The Art of Mindfulness

The Art of Mindfulness: Busy Life, Peaceful Mind.  Staying sane in a crazy world, keeping calm amid the chaos.

Click here to download 

Master the art of mindfulness.  Stop worrying and start living.  Learn how to bring Mindfulness into your life to make you happier, calmer and more effective.  Achieve better stress management and resilience and realise the benefits of mindfulness and how we harness the power of our mind. 

Develop a regular practice to tame your monkey mind, achieve a more positive mindset and free yourself from worry.  Discover skills that help you bounce back from the tough times, stay in the present more often and achieve balance.  Create more space in the mind and train the brain to be more clear and focused and a more positive place to be.  Understand how Mindfulness aids our effectiveness, the impacts of emotional intelligence and how we can use this skill at work.

A Mindfulness teacher with a daily practice of 7 years.  Training from teachers from around the world in many cultures and countries.  Without any religious affiliations, I bring eastern techniques to benefit our western world modified in a way that is easily applied to modern life.  Experienced course instructor, described by others as authentic, uplifting and inspiring.

Discover the basics of meditation and how to deal with a busy mind or negative thoughts.  Achieve the skills to apply Mindfulness into your daily life and work to become more focused, clear and effective and develop a regular practice to sustain you well beyond this course.

Suitable for beginners to mindfulness or those who have done some before and are looking to learn new ways to bring this to life and create a regular practice

Over 2 hours of content, one lecture per day and some practical exercises to download as well as bonus material and resources.

Available online and through your device with lifetime access once purchased

Why Learning to Let Go and Adapt Is a Shortcut to Happiness

No matter what kind of life we live, we all need to learn to adapt, because everything changes. Good and bad come and go in everybody’s life. It’s one of the reasons resilience is so critical.

We plan our lives expecting good to come our way, to get what we want, and for things to work out how we planned. At the same time we’re chasing the good, we try to avoid the bad.

One of the biggest sources of our unhappiness and discontent is not being able to adapt to change; instead, we cling to things we’ve lost or get upset because things don’t unfold as we want them to.  

What we overlook is that this is a fundamental law of life, the ups and downs, ebbs and flows. Things come and go, nothing stays the same, and we can’t control most of the things we’d like to. Accepting this and learning to adapt and go with the flow brings us one step closer to happiness.

I’ve just come back from a meditation retreat. It sounds relaxing, and it was, but it was also difficult in many ways.

I had to adapt to a new routine, which meant a 5:30am alarm, sitting for long periods of meditation, and periods of complete silence and solitude.

And there were lots of other changes: Not having my morning cup of tea or evening chocolate—or any caffeine or dairy—and adjusting to a vegan diet. Being without WiFi and my cell phone, and braving the sub zero temperatures up in the mountains of NZ in winter. Having to do karma yoga work—things like cleaning toilets and stacking wood.

Not to mention the kind of emotions, thoughts, and feelings we’re confronted with when we start to disconnect from the world and spend time with ourselves.

I was so pleased to be returning home, but then instantly thrown into the chaos of a busy airport with all flights grounded due to fog. I then realized that I would not be going home, and to attempt that tomorrow meant a bus ride to the next airport and finding some overnight accommodation to wait it out with the hope that the weather would be fit for flying in the morning.

Despite my Zen-like state post-meditation, I was frustrated, upset, and I just wanted to get home to see my partner, sleep in my own bed, and not feel so helpless.

I had my plan, my expected outcome, and for reasons beyond everyone’s control, this wasn’t possible. I wasn’t going to get what I wanted.

Now, a week later, I find myself having to learn the skill of adaptability once again.

Many years ago I played soccer. I wasn’t bad, either. I loved it. It was my passion. As a kid, I’d play all day on my own in the garden, and once I found a team I’d never miss a match. However, my career was cut short in my early twenties after a ruptured cruciate ligament that was surgically repaired, re-ruptured.

I had to give up on my passion and for many years didn’t play soccer. It was as a result of this devastation that I found yoga—my new passion and lifesaver for the past seven years, something I do every day.

I’ve just had a further operation on this ailing knee, and while I’d adapted over the years from the injury, I found myself once again having to adapt to changes: Not being able to walk, being housebound, using crutches and the difficulties this brings. Finding a way of sleeping comfortably and seeing through the fog the painkillers seemed to create. Not being able to do my morning yoga routine and struggling to meditate because I couldn’t adopt my usual cross-legged ‘proper’ meditation position.

Sometimes what is, is good enough. Acceptance is key to helping us adapt. If I can breathe, I can meditate, and I’ve enjoyed some of my lying down meditations (the ones where I’ve managed to stay awake!).

