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Is practicing mindfulness something you don’t get round to?

The hard bit about mindfulness is the discipline of practicing it every day, particularly when we don’t feel like it. It’s one powerful way the ego has of deflecting us from what we need for our path. Thus it can be very easy to drop the practice after a while because it seems like “it isn’t working”. Practicing mindfulness needs to be regular to see the benefits.

Lets say your practice includes an early morning meditation. You’ve committed to this time to give yourself some space before the day starts for you to go within, be still, let go of thoughts and enjoy your inner calm. Maybe you’ve been told it is a good time to do this, and certainly seasoned meditators affirm the value of the quiet of the early morning, particularly just before sunrise.

The busy mind

Yet one day you find your mind is really busy with the day’s activities and your schedule, like you’ve already started work! So you find it difficult to settle and have a mediation where instead of focusing on your breath you get all these thoughts buzzing round your head. It’s not easy because one reason you took up the practice was to still your mind. On another day you get ready for your meditation but you realise you are a bit late, and so you have the worry of being late and it “spoils” your meditation, like it didn’t come up to your expectations and you feel stressed. Another time, you feel hungry and want a good cup of coffee to start your day. This day you badly need that coffee, and so you decide that has to come first and then you’ll meditate. But you don’t because its late and your mind is busy. Then things slip more and before you know it you haven’t been doing your meditation a while and it seems no point. Then you decide “it doesn’t work” and give it up.

Now I’m not saying that you the reader are like this. I’m just giving a list of common reasons why people find the sustained, regular practice difficult. You might like to check through the reasons above and look at what is common amongst them. There’s the busy mind, lots of thoughts; there’s feelings, like worry in this case; there’s the list of what to do; there’s expectations about things being as we want; there’s stress; there’s the desire for something; there’s our excuses. I could go on.

The ego distracts us

These are aspects of how the ego operates to distract us from our true goal and keep us safe in our limited state because that is what it beliefs enables us to survive. But we know how to survive and we want to grow further and move beyond the ego to know who we really are. The ego resists this and uses techniques like deflection, to shift our attention to things like desire and attachment, what we believe we want and what we are attached to and don’t want to let go of. Yet through mindfulness you can get to see how your ego gets in the way.

Steady practice

Mindfulness involves the steady practice of using the breath or a mantra to help us focus or concentrate, to step back from the activities of the mind and observe our process. In this we notice what occurs, rather than be caught up in it, and be in the state of non-attachment, where we let go of the ego’s ways, and rest in our inner stillness. Here the mind can still chatter on and we rest in our stillness within. Each meditation is another chance to practice, and to notice the ego at work, let go and rest in our stillness. This is ongoing as we gradually find our stillness more and more.

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Being patient is not something many of us do very well

Being patient is not something people seem to do well. On the contrary, we pile on the pressure, push the boundaries and demand results, impatient to get what we want. It can be self-limiting since it sets up resistance in the universe and the more we push, the harder it gets. The cycle of impatience is resisted by others and within us too. There’s another self inside crying out for attention and not getting heard.

We’re all in a rush to get somewhere, get something done, short of time, too much going on, on a deadline, other people demanding something, feeling guilty for not delivering, afraid we’ll be late, can’t stop, must get on, sorry not now, I’m too busy. You can hear the excuses. Think about the person tailgating you in their car or walking down the street with someone breathing down your neck. Or you doing it to someone else. Why don’t they hurry up or get out of the way?! Breathing expletives under your breath, muttering curses to your environment.

It’s a lot of pressure that we put ourselves under, mainly at our own expense in the end, as our bodies suffer long-term from accumulated stress.

Patience by contrast means allowing things to be, giving things time, waiting knowing all will be well, being present rather than in the future. It includes acceptance or tolerance. We don’t get into negative emotions like irritation, annoyance, or anger, nor be anxious or worry. It’s not an impatience being held at bay, since that’s an inauthenticity because the real underlying sense is impatience. It involves letting go of negativity and any thoughts that cut across patience.

It’s counter-cultural since so much of current society is bound up in multiple requirements done at speed and in being driven to achieve, which many people place as virtues.

