It’s 7 am on Thursday 21st June 2018 – the longest day of the year : Summer Solstice. The sun is streaming through the tiny window in the bathroom while I take a shower and I notice how it hits just one thing in the room. It is shining solely on my yesmum affirmation cards and bouncing off the rose quartz crystal that’s sitting pretty with them. Talk about shining a light!
I grab my phone and take this pic, carefully angled so as not to catch the cobweb just to the left of the card box – the joys of living in an old house. This house and garden seem intent on letting us know that we are just visitors here and that the harvest spiders, the bees, the bats, the birds and the weeds have been here for many a hundred year before us and will no doubt be here for many hundreds of years to come. They are making space for us it would seem. Living here is a delicate balance of wild and ordered, a line that we are still learning to tread.
‘Today is a new day’ says the card, so simple and yet so huge. Today is a chance to start again, try again, see again, hear again, really listen again. To drop things that are not serving us, to try things that are new to us, to become aware of our surroundings our bodies our feelings in new ways. A day to release beliefs and judgement that bind us like the weeds to those situations that hold us us back the most, a day to see one more thing that we resist and decide to push through that resistance to the brilliance on the other side.
What we did yesterday, how we thought, what we said is just a memory now. It is gone. If we let it though it can still consume us, hold us hostage to it’s ransom on today. Let today be the day you really get going on that project, when you release your grudge on that person just a little, when you change your world view slightly, see the world through new eyes or from someone else’s perspective.
The Summer Solstice marks the half way point in the year and unofficial start to summer time. Through the ages farmers chose this day to mark the point between planting and harvesting crops. A day that marks the tip towards results rather than preparation, a day to begin to see the fruits of our labour, to ease off on the pushing and striving and sit back a little bask in the long day of sunshine and reflect on where we have come from. Plant your toes on the earth soak up that sunshiny sparkly energy and celebrate yourself and your journey today. Think back to all that has happened this year and all of the seeds you have already sewn that you can expect to harvest the results of in the coming months.
Ask yourself some honest questions. Are you where you thought you would be? Could be? Should be? But drop the judgement. Don’t be hard on yourself. You’re doing your best. If you have got lost somewhere along the way and become distracted with the clamour of your life and the noise in the world then use today to stop and realign yourself. Make a pledge to step up to the next level of yourself and get specific on how that will work. What do you need to stop doing so that you can make time for the thing you are putting off.
So often the thing that we put off or resist is the thing that nags away at us, vying for our attention like a young child. Listen to that whining and make a change to give it a small amount of attention. It doesn’t need to be much, just 10-15 minutes will quiet that voice and put you in a new space of possibility and power.
I’m off now to take my own advice and get my bum on a yoga mat! Happy international yoga day too everyone – Namaste.
This is a story I’ve only shared with a couple of people until today. It is quite far out there but stay with me, there are some life lessons I am keen to share…
My life changed the day I saw my first soul.
And before you think this article isn’t for you, hold the phone. I’m not some kind of witch, I’m a perfectly ‘Normal’ (or maybe ‘conventional’ would be a better word) thirty something, mum of three, who witnessed the death of her Dad.
It’s been 18 months since he died, and my life has gone upside down and then some since then. You see, I witnessed his demise, I sat with him in his last days, lay on his literal death bed, the bed he had shared with my mother, in my old bedroom in my childhood home, and I watched as the life left his body. As experiences go, it’s a pretty hard core one.
He was heroic. He had been ill for nine months and fought a valiant battle with Cancer; did the hard yards of chemo and then radio therapies none of which had any impact. So, as his final days and hours approached a sense of anticipation hung in the air- dread mixed with an unspoken relief, that soon this awful struggle for life and the agonising suffering would be over. But nothing prepared me for what would happen when he actually passed away.
As his body clung to life and he took his final breaths something miraculous and strange happened. Something my mother was too traumatised to see. I saw it though.
Something shifted within his body, something subtle and almost indescribable but something none the less. Then I saw the life leave him. The closest I can get to it is to say it was like a shimmer or a shadow that lifted momentarily and then was gone. When I looked at him again, he was different, he had gone.
But you see, he hadn’t gone, he was still breathing and his heart was beating its final coda. But to me, HE had gone. What little sense of him that had been there in the last 24 hours was no longer. His spirit, his essence, his soul was no longer in this body before me. It was a shell, a physical form that was now redundant. I didn’t need to sit with him, or say any last goodbyes, there had been time enough for all of that. But seeing this and feeling the truth of this deep inside of me I’m certain helped me to get through those moments of his death. It allowed me to talk to him calmly and reassure us all that this was it and it was over, he could stop fighting now.
So as well as grieving for my father I had now been handed this mind blowing insight that maybe souls were a real actual thing and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. This wondering, about who we are, where we are, where we go after this life has lead me on a pretty trippy journey of self discovery. It’s quite hard to make small talk anymore as the way that I see the world and how I want to live my life is utterly changed.
