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Spoilt for Choice?

One of the rewards I give myself for achieving my goals for the day is a few rounds of the game Shisen-Sho on the computer. It’s a simple game of matching the tiles to take them off the board. The goal is to clear the board in the quickest time. It is all about the choices one makes. Certain choices lead to a “stuck” situation on the board, end of the game. You can replay the game, make different choices and clear the board. This simple game reminds me that life is a matter of choices.

From the time we awake in the morning to our last thought at night, we are making decisions and choices. We choose what to eat and how often, which impacts on our health so, in other words, we choose to be healthy or not. We choose what to wear or do we? How much are we influenced by others, the media, our friends and family? Mario Martinez, author of the book The MindBody Code, talks about how we are put in a portal of middle age. People start to tell us that we are older and can’t dress in a certain way anymore, or exercise the way we used to. Society says we need to slow down and expect to carry more weight. We choose to listen to them or not, we choose to be middle aged, or not. OK, so age is a thing, a number, but all of us know some person in their advanced years, 70, 80 or older, who defies all expectation and is an inspirational live wire who can do anything they choose with a spring in their step and a mind that is sharp as a tack. Those people do not listen to what others expect of them, they make their own choices to live life their way.

According to quantum physics, the world is what we make of it. The quantum field contains endless possibilities and we choose which one we want. We can choose to focus on the negative, and expand that, or we can choose to see the positive, sunny side of life, and make that grow. Where ever we put our focus expands, it is about the choices we make. There is, however, a catch. You have to live the choice. You can’t choose happiness and then dwell on past memories of hardship and pain. You can’t choose health and then continue to live the same unhealthy life style. You have to walk your talk, put your new choice into action. You have to make the changes necessary to achieve what you desire. If I said you could live a different life but you would have to make 300 to 400 changes in your way of doing things, you would possibly give up before you had even begun. But with one change a day for a year would take you 365 changes away from where you are now. How different would your path be then? Think about it, one teaspoon of sugar less in your coffee, adding in 10 minutes of exercise to your day, going to bed 1 hour earlier. Each small change compounds over time and may just change the trajectory of your life, from stuck to winning.

But what if you think you don’t have a choice? I have to work to make a living. I have to take care of my grown up children. I have to go to school. How do I get to choose my life when there are things I have to do? There is always choice. You could choose not to work, not to go to school, but then you are choosing to be destitute or uneducated. Many of our choices are programmed in by society, our culture, our family and we don’t really think about what they mean or if those choices are really serving us or limiting us. Are we choosing to do something because it is the “safer” option or because it fuels our passion for life? Sometimes we can’t even see what the alternative choice would be, so closed off are we by fear. I say alternative, because we tend to label all choices as good or bad, right or wrong. Choice is just choice. What is good for you is bad for another. What is right for someone else may be wrong for you. We can’t judge or be judged by what is good and right for others. Do what is right for you. Make a choice. Remember that NOT making a choice – is making a choice. This life is yours to fight and struggle through. It is yours to celebrate and enjoy, it is yours to create and it is yours to diminish. Nobody can make you do anything. You decide to change or to stay on your same limiting path. Choose wisely for life is fleeting.

I wish you strength to make new choices, courage to change and the passion to keep moving…

Confessions of a Judger

I like to think of myself as a kind person, considerate and forgiving, non-judgmental , encouraging and supportive. For the most part, I am all of these things, but there is one particular person who really brought out the worst in me. Something about her just triggered all my worst judgments. I never supported or encouraged her. In fact I was the first one to cut her down at the ankles and tell her how stupid she was. She was never good enough for me. I pushed her beyond her limits and when she asked for a break, I berated her for her laziness. Every decision she made I second guessed. I was always amazed when, in a quiet moment together, she would confess that she thought she, too, was good enough to deserve the best in life. What a cheek, how dare she! Who did she think she was? I had to keep her in line all the time. No one liked her and I could tell her all the reasons why. She dressed wrong, she ate wrong, she never said the right thing. She was a total social misfit and I was embarrassed to be with her in public. She was constantly concerned about what other people thought of her and she tried to keep everyone happy all the time. Didn’t she know this was an impossible task, a game you can only lose?

