Still I Rise
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history's shame
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
As the lockdown continues, frustration is creeping in. Whether it’s the person who’s walking up the aisle in Tesco (or any other well-known supermarket!) THE WRONG WAY and bumps into you, or watching people congregating in groups when you know they’re not related, or watching our politicians quibble over who announced what first, it’s easy and understandable to feel ‘on edge’ and a wee bit tetchy. Our lives are so different. I’m sure I’m not the only person who watches tv programmes, filmed pre-lockdown, with a sense of longing. They all look so relaxed about being together, laughing as they brush past each other with no concern about being less than 2 metres apart. Living alone, I also find myself out on my daily exercise, watching couples or families laughing together, before calling out my larger than life ‘Good morning, lovely day!’ to anyone who looks like they might reply!! Yes, we are continuing to live in strange times. We have reacted or responded to this new way of life in lots of different ways. I know I have personally gone through several different ways of reacting or responding, often within the same day!
Some of us have started to learn a new language or to play a musical instrument. Others have done wonders in their gardens or redesigned and decorated various rooms in the house. As we find ourselves in the second month of this lockdown, we find that we can’t continue at such a pace, we are exhausted and can’t understand why. People who are usually competent, high achievers find themselves unsure of what to do next. Those, who have continued to work, especially those who are working from home, find the lack of boundaries confusing and draining. Then there are the keyworkers who are at the frontline. They are people like us, who have families and other family members to care for but continue to place themselves at risk. The mental and physical demands on all of us are huge. We are living through the same challenge, however we are NOT experiencing it in the same way. Some have lost family members to Covid-19 or sat with someone as they take their last breaths, some have lost their job or their family business, whilst others have been able to increase their hours because what they offer is in demand and business is booming.
There is good science behind why most of us are all feeling exhausted. In 1943, Abraham Maslow shared his paper, ‘A Theory of Human Motivation’. Here he shared what he believed to be a hierarchy of needs. Although his theory has been tested, it is still recognised as relevant today. If our most basic needs are not met, we are not in a place to focus on the other aspects of our lives. It is something I witnessed in schools and was what influenced the way I worked with staff, pupils, and the wider community. If we didn’t have children and adults who felt cared for, felt safe and happy, then we would not have learning at any level. At school, like now, it was not a level playing field and that was my driving force, as it still is. My work with families continues to be so important to me. Currently, I hope that I am providing some respite, sharing new skills and strategies to support families, as they work through their individual challenges. Providing skills and support for school staff, also continues to be high in my priorities.
Let’s consider Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, remembering that we cannot expect anyone to feel confident and ready for the next level until the first one has been at least mostly fulfilled:
Physiological – Our most basic needs include our body’s need for water, food, a place to lay our head and a good night’s sleep. Without those, we cannot begin to think of anything else. We might have the occasional blip but think of the homeless and the children in homes where food is scarce, at best.
Safety – If we are fortunate to have the first level fulfilled, we are now considering ‘safety’. Children need to feel safe, which is why we bring them up with love and understanding and with safe, secure boundaries. For them to grow up without fear and anxiety, they require a level of predictability (some more than others). As soon as that predictability wobbles and boundaries disappear, children will react in lots of different ways. I would suggest that many of us will find this level a stumbling block right now. The ever-present discussion on Covid-19 can be unsettling, worrying and anxiety provoking. We will find ourselves reacting to the lack of predictability, lack of boundaries and the unknown. We prefer to know what’s going on!
Love and belonging – So, here we are. I hope we've all made it to level 3 (check the diagram). It isn’t necessary to have the need at every level completely fulfilled. At different parts of our lives, we may experience changes and challenges, but at some point we all have a need to feel accepted and loved. This doesn’t just apply to our family and intimate relationships; it applies to friendship and other social groups. It works both ways, feeling loved and feeling love for others. It is increasingly documented that our physical and mental health is improved when we experience a sense of belonging. It feels good to belong! The converse is also true. Our physical and mental health can be detrimentally affected when we find ourselves alone and on the ‘outside’ of society.
Esteem – I’ve written this blog, not to cast doom and gloom, but to help people understand why they, or people they know, are finding life so hard right now.
We need to feel good about ourselves. There are two sides to this. One is feeling good about ourselves and the other is feeling valued by others. When these needs are met, people are more likely to feel confident and recognise themselves as valuable to their families, friends and work colleagues. If these needs are not met, there can be a lack of self-confidence and feelings of inferiority.
