Category Archives for "Blog"
How did you interpret the title of this post? Did you wonder, "How will a post make me get more compliments?" Well I have no magic wand for that one, and I'm certainly not advocating fishing for a compliment!
Instead take a moment to reflect on the difference between what you get in life, and what you actually receive.
We've all had times when we felt we weren't receiving enough - enough money, love, support, compliments. The good news is, how you receive is up to you. Receiving is an action that you take. And it's not a matter of what you're not getting, but rather what you're deflecting.
I know a lot of women who feel much more comfortable with giving than receiving. Deep down, they like themselves better when giving to others, and can find it hard to allow themselves to receive. This plays out in many ways. I'd like you to take a moment to imagine I've just complimented you on something. Maybe a job well done. Maybe your outfit. Maybe the cake you served me when I visited for afternoon tea. How would you respond?
"Oh no, I'm not photogenic at all. You are much more photogenic than me!"
"What, this old thing?"
"You're much better at this than me"
Are you sensing a pattern? All of the responses above, and others in the same vein, prevent us from receiving. When someone offers a compliment, support, help or a gift and we deflect it, we are preventing ourselves from being in a receiving state. When our self worth relies on being a giver, the message we are telling ourselves is that we don't deserve to receive, or when we receive we are not "earning' our worth as much as when we give.
This underlying pattern erodes at our self worth and reduces our ability to replenish ourselves to maintain a giving nature. It also subtly but tangibly rejects the person who is trying to give to us.
Some of us have started to learn to be more gracious receivers and shine some of that generosity of spirit towards ourselves. But watch out for more subtle ways we deflect too. This can be the immediate need to reciprocate, before the receiving has been felt - because the feeling of receiving is too uncomfortable. This may show itself in returning a compliment, saying "Right back at you" or "You too"; or trying to quickly return a favour or gift.
Stop. Just stop. And take a breath.
Even if it brings up discomfort - especially if it brings up discomfort - sit with the receiving. Breathe and soften into it. If you need to say something, acknowledge what you have received rather than trying to give back immediately. "Thank you" is a good starting point.
Notice how your energy feels when you receive. You will learn to tell if your energy is in a receiving or deflecting state when you respond. Be gentle with yourself. For some of us, receiving is something to learn with observation, self-kindness and time.
Start with this: Receive what you need from yourself. If you need support, arrange it for yourself. If you need a break, give yourself permission. And if you need a few words of kindness, they are here. You're doing great. You matter. You deserve it. Breathe.
I'd like to hear from you - how are you learning to receive? Share your thoughts below. And if you know a kind woman who could learn to receive more, send this post to her or share it. If you'd like to receive an environment of support, join me in my cosy corner of Facebook in Sisters With Heart.
She curls up in a ball, in the dark, after another child is taken from her dreams to her nightmares. The world tells her it's no big deal, and she watches as if from a great distance as another friend gives birth to another baby....
Every part of her wants to run far away from the doctor's office: the place where her biggest fear is realised, and she hears the word she dreaded most. Maybe the word is cancer. Or stroke. Or diabetes. Or infertile. Or terminal...
A woman stands alone in front of the mirror, looking with a sense of disbelief and horror at what her condition and time have ravaged across her body. She wants to hide from the one who loves her, and she fears what has happened to her may be stronger than that love...
Another woman is filled with revulsion when she is forced to be confronted by the most taboo parts of her body. She is scared to be too far from a bathroom, and feels embarrassed and ashamed. It's easier to be alone than to go out and meet her friends, and she is hurt by how quickly they begin to move on...
Can you relate to any of these women? Have you been let down by your body in a massive way? One of the hardest things about it can be that the very experience sets us apart from the world, and even apart from our own body. These women have different paths that led them to this point, and may have different regrets, fears and struggles. But one thought bound to cross their minds - as it has mine - is "How can my body do this to me?"
Feeling let down by our body can leave us fractured through our very soul. We battle daily with the enemy we must carry around wherever we go. We feel betrayed. And the more our body has let us down, the more we are told we must take care of it. There's a disconnect and pain that others don't understand.
Nothing I say here on this page today can change the health of our bodies - yours or mine. And I can't speak for your journey or your truth in getting through these challenges. But in love I offer you one thing that has helped me - the paradigm shift of truly connecting to your body.
