What Katy Louise Did...

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Katy Louise writes about health, wealth, happiness and relationships, and the spiritual insights she gains along her path. She is currently editor of Top Sante magazine (www.topsante.co.uk). Prior to that she was editor of Bodyfit magazine (now Your Fitness www.yourfitnesstoday.com) and the launch editor of Soul&Spirit magazine (www.soulandspiritmagazine.com). Katy is also a certified Fitsteps and STOTT Pilates instructor. She is the go-to girl for all matters relating to health, wellbeing and spirituality.

Saturday 22 December 2012

Does modern life give us ADHD?

OK another quick one before I depart for my intensive meditation retreat. It occurred to me as I sat eating my porridge that the real reason I'm going on this retreat is because for a long time now I've been suffering a form of ADHD, which is perhaps exacerbated by the type of job I have. It's all geared around not focusing for more than 20 minutes on any one task. At best, I can get my head down and put a double page interview together in an hour but only if I don't check emails. If it's a double page on anything else, I get far too distracted by other 'urgent' emails, or even the temptation to open non-urgent ones, and before I know it I've gone off and started work on another page, or the accounts, or got involved in an email conversation and been totally distracted from what I set out to do. And this way of working has spilled over into my personal life...

The inability to focus 
Just this morning, my only intention was to pack for the retreat and also wrap presents for my family, whom I'm visiting later today for an early Christmas meal due to me being away on the big day itself. But have I yet done any of that? No. I opened my laptop to do just one thing - transfer some money from one account to another - and before I know it, I'm in my emails, then Groupon, buying a voucher for a screenwriting course, then realising my bank card registered in PayPal has expired so having to go get my purse and log in and sort that out, then when I get upstairs I begin sorting out some of the numerous bags and boxes that are still clogging up my room as I've just moved house. And then I spy a book that takes my fancy so I bring that back downstairs to read, adding it to about five other books strewn about the house, into which I dip for a few pages at a time before having a thought to do something else...

"Hmm, what did I come up here for?"
Last night I went upstairs three times with the intention to get earphones so I could plus them into my laptop to listen to a meditation session, and only on the third time did I manage to stop myself before descending the stairs yet again without them, and remember what I'd gone up there for. This is what my gran does! (OK not for headphones but other stuff). Aren't old people the ones who are meant to forget what they are doing? But now we're all like it! Well I am, anyway. It's bonkers. Modern life is teaching us to multitask so when we get home we continue the same patterns, I'm convinced of it. Is it just me or is anyone else finding it just a bit too much? There is too much stimulation 'out there' to distract us. Maybe some people deal with it better than I do. So, this, I realised, is the main reason I'm off on this retreat; yes, partly to see whether the reason for some of my patterns - with men, and with making big decisions in life - crop up but mainly to force myself into stillness for a whole ten days. I could just sit at home and do it, of course, but would I? Unlikely. I'd be flitting from this to that.

You tell me
What do you think? Is modern life to blame for giving us all ADHD? Do you feel the same way as me? I'd love to hear your thoughts so please do post a comment - though I prob wont get to read it until I'm back, by which time I'll hopefully have stilled my mind enough to have the capacity to read the entire comment before thinking of something else to do! ...

Friday 21 December 2012

A truly alternative Christmas and New Year

So, we're all still here then! I did actually go and stand outside of work at the appointed time - 11.11am - to have a little look at the sun, which was masked with light clouds, purely to absorb the moment and how the sun was at its lowest point. I also sent positive thoughts and intentions 'out there' as Doreen Virtue once told me 11s were a sign to focus on positivity and be aware of your thoughts (for they indeed become true).

This Sunday I'll be heading off on my ten-day Vipassana retreat, meaning I'll have no contact with the outside world for the entire time, including no phone, email - nothing. What's worse, for me, is we're not even permitted to read or write. I'm not sure how I'll get on with that, as I like to make a note of literally every piece of inspiration as soon as it strikes, so as not to forget, or any piece of wisdom so I can recall it later. But no, we can;t even do that. The whole point of the course is to just be as we are, to sit with ourselves and finally get to still the mind, and mine will no doubt fight tooth and nail and rail against the enforced curtailment of all external stimuli. But I know I need it. With work feeling like a barrage of emails, people wanting you to reply to things you haven't even had a chance to read, and hardly enough time to even think, I just knew this was the right time to do this course.

I'm hoping when I return I'll be all zen and Buddha-like: calm, contemplative, non-reactive. But as a wise friend of mine told me, it's probably best I go with no expectations at all, otherwise I could only end up disappointed. So, now all I have to do is go and pack. I'll not be needing make-up, party clothes, nice shoes. Participants are advised to dress modestly, and with no tight, revealing clothing so as to cause a distraction to the opposite sex! Well, part of the reason I'm going there is I want to be away from all distractions from the opposite sex, so there's no worries on that front; I'll be in my slouch jogging bottoms, massive chunky cardies and hoodie tops with not a scrap of make-up on, which is pretty much how I chill out at home anyway.

So, this is probably my last blog post for this year (unless I feel so inspired to write having watched tomorrow's Strictly Come Dancing final). I want to thank all of you who have followed my blog this year and I'll report back on how I feel after the silent retreat upon my return. 2012 has certainly been one of the busiest, and most fun years over all for me, what with dancing in salsa shows, at the Notting Hill carnival, the Thames Festival, and, of course, in the London Olympic Games closing ceremony. I've got some brilliant memories, and now it's time to go process it all and take time out from the craziness. I wish you all a happy, healthy Christmas and New Year.

Katy x

Monday 17 December 2012

Moving into the 'Hippy healing house'!

I don't know whether it's the 2012 effect but December, and even November, have felt really edgy somehow, as it there is change afoot; others I've spoken to have felt the same thing. It's kind of unsettling but in an exciting way. This Friday, as all the planets line up and we are meant to get a blast of cosmic energy from the centre of the galaxy (I think that's correct), it's said to herald the beginning of a new era; old modes of being will fade away and outdated institutions will begin, slowly at first, to become less relevant and eventually morph into new companies and technologies.
On a individual level, lots of people I know have undergone massive change; one friend even changed homes and jobs in the space of a month, both of which she'd been in for around 13 years. And she managed to stick to her diet throughout the stress! Incredible. Another friend had a bad breakup, and at work, lots of people have changed jobs so it's all felt quite unsettling and as if people are still feeling their way into their new roles.

Sudden changes
And for me, it's been an odd time because for most of this year I felt a sense of unease living where I was, in a flat share, and couldn't wait to get out and have my own space. I've been obsessed with the idea since January, which was when my flatmate decided her boyfriend could stay round what felt like ALL the time. I spent virtually hours scanning Rightmove and viewing a fair few properties, predictably getting stressed and confused about what to do. But guess what? Three weeks ago, I was sitting at home and had the thought, 'I bet it would be nice to live with so and so' referring to a friend of mine who lives in a shared house. then, literally two days later I discovered one of the girls was moving out so a room was free. Was this a coincidental thought I'd had, or guidance? I went round to the house, asked a few questions, and within a week I had moved in! So much for my own space! But here's the thing: I feel happier and more at home here because the vibe is different. I'm with a young Chinese student who's very sweet and most of the time stays in her room, and a really vibrant, positive yoga teacher, a bit older than me, who I love chatting to most evenings in the lounge as we share our mutual love of Ester Hicks (from www.abraham-hicks.com) as she's just been introduced to these law of attraction teachings, and mulling over our varied and interesting relationship histories! (She too is a fan of Sex and the City, though she doesn't give that impression as she's more your veggie eating, wheatgrass drinking, Barbara from the Good Life sort of gal).
Anyhow, the house is named the 'hippy healing house' and despite the fact it's a damn sight colder than my previous abode, I'm loving it. And it's nothing like the 'posh, executive, stylish' apartment I imagined for myself: it's full of sheepskin rugs, tantric deity statues, old fashioned water colours, most of which look like they came from a car boot sale (most of them probably did) and a very dated, wooden kitchen.
But guess what? All the 'issues' I had before - hating sharing the kitchen, getting irritated at hearing my flat mate laugh, groaning each time I got home and had to shove the door open against the mountain of shoes my she and her boyfriend build up around the front door - have all but disappears. AND there are shoes lining the hallway here, AND my new housemate laughs out loud, AND there is often someone in the kitchen when I go in there. So what changed? I'm not sure - perhaps it was just time for me to move. Perhaps the reason the flat purchase was taking so long to go through was because the universe knew it wasn't right and that this opportunity would emerge? I did wonder why, considering I had nothing to sell, it still had not happened when I put in the offer in June!

