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.

life in the slow lane

I’ve recently discovered the joy of swimming.
I used to find it really boring, but somewhere along the line something has changed.
Being immersed in the water feels like therapy; it’s as though with every stroke I move further away from distractions and drop into a state of flow.
Generally, there are 3 lanes to choose from at the lidos i've been going to; slow, medium and fast.
Seeing as ‘somewhere in the middle’ is usually a good plan of action I initially went for the medium lane when it came to deciding where I belonged. 
During one of my swims in the medium lane I had other swimmers clipping at my heels. I felt rushed and distracted. I couldn’t drop into my rhythm because I was so aware of what was going on around me.  
I looked over at the slow lane populated by over 60’s and wondered whether it was a bit pathetic if I switched.
Shouldn’t I be attempting to keep up with the pace of the middle lane? I’m young and fit – I  know I could if I tried.
I decided to give the slow lane a go and instantly felt much more at home.
No one was expecting me to go fast, I didn’t feel rushed by other people’s busy, I was enjoying myself again.
Light bulb moment.
This situation was a perfect metaphor for my life.
The slow lane appeals to me in swimming and in life but I’d be lying if I didn’t feel a pressure to go faster.
One of my friends Adrianna wrote a piece about ‘shoulds’ recently and this reminded me of it.
There is a societal pressure to reach certain milestones by certain ages and I think there's also a pressure to keep up the pace and that slowing down should come with age.
I’ve been in the fast lane and for me, it’s not sustainable.
Living in the slow lane allows me to be creative, conscious and connected. It’s where my best work comes from and where I feel happiest, most present.
It may be that you thrive in the fast lane. 

We're all different. 
I say we shake off the ‘shoulds’ and pick our lanes based on the kind of experience we want to have and what’s important to us, regardless of what others are doing.  
So, i’ll be unapologetically swimming in the slow lane for the foreseeable.

grief talk

I’ve started talking about grief more on my instagram account.
My followers number has definitely dropped.
It is difficult to wriggle of 'saying things you think people will want to hear' mode. You know the things that get you the likes. 
I do feel the heaviness of an assumption that people will think ‘oh shut up and get on with it, everyone’s going through something.’
But my gut is telling me to keep talking. 
I’m not coming from a woe is me place.
I’m coming from a space of grief being a big part of my life and not feeling like I should tuck it away.
For 24 years someone was very physically present in my life then suddenly, out of the blue they weren’t.
It’s kind of a mammoth thing.
It doesn’t feel right that this should get brushed under the carpet in order to adhere to social norms.
I want to get across the day-to-dayness of grief.
That it isn’t all doom and gloom. 

It’s just part of the process of living and then not living.
Something we can all be sure of.
There’s no life without death or death without life.
It doesn’t feel right to talk about one and not the other.  
The less it gets talked about the less we know how to engage with our own and other peoples’ grief.
So, I’m encouraging myself to be more vocal, to add to the conversation.
Talking about grief may not be how you express yours. If it doesn’t help you then you should never feel pressured to do it.
You may not want to hear about it either, that’s totally valid too.
We all have our own ways.
We all have to find our own ways.
Grief looks different for everyone but it doesn’t need to get be banished to a dark place.
It can be in the light too.
Grief is remembering.
Grief is honouring.
Grief is love.

not waiting to feel ready

Yesterday I led my first workshop.
I hadn’t felt ‘ready’ up until that point.
Did I feel ready when 12 pairs of eyes were looking back at me as I was speaking, without having the crutch of leading movement? Not really.
But, that feeling of not being ready doesn’t mean I wasn’t capable, or should have waited longer.
Not feeling ready doesn’t always mean we aren’t.
Sometimes not feeling ready is self-doubt or perfectionism dressed up in a different outfit.
I’m setting myself an intention to not always wait until I feel ready for things, to let growth come from the doing rather than the waiting.
To create more, share more and realise when i'm standing in my own way.

"Take your broken heart and make it into art" - Carrie Fisher

I wanted to share this brilliant article by Sara Watson How grief and creativity work together. Grief can be a huge wakeup call and although a very painful experience, it does offer up a massive dose of perspective which can lead to a deeper sense of purpose. Creativity can surge in the aftermath of despair and harnessing this can be hugely healing. 

“When you open up mourning from the deep core of the self, not only is it extremely healing but also people can become more authentic and express themselves in a deeper way. They just become more compassionate human beings and can become more compassionate toward themselves—not just others,” she says. “People can be so persecutory toward themselves,” -  Dr. Susan Kavaler-Adler


Reclaiming Space

This month I’ve been pondering a lot on the concept of space and how with the constant inflow of content and stimulation that comes with modern life (especially city living), feeling overwhelmed and lacking in mental space is almost the norm.

The thing about space is that it’s ever-present. When you think about it in this way, the process of finding more of it isn’t so much one of searching but one of clearing out.

This realisation made me rethink how I approach carving out more space when things become crowded. Rather than thinking where can I go to escape I've started to wonder what can I get rid of. I wanted to share a few tips that help me reclaim room and a more abundant sense of spaciousness when mental clutter starts to accumulate. 

1.     Write a list - get a pen and paper and write a list of the things that take up room in your mind on a day-to-day basis. Look back over the list and make a plan of action for how you can decrease the space that each takes up. Do that task that you’ve been putting off for weeks or at least figure out why it keeps getting ignored, say no to that commitment that you know is going to exhaust you, relieve yourself of the burden of trying to fix someone who can only fix themselves.

2.     Rest – resting in stillness is an incredibly effective tool for finding space. When we come to rest we are allowing all the things whirling under the surface to settle. Resting is rebooting. Restorative Yoga is excellent for this.  

