May you be blessed with good friends, by John O’Donohue

May you be blessed with good friends,

And  learn to be a good friend to yourself,

Journeying to that place in your soul where

There is love, warmth and feeling.

May this change you.

 

May it transfigure that which is negative, distant,

Or cold within your heart.

May you be brought into real passion, kindness,

And belonging.

 

May you treasure your friends.

May you be good to them, be there for them

And receive all the challenges, truth and light you need

©John O’Donohue

The 6 P’s to make change happen (via Brene Brown)

In her brilliant book, “I thought it was just me (but it isn’t)” which looks at perfectionism and shame, Brene details the way WE can make change happen.

Personal
“Even the most personal changes often have a powerful ripple effect through the lives of our families, friends and colleagues.”

Pens
“Write a letter. Most organisational leaders and legislators will respond to letters, emails and faxes.”

Polls
“Vote. Find out how candidates feel about the issues that affect your life and vote.”

Participation
“Learn about the organisations that support your issues. Join them in the fight.”

Purchases
“The dollar is mightier than the sword: stop buying from people who don’t share your values.

Protests
A protest is not always a million people marching on the capital. Sometimes the protest is four or five people showing up at a school board meeting in someone’s office.”

When Change Comes…What If…?

Change frightens us because we lose what is familiar and stand in a new landscape we don’t recognise. We are no longer in control. We want certainty where there is mainly uncertainty. We want a plan – we need a plan, so we can see the end though at the beginning. Our frantic attempts to control the chaos exhaust us, as we run from our centre, as we seek to be General Manager of our world. When we live like that, there is no room for trust.

What if we even trusted that we have called chaos to us, for the soul lessons we must learn?
What if we let go of our fears about making mistakes, looking foolish, wasting time and money or the impact on our relationships,?
What if we trusted that there is no failure, only feedback?
What if we stopped, and sat with our emotions, because we are emotional beings, and just listened to our heart?

Would we not find whispers of hope and peace and possibility there?

It’s time to find the silence in the chaos of uncertainty, and sit with it and listen. Listen, and start to see the gifts it brings, or might bring. Know that in the end, you cannot make mistakes; you cannot make wrong choices because you know you will all-ways make that choice right, where your soul path is concerned.

Your soul has called this to you for a reason, and you are stronger than you think. All is well.

 

Butterflies, courage, and the eternal rhythm.

I love butterflies. I think I always have. The miracle of metamorphosis. The caterpillar, stuck to the ground becoming something else that flies through the air. Such a wonderful symbol of all transformation – and a story on how struggle is a core part of that change. I didn’t know for many years how vital it was until I read this from Zorba The Greek

I remembered one morning when I discovered a cocoon in the bark of a tree, just as the butterfly was making a hole in its case and preparing to come out. I waited a while, but it was too long appearing and I was impatient. I bent over it and breathed on it to warm it. I warmed it as quickly as I could and the miracle began to happen before my eyes, faster than life. The case opened, the butterfly started slowly crawling out and I shall never forget my horror when I saw how its wings were folded back and crumpled; the wretched butterfly tried with its whole trembling body to unfold them. Bending over it, I tried to help it with my breath. In vain. It needed to be hatched out patiently and the unfolding of the wings should be a gradual process in the sun. Now it was too late. My breath had forced the butterfly to appear, all crumpled, before its time. It struggled desperately and, a few seconds later, died in the palm of my hand.

That little body is, I do believe, the greatest weight I have on my conscience. For I realize today that it is a mortal sin to violate the great laws of nature. We should not hurry, we should not be impatient, but we should confidently obey the eternal rhythm.

Nikos Kazantzakis

 

Team Caroline

My mum recently spent two weeks with us, and they were weeks full of good times, as there was a Jubilee weekend with extended family here, and then we celebrated her birthday. I love my mum dearly but when she went home again, my immediate reaction was to collapse on the sofa as I felt I could relax again.  People who know me might say I never stop – but mum has a gold medal in busyness. She just never stops. I’ve only ever known her to watch two TV programmes consistently, and that’s Coronation Street & Wimbledon – and even as she watches, she knits – and the weeks leading up to Wimbledon were always the busiest two weeks of the year (to allow her to sit down for two weeks and enjoy the tennis).  I struggled with this for a long time, but now I have compassion for the child she was that learned to be busy or face the wrath of a violent alcoholic father, and for the fact that the pattern was so ingrained that it has remained a constant in her life.  As children do though, I simply copied the pattern, and even when I want to slow my life down, I consistently struggle to do so. 

