Grateful Beyond Measure!

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.”
- Melody Beattie

Yay! It has happened! What I have worked toward for the past decade.

I have signed a contract to publish my book!

Reclaiming Myself

A Woman’s Transformational Journey

I have signed a contract with She Write Press. If you haven’t heard of them, do go to their website, they are awesome. Just to give you a little blurb about them, this is from their website:

She Writes Press was founded by Kamy Wicoff and Brooke Warner in 2012 as a response to the barriers to traditional publishing getting higher and higher for authors. Kamy’s online community, She Writes, had been founded on the principle of connecting and serving women writers everywhere, offering a community for established and aspiring writers. Brooke had been the Executive Editor at Seal Press for eight years, and was witnessing firsthand the contracting publishing environment, where she personally was having to reject beautifully written books on a regular basis because the submitting author didn’t have a strong enough author platform.

Kamy and Brooke envisioned a company where authors would be invited to publish based on the merit of their writing alone. They wanted to found a press for women writers that would be a platform—that could launch their writing careers, and where they could legitimately compete with their traditional counterparts.

We are a mission-driven, female-run company with a strong vision, passion, and work ethic. Our roster of impressive, accomplished authors speaks for itself, and we’re proud of being an industry game-changer.

The women who work at SWP are amazing. I am so honored and excited to have signed with them. I am working with an editor there, Annie Tucker, who is awesome. She inspires me in new ways every time we meet.
Reclaiming Myself will be published in March 2016. I am steadily moving toward my greatest dream, my biggest bucket list item. I am grateful beyond measure.
I thought I would close with a video that really speaks to me, because I am feeling this so intensely at the moment – Want to be happy? Be grateful.

I’d love to hear about your bucket list items and how you are moving toward them.

And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

 

Love Yourself First!

“Love yourself first and everything else falls into line.”
- Lucille Ball
“The biggest adventure you can ever take is to live the life of your dreams”
- Oprah Winfrey

Think about Oprah’s quote –

“The biggest adventure you can ever take is to live the life of your dreams”

So what is stopping you? As women we usually take care of everyone else first. Especially over the holidays, everyone else’s needs came first. Self-care and self-love are often difficult concepts for women.

“Love yourself first and everything else falls into line.”

So how would that look? . . .  to love yourself first. Well here’s an idea . . .

How about an exciting and inspirational retreat!

In my last blog entry, I wrote about my intentions for 2015.

One of the most exciting goals/intentions I have is related to my work with Figjam Workshops. We are planning a Fuel for Inspiration Retreat in Bali! 

I thought I would share a bit about the retreat with all of you. Who knows, maybe one of you reading this blog post might be interested in a Relaxing, Rejuvenating Retreat with a Creative Twist!

What a great way to practice some self-care and show yourself some love!

 

Bali Spa Retreat with a Creative Twist

Imagine yourself escaping winter, lounging in the sun in tropical paradise with a small group of women, sipping a cocktail by the pool.

This is a retreat with a difference. You won’t find a mung bean for miles – instead, you’ll find creativity, rejuvenating fun, connection to self and fabulous food.

 

 

We’ll indulge at the boutique Sama’s Cottages in the heart of Ubud, the cultural centre of Bali. We’ve reserved the whole gorgeous space – including a swimming pool, gardens and a private cottage with ensuite for each participant – for ultimate privacy and relaxation. It’s easy walking distance to Ubud’s vibrant markets yet blissfully peaceful.

Your Bali retreat package includes:

  • Fuel for Inspiration workshops plus high-quality art materials (ADD LINK)
  • Arrival dinner at world famous Casa Luna restaurant and departure dinner at award-winning Rondjji restaurant
  • All breakfasts, morning teas and lunches
  • 7 nights accommodation in a private cottage (fan-cooled or air-conditioned)
  • 3 spa treatments of your choice
  • Visit to the Blanco Museum and Gallery and a tour of a local temple
  • Return Airfare (Auckland – Bali) and transfers to and from accommodation (Conditions apply.)

Our leisurely schedule blends hands-on creative sessions with time to relax and unwind.

 

Register

Reserve your getaway today.

Contact us by email  or phone Deb at 021 258 0078 or Patti at 027 777 4735.