And now, as I reduce the meds and ease off the crutches, I can see positive change occurring. I can do a few standing yoga asanas and can take short walks with support.

The devastation of leaving my beloved sport morphed into another form of exercise I fell in love with that I may never have otherwise discovered. And my recent operation led me to new ways of enjoying this passion.

These recent lessons caused me to reflect on how life has changed for me over the last year or so and how I’ve been adapting along the way (sometimes kicking and screaming).

I’ve gone from a nomad traveling the world to settling down in a city I’d said I’d never live in due to the wind and the earthquakes. I’ve experienced some of the worst winds and biggest earthquakes of my life since being here and learned to love it all the same.

I’ve recognized the positives and come to love the bits that make this city (Wellington, NZ) great: the small town feel, the laid back lifestyle, the friendly residents, the ocean, the beach suburbs and beautiful scenery, the wonderful array of cafes and restaurants, not to mention the abundance of yoga, meditation, and wellness related activities.

I’ve gone from being single and happy to living with someone else and having to think about someone else, taking into account more needs than just my own.

I’ve had to learn to love again, take risks, and face fears while navigating a long-term relationship and our different wants and needs. I’ve had to learn to share a home and build a nest, and think about the future in ways I’d never have thought I could, feeling very blessed if also a little apprehensive and scared at the same time.

read the rest of the blog and the full article here on Tiny Buddha

Why Kindness is a skill

Many of us are brought up today to look after number one, to go out and get what we want—and the more of it we can have, the better.

Our society preaches survival of the fittest and often encourages us to succeed at the expense of others.

I was no different, and while I noticed a tendency to feel sorry for others and want to help, I was too busy lining my own pockets and chasing my own success to act on these impulses. I worried that kindness was me being soft and, therefore, a weakness that may hamper my progress, especially at work as I moved up the ranks.

It was only when I quit my corporate career, after years of unhappiness, to realign my values and rebuild a life around my passions that I learned the true value of kindness and how it has impacted my life since.

I volunteered overseas with those less fortunate. I lived in yoga ashrams and spent time with Buddhist nuns and monks across many different countries. I learned how compassion and kindness can be a source of strength, and since then I’ve applied this wisdom, with success, repeatedly into my own life.

Our natural response to seeing someone in distress is to want to help. We care about the suffering of others and we feel good when that suffering is released. This applies if we do it ourselves, see it in a movie, or witness it in real life. It makes us feel good. Feeling like we’re making a difference in the world and helping those who need it brings us joy; it gives us meaning.

My grandma was the most giving person I ever knew.

When her weekly pension arrived she delighted in giving the grandchildren money, even though it meant having little to spend on herself.

Family members would get upset that they bought her lovely gifts, which she then re-gifted to others, often less fortunate. Over the years I began to understand that it if she gifted it to someone else, it meant that she liked it and thought it was worthy of sharing.

Knowing the pleasure she got from giving to others and that she wasn’t in the position to buy things herself, I saw it as her getting the gift twice: the pleasure of receiving it but then also the pleasure she got from being able to give it to someone else. The recipients were always grateful and touched by her kindness too.

Buddhists say, “All the happiness there is in the world comes from us wishing others to be happy.” When we do good deeds for others it makes us feel good.

James Baraz quotes statistics on why giving is good for you in his book Awakening Joy. “According to the measures of Social Capital Community Benchmark survey, those who gave contributions of time or money were 42 percent more likely to be happy than those who didn’t.”

Psychologists even have a term for the state of euphoria reported by those who give. It’s called “helpers high,” and it’s based on the theory that neuroscience is now backing up: Giving produces endorphins in the brain that make us feel good. This activates the same part of the brain as receiving rewards or experiencing pleasure does.

Practicing kindness also helps train the mind to be more positive and see more good in the world. There’s plenty of it out there; it just doesn’t seem like it because, while the kind acts outnumber the bad, they don’t make as many headlines.

When I think back to how life was before, I realize that I wasn’t even being kind to myself, so it makes sense that I didn’t value kindness for others. I’ve learned it’s about self-respect first, and from there it’s much easier to respect others. Kindness as a skill taps into our true strength. We can respect ourselves when we are being kind to others and to our planet.

Read the rest of the blog here on Tiny Buddha

Volunteering; why it’s not just others that benefit

Compassion and kindness are key ingredients for happiness.  It leads us to want to do good without expecting anything in return, to look after each other and our environment.   

