Mindset Blog

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.

 

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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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A teeny tiny cat that stole my heart!


If you followed my ISKON experience on Facebook, you'll already know TTC the 'teeny tiny cat'.

A little cat that stole my heart on the very first day I arrived.

There are around 40 cats at the temple. The number has grown over time since locals have been known to come in the night and dump their unwanted kittens. The cats are well looked after as far as possible, but ultimately they are still feral and so its still much a case of fend for yourself.

On the first day I arrived I spotted a tiny and very skinny timid cat with huge blue eyes that looked as though they held the entire universe. I stepped slowly towards him and he skittered away behind a tree, peering out with curiosity. I edged closer and reached out my hand, but again he skittered away... 

In that moment I made it my mission that by the end of my stay he would be snuggling on my lap!

Every day I saw him, his funny plaintive meow could be heard across the courtyard, and little by little his curiosity and confidence grew. On the third day I touched his fur and ran my hands over his tiny body.  Then it grew from there, the love affair took off. I loved this little guy.

By the end of the first week I had succeeded in my mission, Each morning as I crossed the courtyard to fill my water bottle upon waking, he'd come bounding up to me to hop under my big knitted poncho and snuggle into my warm lap for a snooze. The mornings there were very cold- about 7C compared with around 25C late afternoon. It took a minute or so for his little body to stop shivering and settle in.

It was so hard to say goodbye on the last day. We'd built such a bond, he knew that as soon as I sat down he could hop in for a hug and it tore me apart too know that i'd be leaving and the long morning cuddles would come to and end especially as the days got colder as I imagine this would be his first winter. 

But there is also happiness. In those two weeks I witnessed his confidence grow so much, rubbing round people's legs, allowing people to pick him up, and most importantly standing his ground when it came to scraps of food from people's plates- he wouldn't get close enough before to be in with a chance. I think is little guy is a fighter.

Not only did my time at the ISKON temple in Brighuega provide space for me to explore and question my sense of spirituality and my own inner truths, it showed me the power of love and connection in it's most deepest sense, in a way that caught me off guard and reminded me that love often shows up when you least expect it.

Be safe and strong my Teeny Tiny one.

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Two weeks living the Hare Krishna way

(note... I wrote this post on the plane coming back from Madrid, but then got so wrapped up in preparations for the Raw retreat Experience I have only just had a chance to add some photos and publish 10 days later!)

I've just spent two weeks volunteering within the Hare Krishna community in a little town called Brighuega just outside Madrid. This time it was not a solo adventure as I had planned the trip with Mike, a fellow coach and life explorer within a similar philosophy to my own. It was a beautiful opportunity to share this experience not just physically but on every level since there was plenty of opportunity for discussion and reflection.

As with all my Workaway experiences, I was volunteering in return for my bed and board. This time it mainly consisted of cleaning but there was actually a lot less needing doing each day that I am familiar with. Just 2-3 hours of work with the rest of the day left open for us to create whatever wanted to.... Mainly a lot of reading, writing and thinking!

One my daily tasks I was sweeping and mopping the main temple space. It was actually a very meditative experience and something I came to look forward to. The quiet spiritual energy, soft music in background. I also had to dispose of the flower garlands when they dried up... instead of putting these in the refuse I took myself off on a walk across the hills and had something of a flower ceremony where I through the petals up into the wind. A very special experience... I shared a little video here.

If you read this blog post, then you will already have got a little understanding of community life in relation to the protected cows that form a huge aspect of their lifestyle, but there was so much more. Volunteering within a community offers the richest of experiences since there are so many people to observe, to learn from, to speak to and be 'one' of. There were around 20 in this community, some were English speaking, but the majority we Spanish with very little English knowledge and this made me wish more than ever that I knew the language, and it made me more determined than ever before to step up and learn Spanish (watch this space!)

One of the things that surprised me most was how quickly and comfortably I fell into their routines. Mealtimes were twice a day with a little snack in the evening. For someone who is used to snacking little and often all day long, this was a huge change for me yet one I enjoyed and didn't struggle with as I thought I might. Very interesting... Something I will consider more once I'm back into my familiar home surroundings. Is the little and often approach serving me? Or is time to change things up?