Manifestations speeding up?
Are all these rapid changes, not only in my outer circumstances but internally too, linked in to the wider changes happening 'out there'? Did I manifest this house move? People interested in 2012 have talked about manifestations speeding up at this time and to be careful what you wish for, which leads me to another subject - my car - but I'll save that for later in the week...

Monday 10 December 2012

Do you believe in synchronicity?

Quick addition to previous post about the Vipassana retreat. Was just on Twitter and noticed Karen Ruimy - whose dancing and writing I have mentioned in previous posts - attended an event recently called the Noble Gift Gala. This word noble keeps cropping up for me, firstly in the name Paul Noble at the Turner Prize exhibition a few weeks ago, then on a poster for the comedian Paul Noble and, immediately afterwards, I saw the word on a Kindle (I admit it, I was reading over someone's shoulder on the Tube - shame on me!). Then I saw it again earlier today in part of the description for the Vipassana retreat, in that they called the type of silence we will be in 'noble', in ref to silence of speech, mind and body, and then again just now for the aforementioned Noble Gift Gala.

I often see things in groups and wonder whether it's some kind of sign or whether it's just the randomness of life, and the fact I'm noticing something is because it's in my consciousness already so I'm naturally more attuned to picking it up. For example, I never normally notice for sale signs outside houses but when I was going through that purchasing process some years ago, I couldn't help but spot them all the time. Again, another time I kept seeing things about Australia, which I took to mean a sign I should go there (esp as they cropped up at opportune times when I'd been thinking about it). I still see those signs and you could say it's coincidence as Australia-related things are everywhere, and I'm just making a meaning out of it. Perhaps, but I quite like the idea the universe is somehow trying to guide me to things, people and places.

Anyway, back to the word noble - it was also the maiden name of my great grandmother. Perhaps it's a sign from her, pointing me in the right direction? In which case that;s good because it means my decision to undertake this crazy ten-day silence retreat will perhaps do me some good!

Could you spend ten days in silence?

The alternative title to this blog is 'Having my cake and eating too much of it', for here I am sitting at the dining room table of my new abode (and no, not the flat - more of that in another blog), stuffing my face with cake, which has been a theme of the day. Why? Feeling stressed about this that and the other; general feelings of not being productive enough, my inner critic going into overdrive saying I ought to have done so and so by now, added to a general sense of unrest and uncertainty. So, a typical response in such situations, when I feel less then 'sorted' is to eat cake. Some of us have other unhealthy habits we turn to that make us feel better momentarily. Mine happens to be a sugar addiction (ironic too as I've included a feature about going sugar-free in the Feb issue of Bodyfit - which will be on sale Dec 28, if you're interested. The extract is from Beyond Sugar Shock, by Connie Bennett and published by Hay House).

Silence is golden
So in a bid to rid myself of destructive habits - another of which is getting into emotionally charged situations with men over the Xmas/New Years holiday, at least that's been the pattern the past four year - I've signed up to do a ten-day Vipassana retreat starting on December 23rd. It's hardcore. It's in silence virtually the whole time. I was just checking the website and started having a momentary doubt about the whole process when I realised we'll be woken at 4am - 4 flippin' am!!! - to meditate, then have breakfast, then meditate again, then have lunch, then meditate all afternoon, have a cup of tea, then listen to a talk before retiring to bed at 9pm. And the worst thing about it, at least for me, a total bookworm, is that you can't even read anything for the duration. Or take notes! Nightmare! I document everything so it's freaking me out slightly already to think I won't be able to write about my experience as I'm going through it. How will I remember it all? I write down my dreams almost every morning - what if I have some really corkers and want to record them? So, this retreat is not a light, fluffy, angel and crystal-encrusted affair: it's a serious endeavour (we're not even allowed to wear tight clothing in case it's deemed to be too provocative and distracting to those of the opposite sex!). Perhaps I am slightly mad to choose this over what most of the population will be doing at Xmas and New Years. Will I feel depressed half way through that I'm not at a salsa party? Probably. Will I feel sad about not being with my family? Most definitely. But I do see the latter pretty much whenever I want, so that's OK. And there are always salsa parties to attend. And anyway, why not do something different to the usual getting tipsy and spend too much money on a fancy party, all because it's the last day of the year, or, probably worse, staying in and watching TV? No, inner work and total quiet it is!

A bid to release my patterns
Why did I book such a retreat? Partly because I'd had it on good authority from two highly regarded spiritual people that this retreat was THE one to truly experience transformation. I was told that the feeling you have at the end is indescribably but the closest is feeling blissful, at peace, and viewing the world through new eyes. Secondly, I booked it up in September when I realised my most recent 'liaison' - that's probably the best word for it - with a dancer guy I fell for was headed for dead-endsville, which made me sad as I realised I have a hideous pattern of falling for the wrong guy. So, to guarantee the complete and utter, 100% avoidance of anything else man-related occurring this holiday season, taking myself out of the equation and away from all temptations - including the ex who will no doubt want to see me at some point, as he always does - seemed a good idea. Thirdly, these past few months since changing jobs I've felt like my brain is going to explode. I'm suffering information overload, and some sort of attention deficit disorder as I seem incapable, at the moment, of starting a task and completing it; I always go off at a tangent and start doing something else. So the thought of no distractions - no email, texts, any decisions to make etc - for ten whole days is extremely appealing. 
Plus, I've heard good things about this Vipassana stuff and if it can transform hardened criminals in an Alabama prison - check out the documentary Dhamma Brothers - then it surely must have some impact on little me with my comparatively minor 'problems'.

Sugar free for the duration
Oh and lastly, the fact there's a simple vegetarian diet the whole time - which I presume won't involve lashings of dessert - is also appealing as perhaps it'll kick-start a new year healthy eating regime and get me off the damn sweet stuff for good (or at least a month or so to give my poor liver a rest). Having meals prepared for you is great - I could really get used to it! I also hope to have eliminated my inner choccie monster, which makes me want to eat cake every time I feel upset, ineffective, unloved or indecisive. In short, in return for my diligent days in silence with complete lack of external stimuli, I expect to be set free all my limiting behaviours and emerge a transformed woman, free of the need to attach my heart to unsuitable men, or to eat copious amounts of cake. Vipassana, I am expecting a lot from you!

Tuesday 4 December 2012

How much are we all worth?

Art's a funny thing. It most certainly has a place in society as a life without art would be devoid of so much creativity, beauty and expression. But it's all so very subjective - and sometimes downright odd. Take the Turner Prize. I went to visit the exhibition a few weeks ago - the first year I have done so - and what some people consider to be art is what others clearly label complete rubbish. Spartacus Chetwynd's 'installation' was a bunch of people dressed as green mandrake roots, faces painted, wearing green leotards adorned with socks stuffed with tissue paper draped across their bodies, hopping and slithering about the space like demented weeds (they had probably been smoking some other type of weed too). I did like reading the pages of Plato stuck the wall as part of the exhibition, but the live show was just downright strange and slightly disturbing (if I'd been one of the kids watching I know I'd have had nightmares afterwards). 