At one point in recent years, shortly after I made the choice in my own heart to build resilience and learn to get up again after Life had knocked me over, I decided to have a conversation with my body. I could not bear to continue carrying around this burden any longer of having a lack of peace with it. The conversation would be about me attempting to forgive it for what it had put me through. Or so I thought.
Sidebar... I'd recently started studying naturopathy (natural medicine) and re-learning about the physiology of the body. There is one law that each of our bodies always obeys to the best of its ability: The Law of Homeostasis. This is the absolute scientific law of returning our health to balance, of continual correction. Your body is doing this now. Mine is too. You see, disease is not something the body does to us. All our body does to us is devote all of its energy and capacity into coping with invasion, disruption and disease, to create the best outcome for us that it possibly can. Our body would keep us alive and in perfect health for eternity if it possibly could. Our body forgives us when we fill it with rubbish, and tries to right itself. Our body compensates when we don't sleep. Our bodies give everything to combating that problem, just as we do.
So when I was lying awake one night, prepared to offer my body a forgiveness I didn't yet feel... it suddenly occurred to me. Our bodies never let us down at all. There is nothing to forgive it for.
These words might give rise to a mixture of emotions from relief to resistance. But through all that, I'd like you to consider this: if the child you love most in the world had this illness that you have had, would you feel anger at that child's body? Or would you gather that little body into your arms and whisper, "I'm so sorry this has happened to you. You are doing your best. I will love and support you no matter what. Have courage. Keep going".
And that is how my conversation ended up. When I truly connected my heart to my body with a genuine desire to communicate, I realised my body was not the enemy I carried at all. It was the beloved who always takes the journey with me.
If you don't yet have words of your own to get you through, trust that they will come, and allow yourself the connection to your body where it can happen. And if you too find yourself lying awake one night, overwhelmed with the same sense of betrayal, place your hands on your heart and join my whisper,
"I'm so sorry this has happened. You are doing your best. I love and support you no matter what. Have courage. Keep going".
If you'd like to develop a healthier relationship with your body, join The Body Love Challenge below. And I'd love to hear from you - what will you be doing to create peace with your body?
As a kid growing up in the 80s, I would steal a furtive look at my sisters’ magazines and absorb the seemingly glamorous world within. Christie Brinkley, Cindy Crawford, Paulina Paroskova and Elle McPherson were the role models, the ones who truly had it all. In the 90s as a teenager I had my own magazines and the era of the super model was in full swing. Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, Linda “I don’t get out of bed for less than $10,000” Evangelista, Helena Christensen, Claudia Schiffer, Christy Turlington. None of us put up the slightest resistance to the impact they had on our ideals and dreams.
The problem was not a lack of goals, but misdirected goals of wanting to be slimmer, more glamorous, tanned, “gorgeous”. Eventually in the late 90s Anita Roddick had a self esteem campaign for The Body Shop that reminded us “there are 3 billion women who don’t look like supermodels and only 8 who do”. The problem was, we still saw the message as “those 8 are more beautiful”. I loved Anita’s campaign and I have gratitude for it also. We needed this voice of reason. In hindsight, though, I see that the message I craved was not “you can never reach the heights of the supermodels” but rather “the pinnacle of a life well lived is not a certain waist circumference. The reason to love your body is not a bra size.” In fact, the purpose of our body is not to be found in the mirror, on a set of scales or via a tape measure at all.
Our bodies are not decorative objects. We as women are not aspiring arm candy. Our bodies are the sacred vessels that we experience life through. When our favourite meal makes our taste buds sing, when we long for the embrace of the one we love, the exhilaration of dancing to a song that can’t be ignored, the warm balm of spring sunshine on our faces after a long winter…this is the nature of our body.
So make a vow to yourself to be the conscious observer of the thoughts and attitudes you hold towards your body. When you catch yourself chastising part of your body, remember that you are seeing it in a reductionist light that misses the point entirely, and switch your attention to the real dreams of your life.
Be the example you hope the daughters and nieces in your life follow. Rejoice in what your body allows you to experience. If you hope the young girls in your life will always look in the mirror with benevolent eyes, then do the same yourself. If you hope their minds will fill with academic challenges to triumph over rather than counting of calories or obsessing over thighs or a dress size, then turn your focus to a worthy thought first. And if you dream of that young girl being deeply loved, spiritually fulfilled and inspired by life… then don’t reduce your self to being merely a number on a scale. What you are cannot be measured. What you are is Love.