The biggest benefit I soon became aware of, where there is no food available between mealtimes, is how little I think about food, and more importantly, how little I procrastinated! I had taken my laptop with a view to do some work and reading etc in spare time. I was amazed just how productive I could be since there were literally no distractions.

My discipline when I am at home is often very poor.... my mind can be hyperactive like a child... I get an idea for a recipe so rush in to the kitchen to make it there and then, or I nibble food unnecessarily even when I'm not hungry in a act of self sabotage to put off doing a task. At the ISKON centre (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) where there was not source of distraction by way of food, plus a very minimal bedroom set up, it became the optimum productive environment. It has me curious as to how I could re-create this for myself back at home.

Breakfast and lunch were huge meals... I've haven't eaten as big a breakfast in as long as I can remember. Literally the size of a dinner you'd eat in a restaurant. But in contrast the evening meal with no more than a light snack... Sometimes just a small bowl of fruit and a slice of cake (though I couldn't eat any cake due to the dairy). Many of the devotees skipped this 'meal' all together. I couldn't help but note it would have been very easy to follow an intermittent fasting style diet eating between the hours of 9am-3pm.

Even though dinner was tiny, I never felt hungry between meals (I guess in part because the other two were very generous).  The bread was amazing as well. I rarely eat bread but I ate it almost everyday there, it was homemade sourdough with a beautiful light and melt-in-your-mouth crumb, so very different in texture and digestibility when compared with regular bread high in gluten and additives. That's now another thing on my list to make (I've been meaning to make my own sourdough for ages to this is a good prod to do so!)

The most meaningful part about mealtimes, and something I've noted everywhere I've been, is the sense of community. The time that everyone comes together to share the experience of food, to sit together and talk. Sometimes these talks would go on for a couple hours after the meal had ended and last all afternoon. One couple who arrived on our second day were particularly interesting. Hare Krishna devotees and travelling Kirtan performers, that had a wonderful history and stories to share. It's hard to describe, but life feels so much richer having known them. We plan to keep in touch.

At every meal time you couldn’t go and help yourself to food as someone would always serve you. When it is offered and accepted, the food becomes prasadam. When Krishna accepts what we offer to Him, it becomes prasadam. The word prasadam means “mercy".  For me, the act of being served at specific mealtimes, instead of helping myself whenever I felt like it was a very  meaningful gesture of mindfulness.

Aside from the food, other elements of the was of life that I particularly enjoyed was the flow of the day... Early starts and early nights. The devotees would typically wake up between 4:30am and 6am for their service and personal practice, and so by 9:30pm every evening the entire place was dark and silent. It was beautiful. It created a space and the 'permission' for me to also go to bed much earlier than I would at home. At home, if I choose to go to bed at that time- around 10pm, the TV is often blaring and lights are on all over the house and I find it hard to allow myself to settle and end up keeping going till much closer to midnight.

At the ISKON centre, when all is quiet, dark and still by 9:30,  it's as if my body is invited to simply join in and sleep. That said, I did not get up as early as they did, but in an ideal world I'd love to wake naturally at around 6am. This is another area I am more motivated than ever to find a way to create in my own everyday life, so that a strong morning routine can be built around it. I know from experience that life flows so much better when I have a consistent, powerful morning routine.

The environment in its entirely was a beautiful platform for really exploring and questioning my life. The simple daily routines, the pace of life, the silence, the compassion of the devotees, the beautiful hillsides and the buildings themselves- beautiful old stone structures and wonderful old trees within the garden and courtyard- all served to really slow me down, to live from my heart.

The wonderful community buildings nestled in the hillside!

The wonderful community buildings nestled in the hillside!

Note: I was going to add a few words about 'Teeny Tiny Cat' who, whilst I was at the temple, stole my heart... but it seemed more fitting to dedicate a separate post to him.

P.s you can see Mike's take on the exeperience here, I love the way we both relate to the same thing very differently! 


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Simplify... life...

 

Today I found myself rushing around on an adrenaline kick. This often happens after a period of quiet and stillness (I've had deep rest and restoration at the ISKON temple these last two weeks). It's as if my body is releasing all it's pent up energy that I not yet learnt to express through other means that would better serve me. It leaves me tired and exhausted. Yet it powerfully reminds me of the beauty of being able to slow down and simplify and motivates me to work on cultivating this with more control and consistently.

