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.

ToGetHer Further

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.

June

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

Books I Read in June

Books I Read in June

Self-Coaching 101 – Brooke Castillo.

What the Cover Says: Self coaching is about feeling better. It really is that simple. Everything we do in our lives is because we want to feel better. When we give-it feels good. When we help others-it feels good. When we accomplish something-it feels good. Whenever we feel bad-we are usually seeking a way to feel good. The reason we want to feel good, is because it is our true nature. Alignment with our spirit-our true essence-the God within us feels good. It feels peaceful, joyous, honest, abundant and free. Through coaching ourselves we can feel good much more of the time. By coaching ourselves we find what is not working in our lives. We find that trying to change the external circumstances to change how we feel is impossible. We learn that fighting our emotions or trying to deny them only makes them bigger. We find that our thinking is the most important thing we can pay attention to in order to feel better now. By taking a peek into our own minds we can find the cause of all our suffering. We can see how we block our joy with outdated and untruthful thoughts and beliefs. By just being in this place of awareness we have aligned with our true nature and can observe the patterns of our lives. Hiring a coach can be an amazing experience. Having someone who is already “outside” of your mind give you a different perspective to consider is often the first step in change. But ultimately, it is the process of shifting your own perception with your own awareness that will create non-dependent freedom. This is why I feel so strongly about learning how to apply these simple self coaching tools in your own life and on your own mind. If you are willing to do the work now-it becomes a way of being. You will step into a life that is lived with awareness and consciousness because each time you feel any negative emotion you see it as a signal to coach yourself and realign with the true essence of you. Self coaching 101 teaches you the basics of how to do this. And the basics are enough.

Why I Read It: I first heard Brooke on The Lively Show back in March and loved her.  I then heard a re-broadcast of her first interview with Jess and it really resonated with me.  So I really wanted to read her book and give her model a try.

What I Thought: This is one of those books that’s really quick and easy  to read but that you will go back to time and time again.  Brooke has put together an incredibly practical, step-by-step  guide with worksheets to copy or print from her website so you can rely put the model into practice.  This book has done more to change my outlook and mindset than anything else I’ve read this year; it has really changed my life (the last thing that had this kind of impact on me was Caroline Webb’s How to Have a Good Day.  May was a very difficult month for me and reading this at the start of June just gave me tools to think about what was happening in a different way.  I knew that I didn’t want to feel overwhelmed about the challenges at work or upset about the break-up so I spent quite a lot of time thinking about how I wanted to feel and working out how I needed to think about events in my life to feel that way.  I cannot recommend this enough – an excellent little book for anyone trying to manifest change in their life!

Gut – Giulia Enders

What the Cover Says: Our gut is as important as our brain or heart, yet we know very little about how it works and many of us are too embarrassed to ask questions. In Gut, Giulia Enders breaks this taboo, revealing the latest science on how much our digestive system has to offer. From our miraculous gut bacteria – which can play a part in obesity, allergies, depression and even Alzheimer’s – to the best position to poo, this entertaining and informative health handbook shows that we can all benefit from getting to know the wondrous world of our inner workings.

Why I Read It: This was this month’s Rebel read, in a month themed with food.

What I Thought: Gut is a fascinating trip through the body’s digestive system – or second brain, as it turns out.  I loved finding out more about how my body works, from where the saliva glands in your mouth are to the vast range of bacteria living in the intestines.  I learned so much from this book.  I am now much more mindful about what I eat and the effect it has on me, particularly around my appetite which has been quite fitful, especially at work recently.  Enders does a great job of keeping it readable and understandable; she makes a conscious effort to avoid being too scientific (although there were times I found this a little juvenile and annoying).  The little cartoons and drawings are cute and cheerful too!  It seemed to be a really popular read with the group too; a lot of the books we read can really provoke different opinions but everyone seemed to get a lot out of this.

The Obstacle is the Way – Ryan Holiday

What the Cover Says:  We give up too easily. With a simple change of attitude, what seem like insurmountable obstacles become once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. Ryan Holiday, who dropped out of college at nineteen to serve as an apprentice to bestselling ‘modern Machiavelli’ Robert Greene and is now a media consultant for billion-dollar brands, draws on the philosophy of the Stoics to guide you in every situation, showing that what blocks our path actually opens one that is new and better.  If the competition threatens you, it’s time to be fearless, to display your courage. An impossible deadline becomes a chance to show how dedicated you are. And as Ryan discovered as Director of Marketing for American Apparel, if your brand is generating controversy – it’s also potentially generating publicity.  The Stoic philosophy – that what is in the way, is the way – can be applied to any problem: it’s a formula invented more than 2,000 years ago, whose effectiveness has been proven in battles and board rooms ever since. From Barack Obama’s ability to overcome obstacles in his election races, to the design of the iPhone, the stoic philosophy has helped its users become world-beaters.

Why I Read It: This book was recommended by a couple of fellow Rebels.

