Books I Read in September

Books I Read in September

A Long Way Home – Saroo Brierley

What the Cover Says:  Aged five, Saroo Brierley was separated from his older brother and ended up alone on the streets of Calcutta. After weeks surviving alone, he was taken into an orphanage and later adopted by an Australian couple.  Although happy with his new family, Saroo couldn’t help but think about the family he’d lost. Years later, he swapped the map of India on his wall for Google Earth scouring it for landmarks he recognised from his childhood. One day, he saw something he recognised.  And he set off on a journey to find his mother, half a world away . . .

Why I Picked it Up: This was the September Rebel read.  The theme was ‘adventure classics’, which makes a refreshing change from some of the hard-hitting books we’ve read recently.

What I Thought: This was my fastest Rebel read yet.  The book arrived in the office on Monday and I had finished by Wednesday evening!  I absolutely loved it.  It was a compelling read that had me hooked from the start.  My heart broke reading this story of a little boy getting lost and then it broke all over again when he was reunited with his family twenty-five years later.  It gives you hope that, even in extreme adversity, good things can happen.

Touching the Void – Joe Simpson

What the Cover Says: Touching the Void is the heart-stopping account of Joe Simpson’s terrifying adventure in the Peruvian Andes. He and his climbing partner, Simon, reached the the summit of the remote Siula Grande in June 1995. A few days later, Simon staggered into Base Camp, exhausted and frost-bitten, with news that that Joe was dead.  What happened to Joe, and how the pair dealt with the psychological traumas that resulted when Simon was forced into the appalling decision to cut the rope, makes not only an epic of survival but a compelling testament of friendship.

Why I Picked It Up:  This was one of the other books on September’s vote at Rebel Book Club.  I’ve never read it, not the seen the film and didn’t really know the story but really wanted to read it so bought it along side A Long Way Home.

What I Thought:  Reading this reminded me of reading The Kite Runner.  You know something awful is coming and spend half the book effectively peeping out from behind the sofa waiting for IT to happen.  I loved it reading this book but really had to force myself to keep reading – my heart was in my mouth the entire time.  I mean, you know Joe must get out okay because he wrote a book but still!  Hearing the two men tell the unfolding story was gripping and horrifying all at the same time.

Be A Free-Range Human – Marianne Cantwell

What the Covers Says:  Free Range is the new career change.  Trapped in a job that’s ‘just not you’? Always dreaming of your next vacation and counting down to the weekend? Imagine getting paid to do something that brings you alive, without ever having to walk into an office again. It’s all possible with this smart guide that breaks you out of the career-cage and puts you in control of your life. Be a Free Range Human is a breezy, energizing and straight-talking guide to creating an amazing lifestyle and a great income, doing what you love (on your own terms). Packed with inspiring case studies from people who’ve done it, this book shares unconventional ideas and practical steps.

Why I Picked It Up: I bought this month’s ago on an Amazon recommendation, I think.  Having made a big career change out of the military two years ago, I’m still working out what I want to do when I grow up and this seemed like a good book to help me think about alternative careers.

What I Thought: I really liked the tone of this book – very down to earth and practical.  Marianne made the big career shift seem totally manageable and accessible.  There were lots of thought-provoking exercises to work through and start your journey towards free-range freedom.  This is a book I’m going to keep go back to as I keep working on this; I’m definitely feeling a bit stuck and short of ideas at the moment but I’m going to keep going!

Embarking on a new Yoga Journey

Embarking on a new Yoga Journey

This weekend, I took my first steps on a brand new journey – my first days of yoga teacher training!

Over the next eighteen months, I will be training with YogaCampus, working towards my Yoga Teacher Training Diploma.  After the first weekend, I can tell you, without doubt, that it is going to be full of ups and downs, hard work, self-reflection, fun and community.  I have no idea where this is going to take me; I really haven’t decided how yoga teaching is going to fit into my life but it’s something that has been niggling away at me for a couple of years and I finally realised that I was never going to know where this might end up unless I got started.

I will be blogging about my journey over the coming months – I find writing about my experiences really helps me process and hopefully I can share some useful things along the way.  Here are a few thoughts immediately after the first weekend…

  • Being a practitioner and a teacher are two different things.  I need to work out how I keep growing and learning in my own yoga practice, whilst learning how to develop at authentic teaching style that is mindful of my students’ needs.
  • Approach everything with a beginner’s mind…be curious, explore and observe the practice…how does it feel?
  • Every body is different and everyone comes to yoga for different reasons.  As a teacher, my job is to provide to an inviting space for everyone to explore how they want to.
  • Flexibility is not necessarily the end goal…in fact, flexibility without strength and stability can be ‘worse’ than stiffness.