I can't think of anything in life that could not be improved by simplifying.

My mind always gets distracted by the next shiny new thing.

Simplify.

I feel overwhelmed ideas, choices and decisions.

Simplify.

Too much to do, too little time.

Simplify.

Recipes in books with a huge list of ingredients and processes.

Simplify.

Too much stuff cluttering up my shelves and drawers.

Simplify.

The answers to all my questions are revealed when I sit quietly and get right back to basics. Back in touch with my underlying truth. Back to love.

Simplify.

The more you are able to simplify the more time you spend living from the heart. Join me in Derbyshire or Lanzarote to begin to explore these truths and more in your own life. 

 

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As an ethical vegan... would you drink this milk?

I am currently in the middle of a two week volunteering residency at a Hare Krishna (ISKON) temple near Madrid. I am always curious to learn more about others cultures, religions and philosophies to broaden my mind to experiences and ask questions.

Within the Hare Krishna movement, the preparation and eating of food is based on principles of compassion, non-violence and balanced living. In this way, Krishna devotees advocate a lacto-vegetarian diet, strictly avoiding meat, fish and eggs. Most do consume dairy and this is where I find it is particularly interesting since cow protection is a high priority, largely because according to ancient Vedic texts the cow is representative of Mother Earth.

From my first day in the community I made it very clear that I was vegan, and this did mean there was quite a lot I had to avoid. Upon realising this, many of the devotees were quick to inform me that their milk is raw, unpasteurised and ethical- ‘ahimsa’ meaning it is of ‘slaughter free’ origin. In this particular case all of the milk, butter and cheese consumed at the temple comes directly from their own heard of five cows that they care for on the land for the duration of their natural life span.

This concept intrigued me as I hadn’t been aware of this ‘ahimsa’ philosophy before, and upon seeing the passion with which the devotees spoke about their cows, I felt it my duty to understand more.

Regardless of the ethics, I stood firm with my decision not to consume the dairy since I don’t consider it to be a product that I want to consume on a nutritional basis. In addition my body no longer tolerates it well (proven by the ‘phlegmy’ throat I got when I accidentally had a trace of it.) That said, many people in the health world consider raw dairy to be a highly nutritional product in comparison to the regular pasteurised antibiotic and hormone laden cartoons of milk.  However this blog post is not a nutritional reflection, so I am not going to focus any further on that side of things.

The question that makes me genuinely curious… As an ethical vegan, would you drink this milk?

My first thought was that in many ways it was akin to eating eggs that come from you own hens. I know a few people who follow a vegan diet where the only animal product they ever consume is their own hens eggs. Is there any difference with these cows?

the cow 'shrine'

the cow 'shrine'

I decided to see for myself and headed down to the cow shed at milking time. I’ll admit I was not expecting the level of care and genuine love (almost ‘god like’ love) for the animals that I was greeted with. 

  • Each cow had her own painted name plate above her stall- as I understand it there spend very little time in the stalls.
  • There was a shrine within the cow shed. 
  • There were ‘cow height’ windows in each of the stalls.
  • There were artworks and garlands hanging from the walls and ceilings.
  • The water trough in the main open space was decorated with mosaic as a beautiful centrepiece.
  • There was a large covered yard area and a huge field (not shown in photos) and then another huge field across the track so I was told.

When it came to milking the cows, there were no restraints used in any way, the cows gave their milk willingly. The cows are looked after for their entire lives REGARDLESS of whether they give milk or not. For example, one cow never gave any milk beyond the weaning  of her calf, yet she’s treated no differently to the others. This also interested me as I'd assumed they kept giving milk only because they continued to be milked- but that case suggested otherwise. There was another 16 year old cow with a 13 year old daughter who still gives milk each day. Interestingly, the 13 year old daughter who has never had a calf also gives milk each day… the community have no idea why that is since (as I understand it) cows typically only give milk after having a calf.

Learning all this from the ISKON devotees, as I watched them handle the cows with such genuine care and attention fascinated and inspired me. In all honesty, I struggle to think of a better way I’d want to live as a cow.

