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 28 November 2015

Believing in synchronicity and the butterfly signs

It's been months, perhaps even a year, since I did a card reading for myself. When I edited Soul&Spirit magazine I'd be sent numerous card decks, mainly from the lovely peeps at Hay House or Blue Angel and so inevitably I'd end up doing readings, usually to find out what was going to be happening in my love life, as that tends to be the main concern during our 20s.
I still have a fair few of those beautiful decks, one of which is the Wisdom of the Golden Path, by Toni Carmine Salerno, with beautiful illustrations by Yuehui Tang.

A couple of weeks ago I decided to do a quick three-card reading, just before my birthday. I shuffled and selected the top three cards, one of which was Listen to Your Heart (see below).

In the accompanying booklet, it read: 'Butterflies and ladybirds bring good fortune. They signify the deep transformation taking place in your life as your true nature emerges... You will realise you have much to offer the world just by being you... Take notice every time a butterfly flutters into your field of vision for it is a positive reinforcement you are on the right track.'

Inside the Wisdom of the Golden Path booklet (Blue Angel), telling me to watch out for butterflies
What a lovely message! Then, my rational, left brain immediately jumped in with the thought 'fat chance of that in November! All the butterflies are long gone'.

But, as I'm increasingly experiencing, synchronicity does play a part in my life - in everyone's lives - no matter how much I want to ignore it. For here's what I saw that week: my grandparents and my parents sent me birthday cards with butterflies on; my best friend bought me a scarf with a butterfly design; I spotted a book at work with butterflies on it; the art director of my mag (Top Sante) chose an image with a butterfly in it to illustrate one of the features; I opened a parcel and the invoice had a butterfly on the top; one of my colleagues came in wearing a new butterfly dress (what's more, as I looked up Blue Angel, I saw on their home page they have two card decks with butterflies on); oh, and just as I was thinking 'yeah, but I'm never going to see a lady bird', I flicked through CICO's - the publishers - catalogue at work and saw a new book about making fancy dress for your children. Guess what was on the cover? A little girl wearing, you guessed it... a lady bird outfit.

 Now, you could argue that all those 'signs' were going to be there anyway - the colleague was going to wear her new dress, the designer was going to choose that image, my family were likely to end up picking cards with butterflies on as, well, they're a popular motif. And perhaps the only reason I spotted them all was because I'd primed my brain for noticing them with the oracle card, in a similar way to when you're looking to move house, you notice 'for sale' signs everywhere that previously didn't register on your radar. Again, this is my rational side talking. But I can't help but feel these supposedly everyday, normal objects become 'signs' because of the serendipitous coming together of multiple variables, creating meaning for me and me alone (and in the same way, completely different sets of events/objects/songs/people etc, coincide to create meaning for other people in a way that would be meaningless for me).

Anyway, surely life is more enjoyable if we allow ourselves to believe in a little magic? That's why being a kid is so much fun, after all (well, usually, it depends on your personality) because you get to play and make up stories and pretend anything can happen. And maybe it can, if we just tune in to our inner guidance and watch out for the signs to lead the way.

I'll finish up by quoting, as I often do, my all-time favourite artist, Madonna (I'm seeing her in concert this Tuesday at the O2 - so excited!): "Traveling down this road, watching the signs as I go..." (1.14 in the video below)

Sunday 22 November 2015

* HEAD ORGASMS: what they are and how to get them!

At various moments throughout my life I've experiencing a pleasurable, fuzzy, tingling sensation spreading across the back of my head. While it's actually not a sexual thing, I guess the reason some people are calling it a head or brain orgasm is because you do experience a kind of whole-body relaxation response during and afterwards. And, frankly, there hasn't been any suitable way to describe it, until now.
Although I've had these sensations on and off – and they are pretty rare, I have to add – I only discovered the whole online debate about them a few months ago, when we were putting together a feature for the December issue of Top Sante (below) about the power of touch. I asked Larissa, the deputy feature's editor, to include a section "about that strange tingly sensation you get when you go to the hairdressers or listen to a moving piece of music". I thought everyone got it, but turns out I'm in a minority. And now there's an entire online community of people dedicated to explaining it and trying to replicate the auditory stimuli you often need for a 'head orgasm' to happen.

The December issue of Top Sante magazine, containing the article about the healing benefits of touch
So what is it? The best way I can think to describe it is a gentle tingling or buzzing sensation that usually starts at the back of my head and sometimes spreads down my neck and shoulders, occasionally into my arms and legs. It feels amazing and totally relaxes me. Wikipedia describes it as "a perceptual phenomenon characterized as a distinct, pleasurable tingling sensation in the head, scalp, back, or peripheral regions of the body in response to visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, or cognitive stimuli."
My eyes also often go into soft focus, perhaps because I'm slipping from a beta brainwave state into alpha or even deeper. I'm not sure.

ASMR - the official name for 'head orgasms'
Scientists don't really know very much about this sensation or why only certain people experience it. One attempted to research it more and gave it the name ASMR, meaning autonomous sensory meridian response, so she had more chance of receiving funding (imagine going to sponsors saying 'yeah I'm going to be researching head orgasms'). In researching this post I also found this site, ASMRlab, which lists some of the different triggers for ASMR.
Russell Brand made a video on YouTube questioning whether ASMR videos were the new porn for women, but I can report that the sensation is nothing like sexual pleasure, at least it isn't for me (perhaps there is a subset of ASMR people who do get sexual feelings as well, but I have no idea about that).

The sensation makes me feel the total opposite of sexy, in fact. There's no heightened state or arousal or energy directed 'down there'. It's just incredibly soothing – and really hard to explain in words! ASMR videos are purely made for the sounds they produce – the content is pretty pointless, fluffy and meaningless – well, except for one lady I've discovered, but I'll get to her in a minute... And if some people, men I imagine, watch them to 'get off' on the fact that an attractive young woman – they're predominantly made by young females – is starring into their eyes, whispering and 'caressing' things, then that's a whole other matter, but it's not the reason d'etre of the videos.

Tingles as child
I have experienced this tingling since I was a child. It must have started from the gentle caresses and strokes my gran and mum would give me as a toddler. I clearly liked the feeling so much that by the age of four or five I would beg for Gran to 'make me soppy', as we called it. We'd sit on her sofa and I would offer up my bare arm for her to gently stroke with her fingers and fingernails. It was always the fingernails that felt best, and not in a hard, scratchy way. It always felt nicest, too, on the underside of my arms, near the wrist where the skin is thinner. Sometimes I'd even stick my lower leg on her lap! Legs and arms were the best 'conductor's for the tingles, I found.

