phone boundaries

I received my first mobile phone on my 13th birthday, almost 17 years ago.

This means i've had a phone in my possession for the whole of my teenage and adult life. 

Recently i've become more aware of how much it seeks my attention, how much it depletes it.  
 
I find myself checking it for no reason and filling gaps of time with mindless scrolling.
 
I don’t like it.
 
I don’t want to be constantly connected to the world and it’s wife.
 
I don’t need to be privy to a continuous stream of content. 
 
I want space. 
 
I want my focus to be on what’s happening in real life, around me. 

It's time to take the power back.
 
It’s time to rebel against having an electrical extension of myself.
 
I'm calling in some boundaries. 
 
Laying boundaries is a bit like parenting yourself.
 
They’re an incredibly useful tool for self-protection and provide a clear framework for action.
 
Here's how i'm using them to readdress the balance of power between me and my phone:

  • Use an alarm clock and make my bedroom a phone free zone – I’ve been doing this since Saturday and so far I can see it’s going to be a game-changer.

  • Leave my phone in another room when I’m most likely to mindlessly scroll on social media (for me that’s the evening)

  • Answer emails not as they come in but rather at a specific time of my day / week whilst at on my desk top

  • Be mindful of when I’m reaching for my phone to fill time i.e. public transport, queues and resist the urge to fill these spaces with scrolling 

When we carve out a new habit we’re essentially re-wiring our brains to take a different route.

So, even though it requires some effort at the beginning, with ever attempt we're laying the foundations for lasting change - i'll be reminding myself of this. 

the leap

My brother used to do this thing called ‘the leap’.
 
I wish I could give you a demonstration but in lieu of that just imagine a purposeful jump out of bed.
 
That’s the leap.
 
The leap was employed on days when getting out of bed felt extra challenging.
 
Rather than hesitate or press the snooze button he’d meet doubt with action in the form of an energetic jolt out of bed.
 
Just like that, the day had started and he was off.
 
Before Chris died I was very risk averse. In so many situations my anxiety kept me safely embedded in what was familiar.
 
New ground and uncertainty was scary, no terrifying.
 
The thought that I’d forgotten to leave a parking ticket in my car used to seriously rattle me, so taking a chance on anything that had weight made was very difficult.
 
Ever since I could remember I’d always wanted to run my own business. Doing ‘my own thing’ was my career aspiration. I didn’t know what that was but it’s how I wanted things to be.
 
I didn’t believe I could do it. I didn’t believe I had the courage to set something up, to detach myself from a steady monthly income, to take the leap and go alone.
 
When something really awful happens to you it kind of does two things (well for me anyway), it confirms that really awful things can happen and also that some things just aren’t scary as you thought they were.
 
To an extent Chris’ death stoked my anxiety, a worst case was delivered and that made me feel vulnerable, but it also taught me that nothing is certain and if you cling to certainty to feel safe then you’re in for a bumpy ride.
 
Life is full of cliff edges; opportunities to stay on the ledge or take a run and jump and hope to God you land on your feet.
 
That jump is always going to feel scary, the unknown is scary but there is always something fruitful on the other side of fear, even if it’s just being able to celebrate the courage that it took to make the move.
 
Chris’ death taught me to take the leap.
 
In times of fear and uncertainty I can almost hear him whispering in my ear ‘go on Bear just do it.’
 
Yesterday I took a leap, I gave up a class to give me more space to create other things, things I’ve been planning and saying I wanted to do for a long time now.
 
Giving up something steady always feels like a big decision.

It required a leap of faith.
 
This morning during a class at the gym I was thinking about this, hoping I’d done the right thing, then his favourite song starts blasting through the speaker.
 
A hip-hop song from the 90’s, one I’d never heard played in the gym before.
 
There I am, swinging a kettle bell between my legs with tears running down my face.
 
Coincidence maybe.
 
But I’ll happily take it as a sign from him that I did the right thing, that sometimes you have to throw caution to the wind and take that leap out of what feels warm and comfortable and propel yourself into what else there is in store. 

the long game

I originally wrote something about there being no rush.
 
Then I came back to edit it this morning and the truth is, I feel rushed. 
 
All the things I have to do today are swirling around in my mind.
 
All the places I have to be.
 
It didn’t feel authentic to write about all the reasons why I don’t think there is any need to rush when that’s not what I’m feeling.
 
Then it occurred to me, we can believe something from a really deep place but not always feel it.
 
I have this with lots of things.
 
I believe in rest.
 
Do I still feel like people will think I’m lazy if they knew how often I lied down in the middle of the day?

Yes.
 
I believe in myself.
 
Am I still regularly crippled by doubt?

Yes.
 
I trust that I am exactly where I’m meant to be.
 
Do I ever feel a pressure to be more, do more have more?

Most definitely.
 
I think marrying up my day-to-day knowing with my deepest truth may be my life’s work, my dharma. 
 
It’s a long game.
 
It’s a tortoise over a hare situation.
 
