I lost track of time the other day. Not hours or minutes. I lost track of how far into June we were.
Having woken up in a bit of a funk, I tried to pinpoint what was making me feel the way I did. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to go to work - I’m loving my job at the moment, but I was a little resentful of how many hours I was about to spend indoors and I realised I was longing for more daylight.
Thinking we were still around mid month I chided myself for not appreciating the moment. ‘Never wish for time to pass’ rang through my mind - sage advice I received from a cab driver when I was around fifteen wishing to be going on twenty-one. It had the sound of timeless wisdom when he said it and it’s informed many of my decisions and brought me out of impatience and into the present on countless occasions. Yet here I was wishing for more daylight.
So I stopped myself and began mentally rattling off all the things I have to be grateful for as I continued to get myself out of the house and off to work. Taking in the sky, trees, and birdsong along the way; being thankful for our brilliant transport system and the patience of the bus drivers; before finally arriving at work ready to suck it up and get on with it.
Settling into my emails with a cup of tea, I looked at the subject of the first one and was delighted to see “Happy Solstice”. I glanced down to check the date which confirmed it was indeed June 21st and realised today was the solstice. The shortest day and longest night that signals the return of the sun when the days, however slowly, begin to lengthen.
Like the sun breaking through the darkness, my mood immediately brightened as I realised I wasn’t in a funk, my energy was simply in tune with the earth mother’s position in relation to the sun. We were at our greatest distance from that huge ball of energy and I could feel it.
Beaming with relief, I didn’t beat myself up for not knowing it was the solstice nor did I berate myself for not posting about it or organising a ceremony. Instead I relished feeling that I was in tune with creation and made a point of blocking out time to go for a long walk at lunch to soak up some rays and replenish myself with the sunshine I’d been lacking. I then began to pass on the happy solstice greeting to others, all sharing that same spark when they realised we were passing our darkest day.
Missing a planned celebration of the solstice didn’t mean missing out. It simply provided a more spontaneous opportunity to look on the bright side - literally! It busted me out of my funk and inspired me to spend some time contemplating how to make the most of the rest of winter.
How about you? How are you celebrating the return of the sun as we move into the colder weather? Long walks in the middle of the days, cook-ups with friends, or snuggling up with a good book?
It always impresses me that when you put your intention out to the Universe it answers quickly and clearly, that is if you’re prepared to listen.
Last month in circle we were set to work on the sacral chakra - the centre for choice, relationships, and creativity. As I approached the Quakers Centre, where we hold the meditations, I passed two young women looking across the road somewhat indecicively.
A few minutes later, as I was unpacking in the hall, the same two bright faces appeared in the doorway. They were curious as to what the Friends Society (name on the building) was all about. We explained we were a meditation circle that the Quakers were kind and open minded enough to have been hosting for more than a decade, and told them they were welcome to join. Politely they declined and left.
About five minutes before we were due to start, one of them returned to join us. As she introduced herself she shared that she’d been working with this same chakra energy for a few weeks, so wandering into a meditation with the same focus had been too serendipitous to pass up. Her meditation proved fruitful as she connected with a personal totem to help her understand this energy at a deeper level than most others could intuit for her.
However, not all lessons are this convenient or gentle for that matter. Some other circle regulars, who have worked this energy before, came along with relationship challenges that had been steadily building during the previous month. Knowing the circle was on the way allowed these circumstances to surface, providing the opportunity to connect with and gain the insight of a specific totem.
Also interesting for this and other scheduled chakra circles was who was able to make it. Often, if you aren’t ready to work through a certain lesson or need to continue of a previous one, the universe will conspire to shield or exempt you from that particular focus. Conflicting appointments, cars, traffic, or illness can all suddenly materialise to prevent you being there. There is nothing wrong with this. It’s just another way of the universe giving you information about this particular area in your life.
