Mindset Blog

I am a health and life coach. I work with people who have lost their mojo for life and want to access their innate creativity. The mindset blog is a space to reconnect with your inner world.

When 'taking action' weighs you down... shift your perspective

This afternoon I had a wonderful conversation with a lady who had been a client some years back. 

It had been a while since we’d spoken and much had shifted in both our lives. She opened up about feeling ‘stuck’ and almost ‘numb’, like a rabbit in headlights- not fearful but simply frozen and stuck. 

She didn’t understand why.

We dived in deeper and the notion of needing to ‘take action’ became apparent and this was aligned with a sense of needing to ‘do more’ that was likely creating the stuckness in the first place. 

The fascinated me.

I can relate to the idea of ‘taking action’ being a positive method of creating momentum and flow, YET for me this does not automatically align with ‘doing more’. On the flipside, that taking action can also involve consciously ‘letting go’.

I had a sudden sense that there was huge resistance anchoring her down and the vision of someone trying to drag a heavy weight came to my mind. 

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I shared a story from the times when I entered lots of muddy obstacle course races and often the trials would involve dragging something like massive heavy tractor tyres across bumpy ground, feet slipping in the mud finding it difficult to gain the traction and build momentum to move forward. 

But there is a beauty when we realise we can step back and approach things from another angle. We can create a powerful shift that requires less effort for a better result. 

If you try to move the heavy tyre by pulling on it with your arms alone, your feet slide out from under you and nothing moves. You just end up flat out on the floor, feeling exhausted, going nowhere. 

Yet if you change your direction by 180˚ and instead, from behind push the weight through your arms by using the force of your legs to drive the momentum, everything changes.

It's often the subtle shifts in orientation, mental awareness and strategy that can get us unstuck.

But, maybe there is also another approach...

When you stare down at the heavy weight you're connected to, ask yourself who put it there? 

Did you walk into the arena willingly and attach yourself to it knowingly, with a greater goal and clear sense of purpose, or was it quietly hooked on when you weren’t looking, without your permission or awareness.

Is it something that no longer serves you or maybe never even did?

In any given moment, instead of aimlessly dragging that heavy weight through the mud we can choose to reconnect with our goal, we can choose to ask for help, we can choose to share the load... or we can choose to let go entirely and conserve our energy to move on and embrace our next challenge.

What does 'taking action' mean for you, and are there places where you feel 'stuck' and might need to change your approach to?

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Why I'm not a vegan activist... and the approach I take instead.

I saw this picture post shared by the Veganuary team on Facebook earlier today. I went to automatically click the 'share' button, but as my finger hovered over the keyboard I took a moment to reflect on what it meant to me.

I knew there was a deeper story there waiting to be explored.

I cast my mind back in time to 2011 and relived those emotions. These were the words that flowed out of my mind into the text space.

Then I pressed 'share'.  

P.s if you want to read more about my transition to veganism, you'll enjoy this mini story!

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I never try to push veganism on people (if I find myself getting too vocally passionate I consciously tone it down!)

That is not because I am not passionate about a plant-based way of living and minimising harm to the environment around us BUT because I know that before I made the switch back in 2011 my ex-boyfriend tried to force his ethical views upon me and it did not work.

It created so many negative feelings of resistance, frustration, rebellion and denial within me compared with the mindset of curiously learning and feeling inspired to change through observing his actions alone and sharing information when asked.

It shut me down instead of opening me up to possibility and change.

I can still feel that resistance and disconnect inside me now when faced with the black and white 'militant vegan' approach. I fear it overwhelms those who are curious to explore more.

We are all on a journey, none of us are perfect and we've all been there at the very beginning. (No judgment on those activists who follow this more approach, if it works for you great, it just doesn't vibe with me personally).

Still, the seed had been planted and I found my own path to plant-based living, via nutritional education and then found the ethical side crept up on me slowly over time.

That is my hope for Including Cake and my work as a coach, to simply inspire people in their own journey of discovery wherever it may lead. No pressure, no judgement, just a willingness to open your mind beyond the conditioning of society. Questioning why we do the things we do and no longer accepting 'because that's just what I have always done' as a valid answer.

BUT... i'll be totally honest, when someone messages me to tell me they've become a 'week day vegan' or have permanently switched out dairy for plant milks, or are consciously evaluating all their nutritional and lifestyle choices... through being inspired by how I show up in the world, I can't help but feel so full of love, happiness and hope inside!

It's not just about saving the world, it's taking the steps to saving yourself and stepping away from the expectations of society.

We can all make so much more difference than we realise.

It may sound cheesy (pun intended!) but it's true, it really is all I want for Christmas!

Take on the Veganuary challenge and give plant-based living a try for 31 days in January and see what shifts for you. This is the perfect introduction without feeling the overwhelm of 'infinity' and also a supportive playground to get creative and explore alongside so many others feeling the same way. I guarantee you'll discover so much more abut yourself than you would have ever imagined.

I'd love to hear your stories... if you are already vegan what most helped you make that transition. What educational approach worked for you? Or, where are you at in your journey and where would you like to be?

P.s reach out to me if you want some support and let's have an open conversation!

With much love on your journey,

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Why I made a mountain of falafel... and the 'Small Adjustments Challenge'

I made this huge pile of baked falafel this morning (and I had even more leftover chickpeas!) ...it's ALL for me and there is a good reason for it!

I'll fill you in below and link to the recipe (cos it's awesome) but first I want to give you some context and the birth of an idea.

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A few weeks ago I went on a coaching retreat hosted by the Extraordinary Coach. It was an incredibly powerful and intense experience in which we shared our truths and vulnerability on video camera in front of the whole room (I'll share more on that once my video has been published). As part of that process one of the ladies shared a powerful insight about 'small adjustments' and what impact that could have in her life. It has stuck with me ever since. 

We typically spend so much time focusing on the big goals and life events and in doing so we overlook the significance that small, sometimes tiny shifts can make in our lives, especially when repeated over time. I'll hold my hand up and be the first to admit that I struggle with doing things consistently (oooh look shiny new thing to distract me!) but equally I know the power it holds when I do and so I am committing to finding ways to create more consistency that doesn't overwhelm me and lead to sabotage.

Once I'm overwhelmed I'm done for... can you relate? ;-)

Consistent action can be supported by accountability, particularly in the first few weeks before it becomes a habit. So, whilst out for a walk yesterday I came up with an idea for a 30 day challenge to serve both you and me... I think it's a win-win!

The key thing here (and I believe in life I general) is to have a mindset of curiosity... that is so often the key to overcoming overwhelm. This challenge should be fun, there will be a sense of accountability and opportunities to check in with yourself and me throughout the process.

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So quite simply here it is:

1- Pick a small adjustment that you feel could make a signficant difference to your life. It must be SMALL and only ONE thing!

Notes: I've given a few examples below to get your mind moving and also filled you in on what mine is going to be. You can pick what ever you like purely on the basis that you feel it will have a significant positive impact for you personally. Just pick one thing, I know how easy it can be to get excited at the start and pick multiple things only to find the novelty wears off after a few days and you fall off the wagon and beat yourself up- yep I hear ya, I do it too!  This is a personal challenge with no public declaration or Facebook group (yup, those not on social media can rejoice!) although of course please keep in touch with me via email as we progress. ;-)

2- Commit to making that one 'small adjustment' everyday for 30 days: November 20th - December 20th.

3- Pop your details in the box below to confirm you are up for the challenge so that you get further weekly challenge specific emails from me.

Note: All this does is add a tag in my mailing list to let me know you'd like to receive the extra special emails so that I don't send them to the rest of my community who have chosen not to get involved. If you do not pop your details in the link you won't hear from me about this again. Simple!

4- Send me an email before 20th November to let me know that you are in and what your 'small adjustment' will be.

5- Mark the date in your diary and get ready to kick off on November 20th with a mindset of curiosity to see what unfolds over the 30 days...

Some examples and my commitment...

I have noticed recently that when I snack between meals it is typically on sweeter higher carb things e.g granola, energy balls, fruit etc which triggers my sweet tooth more and I'm more likely to overeat.

One choice could be to cut out snacking altogether but I know that would likely lead me to overwhelm and sabotage and does not feel sustainable for me long term (a vision of long term is not a necessity but something I personally want to feel a possibility), so my 'small adjustment' will be to swap all my snacks throughout the day to healthy savoury options (see, now you'll undertand my pile of falafel! - I'll follow up with more details in a separate blog post shortly.) I can still have sweet things as dessert... just not as snacks!

How about you? Whether you decide to take the challenge or not I'd love to hear what ideas you come up with. This is about a focus on creativity and habit shifting NOT restriction and overwhem. A great approach to life in general!

Some other ideas could be...

  • Drink a big mug of lemon water every morning (you know how much I love this!)
  • Exercise for 10 minute each day ( or even 5 minutes!)
  • Walk or cycle any journey that is less than 10 minutes by foot instead of using the car
  • Wake up 20 minutes early each morning and use that time to read or meditate 
  • Have one less coffee/can of coke per day
  • Swap the biscuits at break time for a healthy snack
  • Have one les sugar in your mug of tea, or swap your regular tea to herbal varieties. 
  • Tell your loved ones that you love them every single day

This list could be virtually limitless, right? So less keep it going...

I'd love to hear your ideas too. Whether you decide to take the challenge or not ping me a reply with any ideas and I'll compile a big list!

P.s Yes I said I'd link to the recipe. I haven't written it up on the blog yet though I will do at some point, but in actual fact I followed this recipe by Mark Bittman pretty much exactly (rare for me as I nearly always change things!) so simple and so so good. Perfect healthy baked falafel which freezes well too... that's what i'll be doing with my mountain! 

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What does your dance look like, and are you still stuck in rehearsal mode? 

I was looking through old photo albums a few weeks ago and found photos of me when I went to dance school in my early years. I was always an active child and though I didn’t dance for as many years as my friends (I quite quickly moved on to other sports- the more physical the better!) I loved performing on the big stage in the costumes my poor mum had to painstakingly hand sew - yep, she also had to make all the poms poms and all the polka dots in this photo of me as a clown aged nine! ;-) 

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Reflecting back to these times, and my hyperactive nature as a child and now as an adult, I realise I spend so much of my life feeling in a mental conflict as though I am 'dancing between the extremes’.

The extremes of my high and lows feel ecstatic, explosive, creative and mind-blowingly awesome, yet equally incredibly overwhelming, draining and confusing on the other extreme. Sometimes I wish I could simply turn the volume right down so that the dance was easier, smoother and slower, more consistent and the moves less intense. But I know that would make for a monotonous dance.

I have so many ideas spinning off at all angles and desires to chase them all, and indeed I do find myself bringing to life so many different ideas and spreading myself so thinly. But then in the same breath, I talk of simplicity and of decluttering and of tiny houses and of desire for a simple life and a clear focus (my Pinterst boards give some idea!)

