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.

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…

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…

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…