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On life and loss…..

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This year has been hard.  Unbelievably hard.  Excruciatingly hard.  I have lost so much of what I once held dear and found myself feeling more vulnerable than I ever thought possible.

My year began with divorce. Divorce from a marriage of twenty seven years.  A painful separation with all that I had known for my whole adult life. Nothing can prepare you for the loss.  With divorce there is always loss.  Huge, huge amounts of seemingly unbearable loss.  Loss of what you thought would be.  Loss of a future you once imagined.  Loss of friends and on occasion, loss of hope. For me the greatest of those losses, apart from the obvious, was my beloved ramshackle house in the bush. This was the place I called home.  Where my heart and soul felt the most peace. Where I took all my deep breaths and made all my big decisions.  The place I went when life became overwhelming.  So in the most overwhelming time in my life I could not go to that place that I knew.  I could no longer sit in that place where I normally sat.  In essence, even my decision making process had to change.

Life was, in fact, to became more overwhelming than I could possibly imagine. Nothing it seemed, bar my name, could stay the same.  I moved house, changed my car, changed my bank accounts, changed phone accounts and wifi providers, became a yoga instructor and took on photography work I had previously shied away from. It was hard. Seriously hard and I was physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted.  I had to claw and fight my way back to creating a life that was sustainable, even if it was temporary.

Then just when I thought I could catch my breath the universe dealt another massive blow.  It took from me my mother in a bizarre set of circumstances.  Nothing could possibly prepare me for the month that was to follow.

Last week I sat in her little home in the cold autumn of England and tried once again to catch my breath.  I could not seem to find it.  It was not amongst the all letters she had saved.  Letters that I had written to her when I was still a teenager and living in America.  It was not amongst the clothes that she wore, nor was it in the cupboards of china that she loved so much.  I could not find it in the garden she had tended so carefully or in the boxes of photographs I rummaged through.  It was not in the cards that arrived nor the quiet ticking of the clock in the night hours where I lay awake in a bed that had once been hers.  Surely I would find it somewhere.

I have yet to find that breath but in amongst all this terrible loss here is what I have found.  I have found open hearts and incredible compassion.  In my vulnerable moments I have seen people step forward to comfort me.  People I did not know well. People who were merely on the fringes of my friend zone.  They have opened their hands and hearts to me.  They offered kind words that I have re-read again and again in those dark hours listening to that ticking clock. They gave me heartwarming hugs.  Hugs that gave me strength when I felt depleted.  They have taken me into their circles and protected me.  They have listened when I needed an ear.  I have made new friends.  New friends that have bought me meals and found ways to make me laugh and smile on the darkest and wettest days….you know who you all are.

I have found strength.  I have found that I am made of more than I thought.  I have found that I have strength to cope with a whole lot more than I ever imagined.

I have found calmness.  Yes, in amongst the whirlwind of trauma I have gone deep into myself to find a place of calm.  Now that I know where it is I know that I can go there whenever I need to.  Perhaps it was not there in the bush, perhaps it was just inside of me all the time.  I just didn’t know how to find it.

We are all just journeying from one end of life to the other.  Life is just about experience.  Big experiences and small.  Sometimes those big experiences are spaced out with long gaps in-between.  Sometimes they come all at once.

I have had a year of big experiences and big loss.  Big discoveries and monumental growth.  I hope the universe thinks that I have done enough growing for a while.  I hope it gives me time to catch my breath.

The space between what was and what will be

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There are those days, those weeks and moments in life when the universe comes along and lays its hand on you with such force you feel that you are shattered into a thousand pieces.  Your heart lies somewhere in you broken.  Pieces of it in your chest and others resting in the pit of your stomach.  Your head rests in your shaking hands and tears pour from your eyes relentlessly.  The words, when they spill forth from your mouth, are jumbled and tumble about in an incomprehensible dance.

There is a space on the floor between my bed and the wall where I sit when things get too bad.  From here, in this little space, where I sit all curled up, I have made  all the terrible calls I have had to make in this past week.  It is here in this little space that I have cried my biggest tears and placed my head in my hands to hold it when it all feels like it is too much.  I am not alone.  There are people all over the world dealing with unimaginable things and journeying through inconceivable grief.  There are broken hearts and tears all over this planet.  I am surely not alone.