I have spent time stripping back my belongings and getting rid of ‘stuff’ and material things. But at the same time I am collecting more art and craft materials and filling my kitchen cupboards with an array of interesting foodie ingredients to create recipes with.

I crave speed, the adrenaline kick, the hard-core gym classes and packing lots into my days. But at the same time I dream of solitude, silence, nature and yoga, a life away from the overstimulation of TV and technology.

I go from multi-tasking at every waking moment, then stop completely and want to run away from even the simplest task and sit in silence.

I talk of travelling the world with nothing more than a suitcase, of having no fixed abode and becoming a digital nomad. But then I create businesses that have a location dependence, I collaborate on physical events that are location specific.

I rebel against routine and sabotage any move that might box me in, yet in the same moment, I crave structure to ground me and keep me sane and my mind on track.

So many times I have been in conversation with coaches, colleagues or spiritual leaders voicing my frustration in not being able to reign in these extremes, of my desire for a more even energy flow, less fluctuation and more consistency. 

But when I sit with that energy, that frustration, and feel fully into my resistance I acknowledge with a sense of deep acceptance, that’s just how I roll. That’s my own unique dance… dynamic and spontaneous, filled with high energy and emotion, buffered by dramatic pauses for breath, bouncing between one extreme and the other. 

Life is a dance… you can speed up, you can slow down, you can pause for a breath, you can even repeat a few bars… but it's still all part of the rhythm and flow of that one endless dance and it makes for beautiful choreography.

My job as choreographer of my own dance is to work with the rhythm and not against it. To breathe deeply in the right places to create the intense energy, to stretch my limbs and test my balance and flexibility when the moment is right, to use the pauses to rest and recalibrate, to allow the repetitions for they themselves create a sense of structure, connection and familiarity.

The more I practice the less energy I will waste where it is not needed.

Curtailing and reigning in the highs and lows of my personal dance softens all the edges, it is not selective. It becomes like a rehearsal behind-the-scenes just marking out the moves before being ready to play full out.
 
I still find myself frequently falling back into this mode. But I now know that if I am always practising in rehearsal mode, I will never be able to truly perfect my craft, to grow and develop. Stepping out onto the dance floor, under the spotlights, playing full out, learning, falling and carrying on will always be better than never stepping out from the safety of the wings.

They say life is not a dress rehearsal and as cliched as it may sound, it is so very true. 

I still often wish my dance were smoother and slower, more consistent and the moves less intense. But that would never hold my interest, and it wouldn't hold your either. It’s simply not the nature of my dance and it never will be. I must honour that. If I try to reign myself in, life may feel easier but I will always be stuck in rehearsal mode… never playing full out. Never reaching my full potential.

What does your dance look like, and are you still stuck in rehearsal mode? 

Loving you always,

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Courage is in the choosing...

A couple of weeks ago I was very privileged to be invited into conversation with a good friend - a wonderful coach and fellow creative Ann Skinner a.k.a. The 'Heartworker'She was leading a 7-day challenge called 'Awaken Your GREATfullness' ahead of the launch of her Heartworkers Academy. I was invited as the very first guest speaker on the theme of courage!

So many things running through my mind when she reached out to invite me, namely the first being; "but I'm not courageous".  I had to sit with that thought for quite a long time, and reflect on what courage meant to me, before admitting that it wasn't true- I have indeed shown a lot of courage. 

If you'd love to watch the whole conversation here it is below, it is a wonderful exploration of what courage means (I join in the conversation around 25 minutes in).

 

 

Upon reflecting on courage what first came to mind is whether there is a difference between courage and bravery. My conclusion is that there was.  Bravery is facing a physical fear where is courage is facing an emotional fear. These are the two extremes and in reality, there are huge overlaps but I feel these are the subtle distinctions.

A moment of courage might be very insignificant to others yet holds huge meeting for us. Courage is a personal recognition and is often present in life's small moments. Whereas bravery is typically something that everyone could recognise- a physical act that we could all relate to being tough to deal with.

I then took to Google to see what there else there was to say. This idea stood out to me:

Courage and bravery are generally considered to be synonyms, yet philosophically, the two nouns differ in meaning. Courage involves the presence of fear, while bravery lacks it. Courage entails a cause, most commonly love, passion, compassion, concern, etc. Bravery maintains its essence even without a cause. Courage is a result of mindfulness; it is one’s decision to fight despite one’s fears. Bravery is an inherent characteristic; it doesn’t involve much thinking and manifests itself as second nature in those who are brave.

I love these distinctions between the physical and emotional fears. There is a much greater emotional risk attached to courage, which is why it feels easier to be courageous on behalf of others instead of ourselves.

There is also an intrinsic link between vulnerability and courage, indeed one of my favourite quotes from Brene Brown, a wonderful pioneer in the realms of vulnerability, is: 

You can't get courage without walking through vulnerability - Brene Brown

I have long found the studies around vulnerability fascinating, having written about it before. For me, showing vulnerability has become quite familiar, a daily practice. As such, to an extent it has become part of my comfort zone and the vulnerability around sharing those parts of me has subsided.

In my conversation with Ann, we discussed that initially when we do difficult things we feel the fear, yet after we have done it, it becomes the new norm and therefore we don't even think we have courage. We forget that we are courageous. Looking back and recognising that we have shown courage throughout our lives helps us to reclaim it as we go forwards.

One thing I have become very aware of in recent times, is that when someone else sees something in me, I don’t dismiss it. Who am I to say ‘I’m not courageous’, If you see that in me then it holds truth. It’s not for me to cast away your perception. Just because I can’t see my greatness, it doesn’t mean it's not there. I have slowly learnt to allow that in despite my inner dialogue often telling me otherwise! It is having an incredibly powerful impact on my life and my perception of self.

I still find myself with a battle in my mind "people don't wanna hear this stuff, I'm just a recipe blogger", ...no, "I'm a life architect and I help shift peoples thought processes and awaken creativity".  

I do that mental dance back and forth every day and it takes courage to choose the latter.

A game changer for me was The Crossroads Of Should And Must. A book I was gifted last Christmas- see the original Medium article by Elle Luna that inspired her book.

Courage is in the choosing. 

...This is what is expected of me, this is what society dictates, this is what has been done before BUT actually this is what my heart is telling me.

There might not be obvious reason and logic, the decisions that you take are often ones that don't make sense to somebody else. This takes huge courage, to forge ahead regardless.

This feels very true for me and my vegan story. I shifted to a vegan diet whilst in a previous relationship, so when that relationship ended and I fell back into my old life and routines, everyone around me expected me to snap out of that 'phase' of my life. It took huge courage to stand up and say 'this is who I am now'. The need for courage kept on growing- the first time I ate out at a restaurant, my first Christmas as a vegan, gifts from friends and family that didn't fit into my new life perspective. It was a huge act of courage in those moments which has become easier and easier over time.

Every time we wake up in the morning, whether we are conscious of it or not we have a choice, and one path is always going to require more courage than another. It’s about what we choose to lean into that in any given moment.  

It also takes courage to recognise and own the times where we didn’t choose courage and accepting that. 

Thinking back to the 'crossroads' - we might not choose the path of courage every time, we might only choose it 1 in 10 times. But, that doesn’t mean we are not courageous. If in every moment there is some aspect of choice, and courage involved in that choice, then of course we are not going to choose courage every time- we are not super heroes- we are only human.

We all have days where we choose no courage at all. It's not about all the times we didn’t, it’s focussing on all the times we did and recognising that.

Like vulnerabilty, courage has a ripple effect. It is permission giving. If you recognise and share your own courage it enables people to step into their own. This is so incredibly powerful for me in my work as a coach.

I will end these thoughts on a final quote on vulnerability by Brene Brown, something I'd love you to consider and to reach out to me if you'd like to explore more how this might be showing up in your life.

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.” 
 


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'Friluftsliv' ...ever heard of it? (clue: the connection between mindset and nature)

'Friluftsliv' ...I'd not heard of it either until I began doing a tonne of research on the relationship between our natural world and the impact on our health and mindset.

Friluftsliv, a word coined by Norwegian poet Henrik Ibsen, literally translating to ‘free air life’ is the word used to broadly describe the connection to nature that is so strong in Norway. The word first appeared in Ibsen’s poem, ‘On The Heights’ which describes a man who ventures out into the wilderness in search of solitude as to clear his mind and plan for the future.

The essence of 'Frilufstliv' is the simplicity with which people can engage with nature in a meaningful way,” says Børge Dahle. This philosophy embodies the idea that returning to nature, is returning home.

This is something I have been drawn to more and more over the last few years. I know the power it has on my own mindset and ability to dramatically expand my way of interacting with the world. It literally helps cut through the 'noise' in my mind and brings me down from the head to the heart.

This is one of the ways I'll be shifting my coaching practice.

I know it's not just me who benefits from the power of 'nature therapy' and so it will become an integral part of my work with clients to intensify the experience and the results that can be achieved.

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By living in a world of vast urbanisation, straight lines and electric lighting, we create a disharmony (or more correctly, discord) between natures rhythms and our own natural rhythms. We evolved in a world of 'fractal' structures: waves, mountains, fire, alongside seasonal rhythms, daily rhythms and different kinds of biological rhythms. These structures and rhythms are ingrained in us as we have evolved.

Now we live in a technologically advanced society, we don't rely on these natural rhythms anymore, or not nearly to the extent we did. So we are causing a disharmony with these rhythms which leads to stress, fatigue and low self-esteem.

'Friluftsliv' is about returning to nature and those rhythms and synchronising your body clock back to natures. We have a limbic system that takes in the senses and where we also have our memory. By opening these senses to nature, Dr Hans Gelter describes it as becoming "inter-connected" with nature.

Whatever the weather... Scandinavians don't run for cover on rainy days. This is about embracing the elements, throwing on a duvet coat and finding joy in even the gloomiest of forecasts - it's about changing your mindset.

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"Imagine a therapy that had no known side effects, was readily available, and could improve your cognitive functioning at zero cost." That's the dramatic opening to a 2008 paper describing the promise of so-called "nature therapy" — or, as a non-academic might call it, "time outside.

Nature relieves attention fatigue and increases creativity.

Today, we live with ubiquitous technology designed to constantly pull for our attention. But many scientists believe our brains were not made for this kind of information bombardment, and that it can lead to mental fatigue, overwhelm, and burnout, requiring “attention restoration” to get back to a normal, healthy state. Researchers believe that being in nature restores depleted attention circuits, which can then help us be more open to creativity and problem-solving.

Go to a Forest. Walk slowly. Breathe. Open all your senses.

This is the healing way of Shinrin-yoku Forest Therapy, the medicine of simply being in the forest.

A University in Japan found that Shinrin-Yoku (translated as forest bathing in English) had a huge impact on our mental and physical health too. They believe that because humans evolved to be in nature that actually this is where we flourish best. F orest bathing literally means being in nature, sitting, walking and just being in forests. Throughout Japan they have different walks and trails that have equipment within it that can measure blood pressure and monitor heart rates as people are in the forest giving concrete evidence as to how nature is actually physically affecting them.