Now I’d love to hear your thoughts… 

As an ethical vegan, would you drink the milk from these cows?  

Would you consider anything ‘wrong’ with the way in which these cows live their lives?  

I’d genuinely love to hear any thoughts you would like to share on this matter. For me, there are still areas I am unsure of- for example the environmental impact and sustainability of creating ‘slaughter-free’ diaries on a mass scale seems very questionable. However it is undeniable that my mind has been opened during my time here, allowing me to understand, explore and question things in an entirely new light. 

 

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The 8 limbs of yoga... and how I've been doing it all along!

This is a bit of a run-on post from this post a few days ago.  I've had a lot of time to reflect so far during this trip to the ISKON temple near Madrid. The quiet nature of the temple grounds itself, the lifestyle of the devotees who live here, the nature surrounding me... and probably the fact it's suddenly rained so much over the past two days, meaning I've spent a lot of time inside on my own, reading writing and thinking... 

A few days ago I wrote a few words about 'yoga', including these lines:

"The Inward kind of yoga, where I focus on feeling and connecting with every aspect of my body, every fibre of muscle. The kind where I observe my focus shift from head to heart, where movements are subtle but significant- each a step to a deeper level of oneness with myself".

My coaching friend and fellow volunteer here with me on this trip, has provided me with much wisdom and fascinating observations of his own. In fact he is currently studying yoga and we have touched on numerous occasions it's meaning in our lives. Many of the devotees at the ISKON temple also talk of yogic principles, and I have had the privilege of seeing first hand how they embody this philosophy in subtle ways days to day.

It occurred to me this morning, that I have been more consciously cultivating the 'inward' kind of yoga along a similar timespan (roughly 2.5 years) to that which I have been more consciously practicing the 'bendy' kind of yoga. However these paths had never consciously crossed.

The deep inner work was going on in relation to my work as a nutrition and mindset coach, my commitment to overcoming the anxiety and overwhelm that I was experiencing, my curiosity with the world and my part within it.

At around the same time, I had added 'yoga' to my schedule of weekly fitness classes, I began to attend yoga events and subscribed to a yoga magazine. I more simply saw this as a form of exercise... something of a compliment to my HIIT training and weight lifting. 

It makes me smile to think of it now, it seems so obvious and plain to see. How my mindfulness work and physical yoga training were components of one and the same path...  how did I not see these parallels?

This morning I had a sudden urge, a rush of energy, a eyes-wide moment of clarity. I wanted to understand yoga. Immerse myself in yogic principles on a spiritual level, understand the theory behind the practice, the 8 limbs of yoga- more than the Asanas that many do not see beyond.

I wanted to begin to embody yoga in all that it could be, and all the empowerment (dare I say, enlightenment) it could bring to my life. 

(Source as noted in image)

When I looked at the 'eight limbs', it felt so right. All the practices, tools and tricks I've played around with in my own life to date are all here waiting, laid out for me as a perfect story. A progression of life long learning ad commitment to self.

I'm not a fan of labels... for example, I don't particularly like labelling myself as 'vegan' and when someone asks me "what do you do?" I struggle to find the words to describe my work... BUT labels aside, this feels so right. The yogic journey offers a structure and a community, a reference point and a source of comfort in knowing that I am not walking this path alone.  

Over the next year and beyond I want to take my work more deeply into the realms of creating experiences, incredibly powerful experiences to share with others, through retreats and workshops and who knows what else that has yet to be revealed to me. In writing these words, this already feels like magic rippling through my body. 

I have no idea where this fire, the energy of this moment will take me. I don't simply want to jump on the bandwagon and go off abroad somewhere beautiful to do yoga training as I have seen so many others in my arena do. Or maybe that's exactly what i'll ultimately end up doing. 

In this moment I have no idea where I go from here. All I know is that I have been on the yogic path all along without even knowing it. That awareness now creates a powerful opportunity and whilst don't plan to rush any decisions (I tend to have 'shiny new thing syndrome and jump at new ideas'!) It's an opportunity of awareness I will nourish to see where it grows.

I'd love to hear you thoughts and ideas of all things 'yoga'. Let's have a discussions... my mind is wide open! :-)

 

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What does yoga mean for you?