ANd now I’d like to hear from you – how are you committed to showing your body kindness? Let me know in the comments! I would love to welcome you to cosy and kind community of open-hearted women… if that sounds like you join your Sisters With Heart here.
A few days ago my husband and I arrived at the peaceful east coast of Bali. Far away from tourism and commercial interactions, I have felt endlessly blessed talking with 3 wise teachers and observing life as a curious outsider. Soaking up the wild beauty of our ocean and volcano views and the gentle spirit of local customs, I offer you these 9 offerings:
1. A complaining mind is the biggest barrier to purification
Somehow it seemed an excellent idea on a hot and cloudless day to climb a 1,175m high mountain with 1700 roughly hewn steps to reach the ancient Lempuyung Temple in the east of Bali. We reached the beautiful first temple at the start of the ascent where our young and graceful guide sprinkled water on our heads to bless us. She told me to ask for purification for the exertion of the climb ahead, as the steps are steep and those with a complaining mind or heavy heart may not reach the top.
There is something to be said for consciously choosing to stop complaining, even and especially in the privacy of one's own mind. And while it is natural to feel heavy hearted following some of life's challenges the adage "Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional", attributed to Haruki Murakami, is brought to mind. Yes, Life may break our heart open. But we have a choice - albeit a difficult one - to keep it light.
2. Offer first a clean slate, then offer gratitude, then ask for blessings
In Western culture I suspect there is an unconscious tendency to ask first, give thanks perhaps when Life woks in our favour, and as for cleaning the slate of our mind.....! In truth, growth of the mind and spirit functions by beginning with a foundation of a peaceful mind, establishing a viewpoint of gratitude for our current blessings, and from this powerful and sweet place asking for the desires from our heart.
To practice this, consider observing your mind as you go about you day. When you find yourself in a negative thought spiral, choose to challenge your perspective with a new thought that is constructive and believable. Gratitude can be practiced every day with a simple journal to write in 3 blessings in your life each day, or by playing The Gratitude Game. And when you wish for blessings, ensure you have practiced these two steps first, and that your asking comes from your heart.
3. The 3 most important relationships we must cultivate: to God (as we understand), to people and to nature.
I grew up in a Christian family, and so am well used to witnessing people making the sign of the Cross as they enter church. Interestingly, as we sat in the shade of the uppermost of the 7 Lempuyang Temples at the top of the mountain, our guide made the same exact sign out of respect. She explained to me she was making the sign of the swastika - before you panic, please know that before the Nazis appropriated this symbol it had a history of thousands of years as the Hindu sign for peace. We were told when we touch our forehead, we are acknowledging our relationship with the God of our understanding, when we touch each side of our face we acknowledge our relationships to others, and when we touch our heart we bring to mind our relationship to nature. Each of these relationships require balance and health in our lives, and each can be nurtured with right actions.
4. When someone harms us, that is their karma. When we respond, that is ours.
In the shade of sacred water-giving bamboo I am taught that the words and actions of others towards us is never personal to us - it is personal to them. I have heard this many times from a great variety of teachers around the world... perhaps it is time I paid attention. In the past I have resisted this so strongly, and remember many years ago when breaking up with a partner almost shouting at the messenger "How can a break up not be personal?!". In truth only our thoughts, our feelings, our words and our actions are personal. And even these are universal! If someone syas or does something to us that we perceive to be unkind, it is not because we deserve unkindness, it is because the other person is expressing unkindness. It is about them.
We have 2 opportunities here. First, to depersonalise what we receive from others by reminding ourselves to keep our attention on our own inner self. This hugely takes the sting out when you let it, trust me! Second, we choose our words and actions in life not from reaction of the ego (karma alert!), but response of the spirit. Don't beat yourself up when your ego gets a word in first... we're all human! Just notice, regroup and choose to respond differently.