Guess that comb!
Another trigger for the tingles was the 'guess the comb' game my mum and I played. I was probably about 10, and had a set of eight red combs, varying in size from chunky ones for combing wet hair, to very fine-toothed ones with pointy tales. Mum and I would take it in turns to sit in front of each other on the floor and slowly comb each others hair. The 'game' part of it was having to guess which comb was being used and which end. It wasn't exactly difficult and was usually took me a few seconds to work it out, but I would always drag out answering because it felt so nice, especially when the combs went near my ears or near the nape of my neck – total tingle trigger! I reckon Mum experienced the same feelings too as she, like me, would sit and make lots of 'mmmmm' noises, both of us like a pair of purring cats.
This set from Directhairdressingscissors.co.uk is very similar to the one my mum and I used to use to get head tingles
Speaking of hair, another major trigger, unsurprisingly, is having my head massaged at the hairdressers. It does depend on how well they do it though as to whether it triggers ASMR. They have to get the pressure just right, make the movements slow, and not tug at any of the hairs as that just hurts and ruins the sensation.

ASMR can come from a variety of stimuli 
But as the Wiki description implies, ASMR doesn't only come from touch. I have gotten it from other stimuli, too. I still recall the time I went to visit an elderly neighbour after I'd returned from studying in America, age 20, to show her my three huge albums of photos. We sat side by side at the kitchen table, but not touching. As she slowly turned the creaky pages, which were those hard cardboard sheets covered with clear sticky plastic, something about the crinkly sound they made, coupled with the low, hushed tones in which she spoke, set the tingles off big time.
Another example was from aged 30 or so, in a previous editing role, where a lady called up to talk about a new therapy. Something about the tone of her voice, so soft and gentle, made my head and neck buzz and put me into a deeply relaxed state. Normally I try to end phone calls as quickly as possible as I'm so busy but this time I kept the woman on the phone for ages, asking more and more questions because I didn't want the feeling to end! She must have thought I was really interested in the therapy, but it was more about how she spoke rather than what she talked about.
I've even had the tingles, but in a less noticeable away, from listening to certain moving pieces of music. Perhaps I like this feeling so much because I'm a naturally stressy person, and this switches on my parasympathetic nervous system to calm me down.

The YouTube ASMR community
There are now thousands of people making ASMR videos - they call themselves ASMRtists. While I've not yet found one that creates the same intensity of tingling as being in an actual real-life situation, some of them nevertheless put me into a very relaxed state. My favourite by far is Maria whose Youtube channel 'GentleWhispering' has more than half a million subscribers!

I'll confess I once spent a whole Saturday morning listening to back-to-back clips, trying to find the ones that worked best – generally the ones where she gently taps and scrapes things such as bumpy phone cases, various packaging, especially anything crinkly, and also flipping through pages (see above). But sometimes it's just the way she pronounces words with the letters T, S and K, which create a sort of clicking noise. Another reason I like Maria is that as her videos have progressed, they've not only gotten better - she clearly uses her advertising money to invest in new microphones and props - but she actually sometimes opens up about her life and her fears, and always makes the viewers feel appreciated and wanted, which perhaps goes a long way to explaining her huge following who, by the way, send her fan mail and gifts.

Nothing more than freaky side shows?
Now, for people who don't 'get' ASMR, either literally or figuratively, everything I've said so far probably sounds totally weird, and you might frankly be disturbed by the fact so many people are watching these videos and feeling relaxed by them. My husband for one can't stand them. He finds them totally creepy, freaky, and says they remind him of horror movies. So, clearly they are an acquired taste. He gave me a 'don't you dare' stare the other day when I casually mentioned I was thinking about making my own ASMR videos and began going round the house tapping my fingernails on things to find suitable props.

Anyway, if this is the first you've heard about ASMR, then do check out a few of Maria's videos. You'll either think I and thousands of others are total nutters, or you'll have discovered a fantastic new way to relax and even get to sleep. This Sleep track is purely whispering, no objects, designed to listen to right before bed. And, if that doesn't work, you could try this (below) known by some as an 'orgasmatron'. It's a head massager. It's nicer if someone else uses it on you, but you can of course use it yourself. In fact, I've bought one for myself as an early Christmas present. So, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to, erm, pleasure myself...
A head massager, or 'orgasmatron' as some call it, perfect for creating ASMR aka head tingles

Sunday 8 November 2015

A birthday blog

So, 37 years ago today I was born. First of all I was late by a few days, then even later as when mum went into labour, the hospital gave her an injection to numb the pain, which made everything stop. When I did finally arrive, at 3:07AM on a Wednesday November morning, I had to be dragged out with forceps, or so I am told.
Years later when I started delving into how events can affect us even early on in the womb, and about the spiritual practice of re-birthing (during my days editing the magazines Soul&Spirit) I began to wonder whether this early experience had had an impact on me throughout life. I've often been quite indecisive by nature and many times have worked up towards doing something exciting or big, only to get scared and back out at the last minute. It was usually only if someone else was involved in the process and was there to literally drag me through it, that I would proceed. This applied to job offers, houses/flats, and traveling. Was it too much of a stretch of the imagination to link my birth experience – not that I can actually remember any of it myself of course – to my later struggles? Or perhaps I was just trying to create an excuse for why I had so often failed to act when opportunities arose.

Being re-born
Back in July I went to see the wonderful craniosacral therapist Sheila Camino on Harley Street. It was for other health-related reasons but, quite unsurprisingly, during the treatment she said she could feel immense pressure on my head and asked me about my birth. When I said I'd had a forceps delivery she said she could energetically feel them squashing my skull. So, she talked me through a re-birthing process whereby the grown-up me reassured the tiny baby me that there was nothing to be afraid of and that the hold up was merely so the people on the outside could sort out a few things, and it was nothing to worry about. Then she got me to visualise myself coming down through the birth canal and easily out into the open into my mother's arms without any assistance. The amazing thing was that as she held my head in her hands I literally felt an energetic shift take place as if some sections of my skull where actually moving, a bit like tectonic plates that slide against each other. Afterwards I felt so incredible: light, free happy, and truly like I had been reborn. Also, a lump on the lower left side of the back of my skull, which has been there for as long as I can remember, had miraculously decreases in size, too. Sadly the positive effects started to wear off slightly after a month - perhaps due to stress - and some of the tension in my head and neck  returned. However as I begin today and new year of my life, this experience came back to mine, and how we tell ourselves stories - often not very helpful ones. This story that how I was born may have affected my decision making is not helpful and is just limiting. The self-help giant Tony Robbins, author of numerous motivation and productivity books, says to get anything done in life, a big part of it comes down to the stories you tell, both to yourself and others. And if I'm totally honest, a lot of the tales I tell myself with regards to my past, present and future are not all that positive. For example, I quite often tell myself it's too late for me to do something I really want to do, and that I have missed the boat in some way. In my mind I replay events of the past and wonder why on earth I didn't do them differently - listening to the inner critic having a field day. But realistically, I couldn't have done many things different because I didn't have the right mindset back then either! I was often filled with self-doubt or fear, and you can't achieve great things from those emotional states.