 

I absolute love these words that I originally saw shared on Facebook by my wonderful friend and coach Katie Hedges. It's actually something I've been thinking about a lot recently and was actually discussing with a friend at length yesterday as we sat together under the trees in the grounds of the Hare Krishna temple near Madrid where we are both currently volunteering. More on my time here at the temple another time... but now a moment to focus on yoga.

For me personally the practice of yoga takes two forms...

1) 'The Bendy' kind of yoga where I focus of increasing flexibility, of movement and breath, of rhythm, routine, beauty, and strength. A powerful form of exercise after which I feel tired and energised. The 'Lulu Lemon' kind of yoga where I put on my fabulous leggings and try and master the next big move.

But then there's...

2) 'The Inward' kind of yoga, where I focus on feeling and connecting with every aspect of my body, every fibre of muscle. The kind where I observe my focus shift from head to heart, where movements are subtle but significant- each a step to a deeper level of oneness with myself.

I love both forms of yoga.

Both serve me powerfully at different times of day or week, an intuitive response to what my body and mind craves.

But in moments of quiet I find myself pulled towards the latter kind. The kind which for so long I didn't understand or appreciate, and for so long denied myself when always on the go, go go. Always up in my head with little time to make the heart heard.

This 'yoga' is the nurturing of self love and acceptance of everything I am in each moment.

What does yoga mean to you?

I am running two retreats before the end of this year... yoga in all it's beautiful forms will be a key company of each. I'd love for you to join me... you can find out more here.

P.s see also this related post written a few days later!!

 

 

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Disconnect with the world outside to connect with yourself... End Of The Road Festival

This summer instead of traveling far and wide, I stayed on home turf and have crewed at a few 'wellness' festivals. When back in January I set my intention for this year to live into the notion of 'experiences', I had no idea how that may manifest, the lessons I would learn and the person I would become along the way.

All I knew is that I would open my mind to it all. My mind and my body has never felt so full of life as it does in this moment... And I still have a few months of this year to go!

For me EOTR was one of a kind, a larger festival than the others I've been a part of, with a incredible almost magical energy... Even in the rain that lingered all weekend. 

It was at it's heart a music festival, a first for me. Yet it had an amazing healing area plus a beautiful park and woodland setting, where I spent so much of my time.

On the Saturday morning I had a shamanic healing journey to open up my heart space, something that feels it needs a little extra work to touch aspects that I have not been able to reach and heal alone. It was incredible. Powerful imagery coursed through my mind as I laid down listening to the beat of the shamanic drum. I huge sense of breakthrough, release and healing as first birds and water flowed from my heart space which was later replaced by visions of bright white... doors opening along a white corridor, and dancing across a bright silver sparkling lake. This touches briefly on a few things that came up for me, maybe I'll talk about this more on a later post, or maybe I won't. We'll see.

Appreciating the diversity of people who come together never fails to surprise me. Those drinking into the early hours, families and kids at play and those up at dawn going for a run... all came together in the energy of this event. A space for everyone to express themselves fully and openly.

I was also taught lessons in human nature, expectation and judgement. Working the late shift to midnight on the entrance to the main tent, I realised I had expected to manage the outpouring of 'rowdy crowds' as they exited the huge tent after the last act of the night. There was nothing of the kind. Only polite, happy people who whilst had been drinking, appeared no different to the beautiful souls I had spent time with during the day. Such an opportunity to for reflection. Everyone I met throughout the festival was so quick to help another, offer an apology for the slightest thing and share their true selves so openly and vulnerably. 

The beauty was also in the details. The beauty of nature of course, but also in the silly things and the fun quirky details that really brought a light to my heart. Quotes of kindness cut into leaves, origami butterflies covering an huge oak tree, a stick contest, a treasure hunt and some many other creative ideas that nurtured the inner child in everyone. 

The woods was also home to tiny stages, populated by impromptu performances that you'd be lucky to catch if you happened to walking by. A book case wrapped round the truck of a huge tree, where at all times of day people could be found quietly reading beneath it's branches. To add to the love and the energy of finding and giving, I hid some of my own #sharetheloveletters in nooks and crannies for others to find and keep the spirit alive. I was even amazing to find a gift of my own in return!