Last Tuesday I put my mother on a plane to return home to her English autumn.  To the apples waiting on her tree and the last of the pretty flowers in her garden.  Her suitcase full of little things she had found that would remind her of me and the crisp golden leaves waiting to fall at her feet.  We were exceptionally close.  We always had been and she had been my friend for all of my fifty years.    The fact that she lived in England and I in Africa did not loosen our bond.  We Skyped and emailed and knew daily details of each others lives.  She would get on a plane and come at a moments notice whenever I needed her.  Sometimes she would just sense that I needed her and be here before I even had to ask.

While she was here we talked of her childhood in post war England and the things she still wanted to do.  Of her parents and grandparents.  Of  life with my father and life without him.  She told me of a train trip through the bluebell woods that she so loved and how she would book it when she got back.  We walked daily on the wide golden beach near my house that you see above and dipped our toes in the warm Indian Ocean.

She never got home to her beautiful garden and pretty blue house.  She never saw the flowers waiting with their bowed heads or tasted those golden apples. Somewhere, just about half way between the hot dusty air of Africa and the sweet damp air of England she had a heart attack.  A jumbo jet full of weary passengers was diverted to Abuja in Nigeria to offload my sick mother and continue its journey to where she was supposed to be.   A kind man with a foreign accent on the end of a feint line tells me things I do not want to hear.  I sit down in that space between the bed and the wall weeping huge gulping buckets of tears.

Through my constant flow of salty wet tears and breaking heart I look at how to get to this far away place in the middle of a war torn part of Africa.  I am told it is not safe to go and yet I am asked by the doctor to please rush as she is all alone there. That she has opened her eyes and held his hand for just a moment before drifting back into her unconsciousness.  Was she looking for me?  I research again how to get to this far away place but my children beg me not to go.  It’s not safe they say.  I am stuck as half way between going and not as she is between her two homes.  I sit between what was and what will be.  It’s a terrible place to be.  I wait knowing it is only a matter of time until that inevitable call to tell me that very place of waiting is no longer there.  I hide again in the space between the bed and the wall.  It feels like home now.  I think she knew.  I think she came to say goodbye.

The universe delivered me an unbelievable blow in the most absurd way possible in what has already been a exceptionally difficult year.  I envy generations past that were allowed a certain time to grieve.  They sat in their parlours and drank tea and received occasionally visitors for months on end, slowly coming to terms with the new space they found themselves in.  Life today is different.  I now face the complicated journey of getting her body out of Nigeria and home to her beloved England. I face endless red tape and a long lonely flight to meet her there where the leaves are crisp and her apples wait.

Death is the natural order of things and yet it is never welcomed by those left on earth.  My mother died in Abuja.  A city I never knew existed and yet now means so much to me.  I hope one day I can go. This is all part of my journey here on earth. These are my lessons and I must trust that the universe knows that I am not yet broken and that I have got this.

Practicing non attachment

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A confidence crisis is not confined to an artist.  However, anyone who practices any kind of art will at some point or another face some sort of wobble in their confidence at some point during their creative life.  Probably several actually, and if they are anything like me then they will have them on a regular basis.  They will doubt their technical knowledge.  They will wonder if their creative pool has dried up and they might even want to sell all their kit convinced their last ever piece of create work has long since been produced.

Recently whilst standing before a class of eager and expectant faces I wondered what it is that gives us confidence.  What gives me the confidence to go before people and teach despite the fact that I still have so much to learn? What gives me the confidence to write these words that may will be shunned with hefty giggles and dismissive vocabulary? How do we take confidence into our hearts and lives.

For me confidence simply comes from non attachment to the outcome.  When I first stood on my mat before my very first yoga class I had to overcome a moment of anxiety.  Could I teach? Would they like me? Would they come back?  I reminded myself that every person there that day would have a different opinion of me.  Some would like me and some would not.  Some would eagerly return for the next class and some would go on a search for another teacher who resonated more with them. I let go of the outcome.  I reminded myself that it did not matter what each of their individual opinions were and that it was more important to teach in a way that resonated fully with me.