My new year resolution
So, this year is the year I will tell myself that I can do things I still want to do. That I can join another dance group and that I am good enough (and that so what I didn't make it into a career). And, that I can write a book because what I have to say has value and worth. What's more, I am allowed to take time purely for me to pursue my creativity rather than feeling guilty for not always doing something productive at every moment. I will also endeavour to tell more positive stories about my past, focusing on the amazing things I have done and achieved rather than what I didn't do. 
This morning I read a really great quote from the Abraham newsletter I receive daily. It was exactly what I needed to hear. It said that we humans often waste time thinking our ship has sailed so it's too late. But they say, 'There are lots more ships! Stop worrying about the one you missed and focus on the other ones coming towards you and choose to board one of those instead!' It sounds so simple yet is often hard to do. Nevertheless, it's better for us emotionally to believe there is still a chance and it is still worth pursuing our dreams, no matter how old we are. I certainly want to go on dancing into my 90s and who knows, maybe you'll see me competing on Britain's Got Talent (if it's still going in about 50 years, or some other version) and being like Paddy - if you haven't seen her inspiring dance, please check it out here. That's my idea of being an old lady!

Saturday 10 October 2015

One for all the rainbow and sunset lovers (don't miss the pics at the end!)

As I looked towards the patio doors this morning I could see dark rain clouds ahead but yet bright the shed, back wall and house beyond were glowing orange from the 7.30am sunshine. It meant there had to be a rainbow. And as I stepped out into the garden, I was greeted by the sight of a huge rainbow, missing only right in the middle, covering half of the horizon. It was beautiful.
And then I was reminded of today's date: the tenth of the then. Exactly five years ago to this day, on 10/10/10, I saw a truly amazing rainbow. I was living in a different part of the town and had gone on one of my regular walks up to the top of the hill in the country park just across the road. I often did this after work, always by myself, because I really enjoyed being in nature. Sitting at the top of the hill was like the dessert at the end of a meal – the most enjoyable part. The simple seat there faced west and had an uninterrupted view across the park towards the train station, meaning it was a fantastic vantage point to watch the sun set, especially when there were clouds so the sky would become streaked with orange and pink.
That particular day, the sunset was magnificent. The sky was still a vibrant blue in one direction, yet there were huge burnt orange and deep pink clouds towards the west, which felt as if they were coming towards me. I sat for what seems like ages, marveling at the beauty of the entire scene.

Inner guidance that led to awe
After about 20 minutes I got up to leave and began walking down the hill. I was half way down when for some unknown reason something made me stop. I felt compelled to turn around. Now, I had done that walk and sat in that spot possibly a hundred times, and yet I'd never wanted to turn around and look back up the hill. Perhaps it was my own inner voice prompting me to, or something larger.
Either way, I'll never forget it, as it caused me to gasp, and made my heart start pounding. Right above where I'd been sitting was an enormous rainbow, unlike any other I'd seen before or have seen since. It was incredible. The exact angle of the sun and gathering of the clouds emphasised the red and orange hues in and around it, and I remember thinking it looked slightly menacing. I know that sounds strange, but it wasn't the usual clear, bright, happy looking rainbow you usually see. It had a Turner-esque quality to it (and I wish I'd had a camera but I'd gone out with only my door key). I felt as if I was being shown a gift, something so uniquely beautiful, as if God, or whoever runs this universe, had tapped me on the shoulder and said 'Hey, you thought that was amazing, check THIS out!' Had I not turned around I never would have seen it, and for that I was and still am  grateful. Nature is the only thing that truly inspires me with its beauty and wonder. I've always had a thing for taking pictures of the sky, especially sunsets and rainbows, and could gaze at the moon for hours on end (in fact I have done before, lying on the living floor of my flat at the time, in the dark, watching the bright white moon pass from window pane to window pane).

Craving a connection with nature
I know I sound like a right hippy raving about rainbows, but they never fail to amaze and delight me and I confess that as I write this, I'm actually crying. I have no idea why other than to guess that perhaps my soul is longing for that re-connection to the beauty of nature. Very rarely do I go out for a walk like I used to. I don't think I realised how much I need it – how much it feeds me. I've always lived quite close to either woods or a park – somewhere I can quickly be surrounded by trees. Now, even though I do live on the outskirts of town, the only large wooded area closeby also happens to double up as an army shooting practice ground. When I first moved to my current abode, I went walking there not realising it was used by the army. Halfway through the walk, and well into a large field, I started to wonder what the signs were for around the edge, facing outwards towards the road. When I finally came up close with one and walked round to the other side to see what it said, I was confronted with a huge image of a bomb exploding, with a red line across. My mind knew it was just a sign, but my body starting freaking out, worrying I was going to step on some live ammunition, or that target practise might start up any second! So I freaked out. I suddenly felt really scared and began legging it back towards home. A few hours later I broke out in hives all over my arms and chest. That had never happened before, and I'm still convinced it was down to the shock of finding myself on a battleground and feeling afraid, rather than being stung by any of the nettles or insects in the woods there (I've had nettle rash before and this was different). And even though I now know the army always put up red flags around the site, and lock various gates when they are in there, I've never wanted to walk there again as it just doesn't feel right.