I am sure there are many of you out there who are living the same lie as me. You all have someone who pushes all your buttons and no matter how hard you try, you can’t seem to feel forgiveness or compassion for them. This one person is the black mark on your record of being a “nice” person. You can’t help being really, really judgemental and nasty. You say things to this one person that you would never dream of saying to anyone else in your life. Some of you may not even be aware of your nastiness and disdain towards this one person. So let me ask you to answer this question honestly. Have you ever done something silly and muttered under your breath, “idiot!”, “fool”, “dimwit”? Of course you have. We all berate ourselves with words we would never dream of saying to another. We judge ourselves by super-standards which we would never expect of others. We are our own harshest critics, our own worst enemy.

Could this be because we see ourselves from the outside in? I learnt that my recipe for self-compassion was one of judgement rather than discernment. This drove my self-worth down to non-existence. My confidence was low, my self-image sucked and I re-acted in the same way over and over again, which only served to make me more and more unhappy. I knew I was very judgemental but to be quite honest, I didn’t know how NOT to be. My own lack of self-worth spilled over into other relationships and areas of my life and I felt alone, isolated in my own self-made misery with no idea how to stop the over-reactions which perpetuated my cycle of confusion. I tried everything but I had lost myself, I had no idea how to be, I just knew how I DIDN’T want to be anymore.

Slowly, with time and lots of study, I began to crawl out of my dark place. I realised there is a recipe for many things in life, something which can be repeated to get the same result. We do this all the time and with great success. We create low self-worth, bad health, lack of confidence and many other “negative” outcomes on a daily basis, without realising that we are using a recipe to continuously create our own misery. Change the ingredients of the recipe and you will get a different result.  

Over time I have found, tried and tested a recipe for discernment. Just knowing the recipe is not enough, you have to apply it. Doing so on a daily basis has helped my confidence and self-worth tremendously. I no longer feel lost and confused. I re-act less to what happens around me and I am infinitely kinder to me. In fact I now know HOW to be compassionate with myself, I am even beginning to like who I am.

If you are feeling low on self-worth or self-confidence, contact me. Let me share my recipe with you. You ARE worth it.

Until next time… Keep Moving.

Not Your True Self?

When we allow space, surrender all thought and just be deliciously conscious, that is when we restore balance. That fleeting moment is where we feel calm, hope and bliss. It’s where we find our true self and connection to our Source.

I have never been a birthday person, or a New Year reveler. It’s not that I haven’t tried, I just hate the anti-climax. Somewhere in my life, I came to believe that these occasions are supposed to let you feel connected and special and content. To me they just feel empty. Perhaps this is because I have felt profound connection, not at parties, but in the soft breath of a child or the autumn sun on cold skin. It is a connection with something unseen, indescribable. It is a connection with belonging and a joy so huge that the heart can’t contain it and words can’t portray it. It is a connection with consciousness, a space in all the emotional noise and busy-ness of life, where you find yourself wishing you could hold THIS moment, THIS feeling, forever.  It is a space where the world stops, just for a moment so that you can just be.

We are constantly searching for connection. We buy what we don’t want, or like, in an attempt to feel in, to connect. We drag ourselves to work and spend weekends travelling to some destination for yet another party or gathering, afraid of what we may miss if we’re not there.

Are you afraid to stop? Afraid of what you might find in the space you have created? Do you fill the spaces with TV, Facebook, music, children, friends, busy-ness? Have you ever allowed space? Who are you? What makes you, you? What do you love? What do you believe and what is important to you? Are these thoughts and feelings yours, or are you wearing them, like cast offs borrowed from the world around you, forgetting that you never chose them for yourself?