Dates

12 – 19 June 2015
(Depart Auckland 12 June; Depart Bali 19 June)

 

Costs

We are thrilled to be able to offer this amazing package for NZD $2799 to $2999. Contact us for specifics.
Space is limited to only 10 women.

 

 

Reserve your rejuvenating getaway today.

Contact us by email or phone Deb at 021 258 0078 or Patti at 027 777 4735.

 

Insights from 2014

Our mind is capable of passing beyond the dividing line we have drawn for it.
Beyond the pairs of opposites of which the world consists, other, new insights begin.

- Hermann Hesse


One of the things I love about starting a new year is making intentions. One of the intentions I usually make is to pay better attention. Which means that for the first few weeks of the year anyway, I’m paying closer attention to life, being more mindful in what I do. Wish it lasted longer than just a few weeks, but baby steps, right?

And along with intentions for the year to come, I love to look back on the past year and see what insights I’ve gained. One of my insights from 2014 is that I always feel better, more connected when I’m paying closer attention to the present moment. Another insight from this year is how much better I feel – body, mind and spirit – when I’m alcohol free.  So once again, I’ve decided to abstain from any alcohol for awhile.  This is not a new behaviour for me. Alcohol and I have quite a history. This isn’t a typical ‘New Year’s Resolution’ – this has been coming for quite awhile, I’ve been alcohol free for several months now. It just feels like alcohol doesn’t fit within the context of who I’m becoming.

I like reading the articles that come out in the new year about the ‘bests’ of the year that has passed.  And I love learning about other people’s insights from the previous year. So it’s no surpise that my favorite article is from The Greater Good Website.  Not only do I love that site! But the article combines those two things, the best of and insights gleaned. The article is based on the annual list of the top scientific insights produced by the study of happiness, altruism, mindfulness, gratitude – the science of a meaningful life. The article –  The Top 10 Insights from Science of a Meaningful Life in 2014  – is wonderful. It’s well worth reading the whole article, but for those of you who like things put in a nutshell, here you go:

  1. Mindfulness can reduce racial prejudice—and possibly its effects on victims.
  2. Gratitude makes us smarter in how we spend money. (Makes us better in all we do!)
  3. It’s possible to teach gratitude to young children, with lasting effects. (see the video within the article on the GG website)
  4. Having more variety in our emotions—positive or negative—can make us happier and healthier.
  5. Natural selection favors happy people, which is why there are so many of them. (So Be Happy!)
  6. Activities from positive psychology don’t just make happy people happier—they can also help alleviate suffering.
  7. People with a “growth mindset” are more likely to overcome barriers to empathy.
  8. To get people to take action against climate change, talk to them about birds.
  9. Feelings of well-being might spur extraordinary acts of altruism
  10. Extreme altruism is motivated by intuition—our compassionate instincts.

Each of these points is explained in depth in the article and is based on studies done in 2014.  As I said, well worth a read, helping us all work toward leading a more Meaningful Life.

I’ll close with a lovely short video about gratitude –

The Science of Happiness – An Experiment in Gratitude

 

 

I’d love to hear about your insights from 2014. Or some of your intentions for 2015.

And as always thanks for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.

Be kind to yourself – it’s good for you!

“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.”

 

- Buddha


Why is it that we are so often our own worst enemy? Why do we all find it so hard to be kind to ourselves. Why is it that so many of us cannot accept the simple truth that you yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.

I just had a long conversation with a good friend of mine about this.  We both agreed that it can be an absolute nightmare to live in one’s head.  We always seem to be our worst critic.  On the heels of that conversation, I read a great article and watched a really helpful video on a wonderful site I’ve mentioned several times:  Greater Good.

Kristin Neff, Ph.D believes in a healthier way of relating to oneself.

The relentless search for high self-esteem has become a virtual religion; and a tyrannical one at that. Our competitive culture tells us we need to be special and above average to feel good about ourselves, but we can’t all be above average at the same time. There is always someone richer, more attractive, or successful than we are. And even when we do manage to feel self-esteem for one golden moment, we can’t hold on to it. Our sense of self-worth bounces around like a ping-pong ball, rising and falling in lock-step with our latest success or failure.