When I hit 30 I was unfulfilled and unhappy, despite having every material I could ever have wished for.  I had a good upbringing, climbed the corporate ladders, earned good money, had a company car and a house by the beach so why was I unhappy?  At this point I set off on a journey that lead to understanding there was another way, the path to happiness and how to create a life we love.  I discovered what I valued, how to balance life, learned a new relationship with money and rediscovered what mattered. During this journey which I wrote about in my first book A Rough Guide to a Smooth Life I discovered my authenticity, made life more simple and rebuilt my life around my passions to find meaning and purpose.  Part of this involved quitting the corporate world and volunteering overseas.  I trained to be a yoga teacher, practiced mindfulness daily and did my life coaching certificate.  I now write books and run my own business and still enjoy volunteering.  In celebration of volunteer week I’d like to share why it’s so important as well as give thanks and gratitude to all those volunteers out there who give their time to good causes.

Vietnamese Zen Monk Thich Nhat Hanh said “The word compassion is a verb”.  Just think back to the last time you performed the action of helping someone in need.  How good did you feel?  Buddhists have a saying; “All the happiness there is in the world comes from us wishing others to be happy.” 

Our natural response to seeing someone in distress is the impulse to help, we care about the suffering of others and we feel good when that suffering is released.  This applies if we do it ourselves, see it in a movie or witness it in real life.  It makes us feel good.  Feeling like we’re making a difference in the world and helping those who need it brings us joy, it gives us meaning 

James Baraz quotes statistics on why giving is good for you in his book; ‘Awakening Joy’.  “According to the measures of Social Capital Community Benchmark survey those who gave contributions of time or money were 42% more likely to be happy than those who didn’t.  Psychologists even have a term for the state of euphoria reported by those who give, it’s called ‘helpers high’ and is based on the theory that neuroscience is now backing up; giving produces endorphins in the brain that make us feel good, this activates the same part of the brain as receiving rewards or experiencing pleasure does”.

You may say, that’s easy if you’re happy, have money and the time to help.  But when you’re busy, worried and burned out it’s not so easy to find the space in your heart or mind to be compassionate.  Yes, it does make it harder but not impossible and can in fact be the opening to more joy in your life at a time when you need it most. 

I must admit that when I’m working full time and trying to run my own business I don’t get the time I’d like to volunteer but when I have periods between contracts and can focus on one job I make sure it incorporate a day to volunteer.  Not only does it give me a break from writing it gets me out mixing with others and that feeling of contributing to the community, being of service and doing some good for others. 

It’s not just for others though, it’s good for our souls, our sense of meaning and purpose, learning new things, social connection. All the things that are fundamental to our health and happiness.  It helps us think more positively about the world and our own contribution to it too.

It’s the voluntary work I’ve done over the years that I’ve enjoyed most above any paid job, no matter what the salary or benefits.  I spent time in Thailand teaching English to Buddhist monks, worked at yoga ashrams and Buddhist centres as well as doing the soup run for the homeless and volunteering to teach IT to the over 50’s and coordinate activities at elderly day care centres. I enjoy the company and get a sense of satisfaction from this work.

Studies are also showing there are physical health benefits of compassion and giving through the form of voluntary work.  United Health Group commissioned a national survey of 3,351 adults and found that the overwhelming majority of participants reported feeling mentally and physically healthier after a volunteer experience.

·         76 percent of people who volunteered in the last twelve months said that volunteering has made them feel healthier

·         94 percent of people who volunteered in the last twelve months said that volunteering improved their mood

·         78 percent of them said that volunteering lowered their stress levels

·         96 percent reported that volunteering enriched their sense of purpose in life

·         Volunteering also improved their self-esteem

Researchers at the University of Exeter Medical School in England analyzed data from 40 published studies and found evidence that volunteers had a 20 percent lower risk of death than their peers who do not volunteer. The study also found that volunteers had lower levels of depression, increased life satisfaction and enhanced well-being. 

It doesn’t have to be money, it doesn’t have to be a lot of time if you’re short on that.  It can even be as simple as starting with some random acts of kindness throughout your day.  When we think of giving we often think of charitable donations but it doesn’t have to involve money.  Donating items to charity collections, baking cakes for local events, helping out at a local animal shelter or using some of your skills to help others are all forms of giving.  Giving is not always about your time or money.  We all have skills and strengths we can share with others, we can all choose to be compassionate.  Even if we have very little material wealth, we all have infinite non material wealth we can share.

Take the project ‘Random Acts of Kindness’ for example.  They have many ideas of acts of kindness we can perform for complete strangers and at the same time encourage those who have been the recipient of an act of kindness to pass it on and do something kind for someone else.  This can be as simple as helping an elderly neighbor with their shopping, paying the toll fee for the car behind you, holding the door open for a stranger or making coffee for a busy colleague. 