Allow yourself space. Connect with yourself. Think about who you are and who you want to be.  Take time to be in the moment, fully in the moment. Find the magic of connection, feed your soul and say hello to you. If you don’t like who you find, then change. We CAN choose who and what we want to be, what makes us happy and why. Start embracing change today, one small step at a time. Change your hair, use a new word or sit in a different chair. When we are stuck in the same routine, we are closed to all the glorious options available to us in this life.

Take that deep breath, today, change something small and keep moving.

Creature of Habit

Whether I like it or not, I am a creature of habit, especially in the morning. A habit is a little oasis of comfort in my day. I know exactly how to do something and there are never surprises with habits. I repeat the same mini routine the same way and I get the same outcome. It feels deliciously, smugly comfortable. Oh, and don’t let anyone mess with my little habit. I find myself getting defensive, even aggressive, as I try to protect my comfort zone.

There are two classes of habits, good habits and bad habits. Both are formed in the same way, through repetition. By repeating a sequence over and over again, it becomes programmed into our sub-conscious. If you have taught a child how to tie their shoelaces, you will know how complex the task is. Trying to co-ordinate all those fingers and the two laces takes huge concentration but when was the last time you had to put any energy into that task? Now it is quick and easy, a habit, a program run by the sub-conscious which leaves you free to chat or think about where you are going to find the car keys.

What we think, what we feel and what we do form our reality. This is a comforting thought when it comes to the good stuff in life. If the way we do things gives us positive results then we want to be able to repeat those good results. A habit does just that. It enables us to repeat a “dance” of specific thoughts, emotions and physical movements which result in a desired outcome, with very little energetic input on our part. When last did you have to think about which bunny ear goes where when tying your shoelaces?  You still think the same thoughts but your brain does it all automatically in the background. Habits, by nature, take very little conscious thought, very little energetic input, and so, are more easily done. Being “in the habit” of doing exercise every day makes it easy to get out of bed and out the door for your run. It’s after a holiday that you feel more effort; you have to fight a little harder with yourself to get out and do.

Many of our habits are so ingrained, there is little to no conscious awareness when we do them. Have you ever gone cold with the thought that you have no recollection of closing the door as you left for work. Your thoughts were elsewhere and your subconscious closed up for you, locked the door, got into the car and started driving down the road.

Habits give us a repeatable, dependable outcome. They are a wonderful strategy for change in your life. If we are in the habit of thinking the same thoughts, feeling the same emotions and doing the same things every day, then our life will be same every day. If we want a different outcome, we need to change our habits, make new ones. Sometimes it is easier to start a new habit of NOT doing something. If you don’t want to eat chocolate every day, make a habit of not buying chocolate. If you want to move more, than maybe you need to think of NOT MOVING less; less TV, less Facebook, less Instagram.

Habits are always hard to begin with but with repetition, practice, it gets easier with time. Motivate yourself by thinking of the outcome, how your life will change if you do this today. How will life be in a few years’ time if you DON’T do this now? The choice is yours to make. The habit is yours to begin.

Wishing you luck in your new endeavours, start today and Keep Moving.

The Shape of your Cup

Winter is on its way, the season of snugly, warm jerseys, thick socks and layers of loose clothes which allow me to let my tummy hang out without anyone being able to see it. It is a time to curl up on the sofa with a book, to be languid and lazy and self-indulgent. The importance of building our energy for the distant seasons of spring and summer cannot be denied, but there is a price to be paid if we are not careful. The curling up, the sitting, the bending of our elbows and knees to conserve heat, inevitably results in feelings of tightness which gets worse with age. So what exactly causes these rusted feelings?

