I was lucky enough to spend this past weekend at the London Wellbeing Festival. My thoughts on last year’s event can be found here. This was an important weekend for me, because while yes, I was looking forward to the actual workshops and pottering around the stalls, this marked a year since I had a total breakdown. I was curious how I would feel being in the Olympia Centre once more, but with an entirely different head on my shoulders this time. Would it trigger me, or offer relief?

2016 was one of the most difficult years of my life thus far (apart from 2006 which was also terrible…what is it about the ‘6’?!) and whilst I took a lot away from last year’s event, I truly did just float around totally disengaged. Eventually I made it back to Bristol and things just got worse. And worse. And worse.

But eventually, after months of therapy – and honestly I think a miracle – I woke up just fine one sunny morning earlier this year. Fine. Without a fluctuating numbness or anxiety, I woke up feeling normal. For over a year I’d woken up every single day with this kind of thick fog. This dullness. Nothing was inspiring, warm, or light. Everything was hard work and I could not see a point to any of it. But I told myself that eventually, somehow, it would get better. And it did.

I can’t tell you if it was the therapy, cutting caffeine out, or the result of a prayer that someone made for me in a time of desperation. But life works in mysterious ways and for whatever reason, I managed to get out of my funk.

London Wellbeing

Returning to the Wellbeing Festival in 2017 was an important milestone for me. Last year, I was acutely aware of what felt like crowds of mentally-unstable, self-help junkies. I felt overwhelmed by all these desperate people wanting help from whatever workshop they were attending. I felt claustrophobic and small. But interestingly, this year I didn’t see any of that. Instead, I saw like-minded, warm, kind, self-aware individuals there for connection, self-growth and improvement. The word projection comes to mind as I realise that what I was seeing both years was a direct reflection of my mental state at the time. When you feel cold, all you can see is frost. When you feel warm and complete, you see the good.

I spent my time at the festival realising that I’m really not introverted; I’ve just been spending my time with all the wrong people. And that’s a very powerful realisation to come to. My final workshop of the day with the incredible Sarah Rozenthuler proved just that. It was a workshop titled, ‘Living Your Heart’s Desire’ and used some key principles and partner work to help gain perspective on the difference between your inherited purpose, believed purpose and soul purpose. It was eye-opening and inspiring and the beautiful connections between strangers was something I’ll forever cherish deeply. We were a group of women of all ages and backgrounds who all understood the fire in each other’s bellies and the calling for a creative life. It didn’t matter that we’d only just met. We were all on the same wavelength and it’s in those situations that magic happens.

At times like these, I am reminded of my favourite quote by C.S. Lewis: “Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but looking back everything is different?” A milestone such as an annual festival or event can be that solid, external indicator of how well you’re doing and how far you’ve come. If you need that extra push to remind yourself of your progress, use it.

London, for all its madness, did not strike me as a hostile place this year. I instead chose to see the colours on the walls and the dynamic melting pot of people and realised that this time round it made me feel alive.

 

 

Save

avocado and mango

In January 2016 I decided to label myself as a vegan. Six months later (ish) in August of last year, I wrote this post detailing my decision to no longer label myself as one. It’s now February 2017 – six months on again – and here are my thoughts.

The key word that comes to mind is choice. Having choice is the most wonderful, encouraging, satisfying, empowering feeling. The truth is that I’ve eaten my way through several dozen eggs, a fish or two and the odd serving of cheese during these six months. But without even realising it, I have gravitated towards entirely plant-based cooking in my own home.

Now it’s six months on, I’m doing a little ‘check up’ on myself to see how I’m doing. The truth is that I feel great. I’m eating almost exactly what I did a year ago, only the difference is that I don’t feel restricted. It all has to do with the label, or rather. lack of.

Six months ago, I did myself a great kindness by lifting the pressure and giving myself the choice to eat what I wanted without feeling like I was breaking the law; my own personal law that is. By simply allowing myself to have the choice to consume animal products if I wanted to, I felt good in the decisions I made to opt for plant-based instead. It was a conscious decision, not a forced commitment. Nowadays, when I have the choice (i.e. when I’m eating at home), I cook plant-based. But if I’m in work and someone brings in treats, or I’m at a friend’s place and he or she cooks a beautiful meal containing some cheese or egg, I gladly accept. The only thing I really draw the line at is meat. I just can’t do that one.

