Volunteering; why it’s not just others that benefit

18 Jun

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

27 Mar

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

Weathering the storms

7 Jan

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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

11 Dec

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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.

Perspective in the face of disaster

19 Nov

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My 10th floor CBD apartment following the 7.8 magnitude earthquake

This week has been particularly unsettling in New Zealand following the recent 7.8 earthquake, one of the largest in NZ in 150 years. It struck in the middle of the night, was followed by damage, loss of life and tsunami evacuations.

We’d gone about the usual Sunday night routine that consisted of thoughts of work Monday and the week ahead.  Things that seemed like issues and problems upon going to sleep suddenly paled into insignificance.  When something like this happens this all changes, you think about only what is important and it’s a stark reminder of what that is.  We went to bed saying we’d rather not have to get up and go to the office tomorrow, the Monday morning feeling, but had not quite imagined this.

As what happened sunk in we reflected on lucky escapes – thank god we stayed at yours not my 10th floor apartment (pictured).  Concern for family overseas watching it unfolding on the news and worrying for our safety.  Realising just how much those we love mean to us.  Loved ones headed out of the door to work, with long shifts ahead and without much sleep, like so many who keep the country going in times like this and put the safety of others before their own.

Our Monday morning conversations usually about plans for the evening, what the work day looks like became emergency plans, arranging where to meet should there be a significant aftershock and phones be out.  Events like this truly put perspective about what’s important in life.  How lucky we are, how everything can change in a moment and how important it is that those we care about know and are our priority.

My 10am meeting now doesn’t seem so important, in fact it can’t have been because it won’t be happening now, nor will any other the other ‘important’ events of the day.  The conversations that were ‘what’s for tea?’ ‘have you put the bins out?’ now become ‘stay safe, I love you’ and discussions about how we’ll know each other are safe.

The work to do list that occupied my mind and seemed so important last night is now nothing more than a distant memory so the question is, was it really that important in the scheme of things?  No-one is missing it now, the world still continues to turn and the sun will come up tomorrow.  So often our worries, our concerns, our priorities are not a reflection of what really matters and events like this put perspective around this.  It also highlights all we have to be grateful for, even when that’s no power and no way of leaving the house.  I am unable to return to CBD to check on my apartment but really there’s nothing in there I couldn’t lose, not compared to my life and those I love.

But why does it take a significant event like this to underline the things we already know.  To remind us of what’s important?  Maybe we get too carried away with the busyness of life we lose touch with our perspective.  Beyond life and death there are too many things to worry about these days and it’s this that takes our thoughts, our energy, our significance.  Often at the expense of what really matters.  Maybe it’s the brush with death that brings the realisation of how small we really are and how little we do have control over a life that we try to plan down to the last detail.

The ‘what ifs’ start to circle.  What if this had been in the day time not the middle of the night, the Capital city which was deserted would have been full of people, traffic, life.  But in a few weeks we’ll have forgotten about this, buildings will be fixed up, roads cleared and life will return to normal.  Our to do lists will fill up, life will become busy and the perspective will fade.

Each aftershock a stark reminder that life can change in a moments notice and no-one is immune to that.  They are also a reminder of everything this event has brought to mind, everything we should try and remind ourselves at every opportunity not just in the face of disaster.

Material things can be replaced – every single item in every cupboard fell out, the only thing that didn’t smash was one solitary wine glass.  But the things I hold dear, the things that are irreplaceable all survived and they aren’t actually things at all.

Out of tragedy comes kindness.  Seeing the events unfold and the media coverage of the worst hit areas, towns at the epicentre cut off and houses crumbling to the ground.  Out of these stories of devastation came acts of kindness; yoga studios opening with free classes, people welcoming displaced strangers into their homes, volunteers cleaning up and providing food and supplies to those who needed it.  After a few days of walking around shell shocked, on edge, with a lack of sleep and a nervous disposition life began to return to normal, people got on with it.  Buildings were fixed, the CBD cleaned up and we built a little more resilience.  We learned that we may bend but we don’t break, we get knocked down but we get up again and whilst the earth moves often in New Zealand, it always continues to turn as well.

As aftershocks continue and those with lucky escapes wonder if they’ll ever be able to live in a high-rise apartment again we allow ourselves to come together. To discuss near misses, our stories and the ‘what ifs’.  Feeling the connection of a shared experience, we comfort each other, reassure and understand that it’s ok not to be ok.  Often the emotional impacts of such an event can be felt long after the structural damage is repaired. The frayed nerves, the sea sick feeling of constantly moving ground, the fear of what’s coming next, the probability of further quakes.  This all adds to the unsettled feeling that comes naturally when the solid ground you live on, your bedrock, your earth becomes so unstable.