At the start of a year, I give the year ahead a theme – and last year was to be my Year Of Slowing Down. Except it wasn’t – I jumped into (and was catapulted into) my busiest year later – and ended up with no time to breathe, think, or realise I was going down routes I would not necessarily have chosen for myself.  So at the start of this year, my theme was partly about finding balance, slowing down and nurturing myself.  Half way through the year, I’ve spent the last few weeks reviewing my progress and realised there’s been an “epic fail.”

Except there is no failure – there is only feedback! So I’ve thought about what it is I need to do, how I am setting myself up for failure at times, how I try to do so much and why it might be that I’m always reading, researching, learning, doing.  To be fair, I think there is greater balance in my life now than last year, and I start a new working pattern tomorrow, dropping half a day a week and still able to get a full day off each week that means.. that means what? The opportunity to exercise, write, catch up with people, housework, emails and messages etc? Well that’s what it has meant so far – and as a result,my life stays busy as I seek to constantly connect and encourage other, but forget to do anything to get me towards my own goals.

I’m blessed to have a supportive loving family.  And I’m blessed to have some very special friends who continually support me – there are some wild women in there, let me tell you, each uniquely making my life better.  Who better then than to enlist to help keep me accountable as I declare my intention to change in 101 days.

I want to do this for a number of reasons, but perhaps the main one is that I was diagnosed with fatty liver and don’t want that to get any further than it already has.  It comes with fatigue which is a bit of two edged sword then, as it makes it harder to lose weight – and harder to exercise as the Catch 22 is that you are tired.  Combine that with arthritis and a problem with my blood pressure that means it swings wildly but at it’s lowest goes to about 80/40 or 75/35 which just wipes me out. As I get older, it wipes me out more – and I could use this an excuse not to exercise at all.  Instead, I’m just going to have to pick things I can do and find ways to work around this – as 101 days isn’t that long.  Or so you’d think, but for me, 7 days doing this is a long time, and long enough for me to give up!  

It’s 101 days because I picked a date to achieve certain weight loss, fitness and balance goals, nurturing myself all the way (just writing this scares me), but when I counted the days up, it came to 101 days! 101 is the number of completion apparently, so I thought that was unconsciously brilliant. And hopefully auspicious – but just to be sure, I contacted Team Caroline and asked them to encourage me to do this, hold me accountable in being honest enroute, failures and all.  I emailed them and wrote this:

 As you know, this is “my year of finding balance & nurturing myself”. That’s the theme anyway!

You are all dear friends who encourage & nurture me & I am so very grateful for you and for time spent with you. It refreshes my spirit however I interact with you I am always better for the time spent with my encouragers.

I’m going to be radical – for me – and go public – because in writing, I find I stay on track better – with Project Me – 101 Days, via my blog. And that’s scary as I’m already fearful of failing, or of being judged, or indeed of being less than perfect. And another 101 reasons for NOT doing it!

You all already know that about me anyway, just as you know I’m really not very good at nurturing myself, although I’m better than I was. I’m not very good at finding balance either. But I need to, because I’m at that stage in my life where something needs to change; and that something is me. I’m struggling with this fatty liver thing & these blood pressure swings leaving me very tired too often. And still, I want to keep growing, learning, doing, so I can change the world. So to STOP and just BE is a massive thing for me as you know. I just want to take 101 days out to change me. To focus on me. To see what needs stripped away and to learn what I need to learn to effect long term change.

So I ask for your support – Team Caroline – knowing I will get it, as much to make sure I am authentic & totally honest with myself as I blog my progress on losing weight, loving myself and nurturing myself and getting fit and healthy again.

Much love, Caroline

So tomorrow? Here goes – a journey into the unknown for me, as I put myself first.  For 101 days, at least….

 

Wish me luck!

To Be A Pilgrim

My mum sent me a picture this week out of her local paper. It was of me, sitting cross-legged in my Girls Brigade Uniform. Before I moved to the village of Saintfield (so called because St Patrick was supposed to have slept there on his way to Saul, Streull & Downpatrick), I had been in the Brownies. But I joined the GB when I was six & left when I was 14, and loved my time there, through all the parades, displays, competitions and services.

Each year we would have a special service, marching to the church along with the Boys Brigade. And we would often song the old song “To Be A Pilgrim.”

