Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Do Something Nice for Yourself

January can be a difficult month, the cold weather and darkness can really permeate our souls and lay us low.  Outside, things still look hard and predominantly brown, often damp.  There are glimpses of Spring, tiny green shoots hiding amongst the rotting leaves and dark soil...but we often miss these gifts as our minds tell us that there are weeks of this cold and dark to endure, it's still only January and we have yet to struggle through February...

I've been this person, I've struggled with winter, suffered with the winter blues and not been able to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

So I decided to write myself a sort of permission slip - permission to be happy, permission to be grateful, and glad, and optimistic.

It starts with asking yourself - what can I do to make myself feel like that?  It's so easy.

Do something nice for yourself.  Something that will make you feel good.

It can be the luxury of an early night, getting cosy in fresh sheets with a good book and an hot water bottle, it could be a meal out with a loved one, or coffee with friends, a long country walk followed by a hearty pub lunch, watching a feel good's endless, once we begin to think about the things we can do.

Choose Happy - a recent artwork in gouache and metallic watercolour

On Sunday, I woke up with a very obvious sensation of gloom in my belly.  I went downstairs and made a coffee, the long day loomed ahead of me with no real incentive to do much.  The bare trees looked listless and dull against a turbulent rain laden sky...come on, I said to myself, this won't do - what could you do that would make you feel better today?  What would make you happy? Lift your spirits?

As I wandered into the lounge with my mug, I noticed a new flower catalogue on the table that had arrived in the post and took it with me to the sofa to have a look at.  The sight of those bright flowers, swathes of colour on every page, cascades of tomatoes, and tall canes dripping with bright green beans had the effect of lifting me out of my low mood and planning a trip to our local garden centre to buy seeds!

It felt really good to browse that catalogue, and get ideas for what we could plant and grow this year.
I ended up with a lovely pack of sweet pea seeds and some special long planters to grow them in.  I watched a clever video by Sarah Raven on how to do it and feel pretty confident that our garden will look and smell amazing come summer.
All of this created a huge well of optimism, it enabled me to lift out of the heavy gloom and focus on something positive that felt good.  

Feeling good is what it's all about - once we have committed to that, we will find ways to make it happen.

The rest of the day passed by in a heavenly lounging manner, culminating with a nice roast dinner.  I also planned a lazy soak in the bath with some favourite oils, and dug out a new book to read.

As always, last thing at night before my head hits the pillow, I write down my gratitudes for the day.
I was really grateful for how the day had turned out, and how a bunch of simple things had made a grey day in January really pretty special.

The secret is to keep doing this, to ask yourself everyday - what can I do to make myself feel good today?  Even if it's just one thing, that's OK.  Tiny steps taken daily will help to build a more positive mindset which in turn leads to an happier, more positive life.

What one nice thing will you do for yourself today?

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

A Work in Progress

I was sat with a steaming cup of blackcurrant tea, looking out of my window at the sun rolling westwards and a flock of gulls winging their way across a powder blue sky - for a minute I wasn't in Yorkshire but at the coast.  I watched their silhouettes, their slow and steady wing beat and I was savouring the flavour of the tea, it's fruity tang taking me back to when I was small and off school with a cold. Mum would make me hot Ribena to drink, to take away the sting of a sore throat.
My mind is wandering...I bring it back, back to the moment, to the gulls I am watching who are now silently winging their way over the woods and high up over the crags.

Being in the moment is something I have been practising since last year - it involves being present in the moment and not drifting into the past or planning ahead into the future. This one simple action helps to bring me back home to myself, when I find myself caught up in the highs or lows of everyday life - it helps me to regain my balance and my perspective.

That said, I'm still a work in progress.  I sometimes forget.

When I forget to tend to myself, I lose myself.  I become swamped by life, I dwell on things and ruminate until I realise my teeth are clamped hard together, my jaw hurts, I'm frowning, and I'm crabby.

And yet when I remind myself to just Be, the world seems to tilt on its axis to a quiet point, all is well...calm settles in my belly, I breathe...