A load of hype
But the thing about art is most of it is just hype and about who can create the best publicity. People can pay hundreds of thousands of pounds for what they consider to be a work of art, often just because enough other people also deem it to be worth a lot, especially if it's one of a kind and 'exclusive'. But really, nothing has any real inherent value - nothing at all. Things - all thing - are only 'worth' what we decide they are worth. Money is concept humans made up, and we can place any price we like on objects if they are deemed to be valuable or in demand. Whether people part with their cash for them is another matter, but if you can create enough hype and a following as the 'next big thing' in the art world, people will buy your wares  - whether or not they are complete tat - believing them to be an investment. Same goes for houses, cars, clothes. Speaking of the latter, the word 'emperor' sprang to mind when at the aforementioned exhibition...

the funny side
However, there was some technical skill on display. Paul Noble's exhibition called Nobson Newtown was particularly amusing; though he is clearly a very skilled artist, creating the most detailed drawings I'd ever seen, he was really, surely, take the p**s out of the whole art world by filling his odd desert landscapes with what were effectively a load of nobs (Nobs on Newtown - geddit?) and other shapes that looked like, well, shits! A joker if ever there was one and a damn clever, talented one at that for making a reputation - and no doubt some cash - for turning shit and nobs into art. Bravo. (not that I'll be buying any of it). 
In the end Elizabeth Price won - my fav out of the four - for her video of the Woolworths fire in 1979 combined with images of churches. It was the only thing where I felt I learnt something and which had hidden messages about the body and sensuality woven throughout the piece. As for whether it was 'worth' anything, well, again that is subjective. I'm sure her work will have skyrocketed now thanks to the win, as her name will be added to the illustrious list of former winners including Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin. Making a name for yourself seems to be the best form of currency these days, so I'm sure she will go far. 

real worth
So, speaking of worth, how much do you value yourself and your time? We're all in a market of some sort, for our skills, and what we have to offer. Maybe it's time we all valued ourselves a lot more for our inherant worth, and not for what we produce on the outside. Because nothing on the outside lasts and has any real 'worth'; all is subject to change. The real jewels are to be found on the inside, where the soul and spirit reside. 

Friday 23 November 2012

Why older is better (mostly)

Just been to see Skyfall, the latest Bond film (if that's not stating the obvious - it's been impossible to ignore after all). I understand why it's being lauded so much. For a start, hats off to Javier Bardem for his eerily creepy bad guy - the blonde hair! - and for the writers staging it primarily in London and Scotland - a ploy to attract even more tourists? Or to add one more GB triumph to what has already become a truly British year all round, what with the incredible Olympics (did I mention I was in the closing ceremony? sorry, can't help bringing it up at every opportunity).

Maturing - like a fine wine
But the part of the film that most caught my attention was the theme of growing older, especially at the start, with plenty of mentions about Bond's age - DC certainly looked rather more 'weather worn' to put it politely, than in previous films. But the underlying message was that he may be older, but yet he was wiser and most certainly not out of the game. There were jibes about him being past it, only emphasised by the young new 'Q' played by a techie geek decades his junior. And though this was perhaps to be expected, what I liked were the reminders from his young female accomplice about 'old dog, new tricks' and 'old ways being the best', which emphasised that age does not stop you being the best in the world and good at your job.

Culture that values youth
I bring this up because it always saddens me when I read about people ousted from their jobs because of their age. I know this is hardly news, and has been going on since its inception, but the BBC has a reputation for firing it's older, and very accomplished, presenters. To use a dancing reference - of course, as I love it - Strictly came under fire for getting rid of Arlene as a judge. Whether she chose to go or was coerced, I guess we will never know. But ageism is rife and we all know it. Whether it's overt or not, it pervades our Western society. I get sick of the Daily Mail website for the way it constantly panders to this hegemonic belief that women are 'past it' by a certain age and ought not make themselves visible (and if they do, God forbid they wear something 'inappropriate for their age' or do something 'improper'). I avoid reading the site at all costs but sometimes can't help it when a colleague sends me a relevant fitness or spiritual news story, which I check and then inevitably get sucked into reading all the other 'non-stories' for an hour or so, often only to end up depressed. Madonna, my hero and a very spiritual lady (if anyone bothered to actually listen to what she actually says), is always lambasted on that site for behaving in a manner 'not fit for a women in her fifties' according to the site.

Age has hidden gifts
My favourite spiritaul doctor Christiane Northrup, author of Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom (Piatkus), says in one of her lecture that as women we only really get into our stride in our sixties. That's when we really know ourselves, have decided not to put up with s**t from people anymore, and can create amazing things. Check out her work because it's truly inspiring (the talk I refer to is on the Hay House audio Inside-out Wellness with her and Dr Wayne Dyer. It's a few years old now but still good). She, or it could be Wayne, I forget, also mentions that the only reason the retirement age was brought in at 65 was because some European army general realised most of his most powerful enemies were above this age; so, by introducing the meme - a powerful, unconscious belief - that by the age of 65 you are past it, this general could stay in power. I wouldn't be surprised if this were true.

Mind = good; body, not so much 
The only thing I dislike about ageing is the fact my hair is turning grey and I'm getting lines around my eyes in such a quantity that it sometimes causes me distress. But that's just me being vain. The great thing about getting older is being able to learn from your mistakes and feeling more confident about who you are. Though I'd love to have my 20-year-old body back, I'd probably not choose to go back to that age because it would mean having to re-live the horror of my mid 20s (horror being a slight exaggeration) due to just not feeling confident about anything: my direction in life, my career, or lack thereof, my relationships - OK that last one is still a mystery a lot of the time. But still, age does bring wisdom; it brings grace, strength and depth. It should be revered, not hidden away out of sight to make way for the spring chickens all of the time.

Dancing to her own drum
I hope she won't mind me saying so, but Karen Ruimy (and I don't know her exact age) started her dance career later in life. Despite having danced as a young child, she ended up working in banking and earning mega bucks, but packed it all in to follow her calling and pursue her dream of being a poet, singer, writer and dancer on stage. Check out her website www.karenruimy.com; the blog is excellent and a must for anyone into dance, fashion, art, travel, architecture - actually she covers most things! She is just one person who is inspiring to me. Who says you have to be a certain age to do things? It's only a mindset that stops us from following our dreams. Louise Hay, a women who set up a publishing company in her 60s, says in her seminal book You Can Heal Your Life (Hay House - of course!), that a former client of hers wanted to get into commercials, and she was in her 70s. So Louise told her to go for it as there was 'no one else quite like you doing what you do' - and so the woman did get an agent and went on to successfully star in lots of TV ads.

Age not a barrier
So, let's not make age a barrier. I need to take my own advice here, for I'm often wishing I could turn back the clock and have done more dancing in my 20s, and not just consigned it to the hobby category. But I didn't. The past is gone. Nothing is stopping me from pursuing it now, especially as Karen Hardy invited me to her dance studio to have a one-to-one lesson with a pro (I actually had to go and jump up and down in the loos after the interview, as I could not contain my excitement!). All I need to do is get my achy back sorted. Well, as Bond discovers in this latest film, we may grow wiser and still 'have it' but the body does, inevitably, get a bit worn out...

Thursday 22 November 2012

A neat way to deal with work stress

It's all to easy to let the daily pressures of work get to you (and by 'you' of course I'm referring to me!). With people requesting things of you all the time, added to an already full schedule and then unplanned email conversations that can end up taking up to an hour, meaning you get being on your 'to do' list, it's no wonder we don't all go crazy. Even if you have a great job, as I do, things can sometimes just feel like too much. 

So today, which was one of 'those days' as outlined above, I read with interest my horoscope from Daily Om (www.dailyom.com) as it provided the antidote to work stress, and is an  idea I'll be trying out tomorrow! 

I hope they won't mind me publishing it on here. Anyone interested in horoscopes might like to sign up to this service as it's free and, I find, often spookily accurate about the day's events (and I usually read them AFTER the working day, so they don;t have an impact on how things pan out). 