Mindfulness practice involves being patient. Acceptance and allowing are central. If we are to let go of incessant thinking and be present, and if we are to make contact with inner stillness of being, we have to find a way to let go of impatience. We need to give ourselves time for the practice. Allowing things to be enables us to gently explore within. We become more able to make contact with our subtle experiencing, and very slowly and gradually this subtle level of being opens up to us.

Placing pressures on ourselves undermines that. Being still caught up in stuff and feeling the anger or fear of all that pressure cuts right across the subtlety of being, and drives away all the accumulated merit of the practice.

Someone who knows patience is unattached to what happens. They are able to let go and be. They can thus experience the joy of being.

Living like we do in our society we lose the real joy of life. Thus do we suffer.

But it doesn’t have to be like this. We can just be, if we choose.

I give coaching to help people manage stress and learn and practice mindfulness. To contact me, click here.

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Do you worry about when you can practice mindfulness?

People often ask, when is a good time to practice mindfulness, or to meditate. It’s tempting to answer, when you feel like it, but there are practicalities! Like not when you’re working or traveling or cooking or being with family and friends, in other words when there are lots of distractions. Yet, it’s not as crazy an answer as it seems.

First of all, we’re talking about pausing, being in the moment, aware, present, in your body, focused on your breathing, letting go, noticing thoughts rather than caught up in them, being the observer or witness. You can do that anywhere and at any time. You can have a quick five-minute meditation even. The thing is, most people don’t do that.

It should be said right away that dealing with distractions is part of the practice. We need to learn to manage how we let the rest of our life get in the way.

Busy minds

The mind gets powerfully seduced every other moment in the stream of ego consciousness. We go off on one thing after the other. You might notice this even when specifically meditating at your appointed hour. A few breaths, feeling a bit more still, and then you’re off on some tempting line of thought or reverie, even without noticing you’re doing it, till say 5 minutes later you suddenly become present again, notice what’s happened, and return to your breath. Which is excellent, by the way, because you’re practicing being mindful. Yet, most people don’t see it like that and beat themselves up instead.

So, the point here is that you can practice mindfulness at any time. In fact this is invaluable since it helps you maintain your self-awareness, check negative thoughts and feelings and return to a centred state. The practice is key, since it helps reinforce the discipline that we need. Practice, practice, practice.

Thus in the middle of a meeting, if you’re feeling stressed, you can just breathe, become aware, and focus on your breath, or on a train or in a noisy, crowded airport while waiting for your delayed flight.

A practical time

However, from a practical point of view, to really help develop an effective grounding in mindfulness, it pays massive dividends to dedicate a specific time of day to the practice. Find a quiet place, ideally a room of your own, where you won’t be interrupted by others, the phone, etc., get a comfortable, upright chair, sit in an upright posture, perhaps with a small cushion in the “small” of your back, your lower back, and with your feet gently placed flat on the ground and your hands facing down on your thighs or on top of one another facing upwards on your lap. Breathe in deep and breathe out long, and repeat two or three times, relax, let go, and then as you breathe normally, allow yourself to focus your awareness on your breath. And keep doing that, bringing your awareness back if it has drifted off on some line of thought. Give yourself 10 or 20 minutes, or more if you can.

Do this regularly at a particular time of day to suit your rhythm, which might be after you have got up in the morning and washed but not yet eaten, and before work. Or it might be when you get home, in the early evening, before eating. Those are two of the most common times. It might be at lunchtime, but again before you eat as your stomach will otherwise be very occupied managing that food! Some people even get up early to meditate, and find that the meditation compensates over time for the sleep.

It is the regular practice that is crucial, and giving yourself some dedicated space and time absolutely fundamental to really anchoring the practice – and in coming home to your self! Then over time and with practice, you can come more and more to those quiet, silent, still points, the gap in the stream of consciousness expands, and you notice more and more the bliss that lies within! Isn’t that tempting!

I coach people to develop their mindfulness and meditation practice. To contact me, click here.

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Do you wish you have confidence to make things happen?

The self-help industry is full of powerful-sounding exhortations to transform your thinking: “If you think you can, you can”. “Drive away negative thoughts”. “Let go – be in the flow!” But are you sometimes left feeling inadequate, like maybe others can do it but somehow you can’t? It might be that the missing ingredient is confidence.

