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.

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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We are already half way in... what are your 'proud' moments?

 

The day of the summer solstice and it’s the perfect opportunity to reflect, and in doing so I’d love to hear what top three things you are most proud of from the first six months of this year? What progress have you made in life or business?

Then, if you are still with me, let’s dig a bit deeper by adding a little 'future focus’ ….what are you striving for over the next six months? If it was coming up to Christmas and you were looking back on the last half year… what would you like to smile back on and think ‘yeah, I did that'?

I’d really love to hear your thoughts in the comments, but of course if you prefer please get in touch a personal message. Or if you want to step up one notch further drop me an email and let’s have a chat so that I can support you in making those goals a reality!

I spent some time thinking about this question in my own life and work, so I will share with you my proud moments as it is all too easy to forget to celebrate the achievements so i’ll kick off with what has felt deeply meaningful to me...

1) I took travel and creating 'experiences' up a gear, the biggest leap beyond my comfort zone yet was spending a month at Merkaba. Another huge leap for me was making a spontaneous decision to fly off on a trip to Barcelona within less than 48 hours of booking my flight (it's happening imminently!)

2) My biggest ever order for 3000 Wholeplus Toppers pots was hand produced, packaged and shipped all the way to Germany on a palette… all sorts of ‘firsts’ were present during that process.

3) This last one is harder to put into words as it is more of a feeling deep inside. A sense of clarity and knowing that I am on the right track. That I am living from my heart a little more each day. I can't wait to see what is created during the next six months!


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Like a huge pile of scattered papers...

This morning I woke up feeling quite scattered, on the verge of overwhelm. I knew that meditation could help, but my inner negative voice was too loud and distracting for that to get off the ground. People were are already up in the house so I figured that creating space for yoga would probably not come to much either.

As I lay in bed, the peculiar energy coarsing through me  and threatening to overcome, I put on my gym clothes and prepared for a run. Looking out the window dark black clouds were looming, then I realised that what does it matter if I got wet, clothes and hair quickly dry and my skin is the best waterproof in the entire world!

And so off I went.

Pounding down on the bridal track and my thoughts started jumping, shifting, jiggling- feeling even more scattered and then they were before. 

But I kept going.

But as I continued to run and my breath settled and the rhythm picked up, my thoughts created a rhythm of their own. 

It was like collecting up a huge pile of scatted papers, when you reach out and gather them into your hands, clasping the pile at both ends and tapping them on your desk to shuffle them into a neat pile. That's literally how my mind felt.

Pound, pound, pound. Tap, tap, tap.

Everything fell into place, all the tiny steps I needed to take to align my scattered thoughts and emotions. It became clear that there were lots of small things to quickly tick off and free up each huge space for the rest of my day.

I rounded the corner at the top of the track, now bearing down on to tarmac marking the return back home. The clouds opened and the rain lightly patted down, tickling my face and the bushes nearby, tinkling lightly on the surfaces as I ran.

Washing away the excess. Cleansing my mind. Creating the space I needed.  

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We Are Merkaba

On Sunday May 1st as I flew across the skies to Portugal I had absolutely no idea what lie in store. All I knew was that the Merkaba community (formerly called Rainbow City) were waiting to greet me! This was to be my month long birthday present to myself... honouring my continuing journey of self discovery.

"The mer ('light'), ka ('spirit'), ba ('body') union is a sacred one that responds directly to emotion. A simple way to define the Merkaba community would be as a 'Vegan-Yoga-Eco Community' operating from the side of a mountain in the Northern Portuguese wilderness.

I was absolutely comfortable with not knowing what lie in store... It was only when others began asking me 'so what are you going to be doing?' that I began to wonder and worry a little if I should have enquired a little further... I needed have worried!

The Merkaba community is based in the mountains of north Portugal and I had to reach them via a 3.5 hr train ride to Fundao station, it's a small station and there are only a couple of trains that run there each day. When I arrived and the train had left and the few other passengers departed, I thought I was all alone until I spotted a lady in tye-die trousers waiting at the edge of the platform. This was Tracy (amazing raw food chef and yoga teacher) who was also heading there!