I believe our education system has to take a great deal of the blame for the collective confidence of the human race.  Imagine, if you will, the young child who stands before her parents and siblings in full confidence singing out a tuneless nursery rhyme.  She has no attachment to the outcome and is glorious in her unadulterated joy.  Fast forward a few years and put her in front of her class where she now has to recite a poem or speak on some inane subject she has no interest in.  Now she is told very clearly there will be a rating attached to her performance.  She simply has to be attached to the outcome.  She is taught to be attached to the outcome.  Each and every day, in everything she does she is learning attachment to the outcome.  In the words of Buddha ‘the root of suffering is attachment’.  She spends twelve years in education being taught to be attached to the outcome of everything she does. She is doomed until she has spent an enormous amount of time working on herself and unlearning this very thing.

There are seven billion of us on this madly spinning planet.  Each and every one of us has a different perception and reality.  If you are creating something every single person that views that work will have a different reality of it and if you attach yourself to the outcome of each of those realities you will end up at the very root of suffering.  Create what resonates with you.  Detach yourself from the outcome.  Write the words that sit pretty on the page before you.  Take the photograph that is breathtaking in your eyes alone.  Paint on that canvas in the way that feels exquisitely beautiful to you.  Run the way that you want to run.  Move the way you want to move.  Sing the way you want to sing.  Detaching your self from the outcome allows you to do and say things that you otherwise might be reluctant to do or say. It frees you from your comfort zone and somewhere out of your comfort zone is where all the good stuff lies.

Try it for a day.  Detach yourself from the outcome of every single thing in your day and see how it feels.  Learning to detach yourself from the outcome is an incredibly liberating thing.  It frees you up to be your true self in all your magnificent glory.  It gives you incredible confidence.  It brings you back to yourself and in that place is all the joy and happiness you could ever want.

 

 

All the lovely lulls in life

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I was recently reading something I had written long ago in which I had said that yoga was about getting the inside right while working on the outside.  I was glad to have gone back and read this as I have been feeling, over the past few weeks, that my own personal yoga practice had hit a plateau.  I have been watching the students in my classes make leaps and bounds and taking much delight in their individual journeys.  It is in enormous privilege to be part of this.  To watch them blossom and expand.  To see them face their fears and overcome anxieties.   To engage with them as they make space in their bodies and lives.

Within my own practice I have become frustrated with seemingly little progress over the last month.  I have felt tightness in my hips and this has resulted in not finding the depth in my flexibility that I desire.  I have found that I have not mastered a new challenging pose for a while.  Watch my ego talking here.  Ego ego ego.

So upon re-reading my own words I am reminded that plateaus are okay.  That they are an inevitable and necessary part of life.  More than that though, I was reminded that reaching a lull in my physical practice does not mean that work is not being done.  Everyday when I roll out my mat and use that 6 x 2 space to twist and bend my body into unimaginable poses I am wringing out my stresses and engaging my heart.  I am making space in my body and mind. When I go upside down I am listening to my breath and finding stillness. I am pausing.  I am reminded that, with all things in life, we need these lulls and plateaus.  We cannot be seeking, growing and expanding every day.  That there will be times when we go forward in great leaps and bounds and then time when we pause and reflect.

It is during these pauses and reflections that we do most of our internal work.  Imagine for a moment it is a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon.  You decide to tackle a moderate mountain or hill climb.  During the climb you concentrate only on putting one foot in front of the other.  You are engaged with supplying your muscles with oxygen and with the process of moving your muscles.  Then finally, after much effort you reach the top.  The plateau.  Here you pause.  You inhale, expand and your heart fills with joy and pride.  You stand for a moment or two just taking in the beauty of this exquisite planet we call home.  Deep breath after deep breath you fill yourself up.  You smile.  Perhaps you sit for a while in quiet thought and contemplation.  You made it and now you are full of pride and happiness.  As your breath becomes calm you lose yourself in all that is.  You think about how you have just challenged yourself.  How you did not think you would make it but you did.  You begin to think about the meaning of life.  Your mind wanders to some of the challenges in your own life.  Somewhere there on top of that mountain you find answers.  So you begin the slow gently climb down.  It seems easy compared to the climb.  Your heart is happy and your soul content.  Your mind is quiet and you feel a new sense of peace.