It doesn’t have to be hard or take up a lot of time, there are so many ways to help and by doing so we’re not just helping the recipients we’re helping ourselves too.  In a world where we’re increasing too busy for kindness see if you can make space to volunteer yourself in some capacity – your health and happiness will thank you.

#NVW2107

10 things you need to know about happiness

Last week was international happiness day and I’ve been celebrating all week by reminding myself of what makes me happy and sharing my advice on happiness with others.  It’s something we’re all in pursuit of yet so often missing the mark.  It’s the question we’re all trying to find the answer to.  What is happiness and how do we get it?  Happiness is not the mere absence of suffering or temporary cessation of unhappiness.  It’s less about elation and perfection more about how we react to challenges, about purpose and fulfilment, being connected to who you are.  To mark the close of my week long celebration of happiness here are 10 things we need to know about happiness

  1. It’s the journey not the destination

We seem to think that happiness is not possible in the here and now.  It’s a struggle now so we can enjoy happiness later (perhaps when we retire?)  We seem to think happiness is always some far off destination we’re aiming for.  A point we eventually reach, a place where everything is perfect. But tomorrow never comes and nor does perfection.  The good and bad will come and go but every day we have a chance to be happy, in how we chose to live, how we react and how we treat ourselves and others.

We spend so much of our time worrying about the future or going over the past that we often miss the here and now and therefore the moments of happiness that exist in the present.  If we are too busy looking for the pot of gold we miss the beauty of the rainbow.

  1. It’s not a thing we search for and find

We see happiness as something outside of ourselves, something external we have to pursue and ‘find’.

We fill our lives with the business of searching for many things and all this pursuit is for one reason, our happiness, yet the very pursuit is taking us further away from the goal.  You may want a house, car, job, partner but all you really want is the feeling these things bring; love, status, wealth.  The pursuit of all these things is for the sake of happiness.  I think we’ve all been there, thinking; “If I could just have this then I’ll be happy”, but when you get this it becomes a case of, “I just want that then I’ll be happy”.  It’s a bottomless bucket of constant craving with no fulfilment.

Caught in this pursuit of happiness it is easy to believe the grass is greener on the other side, but even when you get there the future will always seem better.  This leads to permanent dissatisfaction and un-fulfilment.  We know this because the car we drive and the house we live in at one point were new and it was amazing but the novelty eventually wears off and leaves us wanting more, needing to be fulfilled again

  1. It’s the small things

In celebration every day last week I posted a photo of something that made me happy. Generally this was the wonderful food I ate, the sun shining, getting outside in nature, cuddling up on the sofa with my partner, talking to my family, patting the cute dog that we met in the park and being on the beach.  It wasn’t my house, my bank balance, my car (because I don’t have one) or my job title.  It was the small things, often free things that meant the most and brought a smile to my face.  As Brene Brown says, so often we are so busy chasing down the extraordinary moments that we think will bring us happiness that we miss the ordinary moments of joy that already exist in each day.

It is in fact the little things that are the big things – like our health, love, the food on our table and the roof over our head.

Read the rest of the article here published by elephant journal

How to thrive at work (and life) as a woman

Last week we celebrated International Women’s Day which brought up many conversations, some about progress and some about the inequalities that still exist today despite said progress.  We talked a lot about why there are still so few women in leadership and how we change this.

I’ve worked in leadership and personal development for many years so much of this is close to my heart and being a woman, something I’m passionate about.  Women have faced many challenges over the years and even now many of us seem to do it tough, partly due to the world we’ve grown up in but I believe also partly to do with our own thoughts, views and expectations.

I’ve watched women both in and out of work try to juggle many balls.  To be the career woman and compete with men at the top table.  To come home and be a good mother, make delicious meals for the family, pick the kids up from school, arrange the family social engagements, keep the house clean, ring the parents and try to ensure we don’t forget anyone’s birthday!  All whilst ensuring we wear the latest clothes, go to the gym, make the 6 am yoga class, keep our weight down and always look our best – no wonder it seems so hard.

I’ve never felt as a woman that I’m less capable than a man or less worthy of being at the top table and I grew up with no women role models in business.  I worked mostly in manufacturing and in my first senior HR job when promoted at 25 in a timber factory I was the youngest manager and the only woman.  I knew most of the guys doubted my abilities on both counts but it drove me to prove them wrong and deliver on what I knew I was capable of, even though I knew I was, at times, out of my depth.