Another hour later and we'd arrived.... In time for dinner! We were greeted with hugs by everyone in the community, a tour of the site and shown our rooms in a huge tent like dome- one of two that make up the main living spaces on the site. 

The adventure had truly begun!

Twenty Six days is the longest trip I've taken in my my life so far. What I found interesting what how quickly it became 'normal' life. When I've been somewhere for a week, or even two there is always an awareness around only having a 'few more days left' once the initial wow impact settles. Not this time. Each and everyday was incredible (yes even including the eight days of solid rain) but there was definitely a big chunk in the middle where I became almost complacent- thoughts such as 'I can take that photo any time' or 'I can read those books later' crept in. It's interesting how quickly this can occur, or maybe a beautiful testament to how at home I was made to feel. To really allow myself to become immersed in 'life' and thus grow as a person I am so glad I took an extended stay.

To say this was a life changing trip sounds proper cheesy but it's true. These last couple of months have been deeply magical, with my trip to Thailand so closely followed by Merkaba. My heart arrived wide open and it was filled and remained topped up by the magic and love offered by every single member of the community each and every day I was there.

Love is everywhere.... In every nook and cranny- literally!

It's painted on walls and signs and infused in the food we ate as we held hand together and blessed each meal, yet maybe most importantly (from my perspective) love is abundant in multiple hugs every day. Hugs are a big deal for me- we don't hug enough as a culture and when we do it is often simple the 'action' of a hug with superficial meaning. The Mekaba gang gave the real deal! I have more thoughts on this you may well hear more of another time.

During my stay, there was a combination of those who lived and worked there and those like me that were on 'retreat' - though of the 'reteraters' I was there for the longest time period. Whilst there no obligation to get involved, of course I wanted to join in with the vibe and so I whipped up a few healthy vegan cakes in the kitchen (all the food we ate was locally sourced plant based whole foods), made a couple of dreamcatchers, a big sign for the landscape and helped out with a bit of gardening.  I'll post more all about the food and some recipes on the nutrition blog soon!

The best part of the experience for me was the morning yoga sessions, especially the consistency with which this was practiced by everyone come rain or shine. A practice that has truly changed me. Once again (like the meditation practice at Madhyamaka) it is the energy of the space that created the magic for me, and I will be looking at how I create this energy for myself back home. Some days were taught a structured session, by more often that not the yoga was our own free-flow practice in the sunshine to a backdrop of powerful music and bird song. 

Each session opened with picking oracle cards and I absolutely loved this part of the process... So much more than I ever anticipated. It also shows me how much my spiritual journey has deepened this last year to being open to receiving the message of the cards. It was incredible just how appropriate the messages were at times and cannot be put down to mere coincidence as I once would have declared!

Another proud moment was when I opted to sleep in a hammock hung from some trees amongst the rocks on the mountainside. At one with nature.  Feel the fear and do it anyway. I was all alone. Yet I was not alone at all. There was suddenly no fear in that moment. Only unity. Turning my face to stare at the almost full moon. Time stood still. The stillness filled my soul.

I am the universe, and the universe is me.

As I sat alone again upon waking, watching the sunrise emerge from the top of the trees, I was immersed in the sounds of the birds calling to each other from each side of the mountain. The warmth of the new day greeting me.  I realised that these are the perfect moments, the moments that create our lives, yet the moments so often overlooked.

sunset.jpg

Every member of the community had their own unique skills that offered a beautiful contribution to the overall dynamic of the space... Tommy with his Tai Chi, Jamie with his life coaching, Jeremy with his amazing breath work (also known as re-birthing) and Kerri with her reiki. Dan Kruger is the main man- the guy who held the original vision alongside Anthony Lowther when it first emerged as Rainbow City, and has built it from nothing but this powerful vision that has driven him forward ever since. I have huge admiration for Dan's personal journey and was privileged to share an interview with him, one that will form the first in my forthcoming series 'Nutrition Is The Gateway To Your Optimal Self' ....more to come on that very soon!

