Category Archives: personal growth

happy new year

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I have been sad to read many bloggers’ comments that they are glad to see the back of 2011 because it sucked! I am grateful to say that 2011 was a wonderful year for me. It wasn’t particularly eventful, though I certainly found plenty to talk about on this blog. No, life is good because I have learned so much about living in the present, being grateful for what I have, and getting less caught up in self-destructive thoughts. If I were to offer a prescription for good health in 2012, I would say:

  • live now
  • lose all resentment or regrets about the past
  • stop worrying about what the future may hold
  • love unconditionally
  • stop judging and criticising yourself and others
  • appreciate yourself, your body, and everything that you have
  • let go of the need to be right all the time

I’m not saying that I have managed all this yet, at least not 100% of the time, but doing your best every day is good enough.

I’m not making New Year’s Resolutions or setting goals but, as Leo on ZenHabits blog says, we can develop new habits to make our lives even better. New habits that I would like to develop are

  • to drink a green smoothie every day
  • to walk every day

Really, those are the most important – I could waffle on about other things, but that’s enough to start with. I have let my fitness slide and it doesn’t fit with my intention to stay active and flexible for my whole life. I went out yesterday and delivered all my son’s newspapers just so I could get in a two hour walk. I was pretty sore later on but glad I did it.

It would be nice to take a walk with my family this afternoon but before I came down to the computer Tai Chi Man was lying down (feeling grotty with a cold) and the boys were all in bed (they were up all night)!

I have to mention how excited I am to be able to type today’s post on my new iMac. The screen is so much bigger than our old eMac, and of course everything is up to date and faster. Tai Chi Man ordered it without telling me so it was a total surprise. It’s a refurbished one purchased direct from Apple – saved us around $300 – and because the old computer is still working we were able to import all our stuff over to the new computer rather than start from scratch (like last time).

I have talked to both my mum and my sister on the phone in the last couple of days, which has been wonderful, but I am definitely feeling like it’s time to go back to the old country for a visit this year. I don’t know whether it’ll happen, but it’s three and a half years since I last saw my parents, sister, brother-in-law, niece and nephew. Too long, especially when one’s parents are in their late 70s.

Love Actually is a movie I’ve seen many times but I wanted to see it again, and this time I managed to get four Brit friends together at my house for drinks, snacks and movie-watching. Right up until the last day, I thought only two of them were going to show up, then we managed to pull it all together for the evening. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend it.

Having heard about Canadian butter tarts, and seeing them for sale at my local bakery, I decided to Google a vegan recipe and found one on savvyvegetarian. At first I wondered how it would turn out, as the liquid mixture that you pour into the tartshells looked really runny, but they set and tasted heavenly. The recommended quantity of pastry was too much, and I had enough for 24 small tarts plus a larger tart and still have some wrapped in the fridge. To make it really decadent, I used white flour – oh my, the texture is completely different from wholewheat pastry, so smooth. I didn’t get a photo, I’m afraid. Next experiment will have to be another Canadian institution, Nanaimo bars!

Current reading material is a huge novel called Fall of Giants by Ken Follett. It is the first of a trilogy, and I haven’t figured out whether the library has the other two books yet. I hope they do, because I’m really enjoying the story and the writing style.

Well, I think I’ve waffled on enough for one day. Happy New Year to all my readers.

Nicola

 

 

 

brrrrr

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A drop of ten degrees Celsius takes a bit of getting used to. Monday was hot, Tuesday was cloudy and showery. I see from the forecast that it’s going up again towards the weekend, but the nights are staying cool.

Here’s a peek of my new tea-towel, though I’m not sure I will be using it as such. Maybe it needs to be on display somewhere safe. Why? Because it was made by my friend on her loom. Yes, a handwoven tea-towel. When I went over to her house a few weeks back, she let me have a play on her loom, so somewhere in that long length of warp she had to cut out a crappy weird section which was the bit I did! 🙂

Another friend gave me a paperback novel which I haven’t read, so that will be something to look forward to.

I’ve already been for two long walks this week, and I was going to do another this morning….behind my mower. However, as usual, I couldn’t get it started, so it will have to wait until this evening. Tai Chi Man has the touch with our old mower – I think we should buy a new one that I can train to work for ME.

Ds2 and ds3 are doing more pottery classes this week. Eight hours of instruction over four days. They don’t say a lot, but I know they love it. This is the first time they’ve used pottery wheels, which to me feels like the “real” way to do it! I shall have to learn that myself some day.

I shall leave you with a book recommendation. Wayne Dyer’s Change your Thoughts, Change your Life: living the wisdom of the Tao. Dr Dyer spent a whole year reading Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching (pronounced Dow Der Ching) verse by verse (all 81 of them), meditating on them, studying various translations, and putting it into his own words, with a “Do the Tao” paragraph at the end of every chapter, suggesting ways we can put it into practice in our own lives.