5. Not just our sacred sites can be blessed - blessings can occur everywhere
One of the things I get the hugest buzz from here in Bali is that flowers are everywhere. I don't mean just where they grow.. they are selectively placed everywhere, as an expression of love and gratitude. Ketut, a lovely man who manages the villa where we are staying, explains that offerings must contain certain aspects. Something green, like a leaf, to symbolise a peaceful heart. Flowers, to express love and gratitude. Food, to show thanks to God for what we receive. Water is sprinkled and incense brings fire. The colour of the flowers invokes different aspects of life that the offering gives thanks for.
The beautiful thing though is not only are these official offerings placed throughout the village and in temples; but as a welcome to guests, flowers adorn the most unlikely of places. Every day in our villa, flowers are scattered in the shower, placed on a toilet roll, arranged amongst our food and drinks. I love the idea of everywhere being a form of altar, a place worthy of love and gratitude. Where in your home can you show more love and gratitude? When I return to my home I will look for these little opportunities of everyday adornment.
6. Karmaphala: what we give out we get back
Long familiar with the idea of karma, I'd never heard the full phrase. The lotus is an example of karmapharda... the seed of the flower is the karma or cause, while the flower in full bloom is the phala or effect. While often interpreted as a very literal or fundamental teaching, with effect on random life events or reincarnation, I like to consider karmaphala in the here and now. Regardless of what may happen after I die, I can be certain that when I am practicing good karma the immediate transformation in my heart and peace of mind can be viewed as phala.
On the steep descent down Mount Lempuyang, drenched from the exertion and gingerly scrambling down steps in the heat on my jelly legs, our guide wandered peacefully carrying a large bag to gather rubbish on her way down. "I cannot live without Nature" she explained, "so looking after Nature is good karmaphala". Feeling quite physically exerted but spiritually renewed I conducted a small inner experiment. While it would be impossible sadly to collect all the rubbish on my route I decided to closely observe how my state of mind changed when I picked up a piece of rubbish - which took every bit of remaining energy! - compared with walking past which obviously conserved my physical energy for the descent. Interestingly, each time I bent down in the heat to collect some trash left behind in the dirt I felt at peace. When I left something to be someone else's problem, less so. The lesson here is not that every piece of trash I see in my life is my responsibility. There will be times when we all must choose not to take on a particular battle. But it is clear that we can give from a place of karmaphala and receive the peace such actions bring.
7. Life is balance
Throughout Bali we have seen two-toned flags fluttering in the gentle breeze in temples or other sacred landmarks. Sometimes, the flags are yellow and white, to signify the balance between masculine and feminine. Others are black and white, for the balance of good and evil. I asked if it was not more desirable to just eradicate evil and focus on good only. The response is that darkness exists and must only be understood and balanced with light. The word evil was really lost in translation, as it more about shadow and light, yin and yang, night and day.
In our own lives we can correct the balance of the stresses and worries we get consumed by with good actions, gratitude, correcting our thoughts and maintaining a practice that restores our mind, heart and spirit.
8. Show gratitude
Gratitude can be a flower placed with loving intent. It may be picking up discarded bottles on the road to a temple. It may be journalling the blessings you received that day.
In any form, gratitude takes us gently to a state of mind that is open to receiving life's sweetness. Without gratitude, any amount of good fortune we have in life can not truly be felt. With gratitude, any of our lives is rich and abundant.
A few years ago I felt that life as I'd known it had fallen apart. It was easy to complain and feel hard done by, and hard to see the good in anything. I gave up on gratitude. I gave up on seeing the good. I gave up on balance. And I truly learnt the hard way that pain is inevitable and suffering is optional. I opted to suffer, because it maintained my position of being wronged. But it was not a healthy choice, and over time I chose again, this time from the heart, and I chose gratitude. Gratitude slowly healed the wounds that ego had only managed to deepen. I invite everyone reading this: even if life is difficult.... especially if life is difficult... practice gratitude. If you don't know where to start, start here.
9. Love is inside us
When you feel unsupported, begin by giving yourself the support you most need. When you feel unnoticed and unacknowledged, take notice and provide yourself with validation. And when you feel unloved, know that you re, in Truth, Love itself.
There are many forms for finding love within. You may choose a gratitude practice. You may meditate. Maybe you pray. It could be something you find in movement, or when you're still. It is there when you create, when you smile, and when you cry. It is there at all times. Because Love is who you are.
I'd love to hear from you - let me know in the comments below your secrets of the spirit, and how you find Love inside. I offer you my blessings.