There is also an incredible spontaneous and playful energy... this is not lost when there is a birthday in which we take the opportunity to dress up, have a morning rave and drink apple cider vinegar shots for a post breakfast boost!

 The gang in their birthday party finery! 

The gang in their birthday party finery! 

There is so much more to express than I could ever put into words... And at risk of this blog post becoming even longer than it already is, I will finish here with one final anecdote that had huge meaning for me...

One morning at breakfast after six days of continuous rain, one of the resident volunteers- Charlotte, remarked how she had woken up that morning and had consciously and verbally offered her gratitude to the rain so that it could not bring her spirit down. It occurred to me that on a wider context, such a subtle simple act could be the difference between letting a situation bring you down, or accepting and rolling with it and thus the difference of how your mindset and your entire day might pan out. It has stayed with me ever since.

The community at Merkaba is unique. The energy is pure and profound. If I can extract aspects of this energy into my own retreat space one day and within the retreat holidays I look to create.... Then this is all I could wish for!

Thank you to Merkaba and to everyone who's lives I have shared over this last month.

Thank you for the love you give so willingly and freely. 

Thank you all for being so brilliantly true to your highest self and following your calling, and in doing so allowing me to come closer to doing the same. 

 

If you are intrigued to know more about Merkaba, you can find them here:

Blog, Facebook, Twitter or get in touch here: wearemerkaba@gmail.com

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As I woke up this morning... Portugal

As I woke up this morning, my mind slowly waking up to the world, wondering what time it was, the sunlight filtering across my eyelids... For a moment, with my eyes still closed, I lost all thoughts of where I was.

In my head I began planning my day as usual, feeling the grind of routine a little, then a dog barked in the distance which sounded unfamiliar... THEN I remember with a start EXACLTY where I was!

I am tucked up in blankets in a beautiful geo-dome, in the breathtaking mountains in North Portugal, awaiting the beautiful sunshine creeping across the mountain tops, among a community of some of the most love filled people I have ever had the opportunity to share my life with. Anticipating a day ahead filled with love and BEing in whatever form that may take. A day yet to unravel and evolve. A day for me to explore ME.

As a lay there amongst the layers of blankets (it gets chilly in the geo-domes at night) I smiled to myself and it occurred to my that this time last year (yesterday to be precise!) I had just taken the huge leap of travelling on my own for the very first time. It had been so many years in the making, so much fear to overcome. I lay here now feeling so grateful that I was able to push past those fears... because it had lead to me being hear today. I quite simply would not be here if I had continue to let fear hold me back.

My life has changed exponentially since letting go of that fear, experiencing new spaces, meeting new people and ultimately allowing myself the freedom of stepping into who I really am. I have begun to design my life and my work around travel and creating experiences. Elevating these aspects of my life as priorities.

I write this post not as a 'look at me enjoying the sun in Portugal' BUT quite simply as a 'you can literally do anything you set your mind to if you want it enough'. You simply need to reflect and understand your own life priorities, face your fears and your calling... then most importantly take STEPS towards ACTING on those thing in life that pull you strongly, make your heart stir with passion or curiosity and that light up your soul.

THIS is who I am as a coach. I help people get out of their head and into their heart. I support people in taking steps in honouring that process.

I love you all deeply.

So you can reflect along with me if you fancy. Here is the post I wrote this time last year.

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Reflections on my Thailand experience

Sitting in the departure lounge at Bangkok airport at 1am in the morning.... and it is the perfect place to begin writing this post. I can stay in the moment as I reflect on my experiences instead of the contemplating the hours of travelling that lay ahead.

My volunteering experience in Thailand almost didn't happen at all. My mum and I had originally planned a trip to visit my sister who is currently working in Bangkok, I wanted to extend my stay after the family holiday time together and found a yoga retreat centre. However what I failed to realise was that this particular centre was a 12 hour bus ride away and totally unpractical. So at the last minute I scanned the Workaway website (a more recent amazing discovery) and found an opportunity to volunteer in the construction of a yoga centre a short drive from Chaingmai city itself. 