This is exactly what I’ve been studying for the last year and a half with my Tao group. At first, we read and discussed The Sutra of Hui Neng (the Sixth Grand Patriarch of Zen) and now we’re working on the Tao Te Ching. It’s life-changing, it really is. It teaches us how to be the best spiritual/human beings we can possibly be. It exhorts us to return to our original or true nature, which is one of unconditional love, peace and non-judgment. Very powerful.

 

 

 

 

 

i touched a buoy!

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The boys and I went to the beach today with a friend and her son. It was the same beach where I swam out into the deep water with two friends and nearly, but not quite, touched the buoy a couple of weeks ago.

This time, I swam out there, out of my depth, and ds2 had goggles on and was able to tell me which way the chain was hanging, attaching the buoy to the concrete block. Ds3 admitted to a fear of touching the chain too. We were both just a few feet away from the buoy, and I challenged him to touch it with me. So we did, ever so briefly, and then swam away. Very brave of both of us, I thought.

It was just a large white plastic thing, not even slimy or weedy, but that is still a considerable advance towards conquering my fears.

It helped that the bottom was sandy there, and the water clear.

No knitting was done today, so no progress on the mitten. I really need a simple garter stitch scarf or something for times when reading a chart isn’t practical.

 

deep water and high heights

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I’m really pushing my boundaries this week, facing my fears. I swung off a rope into the lake today. The water was deep and clear enough that I could see to the bottom, but it’s not something I’ve done before. I usually hate being near things like docks and slimy steps etc but I was OK today (the steps weren’t at all slimy, in fact). A couple of days ago I was swimming with two friends and we went out pretty deep, out of our depth. The bottom was sandy and being with them helped me feel braver, but I still couldn’t bring myself to swim right up to the buoy that marked the edge of the swimming area. I have a thing about ropes/chains/whatever underwater – I think if I put on some goggles and make it a goal of mine to go up to a buoy and touch it, I will be making great strides in conquering that fear.

Another thing I have a problem with is heights. Actually, I think I conquered that one this morning, as I went ziplining at an awesome place a half hour’s drive away. It was an expensive outing for our family of five, but I justified it by the fact that we were “holidaying at home” this week (Tai Chi Man had the week off and we were staying at home, not travelling).

Tai Chi Man

This zipline place offers the highest cable in Canada – 381 feet above the creek which runs through the canyon that you zip over. It’s the first one you do – you’re terrified – you think you’re going to scream or wet yourself or something – you can see it goes way, way across to the landing stage which is tiny in the distance and you check that your carabiners are clipped on OK because you don’t want to plummet to your death….

DS1 coming in for a landing

By the fourth one, you’re smiling and loving it and not holding the bars with a death-grip!

DS3 heading out

And on the fifth, you have the option to put on longer tethers and flip yourself upside-down, stretch out your arms, and whoop your way down. That gets the adrenaline going afresh.

DS2 checking out the view

There are 6 cable crossings in all, with a short uphill walk between each. We all had a great time.

seeing things from a different perspective

 

 

 

 

past lives

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This is an intensely personal post.  I am blogging about it partly so I can record it for my own future reference and partly to share it with those who are open to the concept of past lives. If this isn’t in your belief system, you can ignore it, or maybe read it with an open mind.

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I am a believer in reincarnation. I believe that I have lived other lives in other physical bodies at different times. My Tao study over the last year has strengthened my conviction that we are spiritual beings having a physical experience – not just once, but over and over.

Last week, Tai Chi Man and I went to the local Questers monthly meeting. The speaker was a hypnotherapist who told us that his success rate at helping people with their fears/addictions/health problems went from 20% to 95% when he learned how to guide them with past life regression.

This was something I wanted to try. I had been thinking about going to a hypnotherapist for my fear at the dentist (my sister recently did the same where she lives for her tendency to suffer from seasickness). I signed up for an appointment on the spot, and this morning I went to see him.

It was a very enlightening hour and a half. I was guided into deep relaxation – you are still aware of what’s around you, you can converse, you remember everything afterwards. He told me that whether I believed that I was seeing my past lives or whether I thought it was my imagination, it was OK, as it would work either way. Usually, seeing an experience from a past life and realising that that is where your fear is coming from clears the problem in this life.

The first life I was asked to see was one where I felt supremely confident. This is something that I can use in future if ever I want to summon up feelings of self-confidence. Things were a little fuzzy at first, but eventually I saw myself as a beautiful blonde woman in a green dress, standing on a sunny hillside with wild flowers and trees around. There was a gentle breeze in my face. I can’t remember how old I was in that scene, but that doesn’t matter.