What followed was the climbing of the ladder progressing in my career but also the development of me as a person which ultimately ended in me realising I was on the wrong ladder!  At the peak of my career I decided to give it all up to follow my passions as a writer.  At the same time I went through my own journey of self-discovery, finding my authenticity, comfort in my own skin and a self-awareness of who I was and what I wanted.  Here are some of the lessons I learned along the way.

I’ve been lucky to work with some great male colleagues and also some not so great over the years and whilst I believe they play a huge role in aiding our success (the majority of leadership roles, and therefore positions of influence, are occupied by men) I also think the buck stops with us.  If we don’t value ourselves or think we’re capable of the job or think we deserve a seat at the table how do we expect anyone else to?  As woman we are responsible for setting the boundaries and the expectations on what is acceptable and expected.  If we go into a room feeling second class or like we don’t belong we put ourselves at a disadvantage and create conditions for this to be accepted by others.

Last week I heard many women talking about leadership using the comparison to their male counterparts.  ‘A man would do this’.  So What?  Why do we compare to them?  Being successful is not about being more like men but being more like ourselves.  Sometimes I feel like as women we’re waiting for someone to sign a permission slip for us to succeed, for it to be ok to achieve our potential and be as great as we truly are.  Well in the spirit of my comment above – men don’t ask for permission, why do we?  Why as women do we have a need to feel validated outside of ourselves, to be invited to speak?  A lot of this comes down to self-confidence and belief.  How can we expect others to believe we’re capable if we don’t?

This is easier said than done.  For many years I’d offset my Imposter Syndrome with the ‘fake it till you make it’ technique.  I’d tell myself over and over in my head that I was confident and capable until that message sank in.  I’d remind myself of all the feedback and praise I got and use the words of others to help my own brain understand what I was really capable of despite my own doubts.  I’d keep a list of my achievements in the back of my notebook and add to it each day.  Positive thinking and a positive mind set are key, it’s having a ‘can do’ attitude.  The belief that anything is possible and any set back can be overcome.  As Henry Ford said ‘whether you think you can or you can’t you’re probably right’.

It seems that men find this easier than women.  In my years in HR and Leadership countless times I’ve come across men who consider themselves capable of jobs that outweigh their skill set and women who think the opposite, the jobs they are more than qualified for they still see as a stretch.  Add to that the tendency then for men to ask for more than they are worth and women settle for less – this is surely a contributing factor to the gender pay gap and one we contribute to ourselves because if we ask for less we’ll be paid less.

There are other differences I’ve noticed during my years in the corporate world.  Women seem to want to devote a lot more time and effort into making their work perfect whilst men seem to do ‘just enough’.  Sometimes this is driven by our perfection and the need to do the best job possible but sometimes driven by an unconscious belief that we have to work twice as hard as men to prove our worth.  Many of these women I witness outperform their male counterparts and it’s less about the hours they work and more about the abilities they have.  Sometimes as women we struggle with presence.  Not speaking up, worried an idea is not yet perfect enough to be shared, or that we may not have the authority to challenge the discussion taking place.  I’ve seen women shy away from taking credit for their own good ideas or even letting their male counterparts take that credit on their behalf.  But how do we get noticed beyond letting our work do the talking?

I don’t believe we need to be more aggressive or assertive to break through the glass ceiling.  It’s about being savvy, letting our work do the talking and taking deserved credit for that work.  Others need to know who you are and see what you’re capable of, this implies having a presence, being noticed and taking the opportunities as they arise.  But in a bid to be noticed it can be too easy to try too hard, to be louder, more aggressive, more noticeable.  It’s tempting to fall into the trap of, if you can’t beat them, join them.  But success in leadership is not about being more like a man but being more like yourself and confident that this is enough.  I’ve found if we build good relationships when we talk people listen and it’s less about who is male or female around the table and more about who adds value and contributes.

As women, we have so many natural abilities that make us better leaders.  Emotional Intelligence is now seen to be one of the must have skills for successful leadership and it’s often something women possess naturally.  It helps us with empathy, resilience, people skills, relationship management and communication.  It’s our motivation in the face of set backs, the ability to understand and manage ourselves and others, it’s the awareness we have of both ourselves and others, it’s our passion and it’s our ability to make good decisions.

Our current position may be impacted by history, by the cultures we grew up in and what we’re lead to believe but it’s also within our control and down to us.  Our mind set, our attitude and ultimately our self-belief.  The buck stops with us if we want to change this.  Yes we may have had it hard in the past but there’s never been a better opportunity, it’s never impossible and it shouldn’t be as hard as we make it.  The only person stopping us is ourselves.