Rainbow clouds and magical moments
But luckily, where I work now has some beautiful paths that go through the woods. Even though I could quite easily work through every lunch break due to the amount of work there is, at least a couple of times a week I make myself go for a stroll, to breath in oxygen-enriched air thanks to the trees and river, and to just feel more grounded. And, the other day when I was out, I saw a small rainbow, or what I like to call a 'rainbow cloud' because they are like multi-coloured smudge in the sky, not a full-blown ark that reaches to the ground.
There was a time I used to think rainbows were signs. I often used to see them at pertinent moments, such as when feeling down and needing a boost. Logically, I know they are not produced purely for me or to provide any kind of meaning to a situation – they're only there due to certain whether conditions. But still, I felt like rainbows added an element of magic to my life - and who doesn't want that? So for all the sunset/sunrise and rainbow lovers out there, here are a few atmospheric pictures I thought you might like. I know it's not the same as actually seeing it with your own eyes, but I hope you enjoy them...

Sun rising out of the back bedroom window of my old house, winter 2012

Sun setting at We Are FSTVL 2013

Watching the sunrise from a plane to Nepal, 2013 (one of the best vantage points!)

Sunrise as seen from Poon Hill, Nepal, 2013 (during 10-day trek)

Sun rise a bit later from Poon Hill, 2013

Back in Colchester - Co-op car park!

Sun set, taking from patio of my current house

Dramatic sky over the back garden, current house

Amazing circular rainbow on holiday in Mauritius, 2013

Friday 2 October 2015

50 shades of grey - why I'm loving the new trend in hair colour

Grey hair is a huge trend right now. Everyone from catwalk models to style mavens in their 20s seems to be rocking every shade of grey. And it makes me happy. Why? Because although I currently I dye my greying roots, too afraid to let my hair become flecked with white just yet, when I get older I want to confidently claim my grey hair and not allow it to define me in terms of age.

The science part
We get grey hair when an enzyme called catalase stops taking oxygen out of the melanin pigment (which is, in fact, white to begin with). As we age, or become regularly stressed or suffer a sudden shock, our bodies produce less catalase, therefore our hair remains white. But that's the science part. Culturally, grey hair is associated with age and going 'down hill' but this is all changing as the population lives longer and stays healthier. Women want to and quite rightly can stay fashionable and beautiful indefinitely - grey or not. 

At the hair dressers the other day, having a few inches chopped off for Autumn, I read the Schwarzkopf Essential Looks magazine (above and below) and was encouraged to see almost all of it  devoted to their new Age of Beauty collection,  about maintaining style and sass well into your sixties and beyond. The grey haired models features were beautiful, one of them, Tanya Drouginska (below) still walking the catwalks and looking every inch the glamour puss – and with an air of Jerry Hall about her, I felt, with her high forehead and prominent features.

Model Tanya Drouginska in the Schwarzkopf Essential Looks magazine
Feeling more powerful and self-assured
According to stats in the magazine, more than half of the beauty spend in this country is by women over 40. What's more, most of the women surveyed said they felt more empowered and less stressed in their 50s than they did in their 20s. I can fully believe this, as I was often inordinately stressed in my early-to-mid 20s trying to forge ahead into a career (on a typically low wage), worrying about getting onto the property ladder, and wondering whether my love life would ever work out. Although I do still find things to worry about unnecessarily, over the past few years I have definitely begun to feel more confident, self-assured about my skills, and less worried about what other people think - well, most of the time!  

From celebs to beauty journos
Watching Oprah's Super Soul Sunday last weekend with Ali McGraw from Love Affair fame made me realise you can actually look better with grey hair than if you dye it. She's now 75 and looked far more relaxed and radiant with her grey up do, plain white shirt and statement jewellery than the pictures they showed of her at 65 with dyed dark hair. She certainly sounded happier, more grounded and more in touch with her inner self now, thanks to the passing of the years.

Ali McGraw with her dark hair
Ali on Super Soul Sunday this year, aged 75

Caucasian skin fades with age, and so keeping the same dark hair colour only ends up looking harsh and, well, more aging, which is the reverse of what we want it to do. I recently had the pleasure of meeting a beauty journalist, who had decided at 50 to grow out her blond highlights and go fully grey. She said it was a big decision, especially as she'd spent most of her career working as a beauty director for the likes of Marie Claire and Easy Living magazines and had been surrounded by pictures of beautiful women and information about all manner of youth-boosting products. Going grey, she said, coincided with leaving her high-powered job and training to be a yoga instructor, part of which involved living in India for a while and connecting to her real self, not being associated with her surface looks.

A new paradigm shift? 
Perhaps embracing grey hair is a sign of defiance and self-control, no longer feeling we need to dye our hair to pretend to be younger, and be that girl we used to be. For decades the cultural message for women has been 'you are valued on your looks', and while that is still mostly the case, perhaps, slowly but surely, it is changing. Also, the definition of beauty is expanding, which is exciting to witness. So many more colours, ages, shapes and sizes are being embraced as beautiful. As the population naturally ages anyway, women need to learn to value themselves and embrace whatever stage they are at in life,  finding beauty at every age.
As for me, I hope I will embrace my grey hair one day. For now, I'm using the most natural dye I can, which doesn't sting my eyes, as some mass-market ones have done in the past, and contains as few harsh chemicals as possible (one by Tints of Nature, to be precise).
Grey hair might be having a fashion moment among teens and 20-somethings, who are doing it in a cool/ironic way, and it's bound to soon be replaced as soon as the next trend comes along. But, the positive thing to have come out of this has been to show women that grey hair can be bold, beautiful and striking. 

Sunday 13 September 2015

Why de-cluttering isn't always easy - but so necessary

In my last post I reflected upon reinvention and how sometimes you get the urge to clear out and start afresh. What with it now clearly being autumn, we can all take a leaf out of natures book and let go of old stuff that no longer serves us.

My first reminder of this came while reading the 'Declutter your life' feature in the current issue of Top Sante (October, on sale now @topsanteuk). More than just your usual 'how to throw things away' type of de-cluttering article, this one tells you what your possessions reveal about your personality, whether you're a hider, assurance seeker, nostalgia lover, ponderer, peacock or a house proud person. Unfortunately I fell into four of the categories: the hider, who has a tendency to create walls around them of books and magazines; the assurance seeker, who likes to display trophies and certificates of their achievements – not that I have many; a few journalist awards collecting dust, but I do have loads of certificates, not on display but squirreled away, covering everything from  vocational qualifications to decades old ballet certificates and school achievements. I was also a firm nostalgia lover, who has 'cases full of old knick-knacks, and dolls and teddies on the sofa' (thought in my case on the bed in the spare room) to remind me of 'happy and carefree times'; and lastly the ponderer, who has shelves full of diaries, old calendars, and photos galore, plus snippets of scrap paper with scribbled dreams and thoughts. This last one is me to a tee; I have dream diaries dating back about five years, private diaries from when I was 13 and up, which years later became digital documents when we all moved into the computer age, and about four identical green books containing the notes I took from all the talks at consecutive Hay House 'You Can Do It' conferences. I literally document every aspect of my life. The current diary is more of a health journal detailing my menstrual cycle, what I eat, and what my skin is doing ie the state of my eczema. But yet I can't bring myself to throw any of it away! I'm inspired by the likes of Danielle LaPorte, author of The Firestarter Sessions, who decided to burn all her old diaries, photos to start afresh, but I find it so hard.