November 22, 2012
Equilibrium through Play
Scorpio Daily Horoscope

"A mischievous mood can strike suddenly today, whether you are surrounded by loving relatives or interacting with professional colleagues. Your feelings can inspire you to try to amuse others by telling funny stories, playing practical jokes, or performing magic tricks (Katy's notes: there were no magic tricks, but I did regale my colleagues - the ones, like me, who were yet again staying late - with a tale from the Hay House I Can Do It conference, where Robert Holden, author of Be Happy, questioned why, when asked how we are, we often reply 'getting there' - where exactly is 'there', he queried? We've turned into a nation who rush from this to that - but I digress, back to the horoscope). 

The more we integrate play into our lives, the easier it is for us to achieve a balanced lifestyle. So much is stressful in our lives, and it can be difficult to fit time for relaxation into our schedules. Play, which we often engage in with others as a social activity, can represent the perfect antidote to the one-sided aspects of the modern world. As we enjoy our favourite recreational activities, whatever their nature, our minds are transported to a place where we needn’t consider success or failure absolutes. We can immerse ourselves in the unfamiliar, content to experience something new without feeling pressured to get it right the first time or outperform our adversaries. The games you play today will help you spend more time engaging in activities that help you recover from the rigours of your responsibilities."

Good advice indeed. Time to take a more light-hearted approach to things. After all, nothing we do much matters at the end of the day. If something truly important transpires, or 'blindsides you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday' as film director Baz Luhrmann says in his Sunscreen song of 1999, then we ditch the everyday work routine and rush to whatever emergency is taking place; and work, strangely enough, always gets done. So, here's to more fun :-)

Monday 19 November 2012

Why is patience a virtue?

I've been waiting to move house for what seems like FOREVER! Ever since I got the urge to move out back in January, when I was finding it a bit frustrating sharing the two-bedroom apartment not only with my flatmate but her boyfriend, who was staying for weeks at a time (and is now living here full-time), I've wanted my own space. Not that there is anything wrong with either of them, but I just want to be able to come home and only have piles of my own mess to deal with, not someone elses.
So, I put in an offer on a one-bedroom apartment back in June and was told it could all go through by end of August. Well, no one needs to check their calendar to know it's way past the end of August, and I have still yet to move. Endless paperwork holds ups with which I won't bore you, have meant the whole process, which should have taken 6-8 weeks, is now taking as long as it would were I to have sold a property in order to buy. The poor guy I'm buying from must be tearing his hair out.

Part of the cosmic plan?
Anyway, I kept wondering whether the hold-ups were for a reason, i.e. was this part of the Divine plan to put me off moving so that I could instead be far more outrageous and quit my job, then use the deposit money to go travelling, or maybe do the former but then use the to fund myself while I go self-employed. Or was it to get me to reconsider whether I'm buying the right place? Or, in fact, was it a lesson in patience and going with the flow?

Rethinking decisions
Perhaps little old Mercury going retrograde has held up the process too, though that would only account for part of the delay (only a week to go though now!). Mercury retro is also the time when we are supposed to use the re word a lot after all: re-vise, re-think, re-evaluate, so perhaps that's where my uncertainty stems from. But I do know I should have listened to my intuition back at the start of the year, and moved out months ago (either renting or buying). Yes I know Louise Hay would say 'should' is a profanity we ought never use as it makes us wrong, but I can't help using/ Sometimes you just need your own space, mentally, physically, psychically, emotionall - everything 'ally! And I've known that for some time.

Good old patience
Hopefully I'll be in my new place by the end of this month (which would be a miracle) or early December. I'm not looking forward to the packing up part, but, as they say, things have to get worse before they get better, so the mess and upheaval will all be worth it eventually. I just have to keep reminding myself that patience is a virtue - at least I really hope it is!

Tuesday 13 November 2012

Will you make a fresh start? Why the solar eclipse in Scorpio can help

This evening there will be a total solar eclipse in the sign of Scorpio. But as it's happening at night, it wont be seen as much as felt, according to astrologers (in the UK, at least, where it will occur at around 10pm).
Eclipses are always linked to things being hidden, and shrouded from public view. This seems to be the theme at present anyway, as I was reading astrologer Joanna Watters' account on her blog about invisibility cloaks being in the news on the BBC - a typical scopionic theme of hiding, and secrets within. Check out her blog here

Here is what else I read about it on www.cafeastrology.com:

"In the sign of Scorpio, matters related to intimacy, control, power, money, and sharing will be a strong focus on a personal level. This eclipse is about new beginnings regarding all of these matters.
Occurring in Scorpio, this eclipse is about strengthening ourselves from the inside out. We can feel extremes of emotion as our fears of loss, betrayal, or the exposure of our vulnerabilities are uncovered. This eclipse will illuminate our emotional and financial investments, and possibly challenge them. We might take steps towards self-mastery and self-empowerment by tackling things that undermine us and that take away our power, such as compulsive behaviours, addictions, or substantial debts. We might work on learning about intimacy, not only with others but also with ourselves. An intimate partnership may be left behind, or a source of money might end, and either of these situations pushes us to learn to depend on ourselves and to recognise that we don't necessarily need these things to survive. Ultimately, we are now in a position to understand that changes or endings are necessary for our own growth, and that we can handle these things."

This feels relevant to me - and I'm a Scorpio too, so this eclipse is meant to affect me more than others - as I'm supposedly about to buy a property (I say supposedly as it's been dragging on ages and you never can tell with these things, and part of me wonders whether it will happpen, and whether I'm buying the right place after all). I do resonate with the last line too, about endings being necessary for our own growth, and letting go of the past so we can create our future. I've gotten the death card twice now in two recent Psy-Cards readings, which always indicates endings. And with regards to money, I think back to my new year's resolutions of focusing on 'financial freedom, flexibility and fun'. Well, I had a whole load of fun for the first half of this year with my dancing, and now it's the turn of the former two, hence the stretching to get more flexible, and thinking up new ways to generate income. 

The blog goes on to talk about how this eclipse at the time of the Scorpio new moon can trigger impulsive thoughts, which I can attest to, having had many a moment of wanting to completely change direction in my life when I've been upset about something of late. And it's also a good time for self-mastery, and "pinpointing the things in our lives that make us feel out of control, such as addictions and debts, and work on freeing ourselves of these emotional burdens". 

Surrending to the unknown
I also noted this part with interest: "We may be called to give up something in order to move forward into a new chapter in our lives. Although the "new" may be unrecognisable, it is important to allow the necessary surrender to the unknown." could this be to do with relationships, me thinks?  Especially as it goes on to say: "Major developments in the personal areas ruled by Scorpio in our charts are likely to occur over the course of the next 3-6 months. This is the first eclipse in a series falling along the Taurus-Scorpio axis."
Well, considering there are two exes, no, three, with either Taurus suns or moons in their charts, two of which have popped up again in my life recently, is this to challenge me to move on fully? Perhaps. Or maybe it means something else. Either way, this eclipse and the fact it's a new moon is signifying a time of change that is much needed, and a setting of boundaries in my personal life that were never in place before now, hence why I've often ended up in so much emotional turmoil. 

So, new starts all round the for us Scorpios! We're the sign of tenacity and perseverance too, so it says, so perhaps the astrological goings on at the moment can assist with our progress too. 

Tuesday 6 November 2012

Do you miss the details in life?

Just a quick blog because I must get to bed (early start at 5am!) but I noticed something the other day; I discovered an inside pocket in a jacket I've owned for about 14 years. It's not one I wear often, but still, I've worn it enough that I ought to have noticed this handy inner pocket. but yet I hadn't, until now. 
I was surprised by this and immediately reminded of how we can often overlook things that are right in front of us, or only see things in a certain way and not fully for what they are. We can often be blind to see the full picture and are too busy rushing, only noticing the obvious things. This state of not noticing, being too busy, caught up in our own thoughts to see the full picture,  is a modern malaise, surely. And it makes us miss things. In this case it was just a pocket, but it could have been something much larger.