Self-actualisation – WOW! We’ve made it to the top level?! How many of us reach this point? How many of us feel truly fulfilled? How many of us believe we are living up to our perceived potential? Are we living the life we are meant to be living? Is now a good time to consider what is important in your life? I leave that with you to ponder.
In summary, we don’t live in glass bubbles. There are so many variables and we don’t have control over so many of them. Do we live in a fair, just society? Are we being educated in a holistic way? Can we begin to understand our place in a global context? We are on a lifelong learning journey!
So, what can we do to feel better?
Back to basics! Go back to Maslow’s first level. Are you eating well, drinking wisely and getting enough sleep? If the answer is ‘No’, then take time to make changes. Eat ‘clean’, drink lots of water and establish a routine in the evening that encourages a good sleeping pattern to evolve.
It’s all about selfcare.
Mental Wellbeing: One way to ‘defrag’ your mind is mindfulness.
“Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally”. Jon Kabat Zinn
Mindfulness ‘practice’ is exactly that, it is a skill that must be practised regularly, but make it manageable. Don’t commit to one hour every day but do set yourself a realistic target. That will be different for different people. Daily is ideal for about 5 – 10 minutes to begin with, building up to longer practices.
We tend to focus mostly on breathing during mindfulness practice but there are other ways too, including focussing on sensations within the body. It’s also possible to pay particular attention whilst we are completing everyday tasks, like brushing teeth, eating meals and going for walks.
I offer different sessions throughout the week for personal wellbeing and mental health check-ins. In these sessions I share different tools to nurture mental health and wellbeing. You are welcome to come and try these sessions out without pressure to attend every week. There are other tools that I share as AndBreathe. Check them out at www.andbreathe123.com or on social media.
Create a special place in a corner of a room that you go when you are taking time for yourself. Add a candle or two, a blanket, a cushion or chair. Care for yourself, just as you would care for someone you love very much! Be kind to yourself. Patient. Gentle.
Social Wellbeing: Keep in contact with friends and family. We are so lucky to live in these times with so many ways to keep in contact. Yes, it can get a bit overwhelming at times, but make sure you touch base with people every week.
Physical Wellbeing: Again, this will be different for different people. You don’t have to pound the streets in running shoes for an hour. The emphasis is on regular exercise, a mix of gentle and more strenuous, whatever that means for you. Ideally, go outside for exercise. At the moment, when we are so confined to the indoors, it is even more important to get outside. The leaves are beginning to burst into blook, birds are singing, lambs are leaping around and being outside reminds us that nature is a constant. Being physically active also creates endorphins which are the ‘feel good’ hormones.
Most of all, be kind to yourself. We are going through challenging and difficult times. And please remember to keep in touch! I would love to hear how you are getting along.
It’s the little things…
Over the past couple of weeks, I have been aware of a bird flying past me as I duck into the log shed to fill up the log basket. On Monday, I took time to look up as the bird flapped past and saw the most beautifully crafted nest with three little eggs. How long has the nest been there? I cannot tell you because I clearly haven’t been paying attention! Luckily, the weather is beginning to warm up, so I can leave the log shed in peace for the next few weeks, but I do admit to having a wee peek now and then!
It got me to thinking about how easy it is to miss the little things.
We are all going through such challenging times just now. Each one of us is having to change the way we live, in some way. It’s hard! Following the social distancing and self-isolation guidance is meaning that we are not seeing our family and friends. Many of us have lost our jobs or, at the very least, have had to change how we are working.
What I miss most: Hugs. Being with my Grandkids. Hugs. Being with my kids (yes, in that order!!!). Hugs. Being able to pop in to visit friends and family.
What I am finding particularly hard: Constant solitude (it’s ok if I choose it but this is not on my terms?!). Financial impact of having had to cancel workshops and appointments, as well as the temporary loss of some music pupils.
What I am enjoying: Slower pace of life. My garden. Weather. Family contact on WhatsApp and Zoom.
What I am grateful for: Life. My family. Living in rural Aberdeenshire. My garden. My home. Zoom! Additional hours of work from Aberdeen City Music School and the online AndBreathe work that is gradually building up again. For all the challenges and trauma I have previously experienced, that have helped to prepare me for these challenging times (but memories have been triggered too). A nest with three little eggs. The little things in life.
What I can do to help myself: Rest. Continue to eat a healthy diet. Exercise. Be kind. Use the tools I share with everyone else!
What I am learning: I can share my vulnerability with my family. I still have onion layers to peel! I still need reminding to stop and appreciate the little things in life.
Because the little things are really NOT little things. xx
I have written this blog fully aware that each one of us has a similar story. I am sharing mine for that exact reason. We are all in this together and it is so heartwarming to watch the country come together to support each other. We can do this.