It will take time.
 
It will take work, courage, trust.
 
There’s a lot of shedding, chipping, breaking down.
 
A tonne of wriggling out of the shackles of what I perceive other people’s expectations, standards, and beliefs to be.
 
A lot of easing my way out of the clutches I have encased myself in.
 
We’re really in a battle to stay close to our truths, to raise the voice of our intuition, what we know to be right for us.

There are so many distractions, so many opponents. 
 
Shoulds are a big one.
 
You should do this, you should do that, you should be here.
 
(deep breath out).
 
Today I feel rushed and at the same time I believe there is no rush, to be, to have, to do.
 
This deep knowing, in my gut, in my heart, this is what I will keep retreating back to, to reassure, to guide, to remind myself of how I want to be and what I know to be true.

Even when I don't feel it, especially when I don't feel it. 

ghosts from the past

I’m sitting here making some final touches to the creativity workshop I’m running tonight.
 
Doing this work has reminded me of all the people and systems that failed to nudge me towards my creativity.
 
The face, voice and venomous grimace of my year 5 art teacher Mrs Kennedy springs up in my mind as clear as day.
 
The way she’d smack her hand to her head and say ‘duh my brain hurts’ in response to any question from one of use.
 
How she’d aggressively trace her finger across her forehead and shout ‘do I have mug written here’ if she felt her authority was in any way threatened (it never was).
 
We wouldn’t dare.
 
I mean my goodness we were 11 years old.
 
She was terrifying.
 
Rather than art class being a space where I could play, explore and tap into a source deep within me, I instead shrivelled.
 
I’d spend the whole lesson with a bulging knot of anxiety in my stomach trying desperately hard not to draw attention to myself.
 
She shouldn’t have been there.
 
I feel sorry for her now, looking back I’m sure she wasn’t well, but still her poison embedded itself in me.
 
I think many of us have a Mrs Kennedy in our pasts.
 
Someone or something that curbed any quest to step outside of our logic brain and hold space for something less cognitive, less practical, towards something more magical.

Someone or something that told us don't bother with that, leave it to someone else, stop wasting time and get your head out the clouds. 

But these ghosts don't know anything about our creative potential. 
 
We all have this source within.

Some are just connected to it more than others. 
 
If you want to get closer to your creativity, feed your inner child.
 
Do what it wants to do.
 
Lie at the foot of a tree and spend time gazing at the canopy above.
 
Feast on colour.
 
Move without inhibition.
 
Grant yourself permission to touch.
 
Do something for the sake of it.
 
Follow what makes you feel alive, what gives you a rush of joy and lifts your feet off the ground.
 
Make, do, play, dream, sing.
 
Its worthwhile.
 
It’s important.
 
It’s honouring and meeting our inner child, our inventor self. 

It's making space for wonder. 

It's celebrating that which we can't explain. 

5 years on

Saturday will mark the 5th anniversary of my brothers’ death.
 
Chris was only 26 years old when he died.
 
It was sudden.
 
No warning, no chance to say goodbye.
 
The suddenness of it all, is I’m sure why 5-years on, I still don’t believe he has gone.
 
I never thought shock could continue for years. 
 
I never thought numb could be such a colossal part of grief.
 
It’s different for everyone, but certainly for me, this is often how I feel. 

Numb. 

Disconnected from the fact that he has gone, waiting for the waves of reality to wash over me. 
 
I used to think this meant I was doing something wrong. That there was a break in the circuit somewhere. 

Now I understand that numb serves a purpose; it a way of coping, of getting through. 

Our bodies are intelligently programmed to survive.

The intermittent waves of reality are the truth being drip fed to me. 

So I can face it bit by bit. 

And there is no rush, to face the full gravity of it. 

No rush to comprehend, to come to terms, to heal. 

It's a lifelong task.

That, I am ready to accept. 
 
The run up to his birthday and the anniversary of his death are when I do feel it most. 

Not in my head, where the facts are stored, but in my body. 

In my tummy, in my heart. 

There's a heaviness. 
 
I feel myself going inward, as though I’m hunkering down, like how you might grip onto the arm rests of an aeroplane during turbulence.
 
I’m steadying myself for the rocky patch.

Even though it can be incredibly uncomfortable, I try not to resist the oncoming bumps.  

I know to heal I need to feel. 

I let the pangs swell in my heart, tummy and throat.
 
I let the tears flow, without stemming them.

I let the waves flood in.

I try to be extra kind to myself at these time, to not expect too much. 
 
The path of grief is one that many of us are walking and with the celebrations and family gatherings that come with this time of the year, it can be extra hard.

If you feel this dragging feeling too, this weight, this ache, may you feel their presence all around you and be comforted by it. 
 
May you be kind to yourself.
 
May you show your love and grief in whatever way feels right for you.
 
Standing with you.
 

alone time

Have you ever noticed that something so crucial to your sense of peace doesn't seem to be a concern for someone else?
 