Opening this door for myself allowed me to become flexible and adaptable. I guess one thing I pride myself on is my adaptability. Putting myself on a restricted diet felt like I was going against my values. Sure, I see the environmental benefits, of course. But life doesn’t revolve around me and while I have control over the purchases I make and cook within my own home, part of my life is socialising with other people and so I now feel warmer and more welcoming towards compromising in those situations.

Something funny happened next, after this decision to relax a little bit and give myself choice. I decided to start looking at other areas of my life where I might also benefit from having a choice. You might think of it as me becomming a detective of sorts, pulling out my trusty magnifying glass and seeing where I had choices that were hiding from me. These were areas that I felt bound to and trapped in; areas where I wanted more flexibility.

It started with work. I was working a 40-hour week, Monday to Friday and before that point had never even considered the possibility of reducing my hours. But then I thought: what have I got to lose by asking? I wasn’t asking for a reduction so I could bum around; I was happy to explain that to my boss. Balance was what I was after; more time to do things that mattered to me. I wanted more variety.

The proposal was met with respect and support. Before I knew it, I was down to four days a week. This allowed me a day to do some volunteer work outside in the fresh – albeit brisk at this time of year – air. And then something else happened. I got offered not one, but two other opportunities to do what I love: pursue creativity through my writing.

When the ball started rolling, I suddenly had the overwhelming feeling that this is how life is meant to be lived: with freedom. Freedom is the greatest blessing and also the most notoriously in disguise. Until we see the choices we can make in our everyday lives, we won’t create the space for fulfilling opportunities to walk through the door.

Giving myself a choice last year changed my life. It allowed me to see that my life is ever-changing and that my dreams are possible, if only I remember to pause for perspective every now and then.

Photo via Unsplash

Save

Lincoln Memorial

Yesterday afternoon ticked by steadily and across the great Atlantic – hours earlier in EST – the infamous Trump inauguration was taking place. January 20th 2017. It was a day that’s been dreaded by most of us since November. But it’s also the start of a new era of growth and change. I know that sounds contradictory, but it really isn’t my friends. You see, consciousness is really kicking off now.

What has happened with Trump and in my homeland of Britain – Brexit – needed to happen. We’ve been racing towards these seemingly terrible decisions because a call to change is bubbling under the surface. We’re gathering momentum. Before light, there is darkness. We’re in the darkness right now. But light is flickering at the end of this tunnel. Sorry if this sounds all too “HALLELUJAH!” for you.

I remember when Brexit happened. It was God-awful and depressing and confusing to me and my ‘remain’ peers. But it was also inevitable, said my gut instinct. It had to happen. Things were too stagnant to carry on as they were. Not with such hostility needing addressing. Hostility and desperation by those feeling enslaved by society.

The same thing has happened with the recent US election. Too many unhappy and dysfunctional aspects to American society needed addressing for yet another old-school politician to be voted in. My genuine opinion is: would Clinton have made any real improvements? Of course she was my preferred choice, but would she have really moved the nation forward? Her tactic is old fashioned and what we need from a woman leading the country – which, for the record is absolutely necessary at this point – is a woman embracing divine feminine energy, not trying to out-man the male opposition.

So Trump was the radical choice, voted in by so many craving something different. You see, all around the world we’ve got people waking up to the possibility of resource-based economies, the free movement of people, lives led by creative expression and education being emphasised for how it helps the mind – not makes the rich, richer. We all know that there is the need for a revolution, it’s just that unfortunately the process to get there is messy.

Everything seems scary and I feel that too. None of us really know what we’re doing with our lives because we can no longer fit into the old paradigm of the way the generation before us did things. We’re consistently told that the life model is x,y, and z by people for whom this worked. And it no longer does. And more so, the growth is exponential now.

So here is where the problem lies. All of our hearts are leading us in the direction of necessary change, but the framework we are operating within does not provide the capacity with which we can live this type of life. Does that make sense? So all the anger and frustration comes from feeling like we’re trying to move forward at warp speed, but remaining in a society where things are stuck as the same, or as proved with the recent US election, moving backwards so it seems.

So what can be done over the next four years? How can we utilise this time rather than spin out of control in fear?