Inheriting the hoarding gene... from Jean!
In this respect I take after my gran, Jean. She has always been a hoarder, keeping things 'just in case'. I suppose for her generation it made sense; the wartime years meant people had to make do and mend, and everything got recycled in some way. It was never really a problem, as my grandparents live in a pretty big house with plenty of space to store boxes of shoes, unused crockery, and 50 years' with of mementos and photos. But now this accumulation of stuff has come into focus as my gran may have to move. Sadly, my granddad has serious dementia and is in hospital, soon to go into a nursing home. This leaves my beloved gran rattling around alone in a huge house with a lifetime of memories, which she has begun whittling down because she may need to downsize.
So last weekend I went to help her. She'd mentioned her boxes of old photos that needed going through, and I love looking back at family gatherings, especially Christmases at my grandparents as they were so special (a true nostalgia-lover trait).
Culling the scenic shots of Welsh mountains, waterfalls and wildlife was the easy part, as they had no people in, but as soon as it got to pictures of the family, which was at least 70 percent of them, gran found it incredibly hard to let go. She kept apologising repeatedly for wanting to keep so many of them, and I saw her tear up on a few occasions when seeing pictures of granddad in his prime, though in a typically stoic, English fashion she held the emotions inside, kept calm and carried on.
She really couldn't find it in her to throw away photos of people she loved; it was as if she felt that throwing away a photo was akin to throwing the person out of her life.
By the time we'd finished, the mass of photos had only diminished a little bit, but it was a start. 

Parting with the past
So, as I was re-reading the de-clutter feature, after having helped my gran, I was particularly struck by this section: "The loss of a possession is processed in the same area of the brain as pain. In other words, we are as reluctant to lose items as we are to experience hurt."
Suddenly I had one of those light bulb moment. It occurred to me that perhaps hoarders, whatever they collect, are ultimately all motivated by a need to avoid pain, whether physical or emotional. Perhaps they feel afraid of being out of their comfort zone, making hard choices, or moving into new phases of life. My gran hasn't even got a passport so she readily admits she's not led an exciting life. Although I do have a passport and have traveled to many places, deep down I'm still a lot like my gran and feel a need for security, certainty and comfort. Most of my big life decisions have been made based on these subconscious needs, whether my fun-seeking ego liked it or not.
I'd like to hypothesise that most, perhaps all, people with hoarding tendencies are of a similar ilk: fearful of change, needing security and with a strong tendency to look at the past with rose-tinted glasses, as I do most of the time – a bad habit that stops me living fully in the present.
So, maybe the 'stuff' we accumulate is just an outer manifestation of our inner beliefs. Perhaps the more we attribute meaning and personal associations to our possessions, the more we suffer as a result if/when we lose or have to part with them. 
I have a friend who always throws an item out if she buys a new one, so her possessions don't get on top of her. I admire that control, as I'm more of a 'stuff it all in the wardrobe/drawers/boxes' kinda gal who always thinks items will 'come in handy/come back into fashion' one day. I even have a collection, just like my gran, of assorted ribbons, remnants of wrapping paper and sturdy paper store bags for future use.
I also have a folder bursting at the seems with ticket stubs from almost every concert, theatre show, festival, art exhibition and film I attended from my early 20s and up. And don't get me started on old magazines: Zest  from 1997 anyone? Every issue of Vogue from 1999, including the special silver millennial issue? Might keep hold of that though, could be worth a bob. But why the need to keep these things? Because one day I want to look back and remember what I did, I suppose.
The only problem is, doing so, as both my gran and I are discovering, can bring with it as much sadness/lamenting as it does happy memories. I used to love riffling through my mum's meticulously annotated, plastic laminated photo documenting my childhood. But these days it just seems to conjure up feelings of regret that a) I no longer look the way I used to, and b) that I didn't seize that youthfulness and make the most of all the possibilities and opportunities open to me.

Editing as we go?
So what's the solution? Perhaps editing our possessions each season so we keep only the functional things and just a few select photos and special mementos would not only make our lives more streamlined and portable, should we need to move, but also less heart-wrenching and instead more present focused.
Seeing my gran struggling emotionally to wade through not only photos but ornaments, old clothes and enough kitchen stuff to fill an entire car boot sale, makes me think we'd all be better off if we accumulated much less stuff. 'Traveling light', as they say, gives us more physical space but also mental and emotional freedom, too.
But, for a die-hard hoarder like me, this can be a painful exercise. I'm tempted to hire a professional to help me out. Holding on to the past only keeps us stuck there. Physical possessions can make us feel safe and secure for a while but ultimately, nothing lasts forever and everything changes.
Perhaps it's time to get ruthless and edit down my stuff. After all, proponents of the Law of Attraction say nature abhors a vaccum, so if you create space in your life, new things will arrive to replace them.
Nature doens't hold onto its dead leaves, does it?

Sunday 6 September 2015

My message from Madonna (well, sort of)

Just when I decide there are no such things as signs and synchronicity, or at least not to look so deeply into such supposed things for hidden meanings, the universe goes and surprises me.
Last weekend is a classic case in point. I’d been working on a book manuscript for someone – a spiritual tale of self-discovery, just my thing – and after two hours of typing I felt a bit achy in my shoulders and needed to move. I felt a strong urge to dance to Madonna’s Ray of Light album, specifically the Nothing Really Matters song.
I went upstairs to my small mezzanine space, about 2mx2m, where I keep my crystals, incense sticks, meditation cushions, spiritual books and inspirational art, including a red Tibetan scroll I brought back from Nepal on which is printed some sage advice from the Dalai Lama about finding inner peace. There’s also my really old Sony CD player (with a tape cassette player - that’s how old it is!) and a selection of self-development CDs by the likes of Louise Hay, Wayne Dyer (RIP), and Cheryl Richardson. Madonna is my all-time favourite pop icon, and so I put on the CD and enjoyed whirling, twirling, twisting and arabesque-ing as best I could in the confines of the small room.