OK confession time... this post is just as much about why no diet ever worked for me. The funny thing about diets is that in every other area of our lives we see ourselves as individuals - we don't all apply for the same career, we don't all read the same books and we don't all try to look good in the same outfit. But somehow, whenever a new "diet" is popular, many of us attempt to make it fit.
The last time I dieted was before my wedding. I dished out a fair bit to join a popular program, and then discovered (in hindsight, not surprisingly) that the food didn't even closely resemble how I need to eat to feel well, and I couldn't stand the exercise program.Since studying naturopathy, the penny has dropped. Rather than trying to make ME fit a generic diet, I need to make my nutrition and exercise fit me. It's like I got a PhD in Rocket Science! The thing is, there's so many aspects of us as complex humans that determines what we're likely to eat. The trick is to examine these keys and understand how to use them to unlock better health.
Fit within your lifestyle
Have you ever tried to follow an eating plan that just doesn't fit your lifestyle? It pretty quickly becomes ridiculous. If you're someone who eats out often due to a busy work schedule or as part of your social life, a meal plan that includes hours in the kitchen or weird processed meals delivered to your door, may not be sustainable. I've learnt to choose from what's around me and prepare ahead when I know I'll be on the road.
Eat to your taste
One of the reasons that last diet failed me was it was designed for someone who eats meat and wheat. I am vegetarian by beliefs and wheat-free by necessity, so it just was unworkable. Instead, I now choose the healthiest options from the foods I love - healthy Indian curries and wholesome soups and salads.
Address the issue
Diet programs tell us what to eat, but usually we fall down for reasons other than lack of knowledge. When I eat chocolate it's not because I think it's healthy, it's because I'm tired or upset or feel I need nurturing. When I eat crisps it's not part of a plan, it's a response to stress and overwhelm. No amount of instructions help, but having a strategy for stress and upset makes a huge difference.
Differentiate between food triggers
Not all food triggers are created equal. It's entirely feasible for me to eat a small slice of cake, or none at all. But if you open a bag of vinegary crisps near me, I will not rest until they are eaten. I can be moderate in drinking wine, but when I used to drink caffeinated soft drinks it was a choice between daily or never. So for me, I can plan my nutrition to include these foods and be extra healthy elsewhere, or avoid them entirely. I chose to keep chocolate and ditch soft drink. It comes down to knowing ourselves. If you struggle to cut back on a particular food, consider that you have an addictive relationship to it, and handle the situation from that perspective.
Identify the influences
We know that understanding healthy nutritional options is only part of why we choose a food - it helps to bring awareness to some of the others. We are influenced by our environment. If your home is filled with a certain food, it is likely that will be the food you eat. If the shops near your work sell junk, you'll need to be prepared with better options. And your environment is social too.. what are your friends, family and partner eating? Where are the situations that will be challenging to make wise nutritional choices? I know that keeping junk food out of my house reduces my intake by about half, and if I don't have healthy snacks with me in the office, my 3pm munchies will drive me to the box of fundraiser chocolate. Like all these points: know yourself, and plan ahead.
Are we even making conscious choices?
Some of my food choices make no sense in my current life. Vinegar crisps?? What am I, 15 and my parents have left me alone for a weekend? What kind of a food choice is this for a naturopathy student? Our food choices are about our history, our stories, the advertisements we see, ingrained habits. I try to stay away from advertising in all its forms and keep awareness of myself. We may not always be conscious of what drives our behaviour, but we can play with our patterns. If you can't skip chocolate, at least only eat it when you're full from a healthy meal first.
Stop the crazy talk
Ever noticed the crazy way we talk to ourselves? Here's an example, "Oh now I've eaten a piece of pie, I might as well give up and eat the whole lot". Ummm....no. Just no. I mean, can you imagine saying that to a child whose health was in your care? "Yes Jimmy, sweets are bad for you and now you've had 1 you might as well eat the whole bag!". Didn't think so.
Play the long game
What goes up, must come down. If we go on a diet, we must go off it. Most diets aren't going to fit into our life long term. Which is why so many people lose a few kilos only to put it back on when they resume normal life. Give up the diet and look at your real life for opportunities to take good care of yourself instead.Form new habits and a new way of living in the world that sustains and nurtures your body.