So it is in life and yoga.  There are lulls in everything as there was on top of the mountain and it is here in these lulls that we do our contemplation.  We cannot only be doing the physical work.  We need the lulls and quiet to make sense of it all.  So I am reminded that this lull in my physical practice is similar to that time on top of the mountain.

There are lulls in all areas of our lives.  In our relationships and in our work.  I cannot possibly be constantly creative in my photography.  I need the time of the lulls to retreat back into myself.  To find the quiet contemplation that is the seat of all our creativity.  The lulls and plateaus are when we do our internal work.  It is when we turn inwards and apply what we have learnt.  It is a little like dreaming.  We cannot be awake all the time.  We need to rest and sleep and during our sleep we dream.  During our dreams our minds are sorting and making sense of what we learned during our waking hours.

I think to some degree we fear these lulls.  We fear that we will not move forward again.  That it is not a lull, and that it is perhaps a wall.  This is rarely the case and if it is we simply feel our way along the wall until we find the edges and a new way round.

So remember to engage fully with all the beautiful lulls in your life. Sit in quiet contemplation until such time as it is done.  Do not rush this process for it is here that all the answers will find you.

 

 

So many brave warriors

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This last weekend I braved an early and somewhat cold start, attached my fastest and biggest lens to my camera and headed off to take some action shots of the Ironman triathlon being held in Durban.  As I left my house the sky was alive with promise of a beautiful day and I felt the sweet breath of anticipation somewhere deep within me.

I arrived at the starting point just as the sun was edging its way into the new day, creating black palm tree silhouettes against a flaming red sky.  Three and a half thousand men and women stood shivering in their wetsuits waiting to start this half ironman competition that started with a two kilometre swim out past the back line and in again further up the beach.  From here the competitors cast aside their wet suits and head out on a one hundred kilometre bike ride. When done with that they would then have to face a twenty one kilometre run before they make it to the finish line.  My goodness this is only a half Ironman!! Families, friends and strangers mill around waiting for the start before walking the distance to where they come out of the water to start stage two.  I am struck by the tense sense of excitement.  An almost breathless anticipation of the day ahead.

The competitors came in all shapes and sizes along with all ages.  Each one of them prepared to push themselves physically and mentally beyond the norm.  Each one of them setting themselves an seemingly impossible target.  The waves that day were enormous.  Probably over three metres and to be honest, not being a water baby, there is not even a possibility I would have ventured out there in a worthy vessel let alone under my own steam.  As the swimmers came back towards the shore you could see the massive waves filled with tiny black dots being swept high and pounded down to be tossed about like buttons in a shaker jar.  Not for the feint hearted.  However, age was not a deterrent to these people.  There were plenty of competitors considerably older than me.  Size was not a deterrent.  They came in every possible guise.  As they stumbled out of the water I was already in awe.

They set off on their bicycles and we made a dash to drive to a half way point.  Firstly because it had coffee (having been up since five thirty this was becoming a priority in my life at this time) and secondly so that I could get some photographs like the one above.  This guy is smiling.  Seriously!

Then we drove back to the finish line to watch them run.  The run was done by way of a ten or so kilometre loop so the runners came past several times.  Supporters lined this route, leaning up against the barrier and passing endless words of encouragement to the runners who by now are starting to look like finishing is not even a possibility.

I was overwhelmed by the support these complete strangers gave to the competitors. Every man and woman that passed was handed a huge dose of kindness.  Their names would be called and words of encouragement would follow.  The people next to me made sure not to miss out anyone.  They clapped and cheered and gave courage to those that had seemingly lost their own.  This was beautiful.  By now the sun was warm and I found myself surrounded by strangers helping strangers.  The unknown supporting the unknown. I soaked it up and revealed in the joy of being human.  How incredibly sweet this all was.