What a difference a month makes?! Life is changing dramatically day by day and hour by hour just now. There has never, in our lifetime, been something like this in Scotland and many countries around the world. We are privileged. Many other countries have faced and come through significant tragedies and continue to do so. It has given me time to reflect. However, initially I wasn’t in a place to reflect because I found myself in a dark place. Selfishly, I wondered if I could go through yet another challenge. It seemed that every single time in my life when things have settled into a more positive routine, the rug has been pulled from beneath me! I wallowed in it for a couple of days, as further details came through. But then it all changed…
The tools I have grown to love and rely on began to kick in. I tapped, I sat and focused on my breathing, listened to music, contacted family and shared time (via Zoom) with my 16Guidelines friends. Then came the realisation that every single challenge I have had in my life has brought me to this point and prepared me for right now. I am ready. I am strong. I am resilient.
At the beginning of every flight we are reminded to put on our safety vest BEFORE we put on our child’s safety vest, so I began to think about how my life was going to look for the upcoming weeks and months. I realised that in many ways my day to day life would not change very much! I live alone in very rural Aberdeenshire, with sheep as my only direct neighbours. The biggest and by far the most difficult change would be not being able to meet with and hug my family. As the news came through, all AndBreathe workshops and appointments disappeared., then schools closed. Income from AndBreathe dropped 90% (AndBreathe Patreon community still bringing in revenue). I was initially hugely worried about finances. If I, as a wellbeing facilitator with a wide range of experience and skills at my disposal, was finding it hard, then I knew there would be so many people struggling with their mental health and wellbeing.
The planning began, as thoughts and ideas flooded in. I want to share what I have done and am continuing to do, in the hope that there is something here that might help and give you an idea for your own situation.
My personal mental health & wellbeing: 1. Daily check in with myself. 2. 16 Guidelines card. 3. Meditation (often with the Insight Timer app). 4. Yoga with Adriene on YouTube. 5. Music (listening and/or playing). 6. Checking with family & friends (either messaging or Zoom) 7. Daily outdoor exercise (usually my bike through the forest).
My family: My family are spread across the world, so we are used to communicating online. We have started scheduling get togethers twice a week via Zoom, once for a Family Wellbeing session and the other time purely for chat! This is for me as much as them. One daughter is a firefighter/EMT in the US, another daughter is a paediatric nursing student, one niece is an oncology paediatric nurse and another is a 1st year medical student and the entire family has concerns about health, work and finances, so coming together is hopefully going to help us all.
My work as a musician: I am a flute player and teach privately, as well as being flute tutor at the Aberdeen City Music School. This past week has seen me teaching music via Zoom for the first time. I use Zoom in my work as AndBreathe but have never used it for music before. I am also incorporating my skills and experience as a wellbeing facilitator to support the music students. They range in age from 6 to 60+ and all have different stresses just now. So glad to be able to do that.
My work as AndBreathe: Workshops and appointments completely disappeared overnight. This sparked my dark days until I returned to my more usual solution focused outlook on life. The only income currently for AndBreathe is the AndBreathe membership on Patreon. So glad we have this community in place, not just to pay the AndBreathe bills (!!), but to support each other. My aim currently is to finally figure out how to post ‘live’ on Patreon! I failed miserably a few months ago and patrons got an email prompt at every failed attempt, so I gave up! Now, I have been given this gift of time, it is the perfect time to figure it out. More and more I am looking at this time as a gift. Time to slow down, re-evaluate and plan.
How to help and support others: On social media I am posting as normal but have also created two groups on Facebook for families. One group is for families with young people ages 3 – 11 and the other is for families with young people ages 12 – 18. We are all reacting and responding to these challenging times in different ways and it is my way of ‘volunteering’ to provide support in this way. I have also offered all friends, work and business colleagues, mental wellbeing support via Zoom, again just ‘doing my bit’ for the wider community.
The randomly chosen 16 Guidelines guideline for April is ‘Service’! I will share more about ‘Service’ throughout April, but I did smile when I turned it over. 16 Guidelines has done it yet again!
Not sure about you, but I am seeing more and more positives filtering through. From fish swimming in the canals in Venice, smog disappearing in so many of our polluted cities, connections being made throughout our communities, support being put in place for the vulnerable, people stepping out of their comfort zone to support others and businesses and individuals providing for the homeless. And thank goodness we have the NHS. May we all remember this time and not go back to what we had. I heard a wonderful explanation on the radio this morning. If a shanty town is destroyed, we don’t rebuild the shanty town, we build something better. As life as we know it changes, then let’s rebuild a better place, using what we have learned right now.