By being yourself and letting your results do the talking you’re already proving your worth.  We don’t need to act more like men to get noticed to earn our seat at the table.  We don’t need to be more assertive or change ourselves in some way to be seen as a leader, we just have to be good at what we do, embrace our authenticity and believe in our own worth.

Top tips for women at work:

  • Know yourself
  • Empower yourself – own this
  • Know what you want
  • Align to your values
  • Have an open mind
  • Learn and reflect
  • Take credit for your work
  • Take your opportunities – platform to be noticed, networks for those who’ll support you
  • Be resilient
  • Take time out for yourself
  • Trust your intuition
  • Find a mentor
  • Leverage your strengths
  • Set goals
  • Dream big – don’t limit yourself
  • Always do your best work and let that do the talking
  • Face your fears, get out of your comfort zone and believe in yourself

Weathering the storms

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How many of us have started 2017 thinking; “This year I want life to be less tough”? It may have felt like 2016 was tough, doesn’t every year feel that way by December? 

We heard a lot in the media about how awful 2016 had been, how many celebrities and top musicians we lost, the US election, the NZ Earthquake. I’m sure like most years 2016 has had its ups and downs for all of us, but in reality it’s less about what happens to us and more about how we react to it.  Toughtimes are always going to come so how do we navigate them better?  This quote sums it up well I think and puts us back in control.

Unfortunately we all have a tendency to focus on the bad and remember the negative more so than any positives, it’s how our brains are wired.  But how do we break this cycle?  Now it’s not about ignoring the bad and being Pollyanna or unreal, but more about remembering to acknowledge the good too.  I found this particularly true relfecting on the end of the year. 

Like most 2016 had been a long year of hard work, I’d achieved a lot and I’d had some failures too, things had gone wrong and there were goals I’d missed.  I found myself reflecting on a recent failure to deliver on a personal milestone (which admittedly in hindsight was way over ambitious!) and feeling like 2016 had not been a good one as a result.  What I wasn’t thinking about was all the wins I’d had along the way, the previous 11 months that had gone well and all the things I’d achieved throughout the year.  There were plenty of wins when I did sit a think about it so why was this one failure (albeit very recent) weighing on my mind? 

We can be too quick to move on from our successes and too slow to wallow in our failures, giving us the perception that if a few bad things have happened everything is bad, it’s been a bad year and life is hard.  What about all the good things, even the little things, especially the little things.  How often do we ever pause to consider all the things that have gone right?

Why don’t we take a minute to do that now?  List all the things that went well last year and all the things you’re currently grateful for and lucky to have – it may surprise you how long this list can be and how little time we may have spent celebrating the items on it.

It’s never all bad so let’s spend some time remembering the good.  Think of all the things now you’re lucky to have; family, friends, health, money in the bank (even a small amount), food in the fridge and roof over your head and all the things that make life good that so often we take for granted.

This came home to me recently when I took my annual trip back to the UK to see family over Christmas and whilst this meant leaving summer behind and a new relationship I was excited to reconnect with loved ones.  As sometimes is the case though, things don’t turn out how we expected, bad things happen and things don’t turn out the way we planned. This was one such occasion.

After a 33 hour trip I landed in London to make my way to my parents house. Unbeknown to me my 90 year old grandmother had a massive stroke the night before and was not expected to live.  My first port of call upon landing became a hospital stroke unit, and then for many days after as she struggled to let go of the life that was clearly leaving her.  Shortly after arriving I got sick, the kind of respiratory infection you only seem to get after long haul flights or English winters!  It left me bedridden with energy for nothing.  I was trying to enjoy being back but really I just wanted to be curled up at home in the sun with my girlfriend.  I found myself feeling guilty that I only get this chance once a year and people are looking forward to seeing me and I can’t be happy about it. I also find myself feeling like a failure when I become unhappy, after all it’s what I teach others!

The reality is we are all human and life is always going to be imperfect, rough and smooth.  Tough times will always come and sometimes all we can do is feel the pain, grieve a little and then move on.  It’s ok not to be ok, but it’s not ok to stay there.

My grandma passed away just after Christmas.  I was in bed by 730pm Christmas Eve and again at 5pm on Christmas Day.  Yet during the times I was awake I made the best of those moments.  I played with my nephews, had dinner with my parents, walked the dog and spent time with friends.

There is always a silver lining in every cloud but just sometimes we have to look real hard. If we are alive then we have something to be grateful for and it’s being grateful for the small things that helps us through the tough times, gives us perspective and strength to weather the storms.  And knowing when the storms hit that this will pass, it always gets better eventually.  As the saying goes, you can’t calm the storm but what you can do is calm yourself and the storm will pass.