We are capable of so much more than we think.  As humans we have the mental capacity to overcome almost anything.  Seeing these people push themselves to the limits of their endurance and physical capability moved me in a way I cannot describe.  They were truly courageous.  Each facing whatever it is they have to face and doing so for their own reasons.  Each with their own story.

The kindness that humans show to each other is so beautiful it is beyond words.  Why I ask myself do we have wars and why are people so intolerant of one another.  It is not our nature.  We are not born this way.  We are born with soft open hearts and this is how it should stay.  When people come together like this, hold each other up and open their hearts to one another there is an energy that sinks deep into your soul.

It should be like this everyday.  Be kind to one another.  Open your hearts and hold each other up.  We are all courageous and we are all just writing the pages of our own stories.

As in the words of Ram Dass – “We are all just walking each other home”.

 

How the universe gave me a lesson in humility

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Last week I was taught a big lesson in humility by the universe.  Life lessons are rarely easy and often sent to us with such impeccable timing it is hard not to laugh at the synchronicity of it all.

I arrive at the national gym chain where I teach my yoga class.  I go to the studio to prepare my music  (I like to do yoga to the likes of George Ezra and Phillip Phillips).  I plugged in my iPhone, rolled out my mat and glanced at the clock.  Exactly seven minutes before class is due to start.  I love the number seven and was feeling pretty good about life.

If I have not already managed my own practice that day I like to spend a few minutes before class warming up so that I can at least touch my toes!  I also like to spend that short time thinking about what I will say at the beginning of class.  It is nice to start the lesson with a few words about some aspect of yoga philosophy.  I decided that I would talk about how there is no room for ego in yoga.  How it is about your own particularly journey back to yourself.  That it does not matter what the person on the mat next to you can do.  That you should not compare yourself to them.  I have a deep belief that ego is a very dangerous thing and responsible for so much of our worlds destruction so it is a matter close to my heart.  Now I say this but somewhere in the back of my mind is the awareness that there is a degree of ego attached to teaching.  There you stand in front of people, knowing something they do not and being able to physically do things they can not.  I am acutely aware of this and yet it still sits there in me.  I admit I get a kick out of the fact that I am probably well past my half way mark in life and able to do things with my body that most of the class cannot do despite being decades younger than me.  I hope I use it to inspire but I suspect that at times it feeds my ego.  It is a human thing.

Inhaling deeply I stretched up in Tadasana (mountain pose) and folded forward to Padahastasana reaching to place my hands flat on the mat in front of my feet. Something I do every single day at the start of my practice.  As I did this I felt a sharp and rather excruciating pain in my lower left back.  I collapsed onto my knees and muttered some exceptionally non yogi words under my breath. Actually I think I said them quite loudly! I tried to stand and could hardly straighten up.  I am sure you can imagine some of the very unpleasant things that were being uttered by me at this time.  I stayed on all fours and tried to roll my spine.  This was not good.

Only minutes to go and no time to call in another teacher.  Deep breaths Niki.  Deep breaths.  Keep calm and carry on. The doors open and bright eyed students appear with all the eagerness of the sun making its way into a new day.  Meanwhile my eyes are watering as if I have been peering into that sun for far too long.

I welcome everyone and go with what I had planned for this particular class.  I inhale deeply and talk of ego and how there is no room for it in our lives…and so we begin our practice.  I was able to do forward bends and most of the balances, however there was not even the tiniest hint of hope that my back was going to go past the vertical.

Humility.  I explain to the class that I had hurt my back and how yoga teaches us to be aware of our bodies and surrender to what they cannot do and rejoice in what they can.  I then tuck my ego firmly where it should be and ask a student to demonstrate all the poses that are quite frankly completely inaccessible to me right now.

Believe me when I say this was not easy. I admit I had to dig deep to find that humility.

Those guys upstairs must have been listening to my every thought and delivered that message to me with astonishingly beautiful timing.

What have I learnt from this.  I have learnt to show a certain tenderness to those students that find poses difficult.  I have learnt that I too must surrender to what my body cannot do and love it for what it can.  Most of all I have learnt that lessons will come to you at a time when you least expect them and you might not always like it but you really have no choice but to be as graceful as you can possibly be in that moment.