Fortunately, there is an alternative to self-esteem that many psychologists believe is a better and more effective path to happiness: self-compassion

So what exactly is self-compassion.  Neff describes it as having three components:

Self-Kindness vs Self-Judgement

Common Humanity vs Isolation

Mindfulness vs Over Identification

There are several video clips by Kristin Neff that are all worth watching.  I’m attaching this clip as a wonderful introduction as to why self-compassion is so important to all of us. Because as the Dalai Lama reminds us:

If you don’t love yourself, you cannot love others, you will not be able to love others.
If you have not compassion for yourself then you are not able to develop compassion for others.

 

I’d love to hear how you show yourself self-compassion.

And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

 

Want to Change a Behavior? Make a Plan!

“Whenever you want to achieve something, keep your eyes  open, concentrate and make sure you know exactly what it is you want.  No one can hit their target with their eyes closed.”

-Paulo Cuelho


No one will argue that bad habits are hard to break, but making a plan on how you will achieve it is half the battle.

Continuing the posts on Neuroplasticity and getting rid of bad habits, looking at steps seven and eight:

7.  Create a specific plan and choose what to do instead.

8. Transform the obstacles.

I’m a big fan of goal setting.  I believe that heart centered goal setting is life changing. As I say in one of my past posts, A Fine Balance:

In my 7 Tools,  I discuss Heart-Centered Goal Setting.  In order to really focus on true goals, you have to find out the deepest WHY of the goal, the emotion behind it. Work to discover WHY you want that particular goal, journal about it, question it. When you understand the deeper emotion of why your want that particular goal, the emotional need behind it, then you have hit the WHY.  You can FEEL the why in heart-centered goal setting.  And in order to feel it, you have to be paying attention and be present to the moment.  That ability to stay present actually helps to define a direction for the future.

By setting a definite goal and getting specific, it helps to build new neural pathways. You are engaged in what Rick Hanson calls Self-Directed Neuroplasticity. For example, I have a friend who is trying to watch less TV, she knows it is mind numbing, but it feels so addictive (According to several studies, TV is addictive!) Decide if you want to exercise or read a book or journal instead of watching TV. Focus on the new choice. The more you decide to read at 7pm after dinner, instead of watch TV, the more your brain expects that behavior.  Self-Directed Neuroplasticity kicks in, the behavior starts to change.

Sometimes it feels like you are trying to trick your brain, and maybe that’s exactly what it is.  In an article in a great website, Greater Good, it is argued that:

Ultimately, what this can mean is that with proper practice, we can increasingly trick our neural machinery to cultivate positive states of mind.

The second point, transforming the obstacles is really more of “tricking the brain” again. Look at the obstacles, at what is in the way of you changing the behavior. What have you been getting out of the old habits or pathways? Going back to trying to break the TV habit – it feels like a treat, to just blob out, numb out.  But often after a couple of hours of TV, the numbing out feels negative and kind of yucky, and a waste of time. So before the TV goes on, transform the lure of the TV (the obstacle is the old belief that it is going to be a treat) – but you know it becomes a burden. Identify that obstacle, that lure, and make the decision before the TV goes on to do something else.  Get your mind in the place of possibility. Begin that process of changing your brain by remembering the truth about the situation and transforming the obstacles.

I’m going to close with an old favorite.  Zig Ziglar on Setting Goals.  This is part 1 of 3, if you have a chance, watch all 3, they are inspirational and fun!

 

 

I’d love to hear about any bad habits you’ve broken, and how you changed the behavior.  And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

Identify it and set the Intention

“You can use your mind  – To change your brain  – To change your mind for the better!”

- Rick Hanson

Last week I wrote a post about Neuroplasticity and getting rid of bad habits.

The first step is to identify the habit you want to change and set the intention to break it.  That sounds so simple.  But the reality is that bad habits are hard to break, that’s why we call them habits!

Dr. Rick Hanson talks about self-directed neuroplasticity to break habits, or indeed just to change your mind for the better! Dr. Hanson explains that neuroplasticity is ongoing. Our brains are changing all the time. He says that

Neurons that fire together, wire together

So we can create good habits of the mind or bad habits.  The secret lies in focus – do things with clarity, skillfulness and intention.

If we rest our attention routinely on what we resent and what we are dissatisfied with, or our bad habits – that is where we build our neural pathways.
When we change attention – to positive things, blessings, what we are grateful for – we build up a different neural pathway.