I often hear clients say that after coaching they feel much more positive and confident. It’s like something has happened in our work that has boosted their confidence. Yet, it would not be easy to say what precisely that was, just that they felt a whole lot better, usually in relation to particular situations. So what happens that “gives confidence”?

I find that this is where coaching is so valuable, where we can together get to the bottom of what really holds people back from accomplishing what they want. There’s a lot that’s very personal to the individual and it needs to be fleshed out, named and then have strategies worked out to get around or let go of.

The confident person has a certain absence of doubt and fear that otherwise holds them back. People can be very confident in some situations but a complete jelly in another. I’m reminded of very competent executives who are great one-to-one and with their teams but are reduced to shaking wrecks in front of large meetings or events.

Confidence comes with self belief. You believe in yourself and your capabilities in relation to the situation you are dealing with. It’s like you have an inner certainty, at least in the situation you need to deal with. This is not arrogance, pretence, or”faking it”. This is not inauthenticity.

Actually you are being connected to who you are. You are able to let go of “your stuff” with regard to what you need to do. In this situation you are not prey to inner conflicts or they don’t get in the way right now with what you need to do. You can stay calm and “in control”. You know you possess a particular skill and can use it successfully. You can make it work

Not everybody is like this. Some just have confidence per se; they “wing it”, but still have their own inner dramas. I remember people from the analytical tradition in psychology using the word, “well defended”. They could so organise themselves to be able to do what’s needed in the situation in question. Others aren’t so much like that. It’s partly about our ability to manage ourselves such that we can take action unencumbered by self-limiting thoughts and beliefs.

That’s why it is so important, if you have this difficulty, to take the time to find what it really is that holds you back, learn some techniques in self belief of course, but work out how you can best accomplish things in your way that convincingly resolves what holds you back. This means working out how you limit yourself, what actually happens in your particular world, and then discover your own unique way to move beyond self limitation and be all you can be.

To learn more about my coaching, click here, and to contact me, click here.

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Do you love to be in nature away from other people?

Is there a part of you that prefers to be in nature, away amongst mountains, by the sea or in the countryside, where there aren’t any people and you have to yourself the splendour of nature? Do you get times when you want to get away from the stresses and strains of dealing with your fellow humans and the crowded cities? Just recently someone was telling how she comes into her own when in nature, in the silence and stillness of remote mountains and their vast and massive rocky majesty. I thought, “me too!”

Your special place, if that is what it is, is very important. My correspondent was saying that for her there was this raw force of nature that was powerful, moving and brought out her passion and creativity. For me, there is a sense of Oneness, like I am connected to what I behold, as a part of me. Many have written of how they are moved by nature; in fact it helped spawn a whole artistic and cultural movement, Romanticism. For Wordsworth it was also a spiritual experience, beyond the material. It touches your soul.

There’s also this feeling that people and nature are somehow separate. It’s as though we can only be who we are in the depths of silence and stillness, as one can also find in meditation. Of course it is us having this experience and we are people! Yet for those of us who feel like this, we feel that we have somehow to get away from other people for this to work. Hence so many go off to live in isolated settings, being the hermit or in retreats, or having a house out on its own.

If you have this yearning, then try it, and see what happens after a while. For some it works. Others can find that all sorts of stuff comes up for them. One person told me how suddenly he felt acutely lonely and longed to be back with his wife. The aloneness was scary.

However, the other side of aloneness is at-Oneness. It’s perhaps where you put your focus. It might also be your understanding. It can be also be where you go when in silence and alone. There’s the whole thing about how you manage your state, and connect with your Self within.

Then, when you go back, if you do, to be with others, you might resist it. Then again you might feel refreshed and more ready to face what comes. It is worth reflecting that there too is Oneness. In the middle of a busy street, crowded with people, there too is God, or however you conceive of an underlying Presence of Being. When we resist our connection with others, and keep ourselves away, we keep ourselves separate, and can potentially therefore prevent ourselves from connection once more. It’s harder to do, of course, since this connection with others so often brings up our stuff. Yet there can lie our real challenge and our real opportunity.

I coach people to develop their real purpose, direction and life goals. To contact me click here.