We can also consider the mindfulness perspective. Being in nature helps us to become present. Forest bathing refers to being in an environment where all your senses are engaged. Our sensory system evolved in the natural world and when we’re in those spaces, our brains become relaxed because these are things that we were designed to look at, hear and to smell.

Neuroscientists, especially in the U.K. and U.S., are starting to look at how people’s brains respond to different environments. What they’re seeing is that if their volunteers are walking through a city or noisy area, their brains are doing different things than if they are walking in a park. The frontal lobe, the part of our brain that’s hyper-engaged in modern life, deactivates a little when you are outside. Alpha waves, which indicate a calm but alert state, grow stronger. When psychologists talk about flow there seems to be a lot of alpha engagement there. Buddhist monks, meditators, are also great at engaging alpha waves.

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Ecotherapy, also known as nature therapy or green therapy, is the applied practice of the emergent field of ecopsychology, which was developed by Theodore Roszak. Ecotherapy, in many cases, stems from the belief that people are part of the web of life and that our psyches are not isolated or separate from our environment.

Scientists continue to debate the evidence around ‘Seasonal Affective Disorder’. They ask could it be that, instead of being sensitive to changes in the seasons, we’re actually suffering from a disconnection with nature?

Psychiatrist Dr Norman Rosenthal, who first described SAD, attributes these positive feelings to sunlight. “When we’re outside, bright light coming through the eyes boosts the secretion of serotonin, while UV rays on the skin stimulates endorphins. All of this contributes to an improvement in mood.”

Dr Rosenthal also recognises the specific and significant role that nature can play in our emotional wellbeing. “Being indoors creates a world that’s compartmentalised from the changing weather, landscapes and feelings. In contrast, being outside enriches our lives. Experiencing the unpredictability of the weather – a breeze over your face or an unexpected rainfall – adds variety to our lives. Smells evoke memories and thoughts and connecting with nature allows us to escape monotony,” he says.

But as well as helping us to heal our minds, contact with nature can transform us. For several years, Steve Taylor (a psychology lecturer and the author of several best-selling books on psychology and spirituality) has been researching into what he calls ‘awakening experiences’ – moments when our vision of our surroundings becomes more intense (so that they become more beautiful and meaningful than normal), and we feel a sense of connectedness to them, and towards other people. The world may somehow seem harmonious and meaningful, as a strong feeling of well-being fills us

Of course, countless poets have written of the states of awe and ecstasy they've experienced whilst alone with nature too. This is what William Wordsworth's poetry is most famous for: his sense that nature is pervaded with what he called ‘a motion and a spirit which rolls through all thinking things, and all objects of thought.' 

But the main reason why nature can heal and transform us, I believe, is because of its calming and mind-quietening effect.

In nature, our minds process a lot less information than normal, and they don't wear themselves out by concentrating. And most importantly, the beauty and majesty of nature acts a little like a mantra in meditation, slowing down the normal ‘thought-chatter’ which runs chaotically through our minds.

As a result, an inner stillness and energy fills us, generating a glow of being and intensifying our perceptions. 

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Main sources of reference:

  • Journal of Environmental Psychology, 1995; Journal of Environmental Psychology, 2005; Psychological Science, 2012
  • Biomedical and Environmental Sciences, 2012; Journal of Cardiology, 2012
  • http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/02/nature-fix-brain-happy-florence-williams/
  • http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health-fitness/body/have-got-nature-deficit-disorder-ditch-gym-time-get-outdoors/ 
  • http://www.natureandforesttherapy.org/uploads/8/1/4/4/8144400/friluftsliv_scandanavian_philosophy_of_outdoor_life.pdf
  • http://www.macsadventure.com/walking-holidays/friluftsliv-a-norwegian-philosophy/
  • http://www.shinrin-yoku.org/shinrin-yoku.html
  • https://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/types/econature-therapy
  • https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/out-the-darkness/201204/the-power-nature-ecotherapy-and-awakening
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The powerful truths about travel

I recently became a 'traveller'. After spending my 20’s too scared to get on a plane on my own, by the time my early 30’s came around curiosity had got the better of me and I took my first solo trip abroad. It was hugely daunting but ultimately a profound and pivotal moment in my own journey of personal discovery. 

Then last year my New Years intention was to create a year of 'experiences' and what then unfolded was a year of travelling, of culture, of embracing the tiny everyday details of life with fresh eyes.

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My entire experience of life changed profoundly, my comfort zone was blown wide open and my personal growth skyrocketed.

Over the last 12 months or so I have spent time with the Merkaba Community in Portugal, the ISKON community in Spain, the Madhyamaka Kadampa Meditation Centre Buddhist community in York and the Osho Leela Community in Dorset. Each time it has offered me a beautiful insight into alternative perspectives, routines and norms and in many cases really challenged my thinking. 

Living the lives of other communities teaches me so much and allows me to observe my own day-to-day world more powerfully than the nature of travelling on trips and holidays and observing from the peripheries.

Understanding that their way of being is not 'temporary' and that this is what real life is like, makes it all the more real for me. Going back to my 'normal' reminds me that the small (I admit sometimes frustrating) details of everyday life- however permanent, essential, ingrained and routine they may appear, are all within our control to change and shift. Nothing is permanent. The way we live our lives is for the most part based upon nothing more than a series of habits and social conditioning that we always have the choice to step into or away from. 

In moments of frustration at myself, at society, at the rut I may feel stuck in, at the 'shoulds' in my decision making... remembering this is all a choice for everyone of us in each and every moment is both an incredibly powerful and humbling reminder. 

As I began to create this blog post in my mind, I decided to reach out to other professionals in the world of self development, to understand how travelling and time spent with other communities and cultures had also enriched their lives and how their own personal development had evolved more deeply as a result.

What quickly became apparent and intriguing is the patterns that began to show...embracing the unknown, the subtle appreciation of another's culture, a shift in viewpoint, inner trust, a guiding intuition... These fundamental gifts found here through travel can be universal to us all, gifts that money cannot buy and that age, race and gender don't touch.

I'd love to share their beautiful stories with you...

 

Kama Frankling - Photograher

Travel Removes The Blindfold of My Mind. Travel opens my eyes to what is possible. While travelling I am reminded of how confident and capable I am when I need to be. Each moment is unpredictable and unfolds as it unfolds. While travelling I lose the false perception that I have control. There is no choice but to be with what arises as it arises. Travel keeps me in the present moment reminding me that life is only in each moment. Travel reminds me that everything is changing constantly, that each moment in life is precious and to be savoured. Travel gives me fresh eyes to see the world as if seeing it for the first time. Travel is the perfect awareness practice, moments in time so appreciated that they awaken the senses and remind me to live each day without the blinkers of my mind.

www.hatehavingmyphototaken.com  |   facebook.com/Hatehavingmyphototaken

 

Fiona Cooper - Motivational Life Coach

Living and working all over the world has been a privilege which I’m becoming ever more grateful to have had. I have lived in a generation where freedoms were real and where nearly all of the world was open to us. Many of my friends travelled to Kashmir and Afghanistan before they were closed and I have lived and worked in all continents apart from Africa. Being a motivational life coach, I’m fascinated by the way we use language to define ourselves and to create our reality.  Living overseas it has become more and more evident that every nation uses language differently and the words we use are key to how we live our lives and see ourselves. 

In France “bon appetit” is at the beginning of every meal and food is central in the language and culture. In Canada and North America (for the most part), sarcasm and irony are not understood (making our British sense of humour completely lost on most people) – but this leaves an honesty we are perhaps lacking sometimes in the UK – in the States you know where you stand.  New Zealand has a “can do” attitude which I haven’t seen matched elsewhere in the world – they have a phrase “the No 8 wire” which basically means you can fix anything with the right attitude.  Knowing and understanding these nuanced differences has made me all the more aware of our individual differences and the importance we should put on the actual words we choose to express ourselves particularly when we’re using words to define ourselves (something we do the whole time).  What words are you using to define your world?  Are there any words you might want to change?

Fiona Cooper is a Motivational Life Coach helping busy parents build the life of their dreams.  Her website is ficooper.com and she has a group on facebook called Dream Weave Achievers.

 

Kat Gal - Holistic Life Coach & Health Writer

To me the ultimate act of self-love is freedom: allowing myself to experience freedom, allowing myself the freedom to be my true self, the freedom to follow my heart and my intuition, the freedom to follow my dreams, the freedom to walk my own journey, the freedom to change direction whenever I want to or need to, the freedom to be present moment, the freedom to let go of all expectations, the freedom to let go of comparisons, the freedom to be vulnerable and authentic, the freedom to trust the process, the freedom to take risks, the freedom to feel alive, the freedom to be free, and the freedom to just simply be. Freedom has always been one of my highest values, and as a nomad I have valued my freedom for years. Self-love was something I had to learn and develop as an adult, and I am still learning every single day. When I realized that freedom and self-love ultimately meant the same thing for me, it was a life-changing a ‘aha’ moment.

Traveling allows me to practice freedom and self-love. Being at a new place, especially when traveling solo, I arrive with a clean slate with a childlike curiosity, with the opportunity to discover the world and in the process get to know myself. Returning to a familiar place - perhaps home or a place I know well – or being with familiar people allows me to practice this same freedom and self-love in an environment where society (and my past self) has already hung multitudes of labels on me. My travel experiences help this process greatly. Besides travel, ecstatic dance, writing, running, nature walk and family constellations are the most helpful tools to experience freedom and self-love as result.

facebook.com/arawtransformation  |   website: https://becomeahealthcoachblog.wordpress.com  |  Freelance writing: http://katgalwriting.weebly.com

 

Shelly Najjar - Bucket list and travel blogger

I am bolder because of my travel experience. Much of my fear comes from The Unknown, in life or when traveling... and there are plenty of unknowns in travel. It’s probably good that my first introduction to it was when I was very small, before I knew to be afraid. We continued traveling as a family as I was growing up. It showed me that traveling was safe and that The Unknown holds great opportunity. From my parents’ example, I learned how to be flexible and to deal with situations as they come up. At home, I’m not what anyone would consider a flexible person, and that’s often because I’m trying to control everything. However, when I travel, I can be my “travel self”: the person who approaches challenging situations with the mindset of “That’s just part of traveling. I can figure this out.” I’m finding that the more I travel (both independently, and with friends), the more my “travel self” is becoming my “home self” - I’m more flexible and less afraid, and I have the grace and confidence to face the things that make me nervous.

www.thegoallist.com   |   facebook.com/thegoallist   |   IG: @thegoallist   |   TW: @goallisttweets

 

Francesca Gentille - Certified Clinical Sexologist

I used to think I would travel when I had more time, money, health, lost weight, or the right partner. At 55, I was done waiting. I made a commitment to myself to do it. I bought a roundtrip ticket to Italy for 5 weeks. Now at 60, walking with a cane, waiting for a hip replacement I'm still rockin traveling, teaching, & enjoying my friends in Italy & Malta.  Traveling has taught me that when I can combine vision and action, I can do anything. “Until one is committed, there is  hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too." Goethe.

www.francescagentille.com   |    www.facebook.com/francesca.gentille   |   @Francescadiva

Silvia Martin.jpg
 

Silvia Martin - Breakup Coach

Wherever you go, there you are. Traveling makes you expand that comfort zone. It exposes you to all types of situations, some pleasant, some not so pleasant. We travel to learn, we travel for an adventure. We also travel, in many cases, to escape. We think that, maybe, under a different weather, a different language, different foods… we will be able to leave “that” behind once and for all. It hardly ever happens this way. 