If you’re unsure about how when or where to get your next dose of intuitive guidance, take the easy option. Set your intention, wait, listen, and trust you are connected. The universe will present all the signs, symbols and opportunities to guide you at the perfect time.
I used to say a great way to assess what you want to do in life is to imagine what you’ll enjoy looking back on when you’re 80. But these days, as I hear of so many people spending hours binging on television, absorbed in playing computer games, or working in jobs they hate, I’ve decided a five year review and rewrite might be better.
By review I don’t mean wallowing in all that went wrong and getting bogged down in feeling like a victim about it, that’s not going to help anyone. Nor do I mean ticking off a big scorecard of achievements. The reason for the review is to reflect on how far you've come, how happy you’ve been, and to note the stand out things that you’d like to do more of or change.
Take a minute now and think back on the last five years. How much time did you spend doing what you love? What could you have done less of? If you’re not happy with what comes up then you’d better start to consider how you’re going to spend the next five years, or at the end you’ll have a whole decade you’re disappointed with.
Now, imagine yourself looking back five years from now. How do you feel? What memories did you create? Were you learning? Were you growing? Did you make safe plans and fearfully cling to the results, or did you try new things and then laugh at how differently they turned out compared to what you expected?
We all know life is about the journey, but if you never take the car out of the driveway you’re not going to see much. However, if you focus on a destination, head towards it and follow the signs along the way, you might end up where you wanted to. Or, you might end up somewhere different with more knowledge gained along the way. Or you just might end up somewhere too wonderful for you to have ever imagined.
Why not take ten minutes now to start driving your life? Grab a pen and paper, find a spot where you feel indulgently comfy, and sit and write as if it were five years from now. Write a review of how fabulous the last five years have been. Begin something like “It’s date, I’m in city/country, and have just finished/am about to start.... The last five years have been amazing because…”
Write about what you’ve learned about yourself and others and how you used that insight to shift areas of your life and mould it into something wonderful. Write the story you want to happen. Don’t waste another day waiting for something to change. Write yourself a future.
I was a little disappointed the other day when a friend from my writing course said she worked with creative people but that she wasn’t creative. I had to stop my instinct to reprimand her for using such negative self-talk.
Everyone is creative, it’s part of being human. When you plan your day, furnish your house, decide what to cook, or even think up an excuse you’re being creative.
I remember my first visit to the local leather craft store. Caught up in the moment, arms full with a pattern, leather, and tools, the store owner casually said (with good intent) ‘you’re only limited by your imagination’. It was enough to stop me in my tracks. I thought ‘I work in technology, I’m not creative’, so I returned everything to the shelves and went home empty handed. Fortunately, I eventually let go of that limiting belief and allowed myself to develop what’s now termed creative confidence.
You build your creative confidence by choosing small creative tasks, doing things you enjoy, to ensure success (which is about the creative experience, not the product). Your creativity also increases the more generous you are with it. Sharing or giving away ideas makes room for new ones, clinging to one idea through fear you won’t have another leads to blockages - you stop the energy flow.
Getting out there and playing and making mistakes, that’s how you create. Trial and error is part of the process, like learning to walk, or cook, or read.
Great musicians play music they don’t work it. That’s why I was unsettled by my friend’s comment. She’d already come up with an amazing concept for a story and stuck out the gruelling birth of her first draft, imagining new ideas all the time. She’d been playing and creating constantly and still she thought she wasn’t creative.
Everyone struggles with the creative process at some stage, but sitting with the uncertainty, giving yourself some headspace, and engaging in play will help you find the joy and inspiration again.
Everything we do is a creative choice. Every choice is an opportunity to create. You just need to trust in your creative spirit and give yourself the space to play.
But don’t just take my word for it…
"I’ve come across two quotes this week about being perfect. Well actually about not being perfect. The first was from Layne Beachley - “done is better than perfect”. She was referring to not delegating because you believe you’re the only one who will do something properly. Apart from this resulting in you thinking you have to do everything, you’ll probably also tell yourself a pretty good story about not having enough support.