When I dance I feel free
The Ray of Light album came out right around the time I was heading off to university to study media and English. I think Frozen was the first single released, followed by the album’s title track. But Nothing Really Matters came out during my second year, when I was in America doing on an exchange programme. We had a TV in the apartment which played MTV – what a luxury, having just five channels back home – and two of the videos that played endlessly and became part of my summer 1999 soundtrack were Baz Luhrmann’s Sunscreen Song and Nothing Really Matters. Both songs moved me in a way it’s hard to describe; they spoke to a deep part of me that was much older and wiser than my body’s 20 years. And even though I knew the lyrics from Madonna’s song were about her first child Lourdes, the musical arrangement struck deep within my soul, so that whenever it came on the TV or was played in a club, I felt compelled to dance. I loved nothing more than dancing with wild abandon around the vast, light-filled living room in our second-floor apartment of what was named ‘the brick house’ (next to the blue house and the yellow house), with huge windows overlooking the tree-filled courtyard of the University of South Carolina. Though I was young and supposedly at an age to be carefree, I so often felt trapped within a cage of ‘shoulds’: I should behave this way, I shouldn’t do that or my parents/friends/boyfriend/life in general won’t approve and won’t like me. I was easily swayed by personalities stronger and bigger than my own. And I didn’t value or even listen to my own intuition, which was and still is my biggest work in progress. So, dancing to Madonna, whose videos and songs had inspired me since the age of eight, gave me sense of freedom somehow. Freedom from who I was to the outside world and a small doorway into the person I could become.
As the track drew to a close, I laid down on the soft fluffy white rug and began thinking about how incredibly long ago those university days seemed: 16 to be precise. I thought about how Madonna had transformed and grown as a person from the Material Girl years to the Earth Mother phase of the Ray of Light era, coinciding with her first child. And I thought about how many times she underwent a transformation, and continues to do so, not least during the Reinvention Tour - my first live concert of hers, in fact of anyone!

Synchronicity or just weird coincidence?
By now the album was on track 8 - the one in which she sing a Sanskrit chant - and I propped myself up against the wall with my cushions, and grabbed the nearest book, Change Me Prayers, by Tosha Silver. Tosha is a former astrologer and very down to earth in her advice and way of living. Plus she also has a lot of the same planets as me in her birth chart so I feel like we have some similarities. I devoured her first book, Outrageous Openness, on holiday earlier this summer, and loved it so much I ordered the sequel straight away. It’s made up of very short stories, 1-3 pages long. I must have started it two months ago, as I was reading a few pages at a time. So, I could have been at any point in the book. Imagine my shock and surprise when I open it to see ‘Just like Madonna’ written at the top of the page! I swear I’d not looked ahead and seen what was coming, so I had no idea. What were the chances of this happening? I’ve been reading this book on and off for months; I could have got up to any page. How did I manage to be listening to Madonna AND open a book with her name at the top of the page? The book isn’t even about her.

Madonna on the page
Tosha Silver's advice to reinvent ourselves
What’s more, the story then pretty much echoed everything I’d just been contemplating. It was about people being able to transform themselves and their thoughts as they get older,and Tosha had used Madonna as the ultimate example of reinvention. Synchronicity or what? I had to smile. Was this the universe giving me a little nudge to say that I am connected to intuition after all? That if I just stop thinking so much, and start doing what feels natural, starting small, I’ll be better at navigating life? Well, this was my interpretation at least. Funny, too, how the book I’d been editing earlier that morning, when I’d felt the inspiration to dance, had also been about cycles, patterns, and how we’re all interconnected.

Maybe it's time for me to do a reinvention, just like Madonna. With the arrival of September I'm feeling the urge to have a massive clear out at home, overhaul my diet, which has once again become too sugary, and perhaps cut my hair. As they say, the only thing you can count upon to happen in life is change, whether you want it or not.

Saturday 11 July 2015

Why is it easier to believe the bad stuff?

Why is it, that it's often easier to be negative about ourselves than it is to be positive? Think about it for a moment; doesn't it come more easily to point out your faults, talk about what you're not good at or reject a compliment rather than than big yourself up, speak of your talents, or believe it when other people say nice things to you?
The reason I got to thinking about this was from a chat I had with my deputy editor a few weeks ago as I sat composing cover lines for the latest issue of Top Santé. You see, in the magazine world, especially that of women's magazines, there is a tendency to play on fears or desires when enticing customers to make a purchase of your product. By this I mean you will see lots of cover lines that either use scare tactics such as 'stop eating this ONE food right now to avoid getting ill! Or 'blitz cellulite tonight!' Which on the surface both probably sound okay but beneath them are the implications that there is some miraculous new way to eat that will prevent you from ever getting ill, or that your body is far from perfect but by following this advice you'll transform into a supermodel (by the way, even models don't look like models in real life. They too have spots, cellulite, broken veins and bits of flesh in places they'd rather they didn't. And I don't say this out of trying to denigrate models, but just to point out that away from the studio lights, the hair and make up artists work and a dose of Photoshopping, they look like normal people). But I digress, as is so often the case with me! 

Playing in to our fears?
Back to the subject at hand. My previous experience editing magazines led me to create the types of cover lines that make huge promises and play on fear to entice you into believing that the information inside could really change your life. But if you look at the world in general this is how marketing and advertising usually work anyway. Most advertising, whatever the format and whatever the product, will play on one of about 16 human drivers, such as acquisition power, status and bonding. Deep down we're driven by fear, or rather the drive to avoid fearful situations (if you don't get this product something bad will happen), the need to reproduce (this product will make you more attractive to the opposite sex), and the need to belong and feel part of a tribe (everyone else has or does this and look how popular they are, so you should do it or have it too).
Magazines, to an extent, use these fears and desires to sell themselves. They promise miracle diets, whole body transformations, advice on getting the perfect job or husband, and make want to be the woman on the cover (well, not always, it depends who it is!). 
Part of the reason it feels easier to write 'negative' fear/desire-based cover lines as opposed to more realistic, less 'miraculous' ones, is because this is the way I've been trained to think and it reflects our culture as a whole. It comes easily and more naturally to write something that taps into our fears or longings, because we're all so used to feeling bad about ourselves and believing we need something or need to change
Two of my close friends, one in her late 30s and the other in her early 40s, told me they stopped buying women's magazines years ago because they realised that despite the happy, empowering positivity these magazines supposedly represent, they as readers still ended up feeling worse about themselves and their lives by the end of consuming them. Is this because women's mags are really wolves in sheep's clothing? I could write a lot more about this topic as there's much to debate, but to save writing an entire book in one blog post I'll stick to my own mag for now.