Permission to fail; slowing down

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I don’t know about you but towards the end of the year I get jaded.  The last few weeks always seem a bit hard and I find myself counting down to a break over Christmas and the lure of the reset a New Year brings.  A chance to regroup and a clean slate to push on into another year.

It’s also a point I look at what I’ve achieved over this year, I’d set some lofty goals and being ambitious always want to ensure they’ve all been ticked off the list by the end of the year. Usually I’ll make sure of it, in the past even at the cost of my health, juggling many balls in the air making sure none dropped.

These days I try to spend more time being and less time doing, we live in such a busy, driven, over achieving world that it’s all too easy to lose our balance.  This might be why so many of us reach the end of the year longing for a break and limping over the finish line.

As I looked at the things I’d not quite done yet and the time left this year, my over committed schedule and the nice to haves I’d like to fit it (yoga, time with my girlfriend, Christmas shopping) I felt a little overwhelmed.  I also felt so short on energy that I lost all motivation to even want to do things nice to haves. I couldn’t even get excited by Christmas and the impending opportunity to visit my family, even buying them gifts seemed like an effort I didn’t have the time for and for me this is unusual.  I was so close to launching my online course, my last goal for 2016, and felt pressure to do this to coincide with the New Year and time was quickly running out. I’d had so much else on of late though and a packed travel schedule that I also felt like I didn’t have the energy to even know where to start.

I had one free weekend left so I figured I could work 12 hour days to cover some of this off, but then how good would it be, I really ought to be spending more time getting prepared and getting this right I thought.  But that would mean not completing this in 2016 as I had set in my goals – this would mean failure!

This is something that’s not normally an option for me but for the first time I allowed myself to fail and be comfortable with that, knowing I’d made the right choice.  I made peace with not having to get this done now, the fact that I’d overpromised and not allowed myself time for everything I’d wanted to do. I also remembered that without energy, rest and health how was I going to achieve any of my goals?  Self-care and balance really are the foundations for everything we do thereafter.

I’d had a lot of travel of late and needed to reground, I also knew I felt very tired and needed some rest.  I’d spent so much time doing that I’d left little time for being and this is so important to my health, not to mention my creativity and focus.  So I didn’t work 12 hour days, I let go of the notion of having to do everything and achieve all the goals I’d ambitiously set.  I allowed my overflowing schedule to relent for the weekend and spent the time on what I needed the most – rest, recharge and balance.  I used that time to go for walks, sleep in, meditate, rest and recharge, read and catch up with friends and family, I also got some Christmas shopping done and post recharge I feel excited about Christmas and am looking forwarding to spending time with my family overseas, I also feel slightly more prepared!

Balance is the key and knowing when to reprioritise and ensure we always do the things that matter first.  Whilst I’ll set more goals for 2017 I’m sure, as is my habit I’ll be over ambitious and need to re-tweak as we go through the year but this is less about failing and more about balance.  Knowing what’s important and ensuring we look after ourselves in the process of achieving our dreams.  Understanding that whilst we can do anything we want we can’t do everything and it doesn’t all have to be done now!

I’ve also taken the time to reflect on all the things I have achieved this year, rather than just dwelling on the misses.  I suggest you do too as we are always inclined to focus on what we missed rather than all of the little wins along the way.

We do have a tendency to over estimate all we can achieve, particularly in the 24 hours we get in a day!  I’m learning (slowly) that whilst we can do anything we want, we can’t do everything we want. Realising this helps me reprioritise what’s in my overly ambitious schedule to make it more manageable and realistic.

So as we prepare to enter into another new year I have set my goals but I’ll also know my priorities and when things get busy (as they do) I’ll make sure I manage them, even if that means some have to get reprioritised and pushed down the list.  The good news is the online course will be out next year and it’ll have had the time and effort put in that it so deserves which I hope brings a better product. I certainly feel like I have the energy required to put into the project now and have also learned another valuable lesson for balancing our busy over achieving schedules with what’s most important.

It’s ok to take time out, to say no, to admit something can’t be done and relook at our to do list and reprioritise.  In fact it’s often necessary to us being able to carry on effectively and not burn out, particularly at this time of year.  It’s critical we prioritise the things that matter and that we find time to look after ourselves, otherwise it’s very difficult to get anything done.

Love Trumps Hate

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Love Trumps Hate

I’ve never really been one for politics, not even watched much media at all over the past few months. I don’t enjoy the fear mongering, the sensationalism and certainly not the negativity. I found my life and my mind was just much better off without it, and I still found out when important things happened in the world.

The recent American election was one no-one could escape though and certainly one that would touch everyone in some way due to the nature of the world super power and what it meant.