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How to be present when others are losing it

Do you struggle to know how to be present with someone when they are upset or angry, or when you are tired or going through it yourself? I’m very often struck by how people can lack the ability to “be with” people emotionally, especially those who work professionally with people in challenging situations. It’s like our buttons get pushed or we feel inadequate or lack the resources we need. Somehow, people say, they “aren’t qualified” to handle it.

It will be all right
It will be all right

When people kick off

I remember once on a Gestalt training course unpacking a whole load of grief around the impact of divorce on my contact with my younger son, and how I verbalised it to the group in a way that the facilitator later said she was “out of it” for the duration of my work. I recall she was a parent herself. So this can challenge even seasoned professionals. Luckily I had another who  worked with me.

Yet this doesn’t just apply to professionals. Anybody can face this at times. What about when your partner kicks off about some hurt or pain and it’s you that happens to be there – and they need you to be there? What do you do? Do you do what so many do, and shift about uncomfortably, tell people “not to mind” and “it will be OK”, and not get upset, etc? Who are you really helping here, the person kicking off, or actually you yourself? Are you really telling them to stop?

What we don’t like is being faced with powerful emotions that tap into our own stuff, especially if it touches our own doubts and inadequacies. Yet, there are resources available, if you choose to access them.

Being resourceful: self awareness and self management

One is self awareness and self management, in this case the ability to be aware of your own process and how your buttons can get triggered by other people’s stuff. It helps to know yourself enough to know what is your stuff in this situation, of course! This is often all about personal development – that doing your own journey bit, dare I say, that many of us are today afraid to do. It is also about how you self manage, in this case choose not to get caught up in your own stuff but put it on one side, the rule of epoché in Gestalt terms.


Another is the ability to be present, to be right there in the moment, thoughts and feelings on pause (I’ll say more about that in a moment), in the “here and now”, still in yourself, centred, at One as I keep writing on this blog, connected with some energy  centre or chakra within like your heart centre region or, in the case of powerful emotion, perhaps your power centre in the  solar plexus region. So that you are aligned with  Source as you are “with” another. “Being with” is all about being present with them. So you are truly “with” them, in support, with mind, body and soul, right there in the moment.

Empathy and respect

Your stance matters hugely too. So think about  it. Here is needed Carl Rogers’ empathy and unconditional positive regard. So you respect utterly the  other person right there where they are and what is going on for them. No judgement (this can be tough, but it really matters). No conditions attached. In fact  you  are unattached to everything, including how you feel. You have to let go of all that. And you empathise with them, which is to seek as far as humanly possible to see things from their perspective, although  you cannot “know how they feel”. Thus you can hear their story. And you hear it like you get it. So that they feel heard, which is what so many people need. They may not need to be fixed (which is what so many men try to do  with  women, by the way!). Here’s where you truly stop and be with them in their pain.

Then they will feel supported. You don’t have to take their side, or agree with them, or blame them. Just be there. In peace, bringing peace. Om shanti.

I coach people and give training in these core skills. To contact  me, click here

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Hope and possibility are always there

When in the midst of winter the snowdrops start to flower, as they are here now, there’s a sense of the first shoots of spring whilst it’s still being cold and grey, like an image of hope and possibility for us. It can seem for some that all there is is grey when in reality new beginnings are already there. Spring buds are already forming. Daffodil shoots are growing. The cycle of nature is already in action for the next opening to its own magnificence. As they say, behind the clouds the sun is always shining.


Having hope and possibility is a shift of perception, a change in our thoughts. When things seem bad, there is always another way of seeing the situation. What we can lack is the ability to let go of our concern and regard how things might be from another perspective. This is not to say that winter is a bad thing, but that it is common in winter for difficulties to seem more real and present. Depression, for example, can be particularly strong at this time. Outside is cold and dark and we shrink within and if within is not a very happy place we can feel that more.

Losing hope can bring us to the pit of despair, where it can seem like nothing can be done and nothing can change. People in relationships that aren’t working, or in jobs they don’t like, or with health conditions that seem constantly bad, or money worries or faced with the prospect of undesired possibilities coming up – all these and more can leave us depressed and unhappy.