Traveling has the capacity to expose us to exactly what we don’t want to face. It’s nearly ironic how we always end up having to face the very own fears we are trying to run away from. It is as if life was saying to us “look darling, I am not going to leave you alone until you are able to overcome it!” 

Being able to get through “that” thing we are running from is, in my opinion, the biggest benefit of traveling. Once you are done, you are ready to board towards your next destination. 

www.shizencoaching.com   |   IG: @shizencoaching   |   FB: facebook.com/shizencoaching   |    TW: @shizenduende

 

Ann Skinner - Coach and Creator of The Contributionist

One thing that travel has taught me is that if you want to go, just go. 25 years ago I decided I wanted to go backpacking but I had next to no money to my name. Still, I picked a date and got enough money to buy a ticket and to see me through the first month. I ended up travelling in some form or another for the next 18 months. It taught me a valuable lesson that has been proven time and time again; there is no need to plan and schedule beyond the basics as the best experiences have nearly always been the unplanned, unforeseen ones.

Travel has taught me to jump in the deep end and trust my gut and to be ready to expect nothing but the unexpected. You don't have to have it all figured out before you leave, nor do you need to have a whole load of cash in order to live a champagne and oyster lifestyle! In fact, the best currency in the world has been my smile, which I found has been freely available to me on most days.

My smile has given me more than money could ever buy and was the catalyst for many of my adventures and the start of numerous short- and longterm friendships, including a very generous champagne loving oyster farmer who kept me and my partner happily fed and watered for 6 weeks without needing anything in return beyond the pleasure of our company.

www.thecontributionevolution.com   |   FB:facebook.com/thecontributionist  |   FB group: thecontributionevolution   |   IG: @thecontributionist  |   TW: @Contributionist

 

Tess Vergara - Money and Fulfillment Coach

Recently, a client shared that one obstacle that keeps him from moving forward with his business was not having a decent place where he can conduct client meetings. He realizes this is keeping him stuck as he needs to see clients in order to get out of the place he is in right now.

I smiled and shared how for the past 2 years I'd been living a digital nomad lifestyle. My clients still love me even when I show up with no make-up, wind-blown hair wearing beach wear instead of one might expect from a business coach.

I make no apologies for coaching right on the beach with the crashing of the waves in the background.

I also shared with my client one story where, while in Santorini, Greece, I remember feeling so torn to stay in and do client calls from the hotel but at last minute took a huge risk and went with my instinct against my rational mind.

Carried up by a donkey right on the edge of the cliff of Oia, breathless and thirsty after literally crawling in scorching heat, I arrived at the peak just in perfect time to find a quiet spot away from the crowd to where there was a strong phone signal. It was so freeing and exciting to connect with my intuition that way that allowed me to meet my need for adventure as well as deliver on my commitment. A story that emboldened me to follow my path to freedom.

www.openheartmindcoaching.com   |   FB: facebook.com/OpenHeartMindCoaching   |   Unlocking the Heart of Money Facebook Group   |   LinkedIn: @openheartmindcoaching

 

Gloria Coppola -  Lifestyle Consultant Clarity Coach & SoulPurpose Sage

We stand at the gateway and often don't walk through, doubting, fearing or unsure of what is expected if we do! When we make the decision to take the chance, to listen, our lives will forever change and a gateway of wisdom will be shown to you.

Travel has influenced my mindset, my insights and allowed me to explore unknown parts of my self.  One of the most impactful experiences was a trip to Egypt that would forever shift my perception of life....and death!  I Arrived in Egypt approximately two months after the tragic and unexpected death of my spouse while I was still in a deep and dark depression.

I recall standing on the  hotel viranda as the sun set, thinking how did I get here? The pyramids were surreal and I had no idea what I was about to experience.

Had I tapped into the great mystery?

Was I experiencing an altered reality? A dimensional shift?

A subconscious paradigm? A dream? 

Was I walking between two worlds?

Whatever this was, I was able to walk with my ancestors. To hear them guide me with words of wisdom. My loved ones would embrace me and I would be at peace.

Travel elevates me! Inspires me! Teaches me and taps into my soul more deeply than any book or workshop ~ It's a living history, an envelopment of spirit beyond words ~ it is transcending.

www.GloriaCoppola.com/blog   |   FB: facebook.com/soulFULLpurpose


Let us know what comes up for you as you read these stories and reflect on your own. Have you travelled or would you like to?  

Can you relate to the experiences of your own life adventures even if you haven't travelled... sometimes the biggest adventures of our lives are to be found in our own cities, neighbourhoods, homes and hearts.

Much love,

 

I hope you found this post inspiring...

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Living fearlessly?

I hear a lot about ‘living fearlessly’, it’s bounced around in quotes across the internet. It’s heavily used particularly within the realms of female entrepreneurship, and the language typically has a tone of being highly prized, as something to aspire to. 

I appreciate there are many ways to interpret this sentiment, but for me this idea of living fearless, does not quite sit comfortably. 

The title of famous book ‘Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway’ by Susan Jeffers, connects with me much more deeply.  Within the book she says, “By re-educating the mind, you can accept fear as simply a fact of life rather than barrier to success”. 

I don’t think it’s about removing or diminishing ours fear and becoming ‘fearless’, I think it’s more about: 

Allowing them, 
Feeling them,
Leaning in to them, 
Honouring them,

…and forging ahead regardless. 

Being fearless to me implies almost a lack or separation of emotion or connection within. It creates a sense of distance from an aspect of ourselves and that is not the space from which I want to pursue my life goals. 

You CAN live bravely and boldly, without living fearlessly. 

Feeling the fear and acknowledging it gives me the cue that I am dealing with something meaningful in my life. It’s my radar in how I show up in the world and what is deserving of my attention. 

Do you aspire to living a ‘fearlessly’?

What does that idea mean to you? 


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Tags ,

THE COMMUNITY OF THE 'MYSTIC HEART'...

I was priviledged to spend the May bank holiday weekend 'working' at Osho Leela, Dorset for the Mystic Heart Festival along with some wonderful friends. My work simply consisted of building and tending the fire for the spiritual firewalk on Saturday night so there was plenty of time to relax and take in the setting for the three days. 

Wow, what an experience and another huge step in mind expansion. This festival was an observation of community living as i'd never seen it before...

Over the last 12 months I have spent time with the Merkaba Community in Portugal, the ISKON community in Spain, the Madhyamaka Kadampa Meditation Centre Buddhist community in York and now the Osho Leela Community in Dorset. Each time it has offered me a beautiful insight into alternative perspectives, routines and norms and in many cases really challenged my thinking.

To me Osho Leela was a community of pure heart felt love merging with hedonism. Taboos and 'Britishness' were totally broken away in the displays of affection from human to human. The safe space to 'be ourselves' was dramatic and profound as men and woman openly broke down in often loud and noisy acts of emotional outpouring during workshops and sessions 

I have never before been held and hugged by so many strangers multiple times a day, I have never before been greeted upon arrival with a full on dance rave, I have never before taken part in a 'dynamic meditation' early in the morning that was so full on with physical outbursts from others around the room (it involved shouting, screaming and flinging cushions around!) that it brought me to tears of emotional overwhelm.

Living the lives of other communities teaches me so much and allows me to observe my own day-to-day world more powerfully than the nature of travelling on trips and holidays and observing from the peripheries. 

Understanding that their way of being is not 'temporary' and that this is what real life is like, makes it all the more real for me. Going back to my 'normal' reminds me that the small (I admit sometimes frustrating) details of everyday life- however permanent, essential, ingrained and routine they may appear, are all within our control to change and shift. Nothing is permanent. They way we live our lives is for the most part base upon nothing more than a series of habits and social conditioning that we always have the choice to step into or away from.

In moments of frustration at myself, at society, at the rut I may feel stuck in, at the 'shoulds' in my decision making... remembering this is all a choice for everyone of us in each and every moment is both an incredibly powerful and humbling reminder.

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Cake and a Scavenger Hunt... round two at Madhyamaka Meditation Centre

I am writing this on the evening of my final day of my second stay at Madhyamaka Buddhist Meditation Centre (here is the story of my first and in re-reading it again I feel exactly the same this time around). Once again it was a wonderful week of reflection, stillness and mindful duties.

I decided to take time out over my birthday... this is becoming something of a tradition for me! Last year I spent the entire month of May with the Merkaba Community living of grid in the mountains of Portugal, and the year before I took my first ever solo trip abroad to Lanzarote- which then led to my retreats! 

This past week I have painted railings, scrubbed paving stones, weeded the garden, worked in the shop, cleared the sawdust from a newly built kitchen, carried rubbish across the site...

I also made an epic chocolate cake and designed a fun scavenger hunt!

The chocolate and raspberry brownie cake I made this afternoon was something of a leaving gift to the other residents and volunteers. I wasn't initially going to provide the full recipe here as it wasn't particularly heathy (plenty of sugar and wheat flour and vegetable oil as that is all I had available) and the main focus on this occasion was that is was vegan since there were a few vegan volunteers and no vegan sweets other than fruit.

However, it was a totally delicious cake and so I have provided notes of ways to make it healthier if you were so inclined. I'd definitely make it again using those tweaks. The recipe is featured at the bottom of this post (apologies for awful photos that do not do the cake justice- we were too eager to scoff it- I had kept them waiting all day since I announced it at breakfast time after all!)

I still managed to hide some veg in it and nope, no one guessed the secret ingredient, ha ha ;-)

We did have one other vegan cake during my week here. It was a yummy banana cake that was baked as a belated birthday treat for me by one of the residents here- a guy called Jonathan. I was so excited by and grateful for his kind gesture. ;-)

My birthday cake from Jonathan!

My birthday cake from Jonathan!

My chocolate cake gift (and some of the crew!)

My chocolate cake gift (and some of the crew!)

My favourite 'job' was to design a scavenger hunt for the members of the public when they visit. I made two versions- inside and outside. 

What I loved most about putting it together was the way to forced me to 'see' the world anew as I took photos of items throughout the site. I explored my surroundings through entirely new eyes, looking for the details so easily overlooked. 

