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…

A Piece of the Puzzle

I made sure my children played with jigsaw puzzles as they grew up, for brain development and hand eye co-ordination. They started with very basic 6 or 8 piece puzzles and built their way to hundreds of pieces as they grew older. There is an addictive excitement to watching the picture grow as more and more pieces are added. Each piece is a surprise. Some pieces make no sense when you look at them individually, but placed in the right place, in context with the other pieces around it, its purpose becomes clear. With all our travels, we always seemed to lose one piece from a puzzle. One feels such disappointment when the last piece is missing, the picture can never be completed. Each piece of the puzzle bears a responsibility to complete the picture. There is a sensation of closure, a task completed when you insert that last shape. The picture gels, it is whole and it is as it should be.

I have done a lot of work on myself in the past few years, training, new ideas, delving into quantum physics, self-help books and courses, on and on. I found myself feeling quite confused with the paradox of oneness and separation. In our human form we are undeniably separate but how do you bend your head around the idea that we are all connected. How can I be both at once? How can I be me without hurting, upsetting or neglecting those closest to me?

Think about a puzzle made of millions of pieces. Each piece is unique. It has its own particular colouring, shape and place. You cannot put a piece in the wrong place. We humans are the same. When we own our “place” we are content and comfortable but if we try to be in the wrong place, if we try to force what we are not, life feels wrong. We battle, nothing wants to work and we feel anxious and unhappy.

Each puzzle piece is surrounded by others but the colours and details that it bears are unique. Each separate piece of the puzzle has a purpose, to be a piece of the picture. We, too, each have a special place and purpose in this world. Who and what we are, impacts on those closest to us. So when we put our needs to one side, in favour of others, we make life difficult for ourselves and for those around us. When we neglect our own human needs, we become “needy”. We compromise our values and get lost in a wilderness of limiting beliefs. Like a poison, this negativity spreads to those around us. As they pull away from the negativity, we feel more separate and alone which makes us more “needy”. In short, we get bent out of shape when we try to please everybody around us.

I realised that I need to own the picture on the piece of the puzzle that is me. I can’t change the picture or the pieces around me. I am in this particular space for a reason, so I need to be my glorious, unique and separate self. Without me, the Puzzle of Life is incomplete. As long as I honour my human needs, my values and my beliefs, I will be the right shape to fit into my world. Trying to be what I am not, means I don’t fit, and this just leads to misery. When I embrace my unique shape, I support those around me, giving them what they need to connect. That certainty of how we fit together brings us all peace and security. It is when I am not separate, when I try to be the same and to fit in, that I have no place in the whole that is the Puzzle of Life.

I wish I had understood this when my children were small. I would have taught them the importance of being a unique piece of the Puzzle, knowing they are good enough, just by being alive. That each of us has a very precious purpose which can only be fulfilled when we accept who we are. Our duty is not to conform to ever changing whims of society, but rather to own our uniqueness. Being who we are makes us separate from everybody else, but it also enables us to fit into, and be a part of, the puzzle that is life.

Until next time, keep learning to keep moving…

Life de-‘FINE’d

Everyone knows it’s not cool to complain so we speak in code instead. You bump into a friend and exchange greetings. “How are you?”  How often do you use the word FINE to convey the politically correct, seemingly all happy response? FINE can mean many things, but it rarely means fine; the dictionary definition of the word which is…  “quite well or satisfactory, in a good, acceptable or comfortable condition” (Encarta Dictionary).

If you have just come from unsuccessfully trying to query your municipal account, you are probably feeling Flippin’ Irate, Nettled and Explosive. But we don’t generally feel this way all the time. A new Mum may be Feeling Isolated, Near tears and Exhausted while someone who has started their own business may be buried in Filing, Invoicing, Networking and Excel sheets. Someone who suffers from depression may find themselves Feeling Ignored, Negated and Exiled. Many of us are trying to lose weight but when we are not coping with life, and when we are feeling Flipping Insecure Neurotic and Emotional, we Feel an Intense Need to Eat.

You may argue that it’s OK to say FINE, that maybe you are having a good day. Wouldn’t it be better to say “I feel amazing, thank you”, fantastic, glorious, awesome, inspired perhaps? This is what I call a “Quick Fix” for your toolbox. Just saying these words puts a spark in your day and a little more spring in your step. It lifts your spirits and those of the people you meet. We are so serious and so afraid to be happy lest we shine too brightly. Happiness is contagious, or so the saying goes, but I find that heavier emotions like worry and doubt seem to poison a room so quickly. Happiness dissolves like mist in the morning sun and gloom descends. Everyone is FINE. Work is FINE. School is FINE.