Life will throw up these challenges and yet the human spirit endures. We do get through these things. Circumstances change. Nothing in life is constant. We have the capacity to feel great or immense sadness. Awful though it can seem, we do have choice as to how we deal with the situations we encounter. On the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, I am reminded of how inmates had to endure immense privations and some of those used for slave labour or other hideous activities did survive. In Man’s Search for Meaning, a former inmate Viktor Frankl showed how although we may not be responsible for the situation in which we find ourselves, we are responsible for how we deal with it. Whatever is going on for us, life’s purpose is the meaning we make of it. We can either have despair or we can change how we see it, and make even the more unsatisfactory seeming situations part of the joy of our life! It is all about the thought we have, the meaning we make, our state of being.

So, in the midst of winter, the spring shoots are already there. There is always hope and possibility. There is always another meaning.

When you adopt a mindful perspective, you learn to let go, witness your thoughts, be present with what is, and know within you the joy that is always there.

I give coaching to help people change their mindsets and build a more hopeful and positive outlook and attitude to life and to create more positive outcomes. To contact me, click here.

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Is the love-hate relationship between peoples out of control today?

Am I imagining it or is the love-hate balance tipping too far towards hate? Are you feeling uncomfortable about the seeming rise in antagonism towards minorities? Where’s the love and peace? We seem to be in the middle of one of those phases in public life where there’s a desire to blame the ills of life on scapegoats, be they Muslims, benefit claimants, Roma gypsies, immigrants, another religion, another nationality or whoever. Equally we have extremists who have fundamentalist outlooks and see themselves engaged in some climatic struggle against the forces of evil. So, how do we respond from a mindful perspective?

Just recently Muslim fundamentalists in Paris killed a number of journalists for publishing cartoons of the Prophet and attacked a Kosher supermarket. Around the world there’s been protests: “Je suis Charlie”, banners proclaimed, as many asserted the right to free speech. Others insisted on the right to offend, while many Muslims protested against the insults to their religion. All this of course is great recruiting material for extremism, Muslim, Neo-fascist or whatever. You might get the passions aroused, the mutual indignation, and sense of righteousness.

So what might God think of this? Righteous too on one side or the other, or bemused? I remember some words of a teacher of mine, “the benign indifference of the universe”. Taking “sides” doesn’t really fit from this perspective. S/he might simply be reflecting on how humans experience themselves and s/he too through them.

It’s not so easy to see our own shadow at work, that we too can be like this at times. How often have you flipped from respect to antagonism towards another? It’s hard to acknowledge that we humans have this inside us, that we have both the polarities of love and hate at the ego level. Yet this kind of awareness and humility can be helpful, since change starts with ourselves and releasing hate within us. Then we can more truthfully love. As Gandhi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world”, and he campaigned through non-violence.

There’s also a clue here, about our state of being. If you breathe, step back and witness all this, what are you aware of? I don’t know, but there might be you being aware of having just taken a breath and paused, and then a remembrance of all those thoughts about humans in the world of duality, of being polarised, and love and hate, and all that stuff. And here’s you, being more present and aware.

So, that stuff is not all of you. There’s also you, being present. So you can change your state of being, just like that.

So, there’s all that love-hate stuff “out there”, and “in here”, now here, not nowhere, there’s another sense of who you are.

You could explore “now here”, mindfully, and not be caught up in “out there”. The world of duality, the world of illusion, is how we experience life at the level of ego. But it doesn’t have to be like that. The more we live “now here” the more connected to love we are likely to feel. Then we can manifest “as That” when we make contact with those “out there” who might still be caught up in ego. We can feel God within, whatever our belief system and however we understand it, and we can also see God in each other too.

Then we can be at peace, which by the way is one meaning of the word “Islam”.

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Is being yourself really scary?

People are it seems really confused around the issue of identity and authenticity, especially when communicating with or presenting themselves to others. The comment “just be yourself”, sounds very simple but is actually a minefield for many of us. Being yourself can mean to enter into a state of authentic being, but you might not be able to work out what that is or how you do it. To put yourself out there in a genuine way can feel very scary since we can feel very vulnerable and we don’t know how it will go down with others. What if we get ridicule or hostility?

Being yourself can be tricky

It’s all the more  tricky when various “celebrities” and PR-savvy people seem to be doing a pretty good job of it, with whom we compare ourselves negatively, until that is we hear that there’s a crisis of confidence in public figures, a cynicism and distrust which seems to suggest that actually what we’re getting isn’t truly honest and authentic. This is often described as the age of narcissism, the false self, self-absorbed and “me first” orientated, presenting some seemingly convincing image but actually wrought with anxiety about whether it is “good enough”. Many people are now asking for honesty and trustworthiness. If you are presenting a “self” that people don’t get, there’s a problem.