The fact it was a hidden inner pocket was also, I felt, a metaphor for how we often fail to see what's on the inside too, which can apply to anything: a person, a place, a book, a job. 
I must remember to slow down and see within, both of myself and with others. There's so much more than just surface reality and the masks we wear in the world, which hide the hidden gems...

Wednesday 31 October 2012

Sex, death and secrets uncovered! It's all in the stars

I've been taking some quiet time to myself to compensate for the manic-ness of office life and the zillion emails that bounce at me. And as it's Halloween, or, to be accurate, Samhaim (pronounced Sow-en), which is the Pagan name for this festival, the 'veil between the worlds' is said to be at its thinnest, meaning me connect with the realm of spirit, I felt it appropriate to do myself a little Psy-cards reading. 
I got sent a pack of Psy-cards while working on Soul&Spirit, but only began using them after my spiritual holiday in Ibiza last summer at Psychic Retreats, along with my friend and deputy editor Golnaz. The course was led by psychic medium Hazel Lee, who is often on Psychic TV, and at times I found it extremely challenging as we had to give each other tarot readings, including to complete strangers! I felt totally daunted by this, and sure I would come up with a load of nonsense. Incredibly, some of the people I read for said I was really spot on about some things - details about where they lived, what they liked to do, and situations going on for them. And, tellingly, all the relevant things came to me when I was relaxed and not trying hard. Each time I felt stressed that I was not coming up with enough information, and felt I was forcing it, nothing came. 
The last time I did a reading for myself it was earlier this year, and about, surprise surprise, a guy, but this time I didn't ask any specific question, I just picked out The Inquirer card, which represents oneself, and then shuffled until I felt ready to deal the cards.

As above, so below
I have to say, I was shocked by the cards as they reflected so accurately the current astrological climate, and what I was talking about today with an astrologer friend of mine, Orli Lysen, who writes the horoscopes for Vogue and Tatler in Australia. Saturn has just moved into Scorpio, and a host of other planets will also be moving into this dark and secretive sign this month too. According to Orli, the themes of sex, death, money and all things taboo, including secrets coming out of the closet, are linked to Scorpio, hence why the sign gets a bit of a bad rep! 

And check out my cards! I smiled when I first turned over the beauty card, as I'd been contemplating how sad I was at seeing little fine lines creeping onto my face with the passing of time, and wondered whether the card was telling me 'don't worry, you are still beautiful'. however, the opposite meaning of this card is vanity! (ego, take note). It's said that the card also represents a flowering of sexuality and implications of danger! 

As soon as I began to turn the next card, and saw what it was, I wanted to put it back: death. But this too is a scopionic theme, as Scorpio is the sign of transformation, and no transformation can occur without the death of one thing to be replaced with a new situation. Scorpio people, of which I am one, are meant to be masters at this too! The positive meaning of the card is rebirth, so there is always an upside to all situations. And I do feel a bit of a rebirth coming on! Then it occured to me that this card is perfect for today - Halloween - as it represents all departed loved ones. My nanna was in my dream last night - she died in 2010 - and was asking me whether all the arrangements were in place for her funeral. I was by her bedside and was comforting her, saying she needn't worry and that everything would be taken care of. It may partly be because I've got a picture of her in my room that I sometimes dream of her, but even before it was there, she would appear in my dreams quite a bit, and never did while alive. 

The Stranger
The next card, not including the Inquirer, was The Stranger, representing hidden parts of ourselves, and also unknown people, or secrets waiting to be uncovered. This perfectly illustrates some current news stories, such as the Jimmy Saville investigation, which seems to keep unravelling, and today's rant from Chantelle Houghton on Twitter about how her ex, Alex Reid, was a cross dresser and turned their home into a sex dungeon! For me, I believe it represents parts of myself I need to own, love and accept, rather than pushing them away, hating them and wishing I were 'perfect' - for who is?

The Stars
Next I got The Stars, which according to the book, represents the cycles we all go through in life, as well as our highest aspirations. Also interesting I was talking a lot about astrology today, and thinking about my own goals and desires. 

The sage
The Sage was the next card, representing wisdom, scientific learning and becoming a master. As cliche as it sounds, we are all on a journey, and though I may lament the loss of youth on a physical level, getting older has so many benefits in terms of knowledge and wisdom gained (though the two are very different, as with knowledge, every day something is added, where as with wisdom, each day something is let go of). 

The final card, which pleased me greatly, was the Union, showing two streams merging together, and a goldern chalice. Maybe it means I'll meet the man of my dreams this week?!?!? Who knows, however, I found this card interesting as not only did I get the image of a wooden grail in my mind while out on a brisk, blustery lunchtime walk today - related to one of the many projects swirling in my brain - but this image of the cup, with the water streaming together, reminded me of how I'd had a bit of a 'moment' earlier at work... while sitting on the loo! I was taking a breather from my overflowing inbox, and trying to centre myself - the loo is as good a place as any to do this - and for a few moments my mind became still; for the first time since I've used that toilet - and I've been working there five years - I suddenly paid attention to the sign on the door, not for the words that read 'now wash your hands' but for the image of hands joined together almost in a meditative position, and receiving water from an open faucet. It reminded me that a) I must meditate more - the hands are often in this position when I do - and b) only when we are still and open, can we receive abundance and be 'in the flow'. 

And now, as it's late and I had aimed to be in bed by 10pm as I've a long day in London tomorrow, I shall extinguish the candle flames and retire to my bedroom. I wonder what my dreams will conjure up tonight! (oh, and I had no trick or treaters either, which was probably a good thing as I'd forgotten to buy chocolate anyway). 

Monday 29 October 2012

Advice from a rich woman...

Just had to share this. As I may have ranted on yesterday and this morning, I've been trying to get focused on book writing. The other day, via one of my usual web links that led to another web link that led to yet another link (I suffer from information overload), I ended up purchasing a copy of Rich Woman: A book on Investing for Woman, by Kim Kiyosaki, wife of the best-selling author, and millionaire many times over I'm sure, Robert Kiyosaki, who wrote Rich Dad Poor Dad - I read that some years ago.

Right words, right time
So, I just picked up the book and flicked to a random page. Bearing in mind all I've been thinking about in the past few days, about how I really just need to stop talking and start taking some action to making my dreams happen re becoming an author, the page almost caused me to laugh out loud! Here is a book on investing, and I just happen to turn to the page all about getting on with writing a book! I've attached it for you here - sorry about the bad photo - but the gist of it is that Kim also had the same problem with talking about writing for years and her friends one day pulled her up on it and said 'so where is it then? You're all talk!'. It took her three years. She then goes on to give an example of a woman who did her accounting, who always asked for advice on investing. After a few years of the same conversations, Kim got so fed up that she declared 'Enough! No more advice until you actually go out and make an investment!', which the woman finally did.
LETTERS FROM HEAVEN? My 'random' first page of Kim Kiyosaki's book, Rich Woman, which just happens to be all about getting off your backside and actually writing a book! 

Guided from above?
The point is that you can talk and talk all you want but only actions will get results (unless, of course, we're talking about relationships, in which the opposite is often the case, as I have found, but that's a whole other subject for another time!). I merely wanted to point out the somewhat synchronistic 'chance' of opening the book to this very page. Perhaps it's a sign? I do get rather into my 'signs' and wondering whether seemingly random things might mean something, or be prompts from another level of reality. Some might even say it was my guardian angels giving me a physical nudge in the right direction, especially as I then went and picked up the Doreen Virtue pack of angels cards sitting beside my bed, opened the box, and the first card I saw was the 'Books' one, affirming, 'Your purpose and mission is to write, read, edit or sell spiritual books'. A double sign! Well, I've been told (she says, nodding to 'them upstairs').