In a word… fascia, also known as connective tissue. My favourite analogy is that of an orange. The orange has its skin on the outside and segments on the inside. Each segment is divided into tiny cells filled with the delicious nectar we call orange juice. In a way, we are not too different from an orange. We too have skin on the outside. Inside we have our fascia or connective tissue. Instead of thinking of your muscles and bones being connected by fascia, think of fascia as the pockets which contain every muscle, nerve, bone and organ, much like the cells of an orange. Fascia quite literally gives the cup that is us, shape. Over years we all take on a distinctive shape, depending on our perception of our environment, our habits and our lifestyle. A sedentary lifestyle, involving long periods of sitting in front of a computer or behind the steering wheel of a car, will result in tightening and thickening of the fascia. This feels like you are wearing clothes which are a size or two too small. The clothing restricts your movement so that you can’t quite reach those shoe laces and your clothes cut into you and block you from reaching the top shelf. The more frequently you adopt a particular position, the more permanent that shape will become. Your muscles are encased in fascia so if the fascia is tight, the muscle cannot stretch to its full potential. The sensations you feel when stretching, the rusted feelings, come not from muscle, but from the fascia.

Unlike an inanimate cup, your fascia is very much alive and constantly remodels itself. It has far more proprioceptors than muscle and it can react to a threat five times faster than the nervous system. It is the fascia which causes us to pull away from the pain of a needle prick or to brace when we trip. We literally pull ourselves together under stress, tightening the fascia as we go into the fight or flight response to danger, real or perceived. Fascia is a continuous web, much like a spider web, which distorts when one part is pulled. Like a spider web, restriction in one part of the fascia affects the whole web and may result in pain or discomfort somewhere else in the body.

As you know, it is impossible to separate the mental, emotional and physical aspects of our being. Fascia is no different. I find Rebalancing Deep Tissue massage to help tremendously with physical discomfort. My clients all report feeling better, looser, more comfortable after a massage.  But the fascia also carries and stores emotion and it’s not unusual for the massage to trigger an emotional release which may or may not be the cause of physical discomfort in the body. The combined effect of pressure and touch, together with a safe, warm atmosphere, allows the neurology to relax into a parasympathetic state. Blood pressure will drop, heart rate and respiration slow down and cortisol levels may also drop. You feel relaxed and calm, anxiety levels lower and tension seems to melt away.

When it comes to lowering stress levels this winter, Rebalancing Deep Tissue Massage is a wonderful option, no matter what the shape of your cup or the weather outside.

Until next time, and for the sake of your fascia… Keep Moving.

The Brain in my Pocket

I was listening to a chat on the radio this morning, about how dependent we have become on our devices. We no longer have to remember phone numbers or addresses. Facebook reminds us of birthdays and our trusty phones have reminders set for everything from the morning alarm to the hair appointment. It’s like keeping my brain in my pocket.
Our lives are so different to when I was a child. I had a telephone directory in my head. It was so easy to remember telephone numbers. There was no need to write them down, I just committed them to memory and there they were when I needed them. Snail mail meant everyone had an address with a postal code. I wrote many letters and always knew the addresses and postal codes. My head was a sponge that soaked up information and my filing system was efficient, so recall was quick and easy.
Today, listening to the radio it dawned on me how lazy I have become with my brain. I could justify this by saying that I am older, it’s natural to be more forgetful. After all, this is what we are told by society. It’s our go-to for all ailments… remember dear, you are older now. What a lovely excuse for being less than we used to be. I don’t want to be less, at least not yet. I work hard to maintain a level of physical fitness and I eat a clean diet of whole foods. I drink water and try to get outside regularly for a dose of vitamin D and some fresh air.
Everyone knows that to be fit takes constant training. What we don’t use, we lose and physical fitness really shows us this. If I get a cold and stop training for just two weeks and it feels like I am back to square one. Perhaps we should be seeing our brain as a muscle which needs constant training. So here is a controversial question… is “dementia” always a thing or can it be that we are forgetting things because we stop using our brains so they get “unfit” and don’t work as well as before? What we don’t use, we lose.
As a Pilates instructor, I see the effect of Pilates on the body and the brain. The brain’s primary job is to run the body. It controls everything from breath and heartbeat to how we move and what we do. Mostly we do all of this sub-consciously. Pilates is what I call prescribed movement. I am asking you to move in a specific way with specific muscles. In the beginning people really struggle with this, there is a war between what I am asking and what the brain wants to do. It’s a long way from the brain to the feet and I notice people lose their connection with their feet first, as though the brain’s field of influence is “shrinking back” towards the head. This improves with time but the minute you go off shoe shopping in your head, stop being there in the room, inside your body with your thoughts, that is when you end up using your back or doing the wrong exercise.
I believe that conscious movement, moving with conscious intent and staying conscious of my thoughts, is the best way to keep my brain and my body connected, healthy and alive. When I allow myself to run on autopilot, I am keeping myself small, staying on old neural pathways. Staying conscious and adding variety to my day by doing things differently means I am building new neural pathways. I like to think of it as brain training. So here is a challenge to do things differently… Let’s work harder to remember the date and what our schedule is for the day, so that when that reminder pings in our pocket we know what it is for and we are way ahead of it.