Knowing who you are

Being  yourself presupposes you know who you are. Do you know who the being is who you are trying to be?! That can need working out and it isn’t necessarily easy, especially knowing where to start. It’s really important to do some training where you need to share with others in a group and part of the work to involve sharing yourself authentically. It is in groups that you can get the feedback, and people can be very straight about what’s missing. You can learn from that. It’s also important to work on getting connected with yourself emotionally, to sense how you are really feeling, and learn to trust what your body and your feelings are telling you in any given situation. Then learn to express that, so that what you then share is connected with all levels of your being.

At all levels

This brings us to the importance of knowing yourself at all levels of your being, which is not only intellectual and rational but also emotional and sensed as stated above, and also spiritual. Sensing your spiritual side is unfashionable but something that people can sense intuitively. Thus when you are connected at all levels and speak from there, you open yourself to connect with all levels of the other person too, and to others in a group for example. This is the level of the connectedness we have with all others, in the sense that we are all One. So when you are thus connected, you are in touch with a force that we all know even if not consciously, and people can feel almost automatically drawn to you. This is arguably the challenge of the modern age, to use this age of instant communication to connect with all people through our Oneness. To be so aware of being yourself brings a whole new dimension to knowing yourself and being yourself.

Thus real authenticity is to be complete at all levels of your Being, so that you can truly be your Self.

You can still opt out of it all if you choose, and go and find and be yourself on your own or with like-minded. But you might at some level still find yourself needing to deal with the challenge of connecting with less like-minded people. After all, what we resist, we get.

I give coaching to help people overcome their fears, be themselves and communicate effectively with others. To contact me, click here.

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Do you need to change your lifestyle before stress does?

Are the warning signs flashing that you need to change your lifestyle before stress gets the better of you and brings about some unwelcome change? In fact are you heeding the signs? People don’t always see that the signs are there, that what was previously OK about how they were living and working is now no longer OK. We think we can cope and assume things can be as they have been so far, when in fact the body is protesting and the style is draining it of the ability to be able to cope. What is important is that we make the necessary changes before we are not in a position to choose.

Our bodies are designed to cope with short-term stress, such as an emergency, where the body generates hormones to enable us to respond appropriately. However what many of us do is live at a pace and pressure that makes the stress response more of a norm. It can even be addictive, the “buzz” of the hormones powering through us. It might be OK when our work is going well and we are enjoying ourselves, but when the stimuli get more negative, the body starts to react negatively too. Over time this can store up illness and eventually be dangerous. Little signs like catching colds, sleeplessness, aches and pains, excess of smoking, alcohol and eating, tense muscles, irritability, out-of-character behaviour, are just the early signs. You want to take action before you find you have some serious health condition.

It’s not so easy since we have often conditioned ourselves to tolerate a certain lifestyle that makes stress part of the architecture. For example we set ourselves expectations for our housing choices, where we live, or schooling for our kids and accept certain kinds of travel and types of jobs, or we want particular kinds of careers and these have consequences for our lifestyle, or we find it difficult to get the right balance between work and free time and/or family time. For some of us we treat stress as part of the territory, not realising how it can over time harm us.

Then we wake up and realise that all this doesn’t work. Then there’s the issue of how to change it, before it’s too late. That too can be stressful, which shows how caught up in all this we can get! We run up against the conditions or expectations we set for ourselves, like we believe we “must”have certain things in our lives for it all to work, conditions which are actually costing us.

It’s all about stepping back from it all, pausing and letting go, and then asking ourselves what we really want.

People often say what asked that last question that all that really matters is love, relationship, peace and the timeless little things, seemingly of little consequence when busy and stressed, and which we therefore forget about, but which actually have real meaning for us. Like sitting and looking at some scenery just down the road, a walk in the park, holding hands with your loved one, being still…

Today’s life has disconnected us from who we really are. It’s time to reclaim it.

I give coaching to people who want to re-balance their lives, get off the stress treadmill, and find a calmer, more meaningful life. To contact me, click here.