgent and is really easy to make. Chia is very filling so I get 4 desserts out of this recipe.
To make a traditional chocolate chia pudding mix 1 1/4 cups of the milk of your choice (I use my homemade almond milk) with 1/4 cup chia seeds and 2 tablespoons cacao powder and 1 tablespoon of sweetener (I use agave nectar). Give it a good mix and place in the fridge for a minimum of an hour to set (extra yummy if you leave overnight). That will give you a dessert that looks like this: -
However, some people do liken the texture to eating tadpoles! I like my dessert a little smoother and thicker so before eating I blend with a banana which will give you something that looks like this.
I top mine with grated homemade chocolate.
If you wish you can omit the chocolate and add some vanilla bean paste. I love this version with chopped up fruit.

Become a consciousness explorer

“Your vision becomes clear when you look inside your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.” - Carl Jung
Mindfulness meditation has enabled me to reconnect to the inner peace inside, that contentment we are born with but lose as we develop the ability to wish things were different. We put off happiness, endlessly waiting until things are fixed, changed or improved to find our nirvana. How often have you said to yourself 'I will be happy when I get a new job/earn more money/lose 10lbs?'

External changes often don't dispel the inner gnawing discontentment and then what? Call off the search, you have everything you need within. Become a consciousness explorer. Close your eyes and wake up.

Mindfulness has been so life changing for me I completed a comprehensive teacher training programme and offer Skype coaching, 1-2-1 sessions and group courses.

Our next 8 week MBCT course commences on 8th September in Wellingborough, Northants.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

My body is awesome


My body is awesome. 

I never used to think this way. Ironically it has only been in the last few years since acquiring a disability that I have learnt to love myself.

When I was younger I used to weigh myself every single morning and that figure on the scale would govern my entire day from how I dressed, what I ate and most importantly my mood. I used to believe the way I looked defined who I was. After all our appearance is the first thing we notice about each other and although pretty much everyone is familiar with 'never judge a book by its cover,' sadly many automatically do.

After my health circumstances changed so drastically I began to explore mindfulness as a way to cope with both the daily pain and the emotional distress a chronic health condition can bring. I reconnected to my conscious awareness, that inner peace that is present from birth. We commonly lose sight of this as we grow and develop our (often unhealthy) belief systems.  Exploring my consciousness helped me understand I am not my body. It's just a place I inhabit in this lifetime. and doesn't define who I am. We can lose pieces of our bodies, limbs, skin, one of our senses and it doesn't make us any less of a person. I call the body the ‘little me’. Me, the actual ‘big me’, is something beautifully whole, intangible and perfect.

I am grateful for the body I have and I am thankful for all it still can do. I have an extraordinary skeleton which houses all the vital organs I need that function each day for my health and wellbeing. 

My body is awesome, but you know what? So is yours.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

My lovely random act of kindness surprise


"You have two hands, one to help yourself, one to help others."

Anyone who knows me, or reads my blog, understands I get more than a teensy bit excited when I hear of pay it forward stories.

Yesterday I was a recipient of a random act of kindness which instilled such a warm and fuzzy feeling, it hasn't worn off yet. Following my post stating my intention to want to write a novel I was touched to receive a gift of three books on novel writing, via amazon , from a fellow blogger. This was accompanied by a lovely note wishing me luck.

I don't know this blogger (who wishes to remain anonymous), and living on the other side of the world I am unlikely to ever meet them, but am so grateful of their encouragement.

It would be easy to paint a bleak view of our world today, hate, crime and war appear to be everywhere. Many of us live in fear, stress and uncertainty, our anxieties fuelled by the media and drip fed with every bad news story circulated.  We can make a difference. We can create our own good news stories. I blogged last year about a kindness book we have in our kitchen to encourage our children to be mindful of things they can do for others, and there is always something we can do for others, however small. 

Kindness is contagious - be a carrier.


Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Facing demons (last night I saw true courage)


“Confront the dark parts of yourself, and work to banish them with illumination and forgiveness. Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing.” August Wilson

Last night we began teaching the first week of our mindfulness programme for recovering addicts, on behalf of the wonderful local charity STAGES.

There was a lovely guy there who was literally on the first day of his journey to live an alcohol free life. He was seeking all the support he could, fiercely determined to succeed.

We regularly hear stories about bravery, passers-by intervening in muggings or rescuing a stranger from a fire, and these acts really do deserve commendation.

We mustn't forget however, that  one of the most courageous acts we can perform is facing our fears. When we confront the demons inside we strip away everything we think we are, everything we pretend to be. We see the things we try to hide from everyone, including ourselves. 

Eckhart Tolle says in The Power of Now, “Every addiction arises from an unconscious refusal to face and move through your own pain. Every addiction starts with pain and ends with pain. Whatever the substance you are addicted to — alcohol, food, legal or illegal drugs, or a person — you are using something or somebody to cover up your pain”.

To let go of coping strategies, crutches, we have put in place for evading difficulties, leaving ourselves open, exposed and vulnerable can feel like the most terrifying thing in the world. When you let go of what you’re not, you find out what you are, and self-awareness is the first step towards real self love and creating a meaningful existence.

Last night I may not have witnessed a crime or seen any burning buildings but I saw true courage and feel privileged to have done so.

Monday, 16 June 2014

A good day out and a dollop of judgment


'What other people think of me is none of my business.'
I had a lovely day out this weekend with friend. Although we have known each other for years we generally socialise at one another's houses, where my mobility restrictions are not an issue.
We drove up to the venue we were visiting and asked for directions to disabled parking. The attendant replied 'it's for people who are disabled'. Umm yes, that would be me, with my badge clearly on display on my dashboard which I showed him. He then tried to stick his head through the open window and aggresively enquired where my wheelchair was. After pointing out my crutches he reluctantly let us through the gate.
At the other end was a gentleman directing cars into spaces. I politely asked if we could park on the space at the end or on the row near the entrance. No, we were (impolitely) told to drive to the other side of the field when there were nearer spaces.
My friend, by now, was quite upset. 'Why is everyone so rude to you?' 
It's because many people make instant judgements. I don't look like they think a 'disabled' person should look. I am not old (enough), physically deformed, there is nothing glaringly obviously wrong with me when you look at me. I make people uncomfortable. They don't understand what they can't see and therefore make snap decisions, there is nothing wrong with me, I am probably just lazy wanting to park nearer. How dare I?
When we got out of the car and headed towards the entrance the same attendant was totally different. He became really friendly and apologetic. Is this because he could see my crutches then, my obvious discomfort, something tangible he could understand?
It was interesting to witness the reaction of my friend in various situations throughout the day. I don't generally notice the judgements of others any more. I am not sure whether it is through my mindfulness practice enabling to consciously see the judgements of others and not attach to them or whether I have had so many years now of peoples reactions I am just immune to them. I no longer let the actions of others dictate how my day goes. I can't choose what others think or say but I can choose the way I react and feel, and this with compassion, both towards them and myself.
We all, often subconsciously, make judgements, an event happens, a person acts and we immediately label it as good, bad, right, wrong, better or worse. My challenge to you is to try to notice your judgements over the next 24 hours and see if you can suspend them. Let things be exactly as they are without the need for labels. I would love to hear how you get on.