Until next time, be conscious, and keep moving…

Birds of my Mind

Mornings in Barrydale are melodic with the cheery greetings of a variety of birds. The chirps, warbles and tweets of the garden birds compete with the wistful call of distant guinea fowl, roosters crowing and the cry of peacocks. This morning there was an urgent gathering of weavers, sun-birds, bishop birds, doves and a robin in the shrubs below my window. The plants were alive with hopping, chattering birds. I learnt as a child to look closely at these gatherings to see who was causing such a cacophony. It may be a cat, or a mongoose, but could just as well be a snake.

It is a strange feeling, investigating such a gathering. Physically you go into fight and flight with your head telling you to move in one direction, towards the noise, while your legs want to carry you in the opposite direction for fear of finding a snake. Boomslangs and cobras, both very toxic, are common in Barrydale so you find your eyeballs hopping all over the place. Do you look in the bushes or on the ground? You find yourself walking like a chameleon: pick up a foot, wait to check three times where to put your next step, even when you are on the lawn, afraid you may step on a snake. Relief floods the body when you find a fat, furry cat stalking through the flower bed. The worst is when you spot the sleek, scaled ribbon of snake, grateful that you know where it is but flooded by the extra surge of adrenaline which your body kindly supplies for your rapid retreat. There are times when you find nothing, when the gathering of excited birds abruptly adjourns and they fly away to continue with their day. I like to call these twittering gatherings bird parties, though it may be better to call them bird parliaments, as they seem very worked up about what appears to be nothing.

There is a big shift towards conscious living on our planet and we often hear about mindfulness, meditation and the importance of controlling our thoughts. My mind is a part of me, just as my hand or foot is a part of me, but it isn’t all of me. My mind is there to keep me safe, to warn me of danger, even when I can’t see it, like a party of garden birds, chirping and twittering in the bushes. A word, a situation or an event can send my thoughts into frenzy, crowding my head with scenarios and scripts of what I will say, twitters and squawks of warning from the birds of my mind. My neurology cannot distinguish between what is real and what is imagined so my body goes into fight or flight and I start to do a mental chameleon walk because I know I am going to find a “snake”. I jump to the worst case scenario immediately. My blood chemistry changes as the adrenaline and cortisol feed my need to take on the threat or to run. This happens many times in a day, sometimes for hours but often just for minutes or even just seconds. The birds of my mind may well be right, there may be a snake in the bush but sometimes it is just a fat cat or most often, just a bird party which calms and melts away after a while.

Mindfulness is about knowing the difference between a real threat and a bird party. When I find myself in the metaphysical bushes, hunting a snake, I take a deep breath, centre myself. I thank the birds of my mind for their warnings and then I take control of my thoughts. I decide whether the threat is real or if it is the makings of my imagination and I take appropriate action, facing the threat or dismissing it as the bird party it is. Being mindful, noticing what you are thinking and knowing that you have the ultimate control over what you think, can make the difference between being in a state of constant stress and worry, and staying calm and centred.

Until next time, stay mindful, be conscious and Keep Moving…

Lessons from a Bicycle

How often do we use the saying, “It’s like riding a bicycle”? It is usually used when we need to do something which we haven’t done in ages and it’s meant to portray the idea that once we have learnt something, we never forget how to do it. There is a gentle smugness that comes with this, a confidence born of experience, the evidence of which provides safe, secure feelings. This side of a lesson learnt is so easy and comfortable that we often forget how it felt on the other side, the before side, when we didn’t know how.

