Apr 13

Beware of Tuesdays. And October.

haig-unfathomable

Author Matt Haig spent most of his twenties in the grip of severe and debilitating depression. He shares his experience in his fabulous book ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’. It’s a powerful work giving a real insight into what depression really feels like – neither descending into self absorption nor trivialising the blackness and despair. And even those of us who have been fortunate enough never to live in a world where even hope is missing – well, we will learn how to face the darkness too.

Towards the end of the book Matt shares his advice on how to live – “forty pieces of advice I feel to be helpful but which I don’t always follow”.

  1. Appreciate happiness when it is there.
  2. Sip, don’t gulp.
  3. Be gentle with yourself. Work less. Sleep more.
  4. There is absolutely nothing in the past that you can change. That’s basic physics.
  5. Beware of Tuesdays. And Octobers.
  6. Kurt Vonnegut was right. ‘Reading and writing are the most nourishing forms of meditation anyone has so far found.’
  7. Listen more than you talk.
  8. Don’t feel guilty about being idle. More harm is probably done to the world through work than idleness. But perfect your idleness. Make it mindful.
  9. Be aware that you are breathing.
  10. Wherever you are, at any moment, try and find something beautiful. A face, a line out of a poem, the clouds out of a window, some graffiti, a wind farm. Beauty cleans the mind.
  11. Hate is a pointless emotion to have inside you. It is like eating a scorpion to punish it for stinging you.
  12. Go for a run. Then do some yoga.
  13. Shower before noon.
  14. Look at the sky. Remind yourself of the cosmos. Seek out vastness at every opportunity, in order to see the smallness of yourself.
  15. Be kind.
  16. Understand that thoughts are thoughts. If they are unreasonable, reason with them, even if you have no reason left. You are the observer of your mind, not its victim.
  17. Do not watch TV aimlessly. Do not go on social media aimlessly. Always be aware of what you are doing, and why you are doing it. Don’t value TV less. Value it more. Then you will watch it less. Unchecked distractions will lead you to distraction.
  18. Sit down. Lie down. Be still. Do nothing. Observe. Listen to your mind. Let it do what it does without judging it. Let it go, like the Snow Queen in Frozen.
  19. Don’t worry about things that probably won’t happen.
  20. Look at trees. Be near trees. Plant trees. (Trees are great.)
  21. Listen to that yoga instructor on YouTube, and ‘walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet’.
  22. Live. Love. Let go. The three Ls.
  23. Alcohol maths. Wine multiplies itself by itself. The more you have, the more you are likely to have. And if it’s hard to stop at one glass, it will be impossible at three. Addition is multiplication.
  24. Beware of the gap. The gap between where you are and where you want to be. Simply thinking of the gap widens it. And you end up falling through.
  25. Read a book without thinking about finishing it. Just read it. Enjoy every word, sentence, and paragraph. Don’t wish for it to end, or for it to never end.
  26. No drug in the universe will make you feel better, at the deepest level, than being kind to other people.
  27. Listen to what Hamlet – literature’s most famous depressive – told Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. ‘There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.’
  28. If someone loves you, let them. Believe in that love. Live for them, even when you feel there is no point.
  29. You don’t need the world to understand you. It’s fine. Some people will never really understand things they haven’t experienced. Some will. Be grateful.
  30. Jules Verne wrote of the ‘Living Infinite’. This is the world of love and emotion that is like a ‘sea’. If we can submerge ourselves in it, we find infinity in ourselves, and the space we need to survive.
  31. Three in the morning is never the time to try and sort out your life.
  32. Remember that there is nothing weird about you. You are just a human, and everything you do and feel is a natural thing, because we are natural animals. You are nature. You are a hominid ape. You are in the world and the world is in you. Everything connects.
  33. Don’t believe in good or bad, or winning and losing, or victory and defeat, or up and down. At your lowest and at your highest, whether you are happy or despairing or calm or angry, there is a kernel of you that stays the same. That is the you that matters.
  34. Don’t worry about the time you lose to despair. The time you will have afterwards has just doubled its value.
  35. Be transparent to yourself. Make a greenhouse for your mind. Observe.
  36. Read Emily Dickinson. Read Graham Greene. Read Italo Calvino. Read Maya Angelou. Read anything you want. Just read. Books are possibilities. They are escape routes. They give you options when you have none. Each one can be a home for an uprooted mind.
  37. If the sun is shining, and you can be outside, be outside.
  38. Remember that they key thing about life on earth is change. Cars rust. Paper yellows. Technology dates. Caterpillars become butterflies. Nights morph into days. Depression lifts.
  39. Just when you feel you have no time to relax, know that this is the moment you most need to make time to relax.
  40. Be brave. be strong. Breathe, and keep going. You will thank yourself later.