I’ve mistaken having different needs to an other as me being is someway more uptight, rigid maybe.
 
But, in the same way that we have different likes, we will have different needs.
 
Take alone time for example.
 
Some people thrive off it, while others are happy keeping it to a minimum.
 
I’m definitely a member of the ‘alone time is sacred' camp.
 
I used to feel some guilt around this, wondering why I could be so antisocial.
 
Then I heard someone describe themselves as an introverted extrovert and I thought 'that's me!'. 
 
I love people and look forward to spending time with others, but I charge up in my own company.
 
I reflect on my own, recover on my own, plan on my own, run on my own.

I like that I'm content spending time with myself. 
 
Saying that, I do sometimes wish I felt more inclined to go to that thing on a Thursday night.
 
I'm all for pushing myself outside of what's familiar to me and breaking and making habits that bring me closer to my highest self, but I'm also all for acknowledging what makes me, me. 
 
We each have an essence, a blueprint that maps how we tick.
 
The older I get the more I am able to trace the lines of this map.

I understand why I want to do this and not that. Why I find that so difficult when I can see someone else finds it so easy.
 
I would however hate to get stuck in my ways at the ripe old age of 29 though, so I’ll try not to resign to only doing what I know and like just yet.
 
What I am happy to do is accept and celebrate my quirks and honour the things that feel like a mammoth exhale.  
 
Yes some things can wait and no it doesn’t really matter if the washing basket overflows but if something makes you feel that little bit more at peace, level, spacious, sane then I say do it, regardless of whether it does the same for someone else. 

being in a relationship with yourself

I can be loving, kind and forgiving towards myself.
 
I can also be a first class self-saboteur, wildly critical and frugal with the credit that I give myself.
 
Like with any relationship, the one I have with myself ebbs and flows. There are highs, dips and everything in between.
 
I recognise that like any relationship, the one I have with myself requires an investment of time, presence, compassion, honesty and love to remain healthy.
 
When I notice myself slipping into own worst enemy mode I check to see which one of these qualities are haemorrhaging.

I look for the the gaping hole.

There usually is one. 

We need to offer ourselves time, presence, honesty, compassion and love to stay connected to who we are, to follow our intuition and live a conscious life in full knowledge of our power and worth.

I really believe that. 

To tend, check in and figure out how to move forwards we need to enter into a conversation with ourselves.  
 
One of the ways I do this is by writing. It gives me an opportunity to reflect and listen. I can make sense of things and get a better understanding of how I feel and why.

It's a way of staying engaged in a dialogue with myself.
 
It might sound a bit odd, to talk to yourself, but really I think it might just be the sanest thing we can do.
 
If you want to experiment with writing as a way of getting to know yourself I’m hosting a FREE online journaling circle from 12th – 16th Nov (next week).

Each morning I’ll send a writing prompt using a mix of journalling techniques to everyone in the circle.

So that's 5 days of showing up to write for yourself. 

If you’d like to join in sign up here.  

for stressful times

Stress is unavoidable.
 
It’s as much a part of life as joy and harmony.
 
Of course it’s not as pleasant to endure, but it does have its place.
 
In truth we need stress, without a bit of it we wouldn’t get much done.
 
 So, it isn’t bad in itself.
 
There is a difference though, between helpful stress giving us a kick up the bum, and what can almost feel like a full body seige.

We can minimise the amount of stress we experience but there is a lot that we aren’t in control of, such as illness, unexpected events and the actions of others – this is the nature of life.
 
What we can control is how we react when stressful times do arise. 
 
Here are my go to avenues when i'm feeling under siege. 
 
Reflection
 
When we feel stressed there’s always a reason for it. Reflecting on what’s causing the stress means that as well as managing the symptoms we can potentially tackle the root cause too. 
 
When you feel stress rising, take a moment to reflect on what might be causing it. 
 
It might be obvious and won’t require much thought.
 
If it’s harder to put your finger on one thing, try writing a list of everything that's currently causing you to feel stressed. You might find that it’s a collection of smaller things rather than one big one. 
 
Once you’ve acknowledged your factor or factors think about whether you have any control over their existence.
 
If the answer is yes, what steps can you put into place to tackle the root cause of your stress? Can someone help to ease your load if you've got a lot on? Is it a toxic situation that you can make steps to remove yourself from? Is there a way of putting some boundaries in place to protect your peace?
 
If you’re avoiding something that you need to do can you remind yourself that you are brave enough to do it and reassure yourself that you’ll feel a lot better once you’ve done it (and that the thought of it is probably worse than the actual doing of it).
 
Putting a plan in place, even if it starts with a tiny step can make a huge difference to how empowered you feel in a disempowering situation. 
 
If the answer is no, acknowledging that is a big step in itself. In this instance look to what you can do to manage your reaction to the stress you’re facing.
 
We might not be able to avoid stressful situations but what we can take steps to soothe ourselves and react mindfully and therefore limit the impact they have on our wellbeing.
 