I invite you to join me and repeat this following AndBreathe mantra every morning and evening for the next few weeks and months: I am ready. I am strong. I am resilient.
Recently, I have felt like I have been ‘peeling the onion layers’ for so long that there couldn’t be much of the onion left to peel?! I have shared before that my childhood, particularly my teenage years, was not ideal. Over the years, I recognised how the turmoil had impacted and continued to impact my life. It initially became more apparent as I had children and they were growing up. Our relationship was so different from what I had had with my parents. There also came a point in our marriage where I had to question where we were and where we were going. I considered all these things even more as a teacher and head teacher, particularly when I was working with young people who were finding school a tricky place to be, and yes, I was considering my own children, as I worked with those young people. I fully accept that our four beautiful children were affected by our marriage splitting up and the possible impact now on our grandchildren. Our past informs decisions we make along the way and I know that my past fed into the success and subsequent ending of our marriage. Would things have turned out differently had I done the work I now have? We will never know, and it isn’t helpful to stew about what might have been. The driving force, as I personally heal, is that my healing can be passed on through future generations, helping them to heal too. That is also why it is so important to me to work with others, supporting them through their story. If we all work on our own healing, it will ripple out, throughout our families and into our wider families and communities. What a wonderful world it could be!
Every moment is an opportunity. An opportunity for a new beginning. From the moment we take our first breath to the moment we take our last breath we can change. There is so much science behind this. In schools, I share how we are programmed to survive, and how this can become a problem. Our amygdala reacts to a situation, as if we are in mortal danger. We experience ‘fight’, ‘flight’ or ‘freeze’. This was, and can still be, very useful, but most of the time now it can work against us. Being negatively programmed can be exhausting and lead to stress, anxiety and illness. Learning to take a step back by taking that mindful breath/moment/minute/or more (!), we can notice that we were about to react and instead take time to consider other options and respond, as opposed to rect. The tools that I use daily, enables me to get to that point, but it takes practise! It’s like anything. We can’t run a marathon without putting in the miles, we can’t score a goal in the World cup without years of practising our ball skills and we definitely can’t play a concerto with a leading orchestra without thousands of hours of playing scales and exercises. So why do we expect to be able to be mindful just because we have read about it and dabbled for a few months? It is a lifelong skill that will need to be practised and used regularly, so that when we REALLY need it, it will be a natural response.
Going back to peeling the never-ending onion, I did peel quite a chunk this week! Throughout a large part of my life I have not had the healthiest relationship with food. I have attempted several times to figure out exactly why, although I did have a fairly good idea. I have previously tapped with a colleague, but we didn’t hit the exact spot, then a few months ago I bought a book called ‘Tap, Taste, Heal’ by Marcella Friel. I have scanned bits of the book now and again, but hadn’t looked properly at it till last week, when I came upon the chapter on ‘The Secret Wisdom of Sabotage’. This chapter talked about how we have our self-identified ‘roles’ in life, with reasons and stories about who we are and why. We might be ‘the good one’, ‘the bad one’, ‘the fat one’, ‘the thin one’, ‘the rebel’, ‘the crazy one’ and so on. By now I am quite sure, your role will have popped into your head! I had a few!! I tapped on this, which seemed to start the ball rolling again. I then had a session with a fellow practitioner (practitioners regularly get together to discuss, share and practise EFT/Tapping). The session very quickly identified a meal when I had been asked to eat olives in a salad, when I was about 15years of age. This was a very vivid memory. I was a ‘good eater’ but at that time in my life I HATED olives. It was not so much the olives, but the controlling element, the adult involved and the ongoing situation at that time, that had been the main cause of distress. As I tapped, we revisited parts of my life that I had buried for many years. WOW! What a difference I felt, as we delved deeper. It seems that the more we deal with the past, the further back we go, and we can keep going (if we want to), until we are at peace. How does that sound to you? The ‘lightness’ I have felt this week has been fantastic, even though I was quite unwell for a couple of days after the EFT session (it has been noted that this can happen when a big shift has occurred). I am having another session in a few weeks and am looking forward to it. It feels very liberating to be finally tackling, what I believe to be the core of my onion.
Everything happens for a reason....
How many times have you heard that before?! I often repeat that mantra, maybe not always wholeheartedly buying into it at the time but deep down I do believe it completely. All the catastrophes and challenges in my life have led me to this place and without them I would not be the person I am right now, and I am very happy to be the person I am right now!
