On being enough

image.jpeg‘To be calm becomes a kind of revolutionary act. To be happy with your own non-upgraded existence. To be comfortable with our messy, human selves, would not be good for business’

– Matt Haig

In his wonderful book ‘Reasons to stay Alive’, Matt Haig talks about how the world is increasingly designed to make us feel like we aren’t enough. How our world has become increasingly about making people feel fearful about their health and ageing and plays on their fears of not keeping up with the latest trends or not having the latest gadget. Promoting discontentment and unhappiness because its good for the economy.

As I get older, I think about this more and more. So much of life is about chasing more and having more. Chasing the pay rise, the promotion, the new clothes, sofa, shoes, holiday, car, bigger house, more, more, more. Never being happy with what we have and who we are and where we find ourselves in our lives. And I find myself wondering when it will all be enough and when I will be enough. And when (and if) I will say stop. And what will saying ‘stop’ to it all mean?

I am guilty of the chasing too. I have about 80 dresses in my wardrobe. At least 5 of those I have never worn. I have at least 40 pairs of shoes, most of which I don’t wear. I buy new dresses because I think, subconsciously, that its ‘the’ dress that will make me feel good about myself. The dress that will solve my wardrobe ‘problems’ and make everything ok. The dress that will ‘keep me up to date’. The dress that will somehow make me feel better about myself. In the loft, there are 20 boxes of books that don’t fit in the house and haven’t been opened in at least 7 years. Many of those are personal development books that I have bought to try and find the ‘something’ that I am looking for. To answer my questions and help me find meaning. To help me to feel enough.

And it isn’t just about buying more things. Its about how we move through our lives. Always trying to get ‘somewhere’ and move on to something and be somewhere else, doing something else. To be climbing a metaphorical ladder that gets us to a different place, to a different state. Anywhere but here.

And I find, as I go through my life, that I don’t want to chase stuff anymore. I am tired of the running and the pressure and idea that we have to be constantly looking forward to the next thing, the next purchase, the next job. And that there is something wrong with not wanting to be constantly striving.

One of my resolutions this year was to give up clothes shopping for an entire year. It’s proving to be interesting and it has made me think about this whole idea of being enough. It’s made me dig more deeply into what is behind my shopping habits and why I have had an ongoing desire to be constantly wanting more. It’s a deeply ingrained societal issue that says we have to keep up. That more things will fill us up and complete us. That by not being up to date with the latest fashion, we aren’t enough. And of course it applies right the way accross our materially obsessed world.

But it has also raised the question in my mind about what constitutes enough for me. What do I mean? It’s not just about shopping. It’s about a lot more than that. It’s about self acceptance and finding peace in my own ‘messy human self’ as Matt Haig puts it. It’s about being happy and contented in my life as it is in this moment. I want to be still. I want to find peace right now and not spend the rest of my life trying to fill a hole in my self with more things, more money, more status in the hope that someday I will find it. It feels like a mugs game and that one day I will wake up, 80 years of age, having spent my whole life waiting for the next thing to come and fulfil me.

So maybe it is a decision. A choice. To just say no and to accept where we are right now. To love our own beautiful selves as they are. To grow and change on our terms. To prioritise what brings us joy right now and put aside the rest. To have the courage to take our own paths and know why we are doing it. To stand strong in our own light. To be brave. To know that we are enough. I find extraordinary freedom in that thought. If not now, then when?

You are enough 🌟

 

 

5 ways to heal our overloaded souls

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Going on a Digital detox has suddenly become a thing. The idea that we need to escape from the digital world we exist in, switch off our phones, devices, screens and get away from the constant connectivity of our lives. To unplug and stop the scrolling and surfing and searching and questioning and comparing and (over) sharing. To get away from the noise and somehow reconnect with the real world, with nature and fresh air and most importantly with ourselves.

When I was 19 and in university, I shared a house with some friends. We had one phone in our house and it was only for incoming calls. If I wanted to ring someone, I had to go outside, walk down the road and use the phone box. If I wanted to stay in touch with the people in my life, I would write letters to them and they would write back. There was no instant communication unless I was having a face to face conversation. Weeks would go by without being in touch with anyone apart from the people I saw on a daily basis and lived with. Letters would take days to write and days to get to their destination and days to read and days to reply and days to get back in the post. Life was a lot slower. And I didn’t need to know.