Try these strategies:

Breathe 

Our breath is an incredible tool for restoring calm. I've recorded a soothing breath practise. It's 5mins long and you can do it on the bus, at home or at your desk. 

Soothing breath practise recording

Move your body
 

Go for a walk, a swim, get to a yoga class, dance for the length of a song in your living room. Focus in on your physical experience of the activity you’re doing, what sensations can you notice? What details you can tune into?
 
When we move our bodies we create a shift that affects us on physical, energetic and mental level. 
 
Try it out and take a moment to pause at the end of your chosen activity to notice how you feel - has anything shifted?
 
Write about it
 
Set a timer for 15mins and write about how you feel.

Write quickly; don’t worry about spelling or penmanship, just go where you go.

Write about the little things causing you stress alongside the bigger ones. Get it all out on paper and see how you feel afterwards.

And don't forget to...
 
...be kind to yourself. When you feel flighty come back to your body, your breath. Remind yourself of your resilience and all the times you’ve made it through stressful situations in the past.  
 
Know that things are likely to ease.

I'll be sharing more strategies for facing and managing stress and anxiety at Supply Yoga on 18th Nov in my Yoga for Anxiety workshop. I'm also running a day retreat on 11 Nov called Show Up for Self Care which will be an exploration of what practices bring you grounding, spaciousness and a deeper connection to self, all wonderful antidotes to stress. Find out more here.

dear body

Last week I wrote a letter to my body.
 
In it I offered thanks for everything it has done and does for me.
 
I’m trying to do that more; to really celebrate myself in all my muscle, skin and bone form.
 
There’s a lot to be grateful for.
 
My body allows me to dance, touch, see, run, hold, be held, play, sing and laugh.
 
Without it I am not here.
 
The inclination to celebrate my body hasn't aways been there, I know i'm not alone in this.  
 
Finding yoga in my early 20’s was a turning point in my relationship with my body, I owe it a lot.
 
The act of moving and breathing mindfully knitted me back in my body and gave me a sense of home and empowerment in my skin.

I felt a closeness to myself that I hadn't felt before. 
 
I don’t however live a 24/7 embodied existence.
 
Old habits die hard and still the little voice that tells me I am too much of this and not enough of that likes to have its say.  
 
The difference is that I now know where it comes from. Not from a place deep inside of me, from a place of truth, but rather from outside.
 
It comes from a very two dimensional understanding that there is one kind of beauty, a perfect shape, skin tone and height that we should all be aiming for, and that if we don’t meet that specific criteria then we don’t have the right to rejoice in our bodies. 
 
Seeing that voice for what it is makes me determined to repair the damage it has caused.
 
The letter to my body is two fingers up to an opinion I no longer want to be influenced by.
 
I feel a rebellion in my bones, of my bones.
 
To know my glory, to be in full knowledge of my bodily wonder.
 
I realise it won’t be plane sailing but I’m ready to crew the vessel with all my strength.
 
Because I don’t want to only be able to love my body when I’m young and well, like that voice tells me.
 
I want to love it when it’s injured, old, tired and ill, because these aren’t states of failure, they’re a part of the picture, the natural way of things.  
 
The roots for this unconditional love are fertilised with compassion.
 
By staying tuned in to when I need rest and less sugar, honouring the need for movement and play, recognising when to do more and when to do less, acknowledging that my body is only mine and always, always celebrating it’s daily service.

show up for self care

What is self care and how can you show up for it?
 
I’ve thought about these questions a lot.
 
This is where I’ve come to.
 
To me, self care is recognising that I have needs and limits.
 
If my needs aren’t met and my limits are exceeded, my whole experience of life changes.

I’m less resilient, present, well, creative and happy.
 
Of course I don’t manage to meet all my needs and successfully observed all my limits all the of the time.

It's a practise, a constant navigation, rather than steady incline towards achieving the heady status of self care queen.

What I am steadily getting better at though is staying engaged in the navigation.
 
Even in the depths of my self care troughs I have awareness of where I am, and most crucially how to make my way out.
 
The light bulb moment for me was recognising that only I can be at helm of my self care ship and how it's unfair for me to expect anyone else to take the wheel. 
 
Showing up for self care is showing up for myself.
 
It’s treating myself with compassion and actively seeking what I need.
 
It’s doing the things that I can’t really be bothered to do but that make me feel better after I’ve done them.
 
It’s the mundane task of keeping my flat clean and tidy because somehow that seems to bring about a feeling of serenity like nothing else – yep I’m one of those people.
 
It’s also making sure I do interesting things, that I enjoy and that are good for my creative health.
 
It’s moving my body intentionally everyday, so that I don’t feel like I’m just a head suspended in space for days on end.
 
It’s respecting and practising rest.
 
It’s writing three pages of free writing every morning (whatever comes out when you put your pen to paper) because doing so always shifts my perspective for the better.
 
It’s not feeling guilty about using the word ‘no’ as a response to things.
 