However, I digress. Yesterday I sat down to write my blog for February. TBH I was weary after a hectic week, unfocussed and striving rather than inspired, but being the thrawn (one of my favourite Scots words!) person that I am, continued to pull words from the depths of my being until I had a fairly (?!) interesting, but, in my humble opinion, uninspiring blog. As I went to 'publish' it, the text disappeared! Internet here is not very reliable, so I am usually very canny about saving as I go, but in my autopilot state I had not done this. After a momentary reaction of disappointment, I quickly appreciated that fate had played its hand well yet again. Maybe there wouldn't be a blog in February and that was ok.
Fast forward to this morning. This morning is the beginning of me having AndBreathe appointments at my studio just outside Insch, on the first Saturday of every month. My first client was a Reiki client. I value all my clients and prepare for each one in a different way. However, there is something about the preparation for my Reiki clients that encourages me to take more time and more care. I take more time to look after me. I also take more time preparing the room and by the time the client walks through the door, I know we are completely where we are meant to be. All clients place trust in me when they mae that appointment. I never take that granted. I have been invited into the most private corners of their lives, sharing thoughts and emotions that have often never been shared before and the bravery it takes, is not missed by me. May they know that I will never break that trust. To be there with 'Love', 'Hope' and 'Faith' in all their forms creates a very special, unique opportunity to support someone on their lifelong journey.
Part of my preparation for this morning was to draw my guideline for the day. Today's card was 'Forgiveness'. Forgiveness is a card that appears only now and again but when it does, I always have a sense of apprehension and intrigue. I often feel like the child about to be guided to 'do the right thing'! How was forgiveness going to encourage me to think and approach the day differently? Best thing was to read about how the 16 Guidelines perceives 'Forgiveness':
"Forgiveness is the capacity to reclaim our peace of mind when something has happened to disturb us. As we go through life it is inevitable that we are going to hurt one another. In fact, as our world becomes more complex and interconnected, the opportunities for conflict increase. We have the choice whether to respond to these hurts and conflicts with anger and bitterness, or with forgiveness.
Forgiving is not the same as forgetting. It does not mean that we gloss over the harm that has taken place, or pretend that it never happened. What it does is to allow us to let go of the destructive attitudes towards the past that imprison us and the person who harmed us in a cycle of recrimination and guilt. When our desire for reconciliation and peace is stronger than our anger, disappointment or pain, then forgiveness offers the opportunity to make a new start.
Forgiveness can seem insurmountable, and has vast consequences, but in essence it is nothing more than a shift of mind. The motivation to forgive has to come from a genuine wish deep inside to relieve the pain and discomfort of ourselves and of others. It cannot be forced. Does everyone have the capacity to forgive? Can everything be forgiven? Is forgiveness something we can learn?"
I will leave 'Forgiveness' with you to ponder over the next few days. Each of us will take something different from the text and at another point in our lives, it will be different again. For me, it has given me a wonderful opportunity to contemplate several current situations in my life and with the framework of 16 Guidelines I feel safer, as I do so.
Every blessing to you for the month of February!
Welcome to our next chapter! Yesterday, I randomly picked the AndBreathe guideline for the month of January 2020 and it was 'Courage'. Many of you will know by now that I use 16 Guidelines in my every day life, both personally and professionally ( https://www.andbreathe123.com/16-guidelines.html ). It will never cease to amaze me that the randomly chosen 16G card is always the 'right' one for where I am. More about that later.
The title of this chapter is '2020'. Each and every previous chapter has led to this point. Although we don't want to dwell in the past, we don't want to forget what has gone before either. I for one, want to remember the lessons learned and hold close the precious memories. In the past I have set new year's goals, targets and aspirations, berating myself for not achieving the previous year's 'resolutions' and proceeding to do the same again in a repetitive cycle! It began to feel like a negative process, setting myself up to fail every year. There was also a feeling of turning my back on the previous year and starting afresh, a feeling of wanting to dismiss the blunders along the way! In my life, I have been a very focused, driven person, always wanting to do better, go that one step further. I was never 'good enough'.
However, over many years, but especially the last few years, I have grown to realise that maybe I am 'good enough', maybe I don't need to always look for that next challenge, that next goal. I have grown to realise that what I need to do is get to know 'me' better, get to like 'me' and most importantly begin to love 'me' for who I am. It's taken a long time but I cannot emphasise enough how good it feels to be on that path.