For the first time I truly saw the patterns, the textures, the side and rear views, the colours and shapes out of the context of 'general magnificence'. I looked above me and below me to frame a view rarely seen but now given a space for appreciation evermore. I'd never noticed before the carved underside of the huge stone entrance canopy but it was absolutely beautiful and now everytime I walk through the main entrance doors I glance up and smile inside.

When you focus in on the details you see them in their true beauty. Without context you loose sense of expectation and your brain can not 'fill in the gaps' it otherwise would do. 

I remember when I was an art student in my late teens, on every trip I went I'd take my sketch book and pencils. One holiday with my boyfriend at the time, i'd woken up long before he had and after a while not wanting to wake him, I started to draw him. From the angle I was sat his head was upside to me... and so I literally drew the shapes I saw in front of me and not the human features my brain told me were there. It was a quick ten minute sketch as he woke shortly after I began, but to this day I still think it is one of the best drawings I have ever created.

@@I wonder what might be created if you quite literally viewed your world from a new perspective?@@ 

A few other mementos I am bringing home with me... more fallen branches to make new dreamcatcher wall hangings, and lots of wild garlic growing in abundance in the woodland garden. Hopefully a recipe using that to come soon!

 

Recipe: Chocolate and Raspberry Brownie Cake

Note: all quantities are approximate since I had no measuring implements and worked on the basis of visual quantities and intuition. :-) If the final mixed  batter is nice and thick and drops loosely from a spoon you've got it right (if not add a little extra milk or flour).

Makes a large cake pan approx 8x15inch (halve the recipe for a regular cake pan)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups non-dairy milk
  • 1 large banana
  • 2/3 cup veg oil*
  • 1/3 cup raspberry jam*
  • 1 fist sized sweet potato 
  • 3 cups plain flour*
  • 1 cup cocoa
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar*
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 100g bar dark chocolate (mine had freeze dried raspberries in it too) (this is optional)

Method:

Finely grate the peeled sweet potato, mash the banana well and mix together in a medium bowl. Add the milk and veg oil and mix all together well. 

In a separate large bowl, mix together all remaining dry ingredients other than the chocolate if using. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix well until you have a smooth thick batter. 

Pour into a large lined baking tin and press broken up chunks of the dark chocolate and a little extra jam if you fancy into the top.

Bake for approx. 30-35 mins at 180C (I loosely covered the top with tinfoil for the last 10 mins to prevent excess browning). A toothpick should come out clean.

Allow to cool slightly and serve hot or cool fully and serve cold. I made a hot banana custard alongside.

*HEALTHY NOTES: you could swap the veg oil for melted coconut oil, swap the jam for a refined sugar free version or use fresh/frozen raspberry chunks. You could use wholemeal spelt flour or ground oat flour (oat flour may not rise quite so much), you could use unrefined coconut sugar. You could use 100% cocoa chunks or omit the chocolate entirely.

 

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What is your 'wild'?

I posted this mini story on my personal Facebook page yesterday and it stirred quite a few hearts with people leaving beautiful and funny comments about what 'wild' meant for them. I'd love to share with you here too and to hear your thoughts...

P.s if you haven't yet read this previous post please do! (It tells of how I broke my hand all wrapped up in one of the most incredible experiences of my life!)

...a quick t-shirt selfie as I was walking into town after my hospital appointment :-)

...a quick t-shirt selfie as I was walking into town after my hospital appointment :-)

"As I sat waiting outside the hand therapy clinic this afternoon for the latest update on my hand, a lady in a wheelchair with both arms in splints pulled up beside me, she appeared to be a similar age to me. After a few moments we made eye contact and she asked what I'd done to my hand, I explained my story and she smiled and said 'the T-shirt is quite appropriate then', we laughed together but then her smile dropped and she said softly something like 'I wish I could.' 

I paused making sure I'd heard her correctly and then met her gaze and said 'well, why don't you?' Another pause. Our conversation continued for a couple minutes before I was called in to the room. 

Being 'wild' is not about going off on big adventures, bungee jumping off a cliff, doing crazy stunts or going to parties... although it can be. It's how it's often portrayed in social media. It's what gives us the FOMO.

To me, 'being wild' is about stepping away from expectation and owning who you really are inside. 

Being wild might be wearing crazy clothes, dying your hair bright pink, getting a tattoo... OR it might be much more subtle than that... stepping up and voicing an opinion, writing something vulnerable and meaningful, saying no when all around you are saying yes, quitting your 9-to-5... literally anything that pushes the limits of your own personal comfort zone!"

@@What is YOUR 'wild'? @@

 

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Firewalk instructors training… Insights from the most intense experience of my life!

It’s now 10 days since I came home from an intensive four day extreme self empowerment retreat… that is the firewalking instructors training course lead by the U.K.’s leading master fire walk trainer, Steve Consalvez who himself was trained by Tolly Burkan, the father of the global fire walking movement.

I had intentions to write this post long before now, but I’ve been processing all my thoughts and feelings as well and struggling to type with an injured arm!

It makes me smile looking back now, as I had totally underestimated the incredible impact that the course would have. I had barely mentioned it on Facebook or to friends or colleagues in the lead up, more of a flippant comment that I’d be going on another ‘self development weekend’. I had assumed it would be like many workshops I’ve been to before. How wrong could I have been!

I had no idea how profound just four days could be. In my mind it was ‘just a long weekend’… In reality those four days were so intense it could well have been two weeks as that’s what it felt like on the inside. The journey over those four days was timeless, and also pretty surreal since the days were long 9am until 11pm every single day. There was no time to chill out, to think, to process… It was all cleverly designed and structured as one of the most intense learning experiences available in the world today.

There were 10 of us, plus the crew who were there to facilitate our experience. The wonderful thing for me was the fact that all the crew had been through the full immersion experience themselves, and they shared their stories, experiences and reflections of their time in training. We were all ONE, there was no hierarchy or sense of ego. As somebody who has explored a lot around the topics of vulnerability and authenticity… this was being demonstrated at its finest throughout those four days. I was also surprised and humbled by the daring and tenacity shown by my fellow tribe, some of whom (if I’m openly honest) I may have judged on first appearances as we gathered together but who quickly blew my mind by their determination and commitment to step up to the challenges set before them.

It was probably one the most deeply authentic experiences of my entire life.

It was also an experience that pushed the limits of my comfort zone more than ever before.

I didn’t keep accurate notes of all the activities (as well as the firewalks themselves) that we were challenged with over the four days as there were so many to keep count and in many ways it didn't feel necessary. But here is a taster that gives you an insight, some you may be familiar with and others not, it doesn't matter. Going in to this experience without knowing too much is actually the best thing you can do, since out of context of this unique environment, it is impossible to fully understand and appreciate each challenge.

  • trust fall from a height
  • sweat lodge
  • arrow break on the throat
  • metal re-bar bend on the throat
  • glass walk
  • timber block break
  • concrete slab break
  • bliss peirce
  • breath work re-birthing
  • numerous team building exercises geared towards human connection, focus and attention
  • plus dancing, hugs and group shares (and everything else I have probably forgotten!)

These 'labels' alone have no meaning. Any such activity viewed in isolation will never awaken the powerful lessons contained within.

It is the metaphoric value behind the activities themselves, in the sequence that they were presented, that gave rise to the powerful life changing experience. 

How many times have you encountered the saying, "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear". The door always opens inwardly. The teacher is everywhere but only when the student it’s ready with an open mind will they receive the teaching.  My mind had never been more open in my life than during these four days.

Through these activities we understood first hand deep truths about forgiveness, acceptance, gratitude, unconditional love, vulnerability and the delicate beauty lies within each of us beneath the superficial exterior we present to the world.

We also experienced trust, overcoming and eradicating irrational fear, forgiveness, re-wiring limiting beliefs, 100% commitment to a goal, focus and attention, leadership and the rhythm of a group. A priceless opportunity.

We perceived ourselves with a fresh enlightened perspective. We saw ourselves reborn. 

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Right from the outset we hit the deep end, and this only stepped up in intensity as the days went on. Day one almost passed as if a blur. We literally hit the ground running and the 10 people I’ve never met before in my life suddenly became some of my closest friends, and they remain so. Each day began with dancing, group sharing and hugging- like full on proper eye-to-eye, heart-to-heart hugs. Each day we hugged every single person in the room- delegates and trainers alike, and we shared from the heart our deepest fears with every single a person in the room. 

Circle time was one of my favourite moments of each day. A moment to sit, be still, breathe, observe and listen to others reflections and allow our own thoughts to surface and be shared aloud. It was an incredibly safe space. There were a lot of tears, there was also lot of smiles, yet most importantly there was a huge amount of love contained within that circle. I felt as though I could’ve said anything and I would’ve been supported without question. It was such a gift to have been given that opportunity to experience.

Day two saw me face one of my biggest mental and physical challenges… the ‘board break’. I recounted the moment on Facebook later that night before I went to bed and I’ll share the extract word-for-word with you here…

"Another 14 hour day on the Firewalk Instructor Training... it was even more intense than yesterday, with some deep learnings I am only just beginning to process.

Today we took part in a board break, glass walk, trust fall at height and a spiritual chanting circular firewalk and so much more. I did it all, yet for me the board break was the most profound, and affected me more than I could have anticipated.

I watched so many of my teammates take their turn and channel their power to chop the board in half with their bare hand at their first attempt. My turn was towards the end of the group. I was feeling confident, I know I'm physically strong so had nothing to worry about. Or so I though. I was wrong.

I failed.

My hand slammed down hard on the inch thick timber slab and yet it didn't break as it had for the others. I was confused, frustrated, tears filled my eyes as I stood in front of the room with my unbroken board still balanced solid on the blocks in front of me.

I geared my myself up to try again. The room was cheering me on with support. I knew I had to give it 100%

I failed again.

I had felt so strong in my test runs but then could not translate that as I stepped up to the board. Why! What was going on! My mind chatter got in my way and I stopped short, I didn't carry through beyond the mark... after all a goal is only scored in football once it crosses the line. Where was my commitment?

Blinking back the tears that blurred my vision. My mind was whirring- desperate thoughts of wanting to prove myself and demonstrate my commitment yet my inner critic was already running riot with a smirk on its face knocking my confidence and placing doubt in my mind. I was frustrated that my weakness was so clearly manifest, that my inner voice had popped up sabotage my day in front of a room of people.

So then I began analysing. Overthinking. Getting stuck in my head. Trying to regain control. Tracking back through my actions to see where I 'went wrong'... the stability of my stance, the swing of my shoulder, the alignment of my arm and position of my palm. Asking questions, my mind awash with too many thoughts.

But...

There was nothing I had 'done wrong'. Power is all in the mind. That's where the connection is made. That's where the energy comes from. That's the source of flow. That's how the board gets broken.

I was offered one final chance. I had to overcome this mental barrier. I had to overcome the mental noise. Now.

I knew the placement of my body and it was time to trust. Get out of my head and trust. Give 110% and trust.

