Tag Archives: freedom

I’m Always Here

Mindfulness is a buzz word of the moment. And being present is a recurring theme in my blog posts.

Yesterday however, I realised that there’s an element of resistance in the way I’ve been practising mindfulness. I’ve been using my version of mindfulness to criticise myself and block self-expression.

Living in the now is being present to experience life as it happens. It’s not about dredging up the past or catapulting into the future. It also isn’t about trying to change how things are. Mindfulness means nonresistance.

Mindfulness has certainly enriched my experience of life. It has enabled peace of mind and improved my sleep. And it’s giving me a deeper appreciation of myself, other people and the world around me.

I’ve also become pretty adept at catching myself as I catastrophise a situation. When I worry about what could possibly go wrong, I can quickly bring myself back to the present moment and know that, right now, I’m okay. This potential future I’ve spun dangerously into doesn’t even exist. All that exists is this moment.

Recently however, I’ve been a little hard on myself when I find myself in my head. Get out of there Sharon, I shout. As if my head isn’t part of me.

When I feel excited about something, I immediately shut off that excitement. I tell myself that I’m silly for fantasising. I insist on being present. There’s no place for dreams Sharon, I scold. There is only now.

I convince myself that hope is a dirty word. Where there’s hope, disappointment will follow. 

It’s as if Eckhart Tolle has infiltrated my inner voice and I can hear his disapproval every time I slip into expectation or attachment. Of course, there’s massive wisdom in Eckhart Tolle’s teachings. And mindfulness is a wonderful practise. But what’s important is how we internalise these concepts.

Yesterday, I complained to my Life Coach that I’m not being present when I fancy a guy. I described being alone in my room thinking of a man I like.

The Life Coach asks me what that feels like. “It’s nice,” I answer. “I feel excited. But then, if things don’t work out the way I’d hoped, I feel so disappointed. I’m not being present.” I frown.

“Are you not being present?” he wonders.

Suddenly, I realise that I am being present. I’m actually always present. I’m always here.

I’m aware of myself as I fantasise. I’m aware as I attach hope to someone or something. I’m the witness, the consciousness, that’s observing everything, all of the time.

When I feel disappointed or excited, in love or anxious, it doesn’t mean I’ve taken a step back spiritually. It just means that I’m human. I’m experiencing and learning.

Being present doesn’t eradicate emotion. Mindfulness doesn’t obliterate thought.

I can be present in my hope and disappointment. I can think thoughts and I can watch myself as I think them. I can allow the inner child to play and get excited. And I can open up to love instead of closing myself off for fear of losing myself.

Mindfulness isn’t about being perfect and feeling zen all the time. It’s about being present to everything exactly as it is. It’s about observing and accepting.

With this new understanding, I feel relieved. I feel looser. I give myself permission to be a human being with wants, needs and desires. I allow myself to feel, to play and to love.

This frees me up to recognise myself as something bigger also. The witness who sees everything and doesn’t judge or criticise. And so I can allow all that is and be as I am.

meditationandmindfulnessforchildren.blogspot.ie

meditationandmindfulnessforchildren.blogspot.ie

Rejection Therapy

It’s only Day 3 of my Rejection Therapy and already I’ve learned so much. On Day 1, I asked Danny from The Script out on a date. I haven’t heard back from him but he’s currently in the middle of a world tour so I can forgive him for being a bit busy to respond to a Tweet from a crazy stranger.

As I ponder my courage at asking out an international superstar, I wonder if it’d be harder to ask out someone in “real life”. Someone who’s actually met me. A real live man (Sorry Danny, you’re a real live man too but ya know what I mean).

If a real live man rejected me, I couldn’t brush off the rejection by saying things like: Ah sure he’s probably busy dodging the paparazzi, selling out arenas and shagging Tulisa. Sorry Danny. I’m definitely not going to bag a date with him at this rate.

I’ve also had the awareness that I’d find it way more challenging to have Danny agree to go on a date with me. Therefore, it’s not always rejection or failure that I’m afraid of.

I’m terrified of success because then I’ll be tested and judged on it and I’ll have to prove my worth to the world. And that sounds like way too much pressure! No wonder I prefer not to put myself out there at all.

weheartit.com

weheartit.com

Yesterday, on a beautiful hike, one of my friends decided to join the Rejection Therapy game. As part of it, we said hello to most oncoming hikers.

It’s amazing how something as simple as greeting a stranger can bring up a strange fear of rejection. What if they ignore me? However, we were met with such friendliness that we smiled and laughed our way up the mountain.

One man didn’t respond to my friend. She reacted with celebration. “Yay, I got rejected,” she exclaimed as she pumped her fist in the air. It’s extraordinary how different things feel when you change your perspective.