It seemed perfect, and it did not disappoint!

I spent seven days at Yoga House getting involved with gardening, artwork and cooking. Most days I woke with the sunrise just before 6am and cycled to the early morning market for fruit- so much amazing fruit! I watched the sun come up whilst siting on the deck drinking hot water with fresh lime and eating some of the fruit, then got to work for a couple of hours before the heat of the day truly hit. Even though the temperature was over 40C most days I found it surprisingly ok, in fact without air conditioning my body acclimatised a lot better. I have never been a fan of air conditioning and this experience reinforced that.

The bedrooms were simple shed-like structures. I'll be honest it took me a couple of days to get used to the multiple frogs and lizards sharing my room every night (I felt like a contestant in 'I'm a Celebrity' initially). I was glad of the mosquito net 'shield'. I was also very glad to have taken eye mask and earplugs- who knew wildlife was with so loud!! There was one slightly amusing incident (amusing more in hindsight) in which I was in the middle of a coaching session with my coach and the lizards on the ceiling and walls were much more active with the light on. One fell off the ceiling right on front of my face and I leapt up launching my phone (on which I was Skyping) across the room!

We took part in yoga everyday during early evening, the warm glow of the setting sun bathing the floor tiles of the space with a golden hue. My flexibility improved in that short time and I nailed a couple of new moves- scorpion arm balance and headstand-to crow-to chataranga. Both of which I was very to happy to come away with and has re-motivated me with my yoga practice.

 Scorpion (screen grab taken from a video clip)

Scorpion (screen grab taken from a video clip)

Ma, owner of Yoga House taught all the classes and had built the centre from scratch over the last year. I hugely admire his energy and vision and the generosity he extended to us all, with just two hours a day of work and a 100baht (£2) contribution towards all food each day. With other volunteering opportunities it is more typical that you work 4-5 hours each day without paying a supplement for food. I was more than happy with the arrangement at Yoga House, and even though the menu was typically vegetarian, I was well catered for with vegan food.... plus the fruit ;-)

I spent my days with a beautiful group of fellow volunteers and a couple of guests who were also staying at the centre. We prepared and ate all our meals together, and enjoyed so many random and interesting conversations around the table, sharing stories and teaching each other words from our languages. This is what I loved so much, the energy of the time together gathered around a table sharing bowls of food we created. 

This was a very similar experience at the Buddhist meditation centre and one of my greatest memories there also. I have lots more to talk about when it comes to food of course, but I'll save that for a separate post!

A few photos of how I spent my week, to give you the essence beyond that which words can say... 

A personal highlight was a trip to the local national park wth a beautifully clear waterfall steam that we swam and played in. After a couple of hours it thundered and as we made our way back to the truck the sky opened and it poured! The journey back in the open topped truck was an experience as we were pelted by rain!

The uniqueness of travel and volunteering in this way, is such that people flow in and out of your life, and I within theirs. You quickly create bonds and friendships, then those people then leave and others flow in. A beautiful dynamic, a test of attachment, of letting go, of appreciating the moments for what they are and the inevitable process of ebb and flow. 

There were between 4-6 other volunteers/guests at any one time, with a shift in group dynamic every few days as people came and went.

The other thing I loved, again similar to that I experienced at the mediation centre, is that some of the volunteers/guests are living there longer term. It reminds me that 'it could be me' if I choose to do so. When you go on a typical holiday abroad, the setup is such that it is a finite bubble of bliss. A luxury experience. It is not a real life setting and more simply a respite from 'real life'. The beauty of this paired back, cost effective experience is that it could become 'real life'. You are literally spending time in another persons real world. Yes, I may have left after a week but the setup was such that I couldn't have stayed indefinitely if I had wished...

Another big difference for me personally (and one in which I fully appreciated in jumping without pause from holiday mode to volunteering mode) is that holidays are for DOING, yet the volunteering experience is for BEING. I've touched many times on the shift between those two aspects of life and my own endeavours to spend more time BEing and as such become more heart centred in my approach to life.