The other quote from Simon Sinek was “progress is more important than perfection”. It’s very easy to let the inner critic run wild when you don’t get something quite right, especially when you're learning something new. You might not get the desired result as soon as you'd like, but if you’re improving that’s enough. As Mr Wonderful likes to say “an 80% improvement is a lot better than what you started with”.
Don Miguel Ruiz in his best-selling book The Four Agreements gave us another way of looking at things. He said “always do your best" and with this he pointed out that your best will vary day to day. One day you might be able to scale a mountain and another you might just want to curl up with a book and listen to the rain. If you honour how you’re feeling on the day, you’ll probably do a great job of getting through that book.
So that’s my take away from the Universe dishing up two better than perfect quotes. On those days when I have a dozen things in mind to do and it’s stinking hot and I lose all motivation, it’s alright. There will be other days like today, when I wake refreshed and bounding with energy and run at the world and I find my best is better than it usually is and there’s really no need to strive for perfect.
Perfect isn’t about the way we do things like clean house, or write a report, or cook a meal. Perfect is a sunrise, a magpie’s song, or a cooling breeze. It’s nature and we’re part of that - and I can’t think of anything more perfect.
I’ve been thinking about inspiration. Where it comes from and how you get it. Sure it can come from our heroes, the ones who devote their lives to something for the betterment for everyone. But it can also come from smaller acts, those less grand. LIke a young adult pushing back against peer pressure to follow their heart, or a neighbour helping with a meal or a bill, or my 81 year old mum who recently decided to become more independent.
Inspiration comes from action, not grand scale activities, but small things that make a difference to an individual, the community, or the environment. They come from upholding your personal code of honour to do what you think is right.
One of my small actions is to retrieve discarded plastic from gutters to save it from eventually ending up in our oceans, then I walk past a mound of litter and feel helpless wondering if there’s any point. The task seems so big and I wonder if my small actions can really make a difference. But what’s my choice? Do nothing? Usually I take a deep breath and try not to let others’ carelessness get to me. I tell myself there must be more going on in their lives that I don’t understand, too much for them to comprehend how their actions are impacting others.
However, other times at the beach when I’ve run to one end and begun my walk back with a plastic bag collecting rubbish, someone will smile, or say thank you, or even ask if they can add some rubbish to my bag. And on the best days, a stranger will see what I’m doing and join me.
Honouring my personal code of ethics has allowed them to recognise the same value in themselves. Have I inspired them? Perhaps. But they have inspired me to keep picking up bottles and caps, keep taking brightly coloured plastic straws away from disappointed seagulls, and keep rescuing plastic from gutters in an effort to lessen the impact on Mother Earth and her children.
Ironically inspiration also means to inhale - it’s literally a breath of fresh air, and having someone recognise my tiny effort is just that. The same way me watching someone else uphold their personal code to help others is inspiring.
So, how about starting the year with a breath of fresh air, by recognising who inspires you and acknowledging how you inspire others?
It's that time of year again, when we reflect on this year and start to mentally prepare for the next one.
Some people finish the year disappointed that they haven't achieved more, many also seem personally affected by global events and deaths of celebrities. Perhaps they're a reminder of our own mortality and how important it is to make the most of each day that we're given.
So, how to make the most of next year? Start by knowing what you want, then engage your focus, imagination and intent to make it happen. Here's how:
Reflect on your year that's past
Ponder what you want to achieve next year
Consider what needs to be done to make it happen
Most importantly, try to make it fun. Play with the steps, play with the triggers, motivators and rewards. If you miss a day don't beat yourself up, congratulate yourself on noticing and wanting to continue.
Understand that self improvement is an iterative process. Like the turning of the earth, or its rotation around the sun, it's cyclical and we pass through stages.
Remember, your life is your major work and every new day (not just every new year) you're given another opportunity to create a masterpiece. Embrace it!