I said hello to a man who coughed at me. Is that rejection? After going so big on Day 1, being coughed at seemed like a bit of an anti-climax. So I took another action and posted the following on Facebook: 

“Does anyone want to do something fun/funny/adventurous/inspiring with me tomorrow? I haven’t made any plans and would love to see what you lovely people suggest…”

One friend, who knows about the challenge I’ve set myself, told me: “NO WAY SHARON!!” But I didn’t feel rejected by that. It just made me laugh.

My cousin jokingly invited me to supervise her kids during their 6.30am breakfast. I’ve been known to be a bit gullible so I wasn’t entirely sure if she was being serious.

I really didn’t want to get up at the crack (excuse the pun) of dawn on Easter Sunday. Oh no, I thought. Is part of this Rejection Therapy having to do the rejecting? 

Turns out I try to avoid being the rejector (is that a thing?) because A) I don’t want to hurt/offend anyone and B) I want to be liked. So if I reject someone and they don’t like me for it then I’m being rejected. Phew, see how sneaky this rejection stuff is?

In that moment, I realised that just because I say no to someone doesn’t mean that I’m rejecting them. It just means that I have other plans or I don’t want to participate in that particular activity.

If that’s the case for me, then the reverse is also true. When people say no to me, they’re not rejecting me either.

Let’s return to the Real Live Man for a moment. If he “rejects” me, it may well be that he doesn’t like my personality or appearance (and even that’s okay because, thankfully, we all have different tastes). But it could just as easily be that he’s unavailable/not looking for a relationship/having a bad hair day.

I’m reminded of Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements. Two such Agreements are: Don’t Take Anything Personally and Don’t Make Assumptions. If I don’t make assumptions or take things personally, then nothing can hurt. I can’t be rejected because nothing is personal.

And if I can’t be rejected, then do I really need to continue this challenge for the rest of the month?

But as I write this, I have another insight. I don’t have to actually get rejected by anyone because I can feel rejected whenever I choose.

Sometimes, I feel rejected when someone goes quiet, can’t meet, cancels plans or doesn’t reply to a text/Facebook message. Sometimes, I feel rejected when a person’s in bad form/doesn’t laugh at my jokes/looks at me funny.

My fear of rejection is so all-encompassing that I’d probably feel rejected if the wind stopped blowing in my direction. What have I done to make the wind dislike me?

So yes, I really do need to continue my Rejection Therapy. I’m open to any suggestions, people. But I might reject them. Just sayin’.

My friend and I hiking/getting rejected

My friend and I hiking/getting rejected

Release Me

Last night, a Facebook friend shared Doreen Virtue’s post about how the full moon and lunar eclipse is the perfect time to release anything toxic or completed from our lives.

I’m ready to release everything that is no longer serving me well. I release:

  • Anxiety about an imagined future.
  • Fear of rejection. Fear of not being accepted, wanted, liked or loved.
  • Old patterns, fear-based and limiting beliefs, negative thoughts, judgements and attachments, and any stagnation and resistance that have been blocking or damaging me.
  • Harmful habits, behaviours and relationships.
  • Physical and emotional pain and suffering.
  • Trauma, hurt, grief, sadness, shock, disappointment and anger.

I’m willing to release:

  • Any barriers that I’ve constructed. Now that I’ve dismantled these barriers, peace, happiness and love are flowing freely.
  • Shame. I am enough. I am loveable. I am worthy.
  • Fear of failure and fear of success.
  • Unhealthy needs and desires. I am now present to my wholeness and perfection.

I happily release:

  • Worry that I’m lacking in anything and I accept abundance into my life.
  • Codependency, control and guilt from my interactions with others.
  • Preconceived assumptions or historical perceptions about people, places and things. I am present, open and loving to them as they are, now.

Finally, I release myself from the grip of my ego. I observe it with interest and humour as it plays out. I learn from it and so I evolve.

What are you willing to release? As Doreen Virtue says: “Trust that when you close one door, a better one opens.”

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favim.com

Other People

Yesterday, I texted a few of my like-minded friends to share my most recent awareness. The importance of other people.

Relationships (with a partner, friends, family, co-workers, acquaintances) accelerate our growth and teach us more about ourselves than all the spiritual retreats, self-help books, and hours of meditation and counselling ever could.

Other people serve as mirrors. They reflect back to us how we feel about ourselves and the beliefs we’re holding about life.

Every single person who enters our lives is there for a reason – to show us all the barriers we’ve placed around ourselves. Once we become aware of these barriers, we can remove them and open ourselves to love.

In Marianne Williamson’s book A Return to Love, she writes about the two main emotions we experience – love and fear. Fear closes our hearts. Love opens us up to an easier, brighter, more wonderful world.