There is so much to learn…the next eighteen months is going to barely scratch the surface!  This is way more than a few weekends over the coming months.  I am going to need to create new routines around self-practice, study, classes and finally my own teaching.  I don’t think I had quite appreciated how much space I am going to need to create in my life and that feels a little overwhelming right now.

Speaking of which, my perfectionist Shitty Committee are already on full-volume in my head…not knowing all the Sanskrit posture names today made me feel really inadequate!  I am going to have to remind myself frequently that I am on this course to learn, not to know all the answers already.  That I will never know all the answers and that’s okay.  That I am enough.  Full stop.

But for all of the self-doubt and uncertainty, I feel really proud of myself for taking this step and for just showing up.  Maybe I will be a world-famous yoga teacher; maybe I’ll never teach a public class.  I don’t know what will happen but I do know that the only way to find out is to start walking the path.


May your life be filled with light and love xxx

What I Read in August

What I Read in August

Looking back over August, I read a lotMostly fiction – luxuriating in the pure please of reading a thrilling novel for no other reason than I wanted to.  But August has also been the month of starting and not finishing books so expect to see some of these books crop up again in later months if and when I finally finish them!

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The Gifts of Imperfection – Brené Brown

Why I Picked It Up: This was recommended by my new friend Siobhan, who blogs over at ToGetHer Further.  Siobhan and I both struggle with perfectionism, piling on the pressure for no real reason.  She said this book really resonated with her so I was curious to try it.

What the Cover Says: Each day we face a barrage of images and messages from society and the media telling us who, what, and how we should be. We are led to believe that if we could only look perfect and lead perfect lives, we’d no longer feel inadequate. So most of us perform, please, and perfect, all the while thinking, “What if I can’t keep all of these balls in the air? Why isn’t everyone else working harder and living up to my expectations? What will people think if I fail or give up? When can I stop proving myself?”

In The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown, Ph.D., a leading expert on shame, authenticity and belonging, shares what she’s learned from a decade of research on the power of “Wholehearted Living” – a way of engaging with the world from a place of worthiness.

In her ten guideposts, Brown engages our minds, hearts, and spirits as she explores how we can cultivate the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, “No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough.” And to go to bed at night thinking, “Yes, I am sometimes afraid, but I am also brave”. And, “Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am worthy of love and belonging”.

My Key Takeaways: Oh, there were so many!  The mantra of “I am enough” has really stuck in my mind and heart.  What I loved about this book was Brene’s honesty about her own struggles and the different things she has tried to come to terms with her breakdown spiritual awakening, as she puts it.  The book is full of practical exercises to try.  The idea of an “ingredients for joy and meaning list” definitely struck a cord and is something I’m working on at the moment, as was the advice to “Say no today.  Take something off your list and add ‘take a nap'”.  Those of you that read my last post on what I learned in August will notice a theme for me of creating more of a sense of ease in my life, striving a little less, and relaxing into myself and my life.  This book has been a key part of that realisation.

Jack Reacher Books 1-6 – Lee Child

For those of you who read my reflections on July, I decided that August would be a month of self-care and compassion.  Part of that was doing things I really enjoyed and reading fiction after so many intense non-fiction books in recent months felt like a real luxury.  I am a huge Lee Child and am very excited about the new Jack Reacher novel coming out later in the year so I’ve been re-reading the whole series from the start.  Pure chilled out bliss!

The Art of Extreme Self-Care – Cheryl Richardson

Why I Picked It Up: I have been doing an online coaching course with Project Love recently that, along with Brené Brown’s book, really opened my eyes about how little compassion I show myself.  This book was one of many Vicki and Selina recommended to improve practices around self-care.

What the Cover Says: This life-changing handbook by offers you twelve strategies to change your life, month by month. As each chapter challenges you to alter one behaviour or circumstance that holds you back, you’ll learn how to understand the true impact of your surroundings, accept disappointments in all areas when they arise, find your natural rhythm and ride life’s waves, and discover your passions and strengths to get the best out of your life.  With sound advice, effective exercises and resources to take each step further, this practical handbook for the heart and mind will show you that by changing your mindset, you can radically change your life.

My Key Takeaways: The book has twelve different strategies and recommends that you read the whole book before working through the exercises, one each month, in an order that feels right to you.  To be honest, I’m still working my way through the book so not much to report yet!  I really like the structure of the book with short chapters on each strategy to prompt your thinking, then a challenge and resources on that theme.  It feels like a practical book to change your habits and thinking about the importance and practice of self-care.

Ego is the Enemy – Ryan Holiday

Why I Picked It Up:  This was our Rebel Read for August.  Ben Saul-Gardner, one of Rebel Book Club‘s founders, is a huge Ryan Holiday fan after reading The Obstacle is The Way and hustled like a rockstar to secure the books direct from the publisher and Ryan himself joined us – via Skype from Texas – for the meetup.