Stressed mind = tense body

So, following on from Damian's advice yesterday, just how successful was I at 'doing nothing and spending the day treating myself'?
Not very. :-(

It started well, watching Strictly, then I did lay on the couch reading - and had a little snooze - but I just couldn't stop myself doing some admin things, namely sorting out the notes on my phone so I can transfer them to my computer - it has to be done at some point so why not now, I figured? - and sitting planning out , in my mind, how I'm going to write one of my books. I kept returning to The Celestine Prophesy, but to no avail - the thoughts would not leave my head about how I needed to do ABC, and XY and Z, in order to get my writing career off the ground, going in circles from one book idea to the next. All this was NOT what Damian told me to do, which makes me wonder: am I incapable of just spending a lazy Sunday afternoon by myself without feeling bad about not being productive? Seems so.

Addicted to busy-ness
I've experienced this before; anytime I've had a weekend with no plans, which has been rare for the past 12 months what with all my to-ing and fro-ing to London for numerous dance rehearsals ans performances, I've not been able switch off and relax. If I'm at home I feel like I need to be doing something useful, like sorting out my wardrobe, typing up my mound of receipts so I can see exactly how much I've blown the budget for yet another month in a row, or, to come back to my previous example, writing my damn book! Though I love doing nothing, it does give me too much time to sit and think; time in which I often get flooded with thoughts of 'why have you not yet accomplished this? Why did you not do that  last week, month, year? blah blah blah'. this is what Damian had to say: "The point of treating yourself is to relax and enjoy your own company. If you can't 'do' that, this is where the problem/block lies. This is where your work need to be done, on learning to relax, doing nothing - it's a nice 'problem' to have!"
I'm just not sure I'm capable of that though! On the one hand, though I tired myself out this year with so many commitments each weekend and many week nights, it made me feel great because I was so active and always doing something. Now that's stopped, the lack of constant activity makes me feel slightly uncomfortable, as if it was masking something deeper. Robert Holden http://www.robertholden.org has a great calendar that I have on my desk at work, which reminds you that being busy does not always equal success. Each day the insightful quotes remind me to question what success really means to me, and that being busy keep us from enjoying life. The irony is, I read them, take about ten seconds to reflect on the wisdom, then get stuck into my day because I'm just too busy to fully appreciate what he's getting at. Funny that.

The pain of holding on
Another phenomena I've noticed over the past couple of months is a painful spine - right in the middle and in between my vertebrae. it hurts when I bend forward, especially when I wake up in the morning, or if I attempt to do cobra pose in yoga. Even sitting back against a chair hurts! The reason could be the drops and lifts I did in salsa, or lugging a metal wheel on my back during the Olympics ceremony, or, it could be poor diet (I read eating too much sugar can cause aches and pains, and my back was miraculously better last year when I gave up sugar for 5 weeks), or perhaps, as Louise Hay, queen of affirmations, would say, it's because I'm holding too much tension and too much 'stuff' including regrets for the past. I often find myself with shoulders hunched up around my ears when I'm lost in a negative train of thought, or tensing my back, glutes and legs.
Maybe relaxing and 'lifting up the oars' to drift down the river, as Damian advised in the previous post, really is what I need to do. I can't see that ever happening at work, so my only hope is in my leisure time. Now, if only I could just switch my brain off...

Sunday 28 October 2012

Getting what you want (by doing nothing)

Woke up nice and early, appreciating the extra hour as it allowed me some time to meditate for first time in ages. Was looking forward to my Skype session with Damian Smyth, author of Do Nothing: Stop Looking, Start Living (amazon.co.uk). My expectations were that I'd finish the session with an action plan for my book, list of things 'to do' and feeling motivated to get started once and for all. However - and I ought to have guessed, considering his book title - what transpired was rather than focusing on things I need to do, Damian advised me to take the day off and enjoy myself, rather than focusing on goals. What?!?!? But I'd planned to be so productive this weekend! This was not what I wanted to hear. Having listened to me ramble on for five minutes about why I want to write and what I want to accomplish, he told me something I felt was counter intuitive to progress: take the day off!
Here's some of what he said, which you may find applicable to your life too if, like me, you keep striving to 'get somewhere'.

"Just go and have some fun and don't think about anything else. All the times you put yourself on the hook, that's you doing it to yourself and you can take yourself off the hook; you're OK where you are and as you are; everything is and has happened perfectly; as soon as you surrender to the idea of something you know is going to happen, it will happen. Stop fighting to find a way to make things occur. The way to do it is let go, find out who you are, and love yourself."

Interesting! and something I've heard and been told countless times from various mentors and self-help gurus during my time at Soul&Spirit magazine. 

Lifting the oars...
"If you are rowing upstream and putting all your effort into it, and you suddenly realise the boat is going in the wrong direction, the best thing to do is not turn the boat around, but just lift the oars. Stop doing things you think are going to work; stop the doing and trying."

This 'Go with the flow' advice is as old as the hills but perhaps it's for a reason. Maybe I am trying to hard, even though to me it doesn't feel like I am as I'm not 'getting anywhere', but my mind is like a constant battlefield of thoughts about 'you should be doing this, that and the other' or, worse, 'you should have done that already and have wasted years'. Those thoughts make it almost impossible to be creative and move forward with anything at all. Feeling not good enough or satisfied either with what I have, what I have achieved, or who I am, isn't helpful. Oh, and I love the tag line on his Skype account, which is 'you will Find the answer by realising you already have it'. Nice.

Learning to love yourself
On this subject of approving of oneself, back in September at Hay House's I Can Do It! conference in London (hayhouse.com), I realised that actions coming from a place of acceptance and self-approval are bound to be more productive than ones that are born out of fear and self-loathing. After that weekend, I vowed to treat myself as a best friend would, and ditch the negative talk. It lasted about a day, but it was a start... there are years of criticism there to work on!
Wayne Dyer, a Hay House author and one of my most favourite spiritual speakers, says we must "abstain from thoughts of harm, whether directed towards ourselves or others". For me, it's a case of breaking the habit of a lifetime, or, as some have advised, letting it go, as 'breaking' implies force; what's gentler is to greet the inner critic with amusement, thank it for its concern, then let it pass by.

Lady of leisure!
So, Damain told me to enjoy my day, go to a spa, the gym, into the park, to a coffee shop to have a huge piece of cake - whatever it was, just to be kind to myself and completely take my mind of 'achievements'.
I've started with catching up on my fav programme of all time, Strictly Come Dancing, and that put a huge smile on my face. The rest of the day I may just lounge on the sofa reading books that make me feel good, starting with the final instalment of The Celestine Prophecy series: The Twelfth Insight. I wonder whether I can go the whole day without thinking and feeling that I ought to be 'doing' something more 'useful'...

Wednesday 24 October 2012

How to make good decisions - listening within

I subscribe to a site called DailyOm (www.dailyom.com) which delivers horoscopes each day. Yesterday's was spot on - and I read it this morning, so it didn't influence my day yesterday. 

“October 23, 2012
Instinctive Decision-Making
Scorpio Daily Horoscope
You may find yourself feeling disoriented and confused about making the best decisions today. Family matters, business decisions, and personal endeavors may all make you feel overwhelmed as you try to determine the best choices for your long-term growth. Dissolving indecision can be a simple process if you tune into the innate wisdom that lies within you today. In a period of quiet meditation, begin by setting aside all fears, worries, and doubts about which decisions are right or wrong. Empty your mind of stressful thoughts and allow yourself to rest in a haven of peace and well-being. Then imagine turning your attention inward to the center of yourself. See an image of your higher self, shining with brilliance and light, coming forward to meet you. You can then ask your higher self any questions you may have and receive the guidance you need. As we learn to tap into and trust this higher wisdom, we begin to feel more confident about making beneficial decisions.”