Instead of looking to change myself, I now look at what I have learned from the previous year, what I enjoyed, what made me laugh, what I want to do more of and then take it from there. It hasn't been straightforward getting to where I am and I am grateful for all the tools I have at my disposal now. 'I'm not good enough' was a very long EFT/Tapping session just over a year ago, where I tapped on every single aspect of my life where I felt that I wasn't good enough. I can share with you that it was a very, very long session!!! It also involved a big box of tissues, especially when I tapped on 'young Gillian' and how hard she had tried to do her best in very challenging times. The change that came after that afternoon was massive and has lasted within me.
Take time to reflect on the past year and begin to recognise areas of your life you would like to nurture and develop. Take a few days to mull it over. Search for the positives of 2019 and how you would like to manifest more of the same in 2020. There will be positives, even if it is just that you have got this far.
Now, let's return to the 16 Guidelines focus for January, 2020, which is Courage, and how it can apply to the month ahead.
A 16 Guidelines view on courage: "Courage is about stretch. It’s about seeing, feeling or realising that something more or different can be done, developing the determination to do it, and then carrying through despite all obstacles. We know in our bodies when we’ve been courageous. There is a glow of satisfaction and relief. Something has shifted, and we have grown in size.
Courage is not defined by what we do, but what we overcome within ourselves. It comes in many forms. It is found in a steady approach to everyday difficulties as well as in the single spontaneous gesture. It is happening quietly all around us as well as in the news.
Courage involves acknowledging our fears, but not being deterred from offering something that goes beyond our own immediate needs and comfort. Most courageous people have decided that the well-being of others is more important than their own, and have allowed this decision to drive their actions and the way they live. Invariably, they seem to find their own happiness in the process."
I think you will agree with me that Courage is a perfect guideline for the beginning of the year?!
Time for reflection:
1. Set aside some time in a quiet space.
2. Choose a couple of areas you would like to nurture/develop.
3. Focus on the process not the outcome.
4. Make it something you enjoy.
5. Research and plan e.g. Does the swimming pool timetable fit with your timetable?
6. Find a support network – go with a friend?
7. Tell someone close to you (or on the AndBreathe posts!) what you are going to do and write it down or create a vision board.
8. Learn to deal with set backs (Remember the 16 Guidelines focus - Courage!) .
9. Take a few seconds at the beginning of each day to remind yourself why it’s important to you.
You are not alone! Follow AndBreathe (andbreathe123) posts on Social Media or join AndBreathe Membership ( patreon.com/andbreathe123 ). Being with like minded people can get us through the tricky times and challenges. It is also good to be able to share the celebrations with us too!
Please let me know what you have decided to nurture in your life in 2020. I will share too!
December 2019: "We're really looking for something that's not there!" I was recently at an evening for women, run by women with a fellow entrepreneur sharing her expertise, focused on how to use social media to increase engagement in our businesses. In recent months I have been stepping out of my comfort zone and attending networking events, making new business contacts and this event came from an invitation from one of those new contacts. I find that I always learn something by meeting other people on a similar journey. Although our businesses are very diverse, we all experience ups and downs and it's good to share! It was at this event that I heard the statement, "We're really looking for something that's not there!" It was in response to the fact that so many of us mindlessly scroll through our phones many, many times a day without real purpose.
It got me to thinking. My excuse to myself is that I use my phone for work, booking in appointments, updating social media (work of course ;) ) and reading and responding to emails but, if I am honest, I know that I am guilty of mindless scrolling. It IS like I am looking for something that's not there! It's something that I've discussed with various family members. I have begun to turn on airplane mode when I am out walking and have contemplated assigning myself specific windows of time time to engage with social media (yes, I think I am that bad!). The camera on my phone is so much better than my camera that I prefer to use, which is why I don't just leave the phone at home.
But it's not just social media that the statement applies to. I won't drag you down with me but I know there have been so many times in my life when I didn't truly appreciate what I had. I was often looking for more. One path I could never quite get to the end of was education and job satisfaction. I was always striving to do better, gain another qualification, climb up the ladder, take on more responsibility and so on. The irony came when I felt I had finally 'arrived', it was all whipped away by Sepsis!
Fast forward 4 1/2 years, I believe that Sepsis was given to me as a 'wake up call'. Sepsis made me stop. My body fought back but, most importantly, my mind dug deep, as it had done in half-ironman and half-marathon races when I thought I was running out of energy and the challenge was too great. Since then, I have learned so much about myself. First, as I tried my damndest to get back to where I had been pre-sepsis but then it dawned on me that the lesson was to find a new way of being and a new way of living. I am still on that journey. There have been lots of small steps alongside the massive shifts. Nowadays, I share what I have learned, hopefully encouraging others to make positive changes in their lives.