Have an intention – to redirect your attention! Attention is like a vacuum cleaner – it sucks whatever it rests up into the brain. New neural pathways are turbo charged when done with attention. So by mindfully internalizing positive experiences, you are consciously creating neural pathways. This is Self-Directed Neuroplasticity.

So by first identifying what the habit is that you want to break, setting the intention to break that habit, and then redirecting your attention from that negative habit to a something else, something positive, you begin to create a new neural pathway. New synaptic pathways can form in as little as 5 – 10 minutes!
It’s only the first step, but it’s an incredibly powerful one.
I want to close with another clip by Dr. Hanson, also on Neuroplasticity.  This one called Take in the Good. Enjoy!
I’d love to hear about any bad habits you’ve broken, and how you changed the behavior.  And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

 

 

Paying Attention to the Coincidences

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”

It is strange to be known so universally and yet to be so lonely.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/alberteins133182.html#cRzVZOHjpM8tGpjB.99

Alice Walker


Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous! (God, Goddess, The Source, Higher Power – use whatever word evokes power for you.) It’s my connection to that higher self or higher power that helps me when,  as Alice Walker reminds me,  I start thinking I don’t have any power.
One of  the ways I know I’m connected to that power is when I am paying attention to the coincidences. And one of those lovely coincidences has been happening in the last few days.
On Saturday,  I got together with my friends to do a fun, informal goal setting night where we had a lovely dinner and discussed what we anticipated our lives would be like in 2019.  During the evening, one of the things we talked about was finding new streams of money through Social Entrepreneurship,  or creative fund raising.
On Sunday, I attended an amazing event in Auckland called The Auckland Writers Festival (Thank you Trudi!)  During one of the events, I heard four amazing women speak: Eleanor Catton, Ngahuia Te Awekotuku, Sandi Toksvig and Jessica Jackley. As Jackley spoke, I got chills as she elaborated on Social Entrepreneurship and what great ‘givers’ New Zealanders are.  I sat up and paid attention.  And then on Monday morning, while reading the NZ Herald online, an article jumped out at me, again about New Zealanders and their generosity, with a link to an incredible website called Give a Little.
Givealittle is the free, safe and easy way to receive online donations for charities of all types and sizes.
In three days I had heard about the amazing generosity of many people in New Zealand and the wonderful giving being done, often anonymously, through various ways of giving, micro-financing, social entrepreneurship, etc. I was paying attention.
So on Tuesday, I went to our office at Figjam Workshops and my business partner and I set up an account at Give a Little.  We published the information on our page on Facebook, and we are getting the information out there.
When I pay attention to the little coincidences around me, and when I remember to act on those little nudges, then I am connected to my power.
Although I enjoyed every aspect of the Auckland Writers Festival, the highlight for me was hearing Alice Walker.  What an amazing woman!
So I’d like to finish with a video clip of Alice Walker speaking at Google.  Please take the time to watch and be inspired!
Please let me know what you thought of the video. And I’d love to hear of any ‘coincidences’ that you’ve experienced lately.  And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

Thriving with Gratitude

“I’ve come to believe that living in a state of gratitude is the gateway to grace.”

It is strange to be known so universally and yet to be so lonely.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/alberteins133182.html#cRzVZOHjpM8tGpjB.99

Arianna Huffington


Can Gratitude help you thrive?

Arianna Huffington believes so.  In her new book Thrive, Huffington redefines success and describes how to create a life of well-being, wisdom and wonder.

Huffington explains that:

“Grace and gratitude have the same Latin root, gratus. Whenever we find ourselves in a stop-the-world-I-want-to-get-off mindset, we can remember that there is another way and open ourselves to grace. And it often starts with taking a moment to be grateful for this day, for being alive, for anything.”

Personally, when I find myself stuck in a negative mind loop, where I am focused on something negative, causing me to stress out and stay stuck in fear, the best way out for me is by going through my gratitude list. In my 7 Tools for Transformation, Tool 6 is: Gratitude for what you have NOW.