What the Cover Says: As in The Obstacle is the Way, Ryan Holiday delivers practical and inspiring philosophy, this time exploring a powerful concept that runs back centuries, across borders and schools of thought: ego.  Ego is our biggest enemy. Early in our careers, it can prevent us from learning and developing our talents. When we taste success, ego can blind us to our own faults, alienate us from others and lead to our downfall. In failure, ego is devastating and makes recovery all the more difficult. It is only by identifying our ego, speaking to its desires, and systematically disarming it that we can create our best work.  Organised into bite-sized observations featuring characters and narratives that illustrate themes and life lessons designed to resonate, uplift and inspire, Ego is the Enemy shows how you can be humble in your aspirations, gracious in your success and resilient in your failures. It is an inspiring and timely reminder that humility and confidence are still our greatest friends when confronting the challenges of a culture which tends to fan the flames of ego and encourage the cult of personality at all costs.

Key Takeaways: This is another one I started but haven’t finished, which is very unusual for me with Rebel Reads.  I struggled with it as soon as I started.  Holiday’s style with this book just has not resonated with me at all.  I enjoyed hearing him speak about the book at the meetup and tried again afterwards but I just can’t get through it.  Other people seemed to really enjoy it though so don’t let me put you off!   Just not for me at the moment.  I will put it to one side and come back to it every so often and we’ll see what happens.

The Bingo Theory – Mimi Ikonn

Why I Picked It Up:  Jess Lively mentioned this book in a recent podcast episode.  She has interviewed Mimi and her husband, Alex, a couple of times on the show.  Jess has talked a few times about exploring feminine and masculine energies – yin and yang – and mentioned this book in particular.  It just sounded like something I wanted to explore a little more.

What the Cover Says:  The traditional view of masculine and feminine energy is very black and white. If you are a woman, you are considered to be feminine, and similarly if you are man- you are considered to be masculine. This outdated and inadequate mindset has lead to a tremendous imbalance both internally in our lives, as well as externally in our world.  The Bingo Theory breaks through this traditional gender-polarized idea of man and woman, by providing a new fresh view and understanding of masculine and feminine energies and the important role both of these energies play in our lives. Every single human on this planet has two energies living within them: the masculine and the feminine.The masculine energy helps us to operate in the outer world; it makes us strong, independent, and confident. The feminine energy, on the other hand, helps us love and connect to others. It’s what makes us creative and intuitive.

In this book you will learn how to balance the masculine and feminine energies within you so that you can be a Bingo. What is a Bingo? A Bingo is a winning combination of both of masculine and feminine energies. This inner balance is crucial in order to have a better relationship with yourself, attract your perfect romantic partner, improve your existing relationship, as well as have a fulfilling career.

Key Takeaways: I only recently started reading this so full notes will have to wait for next month.  I am a masculine strength female, which came as no surprise to me at all.  What was a little surprising was that I do have some strong feminine tendencies as well and I’m excited to learn more about that.  I think balance in life in so important and I would love to tap into those feminine strengths more sometimes.  Stay tuned!

So September will be trying to finish some of these as well as picking up this month’s Rebel Read, A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierly; Touching the Void by Joe Simpson was also on the Book Club vote and was my preferred choice so I might pick that up too.  There may be a little bit more Jack Reacher in my life too but time may be limited as my Yoga Teacher Training starts in two weeks time and I have to study…

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I Learnt A Few Things This August

I Learnt A Few Things This August

August has been an interesting month and a far cry from how things felt in July.  I chose to make this a month for caring for and nurturing myself.  I took time to do things that brought me pleasure and joy and that turned out to be a really good idea!  Interestingly, I took a step back from thinking and working things too actively and, along the way, I learnt a few things.

I think the main thing I realised is that maybe I don’t need to try so damn hard all the time.  I grew up being told just to try my best, that the outcome didn’t matter as long as I had to tried my best.  I think that’s great advice except, somehow along the way, I took it to mean that I’m not doing enough unless I’m giving it my all, giving it everything, straining. I know I’m not the only person struggling with the idea that anything worth achieving has to be hard work – my wonderful friend Siobhan has been thinking this too.

But I think I’ve had a bit of breakthrough over the past couple of weeks.  Well, maybe not a breakthrough, more of a gradual realisation.  An awakening, if you will.  It turns out that all that stuff about ‘flow’ is kind of true.  When I relax my tight little grip on controlling everything, life flows in its own way and seems to work out pretty well.  Since relaxing into it a little more, nothing’s fallen apart and – news flash – the world did not stop turning.  In fact, things have been going really well and I’m happier for it.