A good way to explore what self care means to you is to ask yourself these questions:

  • What nourishes you?

  • What clears your head?

  • What makes you feel lighter?

  • What strengthens your ability to face each day with a sense of ‘I can tackle whatever comes my way’? 

Your answers are bespoke to you because your self care is bespoke to you.

There is no one size fits all. Different strokes for different folks you know?
 
On Sunday 11th November I’m co-leading a day retreat in London with the creator of slow crafting initiative Head & Hands.

It's called Show Up for Self Care.

We’ve joined forces to host a day that includes an exploration of moving, making, writing, accessible meditation and intention setting as pathways to self care.
 
It’s an opportunity to take a day out for yourself and try a handful of different practices.

To discover things that give you a greater sense of calm, grounding, nourishment and a feeling of being less in your head and more in your body.
 
Think of it as a chance to add some new tools to your self care tool kit.
 
It’s from 10-3.30pm and includes a vegan lunch. You’ll leave with inspiration for new ways to nourish yourself and three handmade tassels (made by you) that will be embedded with your own self care intention.
 
You can find all the info about the day here.

what do you love?

Grab a pen or open the notes app in your phone, write ‘I love…’ and see if you can list 20 things underneath it. 
 
Think about what gives you a sense of pure joy, excitement, pleasure, happiness.
 
Your list could include activities, occasions, people, objects, places - there are no rules.
 
If you get stuck stay with it for a moment. Close your eyes feel the weight of your arms, your feet and pelvis, the pen or phone in your hand. Let your shoulder blades shrug a little down your back. Take a slow breath in through your nose and let is release out just as slowly.
 
Take a few more breaths like this, as though you’re stirring something up with them. 
 
Open your eyes and go back to your list.
 
Once you’ve got your 20 sit back and look at them.
 
See which ones appear regularly in your life, and those that you haven't enjoyed for some time. 
 
Is there something on your list that you can make room for this weekend?
 
It’s so easy for us to get swept up in the current of the day-to-day and drift away from the things that inject our lives with the most vibrant colours.

It's amazing how hard it can be to write 20 things that you love. The truth is we all love hundreds of things but they're often at the backs of our minds.

Bringing them to the fore serves as a reminder to move towards them, more often in order to add a bit of pigment back in. 

rest is best

On my busier days I always spend at least 10mins lying on the floor with a pillow under my head and a blanket over me - usually before I leave the house to teach my last class of the day.
 
It’s taken me a long time to realise that getting as much done in the gaps between teaching on those busy days isn’t actually the most productive thing for me to do.
 
The most productive thing for me to do is to conserve my energy. 
 
I think we can forget that we aren’t machines.
 
I also think that many of us hold a lot of guilt around rest.
 
It’s a funny one really.
 
What is so bad about acknowledging that there needs to be some non-doing alongside the doing?
 
Energy isn’t endless.
 
I used to almost feel embarrassed about admitting that teaching 3 classes a day would leave me feeling exhausted.
 
Then I took a step back and looked at the bigger picture. 
 
The one that showed how many miles I’d walk in between those classes and how I was holding space for 20 people at a time.
 
Rest doesn’t need to be justified to anyone else.
 
Only we know how we feel.
 
Only we know what we need.
 
Taking what you need can feel like an act of rebellion, but my goodness is the cause a worthy one.
 
How would it feel to see your energy as a precious resource?
 
Can you appoint yourself the official conservator of your tank of juice?

To get to know what different levels of it feel like, what or who causes it to haemorrhage and what gives it a little boost, besides another cup of coffee (guilty). 
 
Since I became the official conservator of myself I’ve taken a lot more pride in rest.
 
I see it’s role, it’s super power and the guilt I felt about taking it has evaporated.
 
Rest isn’t idle. It’s preservation of strength, energy…life.

taking stock

All through my teenage years and early twenties I worked in a number of different shops and restaurants.
 
One of the tasks that had to be done in all of them was a stock take.

This involved going into the storage room out the back somewhere and counting all the goods so that the business had an up to date record of what it had in stock.
 
The practise of gratitude is a bit like a stock take.
 
It’s a conscious setting aside of time to remind yourself of what you've got.
 
Some of our goods will be at eye level, obvious for us to see, but inevitably there will be items that have been shoved to the back, maybe even covered by something else.
 
There’s a bit of digging involved with gratitude, to bring to the fore what’s hidden from view.
 
If abundance was a fire, gratitude would be the wood that keeps it burning.
 
Knowing what you’ve got is an antidote to the default of striving for more, the sense that if we just had that thing we’d be happy, we’d have enough, we’d finally reach where we’re aiming for.
 
Gratitude is seeing the wealth in what has already been accumulated, accomplished and bestowed.
 
I’m a big believer in the seismic shift in perspective that a regular gratitude practise is capable of causing.
 
In the past I’ve definitely been caught in the trap of associating abundance with money and luxury, but a big life event showed me that my stock comes in many forms.
 