I stepped up to the board and looked beyond it at the floor two feet below. That was my aim, there nothing that could stand in my way. It all happened in a split second so that I didn't have time to think- only do.

With one final roar and swing of my arm the board snapped clean in two and clattered to the floor.

I'd done it and my amazing team mates celebrated my victory as I made my way back to my chair. Still feeling teary, exposed and vulnerable but incredibly grateful and proud that of overcome such a huge personal mental hurdle."

Day three brought more challenges… both physical and mental. I remember during the circle share that morning one of the tribe joked that he couldn’t believe there was so much more to come since we’d already achieved so much more than we thought possible during the previous two days! I know we all nodded in agreement with that sentiment.

For me, day three’s biggest challenge was taking part in a sweat lodge experience. The thought of being packed in together in intense sauna heat in pitch black darkness for an entire hour made my heart race with nervous anticipation. But I lasted the full hour! I was so proud. It was a deeply connecting, spiritual experience as we all sat tucked up around the edge inside a small yurt, cloaked in towels as red hot rocks were laid in the centre and we shared from the heart into the sweat. Into the darkness.

I recall feeling a huge lull of energy in the late afternoon that day, after the experience of the sweat lodge had simultaneously energised and depleted me. My self doubt surfaced and my confidence wavered following such huge awareness around the extent of my inner blocks and resistance that had shown up the day before, and then in that moment even more so. I hadn't yet processed the awareness enough to know what to do with new level of understanding or how to handle it and so it played on my over-thinky mind all the more, leaving me ungrounded- a vicious cycle! An increasing awareness settled in of the retreat moving towards it’s final day and so did my fears of not been able to take home the incredible lessons and action them in my life. 

There were many tears shed that afternoon, all of which subsided as together we built our fire and I fully immersed myself in the team spirit, the glow, and the power of the flames and the heat of the burning coals as we completed 5 more firewalks under the light of the full moon.

Day four, the final day, showed me the lessons I would need to take into my future… and and gave me the gift of slowing down to the speed of life. It was not at all in a way that I could have expected!

I broke my hand.

In a similar vein as with the board break, but this time using a different striking action, the challenge was to break an inch thick concrete slab. The fear was simmering within me as I watched the others take the stage and break through.  They had all done it. I wasn’t going to back out now though it took huge metal strength to overcome the inner dialogue that was trying to hold me back.

I stepped up and practiced my test runs as all the others had done under Barry’s supervision to ensure I had the angle, the drive and mental attitude all correctly in place. I thought that if anything were to let me down it would be my overthinking mind and so I decided that I would take one final practice strike and then immediately step forward to the slab itself and drive straight through no room for thinking …Just doing.

Strike one…. practice.

Strike two… I broke the slab clean in half!

The room erupted into shrieks and applause. I hugged Barry so full of relief and pride. I had no idea that as well as the concrete slab I had also broken my hand. In fact I still had no idea until the following day when I took myself off to hospital.  As I look back at the video retrospectively, I can see the angle of my fist tilted slightly as I hit the slab and so my little finger bore the brunt. 

There had been very little pain, maybe that was because the evening was awash with team euphoria as we built a circle of three long ‘rail road’ fires and each walked 108 times over the burning coals. It was so surreal and I didn't want the experience to end!! I looked at my feet immediately after the '108' and there was no soreness and not even a single mark on them! How could this even be possible when I'd spent the last 30 minutes walking over burning hot coals?

The highlight of the final evening was further intensified as we had a live Skype call with Tolly Burkan himself. He shared wonderful stories to set the scene and then opened up for questions. I asked him two questions relating to mindset, diet and sprituality, which I will likely share in a seperate blog post. I felt like a proper fan girl having so recently read his incredible autobiography - ‘Dying To Live’ (my advice: get clued up on Tolly’s teaching and his books).

Before the evening erupted into a farewell party the space was created for one final group share. A chair was placed on the stage before the rest the tribe looking onwards. We each took a turn to share our thoughts on anything and everything we had just experienced over the last four days. Wow, where to begin- there were no words! 

Just before we spoke we were asked to gaze in silence into the eyes (left eye to left eye), of each member of the tribe and the crew sat before us, one by one. It was incredibly moving.

I realised in that moment that eyes truly are the windows to the soul and that as human beings we don’t look into the eyes of others nearly enough. We don’t connect with the souls of each other. In the eyes of those before me, people who had been strangers just four days before, I could just see limitless love. Pure, non-judging, freely given, powerful love. 

I can still feel it now. There have been few moments in my life when there is no noise, no overthinking thoughts, no busyness in my mind… this was one of them. My body felt still, quiet, grounded and empowered.  My heart ruled my head and I was filled with a deep sense of unconditional love.

Then of course followed the after party… we all knew that we would soon be leaving this cocoon of safety, this incredible environment in which we had all grown so much more than we could ever have imagined. None of us wanted to leave, but as the clock ticked past midnight on Sunday 12th March. We slowly begant to collect our things and accept that we all needed to go back to the real world and start living out our truth and sharing the message with others.

Over the last 10 days, upon learning how I broke my hand some people have said things along the lines of: “ I bet you regret chopping that concrete slab?”

My answer is no. No I don’t regret it. 

Out of the context of the deep self empowerment training we experienced it may not make sense, I totally get that.

Yes it’s been frustrating at times, yes it’s meant I’ve had to take time out of my business, yes it’s meant I’ve had to rely on others for help, yes my plans have had to change to accommodate.

But there have been beautiful gifts in all of this. 

I’ve had to think outside the box in how I approach my life and my business. I’ve had to ask others for help and appreciate that help in the many small ways I would never otherwise have seen. I’ve had the opportunity to receive so many wonderful offers of support and feel truly humbled. 

Most of all I’ve had to continue to play big and go beyond my comfort zone.

On so many occasions over the last few months I've mentioned to friends and colleagues that I tend to 'hide' behind my blog, behind the written word, behind my photography and design skills… And I don’t reach out to the world and connect with people in real life with my energy and voice in the way that I should. I now smile with the irony that the universe came along to help me out in its own unique and funny way. Over the last 10 days, without the use of my right hand, I have ONLY had my energy and my voice to connect with people. What a lesson and a gift!

In life you can choose to stay small or play full-out.

The fire walk instructors training retreat gives you all the tools you could ever need to truly play full out IF you choose to step up and do so.

When you play full out in life there will ALWAYS be risks (I don’t simply mean injury). If you don’t take risks, if you don’t fail, if you’re not prepared to receive a ‘no’ then you can NEVER win. You can never find out who you truly have the capacity to become.

In scrolling through my Facebook feed from the time of the fire walk I found this post, shared amidst a haze of pure euphoria late on the very last evening of the retreat that pretty much sums it all up!

"I AM NOW a certified fire walking instructor ...and the epicness comes to a wonderful close! I simply cannot fully describe the depths of my soul that I explored this weekend! My voice is hoarse from all the chanting, dancing, singing, screaming, yelling, laughing this evening… I walked 108 firewalks non-stop under a full moon with a group incredible friends I felt I've known for an eternity. I drive home now with so much love overflowing in my heart... So much love. Love love love."


If you are interested in learning more about the Propulsion Retreat- the 4-day fire walking empowerment intensive course… you’ll find full details HERE.  

You can also watch a short video compilation from the retreat I attended below...

I’d also love to connect with you, to share with you some of the gifts that I have learnt throughout this experience and to listen to your own story. As a creativity coach, I am always looking to get curious with every aspect of the human experience… and every single thing about this experience pushed me to the max. It’s right up there in my ‘life best bits’ so far.

All images are taken by Nick Boyle and credited to firewalk.co.uk

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Instead of shutting down to your own limitations, open up to curiosity.

 

This speech by Chelsea Dinsmore of Live Your Legend really moved me. Eighteen months ago her husband Scott- founder of LYL, was killed in a freak accident by a boulder whilst they were both climbing Mt Kilimanjaro. The news rocked me surprisingly hard as I had been a close follower of LYL as I made my own huge life transitions beginning back in 2012.

Watching her strength bloom this last 18 months has been so inspiring. Maybe it's the affinity I had with the blog from my early days, maybe it's her energy, her passion and curiosity for life, or the fact she is the same age as me.

Or maybe it's none of those things.

This is a 25 minute speech given by Chelsea at the World Domination Summit in 2016. It's very worthy of your time.

 

These are my takeaways...

"If you stay endlessly curious, it inspires you to get creative. It forces you to figure it out even when you don’t know how.  And when you’re able to pair that curiosity with a meaning greater than your own, that is when you become limitless."

 

"When you spend your time doing the things that you love you give a gift to those that receive it."

 

 "when you question not WHAT you can do, but WHY it's important to you, the HOW reveals itself" 

 

 

If you were able to let go of your limitations and open up to curiosity what could you create in your life?

Loving you, and creating space for you to embrace your journey. Always

 

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THE 'REAL' ME… and why I am NOT a ‘health coach’

I woke up this morning (Tuesday 21st February 2017) as if from a dream with the following words on the tip of my tongue. Literally. I was scrabbling in my ‘eyes-half-open-sleepy-state’ for a pencil and notepad (yes, it had to be a pencil I hate writing in pen!) to put them down on paper before they left my mind with the morning light.

“I am a creativity coach. I work with people who have lost their mojo for life and want to access their innate creativity. I believe we were all born to create. I believe the essential ingredients for deep lifelong creativity are exactly the same for everybody: curiosity, courage, commitment, permission and trust - and those elements are universally accessible.

Moving towards a more plant-based wholefood diet is one of the key tools I use to optimise that process and set the body-mind magic in motion…”


Oh my gosh. When I re-read the words back to myself once written down, I felt euphoric. As if my mind and body had truly aligned and for the very first time and I was sharing 100% ME with the wider world. The resistance had gone and it was like my heart was saying ‘finally, you figured it out!’

By mid morning I had already updated my landing page and my social media accounts with this subtle- but oh so significant shift in words. My energy feels entirely different.. a huge lightness and I can’t stop smiling!

I realised I had been holding so much back from you all, because on some deeper level a voice inside still kept telling me that you were only here for the recipes and I shouldn’t stray too far from that as I am ‘health coach’ after all. Of course creating recipes was how Including Cake first began it’s life and indeed it is still a huge part of my world- arguably the biggest catalyst to literally EVERYTHING my life now is.

My biggest drivers in life are creativity and curiosity and that is not limited to recipes and mindset brain dumps. There are so many more things that make me ’come alive’ that I haven’t really dared share so much with you, things such as… making dreamcatchers, pole fitness, graphic design, yoga, sharethelove letters, handstands, dreaming about micro-houses, exploring other cultures, going barefoot, and so much more…

A handstand in wellies during a winter walk whilst volunteering at a Buddhist Meditation Centre.

A handstand in wellies during a winter walk whilst volunteering at a Buddhist Meditation Centre.