I had no phone or internet signal for the entire four days... And accidental digital detox (as I hadn't realised that would be the case!) 

Disconnected to the world outside, I connected with myself, my thoughts, the rain, the music, the rhythms and movement, my creativity, new people and new perspectives.

My senses came alive and so did my inner child.

Always honour the inner child inside you.

The truest self.


 

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YOU are NOT your thoughts.... my journey with overwhelm

 

Over the last year, the 'mindset' side of Including Cake has really come into it's own as an equal to the recipe exploration that was once the only purpose and content of this blog a few years back.  Including Cake is now about so much more then recipes and nutrition... it's a discussion and exploration about mind & body. Learning to become our best selves.

This shines a powerful light on my own journey, and is my space for journalling, often spontaneously, and more deeply understanding and accepting myself whatever I have to offer in that moment. It also comes from a place of pure love and vulnerability. I know there are many more people out there who connect with what I say and I want to share my thoughts not only for my own development but also to reach others and offer a space for love, support and exploration.

I watched this video amidst my morning Facebook scrolling and really connected with it and for so many of you here in my tribe, I know you will identify with the feelings in the video, like I did.

I'll openly admit that whilst I'm very grateful for having never had a full blown panic attack and don't give any specific label to the way I sometimes feel (I also note in writing these words a little voice inside tells me to be cautious not to be seen as a fraud without a 'real' mental illness), I do often wake up with feelings of anxiety bubbling away for absolutely no apparent reason- all the more so since I have been stepping outside of my comfort zone in big ways. At those times, the idea of a simple task like making a phone call or walking down road to post a letter seems irrationally huge and overwhelming.

I also have a tendency of riding adrenaline highs and lows... something I'm working to curb (and actually doing a pretty good job at these last few months) using my tools below. I'll often have a few days or even a number of weeks feeling totally 'high' on life, waking up in the morning with that Christmas Eve feeling of anticipation and having so much energy that I feel like I could run the world. The downside to that feeling is that somewhere along the line it will be followed by a 'crash', where the day is practically written off and my confidence levels drop through the floor.

These days thankfully, it usually only lasts a day before I'm back on a good even keel, whereas previously it dragged out a bit longer. But even just a day at such a confidence low is enough to make a significant impact on progressing my business ventures (cue inner critic 'fraud talk' again) and the extremes can be mentally exhausting and so finding a balance to bring the highs and lows in a notch either end is key for me. I'm on it! 

I think the key for us all along this journey of exploring life to its fullest potential is of course creating a network of positivity and support but also building our own personal 'toolkit' for noticing, catching and dissipating these feelings as they arise. For me, this also now means they don't pop up so frequently in the first place. Some of my personal tools are practicing mindfulness, decluttering, deep belly breathing, writing (often turning into drafts of these posts), yoga, drumming, drinking tea slowly, running/walking outside. 

Sometimes I have to force myself to do one of these things knowing that I'll feel better afterwards, because in the moment the overwhelm is trying to prevent me from taking action as if some kind of weird self-sabotage. Sometimes if these tools don't work so well, it's simply a case of sitting with the thought or feeling without trying to resist, question or understand it and knowing that it will pass all the more quickly if I practice self acceptance in that moment.

These feelings ALWAYS pass. 

Remember YOU are NOT your thoughts.

Know that I am always HERE for you on your journey too. 

Much Love. xx

 

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That time I learnt to drop kick a football…

 

Years ago… and I’m talking about 15 years ago! I asked my then boyfriend teach me to drop kick a football. I was never a ‘girly’ girl, always running around with the guys and so I would get frustrated when out for a walk and a wayward ball from a group of kids rolled across my path. 

I wanted to get over that awkward moment of lamely trying to kick it back or picking it up and throwing it, only for it to land a few metres in front of me (even worse!) So I figured if I learnt to properly drop kick a ball I would be challenging norms (a girl knowing how to kick a ball really well!) feel a little bit smug, and avoid all awkwardness in the process… a total win-win-win.

So then it began. 