It’s all a stark reminder that life is too short, we never know what’s around the corner and we are rarely in control no matter how many plans we have in place.  But like a glimmer of light on the horizon and the dust clears, we have so much to be grateful for.  Being alive for a start, the safety of those we love and a whole life ahead of us and whilst it may be uncertain it’s also ours to live.

6 life lessons learned from writing a book

12 Oct

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It’s on most people’s bucket lists—everyone has a book inside them, waiting to be written.

It’s such a big task though, where do we start? That’s why so many great books just stay inside people’s heads, unwritten.

I loved writing poetry as a kid, but these days, my writing skills are utilized more in the form of reports, emails and letters to staff. I was just about to quit my corporate job because I was unhappy, but I wasn’t sure what else I was going to do. I decided to take a year off to fix a life that had recently fallen apart and rebuild it into something that vaguely resembled happiness.

I set off around the world to live my dreams, to do all the things that made my heart sing and discover my passion. I trained to be a yoga teacher, visited many countries and experienced different cultures. I studied mindfulness and meditation and I volunteered, teaching English to Buddhist monks. I learned a lot about life and so much about myself and what it takes to create our own happiness.

Along the way I wrote—more for my own needs than anything else. I loved what I was learning and took notes as I went. This newly found wisdom, plus my own personal transformation, became a powerful message I wanted to share with others—and by the end of that year I was a blogger.

But a full-fledged author? That was another step—maybe one too far. I’d never really thought about it before, but as the notes piled up, I almost felt like there could be a book there. For a few months, I wrote in secret, before I was comfortable telling people about my dream. I’d never considered myself an author before, but here it was an actual book that I had written.

I overhauled my life and learned so much in the transformation, I wanted to share my story. What started off as my own personal writing therapy became something that now inspires others on similar journeys of self discovery. But as I wrote a book to share lessons I’d learned, the process itself taught me a host of other lessons too.

Advice for life and how to make the best of it from a writer.  Read the full post here

Take the risk, face your fears

28 Aug

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I’ve always had a tendency to play it safe. For many years, there were lots of things I liked the idea of doing, but the effort required go outside my comfort zone stopped me.

When I sat and thought about the risks involved and all the what-ifs associated, I always wimped out.

So this left me conforming to the norm, living a life others expected of me and generally putting my dreams on hold so that I could remain safe and comfortable. Except it wasn’t comfortable, I was unhappy and deeply unfulfilled and only when the cost of standing still exceed the cost of change did I finally get more comfortable with the idea of taking the risk and heading into the unknown.

I left a long-term relationship that I’d outgrown, I quit my soul-crushing corporate job and I traveled overseas on my own to see the world and learn about facing risks.

The risk of leaving a secure relationship and being on my own for the first time in many years filled me with doubt—what if this was as good as it got? What if I end up single forever? I’m getting older now, all my friends have settled down and started families, maybe I’ll get left on the shelf?

One of the most difficult things was the risk I took turning my back on an 11-year career, a well-paying job without any qualifications to do anything else. I ran the risk of running out of money, being unemployed and becoming homeless. It had been the security of my 9 to 5 pay check that kept me stuck in a job I didn’t enjoy for many years, scared of exactly these risks.

But I took the risk, I spent a year doing what I loved, I trained to be a yoga teacher, travelled, wrote a book and fueled my passions. I created a life I loved and whilst it wasn’t always rosy, I wouldn’t go back and change it.

So now, a couple of years down the track, you’d think I’d be used to taking risks, having faced the music, navigated the tough times and still remained happy. Surely risk taking is now within my comfort zone? Not so much.

Click here to read the full article and my top tips on how we face our fears and take the risk

Mindfulness for Change

26 Aug

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Recently I attended a Mindfulness retreat, this is not unusual I have been to many but this was different. It was a Hui set up by Mindfulness for Change to bring together those in the Mindfulness community and discuss how we might work together to create change. I was excited but also a little apprehensive and not sure what to expect. Torn between the relaxed anticipation of a retreat and the less relaxed prospect of having to do some work and contribute something intelligent!

We arrived at Riverslea Retreat in Otaki in darkness after the Friday night traffic from Wellington and the end of a long week. Immediately I noticed how many people there were, so many strangers I’d not met yet and the introvert within my groaned. At the same time I was torn between wanting to get to know these like-minded souls, learn from them and connect with them but not overjoyed at the prospect of having to make an effort to interact and socialise with so many strangers. Usually I’m perfectly content to retreat into my shell, meditate in solitude and appreciate the natural environment I found myself in on a rare trip out of the city. In fact it’s one of the things I love about retreats!