I realised in hindsight that labelling myself a ‘health coach’ was maybe the most detrimental thing I could have done.

But I had no idea what to call myself back when I began my health coach training with IIN in 2013 (which I totally loved by the way). So when people asked me ‘what do you do?’ (to be honest I still sometimes struggle with this part as my mind floods with all the things I love and I end up rambling like an excitable child) I would simply adopt the answer ‘health coach’ as it felt the most obvious thing to say… but I would cringe inside when I then heard people say to others in the room ‘Ooooh you should speak to Jo, she’s a nutritionalist’. I have nothing against nutritionalists, but I am quite simply not one- I am a full on creative with ADHD tendencies- I barely weigh my ingredients for recipes let alone know the technical stats! I see big picture. I work on intuition. 

I found that people were coming to me for help with their 'nutrition' issues and whilst of course I cared and wanted to help, I had no desire to coach specifically around it, it wasn't my passion. My heart did not reside there.

So I took a back step. I felt overwhelmed and confused. I told myself that maybe I wasn't cut out to be a coach after all. Maybe I should focus on my other endeavours such as Wholeplus and my design business.  I lost confidence as a coach as I couldn't see the bigger picture laid out for me.

The label I had created for myself was now my barrier...

A few weeks ago, early in the New Year, when I was reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert (incredible book by the way!), it triggered a huge insight. I resonated so strongly with the message of ‘creativity’ in the broadest sense that I knew this is the direction I needed to actively venture. 

So here I am. A creativity coach… and I can’t wait to explore more deeply with you how that will manifest now that I am allowing myself to ‘own’ that title. Yep I’m owning it. Gonna wear it like a badge. ;-)

So, what does all this have to do with a plant-based wholefood diet…

Aha… sooooo much more than I ever realised, even though it’s directly been my own experience. Yep, another huge moment of realisation that hit me smack in the face!

I put the following question out into a few Facebook groups not knowing what would show up…

“Is anyone else here vegan? (or maybe even vegetarian, or have cut sugar out and switched to a wholefood diet). I'm doing a bit of research and I'm very curious to know- have you felt more creative since making the transition? 

I got so many responses, and to my joy, about 80% said they did indeed feel more creative!  These were some comments:

I went vegetarian the beginning of last year and have gone vegan this month, I have to say my creativity has increased! I am drawing and painting again, something I haven't done in a long time. Also in the way I am being creative in my wardrobe and dressing more how I want too!
Yes! absolutely it has! I have been vegan just over a year and it has had a positive impact on all areas of my life. I think on a deeper level, I am more connected to the earth and I am more peaceful (unless I am poorly!) I have had more creative ideas and energy to make them a reality.
I am much more creative since going vegan. I'm not sure if it has to do with nutrition as much as living a more authentic and value based lifestyle. It has pushed me out of the dissatisfied way I had been living. I'm also more fearless, I try new things all the time. 
I'm not vegan, but I feel like a brand new person when I go vegetarian. I am in the process of switching back. I've been eating meat for a couple of months, and I feel icky.
Same..... when I eat REALLY clean and am well hydrated I'm like this AMAZING person, So why oh why do I keep falling off the wagon.
I am much more creative since going vegan. I'm not sure if it has to do with nutrition as much as living a more authentic and value based lifestyle. It has pushed me out of the dissatisfied way I had been living. I'm also more fearless, I try new things all the time.
A vegetarian for 30 years, I then embraced a raw vegan lifestyle about 3 years ago which totally changed me. I suddenly felt connected with the earth, with nature, with life in a way I never had before. Alive, creative, excited.... It was transformative! 3 years down the line I don't eat a wholly raw diet any more, I eat a mostly vegan diet (eggs from my pet ducks when they're laying) but with a high proportion of raw because when you eat raw foods you really feel the life-force, the energy, of those foods going into your body and it's wonderful
I can certainly relate to this. I’ve metamorphosed from a bored meal provider into an enthusiastic, energetic and lovable (well my family believe so) server of wholesome foods. Ones creative energies seem to open up in so many areas of ones life.
Yes, not only in cooking but other ways too. I always have been the type to look outside the box anyway, but this perspective on life has changed the way I look at things even more.

 

It was truly beautiful, and so my understanding shifted more deeply once again... 

I coach creativity in the deepest sense of a life being driven more by curiosity than by fear (to take Liz Gilberts words, thanks Liz!) My primary tool in accessing this innate creativity is moving towards a plant-based wholefoods diet. A total mind body connection that can set the amazing magic in motion. I had been practicing it myself all along along without even realising it.

It’s not just comments on Facebook that align with this way of thinking. I began a little research and found various articles also alluding to this sense of creativity and connectedness... 

Not hard core science? No, maybe not. But in truth I am not looking for science- I am simply focussing on sharing the inspiration that I know in my heart and mind can create the deepest results.

I feel I still have so much more to say, but i’ll wrap this up for now and include my thoughts and inspirations on books, TED talks, quotes and anything else that lights me up as a separate article.

Still with me? Wow… you are super hardcore. So much love winging it’s way to you!

If this resonates with you and you’d like to connect. I am all yours- please reach out and message me with how you want to create your most powerful life and we’ll take it from there. Or if you are still not sure, but you know that your creative energy has been stirred within, I’m all yours too.

 

Why not sign up for my newsletter in my sidebar where you get blog post round ups and a little love, plus other good things (like special offers) right there in your inbox. 

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How do you practice 'me' time... try Thai Yoga Massage?

I have been thinking a lot about self-care recently. My 'me' time most often consists of being active. Being immersed in a sweaty gym class, out for a long walk across the fields, yoga or lifting heavy weights in my PT sessions. All this activity takes its toll in the body, regardless of how 'balanced' the various activities may be. I realised last year that my 'me' time was not the same as self-care, and that this needed addressing.

(I have actually have no idea why I am striking this ridiculous pose whilst out for a walk in the woods!)

(I have actually have no idea why I am striking this ridiculous pose whilst out for a walk in the woods!)

Do I prioritise enough 'me' time? Or maybe more importantly, I then re-framed this question- do I tune into my body and create space for optimising how I feel and function?

I love having massages and have seen various wonderful massage therapists (as well as osteopaths and chiropractors) over the years whether it be purely for pleasure or as a remedial effort. I realised I needed to honour this more consistently in ensuring my body is optimised.

A couple of years ago I met Ana Benedict- the thai massage therapist at 'Thai Yoga Massage'We connected over our mutual love of health, vegan food and overall outlook on life.

What I love about Thai massage, and the reason I keep going back, is that it feels almost like a cross between massage and physio- both pleasurable and remedial! All the benefits of massage with the peace of mind that my entire body has had an MOT and any areas of tightness or potential issue have been dealt with.  

I also love that I feel chilled out but fully alert throughout. It means I can have wonderful conversations and absorb the brilliant insights Ana shares- and there are a lot of them! As someone that has worked with a lot of coaches in the past, this feels as good as many coaching sessions, with space to simply 'be' and share what's on my mind without judgement. This is a gift Ana has and for me the entire experience is priceless because of it.

As well as massage, Ana also holds qualifications in cognitive hypnotherapy, NLP (Master Practitioner level) and Reiki (teacher level), and has completed additional training in Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) ...so you really do get a lot more than a massage.

Thailand and Thai massage is also dear to me as my sister is living out there at the moment, and I have always had a deep affinity with the principles of the Buddhist culture. Here's a funny story- when I visited my sister in Thailand for a month last year, I stopped in Chaing Mai city for one final time before heading to the airport to fly home. I had two hours to kill so decided to treat myself to my one final massage. When you lay down to begin, the masseurs will often ask in broken english something like 'how strong?'. Well I do love a good hard massage given the choice so I said 'strong please' then adding 'I do like it very strong' (thinking why not make the most of it as I wont be here any longer). Oh my gosh, it was the most eye watering experience EVER... at the end of 90 minutes she was literally holding on the rails of the curtained off cubicle and trampling over my back as it she was making wine! But I tell you what... I felt amazing afterwards ;-) 

In case you are worried reading that... Ana is nothing like that, she is incredibly intuitive and I never have to say a word and it is always just right.

Here we are a few weeks ago at the end of a session. :-)

So, what actually is Thai Yoga Massage?

As taken from Ana's website:  

"Thai Yoga Massage dates back more than 2,500 years and differs from other forms of massage in that no oils are used and the client remains fully clothed. Treatments are also given on a floor mat or futon as opposed to a massage couch.

Acupressure and stretches are used to release tension and encourage healthy energy flow in the body. In addition to the traditional techniques, Ana draws upon her training in sports and remedial massage to further maximise the benefits.

The result is an invigorating ‘workout’ of the soft tissues and joints. Think of it as the yoga class where someone else does the work for you!"

If you are short on time but you body is high in tension, Thai massage can also be carried out as a 'Thai Power Break' on an ergonomically designed chair- which is what you see in the festival photos below.

For those in the North Herts area, I wholeheartedly recommend you see Ana if you resonate with the above and would like to step up to creating a consistent self care routine that optimises you body. Her wisdom with the world is priceless and I feel privileged to call her a friend. :-)

I have a personal referral code if you decide to book with her... simply quote: INCAKE20 when you book your session.

You can check out her website HERE and Facebook page HERE.

P.s I am not being compensated to write this blog post, but for the purposes of full transparency when I mentioned my blog, she offered a complimentary treatment (the one I'd just had in the pic above) which of course I said yes to!

 

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Have you 'got your sh*t together'?

 

Forgive the language in this post, but have you... have you got your shit together?

Well, what does that phrase even mean in reality? 

This question came up in a conversation I had with a wonderful fellow coach earlier today and we laughed about it together because even though it’s something we hear all the time, neither of us actually knew what it really meant and whether we do indeed need to ‘have our shit together’ to be of powerful service to others.

The question wouldn't leave me and in reflecting on it further this afternoon, I realised this has been a key factor in my playing small in key areas of my business this last year. I had taken the idea that maybe I didn’t ‘have my shit together’ to hold myself back from putting myself out there to the world. I needed to be fixed, sorted, more knowledgable, happier, have overcome my anxiety AND THEN I would have my shit together and THEN I could get out there and help people. 

We live in a society that often makes us feel we need ‘fixing’, that we are not ‘enough’ as we are, that tempts us with impossible ideals as being the norm and subconsciously ingrains the mindset that we could do better, should be more. 

In the Cambridge online dictionary (yes it actually appears!) To have your shit together means: ‘to be or become effective, organised and skilful’

But how do you determine ‘effective, organised and skilfull’ when in reality all of these are largely subjective points of view? Who’s to say that what may appear effective to one person won’t be worthless to another? Equally, some may see you as super skilled in a particular area yet your inner critic has a field day in beating you up as having failed in that exact same thing from your own personal viewpoint. 