The second life I was asked to see was one where I was using a talent I had. Many people are born with incredible talent and it’s a good possibility that they did that in a previous lifetime. I saw myself as a woman in a sparkly pink dress, sitting at a grand piano, playing (professionally) my own jazz-style music in 1922. In this life, I was married to the same man I am married to today. (Of course he looked different then.) The interesting thing is that I’ve always wanted to play the piano, but never have, but the hypnotherapist told me that if I wanted to do it in this life it should be easy for me, as I’ve done it before.

I was then guided to see a life that would help me with my hearing issue. I am a total believer in mind over matter…that our mind is what creates illness or disease in our body…that we have control over every cell in our body if only we just believe it. Unfortunately the mind is a very suggestible thing. I have bought in to the belief that I have inherited otosclerosis from my mum, which means that I am manifesting it in my life. Time to change my mind! I saw myself as an old man in 1502, who’d been born deaf, and was being looked after by a housekeeper. He was just sitting there in a dark room lit only by a fire in the fireplace and maybe an oil lamp. He (I)  died of old age.

I revisited my life as the piano player when I was asked about my problems with self-acceptance. I was younger this time – 16 – and had been offered money to play at someone’s house, but didn’t think I was good enough.

My fear of the dentist is not really about the pain, because with the pain relief they have these days it doesn’t have to hurt. However when I am lying horizontal on the couch, and have to keep my throat closed, and the saliva builds up, and maybe water from the jet they use to rinse the teeth, and I have to try and swallow with my mouth open, I get so stressed out about possibly gagging and throwing up. The life I went to was in 1772 in England – a man was being beheaded and I was in the crowd, near the front, with a small child clinging to my leg, looking up at me with his big brown eyes. I was his mother, dressed in brown sackcloth, touching my throat as I waited for the executioner to do his thing, as I was empathising with him. He was a traitor – was being executed for his beliefs which were different from the king’s – and I knew that if people knew that I agreed with him, they would execute me too. I saw his head being cut off before I looked away in distress.

The final life was prompted by my fear of deep water. Strangely, when he asked me what year it was, I said 1972. Apparently one’s energy can inhabit more than one physical body at a time. I was a beautiful blonde on a rich man’s yacht – something pretty for him to escort around – but he was now tired of me and his hired man met me out on the deck and heaved me over the railing into the sea. I had a very clear picture of the girl in the water with her hair and dress flowing around her. She drowned.

These are the basics – there was a little more to this, e.g. he asked me what life lessons I had learned in each lifetime, and had me meet my “soul group” between lives. It was a very interesting, and at times moving, experience. I will have to see, as I meet different challenges, whether this session has cleared up some of my fears. I certainly hope so!

 

 

zenhabits’ post for today

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I know that it’s OK to paste part of Leo’s post here, as he says that his entire blog is uncopyrighted. Here’s the first part of it but I encourage you to read it all here.

It comes at an interesting time for me. I struggle daily with my issues of control and expectations, mostly around my oldest son. Today I came home from the park and found that ds1 had been prepping food in the kitchen and had, as often happens, left the dirty dishes etc lying around. I asked him nicely and calmly whether I could expect his help to clean up the kitchen so I could prepare dinner and consciously made sure that I had no expectations of him agreeing. I washed, he dried and put away the dishes, I thanked him, and all was well.

My Tao cultivation has moments of success like this which make me realise how much better life is when we stop acting automatically, and become mindful of our thoughts, speech and actions.

Toss Your Expectations Into the Ocean

 

‘Act without expectation.’ ~Lao Tzu

Post written by Leo Babauta.

How much of your stress, frustration, disappointment, anger, irritation, pissed-offedness comes from one little thing?

Almost all of it comes from your expectations, and when things (inevitably) don’t turn out as we expect, from wishing things were different.

We build these expectations in our heads of what other people should do, what our lives should be like, how other drivers should behave … and yet it’s all fantasy. It’s not real.

And when reality doesn’t meet our fantasy, we wish the world were different.

Here’s a simple solution:

Take your expectations, and throw them in the ocean.

(continued at the zenhabits blog)

day 6

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Yes, I’m a little late in posting. Day 6 was actually yesterday. I was knitting on my couch last night with a big blanket over my knees when I realised I hadn’t checked the Gratitude Challenge task for the day. My iPod was nearby (I’ve been playing Plants vs Zombies, ahem) so I took a look. It said to call someone you hadn’t seen for a while and let them know how much you appreciate them.

I did call my parents on Sunday, does that count? 🙂

No, really, what I decided to do was to email my friend from Taekwondo. I don’t see her much since I stopped going to TKD but we occasionally meet for a cup of tea and a natter, so I sent her a message and hope to get together with her next week.