The set up was interesting; 40 people crammed together inside as the rain beat down around us, only 2 showers to share and bunk rooms shared with 8 others. I reflected with a new friend that this would usually be the recipe for a social disaster on the scale of the Big Brother house as all human emotions, frustrations and personalities clash with dramatic effect. But not here. Surrounded by so many compassionate, considerate individuals the kindness was evident. People held doors open, smiled, hugged one another on greeting, queued patiently for food and offered up their seats. Trust and respect was evident but we didn’t even know one another. Is this a recipe for how a new society could be born, I thought?

The room seemed full of such happy people who believe there is hope and that people are good and the world can work, despite being acutely aware that it’s currently a bit broken. It’s not that these people had privileged lives or a life without problems. In fact each shared moving stories of their own challenges, grief and difficulties in life. From struggling to belong and fit it, losing loved ones, battles with health and lives turned upside down yet each had emerged with a compassionate heart, a love for human kind and a wish to do good in the world.

What amazed me most was the mix of ages, gender, backgrounds and the impact this had on our collective ideas and conversations. A room where doctors sat alongside yoga teachers, psychologists alongside students. We were all so different yet uniquely the same as well. The combination of youthful hope and excitement with the experience and wisdom of others was inspiring. I was humbled by the gratitude everyone showed for the presence of others and the acknowledgement that everybody present brought something to the table.

I had always put Mindfulness down to changing my life as if it made me a different person. But what I now know is that, the person was there all along and is in all of us. Life was like this all along I’m just seeing through new eyes, like a fog has lifted. I feel aware, awake and alive and incidentally that’s Mindfulness in a nutshell.

It turns out I loved the combination of stimulating discussion with silent reflection time. The ability to connect with others but also to go inwards and connect with ourselves. I learned more about Mindfulness but also about myself. In fact the self-awareness and reflection was just as important as the acquired wisdom from the conversations and experience.

I also learned something new about how we connect with others. By the time the weekend was up I had formed such strong bonds with people I’d barely spoken to. This connection to people was beyond speaking, a deep connection in a short space of time united by common goals and similar values. An environment of trust where some shared things even their friends did not know. It touched my heart to witness such an outpouring of emotion but a groundswell of support made possible by the environment of non-judgement and compassion.

When it was time to leave and many hugs had been exchanged with new special friends and plans for action and future progress were written up on the walls. Back in the outside world I feel oddly calm and centred as if something has shifted. Excited about the future and full of hope that there are good people in the world. As I walked back through the city towards my apartment I saw an argument and a road rage incident and wondered why can’t all people be like this? And then I realise they are. Compassion is within us all it’s just buried a bit deeper in some. Mindfulness is how we set about uncovering that in each other and reconnecting with what matters.

Mindfulness for Change is for people who want to contribute to a mindful, compassionate, flourishing society so that together we can help co-create true social and environmental change.
Interested in getting involved; check out the facebook page

Advice for Life

24 Aug

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Advice for Life

Life seems so hard these days and often like it’s spiraled out of our control.  It shouldn’t be this hard, I’d love more time to do the things I enjoy, there’s so much to worry about and so much other stuff that needs doing.

It’s almost as though we’re stuck on a treadmill that someone else controls and we can’t seem to get off.  Does any of this sound familiar?  Many of us leave our homes and families every day to go out and earn a living but how many of us actually make a life as well?

I spent the last 3 years of my life rebuilding what I thought I knew about how life worked to find the way to creating a life I love.  Not with a lotto win or a soul mate but in my ordinary day to day, working 9-5, living alone, paying the bills, general ‘real life’ stuff but in a way that felt good, where I had time to do the things that mattered and could live in a way that nourished my soul.

Growing up I wished I’d been offered some advice for life but instead I figured this out through my experiences and sought out those who could help me learn.  From my personal journey and the resulting book,  here’s my advice for life:

Read my 9 tips on advice for life with the full article here https://www.personalgrowth.com/9-pieces-of-advice-for-life/

Happiness Life Hacks

12 May

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Life seems complicated these days.  We’re all busy pursuing happiness, yet how many of us ever reach that goal?

Success, money, and busyness are top of our priority list, yet deep in our hearts we’d prefer time, love, and security.

It’s the age of making a living, but perhaps at the cost of making a life.  What really makes us happy, and how do we find it?

Read the full article; here and watch the video blog here