Well, I’m not sure I was able to do that as I ended up stressing over a major work-related decision, and then doubted myself the minute I made it, even though I'd asked my unconscious mind to give me an answer in my dreams and then I woke up thinking of a certain option, which I went with. 
This is a terrible habit of mine – doubting pretty much everything. I’m surprised I’ve gotten as far as I have in life with such a strong inner critic that seems to be on constant duty, making me question almost every decision I make.
Anyway, the point is, the horoscope was so spookily accurate – they often are from this site  – and made me realise I do need to meditate more and find inner stillness, as that is where the answers lie.

The meaning of success
I also smiled when reading Robert Holden’s quote for today, from his perpetual flip calendar, which said: “Measure your success by how much you smile, how much you laugh, and by how much you really enjoy yourself.” Hmmm!!! Yesterday the wasn’t much of any of those things, despite the few minutes of great salsa dancing. That too made me think I’ve not been very successful at enjoying life of late, being so bogged down in ‘serious’ matters – whicih ultimately, probably don’t matter all that much in the grand scheme of things.
Maybe I ought to prioritise fun rather than 'productivity' as no doubt the former will lead to the latter anyway as it puts one in a better mood, therefore more likely to feel like being creative and productive! 

Resistance is futile... how to stay calm within

Feeling on edge
I'm not sure what's gotten into me but I've been feeling so restless of late. One day I'll be perfectly fine and happy, going to work, doing what needs to be done, coming home and feeling optimistic about the future and my many projects that swirl endlessly in my mind, waiting to be born out (mainly in book form).
At other times, and with an increasing regularity as to slightly worry me, I feel dissatisfied, like there is indeed a pea under my many mattresses, causing only slight but noticeable discomfort (and using that analogy causes me to question whether I am being too much of a princess about it all and ought to 'man up' as one of my former beau's would have told me).
Perhaps it's a combination of having ended my intense year of dancing, and the adrenalin I no doubt called upon many a time that caused me to push through physical situations that normally would have me lying under the covers for days, coupled with the shake up of changing jobs.

Planning my escape route
At any rate, I find myself mentally planning out escapes: going to live in the jungle with a community at Pachamama in South America; going to live at a retreat centre in Hawaii as a volunteer for three months; going to Ibiza or Bali or somewhere warm at any rate to train full time as a yoga instructor. But I also know/predict these will most likely remain dreams, as I'm one to follow the 'sensible', conservative path. I'm due to buy my own flat very soon, which I'd so dearly wanted earlier this year, yet now I question it over and over, wondering whether the disproportionately long delay in the process is actually a sign from above that I ought to get out now, keep my deposit and free myself from the 9-5, if only for a year. Yet I know I most likely won't.
The funny thing is that a similar situation occured some nine years ago, when then I was debating: travel or property? I chose property, mainly out of fear of 'wasting all my money and never getting on the property ladder later' as my dad told me at the time. So, good old fear of the unknown kept me firmly on British soil.

Is this situation repeating now? I can't help but see patterns emerging, as I've grown older, and felt 'hmm, didn't this happen X number of years ago, or with X person?' as things seem to crop up that seem vaguely familiar, like a mild version of deja vu.
Even going to salsa last night only lifted my spirits for about half an hour - during all the really good dances I had when moving perfectly to the music and feeling that sense of connection to my partner and the dance. I came back feeling sadder than when I left.
Of course, the other explanation is that the most recent ending of a 'relationship' (I use the term loosely as the very fact it was so undefined is what caused me to call time on it, as it was not making me happy) affected me more than I thought it would. I ought to be hardened to those sorts of endings too by now, as it feels as if I've gone through a fair few, but it never does seem to get any easier. And that is another area of my life where repeating cycles are increasingly evident, hence the purchase of an online book about 'how to understand men' late last night after returning from dancing.... but there's another blog in itself, in fact a whole book! (watch this space).

A way to find inner calm?
Anyway, I'd better wrap up as work calls. The dark and dank weather make it particularly unpleasant to stare at a glaring computer screen, coupled with a harsh, bright light over head that shines directly into my eyes (I need one of those old fashioned editor's visors!). Oh, which reminds me the very reason why I began this blog! (I do tend to go off at tangents). I'm reading the Life of Pi, an excellent book, and a line in it made me stop and think. Pi is on an island, and talks of how it's a very 'Gandhian island' in that the waves crash into it relentlessly, yet the island absorbs them and is not affected or damaged, and how Pi concludes that the only way to resist is by not resisting - allowing whatever is to just be. I thought perhaps I, too, would fare better if I adopted this mindset, of letting all the situations and people causing me stress to just wash over me, like a stormy sea, and remain unaffected within. Meditate more, I'm often told. Now is a good time to listen to that advice... :-)

Monday 15 October 2012

Endless endings... it's the season of change

Today I was reminded of the Buddhist saying, "This, too, shall pass", as I received a couple of different email newsletters about endings. The first was from the Insight Meditation Centre in Limerick, the owners of which were writing about the death of a close friend, and how it was a wake-up call to them, and to us all, to do what we love. To quote from their newsletter: "That may involve listening to more music, reconciling with family and friends, taking that trip, sitting by the ocean, reading poetry, more prayer, planting a late autumn garden, whatever you know to be appropriate for you. This is autumn and the season itself reminds us that all living beings on our planet eventually must die."
And it was only last month, mid September, that Jon Sandifer, a great man who not only wrote many books on feng shui and the I Ching but had written a column for Soul&Spirit magazine for the past couple of years, also sadly passed away. I remember receiving the email from his business partner while at home one Sunday, and felt so shocked that I burst into tears. I'd only met Jon a couple of times, but his wisdom and joie de vivre was infectious, and the stories he told me of his life were fascinating - he was a truly adventurous spirit.
The second email was from Nikki Wyatt - 'the Karma Coach' in Soul&Spirit - who creates flower and crystal essences to help deal with different problems, be they current life issues or ancestral ones going back many lifetimes. Her email, too, was about shedding the past, clearing away emotional debris, and well as having a good physical clear out of clutter.

NATURE KNOWS BEST: Trees in a Abby Fields, Colchester, last weekend, just as the leaves are turning. We can't stop nature changing, so why resist change in our own lives?

The season of letting go
All this change in the air is no doubt brought on in part by the impending autumn equinox, which will mark the end of the 'light' half of the year and a move into darker days. Autumn, when nature sheds her leaves, is always a time synonymous with letting go. Clinging on to the old, whether that's people, places, or possessions, only keeps us stuck in the past and unable to allow the new to arrive and thrive. I for one know this only too well, as I've been rather hesitant about making changes and have clung on, rather too forcefully at times, to things that I've outgrown, or which were probably never right or good for me in the first place.
The encroaching end of the Mayan 'Great Age' in December may also have something to do with the current feeling of restlessness and shedding of baggage, after all, it's when the cosmic clock, so to speak, will reset itself back to zero, ready for another 26,000-year cycle - according to the Maya anyway.

Time to move on
Endings are quite often sad but just think for a moment about a world where nothing ended: it's inconceivable. You and I would not be here. Nothing would be. Whatever was first created would be static, stuck in time and space, never evolving. Plants give up their leaves because they trust in the process - they know new leaves will grow next year. So it's foolish of us, try as we might - and Lord knows I've tried! - to hold on to things that have died, be that relationships, friendships, moments in time that were special, possessions that no longer serve a purpose.
Also, most of us live as if we'll never die, and put things off for 'tomorrow'. Yet life is short. But rather than getting depressed and morbid about this, let's take it as a wake-up call to be true to ourselves and spend as many of our days as we can fulfilling our passions - be that writing, dancing, singing, travelling - and being with people we love and care for.
Everything ends, as it must; we only suffer, the Buddha tells us, when we cling to what was, including life itself. So this autumn, in the much anticipated year of 2012, why not assess what needs getting rid of in your life, and start prioritising the things that bring you joy?