Health, peace of mind, sense of home, the health of family members, creativity, support, love, friendship, space, freedom and access to good coffee are all riches.
 
Of course at times some of these may be thin on the ground, but to let the ones that are over flowing go unnoticed is a missed opportunity for a deeper sense of abundance.
 
Our blessings are worth counting.
 
How to start a gratitude practise?
 
Every week, every day, every moment is an opportunity to take stock.
 
Try writing three things you’re grateful for each day – go with whatever comes to mind in that moment. They can be as seemingly obscure as you like.
 
If your list carries on, let it.
 
The more the merrier.
 
Sceptical? Treat it as an experiment and do it for a month; what have you got to lose?
 
Today I am grateful for:

  1. the granola bar and black coffee I just enjoyed in Gail’s while writing this

  2. the fact I’ll be by the sea this weekend

  3. that I have time to get to a yoga class today

You know the old saying ‘you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone’; gratitude is knowing what you’ve got before it’s gone, so that you can soak it up, appreciate it in all it’s glory and live a life in full knowledge of your riches.  
 
I’ll be sharing more potentially perspective shifting writing practises in my upcoming yoga and journaling workshop ‘move, sit, write’ on Sun 30 Sep.
 
Writing as a personal practise has so many benefits, from boosting your creativity and bringing a sense of mental release, to developing a deeper connection to your intuition.

See the events page for more info.


 

toning attention

I recently set myself the task of working on some bigger writing projects that require more of my focus.
 
One of these being a guide to developing a journaling practise.
 
I know I’ve got it in me, I know I have a lot to share but something keeps cropping up that’s blocking me from getting my head down.
 
I’m distracted, easily.
 
By emails, whatspp, instagram, even the BBC weather app seems to call my name when I sit down to write.
 
I'm buzzing with connectivity and it’s fragmenting my attention into tiny pieces that are highly susceptible to wearing thin.
 
It’s been quite eye opening.

I didn’t realise how much power all the things vying for my attention actually had.

The world is more distracting than ever before.

Thanks to smartphones we are constantly connected and therefore constantly contactable.
 
Many of us sleep with our phones by our beds and can go from week-to-week without straying more than a few meters away from our little portals to a world of content calling out to be consumed.
 
The lure factor of notifications and staying updated is huge and it’s our ability to offer our full attention to things that’s taking the hit.
 
Like how a muscle becomes weak when it isn’t used, our attention shrivels if we don't actively strengthen it. 
 
No wonder I was finding sitting down to write such a struggle, my attention muscle was fatiguing at the first hurdle.
 
Something had to change, starting with a rejig of who was wearing the trousers in my relationship with my phone. 
 
Cue operation ‘less distraction more attention’ which includes the following steps:

  • Move my email and social media apps to the last page on my phone so they aren't glaring at me when I unlock my home screen 
  • Use instagram more consciously; no scrolling on the bus, before bed, first thing in the morning, notice when i'm mindless scrolling
  • Use whatsapp more consciously; don’t get side tracked by new notifications and wait for a good moment to respond rather than feeling the need to reply instantly
  • Answer emails in one go at a designated time of the day rather than as they come in
  • Resist the temptation to check my phone when I have no real need to
  • Commit to doing one task at a time as much as possible rather than fritting in between several. 

These are relatively small steps but i'm already feeling a sense of spaciousness from being less plugged in to a constant stream of content. 

Sitting still has become easier. 

Doing nothing has become easier. 

Now I see that being mindful of what I gift my attention to will only become more urgent as the world becomes more distracting.
 
More than just being able to get my head down and create good work, toning my attention is about living consciously, being connected to the moment and to myself.  
 
I’m not sure what’s more crucial than that.

dismantling success

In 2014 I left my job at a marketing agency to work on reception at a yoga studio while I tried to build up my teaching.
 
When I left I gave up a steady monthly income, the regular recognition I was getting from my managers and the opportunity for further promotions and pay rises if I continued to progress as I was.
 
Even though in my heart I knew I was doing the right thing I did struggle with the feeling that I was taking a massive step down what I saw as the ladder of success.
 
I developed a success guilt.

I questioned whether I was doing my potential justice?

I wondered whether people thought i'd done the wrong thing.

It eventually dawned on me that I was measuring my success using someone else’s definition of it.
 
Taking a step back I could see that the notion I had of success was wrapped up in money, getting promoted and owning particular things.
 
I needed to do some dismantling to redefine success so that it made sense to me on a personal level.
 
Thinking about what success looked like on a day-to-day basis really helped with this.

I asked myself who did I want to see regularly, how did I want to feel when I woke up and looked ahead at my day and what did I want to have time for.
 
This more micro level approach showed me that success for me is in the smaller things. 

That success is quality over quantity.
 
Now I gauge my success on the quality of the relationships that I have with people, not feeling anxious on a Sunday about the week ahead, whether I’m inspired by the work that I’m doing and if I can support myself doing this kind of work, what percentage of the time I feel stressed. 
 