The Yoga House created a beautiful space for that process. Set in a small village area outside the bustle of Chaingmai city, with old bikes to take out, hammocks hung from trees, a deck to perfectly view the sunrise from and a yoga den to use all day long. It created so much space to simply be. I appreciate not all volunteering experiences would create this same level of quiet reflection, and that many users of the workaway site would use the opportunity to find city centred locations to explore the surrounding beyond their work times. However I think the overall sense of doing away with luxury, pairing back to simplicity and coming to know yourself is still deeply embedded.

Travellers interest me. I had never realised that in previous years since I had never travelled! I am now beginning to see what I was missing out on! My motto, the words I wear around my ankle on a red chord, read: 'always be curious'. This last week I surrounded myself with curious people. People who not only want to explore but have actually stepped up into doing it. 

Interestingly, it is less the sense of physical exploration that I refer to (but of course that plays a part with interesting stories and insights to tell) but more the mental sense of exploration, of growth and change as a person. In being around others on this path, it raises my own excitement, energy and inner confidence to continue to do the same.

Travel changes you significantly, there is no doubt about it.  From my experiences so far, it has presented me a whole new window on my life and on my world that is difficult to grasp quite so profoundly any other way. When you are outside of your own culture, comfort zone and norms of society you become more consciously aware. It is impossible to run on autopilot when your ingrained social context is taken away. You get curious and question more and assume less, something I am striving to do more in my everyday life.

I'm smiling softly as I wrap up the draft of this post, now flying somewhere over Moscow only a few hours away from landing on home turf. I feel there is so much more to say as the energy is bubbling up inside me, but that can wait until it finds its moment. 

I smile because not only have I left this week with a host of beautiful memories, but also with the notion this can happen all over again as soon as I want it to. I design my own life, on my own terms. I now plan to prioritise travel in my life, to deeply enrich my personal growth and my mind-body connection, but also in equal part enrich and strengthen my offering as a coach, my work with 1-1 clients and also in the creating of retreat experiences and the longer term dream of creating a 'centre for BEing'.

I am home for just seven days before I take off again for the biggest experience of my life so far. As a gift to myself for my birthday next month, I decided to step fully beyond my comfort zone and live for the entire month of May at Rainbow City in Portugal. In saying 'yes' to this opportunity it brought butterflies to my stomach, it still does! I have no idea what to expect, but at the same time fully acknowledge that to be the beauty of the experience. Open mind, open heart. I can't wait to report back from there soon!

Here again are the links to Yoga House and Workaway in case you want to explore them for yourself (neither of these are affiliate links in any way). I loved every minute of my experience, and highly recommend volunteering as an incredible cost effective way to explore the world (or even just the UK as I did at the mediation centre) and meet inspiring people, and maybe in the process find a little more of yourself.


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My time at the Buddhist Meditation Centre

Finally I have written a blog post about my experience... just three weeks later!  

Every time I had sat down to do so I'd be distracted away from distilling my throughs into words. Then I had a story to finish that i'd be invited to contribute to a book which involved me digging deep and re-living a lot of emotions. It is only now I have the energy to focus in what this experience taught me.

So, as you may recall in my last post, that in January my focus for the year was to explore 'experience'. That was the word I gave myself. I wasn't sure how it would manifest at that point but I knew there would likely be some travel involved as I'd already booked a flight for April to see my sister in Thailand and volunteer as a yoga centre.

March rolled around and I felt the urgent need to 'expand'. That is probably the best word I can use to describe it!  I found Madhyamaka Buddhist Mediation centre a few hours drive from me near York that takes on volunteers in return for bed and food. It sounded perfect. So with just a few days notice at the beginning of March, and no idea what to expect, I went to live there for a week.

 A little bit of everything captured!

A little bit of everything captured!