We are here to learn and grow.  To always try and be a better person tomorrow than we are today and   to try to do that with as much grace and kindness as we can muster.  When we don’t be sure that the universe will come along and give you a big flat slap as a reminder.

 

 

 

 

 

What would you do if your future where a blank page?

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Imagine if you will for a moment that you get to start over.

You wake up tomorrow and you get to re-invent yourself.  What would you do and where would you live?  You are still you, same body and same mind but you get to design your life.  Where would you choose to live?  What new career would you think about doing?  How would you change your diet and exercise program? What would you change about your yourself?

Sit down with a blank piece of paper and write down what you would like your life to look like.  Don’t think in terms of money.  Think about how you want to live your life.  The type of person you want to be.  Your character and purpose.  Lets make up a theoretical person.  He wants to be fit and strong.  He wants to practice meditation daily, write children’s adventure books for a living, live near the beach and surf every weekend.   Nothing too complicated.  He wants to live a simple, healthy, purposeful life doing something he loves.  Probably much the same principles as we all have.

So our theoretical person currently does not bother to exercise and eats junk food.  He does not know how to meditate, lives in a city and works as a debt collector for a law firm.  It’s pretty obvious isn’t.  He can start by getting up earlier and hitting the gym.  Give up the junk food and attend meditation classes.  Give up his cable TV subscription and spend his evenings writing.  You can see where this is going.  It might take a while but a couple of years down the line he is strong and fit.  He has finished his first book and is in the process of getting it published.  He meditates regularly and took a beach holiday where he signed up for surfing lessons.  Now his life looks a whole lot more like the one on paper than the one he used to live.

How does it feel for you to have this blank piece of paper? Does it feel scary?  Does it feel exciting?  Does it look anything like the life you live?  If it does not look anything like the life you live now then what on earth are you doing?  Seriously!  Yes I know you have to put a roof over your head and food on the table but….you can start by writing down what that life looks like and then start inventing it one day at a time.

You have this amazing opportunity here on earth in this life you are living.  Why would you not be living it the way you want?  What is stopping you being the person you want to be?  It might take a while and it might take a lot of hard work but the rewards will be unimaginable and it is never too late.

 

 

To all the fathers out there.

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I have been mulling this weeks subject in my mind for some time, wondering when to post and even if to post, then I saw this quote “your ideas won’t do a thing to help anybody if they are kept inside you”.  How true is that!  In fact the beginning of that quote says “You have as much ability to change the world, write history and shape the future as any other person”.  Perhaps we all need to remember that from time to time when we feel like we don’t matter.

On the subject of feeling like you don’t matter. Growing up I had a father who I can only describe as indifferent to me.  He was an alcoholic and died aged 55.  I did not speak to him for the last ten years of his life, a choice I made, not without much thought and hesitation, but can honestly say I do not regret.  I was simply not prepared to go on his alcoholic journey with him and needed to distance myself not only from his self destruction but also the deleterious effect that his behaviour had on me.  I have long ago dealt with most of the deeps issues associated with my relationship with him but here is what I have to say to all men out there who have daughters.

A little girl’s relationship with her father shapes all future relationships she has with men.  It is the most important male – female relationship she will ever have.  It sets the standard.  Her father is her benchmark.  She will look to him, even when she is tiny and unaware, to learn the rules of how a man should treat a woman.  Of what to expect from a man.  Of how she should be treated and loved.  So men, I want you to look at your daughters, it does not matter if they are still very young and have far to go before they begin to form bonds with other males, or if they are already teenagers and tentatively exploring their first relationships, or even fully grown.  I want you to think about the sort of man you would want your daughter to marry and if you are not that sort of man yourself you need to step up and make some changes.  You need to set the benchmark and you need to set it really high!

Lets imagine for a moment what sort of man you would want for your daughter.  Get a pen and paper out and list some of his qualities. Go ahead and list all his qualities if you want.  You might start with these.  Faithful, honest, humble, strong, open, full of integrity and kindness, healthy and fit.  I am sure most of these would come into the equation and probably a whole load more.  The list can be as long as you want to make it.  This is your beautiful baby girl so don’t limit it.  You want nothing but the best for her.  Now, take a really good look at yourself.  Be honest.  Really really honest.  Think about how close you come to being that man.  Don’t just flit over it. Think about it really hard.