My background is science. I am logical and organised. I like order, rules and structure. Until 12 months ago ‘creativity’ was not something I would say I had inside of me. It was too messy, too unruly and too well unspecific. That said, I am also, in equal measure messy, intuitive, thoughtful and compassionate. So in summary I will describe myself as a ‘Spiritual Sceptic’. I am open minded but cautious and sceptical about things unproven and a little bit ‘woo woo’. It’s like being a living version of one of those optical illusion pictures, you know the one that is both an old lady and a young lady in the same image. When you first look at it you can only see the old lady, then someone points out the young lady and then you can’t see the old lady again. And then finally you see both. I see both. All the time and it is pretty cool.
Here are the pivotal points I have learnt on a journey through things all esoteric and back again, a literature review for the spirit if you like.
o Our soul is our driving force, the thing that gives us inherent direction, it’s what points us towards the things that fascinate us, the things we can’t explain but have to do, have to explore, long to experience…
o Our soul is that nagging voice, which tells us to change direction, to say yes, or to say no. Otherwise known as our gut instinct. Otherwise known as that feeling we often try to ignore and stifle…
o Our soul is the deep sense of truth, silence, peace we get when we do something we love, the hum of our own world when we can focus on just what lights us up, be that running, riding a motorbike, fishing, painting or baking. It’s there when we make a decision we KNOW is right. Sometimes we can’t put into words why, it flies in the face of all evidence to the contrary, it just is.
o It is also the voice that gets silenced by the noise of the world. The voice that gets drowned out by everyone else’s opinions, by our social media feeds, by the pressure of our family, our friends, the world at large and mostly by ourselves and the beliefs we hold about ourselves and how life should be. Our brains shout while our souls whisper.
o Our soul leads us to experience things that are really frickin’ hard. It pushes us to take that leap, leave that relationship, start that business, make that call.
o Our soul has no regard for our comfort zone. They are in fact sworn enemies.
o Our soul disregards fear.
o Our soul operates in love, growth, wholeness, trust and pushes us to do the same. To which we cynically reply – no way, that’s too simple / naive / too good to be true.
o Our soul is simple, has simple tastes and finds pleasure in specific, random and totally inexplicable things. It is our brain and our egos that make things complicated and put barriers in the way.
o As children we were in touch with our soul much more freely. The things we loved as children often still bring us deep joy as adults, when we let ourselves do them…
o Our soul rewards pushing through, push through the pain and the difficulty, work it out, talk it out, cry, dance or run it out and we will be rewarded by insight and self awareness. Self awareness is like Google for the soul. Don’t go asking everyone else what you ‘should’ do ask yourself and trust your answer.
o Many cultures believe that our souls are ancient, have lived many lives and picked up much wisdom along the way. I love the idea that our best friends and romantic partners might really have been ‘soul mates’ for lifetimes.
o Our soul has a plan for us and knows the way to get us there. Problem is we might not be on the same page.
Too many of us are totally disassociated with the true nature of ourselves, too concerned with keeping up, getting ahead, making the money, living the lifestyle. Over time this leads to living a life so built on the expectations of those around us that it no longer feels fulfilling or meaningful for us. Don’t let it take a big life event to shake you up and make you look at yourself and your life. Instead start listening to your body and take notice when you swoon with enjoyment at something. Do more of those things.
It may not mean jacking in the job and relocating, it might just mean taking back up with a hobby that you loved as a teenager, joining the footie team, singing in the band or scrapbooking over tea and biscuits. Whatever it is, do it and enjoy it. Don’t feel guilty or that you ‘should’ be using your time more ‘productively’ your life is for living and for feeling the best that you can feel. The world is in pain right now and needs more joy and more people lit up from the things that they love.
When we do the things we love, when we slow the noise and clamour of the outside world enough to hear the sound of our soul; when we physically and mentally slow down, stop rushing, pushing, doing; we remember we are actually Human Beings and not Human Doings.
The sound of your soul might only sound like a whisper at first, but listen and it will get louder. Follow it, trust it and it will become as loud if not louder than the voice of fear and comparison and expectation that we so often heed first.
For me this has meant, walking away from a professional career 20 years in the making, moving out into the countryside to find the peace that I crave, writing, and exploring yoga and meditation. When I look back on my life so far it seems like everything has been pointing me to this, I just had to be brave enough to listen and believe it.
When we really hear the song of our souls, trust it and live by it decision by decision, day by day we gradually realise we are singing along, and it is then that we realise we actually knew the words all along.