It was incredible! It's hard to put into words how it felt. I loved living as part of their community, hearing their personal stories, spiritual debates around the dinner table, going to meditation sessions 2 to 3 times a day in the beautiful ornate meditation rooms. There were a few other UK guests and also volunteers from around Europe whilst I was there and we all hung out together sharing cultures, language, jokes... it was such an enriching experience.

It was also the small things that made a huge impact, like the huge sash windows with the beautiful sunshine streaming through in every room as I worked on my laptop. The beautiful grounds and rolling hills of the countryside. I was so lucky to have such a sunny week, but even it it hadn't been I would have still been amazing to appreciate nature in all it's true glory.

I was working in the reception/shop a lot and designing flyers for them at the same time which was lovely as I was able to use my skills (I also run a design business on the side). All in all, I gained so much from the whole experience and would love to go back again sometime... watch this space! ;-) 

 Spontaneous handstands in the fields with a fellow volunteer!

Spontaneous handstands in the fields with a fellow volunteer!

 All together...Volunteers and guests on my final evening!

All together...Volunteers and guests on my final evening!

The most interesting thing for me, was that as someone who has always struggled to meditate in the traditional sense of sitting quietly. Doing that in a room full of others (whether it was 5 people or 50) felt so different. Even though my mind was wandering all over the place, it didn't matter so much, I was able to relax into it as I felt as though there was such an intense focussed energy in the room form the others, their 'beingness' infused and supported my own. 

The biggest thing for me at the moment is the realisation that I need to live from the heart not my head. I have spent most of the last 32.5 years getting caught up in my mind and letting my head and it's little inner chatter dictate my life, whereas now in those moments when I'm living from the heart everything just flows. Life is easy and uncomplicated.

I am so much more aware of the dynamic between the head and the heart than ever before and this is what I feel is my duty to explore in myself and enhance in my own life and therefore in time to come support clients exploring the same. Nutrition still forms a huge part of this as I feel nutrition is the gateway to your optimum self in terms of supporting clarity of mind and body.

Whilst I was at the meditation centre, I was privileged to be able to take part in a two hour meditation session as part of the monthly ‘Sunday Out’ program.

In a room packed full of 60+ people, all with open minds and a willingness to explore, the energy of the space was amazing. We were led into a number of guided meditations, but one visualisation in particular stood out for me, and after the session I found a quiet space to record some notes to later remind myself of the teachings. 

It was only this week I found the recording on my phone and listened back to it, it gave me the incentive I needed to put this post together and so I've typed it almost word for word as I had originally recorded it…

Sunday Out Meditation:

He (the monk) talks about clearing our mind and being more in tune with who we really are. He used the analogy of your back garden and your front garden… if you have limited time, which one do you choose to maintain? Often we may choose to maintain our front garden as that’s the one that people see, so we create a show for those who pass by our house to give the impression of a beautiful, proud space. 

But actually we let the back garden go to ruins behind the scenes. If over time this is left uncared for, the roots may grow and undermine the foundation of the house, the ivy may grow up the walls and begin to pull the bricks apart. Yet we keep this show up for the side that people can see our front garden, and hide our back garden away from the rest of the world.  

He likened this to the external side and the internal side of ourselves he asked: Which one is more impotent to you personally, the part that those can see- the tip of the iceberg or the internal side that no-one sees but is super important to our wellbeing. The balance to where we put our energy is imbalanced.

He also mentioned that when we first meet someone we might typically ask their name, where they’re from and what they do. In those three questions we think we have them figured out but actually we hardly know them at all. This is likened to the inner work and the outer work. It is our inner world that we need to put more effort in to, for a rich and fulfilled life.

The 'inner world' fascinates me as this is the realm which has the capacity to be so life changing. We are born with everything we already need in life, but get distracted and overwhelmed but the glamour of our external world and those around us. Everything we need is already inside, we simply need to learn how to better tap into it!  Isn't that incredible?


Why not sign up for my newsletter in my sidebar where I feature roundups and special offers plus my FREE ebook. If you are new round here you might like to check out my 'About' tab up top. To buy healthy nibbles you can also find me over at my sister site Wholeplus. 

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

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