If you want your daughter to marry a man who opens the door for her, or carries the heavy bags then do that.  Let her see you do that.  If you want your daughter to marry a man who adores her then go ahead and adore her.  If you want your daughter to marry a man who fixes stuff around the house without being asked then please be that man.  If you want your daughter to marry a man who stays fit and strong so that he can always be there for her then go ahead and do the same.  If you want him to be humble and kind then let her see you be humble and kind. If you want her future husband to be emotionally available then you need to do the same. What and who you are is what and who she will marry.  It really is that astonishingly simple.  She is watching you. She is looking at the big picture and all the little details. She is getting her cues from you.  So be sure to be that person all the time and not just to her.

Here is what is going to happen when you rise up and become the man you would want for her.  You are going to set the standard for what she expects.  She won’t settle for less and so not only are you ensuring that she will marry the kind of man she deserves you are setting a benchmark for all the young men out there too.  All those young men out there have no choice but to rise up and be the kind of men you would want for your daughter.

So go ahead and be the benchmark.  Set the bar really high.  It is kind of like a beautiful pay it forward and one day when you walk with her and hand her over to a man, waiting expectantly at the end of an aisle, you will be really grateful you did.

 

On being powerfully feminine

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This whole media hype that has surrounded Bruce Jenner has been the inspiration behind this discussion.  Now I am not going to comment on him or his life.  That is not my place.  I just want to say this.  I like being a woman. I like that women are, in their very nature, soft and tender, open and nurturing.  I like that we go out of our way to tend to one another.  That we take time to listen when others are feeling vulnerable and in turn are vulnerable ourselves.  That we welcome conversation on a deep soul level.  That we are interested, really interested, in what makes another person pause for a moment.  That we collectively gather when there is a intuitive need.  It is when we are open and soft and vulnerable that we connect with other people on a real level.  That we allow them to see us and they allow us to see them.  Women are not afraid to love one another openly and deeply.  A woman’s love for her children is unparalleled in it’s fierceness and equally in it’s softness.

In turn I like that men are physically strong.  That they are made that way to protect us and in protecting us it allows us to remain open and soft.  It’s such a beautiful balance.  I like that men can do stuff that we can’t.  That they can open those bottle tops that simply defy our strength.  That they can carry the things we can’t.  I like it when they step up to do those things.  As the saying goes the three sexiest words a man can say to a woman is ‘I’ve got that’.  I like that they like to do that for us.  That it makes them feel more masculine and the more masculine they are the more feminine we can be.  I like that they are different to us.  It is why we are attracted to one another.

Have you ever watch a man walk into a room full of women.  He will be overcome by a sort of terrified look.  All that powerful softness in one place.  It has a kind of energy to it which the masculine does not understand and he will shrink and flea in haste.  In contrast if a woman walks in to a room full of men, in general all the masculine energy will turn to her and she will soak it up like a great big soft sponge.

There is intense power in a woman’s femininity.  There is such strength in her softness.  It is her openness and softness that raises the children.  On that point there is no more vulnerable or brave moment in a woman’s life than the moment she gives birth.  It is then that she has to become soft and open in a very physical sense otherwise childbirth simply wouldn’t happen.  There is a beautiful and extreme vulnerability in childbirth and yet at the same time it requires a strength that leaves men in awe.  Doesn’t that just sum up a woman.  Childbirth just pushes all that she is to the extreme.  Think about it, in order to give birth to a baby you have to be as open and soft as is physically possible while at the same time being incredibly mentally and physically strong.  It is all rather exquisite because without that combination of softness and strength the human race would not survive.

There is so much strength and power in being open and soft.  If you are closed it is simply a sign that you do not feel strong enough to be open.  That your ego won’t allow you to be vulnerable.   Being soft and tender and open takes bravery and all that bravery makes this world a better place.  Ego does not.  Ego is what we all need to loose.  Don’t mistake ego for pride.  Pride has its place.  Ego has no place in our world.  Ego is the ultimate destructor.