All you need is love
In the past, all my attempts at diets came from a place of dieting to be good enough. Talk about setting myself up to fail. Here's the better way... decide from now on that you love yourself and your body; your food choices will fall into place when you are deciding what to eat based on how you want to feel and how you want to take care of yourself.If you would like a free journal page to explore how to apply these ideas to your diet and self care, sign up below.Now I'd like to here from you.. which idea will you be implementing to love your body with better nutrition today?
My local village holds a lantern festival each winter solstice, and we gather as a community to wonder at the charming hand made lanterns as friends and neighbours wind through the misty night.
This year had me reflecting on the soul-full messages of solstice, winter and the dark night of the soul. The darkness of the night surrenders to those who carry a light – it doesn’t matter whether they carry a masterpiece or a child’s painted jar and a torch… it is each person adding to a multitude of others who are willing to step up, with their light and a smile. We mark this night, the longest of the year, not only for its darkness – but for the knowledge that it is the turning point to brighter days ahead.
If you find yourself trying to fan your inner flame through a dark night of the soul, I offer these small rituals in support:
1. Surrender your shadow, claim your light.
In front of a cosy home fire or candles, with soulful music playing, take out your journal and write with no censorship. Write the secrets you feel ashamed to speak of, the confession of those parts you don’t admit to. Scribble your tears, fears and anger. Let your emotions run freely in ink… unleash your burdens on the page.
When everything is released, burn the pages (safely!), and as you watch them burn, say “I release my shadows to the light”.
On a fresh page, write a letter from the best part of you to the You that shows up every day doing your best. Acknowledge your efforts, your heart, and your courage. You may like to keep this letter to remind you.
2. Candlelight dancing.
Light candles and take a moment to watch the flames. Reflect on the shadows and darkness you have been finding it hard to face. Choose a song to signify your experience of this long night and allow yourself to move and express all that you have been holding in. If you can’t dance; shake, stamp and shout. Get every cell involved… no one can see you!
When your energy has shifted, play “your song”: the one that reminds you of your light, your brightness. Play it loud, dance it out. Let every note infuse your body.
3. Say “thank you”.
Most of us have heard of having a gratitude practice, but sometimes in a dark night it can be hard to really feel it. At these times I like to shift the focus from reaching in, to that of reaching out. I ask myself, “Who can I thank, acknowledge or send a loving thought to today?”. I sit down and write a card or note to one dear person, to let them know what I love about them. That elusive feeling is always the one I am left with – gratitude.
Now, I would love to hear from you! Let me know if you try any of the above rituals and how they go for you. Tell me your favourite go-to for finding the light during the dark nights. Happy Solstice, friends xo
Have you ever felt the frustration of being back at square one? I have, often. It would seem that any time I have had the ambition to start a new practice, whether it be exercise, meditation, or reading a philosophical text, I flounder and fall along the way and find myself, twenty years down the path, at what appears to be the starting point.
Physically, after so many fitness plans, I still have a slight aversion to physical activity and prefer to be in a more cerebral pastime. To look at it superficially, you could say I’d gone backwards more than forwards. Am I at the starting point? In one sense, always. In another, I’m not even on the same road anymore….
I look in the mirror now and see a face that is older, a body that is rounder. But I see also eyes that meet any gaze head on, and a mouth that can’t prevent curling up at the corners. I see someone who is more sure of their place in the world, and a person I accept in their entirety. I’ll take that over the reflection of yesteryear; younger, prettier but uncertain and needing to earn approval.
So many years into my career I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up. At eighteen I was overwhelmed at the panic of not knowing how to make my mark on the world, to make everything better somehow and find my calling. I’m not sure what my calling is, but I have a sense of pride after fourteen years as a health professional. I didn’t always have the solutions for my clients or patients, and I don’t expect many of them remember my name. But there are hands out there, somewhere, that I held in a time of need. There are people coping with more than I can imagine, and just for the brief time our paths crossed I did what I could and I hope, lightened the load. I witnessed a lonely face lighten up with the joy of a child as she opened a letter from the Queen on the occasion of her 100th birthday. There was the frail hand I held when I reassured her that her loved ones would be okay, when it was time for her to let go. I have no prizes, but I have a lifetime of moments.