There are no boxes to tick off. There is no base line when it comes to knowing if you have your shit together or even what it might specifically look like in our own lives day to day. This often (ironically) causes even more anxiety! It seems to be a general sense of having it ‘sorted’, exaggerated by the highlights of others lives we see on Facebook. It kinda comes down to managing to do the whole ‘life’ thing in an ‘effective, organised and skilful way’ or at least doing a good job of looking like it!

Of course I googled it, as is necessary in times like these, and was presented with a series of article headings such as:

15 Signs That You’re Finally Getting Your Shit Together  

17 Ways You Know You Have Your Sh*t Together

12 Ways to Seriously Get Your Shit Together

Trick friends into thinking you have your shit together

Don't Stay Stuck: 16 Strategies to Get your Shit Together

10 Productivity Apps That Will Help You Get Your Shit Together

8 Ways To Get Your Shit Together

How To Stop Procrastinating - Get Your Shit Together

Get Your Shit Together Guidebook

Wow, we humans really do like a tick list or bullet point, don’t we!

I checked a few of these out and ‘Trick friends into thinking you have your shit together’ did have some pretty good points to be fair- for example tip no. 6 “Cover your couch with some stupid throw pillows with meaningless words on them.” Hmmmm… 

Anyway, I digress. In all seriousness getting back to the point of this little reflection… we live in a society that often makes us feel we need ‘fixing’. I am not ok with this. I am not ok with battling constant thoughts of all the things I ‘should’ be doing better. I am not ok with the notion that we should have everything 'sorted' before we put ourselves out into the world to help others. It takes up so much head space and drains me of energy to think this way.... energy that I could be using in a much more empowering way.

It is so often our imperfections, our weaknesses and our vulnerabilities that creates the deepest connections, and gives others permission to be imperfect too. Powerful connection does not require 'having our shit together.'

If you feel you haven’t got your shit together, high five, that’s cool… but then OWN IT! Be aware of your imperfections, of course build strategies in place to support your struggles or weak spots. BUT OWN YOU exactly as you are. Show up from that place exactly as you are. Serve others exactly as you are. 

We are all on a journey and we all vary somewhere along the continuum in any given moment of feeling ‘very together’ on the one hand to feeling ‘scattered in pieces on the floor’ on the other.

I believe it’s not the amount of pieces that matter but our ability, determination and willingness to piece ourselves back together and continue on that journey. To show up in this world regardless.

For me, that is the reality and my deepest understanding of truly having your shit together. Even when it’s the shit that is the glue that sticks your pieces.

Loving you and all your imperfect perfection.

 

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My word for 2017... and what intention setting means for me

 

New Years Resolutions were once upon a time the ‘big thing’, but I’ve noticed a gradual shift over the last few years for a bigger focus towards ‘intention setting’.

For some it might not seem as though there any difference, indeed the difference maybe subtle but in my eyes incredibly significant.

You look up the word ’resolution’ in the dictionary you get “a firm decision to do or not to do something” however when you look up ‘intention’ you read “something that you want and plan to do”.

Subtle difference…

The idea of a resolution seems to me to create an environment of winning or failing. Black or white.  You do, or you do not. People nearly always ‘fall off the wagon’ when it comes to resolutions and never get back on for having ‘let themselves down' whether that be on a conscious level or not.

Yet, intention holds the bigger picture of growth. For me it is both here and now and future focussed all in one. It is something you desire and you work towards as an ongoing process of learning and discovery. It allows for personal evolution and as such it embodies a hugely powerful energy.

I quit making New Years Resolutions a few years back and last year decided to set an intention for the very first time. 

My intention was a single word for the year, something that I deeply connected with, made me excitedly curious and an idea I wanted to use the year to explore as fully as possible.

My word was ‘experiences’. It was an incredible year rich with volunteering travels, working at festivals, plus many other small day to day experiences I honoured as part of stepping into this intention. You can read more about it here and I intend to continue indefinitely albeit with a background focus. This became an element of my identity.

This year I sat for a long time contemplating what my intension would be. ‘Experiences’ had been incredible, a big and glorious word with a lot of vibrant energy associated with it. I found myself thinking that ‘what other word would live up to that status’. Only then did I realise I was not in a competition with myself, and that the small voice that was trying to be heard may be had the answer all along. This year I’m honouring the small voice that I have been pushing back for quite some time. I am stepping into something that I find incredibly challenging on a day-to-day basis and for this reason I know it's something I need to challenge myself and grow towards embodying.

My word for this year is ‘consistency’. It has a softer, slower and steadier energy around it. In fact it feels in total contrast to my intention last year!

It will be a year long learning process to discover how I can create consistency in all areas of my life and how I can show up more consistently and create what I need to in my business and my life on a more consistent basis. As simple and as mediocre as it may sound when spoken, that word has the potential to create incredibly powerful changes for me and I’m committed to honouring the process.


“It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives. It’s what we do consistently” ~ Tony Robbins.

Above all else, for me one of the greatest aspects of intention setting is creating curiosity, and being open to explore how stepping into your intention may guide you through the year, and what incredible results it could bring when you reflect in December. 


On 20-22nd January (just a couple of weeks time!) I am running a weekend retreat with the theme of intention setting a powerful element of the weekend and I’m incredibly excited to share the space with a group of 12 people all ready to step powerfully into the year ahead. The cost per person is only £150 and I have just a couple of spaces remaining, so if you’d like to know more check out the details here and then going touch with me as soon as possible. 

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A conversation with 2017...

Good morning 2017.... may I take this chance to welcome you in to my life? Let's sit down with a mug of tea and have a quick chat shall we?

You see, I have big dreams for this year and I guess I just wanna check you're cool with supporting me in that.

Yes, I know I've got to put the work in myself and not just talk the talk, I know I can't just play it safe, and yes I understand your 'lessons' may come in many different guises. Don't worry I hear you. I get it.

I guess I just want you to know that I am ready to give you everything I have. Like no other year gone before. I feel a deep connection with you and just knowing that you have got my back would really, really help, you know?

What's that you say... 'Please don't worry'?   I try not to but it's hard sometimes as everything is so unknown and it's scary to take that leap... Sorry what?  I do accept 'what is', and i'm learning to 'let go of what was', but it's the faith that sometimes gets tough. 

Would you like more tea? No sorry, I wasn't trying to sweeten you up (promise) ;-)

Ahhhh ok so I get it. I get it. You've made your point. 

Wow... this is deep. To be honest I hadn't expected this level of honesty in our first conversation, I only met you a few hours ago after all! 

@@So, you can only give to me by degree of what I am willing to give to you. @@

So, if I trust you 100% then you have got my back 100%.

It's simple?? ...yeah right! 2017 it looks like you're a bit of a character already, but I think I like you. Though I am not sure I could handle you for the longer term.... a year maybe... ha

Ok i'm in dude. I'm glad we had this time together to talk. 

Now, let's go out into the world and do this thing!!

(Oh and please just make sure you put your mug in the dishwasher when you've finished your tea).

 

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I am who I am meant to be...

I found this photo taken of me by accident when scrolling through my client's (also a friend) Lanzarote retreat album from last year... so this was taken almost exactly a year ago today. 

I am not sure what it is about this photo that I love so much. 

Maybe the fact she caught me unaware, or the fact I was in the midst of living my bliss so wholeheartedly, the fact I was surrounded by the energy of the beautiful island and beautiful people, the fact that I look confident and reflective, the fact I am rocking my hippy pants, the fact that I have my beloved camera slung round my neck... or maybe the fact there is a touch of 'Lara Croft' about me, ha ha.

Maybe a bit of everything rolled into one. 

 

“I am me. I’m who I’m meant to be. I am my past, my present and who I want to be. I’m not anyone, I am all three. I am a work in progress, a destiny. I am who I choose to be. I am me.”

 

What photo captured of yourself do you love and why?

 

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My 'gateway' to veganism

I want to tell you a story.

A moment in time that became the gateway to my vegan journey.

Last night I gave a public talk around the topic I am most passionate about... "nutrition is the gateway to your optimal self”.

Towards the end of the talk I held up this Nakd bar, and mentioned that it became my gateway to understanding that a vegan diet was not just 'kale and cucumber', before then going on to give a 'bliss ball' demo!

Later, as I was driving home and reflecting on and processing the evenings events, I realised that comment held so much more gravity then I’d ever given credit, than I had ever previously acknowledged before in my life.

So, I'm going to tell you a little story...

Grab a mug of tea and get comfy, or maybe bookmark this for later when you have a clear ten minutes for yourself.

In 2010 my life was incredibly ordinary. Everything was very mediocre. Not bad, but really not great either. Towards the end of that year I met a guy, a vegan guy. Those of you familiar with my recipe blog posts from the very beginning may remember this guy often fondly referred to as 'the boy’.

One weekend on our third date, we went for a walk around a park which led into the town centre where his office building was based (he owned a graphic design company). We had grabbed some lunch from Marks & Spencer’s and were debating where to sit and eat it. He asked if I'd like to come up and see his office as it was on the 12th floor of the building and had a great view over the town. We could sit and eat lunch there.

He was right, the view was amazing, as were the wonderful fluttery feelings I was getting in my tummy. 

He took the Nakd bar out of his carrier bag and I looked over curiously, since I had already finished all my food! Breaking it in half he held out his hand, with a bemused and slightly quizzical look on his face.

"It’s just dates and nuts and cocoa all smooshed up together…it tastes exactly like chocolate-orange”, he told me.

"Yeah right" I smiled back.

But I very was curious, and to be honest didn’t want to offend since it was only the third date and all! So I took it.

Mind blown. It DID taste exactly like chocolate orange! 

In that precise moment in time, as I sat on a chair on the 12th floor of an empty office block with a guy I barely knew… my entire changed. In that precise moment I realised that a vegan diet was indeed about more than just kale and cucumber... I was holding the proof in my hand!

I still vividly remember thinking, 'maybe this guy is not so crazy after all!'

At that time veganism was not at all mainstream (I’d even had to ask him to explain to me exactly what it meant!) Vegan food options were not widely available and Nakd bars were pretty much the only type of vegan treat you could buy, and only typically available in health food shops. Plus they were very expensive!

From that moment forward my curiosity got the better of me. I made vegan cakes and cookies that he could eat at every given opportunity.  I went and bought a £20 food processor on Amazon so I could make my own chocolate ‘smoosh bars’. It wasn’t until about nine months later than my ‘Including Cake’ recipe blog was born, by which time I was now in the thick of it, following a 99% vegan diet myself and seeing so many shifts in all areas of my life.

In conversations with others, I often refer to myself as an 'accidental vegan', since it had never even been on my radar. 

Life simply presented me with a guy who turned my world around, who happened to hand me a piece of chocolate orange Nakd bar one day. 

A memory I will cherish forever, as it was the gateway that set in motion literally everything that I am today.

He lit the light within me to ‘always be curious’. It is now my deepest passion, and I urge you to get curious about everything in your life, especially the small things so often cast aside… they often have the greatest potential for change.

Loving you all. 

 

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