Not many of us remember those first attempts at riding a bicycle. We may, if conscious enough, realize the skill it takes when teaching our children to ride. Training wheels have made it easier but before training wheels… We froze with fear, fell, tumbled, wobbled, crashed, kissed the dirt, and landed in rose bushes. Physically we got cut, scraped, bruised, bumped, grazed and sometimes even broke. Emotionally we laughed with nerves, cried with pain, yelled with frustration, giggled with embarrassment and eventually crowed with delight. Throughout this process we were drawn forward by the thrill of what life would be like if we could ride that bicycle. Nothing could distract us from our mission. Our imagination kept us focused on the goal, the rush of wind in our face from our daring speed, the power of being able to drive and control this glorious machine and the freedom it symbolized. It didn’t take long to realize that if we wanted to stay on top of this sensational ride, we had to keep moving. The minute you stopped moving forwards, you fell off, the ride ended and so did the rush.

As we grow older we hang up the bicycle and forget the lessons it teaches us. We get so caught up in our fear of learning new things that we deny ourselves the dream. We see the cuts and bruises, the grazes and the breaks. We imagine the frustration, humiliation, pain and embarrassment we will feel if we fail or don’t “get it” quickly enough.  We convince ourselves that it is not worth the effort to change because we have forgotten that the other side of learning, the “I did it” side, holds the reward of the rush, the power, the control. So we stay where we are, sitting on a wall, feet dangling while we watch others on their “bicycle of life”. We envy them, what they have, how much fun they are having and we wallow in our misery. We see only their rush, not their tumbles, and we grumble that they have it so easy. We convince ourselves we can’t do it, give ourselves really good reasons why it won’t work, satisfying ourselves that it is beyond our control, so not our responsibility even to try. We stay stuck.

Habits are patterns of behaviour which keep us feeling safe. But habits also keep us living the same day over and over again. If you want a better more fulfilling life you need to do things differently. You need to learn new ways of doing things. We can only grow through change, because let’s face it, you cannot grow and stay the same, they are flip sides of the coin, like light and dark, speeding and standing still. Make each day different by doing small things differently. Walk a different route, drink from a different cup, sit in a different chair. Your quest doesn’t have to be as huge as learning to ride a bicycle. You can start with small steps, one small change every day.

Decide what it is you want and keep focused on the ride, the rush of achievement.  When you tumble or land in a rosebush, get up and keep trying. Remember that if you want to reach your goal, if you want to feel the wind in your face as you ride down new roads, you will have to learn, change, grow and always keep moving…

Understanding Surrogation

One of the advantages of my work is that I can work remotely on someone far away. It is a wonderful gift to be able to do this but most people find the very idea weird, woo-woo or just plain creepy. It isn’t really, it’s just unfamiliar. We embrace remote connection all the time in other familiar ways in our daily lives.

The three main senses we use for interacting with the world are hearing (auditory), sight (visual) and touch (kinaesthetic). How do we communicate over a long distance using sound? We use a telephone. I remember when I was little; we had a party line phone system. Each house had a different ring and the exchange was reached by giving one long ring, turning the handle a few times. Then we had land lines. You could see the line from the house to the telephone pole outside with both of these old systems. Storms could blow down the lines and we were left without a telephone. Later came cell phones which don’t have any lines attached at all, and yet I am able to speak to someone in London or Toronto or Australia. I speak, they answer and it is all in real time, as though that person was in the same room as me. What I am hearing is not their voice but an energetic representation of their voice, enabled by my cell phone which is not connected to anything except energetically. Cell phones would surely have seemed very woo-woo in the 1970’s but are now easily accepted because we have been trained to find telephones familiar, and let’s face it, the tangled wire was a pain!