I am heartened by the writing of Julia Cameron, who tells us that if the view looks the same, we can be reassured that we are merely observing the same vista from a higher vantage point on an ever upwards path. Scriptures tell us that to find the truth we must be like children. No great teacher ever asked of us to be fully fledged in our wisdom, or infallible in our efforts. We are never asked for more than we can do in this moment.
Today I try to be gentle with myself in my wish to begin a meditation practice. I am reminded that mindfulness exists in the present moment. If I didn’t meditate yesterday, that is past and I meditate today. If my mind wanders, that is past and I return to the breath. If I’ve sat in this way a thousand times before, always at the start… That too is past, and I sit now with a blank slate and beginner mind.
The greatest gift in mindfulness is the futility of thinking what could have been, and the relief of living with what is. For it is in the present moment that we are given the opportunity to run, to hold hands, to breathe. Not in the past or future, but only now; there is someone to reach out to, an error to forgive, oneself to accept. The moment is here. Choose it.
Before we moved to a country village, I thought our new life would be all about gathering the evening meal from the veggie garden, mingling in our community and wintry forest walks.
So far, country life has been about seasons and chickens.
Chickens weren’t part of the plan. Oh they were – some day. I just planned it that once we’d settled in I would do lots of research, visit friends with chooks and consult. Then, when I graduated from Chook College I would somehow be “ready” and, with measured consideration, acquire chickens.
Not to be. The exiting family hadn’t made a plan for their two hens and asked if we’d keep them. It seemed my induction into the world of chooks would be a “learn by doing” experience rather than a theoretical one. Possibly a good thing. I tend to overthink situations!
There’s been a few comical scenes – such as when I herded one hen off to bed only for the other to escape (I discovered later they take themselves to bed at sunset). Or, just today, when I got locked in the chook house while cleaning it and pondered the sudden question of “how long will it take my husband to notice my absence?” Fortunately for both of us it wasn’t long – but it wasn’t just the kookaburras who were laughing at me!
The seasons of town are magnified and glorified in the hills. Final glimpses of Autumnal reds and yellows welcomed us to the neighbourhood. Now we rejoice in winds through the forest that remind us beautifully and ominously of Who is in charge. Watching electrical storms over the valley is magnificent. The early morning mists amongst the ferns and trees along the drive to work suddenly seem like the best way to start the day. Inside, we are warmer and cosier than ever before, with crackling fires, mulled wine and cooking up a storm.
For anyone else like me who’d consider chickens but doesn’t know the basics, here’s what I’ve learnt so far:
* chooks will turn the soil in your veggie patch for you – and fertilise it! But they’ll also eat the plants so for me, chooks in the veggie patch will be a seasonal activity
* chickens will eat all day; there doesn’t seem to be a particular amount to feed them – just keep their trough full and scatter a bit outside with some veggie scraps
* chooks need shell grit. I had no idea about this for about two weeks – poor Henny and Penny. Now I just keep a takeaway container of it in their house and scatter some outside
* they need regular worming and flea treatments. Who knew? You can get a natural flea powder, and putting cool wood ash out for them to bathe in is meant to help too. I’m going to try that this week
* take themselves to bed, but you have to lock them in safely just after sunset to be sure foxes don’t get them
* I still need to discover how much cleaning and new bedding they need each week. At this rate I’ll spend more time cleaning their house than ours – I’m sure there’s a balance there somewhere.
I’d love to hear your chook tips – especially natural worm and flea treatments and please explain how their bedding is meant to be maintained!
Next week I’m going to get to know the compost bin! Nothing like a day in my red polka dot gumboots surrounded by kookaburras, rosellas, cockatoos and trees.
As I finish this post the sun is setting over the valley. Bed time for the chooks. Mulled wine for me.
This year, for the first time, I was inspired to “give something up for Lent”. I had been toying with the unpleasant idea that it was time, at 37, to wean myself off the very teenage addictive relationship I have with caffeinated soft drinks. I am truly all or nothing about them, I must drink them every day; or never. I don’t think it would have happened so soon though, except that I was swept away by the tide of Lent. In hearing of others’ renouncing of their various vices I suddenly found myself declaring “I’m giving up energy drinks”.
I truly believe that there are two features of Lent that are quite powerful. The first is the collective strength generated by the energy of people participating all around the world, and across time. It’s a sweep of momentum that can carry us and help our resolve. The second is in making a declaration. It’s less vague and deniable than just having the notion that drinking lolly water is becoming ridiculous.