I personally start with my relationships, focusing on my wonderful sons always cheers me up! And the love of my husband, my sister and my friends.  Then I move on to my health, there is so much to be grateful for when contemplating one’s health: feeling vibrantly fit and healthy, having a sharp mind, limbs that work, eyes that can see a gorgeous sunset, a sense of smell to enjoy freshly baked bread. Then I move on to my home, my job, my lifestyle.  Everyone’s list will be different.  But one thing is for sure, when I am focused on what I am grateful for, my mood lifts every time! When I start focusing on my gratitude list, I cannot stay stuck in a negative mind masturbation loop, anxiously focusing on fear, it just isn’t possible.  Even if it starts out feeling a bit forced or ‘by rote’ – the shift in my head space by the end of the exercise is amazing.  I urge you to try it next time you “find yourself in a stop-the-world-I-want-to-get-off mindset.”

I have attached two interviews with Arianna Huffington about her new book.

The first one is a “Talk at Google” and is relatively long and in depth.

 

For those of you with less time, the second interview is with Ellen DeGeneres and is only 6 minutes.

 

Please let me know what you thought of these videos, and if you’ve read Thrive,  I’d love to hear what you thought of the book.  Or if you’d like to share what you are grateful for today, that always makes me happy! And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

 

 

 

 

 

Look Up . . .

“It is strange to be known so universally and yet to be so lonely.”

It is strange to be known so universally and yet to be so lonely.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/alberteins133182.html#cRzVZOHjpM8tGpjB.99

– Albert Einstein


Thank you so much Devin for sharing this incredible video with me. In an age of “sharing” everything and being “known” universally, I believe that as a species, we have never been so lonely. Such a fine line, all this social media, and yet such isolation.

“We’re a generation of idiots, smart phones and dumb people”

Let’s all choose to pay attention, to be present, to take in our surroundings and make the most of today.

It only takes five minutes. Please take the time to watch this video . . .

“Disconnect from the need to be heard and defined, go out in the world, leave distractions behind. Look up from your phone, shut down that display . . .”

Then go out into the world and connect with someone, eye to eye.

 

 

Please let me know what you thought of this video, I’d love to hear from you.  And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Science of a Meaningful Life

“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”

– Jon Kabat-Zinn


My friend Jayne sent me a wonderful link the other day.  It is so full of wonderful info that it kept me busy reading and listening for days! Thank you Jayne!  It’s from one of my very favorite sites that I have talked about before, Greater Good out of Berkeley.

I often talk about happiness in my blog, as a matter of fact, it is one of my favorite subjects.  But it’s not as simple as saying “Be Happy and your life will be grand.”

Happiness is good for you, but not all the time; empathy ties us together, and can overwhelm you; humans are born with an innate sense of fairness and morality, that changes in response to context. This has been especially true of the study of mindfulness and attention, which is producing more and more potentially life-changing discoveries.

One of the key points in the article is that:

A meaningful life is different—and healthier—than a happy one.

So what’s the difference between a happy life and a meaningful life? A recent study in the Journal of Positive Psychology explains a few of the differences:

Feeling good and having one’s needs met seem integral to happiness but unrelated to meaning. Happy people seem to dwell in the present moment, not the past or future, whereas meaning seems to involve linking past, present, and future. People derive meaningfulness (but not necessarily happiness) from helping others—being a “giver”—whereas people derive happiness (but not necessarily meaningfulness) from being a “taker.” And while social connections are important to meaning and happiness, the type of connection matters: Spending time with friends is important to happiness but not meaning, whereas the opposite is true for spending time with loved ones.

One of the most significant findings to have emerged from the sciences of happiness and altruism is that altruism boosts happiness.  Spending on others makes us happier than spending on ourselves.  The emotional benefits of altruism suggest that it is a product of evolution, perpetuating behavior that “may have carried short-term costs but long-term benefits for survival over human evolutionary history.” And mindfulness meditation makes people more altruistic.  Greater Good hosted a conference called “Practicing Mindfulness & Compassion,” where speakers made the case that the practice of mindfulness—the moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, and surrounding—doesn’t just improve our individual health but also makes us more compassionate toward others.

The article is full of wonderful information.  In my opinion it is well worth the read.

Embedded within the article are several videos from the conference. I will include one here called Mindfulness and Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff.  I hope if you have the time and the inclination that you will watch all of the videos.  They are uplifting and inspirational.

 

 

Please let me know what you thought of the article and the videos, I’d love to hear from you.  And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.