The other day I posted on Instagram about how my middle daughter really lives life to all its corners, how she is such fun, so crazy and hilarious. She feels so deeply and widely and she inspires me to do the same. That is, when I’m not tearing my hair out from her outbursts. But it got me thinking, how do I live life right to the edges to feel into all its corners, try out things at all it’s angles and precipices? This is not to say I want to live any kind of hedonistic, massive adventurous life – hell no, at theme parks I’m the one holding the coats- no, for me it’s more how can I live the best life? Be the best self I can be? Feel all the feels and live out all the goodness? I’d say this is easier to do when you’re 4 years old than when you’re almost ten times that age. But maybe that’s where I’m getting stuck? Maybe it is easy, maybe I should just try. Drop all the baggage and ‘shoulds’ and the ‘this is how I’ve always done it’s’ and ‘this is just me’ and experiment a little?
We seem to spend so much time defining ourselves in our early adult life, making a statement about who we are to the world and then we hit the classic mid life territory and all we want to do is escape the box we’ve built for ourselves. Break out of our own self imposed rules and structures, be that a mis judged relationship, a sensible car or responsible job. We were in such a hurry to grow up and appear grown up to the world that we accumulated all the trappings of grown up life – spouse, mortgage, kids and all of sudden we crave that freedom we had before we had committed ourselves so fully. Hello mid life crisis, nice to meet you.
I like to think of it not as a crisis, that sounds a bit like breakdown, but i think it is instead something to welcome and to celebrate.Want to swap thrash metal for country music- do it, want to swap a career in accounts for brewing craft beer- do it. Want to just break out of your own daily habits and routines- bloody do it!
I am beginning to realise what a contradiction i am the more I get to know myself and until lately have seen these contradictions as negative, almost as if my personality is indecisive and can’t make up it’s mind. You see some days I’m a leather jacket, red lipstick, Radio One listening kind of girl who feels young and optimistic and gets a shit load done and other days i listen to Radio Four, wear no make up and my comfiest clothes, long socks and am racked with self doubt. It’s hard not to judge yourself on those days. But really, is one kind of way better than another? Or are they just different? They give me different experiences, different kind of days and different kind of outcomes. The quiet, radio four kind of days give me insight and rest, reclaiming energy for the radio one, red lipstick sort of days. So now I am trying to accept them as part of me, and trying to accept what they are teaching me. The way that they help me to lean in to the edges and corners of my life the way I am shedding skins and stepping into another me. A shimmer self if you will. The person I hope to be, the one I aspire to be, the one I can actually be on some moments of some days. And when I don’t make it there on other days, just knowing she might be just around the corner is something to reach for.
If you liked this article…Here are some questions to consider / journal/ meditate / ponder on …
Who is your shimmer self?
What would the best version of you be doing?
Are you embodying your best self in all the ways that you hope and that you can?
Is there anything small that you can do today to step into yourself more fully?
Last month, the female contingent of our house had a pretty vulnerable month.
I posted my first public blog post and our eldest daughter underwent some pretty intense blood tests. Both things saw me with a racing heart, sweaty palms and THE FEAR. The blood tests were fine by the way and she was a total hero.
My writing went down well too and some people said really lovely things. But the thing that surprised me the most was a word that popped up in almost all of the comments. That word that kept popping up was ‘brave’. How ‘brave’ I was to share my feelings so honestly, how ‘brave’ to put myself out there like that. After the 30th comment like that I began to question myself – something that comes pretty naturally to me… had I over- shared? Was it too much? Had I overstepped the mark? Was this stuff I should be keeping under wraps? Cue, fear, shame and more vulnerability.
You see to me, this is just who I am and blogging about it feels like a natural extension and a good use of my skills and experience. It didn’t really feel brave. I just figured, that if someone else could gain even the smallest reassurance or insight by reading something I have written then to me it’s worth it. It doesn’t feel brave to write about my feelings or experiences. It just feels real. And to some extent a relief. A relief to not have to keep up the facade of social acceptability that keeps conversations only skin deep most of the time. BORING.
But maybe it is brave given the insensitive backlash Simon Thomas, (the BBC Sports Presenter who lost his wife) received this week on social media. Simon has blogged (bravely and beautifully) about his grief, and appeared on t.v. stoically letting himself be interviewed. But for one individual they had to point out how this happens all the time to people and that basically he was nothing ‘special’. Simon’s response to the individual who trolled him?
“I don’t think you’ll find anywhere that I have made out my grief is unique or more than anyone else’s.”
And that’s the whole point isn’t it? The very fact that it isn’t unique, that there are other people out there going through just the same experience and feeling totally alone in it, because nobody talks about it. The hope is surely that by sharing his experience they might also feel less alone. It is not to raise yourself above anyone else but to open yourself out to others. It put me in mind of this quote from Light is the New Black, by Rebecca Campbell:
“I don’t share to teach or convince others, I share to make those who feel the same as me feel less alone”.