I think we should celebrate our soft nurturing tenderness.  I think we should  celebrate being brave and open and feminine.  If you are open and soft you are vulnerable, but if you are vulnerable you are courageous.  If you are courageous you can be proud.

Letting go of your stuff

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Recently I had to ‘let go’ of something that was very close to my heart.  It had been in my life for a long time and loosing it was especially hard.  It took many deep breaths and quiet meditations to realise I would be OK without it.  That in reality, letting go of one thing allows space for another to come in.  It’s the letting go part that we sometimes find really really hard.

Life sometimes has a way of stripping you down.  Taking you back to the basics from where you start again.  During this process you may loose many things, or even many people but you will also find yourself.  It is a human trait to cling to stuff and people but loosing either pushes us out of our comfort zone, and it is out of our comfort zone that we truly realise what we are made of.  It’s where our creativity lies.

I want to put this into the context of art.  Lets imagine for a moment you are a photographer that loves equipment.  Has a passion for that extra stuff, reflectors and strobes, triggers and backdrops.  This is your comfort zone.  You are happy shooting your portraits surrounded by your expensive complicated gear.  Then one day your studio is broken into and all your extras are stolen.  You did however, have your camera at home with you.  Just your camera.  No tripod and trigger.  No tethering cable.  No flash.  Now the next day you have a portrait session booked.  It’s really important and you cannot cancel.  So you go back to basics.  You scramble in your mind for a location with great light.  You adjust your camera settings and start to play a bit.  You find yourself being less static without the tripod and shooting from new angles.  Stripped down you find a new seat of creativity.  You are so out of your comfort zone but that alone forces you to be creative.  The artist who finds himself with a blank canvas, a brush and three pots of paint will dig deep and get creative. He will mix those paints into every shade possible and create shadows and light out of nothing.

It’s the same with life.  Have you ever noticed those people who are hoarders.  How they are so often the same people who are stuck in their routines.  How they never move forward and expand.  They stay in the same house for most of their lives.  Shop at the same shop and eat the same food.  Hoard their stuff and die never having gone out of their diminutive comfort zone.  Then there are the people who have no fixed location and few belongings, that live from experience to experience and adventure to adventure.  Always seeking and probably always finding.

It is very easy to get stuck in our space.  Both our physical space and the space in our heads.  It feels safe and we as humans like to feel safe.  We like to feel like we can control our environment and we do this by knowing our comfort zone and staying there.  We don’t always choose to move out of our space.  Sometimes we are forced to.  Life comes along and gives a big kick and we are blasted out of our comfort zone into a new space that is unfamiliar and, to be honest, quite frightening.  We take a moment to catch our breath.  Thats okay.  Then we pick ourselves up and take a look around.  This is the point where we start to get creative.  Forced to expand we start to move forward.  Here’s the good part.  Here is where we find our creativity like the guy who looses his job and is forced to go it alone and work for himself.  When we loose something we make space for something new.  We open ourselves up to possibility.   We move out of our comfort zone and somewhere in that space we find ourselves.

When we are stripped down in life and we lose a lot all at once, this is when we have the greatest expansion.  This is when we have our greatest growth and become open to the most possibilities.  The more space we make the more ‘new’ can come in.

It is not easy.  No it is definitely not easy, but it is when we are laid bare, totally out of our comfort zone with nothing but space before us that we truly find ourselves. This is where we find ourselves being deeply creative.  Where we find the greatest expansion of our mind and our spirit.  If you never leave your comfort zone you will not grow.  In fact the opposite will happen.  If you do not let go of something there will be no space for the new.

Take a deep breath today and let go of something.  It does not have to be something physical.  It can just be an idea, a belief, something you have clung on to.  Send it away with an exhale.  Now there is space for something new and it feels so good just to have that space for a while.  Feel yourself expand as you wait for the new to arrive. When it does enjoy the growth.  It will often come in unexpected ways but it will come and you will grow.  The bigger the exhale the bigger the inhale.  The more you let go of the more space you create and the more room for growth.

Let go of something and you will come closer to finding yourself.

 

 


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