I don’t say this to hark back to some bygone era (it was actually only 20 years ago) but it feels so much like a different world and I have been thinking of it a lot recently. My memories of university are of slow days spent making music mix tapes in my room for hours on end with no distractions apart from the songs or of long walks with my friends and days spent studying and cooking and chatting. But my biggest memory is one of contentment- of a life free of distractions and free of really knowing what anyone else was doing. I didn’t carry other peoples lives with me because I didn’t know what anyone else was doing. There were no constant images and stories and tagging and voices and noise. And nothing to compare myself to. I clearly remember spring evenings sitting on the front doorstep of my student house smelling spring and the earth coming back to life. And that was truly all I wanted.

Of course now I have children and a career and more responsibilities. Life is busier because I have to be places, doing things and showing up. But I am always connected to something. To whats-app groups with ongoing daily conversations, to checking and maintaining facebook and instagram and twitter and posting and searching and reading and downloading and sharing. To a constant stream of emails in my work and countless texts and messages every day. And for what? To maintain an online identity?

And I mostly feel overloaded and stressed and distracted and disconnected and extremely discontented and sometimes lonely. I compare my life to people around me on social media and I compare myself to the images of lives that I see on the tiny screens that dominate our days. I am affected by the constant stream of anxiety inducing news. I find it hard to hear myself anymore. And I feel increasingly uncomfortable with it. I desperately want some peace and quiet. My soul wants to be heard again.

So, what to do about it? How do I feel like I am a quiet 19 year old again that wants to smell the spring?

1/ Have a quiet hour every day

Once my kids have gone to bed, I turn off the TV and the radio and the phone and literally sit in silence for an hour. Sometimes I meditate but a lot of the time I just lie on my sofa and take in the silence. I listen to the silence. And through being in silence, I can start to hear my own voice once more. Try it, it is very therapeutic.

2/ Get out in nature once a day

I try to get outside every day whatever the weather. Just to be outside, get some air and I try not to take my phone with me unless I really have to. Its important to view life through our own eyes and not through a screen.

3/ Consider shutting down some social media accounts and stop posting stuff

I have removed some of the apps off my phone to make it harder for me to access them. I also try to take breaks from checking the accounts as it becomes a very unconscious act of mindless scrolling through pages and pages of stuff.

Ask yourself- do I really need to look at this today? Can I take day off? Do I need to post this photo? What is behind me sharing this picture or liking this quote?

4/ Meditate every day

Rebecca Campbell, in ‘Light is the new black’ talks about carving out some non- negotiable spiritual practise every day. Its a time to reconnect with ourselves and our inner lives and listen. A time to shed the distractions and the noise and the constant input and to hear ourselves. I have always meditated and I was doing it when I was 19 and have continued to make time for it.

5/ Connect in real ways

Meet friends for a coffee, write a paper letter, send a postcard, go for a walk and talk. Be in the real world. Look people in the eye. Listen to them and hear what they really have to say. Try not to compare your own life to other people and have faith in yourself and your own unique story. Avoid carrying other people’s stories. As Byron Katie says- stay in your own business.

There is no denying that there have been great benefits to the connectivity of our lives and used correctly, can be a great and beautiful source of community. But there are elements of being connected and plugged in that are making us sick and unhappy and finding ways to escape and hear our own voices are becoming increasingly important. We all need to hear our own soul and sit quietly and smell the spring.

 

8 books that have rocked my world

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The books that I need to read always seem to find me. I have never been one to make lists of titles I want to read. If I am in a bookshop, I always trust that the right book will become clear to me and most of the time it works. Or I trust that books will cross my path through recommendations or presents. Airport bookshops particularly have thrown great books my way. These 8 books are mostly recent reads from the last 4 years and all have really rocked my world for different reasons.They are all on a similar theme of finding happiness, joy and peace. So in no particular order:

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

I came across this book via a video that she had made about taking her daughter to school on the bus. She had a sudden realisation that she might be wasting her life and she woke up to the thought that ‘this was it’ and that ‘the days are long but the years are short’. The book is all about her year long quest to find out what really made her happy and she deals with different topics each month like love, friendships, work etc.