For me it includes things like enjoying a coffee every morning as I write my morning pages, going for a swim during off-peak hours and being able to make a healthy lunch at home in my kitchen every day.
 
Defining your own success is empowering, something that I think we all have the right to do.

Yes curve balls come our way that we have no control over but in so many ways we have the power to curate our lives based on what is important to us and thinking about personal success is a really good place to start.
 
So here’s to not feeling guilty about swimming with pensioners and catching up on 24 hours in A&E while I eat my lunch on a Tuesday. 

More than not feeling guilty, here’s to consciously celebrating these little things as great successes. 

a weapon and a gift

What do we all have that can be used as both a weapon and a gift?
 
Our word.
 
This weekend I read ‘The Four Agreements’ by Don Miguel Ruiz, a book that outlines four agreements to follow in order to find personal freedom (stay with me). 
 
The first one is ‘Be impeccable with your word’.
 
When we speak we are making a contribution with our words. We can compliment, show interest, connect and we can gossip, humiliate and judge.

The thread that ties them all together is they all have consequences.
 
Being impeccable with our word is about understanding word not simply as a sound or symbol but as a force – a tool of magic that can be used for good and for bad.
 
We all bear the scars of words that have wounded us and left a mark – some that have yet to heal.
 
An off hand comment about being too much of this or not enough of that has the power to embed itself in our minds and set up camp as an absolute truth.
 
In the chapter Don Miguel Ruiz likens the human mind to fertile ground and words to seeds that are planted and then grow into something much bigger.
 
This comparison really framed things for me.

Being mindful of what we say isn’t about censoring ourselves or committing to being a Mr or Mrs positive all the time, it’s about being aware of our words as seeds and how fertile the soil of the mind is.
 
I’m going to make a concerted effort to be more impeccable with my words – the ones I offer up to others and also myself.

God knows I can be so much less compassionate to myself than others. 
 
I’m going to try to not hold onto the words that can bring healing, lightness, positive change - even if they are for a complete stranger, and to hold firing the trigger on the unnecessary ones that might stick like glue on others, disguised as truths but really just judgement from someone not qualified to judge.

30 lengths in his name

Yesterday would have been my big brothers 31st birthday.
 
I find his birthdays harder than the anniversaries of his death because they feels more laden with ‘what might have beens’.
 
It’s painful to think about what he might be doing on his birthday if things were different.
 
On past anniversaries I’ve felt a pressure to do something in particular.
 
I’ve wondered ‘should I be doing this or that', 'what will people expect me to be doing.'
 
But to be honest it’s all felt a bit much.
 
Now I can see that I honour him every day; in the way I live my life, the changes that i've made since his death. 
 
Every day of my life is a tribute to him. 
 
People grieve in different ways.
 
Visiting a grave may provide a comfort; it may feel like the right thing to do.
 
For others this wont be the case.
 
A weed-covered grave isn’t a sign of an unloved person.
 
Yesterday, I decided to honour my big brothers birthday by dedicating 30 laps of London Fields Lido to him. 
 
I think he’d have liked that.
 
There is no right or wrong way to grieve.
 
No wrong or right thing to do on an anniversary.
 
Everyone is different.
 
The way we honour the ones that we’ve loved and lost will be different.
 
All we can do is take each day as it comes, meet it with what we have and do what feels right. 

well filling

Self-nourishment is like well filling.
 
It’s a continual practise of keeping tabs on the water level to avoid a situation where the well runs dry.
 
Water is life.
 
Without it we dehydrate, shrivel, tire out.
 
This is why self-nourishment is so sacred.
 
But, life is distracting. We have lots of other things calling for our attention that claim to be more important than the care we give to ourselves.
 
It takes practise to honour self-nourishment – especially if you’ve not always been told / believed that you deserve it.
 
I see it more of a conversation that a destination.
 
It’s not about nailing it or failing it.
 
It’s about staying engaged in a dialogue with yourself – one where you’re a really good listener.

Something that has really helped me stay present in this conversation is knowing what fills my well (journaling, swimming, not always having plans in the evening, alone time, moving, meditating, being by the sea...).

What fills your well?

Try writing a list of all the things that you feel nourished by, that ground you, give you a sense of life being more manageable, more vibrant.
 
How often do these things appear in your week?

The more time we carve out for rituals that top us up, the more they become embedded in our lives as non-negotiable habits.
 
Make that yoga class non-negotiable, consider that free Tuesday evening as a date with yourself that is just far too important to double book, leave your desk during your lunch break so that you can sit outside and feel the breeze on your skin. 

You are so worthy of nourishment. 

holding space for anxiety

On Saturday I arrived at the airport an hour before my flight was supposed to take off.
 
Once upon a time this would have caused a heady mix of profuse sweating and intense panic.
 
I’d have convinced myself that I was going to miss my flight.
 
I’d be tense, full of regret and completely gripped by anxiety.
 

Since those days something has changed. 
 