Pretty much every weekend for weeks (or maybe even months) I spent hours out on the playing field on a Sunday afternoon learning how to drop kick a football. My poor boyfriend patiently helping me. As you can imagine there was a lot of running after balls. Now, anyone who knows me well, also knows how stubborn I can be. This was particularly pronounced in my younger years when I was less able to deal well with this personality trait and it would result in a lot of tantrums ;-)

However, I did get pretty good at kicking that ball!

But when I look back now I wonder how well that actually served me. Sure, being ambitious and driven to achieve a goal (pun unintended!) can be a very good thing, but the focus on enjoying the journey towards it is something that is now so much more important to me and one I had never even considered at the time. I didn’t particularly enjoy the journey of learning to kick that ball, and once i’d nailed it I didn’t maintain the practice, so the skill quickly slipped away again.

We can be so caught up in a ‘future focused’ mindset of reaching the end goal, that we totally forget to consider at the outset how we might feel throughout the process it takes to get there- a process which may take months or even years. Then, as we all too often see, when we do reach that goal it might not even be what we quite wanted or expected anyway.

Over very recent months and years my relationship to goal-setting has changed significantly. I tend to use the word ‘intentions’ rather than ’goals’, which for me has more freedom, feels more heart-centred and less head dominated. Something to work towards with a deeper appreciation and awareness for each present moment, opening myself to opportunities that may cross my path that I may have otherwise been blind to.

So where are you at with your goals or ambitions? 
Do they also serve you and along the way? 


Dream bold, dream big… but simply remember to check back in with your heart in the process.


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Yoga Connects!

After 36 hours of digital detox with my phone turned off...

15+ hours of yoga practice 

15 hours of volunteering 

A gong bath

Inspiring talks 

A an epic soul revival dance party 

And a yoga rave

...I return home with a weekend of experiences with some of the most passionate and compassionate people this world has to offer.

I had the privilege of working at the incredible Yoga Connects Festival. Spending time in the company and teaching of some of the yoga greats such as Celeste Periera and Dylan Werner, yet also had the grounding reminder that yoga is not about perfection of the skills to perform gravity defying hand balances.... but an ever evolving inner practice of tuning in your true nature. Of loving yourself in this moment.

Practicing yoga in a group space holds an incredible energy. It intensifies, magnifies and reflects our individual energy. I felt this when I was one of a handful in the sunshine on the bus deck at Merkaba, and I felt this again when I was one of many- sometimes 100+ at the yoga classes this weekend.

I also attended a gong bath, I would have loved to have attended more to go even deeper, but there was so much else I wanted to experience and so it was not to be.  This going bath was a particularly reflective experience for me. I had just finished an intense early morning shift of volunteering at the registration desk and my shift also over ran a little meaning I rushed to where the gong bath was being held, tiptoeing my way through the room to find a small space in a sea of yoga mats already filling the room.

I settled down as the teacher began with slow soft words to lead into the session. My mind was full and it wouldn't give up easy! I had a feeling I'd find it hard to get out of my head and into my heart space and relax but this then gave rise to an altogether different experience. With the sounds of the gong in the background creating ripples and crescendoes of sound reverberating around the room, my mind filled with thoughts, questions and scenarios... Random scatterings of thoughts that each powerfully caught my attention for a few moments... But almost as soon as I got caught up in them, I realised I was doing so and simply let them go.

I just let them drift off.

I told myself if it was important then it would come back to me later when I could do something about it, but that right now there was nothing I could do to help those thoughts and there was little point in them hanging around. It worked like magic. Throughout the 1.5 hour gong bath, my mind filled constantly but also gave me endless practice in letting go... again and again and again.

At the end of the session as I wiggled my fingers and toes, opened my eyes and slowly sat up as the leader brought the session to a close, I realised I remembered not a single thought that had crossed my mind so powerfully just a few moments before.

The epic teachers whose classes I attended... including (top right anti-clockwise) Jake & Chetana- acro yoga, Dylan Werner - yoga therapeutics, Luis Valentine- Jivamukti, 47 Soul- awesome musicians, Celeste Periera- Vinyasa flow, Charlotte Welfare- Boom Shanti, Brett Moran- yogi and inspiring speaker.

The epic teachers whose classes I attended... including (top right anti-clockwise) Jake & Chetana- acro yoga, Dylan Werner - yoga therapeutics, Luis Valentine- Jivamukti, 47 Soul- awesome musicians, Celeste Periera- Vinyasa flow, Charlotte Welfare- Boom Shanti, Brett Moran- yogi and inspiring speaker.