  1. Be nice to yourself and others. We all need love and support. Make effort to do nice things for yourself and others. Encouragement should be your word of focus.
  2. Be mindful. Don’t panic about that which is simply out of your control. If you feel an inner drive to create change and be the movement, focus on that which you can do. Don’t give in to the feeling of overwhelm.
  3. Don’t give up. Now is the time to absolutely embrace the fact that things are uncomfortable. Understand that things need to be this way, but it’s not the end. Happiness can still be achieved.
  4. Speak your truth. There is no need for aggression, but level-headed, mindful discussion which can help us create solutions.

If you stop and really take a good look around, you’ll see that we are now more connected than ever. That’s why news travels as fast as it does. When one of us panics, we all panic. But that also means that when one of us shares joy, that can be felt for miles around. We need to utilise our connectedness to create a better future for ourselves. It can be done – don’t ever forget that!

Save

change

When we fear change, what is it that we’re really fearing? It’s surely not the process of evolving or upgrading to something new and different? Rather, it’s the fear that we’ll either lose something or end up worse off. We fear the possibility of suffering.

We always think we know best, don’t we? We think that we have the best idea about what’s good for us. If we take a good look at our lives, we think we’ve got it down. Everything around us might be looking all right – dare I say comfortable – and at these points change is unwelcome. If everything feels comfortable, why would we want to rock the boat?

In these circumstances, change is often shunned. We hold on so dearly with clutching little claws to that which we have, because after all we know best. We don’t want any nasty surprises creeping up and biting us in the behind.

Other times, perhaps we feel stagnant. Taking a look at your life reveals people and circumstances that are less than favourable. If this is the case, change could perhaps be just what it is you’re craving. Something new and shiny and exciting. Yet the change doesn’t come. You keep wishing so badly for something to turn your world upside down, yet all stays level. Every day is exactly the same.

Above I describe two very different situations. In the first, the person is happy with the way things are. They don’t want things to change, because the risk it’ll be for the worse outweighs the chances that it’ll be for the better. Sure, there’s the chance that life could improve in a way that he or she hardly thought possible, but isn’t it better to stick with what you know and what’s all right rather than risk total turbulence?

The second person is bored or suffering and yearning for change to shake things up a bit. They need new stimulation. They feel like they’ve got nothing to lose and so they’re willing to go face-to-face with whatever is thrown at them, because least of all they’ll have a challenge. Best case scenario they’ve got their dreams coming true.

We tend to fluctuate between these two states of mind. It’s only natural for us to want things to stay the same when we’re cruising the peaks of life and chase change when sinking in the troughs. And it’s because we always think we know best.

I’m not here to talk about God or the mystical powers of the universe. But I am here to discuss our thought patterns. I’ve seen in my own life how thinking can be either completely destructive or utterly beneficial to my mood. I’ve experienced dramatic changes in external circumstances and trauma – just like any of you reading this – but ironically the times I felt the worst were when from the outside everything looked good. It was the times that I couldn’t pinpoint a reason to feel so awful that I felt the most darkness. It all came down to my thinking habits. And that’s exactly what our thinking is: a habit. Some habits are good, others detrimental.

What I’ve learned is that the only times we suffer are when we feel like what we are experiencing should not be happening. It really is as simple as that. So with the first person in my example above, he feels as though he’s got a grip on his life. He feels like everything around him is right and should be happening because he feels OK experiencing it all each day. Any change surely should not happen to disturb that?

With the second person, he looks around at his life and is experiencing that which is unwanted and so he shouts up at the universe that ‘surely this should not be happening!’ and pleads for change.

Whether you believe you’re here to stumble onto a particular path or not is entirely your own prerogative, but you can’t argue with the fact that we’re all here to learn. That’s why we place such emphasis on education and doing stuff. But the thing is that some of the stuff we need to learn to get us from A to B (B being a place where we can do our best work) includes some hardship – some pain. And this arises from change.

If we stay in the comfort bubble, we’re never growing. We must face new situations to learn about the world and ourselves. This is from where inspiration stems. And curiosity. It’s how we discover those niches that call to us. Individuals we are, and so it takes some excavation to find the niche that feels the most compatible. It’s how we learn what we’re good at. And it’s how we connect to others; through shared experience and understanding.