On the subject of transitions, I love this song by Seal - Prayer for the dying. I first bought his album in the mid 90s I think. I read the words in the cassette jacket and felt moved by them, almost as if they stirred something within my soul that was hidden, or that I felt a connection to what he was saying. Anyway, the album is perhaps one of my favourites, as it puts me in a contemplative mood

Saturday 13 October 2012

Busy doing nothing... after summer of dancing

Why’s it so hard to sit and do nothing? Having postponed my London dentist appointment and decided not to go a free dance workshop as my body is still tired from an onslaught of salsa in Chelmsford last night, I’ve opted instead to sit on my sofa reading various magazines and books, including The Life of Pi, which I’m very much enjoying and has made me laugh out loud on a number of occasions. Though I’m loving the peace and relaxation, the day seems to be slipping by rapidly, and I can’t help but compare this leisurely pace to a few months ago, when I was at the height of my ‘manic London schedule’, in which I stretched time, or so it seemed, by cramming in so much. I was going there 2-3 times per week to rehearse or perform in some capacity. I’m wondering how on earth I found the energy to schlep all the way over to Fulham each Friday to practise for salsa shows, perform on weeknights and get to bed at around 2am then work the next day; rehearse an afro samba number for a jive ball and then zumba event; go on a Croatia salsa holiday that involved an extremely erratic sleep schedule; do Olympics rehearsals for the closing ceremony, which not only overlapped somewhat with the salsa shows but meant whole weekends in our heavy costumes and pain-inducing shoes, and – the finale! – parading in both the Notting Hill Carnival for three hours, followed by more dancing in the streets, then the Thames Festival a fortnight later, which was the same as Notting Hill but at night and for longer! (see below for photographic evidence of all the aforementioned shows)

BRIGHT LIGHTS: The flag handover ceemony for London 2012 Olympics, dancing as one of the passistas (with the wheels)

PARADE OF A TIME! At the Thames Festival, Sep 9, 2012

STREET LIFE: Salsa freestyling at the Latin Rave party, Notting Hill, after the parade

SHAKE IT UP! Dancing with 'ala Shaik' with the Paraiso School of Samba at Notting Hill Carnival, Aug 2012

MAKING A SPLASH: At the Salsa Beach Splash Festival in Croatia, July 2012

A TOUGH LIFE: Backstage with the boys from the Laith Sami Performing Group after our 'Terminator burlesque salsa hiphop routine! 

GOLDEN GIRL: In the Olympic stadium after the finale of the closing ceremony, August 11, 2012 

TRIBAL: At the 'Sex and Candy' Jive Ball in April, where I performed with Monika Molnar's DanceMyWay student group afro samba routine

So now, sitting here listening to Ibiza chillout music and looking out the window at the glorious sight of white fluffy clouds backlit by the sun, giving them a luminous glow around the edges, it’s weird to be doing what I consider not much. I know rest and recuperation is precisely what I need, yet the harsh taskmaster of my mind seems insistent upon telling me I ought to be getting ready to go out this evening, or to be getting on with writing my book, or doing something else either productive or sociable.

The drive to be productive
Why is this? Is it just me, or does everyone feel like they should be doing more? I think social networking is partly to blame. Every time I check Facebook I see another event I want to go to – a class, a workshop, a party – and then feel bad about missing it, as if my life is somehow going to be less enjoyable if I stay home. I’ve only been out of the London salsa scene for a couple of months yet it feels like longer. And, although I was enjoying my break, last night at the Chelmsford event, a handful of the City crowd were there to perform, which just made me yearn to be part of another group. I’d promised myself I’d take it easy for the rest of the year, spend more time by myself, get my stuff in order, finally have the clear out and tidy up I’ve been needing to do for so long, and yet there I was telling them all I’d be at the next audition in a few weeks, eager and raring to get back into another tiring, not to mention expensive, dance schedule.
I’m not advocating I, or anyone, stop following my/their passions, I’m just wondering where this inner drive to always be busy comes from, and the feeling of missing out. I've done more in the past 6-12 months than perhaps in any other period of my life so far, so why this relentless feeling of needing to do more? Anyway, for the rest of this weekend I’ll try to be content with stillness – and reading – and also avoid Facebook. J

Sunday 7 October 2012

How do you want to grow old?

Can you bypass ill health and grow old gracefully? A walk in the park causes Katy to ponder the ageing process, and how a lot of it is determined by our attitude towards getting older, and the thoughts we think

Yesterday as I was wandering through Abby fields in Colchester - part of an epic walk from one end of the town to the other, just to take a lamp to be fixed - I passed a lady whom I'd guess was probably in her late 60s; she had sleek, grey hair cut into a bob, smart sunglasses, and a confident air. Something about her made me stand up straighter, take deep breathes and hold my shoulders back. I had a thought, albeit fleeting, that I'd like to grow old and look like her. Now, I don't know what her life is actually like as we never got talking, but looked healthy and happy.
At the same time I spied her, I was pulling my iPhone out of my pocket, which at that very moment began playing a track from a talk by Louise Hay about growing older - I must have pressed a button accidentally, though I thought it was locked. (on that note, I've noticed a number of times how it seems to pick out songs that seem relevant to the moment; not so long ago I was sure the device was warning me off seeing a certain man, as it kept selecting tracks at poignant moments to do with being broken hearted; turns out it was probably right, but that's another story...)

choose how you age...
Anyway, Louise Hay's talk, given some 6-7 years ago, was about how she wants to create a community called 'Elders of Excellence'. She says that though we all get older, we have a large part to play in the process and must all take responsibility for our health. She also points out that whatever age you deem to be 'middle age', is when you will begin to deteriorate physically, which is an idea also espoused by Deepak Chopra, author of Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul, who says we can change our very DNA through our thoughts, and that we, not doctors, are the ones who heal ourselves.
Anyway, I found it somewhat synchronous that within seconds I'd seen a healthy elderly lady, who just by virtue of passing by had caused me to consider my own health and longevity, and at the same time my iPod chose to play Louise Hay's words echoing my own thoughts.

no excuses
As it happened, I had just been for a jog - making the most of the glorious sunny autumn day - and had included some high intensity interval training, which is basically short, intense bursts of activity, such as jumps, sprints, press ups etc, followed by a short rest period.
Having just switched from editing Soul&Spirit to Bodyfit, my thougths are naturally turning more towards my physical and not just emotional and spiritual self, and I've made the commitment to not only strengthen my muscles and increase my cardiovascular health, but to increase my flexibility so I'm able to do the splits - I've given myself 12 months to achieve the latter. And I now believe it's possible. Deepak, Louise, Wayne Dyer and a number of other spiritual gurus all tell us the same thing: that if you believe something, you can achieve it and experience it. For years I held the limiting belief of "I'm not flexible". Well, as Wayne would say, whatever you put after the words 'I am' is critical to success or failure (for more on this, see his latest book Wishes Fulfilled, which is one of the best on manifesting that I've ever read). So, by saying, 'I am not flexible' I was enforcing that belief. However, last year I got sent the updated version of Vanda Scaravelli's Awakening the Spine, and was amazed and encouraged by images of this slight, 90-year-old woman putting her feet behind her head and bending into the most incredible postures. And she only began yoga in her forties. I also watched some Youtube videos of women who've taught their bodies to do the splits in just a few months by practising each day. So, no more excuses for me....

healthy mind = healthy body
What we do with our bodies and minds, not to mention what we put into them, IS our choice. We choose what to eat, drink and think. but it's a daily, hourly, even minute-by-minute practise. I won't get flexible overnight; progress, in any area of life, is often made by taking constant, continuous, little-by-little steps.
But the combination of seeing the elegant lady, hearing Louise's talk, and recalling Vanda's book all motivate me to take healthy actions so that, hopefully, I live to a ripe old age. I plan to be doing yoga - and the splits - in my nineties, and I have a feeling I'm going to grow old disgracefully, in that I'll be far less stressed and worried about what other people think by then. Though I do wish my grey hairs would hold off for another decade or so until I'm really ready for them!