Next time you catch yourself using FINE to define your day, figure out what it stands for and then choose a better word, one which uplifts and inspires you. We make our lives what they are. We choose the narrative. So make your life a better one by choosing better words.

If you find your life to be FINE and you don’t seem to be able to lift yourself to brighter things, contact me and we can set up a free session to help you define what is missing and how to move forward and Keep Moving.

It’s a Girl’s Life.

Who are you? A man may answer this by giving his name and occupation, both of which may stay more or less the same throughout his life. “I am Fred and I am a geologist.” As a woman, I have had a different experience of life. As a child I was somebody’s daughter. Then I became somebody’s girlfriend, fiancé, wife. I didn’t work then, so I was categorised as the wife. As the years passed I became pregnant and fulfilled the role of incubator for nine months, not that this became any official listing in my resume. The official appointment of Mother, on the other hand, was quickly added with the arrival of my daughter.  “I am —-‘s wife and  —‘s mother”  Unofficially, at the same time, I was the delegated milk bottle. If the baby was crying, the only one who could remedy the situation was The Milk Bottle. Mother was a really BIG job. The job description looked like this…Cook food for man and child, feed child (and later, after my second child was born, children) cleaning of children, cleaning up after man, cleaning house, nursing man and children, knowing where everything in the house could be found (including things like car keys, wallets and butter!). Later teacher of children was added as I had to home school for a number of years. Other menial jobs included driver, sport coach, peace keeper, dictionary and general helper-with-anything-and-everything.

As women, our role is re-invented every few years. We shift roles to accommodate those we love and many of the roles are never relinquished. We are forever someone’s wife, someone’s daughter, sister, mother. Each role demands different expectations, compounding over time until we have forgotten who WE are. Without these roles, who is underneath all the work?

If you find yourself resonating with this, then today is the day for you to choose to change, choose YOU over all the noise of life and start a journey of discovery. Who have you become? What do you love? What do you hate? What is your life purpose? It is never too late to start living your own life. This may feel scary and seem impossible but you don’t have to do this alone. My work as a Life Coach is to support and guide you as you find a better, more fulfilling life. Your life is yours and yours alone, to do whatever you wish. That doesn’t mean you can’t share your life with loved ones and family, it just means that you also have the right to fulfillment. To you, that may mean having a new career or a new hobby. It could be to feel more emotional stability or more spiritual connection. Before you decide that there isn’t time for such a pursuit, let me remind you that as a woman, there is never time for self unless you choose to make the time. Don’t wait until your life has passed you by. Start finding yourself today.

Once the journey has begun it’s easy to keep moving…

Birdsong and Cloudscapes

Birdsong, it’s the start to every day. Even before the light of morning has eased through the darkness, the crow of the roosters and the sweet warble of thrushes, trickles into my consciousness. It is a new day, a new beginning, a chance to start over and do better than yesterday.

I am a morning person. I love the early hours when the village sleeps. I love to be outside, exploring today’s world. It is my way of practicing being in the moment, conscious. The sun catches clouds and they blush with its first rays, cerise, pink, apricot or gold. Sometimes great sheets of colour fill the sky and other times there are just wisps. The sky is never the same. Once that gift of the new day has gone, it’s gone forever. It is never the same again. Did you see it, or did it pass unnoticed?

We miss so much in our world because we are busy, rushing around DOING instead of taking time to just BE. Our stress levels rise and our worlds shrink. We get into the habit of Doing. When last did you hear the song of a robin or watch the rain fall?  We allow the gifts of the day to pass us by without a second thought.

Night and day, heat and cold, winter and summer: all things have their shadow side, their opposite. So too, Doing and Being. There is balance to our world and when ignored, our lives become off kilter. This is when dis-ease creeps in. First it may be anxiety and later depression. The blood pressure rises and so does the weight. We start with medication and as we get older, the amount of pills we drink gets more. We tell ourselves it’s because of our age. We fill our lives with the noise of TV and news, Facebook and Internet. We are numb to nature and the world around us.

If this resonates with you, start to make small changes. If you are not a morning person, make a point of noticing the evening sky. Take time to be really conscious whether you are stroking the cat or raking up leaves. Be aware of what you smell, hear and see.  Connect with something and you will connect with yourself, you will feel an energy stir within you, a swelling in your heart. Notice beauty in whatever form, feel grateful for what you have and for what you see. Gratitude is the best medicine there is and the more you practice being present, in the moment, the more gratitude you will feel. Every time the sun rises, you have a new day to practice with. Don’t wait for tomorrow, start today, start now, and keep moving…