Long ago we could communicate “visually” by telegram. Not quite in real time, by close enough. Then came fax machines and computers with email and the cell phones with sms and now WhatsApp. I can type a message and it is received and read within seconds on the other side of the world. I can send a photo or a video or do a video call. What I am seeing is an energetic representation of my daughter’s home overseas, on my cell phone in real time with a video call. She in turn, can see me sitting in my garden in sunny South Africa. I have not captured her or possessed her and trapped her in my phone. My phone is showing me an energetic representation of life on the other side of the world. Creepy, weird and woo-woo? No, not at all. This has become part of life, familiar and for many, indispensable.

So what is surrogation? It is the kinaesthetic equivalent of your cell phone. If a cell phone had arms and legs then I could use it to do balances and it would probably be more easily accepted. But I need to be able to feel the energetic response of muscle testing, so I need a person to be the surrogate. Whether I use myself or someone else to test on, the muscle response I get is the energetic representation of the person I am balancing. That is all. The corrections I make are received by the person on the other side, just as they can see a video or hear a voice on the telephone.

Just as with a telephone, I need the person on the other side to answer the call. I do this by asking permission and if permission is denied for any reason, then I cannot work. The number you are calling is not available, please try again later. If it is both safe and appropriate to work, then permission will be given, the connection is made and I can begin the balance.

Surrogation can help people who are too sore to be muscle tested or too far away. It is a way to help the frail and the sick, the too young or the too old, whether they are in the same room or on the other side of the world, as long as they “pick up” and the connection is made. Nothing weird, nothing woo-woo, just the magic of energy.

How Big is your Character?

When last did you hear someone say “It’s character building”? Growing up, this was the standard response to any tale of hardship. It frustrated me no end. How big was my character supposed to be? When was it big enough to stop building, stop suffering? What is character anyway and why is it so important that it has to grow so big?

Character is who you are on the inside and how you present yourself to the world on the outside, your unique qualities. Years ago people spoke of virtues but now we hear about values,  habits of behaviour. Many of these are developed at a young age, without our choosing them. They are thrust upon us by parents, teachers, TV and the behaviour of others. Someone with a strong character displayed values of integrity, commitment, loyalty, ambition and perseverance. While someone who lied, cheated, was dishonest or unreliable may have been described as having weak character.

Today, I don’t hear much about character. Now we talk about rights. Bad behaviour is justified by your right to free expression or overlooked due to your sad, neglected or difficult upbringing. We use an abused past to condone our abusive behaviour, poverty gives us the right to steal and laziness is blamed on our genetics. Our younger generations are growing up without the boundaries offered by values and character. We are so concerned about adding to their stressful lives that we are stunting their characters and in so doing, we are slowly losing our own.  We excuse our physical laziness with the belief that life has become too busy for exercise. We don’t have time to cook our own nutritious food or get enough rest. “Fear Of Missing Out” has destroyed our commitment and social status has corrupted our integrity.

The world has changed so much over the last thirty years. As I have grown older, I have become more confused about who I am. I have been told I am over sensitive, up tight, prissy, a goody two shoes, too serious, old fashioned, insecure and a perfectionist. Personal development has brought my attention back to values and character. Now I realize that I value integrity, commitment, self-discipline, self-responsibility, courage and kindness. These are the character traits that are important to me. Looking back, the people who hurt me so deeply, who shamed me for these values and confused me, those people have different values.

I feel a weight lifted, unburdened. I can be me and be proud of who I am, proud of the character that I built through difficulty, endurance and perseverance. I feel huge gratitude for the lessons I learnt and the people who offered those lessons. Understanding has brought the realization that a character is never big enough. A character needs guarding and constant work. It is so easy for bad habits to creep in; little things which break down your character and diminish you. I always have the choice of who I want to be. If I find myself lacking, it is up to me to consciously fill that gap with a new value and to practice that value until it becomes habit, thereby building and strengthening my character, becoming a better human being.

Humanity is made up of characters, you and me. If I want to help the world, to better humanity, then it is up to me to stay conscious, keep learning, keep improving myself and keep moving…