There is so much peace and reassurance in any one moment.  

It's so simple, I wonder why don't they teach this stuff to our kids in school?
Along with my meditation and yoga practice, my journals where I pour out my heart and write down my daily gratitude lists, I practise my mindfulness, moment by moment, day by day.  I forget, I remind myself, I do it again.  A work in progress this messy, beautiful life of ours.

And it is changing my life, as does being grateful, looking for gratitude in all things, being still in the moment, it changes who we are - it heals the dark corners and wakes us up to what an amazing thing this life of ours is.

It sounds blissful, and yes it's easier to do it when I feel good, not so much when life is harder.  But that is the best time to practice, when life hurts or feels tough, to come back into that one precious moment and remind yourself in the thick of the chaos, you're home.

How do you find peace in the midst of the struggle?  You stop, you breathe and you remember that this one moment is all there ever is, the past has gone and the future is still yet to be.  And in that one moment, you are whole and complete, and there is the peace.

Sometimes life unexpectedly makes us stop and practice mindfulness without us even realising - with something fleeting like seeing a stunning sunset or hearing a beautiful birdsong, and when we start to stock pile those moments in our hearts, our lives are enriched.

I practice mindfulness when I am working, if I find myself struggling with a piece I pause...I breathe...and I allow myself to soak up the colour of the paint, the texture of the paint as I sweep my brush through it, it's so soft and buttery...the feeling of the brush as it meets with the paper...and in those small moments, so I come home to myself again, over and over.

And then I can see what needs to be done, there is ease where there was struggle.

There is space for mindfulness in all areas of our lives, no matter who we are and what we do.  We are all, perfectly imperfect works in progress.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017


A new year I think, brings it's own special sort of magic, it is a space for miracles and secrets and as the short days give way to the darkness that winter slumbers in, I sense anticipation, inspiration and new ideas being born.

A new moon and a new beginning, the children are now back at school and my home is back to normal - we took the decorations down and spruced things up, it felt fresher and better, more space to breathe as we shook off Christmas, the feasting, the traditions.

I'm very excited about this year, I have some wonderful plans in mind for my business and feel very happy about where I'm going.  I will share more with you as things unfold, but for now I am planning a new range of artwork and a brand new sketch book group which I am going to host online, and which will be free and open to all abilities.  I love what happens when we put pen or brush to paper without fear, when we let the buds of our own unique creativity unfurl and blossom...I hope that you will join me - I'll be posting more about this in coming weeks, but for now, the seeds are planted and plans are unfurling.

These last few weeks have seen me retreating as the dark nights grew ever longer and ever closer.  I find myself soaking up the last rays of sun, drinking in the colour through my eyes, watching through my window as the sky turns from pink to lavender and finally to a deep navy studded with sparkling stars.  I study the shapes of the bare trees, their branches stark black silhouettes against an army of marching clouds.  I soak all this up and fill my soul with as much light as possible, and then reluctantly draw the curtains, light candles and retreat.

And in all of this, there is gratitude - for those few hours of light, for the time to retreat and incubate new ideas.  To rest and nap more, to be quiet and gentle.  For the first year in many, I have had a fairly decent run through these darker months, not yet succumbing to the winter blues and I am grateful and glad.  I keep a journal each day - I write my blessings down and this in turn creates a wider, happier space within for more goodness to unfold.  I begin to see more beauty in those brown, grey days...and there is much colour if I look carefully.  I am finding myself constantly watching nature - seeing the first buds of spring push up through that hard black soil already, feeding the birds and watching as they dive into the garden to seek out supplies, listening out for and hearing the owls who each morning before light, remind us of their wise presence in the trees by the water.

And all of this, this quiet watching, this gentle retreat, is as necessary as air and water.  It fills up my creative well and gives me a chance to dream up new ideas.  

I'm hoping to spend more time writing this year, here on my blog.  I have missed writing, and I'm eager to create this online journal of my thoughts and experiences here again.

I hope you will join me.

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