Turning it around from negative to positive
When I first joined Top Santé I was writing the type of things that have usually been acceptable for a cover, along the lines of 'lose 5 pounds in a week!' 'Banish cellulite for ever!' 'Get a bikini body today!' 'Avoid this ONE food and never get fat!' (NOTE: for any journalists/editors reading this, those weren't actual cover lines I used, just exaggerated examples). It felt easy and natural to write them and didn't take long. 
So, it was a real culture change, but a welcomed one at that, to be instructed that ALL cover lines now had to be positive and make women feel good or optimistic about themselves and their health, and not play into what I call the 'Peter Kay 14 stone in a day!' fear-based tactics that have become so prevalent. (If you've not seen his comedy sketch take on a slimming club, do look it up on YouTube). 
The whole ethos of the magazine now is to celebrate living a naturally healthy life, not one that involves fad diets or impossible fitness routines, and to feel uplifted, inspired and motivated to make small baby steps towards improved health, rather than feeling by the end of reading it that your thighs are too big, you're getting old and wrinkly and you're definitely not part of the hip young fitness crowd. 

The women we've featured so far in the real life articles have all been inspirational, often overcoming physical limitations or inner beliefs about not being good enough, to prove to the world they are fantastic as they are and can follow their passions no matter what their body shape, whether that's through running, dancing, or ditching junk food. 
I'm excited to be part of this mini magazine revolution, as it were, to promote positive body image among women and talk about health, particularly getting older, in a positive way instead of playing to women's fears about ageing. But it does make my job hard when it comes to writing on the cover! Sadly, negativity is what people buy in to. It's what fuels the evening news and sells certain daily newspapers (I'm sure you can guess which ones). 
But I'm glad to be part of something new and with such positive intentions. The changes may only be small and at times a 'negative' word like 'avoid' may creep onto the cover – well, sometimes we just damn well DO need to avoid certain things, trans fats being a good example – but perhaps it's a small part of a larger revolution taking place, one in which women learn to love and appreciate their bodies and instead of focusing on what is wrong, celebrate what is right. Perhaps instead of buying into the whole culture of fear, worrying about losing our looks and dreading the future, we can embrace what we have been blessed with, and focus on maintaining health on the inside - for that ultimately a far more valuable and positive pursuit. 

Saturday 27 June 2015

My spiritual lesson from strawberries

I love how the smallest, simplest of things can remind us of life's most profound teachings. Today has got to be one of the hottest days of the year so far in the UK. My husband was out in the garden doing some weeding and alerted me to the fact that the neglected strawberry patch was looking rather fulsome. Neither of us are particularly into gardening – well, I would be, it's just I rarely have the time to do it. So, our garden most often resembles a wild meadow. Anything could be lurking in the long grass! 

The strawberry plants were put there by my father-in-law a couple of years ago, and the whole patch has become covered in bind weed, stinging nettles and all manner of other tall wild grasses – at least it was until hubby hacked them down just now. I thought the strawberries would probably have died off by now, but these little babies are hardier and more adaptable than I gave them credit for and have produced a bumper crop – all with no intervention! 

The overgrown strawberry patch AFTER it's been weeded (and still looking a mess!)

Not once all summer did I go out to weed or water. The plants have been left entirely to their own devices. And here is what I find miraculous: competing for space alongside all the weeds, the runners had to grow upwards instead of outwards to get their share of light, meaning the developing berries didn't touch the floor (hence no need for straw). The second benefit of being surrounded by overgrown weeds, was that the birds could get nowhere near them as they had nowhere to land. Only a couple have been nibbled by creepy crawlies. It's just taken me about 20 minutes to pick what must be a couple of kilos worth of juicy, ripe berries, and there are still more to come!

The plants are now flopping over, thanks to the removal of the stinging nettles 

Now, contrast this scenario with that of about eight years ago, when I had my own allotment. My mum, a keen gardener, would often come to help me out. We planted all manner of things, including a row of strawberry plants. But they took so much work and effort to look after. We weeded around them, surrounded them with straw to keep the berries from touching the ground, and had to fend off the birds. My dad ended up making a netted cage to protect them. And then there was the nightly watering during the summer. So much work went into maintaining that little patch and for very little yield – we'd get maybe a handful of strawberries all summer. 

And the point is? .....

I couldn't help but think to myself that perhaps life often works in the same way. When we intervene too much, or make too much effort, we often don't get the results we hope for. Conversely, when we leave things alone and let nature take its course, without any thought about our attachment to an outcome, we can end up pleasantly surprised.
Now, I'm not saying that in all cases we can sit back, do nothing, and expect results. Indeed, those strawberry plants had to have been planted there by someone in the first place for there to be such a bountiful supply now. So, sometimes we do need to plant seeds in order to reap the rewards later down the line. But it's so easy not to trust the process and interfere too much. I love Louise Hay's analogy of positive affirmations being like seeds. She talks about planting those seeds with love into fertile ground, tending to them carefully, and not interfering too much or getting impatient and digging up the soil saying 'where are you? why is nothing happening?!' She reminds us that all we have to do is plant our positive intention, then release our attachment to the outcome and let the magic happen. After all, nature knows exactly what to do. Those strawberry plants in my back yard got all the sustenance they needed from the ground, air, and rain. I didn't need to go meddling. And, they ended up growing bigger and more abundant than they ever would have had I started getting involved in the process.

I've experienced this very thing throughout my life: putting lots of effort or emotional energy into trying to create a particular outcome, only for that very thing or person to remain elusive. Conversely, when I haven't been so attached to a particular outcome, or haven't 'tried' so hard, things have come to me with much more ease. Deepak Chopra writes about this phenomena – the law of least effort – in his his book The 7 Spiritual Laws of Success. It's a good reminder that sometimes things don't have to be such hard work. 

