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.