Today the task is to take a photo of something special, so I will carry my camera with me today. Unusually for me, I have THREE commitments today. This morning I will be walking up to the hairdresser’s for a trim, this afternoon WorldTraveller needs to go to the dentist to have his sore wisdom teeth checked out, and this evening I have my Zen book study. That’s a busy day for me.

I have to tell you about the fun time I had yesterday. I went around to my new friend Pam’s for some Dance Dance Revolution mat time. No one else showed up so it was just the two of us, then a cup of tea and a chat. We got to know each other better – you do that more with one-on-one, I find. At lunchtime, we walked over to our friend Barbara’s who was having a milestone birthday (I promised not to reveal the number) and she already had another friend and her mum there. All of us were British and the conversation was just hilarious. We all spoke the same language, if you know what I mean. We understood the slang, the humour, it was instant rapport.

My abs got a better workout from the laughter than they did from the DDR game!

I am so grateful for that time at Barb’s house yesterday. Laughter really is the best medicine (to quote the Reader’s Digest). 😀

She really appreciated her birthday gifts too – these, this and this.

Tonight is apparently going to the be the coldest night of the week – something like minus 24 with windchill. I could hear the wind whistling around the house last night and was VERY grateful that I was indoors.

 

 

day 5

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Thinking about what I’m grateful for today leads me to ponder the nature of friendship. Recently I have met three new women, all British, via another friend, Barbara, who I’ve known for a while. I am grateful for this influx of potential new friends as I was feeling somewhat low and lonely after my friend Anne’s passing.

Some people, like my sister, have maintained friendships with schoolfriends through years of life changes. Me, I find that friends come and go, though Anne was the exception to that rule. I had envisaged us staying friends into old age.

Sometimes friendships can pootle along and then develop  – Joan is someone I have known for a few years now and we are suddenly spending more time together. She has started selling crocheted hats and is finding herself so busy that she subcontracted me to make a hat and a pair of mittens this week. When she gets her website up (which my son is working on) I’ll post a link. They are really cute.

Today is the 16th anniversary of our arrival in Canada. Tai Chi Man, a 2 year old WorldTraveller, and me – we’d never been to Canada before but took a leap of faith, sold the house and the car, cleared out a ton of stuff and moved ourselves and a few possessions across the Atlantic. Thankfully it all worked out well. Eh.

 

day 4

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Today, I’m supposed to write a message of thanks for something “negative” in my life, but to be honest I can’t really think of anything. I know life is full of ups and downs, but without the downs we wouldn’t appreciate the ups. I equate life to riding a bicycle in a hilly neighbourhood – for every downhill there’s an uphill.

One little seed of a thought in my mind this morning as I was getting in the bath was how grateful I am for a healthy body, specifically breasts, and you could say that the recent death from inflammatory breast cancer of my best friend brings this home to me like nothing else.

Another thing I’ve learned from my Tao book study is that things that look positive or negative, good or bad, when we first experience them, often turn out differently than we expect. Life is a learning experience. I believe we’re here in our “earth school” for a reason. When we’re in the thick of it, we can’t always figure out what’s going on, but with hindsight we often see the light.

 

 

day 3

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Day 3 of the Gratitude Challenge and I have to write about something I feel grateful about today. The first thing that comes to mind as I look out the family room window at the snow is that I’m grateful for my warm home.

Last night I was shivering in bed waiting for sleep and wondering how the heck it would feel to NOT have a bed with a warm duvet on it. There are homeless people in Kelowna who either have to walk around all night so they don’t freeze, or rely on services like Inn from the Cold to give them a bed for a night in a local church.

It was 2am when I caved and went to fill up a hot water bottle, which finally warmed my feet enough so I could sleep. I’m so grateful for my bed, my duvet and my hot water bottle.

This morning, it’s minus 4 Celsius, the snow has been falling all night, and it has settled. It’s the fine dry stuff so Tai Chi Man shouldn’t have had too much difficulty clearing the drive this morning (and I’m grateful for him doing it too)!

I’m also happy to have a gas furnace that warms my house at the touch of a button. We only put it up to 17 during the day, sometimes 18 in the evening, which sometimes doesn’t feel quite warm enough to me (though the boys can still go around in T shirts) but I have sweaters, socks, blankets and a huge men’s fleece dressing gown that can fit over everything if I need to bundle up. I’m so fortunate to have all this.

These photos are dark because it was 7.30am and it really was that dim at that time of the morning. This morning, I think I shall get the grocery shopping done (at the brand new Real Canadian Superstore), my held items picked up at the library (woot) and my van insurance paid for, and that will leave the afternoon free to take the kids to homeschool skating at the local arena. Life is good. 🙂