Here here. Keep being brave Simon, we all have something to share and something that someone else will need to hear. I will keep putting myself out there too, in spite of my fears and vulnerabilities and I will keep this quote close at hand as I do so..
“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit goes to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood: who strives valiantly…”
Theodore Roosevelt 1910
Last week I took me and my Inner Goddess on an adventure. I’d booked us a ticket to see the brilliant Hollie De Cruz, of the ‘yesmum’ cards, at the twinkly, shimmery Family Store in Bruton, Somerset. A thing of myths and legends and wonderful, amazing people.
Escaping the children, school run, lunch boxes and daggers being sent my way by a number of friends in my circle (all dead jealous and at work) I set off in the dark, the gorgeous stars and half moon my only companions as I dallied my way down to Somerset. So out of the ordinary was this that I actually enjoyed navigating the centre of Bristol in rush hour, listening to the radio rather than Little Mix or Mr Tumble, and generally had a lovely time before I’d even got there. I was able to admire the sun rising over the hills, the dusting of snow as I approached the West Country, eat when I was hungry and drink copious amounts of coffee without fear of my exaggerated adrenaline misfiring at any small child nearby.
In my usual style I arrive +.0010 GMT (perpetually ten minutes late) a little bit nervous and needing a wee. I was greeted like an old friend, given a sticker and pointed in the direction of yet more coffee. The room was filled with women all chatting, some with their little ones and some without but the over all tone of the room was friendly and welcoming.
Hollie was talking about her YesMum cards – these are cards with little positive affirmations on them. The idea that they are like a little fist bump for those times when you need a little pick me up. She talked about where the idea came from, how the concept started (from her hypnobirthing business clients) and then talked us through creating our own. I had been given a pack of her cards during my third pregancy by another bestie, this one rescues me in moments of inner turmoil rather than fashion disasters, and they were a real turning point.
As a bit of a worrier (erm understatement alert) and a tendency to pessimism I used these cards each morning to quiet my inner demons. You know, those thoughts and that voice in your head that tells you how crap you are and how terrible everything is going to be. ‘The Shitty Committee’ they call in in LoveProjectLove. I would pick a card and repeat the affirmation either out loud or in my head over and over while I had my morning shower. They say things like – “I do not need to compare myself to anyone else”, “I am a great mother” and my favourite “I have enough, I do enough and I am enough”. The power of these little cards and repeating these positive statements is astounding. . Hollie described how we all have conscious and sub-conscious minds so even if we consciously think this is a ludicrous idea and you can’t let yourself believe what you are saying, your subconscious mind gets re-wired anyway. Whether your believe it or not. It is powerful stuff and really really simple.
Hollie helped us to come up with our own bespoke, personalised cards to take away, ones that fitted into certain areas of our lives. All the time being so supportive, sweet and positive. She even wrote a little message on the back of one for me… I think I have a new girl crush. Several in actual fact. This room was filled with incredibly successful women, and they exuded a sense of calm, happiness and acceptance. There was not a single defensive, competitive or judgmental moment. No narky comments or passive aggressive put downs. It felt like a breath of fresh air.
Our world is changing thick and fast and it made me think about the kind of women I want our girls to be and the kind of man I want our son to be. These women are shining examples of the raise them up not tear them down school of thought. We are all doing our best, we are all battling with our own demons, lets realise that and offer each other a little compassion and kindness and a virtual fist bump when we need it most.
You can check out The Family Store here https://www.thefmlystore.com and the yes mum cards here http://www.londonhypnobirthing.co.uk/product/yesmum-wellbeing-cards/.
In these arms, I have fallen asleep more times than I can count
I have swooned and fallen in love,
I have nestled, snuggled, sighed;
In these arms I have brought life into the world,
I have writhed with the pain and despaired in the agony,
While you fanned me and offered me egg sandwiches;
I have celebrated the joy, and danced to the songs, swayed to the beat of our hearts;
In these arms I have watched the TV and shouted answers at university challenge,
I have made small talk with people I neither knew nor liked,
but in these arms was given the confidence to try;
In these arms, I have made my best decisions, and some of my worst,
I have said ‘yes’ and held out my hand,
I have said ‘no’ and you held back my hair.
In these arms I have marveled at our children,
watched the sun-set and stars come out,
Envied, wondered and doubted;
In these arms I have said ‘goodbye’, ‘I do’, and ‘hello’
to the greatest people in my life.
In these arms I have watched countless rugby games, football matches and bike races,
Music concerts, comedians and plays;
Tried a golf swing and tried again at tennis,
Played a thousand board games and read a million books;
We have laughed and whispered our secrets in the dark.
In these arms is safety,
In these arms is refuge,
In these arms is a Super Power.
In these arms is my best friend, my companion, my lover,
In these arms is my best self, the one who could take on the world.
In these arms is where the magic happens,
Sometimes long after the arms have gone.