As I watched it unfold I saw a mixture of shock, disappointment, disbelief, anger, sadness and fear. The following day felt flat and a little uncertain as the world held its breath to see what would unfold now, what did it mean and what impacts would be felt from here on in. Not just for America but for the world. The morning after the night that was seemed a little surreal, almost like the world had sunk into a depression. I felt like I was watching a reality TV show unfold or that I was stuck in a bad dream I was about to wake from. But sadly neither was the case, this was real life, it was happening now, in our modern, ‘developed’ world where so much progress has been made, this was a true story and one our world has created.

As people tried to make sense of what had happened I watched different reactions unfold. Those who got angry, shouted, blamed. Those who got upset and shed tears and those who didn’t know what to do such was the shock. I reacted in my usual manner and turned inwards, I went quiet, I internalised all I was seeing and hearing in a bid to make sense of it all and here’s what I came up with.

After many years of learning the hard way I believe that getting angry or upset doesn’t change what’s happened it only makes us feel worse inside. Or as Buddhists put it, anger is like holding a hot coal with the intention of throwing it at someone else, you’re the one who gets burned. But then what if we don’t get angry, isn’t the passion behind the anger what evokes change, what makes the world listen, what starts a revolution?

Regardless of what we do next and I think we still have many options all I know I can control right now is how I feel and the only person I can impact or change right now is me, it all starts with me. Rather than running all over the world trying to evoke change in those who do not wish to see it, all I can do is be the change I wish to see. Lighthouses don’t run all over the coast trying to find ships to save, they just stand there shining. This empowers us to be the best version of ourselves. It also allows us to do the many good things that still exist even in a world that seems to be turning sour.

I remember all the things I’m grateful to have. I’m heart warmed to see so many other messages from American’s and other world citizens that seem to share my hope, my optimism and those who, despite the situation we find ourselves in, have chosen love over hate.

Things happen that we never believed possible, that we thought we were beyond, knew better, wanted better. Things don’t turn out the way we planned. There’s so much we don’t have control over, this is one of the main sources of our unhappiness, trying to control outcomes, meet our own, or others, expectations. But the one thing we do control, every day is our reaction, who we want to be, what we’re going to do about it? Whilst what’s happened is done, there’s a whole future ahead of us waiting to be shaped and whilst it may seem a little harder now, there are still so many good people in the world, good things happening and things to give us hope and what’s more. We all have a role in shaping that future, what role do we want to play?

Whilst we have so much to be angry about and many we could hate, where does that lead us? In fact it may be what got us here in the first place. I’ve decided to choose love, hate is too big a burden to bear.

Don’t confuse my acceptance for apathy, that I don’t care, that this doesn’t hurt me or sadden my feelings about our society. Trust me I’ve considered opting out and going to live on a hilltop in the middle of nowhere. Don’t think that by choosing love I’m giving up, I just don’t think fighting it the answer, in fact I think it’s contributed to the problem. “I am right, you are wrong” we have to put our own views and opinions at the top of the pile – isn’t that how we got here in the first place?

I have simply decided for my own sanity to accept the things I can not change, what I do have control over is how I react. How I support myself and those I care about through a sad situation. To retain my inner peace despite the craziness of the world unfolding around me – the skill that is equanimity.

To see compassion for those who are so disillusioned with society and scared for the future that they see this as a way out, see this option as their ticket to a better life. Those who feel that for them to succeed it needs to be at the expense of others. Instead of building a bigger fence, why can’t we build a longer table? We are all human at the end of the day, one race, with one planet to call home in one moment which is now, let’s make the most of that and celebrate all that we are and all that we have.

Without hope we have nothing, without love what’s the point.

Ignite your life; live your passion

Live your dreams, find your passion and light your fire
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So many of us end up in jobs just for money—jobs that suffocate our soul but pay the bills.

I did.

I went through the motions of life without meaning and purpose. These are such a fundamental part of our happiness, but often we believe we can’t have both.

Meaning and purpose don’t have to come from our job; they can come out of our hobby (as for many artists) or the sense of satisfaction we get from helping others through volunteering. I felt more purpose in my voluntary jobs than in any paid job.

We may also find ways to incorporate our values and beliefs into our day jobs to make them more bearable—teaching others, solving problems, being a listening ear, or creating something unique. As we spend so much time at work, though, it makes sense to try to make money doing something we enjoy. Purpose is so much more than money can buy.

As I progressed up the corporate ladder, I found I became less fulfilled, despite the increased salary, the company car, posh hotels and holidays around the world.

My life still lacked meaning and purpose.  Find out how I found my passion and turned it into my career.  Read the full article here or watch the video blog below