 

Find out more at www.timhodgson.org

Aug 18

Strength training for the soul

broken

When we’re building muscle in the gym, we gain strength by breaking the muscle down with exercise and the body then rebuilds it. It’s the same with us.. we gain strength through the breaking, through the challenges, through what life throws at us.

One of my favourite authors (and genuine crazy lady) Martha Beck writes:

“I see life as a cosmic gymnasium where we have come to be broken and healed, broken and healed, for the joy of the process and because we have decided to become strong. But our bodies are just rented instruments; the part that’s here to get stronger is the Stargazer. This is how strength training goes in the soul’s gymnasium: Life breaks us. We hurt. We find the path to our North Stars and know instinctively that following them will lead to healing. We act on that instinct. We heal. we learn to trust that the path we’ve taken is the one we’re meant to take. And with every experience taken through to its conclusion, we become more able to experience joy.

There are so many ways to lose the perspective of the Stargazer. Maybe right now your inner sight is clouded by the opinions of others or the horror stories of your inner lizard. Maybe you’re sun dazzled by a perfect looking surface, projecting the trappings of success but hiding the sense that you’re lost, directionless, hollow. It could be life has given you the chance to walk into the darkness, and you’ve been starting terrified at the ground beneath your feet. And maybe – quite likely in these days of dizzying change and unprecedented possibilities – no beaten path exists.

Look up.

Look up.

No matter how clouded, sunblind, or terrified of the dark you may be, your Stargazer self is always gazing calmly at your destiny. Follow it forward, expecting to break things – rules, conventions, precedents, your own vulnerable heart – but knowing that you’ll heal strong.”

But always.

Look up.

Find out more at www.timhodgson.org

Martha’s books are simply amazing and I have found them really helpful in my life. She’s been a regular contributor to Oprah and O Magazine. The quote above is from “Steering by Starlight” – but I also love both “Finding your own North Star” and “Finding your way in a Wild New World”

           

Mar 17

Are any of these things missing from your life. . .?

the dance

People are often intrigued by where the inspiration for these posts comes from. Sometimes I find myself inspired by a comment or an observation someone has made. Sometimes there is a wonderful phrase that spills out and sits there, sparkling, waiting for me to develop it into something more – in the same way that a craftsman takes a jewel and makes it the centrepiece of a beautiful piece of jewellery, I can take those few words and craft meaning around it.

Sometimes it comes out of something happening in my life – or in the lives of those around us. Sometimes, in the same way as an oyster creates a pearl around an irritation, I can create something worthy out of something uncomfortable that I have experienced.

Sometimes the writing comes out of joy. It bursts forth out of the happiness that is, by and large, how my life is. I see the things that light my life up, and light up the life of my friends, and write about that.

There’s a lot of beauty, and wonder, and loveliness, and joy in this world. and where there isn’t, something has gone wrong – something is out of balance.

Gabrielle Roth reminds us that:

“In many shamanic societies, if you came to a medicine person complaining of being disheartened, dispirited, or depressed, they would ask one of four questions.

When did you stop dancing?

When did you stop singing?

When did you stop being enchanted by stories?

When did you stop finding comfort in the sweet territory of silence?”

Shamanic societies are those that live close to the magic of life – close to the experience of the earth, and of living, close to the beauty that is simplicity of being. There is something of wonder and magic in living that way.

So this week, it feels good to me to explore the joy and the healing that comes from silence.from story.from singing.and from dancing.

And we’ll see where that takes us!

Jan 23

Dance anyway . . .

WomanDancingOnBeachSometimes things don’t go the way we want. Sometimes we say “yes” and shortly afterwards think “what the hell happened”. Sometimes we do our best with the information we have available… and STILL everything seems to fall apart. Those are the days we have to learn to dance in the rain. When life sends you lemons, find some salt and tequila.

Somewhere there actually IS a plan – there is always something to learn, something to experience, somewhere to grow. The bad times lead us to places we would never have expected to get to, to synchronicities and serendipities that we could never have planned for.

The failure of my business led to me living in a shed (actually, quite a delightful cabin in my friend’s garden, but it’s much funnier if I call it a shed)… but it also led to me taking the time to travel the world. If I’d been successful that time round, then that would never have happened. My divorce led to me being far closer to my children than I would have been. Sometimes, when everything seems to be falling apart – it’s actually falling together. As my Huna teacher challenged us to remember:

“Everything is working out perfectly.”

Sometimes, we need to get to crisis point before we start to realise who we are – before we start to understand the true nature of reality and our place in it. The Persian poet & mystic Hafiz wryly commented:

“Love sometimes wants to do us a great favour: to hold us upside down and shake all the nonsense out.”

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in things that we forget what’s important… we worry about the details and forget the big picture – we forget the laughter and happiness, the exuberant joy that should accompany us throughout this whole glorious experience of being alive… until we remember that we’re here to learn to dance.

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