I read John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress many years ago but I believe that key theme of carrying burdens that we don’t need to carry still has great truth. Anything that we choose to still carry from our past is too heavy, as is anything we do that is done out of duty with a heavy heart or resentment, or anything we do because of a belief that no longer fits us.

If you are on a spiritual journey, you will carry them until your eyes are opened to a different way of living or doing things. Then you are forever changed. These moments of change are sometimes unnoticed, arriving without fanfares – or sometimes, they can make you instantly laugh out loud!

Our willingness to grow, learn, change and continue towards peace, happiness and joy are what the journey is all about. THIS is what makes us all pilgrims of some sort – even when at times, we might not know where we are headed.

Poet Mark Nepo writes this:

“To journey without being changed
is to be a nomad.
To change without journeying
is to be a chameleon.
To journey and be transformed
by the journey
is to be a pilgrim. ………

I, as you, consider myself to be a pilgrim of the deepest kind, journeying beyond any one creed or tradition, into the compelling, recurring space in which we know the moment and are changed by it. Mysteriously, as elusive as it is, this moment – where the eye is what it sees, where the heart is what it feels – this moment shows us that what is real is sacred.”

What would you miss tomorrow if it was taken away today?

Learn to enjoy every minute of your life. Be happy now. Don’t wait for something outside of yourself to make you happy in the future. Think how really precious is the time you have to spend, whether it’s at work or with your family. Earl Nightingale

Ever found that you’ve got from one end of a month to the other and not really remembered what happened in between 1 and 31? We live our lives all too often in either a blur or a daze, but have you ever stopped to think that the life that you know now – the one you are living right now – could change instantly? 

Whether it’s really bad, or really good, things will change, either because of tragedy, because we live a life of cycles and ebb and flow, or because changes over time add up and then you get to a point where it’s too late to change things back, if at all.  (That’s often where relationships break down, because you can’t begin to untangle the steps that got you to where you no longer love this person in front of you, or even sometimes, like them). 

Nothing is permanent.   Our normal lives can change through our choice or factors completely beyond our control, yet we live them as if all will be the same tomorrow and the next day, and the next.  We stop living in the moment and stop paying attention to what brings us joy, not realising whatever we are doing right now could be the last time we ever do that thing. The “little happiness” and the “present moment” are things I’m learning about, and lately I’ve been thinking about all those other things we take for granted that bring us happiness or contentment that might not just be part of our lives the next day.  The things I take for granted.  Especially the things I take for granted.

Whatever you’re doing today, whatever brings you joy and happiness – enjoy!  Stop long enough  to enjoy it by being fully present – not while sitting on a computer, not while ironing or cleaning or cooking or working.   This isn’t about being maudlin; it’s about appreciating what we have while we still have it.  It could, after all, be the last time you ever:

  • Speak to your mum on the phone
  • Enjoy the smell of freshly baked bread, coffee, roses, perfume, babies, roast dinners, curries, wine, chocolate, great baking or crisps   
  • Read, to see the faces of those you love, a wedding dress, the colours of nature, the sky or the moon, snowdrops and bluebells
  • Hear the wind or the rain beating on your house while you’re tucked up in bed, the sea, music – or a loved one’s voice
  • Taste pavlova, ice cream sundaes, crème brulee, pate, fish and chips, pizza or chocolate cake
  • Drink cola, orange juice, wine, beer, champagne or any alcohol – so those long girlie cocktail afternoons will never be quite the same again
  • Have dinner with your closest friends before they tell you they are about to emigrate to the other side of the world.
  • Take your beloved pet for a walk
  • Feel your child slipping their hand into yours or you get a hug freely given without them looking to see if their friends see them doing it

My daughter is just about to make the very difficult decision to pull out of university until they figure out what is wrong with her health.  Knowing she would be unable to graduate, she realised she was sitting in what was possibly her last ever lecture.  It made her stop, slow down and notice all she hadn’t noticed before, to store it away in her memory bank.   Most of us never get this chance.  More often than not, we don’t know we are doing something for the last time.   We either miss its absence at some point in the future, or the change comes with no warnings, no fanfares, and life as you know it is no longer the same.  You will hopefully get comfortable with a new normality or learn to live in a new way – but perhaps it’s time to see the little happiness, live in the present moment. It’s time to pay attention. Now.  

What would you miss tomorrow if it was taken away today?