So, what can you ease up on today? Are you striving and working too hard on something to 'make it happen'? If you've planted your seeds and are getting impatient for results, maybe it's time to take a leaf out of the strawberry patch's book, and let things grow how they want to, in their own right time. More and more I'm coming to realise that by trusting life, we allow ourselves to be directed to where we need to go, and bring the right people and opportunities our way.

Who would've thought there could be so much spiritual learning from simple strawberry patch?!
....And yes, I've just enjoyed a bowl of them, dressed simply with some organic double cream and a sprinkling of xylitol (it's low GI, actually good for your teeth and way better than table sugar, but that's a topic for a whole other blog!)

The first of two huge tubs. I'll be eating them for days! Who knew such abundance was right in my back yard? 

Friday 16 January 2015

The key to having what you want: love, wealth, anything!

Each Friday I try to spend a little time working on my finances, all in aid of Financial Freedom Friday, an idea created by author and entrepreneur Kate Northrup and written about in her excellent book Money: A Love Story. With money high on my mind at the moment – my first ever tax return deadline looming – I feel the need to get my financial affairs in order. I have plenty of books on how to manifest abundance and used to read them avidly during my days editing Soul&Spirit magazine, but yesterday I picked up a title I'd not even looked at, but which had been sitting on my shelf for years: Wire Yourself for Wealth (Hay House) by Laura Leigh Clarke.

Clear your emotional baggage
Rather than start at the beginning, I turned to Key 2: Dump the emotional baggage. It turned out to be exactly what I needed to read (and dovetailed nicely with the self-love work I'd been doing on a group coaching programme with Daring & Mighty mentor Katie Phillips).
Laura makes it very clear that when we focus on wanting something, we actually manage to repel that very thing. "Wanting and having are two very different things. In fact... energetically it is the wanting that is preventing you from having," says Laura, who asks you to think of something you really want (a shiny new car or house for example) and then compare that feeling to the one you get when you think about something you already have. Often, there is no attachment to the things you already have, but a kind of magical 'energetic pull' towards the things you want that you believe will make you happy. The wanting has an energy of lack that sets up a barrier to that very thing coming into your life. Gregg Braden says exactly the same thing on his DVD The Science of Miracles and also on the DVD of You Can Heal Your Life: "If you want something, the universe will respond with 'Ok, so I'll let you want, and want and want."
Laura encourages you to let go of attachment to outcomes (very Buddhist) and of wanting, so you are in a clear state to receive. She also talks about how the way you feel about yourself – how you value yourself and skills in the world – has everything to do with what you attract and how much money you make.

It was then I had a Gru moment:

I had to laugh as I realised I'd been learning the hard way about want, lack and self love, or lack thereof, for the best part of two decades. I recall walking in to the administrative office during my first week at the University of South Carolina – I was on an exchange programme – to fill out various forms; an embroidered sign behind the desk caught my eye and its message has stayed with my to this day...

"Happiness is not having what you want but wanting what you have." author unknown

At age 20, deep down a part of me knew this must be true, but I didn't understand how to incorporate this truth into my life. As such, I struggled over the years, causing myself great emotional and mental angst by being so doggedly attached to things or people I desperately wanted, which only pushed them further away. In the example of relationships, I only recently realised it was my desperation for love and approval that pushed away the very men I was attracted to, as I emitted a strange and needy vibe; conversely, the ones I was not all freaked out about would line up! It was only in my early 30s that I actually discovered I didn't love or approve of myself (despite having read Louise Hay's affirmations!) and the reason my love life was such a mess was because I wanted acceptance and validation from a man, rather than finding it within. Robert Holden has a good example of this in his book Loveability, where he talks about his childhood friend who was overweight and not particularly a looker, yet he got all the girls. He asked his friend one day 'why are you so popular?' and his friend replied 'Because I love myself and you don't'. Not in a narcissistic way, but in a self-approval way.

In Wire Yourself for Wealth, though it's about money, it's essentially about self-love and respect too - not the kind of things you'd normally expect in a finance book! Author Laura suggests that we often want things because we're really wanting love. And, when we want love, it's because we disapprove of ourselves and don't realise we already are love. "If you notice you are disapproving of someone or something (or yourself), let go of the feeling of disapproval and then send them/you some love. This releases the 'lack of love' feeling from your system," she says.
So much anguish could have been prevented in my teens and 20s had I know this! Instead of holing myself up in my bedroom, feeling depressed that my current object of attention was going out with someone else and didn't like me (which often wasn't even true as I'd discover years later!), or analysing messages and texts and wondering what/when/how to reply, I could have focused my energy on things that brought me fulfilment and joy, such as more dancing, painting, performing, writing etc. But, as Oprah says often, this life is a school; we're here to learn. So while institutional education may end at 16 or 18 or 21 or beyond, our learning continues for a lifetime. I only enrolled in the school of self-love, thanks in part to Katie Phillips, very recently so it's still early days and I'm still testing out my new muscles of being kinder to myself, supporting my efforts instead of beating them down, and being a friend to myself rather than a harsh critic.

From money to love 
So, how have we gone from money to relationships and self love? Because, it's all linked.  As I am beginning to learn, everything in life is an inside job: health, wealth, love, happiness etc. You can't get love from someone, you can only receive it when you are loving yourself and in the flow. You can't get money by expecting or or demanding it, you can only receive it when you do or create something of value. You can't get health by expecting doctors to look after you and blaming them when you get ill, you have to take responsibility for your health, learn about good nutrition, and work with health care practitioners rather than put the power and responsibility solely in their hands. And, you can't get happiness from someone or something else, you can only create it from within by starting out from a place of gratitude.
Kate Northrup's book is almost entirely about self worth and respect within a financial context. And Laura's book, while 70% practical and focused on generating money, is set upon a foundation of self-respect and understanding the energy of emotions, and how they can help or hinder you. Both are worth reading.

Allow in your desires
I'll finish up this post with some practical advice from Laura who advises letting go of want and need, and instead using the word 'allow', which changes the dynamic. "Saying 'I allow' is also very passive. It assumes that when you stop putting energy into resisting it, or wanting it, the natural state for you is to have it."

Why not affirm the following on a daily basis?
"I allow wealth and prosperity into my life!"
"I allow a new car/house/job (your words) into my life"
"I allow love into my life!"
"I allow health and happiness into my life"

Even if it seems phony to begin with, you'll be slowly and steadily upgrading your vibration.
For more help, check out one of my favourite Abraham financial teachings here (the background music is irritating but it's worth sticking with it!)