So, as we approach 2020, let's look up from our phones and appreciate life moment by moment, savouring ever second!
I have found that children of all ages respond very well to EFT/Tapping. I am a relatively new EFT Practitioner but my background is in education and I have a growing gaggle of grandchildren, so I have had quite a few opportunities to try it out! It's all about making it accessible and relevant. My very first experience of EFT was when a parent suggested that I might be interested in bringing it into school. At the time I was a teaching head teacher of a small, rural school and mental health and wellbeing was at the heart of every decision I made (both of pupils and staff). If you don't have happy children and/or adults, worthwhile, high quality learning is just not going to happen. I invited the parent into school to introduce EFT to everyone and she visited every class. At the time I was in the early stages class, so we learned the Tapping points singing along to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star! Very quickly, we began to include a Tapping session into our daily routine. We would talk about what was going on and how we were feeling. The more opportunities children have to recognise and talk about their emotions, the more chance they have of becoming emotionally literate adults. It was this experience that led me to attending a Level One EFT course, followed by Level Two and now, here I am, a fully qualified EFT Practitioner!
As AndBreathe, I visit schools delivering the Pawsb and .b Mindfulness programmes to year groups, as well as sharing mental health and wellbeing skills and strategies to small groups or individual pupils, who are finding life tricky. EFT is always part of these sessions and I usually introduce the year groups to EFT at the end of the Pawsb Mindfulness programmes. In the younger classes and for pre-school schildren, I share EFT/Tapping by singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, as I first experienced, but I now also include singing a song along to the tune of Frere Jacques:
(at the crown) I am Tapping, Tapping, Tapping,
(top of nose) Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap ,Tap,
(temple) Tapping little fingers, Tapping little fingers,
(under eye) Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap.
(Under nose) I am Tapping, I am Tapping,
(Under lip) Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap,
(collarbone) Tapping little fingers, Tapping little fingers,
(under arms like a gorilla) Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap.
After some discussion on feelings, we then replace the 'I am Tapping' phrase with 'I am Angry/Sad/Yucky' or any other emotions/words that suit.
I am gradually finding more EFT texts for reading to children and for the adults who are supporting them. One of those books is 'Happy Tapping with Mia and Charlie', by Paula Kennedy. I have also used 'I Love Me' and 'I Still Love Me' by Hilary Ahluwalia. I used Hilary's books when I visited Kenya earlier this year and was introducing EFT to Kenyan schoolchildren. Many Kenyan children have experienced significant trauma and Tapping has been very effective. In Kenya I also used a video that can be found on YouTube, which was very useful for overcoming language challenges. The message was powerful, as well as the video being fun and accessible: Two Finger Tapping - (TTT) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sl0AkZfRGNE
In the outdoor work I am now doing, I also use EFT in 'Outdoor Wellbeing for Teens' sessions. These are very relaxed sessions when we Tap on all sorts of challenges that the teenagers might be facing, either at school or at home. The teenagers bring back many examples of when they have gone on to use Tapping by themselves, often for situations linked to anxiety in school. Teenagers experience very strong feelings/sensations within their bodies when they are anxious or upset and it is very empowering when they experience the body sensations dissolving in a Tapping round.
In Family Wellbeing sessions, I also share EFT with good success, especially with children who are anxious about going to school or being in social situations. It is heartwarming to witness the change when they realise that they now have a tool they can use all on their own.
I'm going to close with an example of how effective EFT can be with children after just a quick introduction. I had visited all the classes of a small school just before the summer holidays. It was break and someone brought in a very young pupil who was beside herself because she thought a wasp was in her ear. There was definitely something in there and we all knew there were a lot of wasps around, so she assumed it was a wasp. School staff contacted mum and began to wait for mum to arrive (staff are not allowed to do any more than that in this sort of situation). It came to me that I could encourage her to Tap. I spoke to her and reminded her of what we had just talked about and said it might help her breathing (she was breathing very rapidly through the sobs) if we tried it. She was too upset to do any Tapping herself so I asked if she minded if I tapped on her face like we had done. This was all very spontaneous on my part, but I went with my gut instinct, which is usually pretty reliable. She nodded and I began to Tap, talking about the situation. In a very short space of time her breathing began to settle, and by the time her mum arrived, she was calm, so much so in fact, that her mum was not overly concerned! Staff were amazed at the transformation of the young girl, resulting from the Tapping and TBH so was I!
November 2019: “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional!”