3.     Go for a walk – they don’t say a walk clears your head for no reason. If you’re feeling full to the brim get outside and walk the build up of clutter off. Chances are things will feel clearer and more spacious upon your return.

4.     Have a media detox – I’m the worst for slumping in front of the TV when I’m tired/putting something off, but I didn’t quite realise how much I was mindlessly consuming it until I decided to try and cut it out for a week. I'm 3 days in and although sort of ashamed at how difficult I've found the last couple of days i'm already feeling the benefits. By completely cutting off one source of content inflow I definitely feel like I have more space. I also found that I've actually got on with some stuff that I had been avoiding, spacious and productive!

Tips for Developing a Daily Habit

Whether it’s starting your day with a hot water and slice of lemon instead of a coffee, developing a meditation practise or nurturing a creative pursuit like drawing or writing, great things can come from committing to daily rituals. 

To establish a new daily practise a certain amount of groundwork has to be put in to make it stick. The best thing to do is to just start. Just imagine you have a 7-day goal to see your daily practise through, once you have 7 days under your belt you’ll be more motivated to carry on for the next 7. Then, soon enough you’ll start reaping the benefits of the practise and it’ll become engrained in your daily routine as a priority, rather than something you have to work hard to maintain. 

1. Establish a morning routine that will serve you

Get off to a good start with a morning routine – see 8 things each person should do before 8am. This really helped me see the impact that a structured morning routine can have on the rest of the day. Getting a good nights sleep prior to this is the most precious investment. 

2. Set time aside

Find an allotted time each day to complete your practise. As soon as you wake up, before you leave the house, during lunch... Figure out when you’re realistically going to stand a better chance of doing it and carve the time out like you would an important meeting in your diary. A varied schedule may mean that this needs to be at different times on different days – plan ahead and figure out when you’re able to do it in the week to come.  

3. Remind yourself of your intention

When it’s time to get down to it (usually when the resistance sneaks in) remind yourself of the benefits of doing it. Ask yourself where your intention comes from. Is it to improve your health? Imagine you’re gifting yourself something that money can’t buy and that no one else can give to you – quite an empowering thought.  

4. Track your progress

Keep a log. Because who doesn’t love the physical act of noting something down or crossing something off as having been completed. It could be a tick on the calendar or a note in your diary. By physically noting the completion of your task you’re likely to feel motivated to keep going. 

5. Cultivate Gratitude

Remind yourself that the ability you have to do this task is a privileged.  I know, sounds a little ‘I’m so blessed’ but this has been a really powerful thought for me. When I feel the resentment creeping in when it’s time to get down to my practise I try and remind myself that I’m lucky to be in a position where I am able to do it. Gratitude is something you can grow, if you say to yourself enough times that you’re grateful for a particular thing something quite amazing happens, you actually feel grateful for it. 

6. Write about it

Write about your feelings towards the process – the good, the bad, the things that help you succeed in continuing to nurture it. Writing about your experience can reveal some interesting aspects of the whole process that may not have come formed in the same way as a thought swirling around your mind. 

Success is a series of small wins

I’m no daily habit instiller extraordinaire, oh no. I’m currently trying to complete a set of physiotherapy exercises and I’m finding it so challenging because unlike chanting, meditation or my self-yoga practise which I’ve made a real effort to nurture, I don’t enjoy doing these exercises. I’m still at the point where I really don’t look forward to doing them but the above things are helping me approach it more positively and fit it more harmoniously into my daily routine and slowly but surely things are starting to shift. 

I’d love to hear your tried and tested tips for making a daily practise stick so do let me know.




Self-practise, an act of self-care

At about 10am last Tuesday I got real with myself, I’d spent the morning mat dodging and it wasn’t the first time. When I asked myself why I was deep cleaning the fridge rather than being on my mat an answer came. The day before I demonstrated something in class that I obviously wasn’t warm enough to do and I still had a niggle in my lower back. That morning I didn’t want to feel my body because I wasn’t up for hearing what it has to say. I knew that as soon as I tuned into sensation my anxiety would jump at the chance to deliver up all the worst case scenarios about what this niggle might turn into.  

By avoiding my mat I was putting my hand up to my body to say ‘no I don’t want to hear what you have to say today thanks, I’d prefer to continue being disconnected from you at this precise moment’. Another reminder that my self-practise isn’t about improving my alignment or skill it’s about listening to my body, and that my relationship to my self-practise is just that, a relationship. We have good days and bad days, there’s commitment involved and at times avoidance tactics are brought into play to swerve being forced to face up to something.  

In the end I did decided to show up, I moved very slowly and had my eyes closed most of the time and it felt good to listen in. As usual my perception of the situation was worse than the reality, upon looking a bit closer I saw that that what was going on wasn’t as bad as I’d thought.

This episode really brought home to me the fact that my self-practise is about holding space for myself, to feel and to listen, it’s a prayer of compassion and kindness to my whole, a process of peace keeping between my body and mind. I don’t however always experience this harmonious magic when I practise, sometimes the most beautiful feeling of coming home washes over me when I come into childs pose and from then it just flows and other times it’s kind of messy and feels like I’m moving through sludge. 

Like any relationship that I have hope for I must nurture my self-practise, that means not neglecting it even when I can’t be bothered to show up. It also means fighting against the urge to avoid it if I don’t want to face up to something. I’ve also realised that I shouldn’t feel disheartened when not every interaction flows because expecting a continuous flow of harmony for any relationship is completely unrealistic. Realising this has been a hugely liberating experience, my practise is not about making beautiful shapes on a mat, working my body or perfecting my bound ardha chandrasana, it’s an act of self-care, a process of healing. There are no expectations or rules, showing up is all I have to do.