Did the thought that I’d miss my flight run through my mind on Saturday? Yes it did.
 
Did I feel the wave of anxiety begin to rise? Yes I did.
 
Did it grip me? No it didn’t.
 
I wasn’t a hot, sweaty mess.
 
I didn’t erratically grab my bags out of the taxi and charge towards check in.

(this is pretty huge for me).
 
So what did I do to avoid anxiety taking over?
 
I did nothing. 
 
I didn’t resist.
 
I didn’t fight.
 
I didn’t hide.
 
I didn’t react, at all.
 
I allowed the sensation of it to flood through me.

I felt it.

In every cell. 

I pulled up a seat for it at my internal table. I sat with it and let it swell in my belly and in my chest.
 
Every uncomfortable ounce of it.

I allowed it to run it's course. 
 
Practising sitting with the discomfort of anxiety has shifted something for me.
 
Rather than flapping at the first signs of it beginning to rise, I let it be. 

Getting to know anxiety for what it is has been profound.  

Anxiety isn’t inherently bad.

In fact we owe it a lot. Without it we wouldn't have made it this far. 

It's a survival mechanism, there to encourage us to react in the face of danger. You know like when we're in the vicinity of a hungry woolly mammoth.
 
It's supposed to be uncomfortable, otherwise we'd take no notice of it. 

 
The thing is that for most of us our environment has changed since the days of being prey to a range of predators. 

Now we live in towns and cities and have different stresses upon us, like bills to pay, forms to fill, work expectations to meet, child-care arrangements to be make, fines to avoid, social guilt to navigate...

The same fight or flight response that got triggered by the looming predator is being triggered by modern day concerns. 

That's why we can rationalise in our head that a particular situation that is causing us anxiety isn't likely to happen or that it if did it wouldn't be the end of world but the felt experience of it is telling us something different. 
 
This understanding has been powerful for me. 

It has enabled me to see that in situations that aren't a matter of life or death I don't need to respond to the anxiety that I'm feeling. 

I'm unlearning a habit of reacting and honing a new one - one that holds space for the sensation of anxiety to rise and then fall. 

Rather than being filled with fear when the familiar sensations start to flood in, I let the cycle complete.

From feeling in danger to being safe. 
 
When you start to feel anxious, try experiencing it as a sensation, an uncomfortable one sure, but one that can be felt without reaction.
 
Allow it to be there, acknowledged what has triggered it, then with the same ease that you’ve greeted it with, let it leave without disturbance.
 
Rather than an enemy, I try and see anxiety as a friend that had gotten to be a little overprotective - one who I haven't had the best boundaries with.

I let it fuss over me but I don’t it too much attention, I don’t encourage it.
 
In doing this I feel like it has taken the hint, that I don’t need it half as much as it thinks I do.
 
It doesn’t visit as much and when it does it knows i’m not going to fuel it’s fire by making a big deal about it’s arrival.

I have become a less liveable terrain for anxiety to flourish. 
 
Will something shift the first time you try it? Maybe, maybe not.
 
If you’ve spent however many years fighting, running and / or blocking anxiety then it’s going to take some practise to cement this new approach, to learn a new more helpful habit. 
 
The key is to keep practising. 
 
To keep tunnelling a new route.

There is light at the end of it. 

one thing at a time

How often do you do one thing at a time?
 
I have an awful habit for multi-tasking.
 
Saving phone calls for when I’m on the move, answering emails whilst I’m watching TV, reading the paper when eating…I could go on.
 
I used to consider it to be a skill – always taking pride of place on my CV.

Now, I see it as an affliction.
 
It made me a brilliant waitress and a great account executive but it divides my attention. It chops it up into smaller, narrower chunks that can’t absorb as much detail.

Multi-tasking lifts my feet off the ground.
 
The art of doing one thing at a time really is an art.
 
There’s a beauty to dedicating your full attention to one thing. It’s an act of respect, like listening without the desire to talk. 
 
I’m trying to unlearn my default to multi-tasking by being more aware of when I’m doing it, and seeing how I can close the multiple tabs in my brain so that there is just one open and it’s the only thing I’m focusing on.
 
Having my phone in another room when I’m reading, writing, watching television is a big one. I feel as though not being able to see or hear it makes a big difference from it being within my peripheral vision, calling my name saying ‘clare, CLARE, look at me, I’ve got something really interesting to show you.’
 
The other practise that has really helped me when I find myself overdoing is to stop, feel my connection to the ground and to my breath. It reminds me that I am in a moment, in my body. It takes me out of my head into sensation. Out of doing, into being.
 
Try it now:

Close your eyes, notice any tingling in your finger tips, the temperature of the room on your skin, the texture of your clothes, take 5 breaths and then notice how your feel afterwards.
 
In any given moment we have the power to start again, to reset, to get into our bodies and offer our attention as a gift, to something or someone, entirely.
 
It’s a nourishing act.
 
Right, I’m off to gift my full attention to the sea, its swim o’clock.