The current focus for the AndBreathe membership is ‘Self-Care in Winter’ and I found myself in mid-October drained and exhausted. The irony was glaring!!! I love what I am doing now but I had to recognise that I have NOT been looking after ME very well. Although I have the tools and do use them most of the time, I do slip up. Self-care really is an ongoing, lifelong process and I share this to remind myself, as well as all of you! In past blogs, I have shared that the lack of daylight in winter can be an issue and I thought I had been keeping up with that, using my special light and getting outside as much as possible. I have a ‘clean’ diet and by that, I mean I cook from scratch, avoiding packaged food. I felt that I had been doing that too. I did recognise that exercise has not been a priority recently, so I signed up for a challenge with ‘Choclates at Home’ (check Choc’s FB page out: Pilates, Choc’s way!) and went to my first Insch Trail Runners sessions (hill reps at the Back O Bennachie). I definitely did NOT run the whole time, but it felt good to be there. However, I knew I needed more than that. I needed to take a step back from EVERYTHING, so I checked into the Samye Ling Monastery & Tibetan Centre for a couple of days. My first ever visit!
At its depth, mixed with tiredness & exhaustion overdoing things, the fatigue that hovers constantly in the background can drag me down both physically and mentally. The other week, I heard of someone who is currently in HDU with Sepsis and my first thought was “Would it have been easier if I hadn’t made it?” I appreciate that is a shocking thing to say but that is the thought I had. On my journey down to Samye Ling (it took a very long time, so I had plenty time to think!!), I explored that thought and by the time I arrived at Samye Ling, I knew what I have felt all along, which is that I was spared for a purpose. Yes, my life is very different to what I anticipated it would be at this point in my life, but I AM ALIVE! I have so much to be grateful for and there are so many people who have overcome far greater challenges. I was nearly back on track. And yes, I had used tools as my storytelling mind went into overdrive! I came back to the breath several times and at one point tapped on the deeper emotions.
In tricky times (all the time actually, but in tricky times I pick one specifically for whatever challenge I am facing) I pick a 16Guidelines card to help me see things differently, so when I arrived at Samye Ling I did just that! The card drawn was ‘Loyalty’. The chapter on Loyalty, begins with: “To live a full life, one must have the courage to bear responsibility for the needs of others.” I had been looking for sympathy or some reassuring words, so I was not overly happy to read this!! What about ME?! It was tempting to put the book down but I persevered and continued to read. Later in the text I came to this passage: “If we know a friend or colleague will be loyal to us no matter what happens, then we will explore how to live with greater reassurance and can take more risks. When our back is covered, it becomes far easier to face outwards with confidence and a sense of freedom.” It was a timely reminder that I do have quite a few people who ‘have my back’ and that helped.
The next day’s 16Guidelines card at Samye Ling was ‘Gratitude’. Again, it was another reminder to acknowledge the positives and not wallow in self-pity! Towards the end of the explanation of gratitude, as understood by 16 Guidelines, there is the following paragraph: “Gratitude is grounded in the wisdom which accepts that we are neither independent nor self-sufficient, but part of an extraordinary continuum of events and beings on this planet. It encourages us to welcome reality, rather than fight it – both what seems good and what seems bad. Learning to appreciate every single thing that happens as a potential source of insight and growth is one of the key ingredients for a happy life.”
Experiencing Samye Ling for the first time was special. I attended hour long silent meditations morning and afternoon, as well as other ceremonies. I have huge respect for many faiths, and it was humbling to be part of Samye Ling for a few days. I look forward to returning there.
On my return from Samye Ling I launched into a very hectic week (had I learned ANYTHING?!) and my body reminded me once more that it was needing a break, I was needing to build a stronger foundation! I felt the beginnings of a virus, so cancelled as much as I could and battened down the hatches. I had recently watched the Netflix documentary, HEAL (watch it!), which focused on the power of the mind in the healing process. It popped into my head to say out loud “I am healing!”, “I am getting better.” As soon as I said it, I felt a significant change in my body. Not sure about you, but when people ask how I am and if my answer is “I’m ill, I’m not well”, I feel a heavy weight across my shoulders and chest. It doesn’t really help! By saying that I was healing, it meant I didn’t have that heavy feeling, instead there was a lightness, a sense of optimism. I am working with someone just now, who is overcoming several challenges and I would say that he has this optimistic attitude and I see the benefits in all sorts of ways. Try it and let me know how you get on!
Post-Sepsis life is often like a tightrope walk but, yet again, I’ve survived the wobble and am grateful for all the tools at my disposal. So remember, ‘Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.’
Thank you for reading this far! AndBreathe... is a very exciting venture and I am glad you have joined me on the journey!