What I Thought: The recommendations I had for this book really bigged it up – people said it changed their lives.  I have to say, I liked it but I didn’t find it that impactful for me.  I think it sums a philosophy that it is kind of innate for me anyway: to see the opportunity in challenge.  It’s not the easiest thing to and one of the things this book is good for is giving you a lot of examples of other people doing this.  It takes a number of different Stoic principles and tries to make them into practical strategies to embrace and break through obstacles.  I’m not sure quite how useful or practical it really is – there wasn’t anything that I really took away from it to do differently – but it is good read and a reminder that life is always full of challenges and difficulties, you can either give up or embrace them and use them to make your life better.

I’ve also been reading Thrive by Arianna Huffington this month.  I’ve actually been reading this on and off for months, after it was brought for me nearly two years ago (oops).      She even put this beautiful quote inside the cover so I am feeling pretty guilty that I still haven’t finished it.  Hopefully, I will actually get it finished in July but I already have three new books to read too!

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A Night of Great Escapes

A Night of Great Escapes

In one of my last jobs in the RAF, I was based out on an American air base in Qatar.  The base had a small running track in the rocky desert near the accommodation.  It was two and a half miles long and I used to run laps as the sun rose – the only time it was cool enough to run.  There was a stretch that ran along the internal perimeter where you couldn’t really see anything but the desert stretching out.  I used to listen a playlist as I ran and one particular song used to really resonate with me as I planned my escape from my military career to a new life

I’m not scared
‘Cause I know there’s something out there waiting for me
And I swear that I’ll find it someday, just wait and see

Halestorm

It wasn’t that I was fearless – not at all – instead the fear of being trapped, of regretting staying, motivated me to change my life.  Only I had no idea how much that decision would change me, not just my career.

Listening to eight amazing, inspirational speakers at Escape the City’s Great Escape night this week reminded me of how far I have come over the last two years and how much possibility lies ahead of me.  Hearing stories of people who felt the fear, said “fuck the fear” (to quote Ruth Anslow) and did it anyway made me realise that I don’t need anyone to give me permission to complete rock.  I don’t need anyone to hold my hand.

But by all means, if this looks like fun, if you’re just curious, or want to help me achieve my dreams, then please do come along for the ride!

And in the midst of all that inspiration, I had an idea.  I have no clue how to make it work but, right now, who cares?!  I heard people speak who heard that voice and did it anyway: rowed across the Atlantic, founded amazing businesses, changed the world.  So why shouldn’t I?

I found Escape the City a year ago, just when I needed it, and being part of this amazing community is opening up a whole new world that I never knew existed, let alone thought I could be a part of.  These are just the most amazing community of people…with limitless energy, a “let’s do this attitude” and a mentality that really will change the world.  Every time I spend time with the Escape crew – or the other tribes I have discovered as a result, the Yes Tribe, Rebel Book Club, Noi Club – I leave uplifted, inspired and feeling like a rockstar.

So fuck the fear, embrace the fear, and do it anyway.  I’m going to pursue my dreams and make my ideas a reality.

 

Be prepared to believe in the beauty of your dreams.

Mark Stevenson


Thank you so much to Chris Ward, Henry Blanchard, Roz Savage, Hugh Thomas, Ruth Anslow, Danny Bent, Holly Tucker and Mark Stevenson for your words of wisdom for your words of wisdom and inspiration.

 

 

When in Rome…five top tips for a weekend break

When in Rome…five top tips for a weekend break
  1. Eat gelato….lots of it.  It’s available everywhere in every flavour imaginable.
  2. Eat lots generally.  I’ve never seen so many cafes and restaurants.  From tourist traps, to family run Trattoria, to classy little restaurants serving pasta in bowls big enough to swim in.  Try it all.  Travestere is a great neighbourhood for places to eat, especially in the evening.
  3. Be in awe of the history.  I live in London, which has a lot of old stuff, but I was constantly amazed walking around Rome – there are ancient sites everywhere.  One of my favourite things was trying to imagine what it must have looked like 2000 years ago, how many people have walked over those stones since then?
  4. Avoid the queues.  I have never seen so many tourists in my life.  The queues at the main attractions were insane.  We walked by places like the Colosseum and the Vatican but decided we weren’t in the mood for three hours of queuing to get inside.  Just seeing these iconic buildings is pretty impressive on its own.  But if you do want to go inside, you can buy tickets  and passes online that will save you time and money.
  5. Walk everywhere.  The central areas of Rome are surprisingly compact so you can see most of the sites without going anywhere near public transport.  It also opens up a completely different side of the city, one of little piazzas and crooked side streets.  We walked down one and you could hear someone singing from an open window and someone practicing the piano a little further down, which gave the shady little streets a real sense of atmosphere.  Rome feels like a lived-in city and you get the best sense of this just wandering around.

 

I stayed at Casacau, a collection of gorgeous apartments near the Trevi Fountain.