I now try my best to approach trying situations with the mentality that whatever is happening, needs to happen. And one up from that even: whatever is happening will benefit me. We’re always so adamant about needing all the evidence, but suppose for a moment that you simply accepted that there are things you don’t know and will never know. The strange workings of the universe being one of them.

Doesn’t it take some pressure off, at least? Doesn’t accepting that your current situation is serving you feel good? I’m not talking about settling for that which is unwanted or giving up on your goals and dreams, but instead of feeling like you’re hitting your head against a brick wall 60 times a minute, consider that you’re gaining something from all this.

So when unwanted change is thrown at you: know in your heart that it needed to happen and that you will find a way through it. You always do. And if change simply isn’t coming, know that it’s because you’ve still not learned your lesson yet, do start paying attention.

 

Photo: Flickr

Save

Save

Save

Self_Teaspoon

The older I get, the more I realise the importance of self. Or perhaps I should say, my awareness of it. It started in my teenage years when I first realised that I was both my best friend and my biggest enemy. My self was what made me powerful and able to chase my dreams. It also rendered me powerless to my own fears and judgment.

Time passed and I hit my twenties. By this point I was forging my spiritual path. I started tending to the weeds that had sprouted throughout my being. I desired to understand from whence they came and how best to tackle them. It was the start of a mission to improve – a mission to heal past wounds. Since then I’ve sailed on peaks and troughs as I’ve learned more about this self of mine.

We’ve all got baggage. So. Much. Baggage. And it’s definitely true that becoming aware of said baggage is the first step to healing it. Learning what has made you the way you are is the way to make peace with yourself if you’re living in constant turmoil. You can learn how to nip bad habits in the bud. You can stop having the same negative relationships. You can gather the courage to chase your dreams. But there’s the risk of forming a kind of addiction to  self-help, much like becoming addicted to anything else. You can lose sight of why you’re doing it and end up heading straight towards the panic room.

It’s a bit like any goal you’re working towards. If you hold perfection as the end-point, you will forever bask in disappointment. Nothing is perfect, after all, and that applies to us. We are imperfect humans. But it’s easy to fall into the pattern of thinking that there’s always one more practice you can perform, one more therapy to try in an eternal quest to be the perfect version of yourself. This can quickly turn compassionate self-healing into a narcissistic obsession.

We know about the two aspects of self: the soul self and third-dimensional ego consciousness. The former is the pure light – the good. It could be said that this is the real you. The latter is the aspect that must be respected, but never allowed to take the wheel. It’s very easy to commence healing or any kind of spiritual growth, only to succumb to the ego and its intentions. This is fine; this is a learning process. But if not rectified, that’s when you face trouble.

If you’re prone to anxiety or depression or any other kind of claustrophobic mental health struggle, it’s very tempting to think that the answer is to go inwards. Your ego wants to try to protect itself. It wants to ensure its survival. It will conjure the idea that the world outside is a deadly place. It will tell you that nobody understands what you’re going through. It will tell you to keep yourself locked away.

When you shrink your life to the confines of your own home – or only the familiar – you are removing adventure. You are removing surroundings which require your attention, your focus. You know exactly where everything is. You know exactly what everything is. Therefore can live your small life on autopilot, never really having to pay attention to how you’re interacting with this world outside of you. The ego loves this.

This frees up so much time for you to think about yourself. You can then run yourself riot with negative thought patterns; anxiously picking as a bird does with its feathers. When there’s no external stimulation, your intelligent brain has to think about something, so it goes inside. It’s a dog chewing on furniture.

Taking care of thy self is essential. It is what frees us. It is what allows us to do our best work. But with that we must realise that life isn’t just about us as individuals. Life is about the relationships we make while we’re on this earth. If we glance back at our memories, we hold closest those where we connected with others or experienced awe and beauty and captivation. These are external stimuli which we interact with. This is the point of it all. This is why we are here.

If you notice certain patterns or triggers in your life that are stemming from an unaddressed wound, use introspection to heal. But also know that this healing must occur so that you can resume your position in the world at large. We don’t help ourselves to forever remain isolated, but rather so we can have meaningful connection to others. You heal the inside so you can partake in the outside. Self help used within this context won’t ever be able to swallow you up.

Photo: Flickr

 

Save