It really resonated with me on so many levels – having children particularly can make time feel like sand flowing through your fingers. Reading this book inspired me to be more conscious every day and to make some decisions about changing my work hours to be with my kids, using my Daily Greatness journal to set daily goals and to think about my priorities. It also helped me to begin to think about what really makes me happy.

An Extraordinary Absence by Jeff Foster

I love Jeff Foster’s work. He is a true mystic and poet and his books are experiential. Reading this book uses language to point to the very thing he is speaking about which is that there is only this moment and that our entire lives exist in the space of now. That our true home exists right in the centre of our ordinary lives and yet we spend so much of our lives seeking something else away from this moment. This book made me feel very safe and very peaceful. I went to a workshop of his last year too and being around him is a very peaceful experience.

‘There is only this. Only what’s happening. To the person, that can sound terribly depressing. And yet when heard in clarity, it’s explosively liberating’

Reasons to stay alive by Matt Haig

This book stopped me in my tracks. It’s extraordinarily beautiful. It’s about Matt Haig’s recovery from a mental breakdown and how he learned to love life and the world again. It’s about all that is beautiful in the world and the things that keep him here. It’s so life affirming  and it reminded me how beautiful life is and how there is so much to be grateful for. It’s full of joy.

Dying to be me by Anita Moorjani

Another extraordinary book. Anita Moorjani writes about having end-stage cancer and then having a near death experience that healed her completely and how she chose to come back into the world to share a message of healing. Its the message of the book that struck me the most- that really all we are here to do is live our lives with joy. That being here and being ourselves and shining as ourselves is the only thing we ever need to do. Its a book about accepting ourselves and loving ourselves and being true to ourselves.

– Stuffocation by James Wallman

This book is basically about the fact that we all have too much material stuff and its making us ill and unhappy. That we all have more ‘things’ than we will ever need and it hasn’t made us liberated- its just made us sick as we spend our lives working more just to keep all this stuff ticking over. He talks about becoming ‘experientialists’ or spending our time and money having experiences rather than accumulating more things.

This book totally resonated with my core. I have never been particularly motivated by material status and things and have spent a lot of time travelling and living out of a rucksack and yet in recent years and especially since having children, I am weighed down by possessions. And I literally feel weighed down by them. This book isn’t just about decluttering, which in itself is great, but is a guidebook for living a different life and I loved it.

– Loving what is by Byron Katie

‘Who would you be without your story’. This book properly rocked my world. Its all about how the stories we tell ourselves about who we are aren’t true and that by questioning them, we can find peace. Katie herself had a spontaneous enlightenment experience after suffering with depression for many many years. She literally woke up one day and all stories had vanished and all that was left was peace and joy. Out of that experience came ‘the work’ which are a series of questions to help you challenge and turn around your stories. For me, the thought that I could basically drop all the stories about myself that weren’t serving me and were basically making me unhappy was life changing. I remember feeling an extraordinary sense of peace after trying ‘the work’. I have an app on my phone that she has created where you can ‘do the work’ whenever you want. I love this book.

– Light is the new black by Rebecca Campbell

I am actually still finishing this book as I write this but its been so revelatory, I had to add it to the list. The book is all about being a light worker and finding what it is that ‘lights you up’ in the world. She talks about how finding this and then embodying it is what we are all here to do. The book is written in very short chapters, most of which are a page or two and the book just shines with energy and light. ‘Follow what lights you up and you’ll light up the world’. It inspired me to make sense of this blog and my instagram page and inspired me to keep going with it. Beautiful, inspirational stuff.

-The Space within by Michael Neill

‘There is a space within you where you are already perfect, whole and complete. It is a space of pure consciousness- the space inside which all thoughts come and go’

I have left one of my favourites until last as I truly love this book and keep going back to it. It is all about ‘finding your way back home’ and is all about what he calls ‘inside out’ living. The whole book puts you in a space of meditation without meditating and its all about how living from the peaceful place within us is all we are here to do. He has a great TED talk called Why aren’t we awesomer where he talks about ‘inside out’ living.

This book feels like a book I would take to a desert island if I could only choose a couple to take with me. It just feels so alive and wise and full of truth and it speaks to that place inside like very few books I have read that are on this theme.

I love how books expand us and challenge us and propel us further on our journey back to our selves and on our journey to a joyful, peaceful life.