Guru is the Sanskrit word for teacher.

Yoga means unity.

We are all own own most powerful teachers when we open our hearts and let the world in to show us the way and allow ourselves to listen to and trust our own inner voice.

When we come together as one energy. Individuals with a common aim, united in physical space, sharing a common bond and a common love. We are one... We are a unity. We are spiritual beings in a physical body.

Hundreds of us sat back to back, bodies pressed together with a partner at the end of the yoga rave at midnight on Saturday, after a full on day of the festival under a huge tent canopy, energy and rhythm still coursing through our souls, coming down from the drug free euphoric high that only love can create. We sat in meditative silence which then closed with my favourite poem..

We are each beacons of light.

This weekend we let out light shine out to the world. I have no doubt it reached beyond the fields of Stanford Hall. I have no doubt it reached beyond the boundaries of the United Kingdom. This weekend we came together from all over the country and the world for one common aim. To share yoga, to share passion, to share learning and ultimately to share deep inner the love that is innate to us all. 

From the book 'Love' by Leo Buscaglia which I have recently been reading, we do not 'fall' in love but we 'grow' in love. It is a constant, consistent practice in much the same way that yoga is also a constant, consistent practice for both body and mind.

This weekend the people of Yoga Connects came together to grow deeper in love.

P.s If you like to join in next year.... keep an eye on their website for 2017 super early bird tickets coming soon!


 

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A pilgrimage to Barcelona

Throughout my school years I loved art. 

I had loads of art and design books on my bedroom bookshelf and one in particular was a book showcasing the work of Antoni Gaudi. His architecture… the colours, materials. textures, undulating curves and unique eccentricity jumped from the pages so powerfully. It was my favourite book. There was one creation in particular that always caught my attention as I flicked through the pages… the curving mosaic clad benches at Park Guell, Barcelona. I remembering so well telling my dad that I would visit one day and sit on the benches.

Over the years I often thought back to that book and those pictures. I finished school, I graduated uni with a first class honours degree interior design, I embarked on a career in architecture, I continued to create artworks in my spare time… but still I had not visited Guell Park and Barcelona- the home of Antoni Gaudi.

Fastrack more than 15 years since those school days of dreaming. I was sitting on my bed one morning exactly two week ago today. The weather outside was overcast and my motivation and passion had lulled.  On a whim I decided take a trip to Barcelona. To find and truly experience Gaudi.

Less than 48 hours later I was on the plane. In stepping into ‘experiences’ this year, this was embracing spontaneity it’s finest. This was my heart speaking. 

I spent a week in the sunshine in Barcelona splitting my time between the bustle of the city and the solitude of mountains in Les Planes just outside, where I volunteered in the creation of a live in art gallery being built by two artist friends, set amongst the mountains and lush forest backdrop. 

It felt something of a pilgrimage as I trekked miles across the city of Barcelona to take in all the sites. Feeling like a proper tourist yet also a deeper sense of closure, of fulfilling a dream beneath the surface and beyond that which anyone else could see.  I visited his house (now a small museum), saw the bed which he’d laid, the little stool on which he sat to meditate each morning, listened to documentaries on his life and his deep spiritual practice and his choice to follow a strict vegetarian diet (wohoo, this just made me love him even more, ha!) 

On my last day in the city centre I spent the afternoon and evening as the sun set in beautiful Park Guell. The climb to reach it was incredibly steep… a true pilgrimage! But I found those undulating benches with mosaic tiles full of colour sparkling in the sunlight. A timeless creation. They were everything I’d hoped and more, as they marked the roofline of the building below, a mastery of multifunctional design and the elegant play with levels of the steep topography that I hadn't previous appreciated. Set in a huge circle creating an arena for performances in years gone by.

I sat quietly on the bench, set back from the crowds milling around the centre of the space, reflecting on the trip and the spontaneous decision that had brought me there and the quiet passion that had lived in my heart for so many years. 

There I found Gaudi. I felt his life’s passion and it rekindled mine.

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Day to day you can always find me hanging out in these places:

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