It feels like a really good place right now.  I’m choosing where I focus my energy.  I’m making decisions about what feels good. I’m listening to my gut, to my intuition, and to people that care about me, all the while knowing, deep down, that there are no wrong decisions.  By the same token, there’s no gold star or a + or report card at the end of all of this.  I was reading this blog post by Project Love – What If – and thought “that’s me”!  Focusing on the destination at the expense of just enjoying the ride.  So now it’s less about the ‘what’ and more about the ‘why’ and the ‘how’.

And there are lots of exciting things going on.  As always, there is absolutely no plan!  I have no idea where this will all lead.  But you know, it doesn’t have to lead anywhere.  As long as I keep putting positive energy out there, opportunities will come along and then it’s about going with the flow.  Which means taking the oars out and letting the river carry you…not all about battling upstream all of the time – this podcast episode from Jess Lively really resonated with me on this.


Here a few of the things that I’ve been enjoying this month:

Yoga with Becky Pate at the wonderful Canvas Cafe…check out these amazing healthy FreakShakes – post yoga of course!

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Sunday Assembly – a fortnightly celebration of life…so uplifting!

Window-shopping for my new flat – hopefully moving in by the end of October and very, very excited

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Spending time with friends and family at the theatre, at comedy shows, over good food, and out for walks.  Nourishment for the soul.

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Starting to study for my Yoga Teacher Training course, which starts in a couple of weeks…

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May your life be filled with light and love xxx

The Difficulty with Easy

The Difficulty with Easy

My gorgeous friend Siobhan has written beautifully about the struggle to do the things that flow naturally. “sthira sukham asanam”, from Pantanjali’s Yoga Sutras, refers to practising with a balance between effort and ease. Finding that sweet spot in life, as in yoga, is what it’s all about.

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Why do we choose to do the things that ultimately do not make us happy, and actively rebel against the things that do? I love writing. It feels like a luxury; the ability to sit and express my perspective on the world. The idea that sharing my experience could impact someone else and be of benefit to them just brings me alive inside! So why have I not written nearly a month?

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Reflections on July…Time to Change Gear

July was one of those months.  I can’t believe how quickly it’s flown by, mostly thanks to trying to do far too much at work.  The whole month seemed to pass by in a blur; I didn’t really even have time to read!  However, I did learn a few things that I am going to put into action in August.

August is my month of self-love and self-compassion.  It is a month of lots of nutritious food (and the occasionally bowl of ice-cream).  It is a month of sleep and exercise, because moving my body feels good.  It is a month of spending time with people who make me smile and of doing things that bring joy into my life.  It is a month of gratitude and patience.

I’m going to treat myself to a little self-made retreat.  I’m buying a house so I can’t afford to go away but I’m going to have a long weekend to do lovely things.  I’m going to meditate, and do yoga, and go for long walks, and take myself for brunch, and have my hair done, and read.  I’m going to recharge my batteries and I’m going to remind myself that I am wonderful, flawed, unique woman.  I am enough.


As a complete aside, I came across this photo today and it so wonderfully sums up my journey through life…my new favourite word!

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Reflections on June

Reflections on June

What a difference a month makes.  I am very pleased to report that June has ended in a much better way than May did.  I mean, nothing has actually changed – there were a few unforeseen events in May that thankfully have not been repeated this month – showing quite clearly that is never life’s circumstances that get us down but merely how we perceive and react to them.

It helped that I had a couple of really ‘good’ things to look forward to, mostly the Glastonbury festival which was awesome and awesomely muddy!

 

Really, the only thing that I’ve done differently this month is be clear with myself how I want to feel about life.  I read an amazing book that really helped me work on that very practically (all the books I read this month are helpfully reviewed here).  So I’ve been consciously cultivating my thoughts and reactions to create the feelings that I want.  It’s by no means perfect but there mere act of practicing these intentions is giving me a sense of ownership that is, in itself, making me feel so much more grounded.

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The other concept that has really resonated with me this month is flow.  This idea of letting go of resisting is actually tied in to letting go of negative thoughts; so much pain, I am coming to realise, is caused by resisting or straining in life.  Listening to The Lively Show this month, with Jess very much going through this process herself, has helped me with my own challenges and I am gradually learning to live in the moment a little more and let life unfold as it’s meant to.  That’s absolutely not a passive activity.  It’s not about letting things happen to you but understanding what you can influence and what you can’t  so you can focus your energies on creating and maximising opportunities for yourself.

June has definitely been a month where a lot of ideas that I have been aware of for a while have come together and have very clearly made me experience life in a different, much more positive, way.  How exciting is that?!  I know that there will still be challenges and there will definitely be times that this calm centred-ness is disrupted and that’s okay.  Now I’ve found it, I know I can come back here; I just can’t force it.


May your life be filled with love and laughter xxx