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…

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…

New Beginnings

At the beginning of each New Year, I like to set up a plan for the year. What do I want to learn? Where do I want to go and how can I make this year better than the last?

Before we know it, the year sweeps us off our feet and we are thrown into the frenzy of life, treading the same familiar path as before, unless we plan otherwise. We call these plans Resolutions, and we all know how those good intentions dissolve in the hot summer sun.  We start out really well but then the Peanut Gallery of your mind gets involved and everything unravels.

Your mind is part of you, but it’s not you. That Peanut Gallery of conversation which you hold with yourself is there to keep you safe but it rarely is supportive. On the second day of your new fitness routine, the Peanuts start to discuss the merits of starting slowly. Perhaps I should take tomorrow off so that I don’t get too stiff. Next Monday would be a good day to start again. But on Monday you are still a tiny bit stiff so the Peanuts suggest starting tomorrow. The days go by and the resolution is starting to fade. This is when the Peanuts suggest starting in February…

Being aware of what you are thinking is key to maintaining momentum with the changes you want to make in your life. The thoughts are just bubbles of information and you do not have to listen to them. When an unsupportive thought happens, consider it and then decide if you are going to follow the Peanut Gallery or take back your power with a more supportive thought. You always have the choice. The Peanuts will try to convince you that you must eat that piece of cake because it will be the last one for a long time. Really? When it comes to curbing food temptations, I find that telling myself “Not this time” really helps.  I am not giving anything up forever, just in this moment. Next time I get to choose again. Practice makes perfect and practicing making good choices makes it easier to choose well in future.

So my wish for you for this year is that you may be aware of what you are thinking, that you have the power to make good choices and that your resolutions bring about the changes you desire.

Happy 2019. Until next time, 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…

True Colours

As a child, I loved a new pack of crayons or Koki pens. The potential of those unused, pristine colours was inspiring and I felt compelled to test each colour to see how it looked on the paper. There were usually eight or sometimes twelve colours in a pack. I remember once receiving a pack of twenty five colours! Glorious, wonderful variations of green and peach, lilac and tan, colours I had never had before. Each colour was unique and beautiful and I loved that. There was a feeling of let down and disappointment when two colours, though different in their outer wrapping, proved to be the same on paper. I felt cheated.

So why is it that as humans we strive so hard to be like others? We want to look like others, dress as others dress, have what others have. We are so afraid to own our style and uniqueness. We judge ourselves against others and what others will think of us and our work. That age old fear of failure, of not being good enough, is lurking in the depths of us all. It limits us, curbs our potential. We try to emulate others by doing as they do and so we fail because we cannot be what we are not. An orange crayon can’t be blue. It can only be orange, glorious in its own right with its own unique potential. Just think how orange turns the sky from summer-day blue, to a vibrant sunset.  Because we judge ourselves to be “less than”, we think others will think the same. We rob the world of our own unique contribution and we cheat ourselves of our sunset potential.

Each and every one of us has a purpose for being here, one which only we can fulfil. Do we not owe it to the world to do whatever it takes to find our unique colour and add it to the box of crayons? What drives you? What do you love? Do you love something because it stirs your soul or because a significant other loves it? Do you love something but pretend not to for fear of judgement or ridicule? Own you, be you, love you and don’t be so quick to judge. Self-judgement disempowers you and steals your gifts from the world just as a box full of only red crayons steals the delight of a child. Draw what you love, film what you love, do what you love. If you HAVE to have a fear, which you don’t, let it be a fear of NOT. Not saying your say, Not showing your idea of beautiful, Not sharing what makes your soul sing.

From this moment on, make a deal with yourself to pick your colour, love it, flaunt it and never hide it in favour of another. Being you will only deepen and enrich your colour, so find more that is you, grow and learn and 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.

Healthy Hips, Healthy Life

Many things affect the health of our hips and today, more and more people are living with hip pain and hip replacements. Are we destined to crumble at the hips or is there something we can do to keep these joints healthy? Can we really take our health into our own hands and have a say in how we age. I believe we can.

It is easy to fear what we don’t understand and fear stops us from thinking clearly. We are led to believe that we have no control over what happens to our body. We grow old, we get sick or break and then we die. We don’t understand how the body works.  So, let’s make it simple, less scary… I like to think of the body as a bag of skin filled with sticks (our bones) and elastics (our muscles). Our body works on a supply and demand principle. What we need, we will absorb and what we don’t need gets flushed from the system. One of the first places where osteoporosis develops is in the hips and pelvis. The more we sit and drive, the less we use our muscles. And the less we use the muscles the less they pull on the bones to which they are attached. If the bones aren’t pulled on, then they don’t need to be strong so the body won’t absorb calcium that it doesn’t need, even if you are taking calcium supplements regularly. Walking is a fantastic way to keep the bones strong and healthy. The gentle impact and weight bearing both serve to stimulate the need for strong bones. But walking doesn’t use all the hip muscles and getting to some of them requires internal and external rotations which are not part of our daily movements. In my Conscious Movement classes we focus a lot on hips; rotating the bones of the hips in their sockets, moving the pelvis in all ranges and weight bearing on one or both legs. We stimulate the proprioceptors in the hips (which tell your brain where you are in space) to help with balance and we do Rhythmic Movement Training exercises to address reflex integration. I find that my regular clients are strong and healthy. Even when things go wrong, because life happens and gravity sucks, most of the time my clients have returned to class with bruises and a tale to tell rather than pins and plates and screws. When you work your joints regularly and move your bones in unusual ways, you find that you have more bounce and less snap.

Age is not a number; it’s a state of being. And you always have a choice. If you want to have less snap and more bounce, you have to 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…