Having given up this delicious vice, I found myself feeling liberated rather than deprived. It occurred to me that this was a wonderful spiritual irony. Giving up what we are attached to makes us happier. I became interested in the whole idea of Lent. A ritual to renounce a luxury or attachment, it is also a time to reflect and develop spiritually. Suddenly it wasn’t even about the attachment anymore, but rather what could be discovered in the empty space created.
Lent is a time that honors the forty days that Jesus spent preparing himself by battling demons to emerge spiritually triumphant and free. This idea of renouncing in remembrance of our great teachers is universal. In Passover leavened bread is given up and those who escaped slavery to form the people of Israel are remembered and honored. In Ramadan the revealing of the Qu’ran to Mohammed is reflected on while abstaining from food and drink. These great traditions I believe show us how remembering is best done, by lessening our mortal attachments and lifting our minds and hearts to something greater and more noble.
On a more personal level the opposite can become true, and we hang ever more tightly to what we perceive as lost. The idea of loosening this attachment horrifies us and we can feel heavy inside. Maybe the lessons of our spiritual traditions can help us more than we realize, and there will come a time for each of us where we offer up our personal sorrows and tribulations. Throughout these times we can remember those who travelled the same path before us; and in renouncing the attachments of the ego allow space for their wisdom to guide us. For we each have our demons to face, our courageous journeys to make and our great lessons to receive.
When I read about New Year’s resolutions on the Internet, I learn about ancient customs of reflecting on the year that’s been, and committing before one’s God to a new beginning as a better person. January is named for Janus, the Roman god of beginnings and transitions. He has two faces, one looking to the past and one gazing into the future…
I must confess though that most years when January comes, my reflection on the past is lost amongst plans of What To Do For New Years Eve, and my resolve to the future largely revolves around quick fixes for whatever is currently causing me dissatisfaction: losing weight, saving money. Goals can be motivating and drive us forward, but they can also be thinly veiled discontent.
This year I’m trying something different, maybe more in keeping with the original season of new beginnings.
First, I look back on the year that was – not in the form of dwelling in the past, but to ground myself in the gratitude for the blessings I was fortunate enough to harvest. I list all these blessings, large and small, and take a moment to acknowledge each accomplishment, kindness, and act of love. Some blessings are easily recognized – my happy wedding day, my travels, the supportive people in my life. Others are lessons of non-attachment when finally accepting that life has its own flow, and no amount of paddling upstream or expecting others to conform to my expectations will change this. There have been some moments where the only option was futile resistance or complete surrender and trusting in grace. For these moments I am grateful that I can surrender, and that I do trust.
Part of this acceptance leads to putting aside the events of the year, and letting go to the moments I wish could last forever, as well as the ones I’d go back and change.
Facing forward, I decide this year not to base resolutions on my goals. The goals are still there, but perhaps more as surface details. Today I reflect on the commitment I’d like to make to my higher self, in order to progress along my journey in this lifetime.
Two commitments occur to me as essential for true progress. First, to spend time more frequently in reflection with my inner guidance. The only way this guidance can be stronger than external distractions is by paying it more attention. And after all, it is only inside myself that peace and happiness reside. I will never find out there what I’m not connected to in here.
Next I accept that I can only progress if I am willing to forgive. Every slight or hurt I perceive as being done by others – but also those I see in myself. Every event that has happened – but also every dream that hasn’t.
For it is in forgiveness that acceptance, peace and compassion reside, and only in forgiving are we free to reach our potential for happiness. We forgive not for those who hurt us, but for those who didn’t who deserve our less distracted attention, and for ourselves. We forgive not for the dreams that died, but for the ones that still have the chance to live. Forgiveness is not an exercise in righteousness or weakness, but a choice for happiness, and an act of extreme courage.
Lastly from all this reflection I bring myself back to the present moment, the sounds of my dog snuffling in the hope a treat might be waiting on the kitchen floor, and my husband cheerfully fixing something in the next room. It is in this present moment that my resolutions ultimately can be effected, not in either past or future.
So this year, I resolve:
To look back only in gratitude
To reconnect with my inner guidance
To be willing to forgive
To be present
Wishing everyone a truly happy new year.