Up until recently, I had assumed that I preferred to be alone. I’d spend most evenings on my own, reading, writing, and watching TV. I walked alone, jogged alone, cycled alone. I meditated and did yoga alone. I took myself for coffee. I wandered alone in nature and took pictures. I holidayed in the west of Ireland. Alone.

I’m proud of my independence and I’m content in my own company but sometimes a stray pang of loneliness manages to slip through my carefully constructed armour. I realise now that I was confusing strength with a refusal to budge out of my comfort zone.

I really believed that I did better at life when I was single. Romantic relationships seemed to blaze into my world. They were quick and exciting and dangerous.

They were so out of my control that I feared I’d be engulfed in their flames. Then they died out, leaving me to tend to my burns.

I missed the warmth and beauty of relationships but I also felt blessedly relieved to be alone again. Alone, I was in control.

My longest romantic relationship was with my now ex-husband. Everything since then has never made it past the four-month mark.

I led what I thought was a balanced life. I had oceans of time to work on myself. I grow more when I’m single, I convinced myself.

And I’m glad of the time and space I’ve had to heal and to flourish. I agree that one must love oneself and have a full and happy life before one is ready to enter into a healthy relationship.

The thing is, I kept waiting for one (i.e. little old me) to become perfect, conscious and enlightened. I forgot that this life is a journey. And on this arduous yet rewarding adventure, we’re constantly learning, evolving and recalibrating.

It’s nice to share some of that journey with our fellow travellers who can also feel lost and who are also searching for meaning. And there’s more laughter and intimacy to be had on a path walked with more than one set of feet.

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After living alone for four years, I now have two housemates. I’m also spending more time with my fabulous friends. And I love meeting new people. How different we are fascinates me. How similar we are humbles me.

I understand now that living involves other people. For what is a life without company, support, affection and passion?

Other people highlight the areas we need to work on so that we can peel off yet another bullet-proof layer. It’s so much lighter and freer to let go of these heavy burdens that weigh us down and close us off. But it’s scary to be so exposed, so vulnerable.

I know that I have difficulty letting people in. Asking for help and believing I deserve to have my needs met is a challenge. But it’s a challenge I’m willing to accept.

Communication is also an area I’m working on. Recently, I detected a pattern of mine. When the going gets tough, my instinct is to bolt. To get out that door and never come back. But where’s the maturity in that? Where’s the learning, the growing, the compassion? Where is the love?

Other people have an amazingly frustrating knack of triggering the emotional reactions that I used to resist and get angry about. Now, when someone does or says something that provokes me to feel hurt, annoyed or defensive, I remember to breathe into it.

I feel grateful for this issue that I need to deal with. I look at my feelings about the incident, which leads to an understanding of why I’m feeling the way I do. Then, I let go and bring myself back to the present moment.

This is a very new practise for me, by the way, but it’s a revelation! I highly recommend it.

Today, I’m more open than ever before. This translates into a heightened enjoyment of life, a deeper appreciation of beauty, and more fun, peace and connection.

I am, thankfully and in Melody Beattie’s words, codependent no more. Nor am I locked in a distant land of me, myself and I.

I’m travelling on this awe-inspiring path called life. And it’s rich with billions of souls from whom I can learn so much, and with whom I can share a luminous journey.

hammock

Images: Favim.com

Moving On

I walk out of the Life Coaching session beaming. There is something about saying things aloud to someone I trust that shows me how strong I am and how well I’m doing. I see myself as he seems to see me – competent, insightful, brave and proactive.

So much has happened in the two weeks since I’ve last been with him. I’m leaving unhealthy situations. I found a beautiful house to move in to. I started a new course. And I’ve taken a few steps to further my career.

The Life Coach points out that I’m starting to have a healthy sense of entitlement. This means that I know that I’m entitled to have my needs met, in my living environment and in my relationships. I’m thinking more of myself now. And I’m believing that I deserve good things in my life.

I tell the Life Coach that I can really appreciate how I am now because I used to feel so bad. I was anxious. I worried that I wasn’t good enough. I compared myself unfavourably to others and beat myself up on a fairly constant basis.

I also landed myself in less than ideal conditions. And I didn’t even question them. Because I didn’t realise that I deserved better.

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Up until very recently, when I spotted a good-looking guy, I’d immediately think: He’d never look at me. Talk about placing huge invisible walls around myself. Invisible but impenetrable nonetheless.

I’d feel intimidated if a man seemed to have it all together. The men I did feel comfortable with often had so much baggage that it was no wonder the relationship couldn’t go far. Slap my baggage on top of that and we couldn’t move at all.

At twenty-three, I married a man who tried to change me completely. When I first started seeing him, he lived in a rough part of Bilbao. Prostitutes and drug dealers hung out on the street corners. My ex’s flat had mice and boarded up windows.

But I was in love. And nothing else matters when you have love, right? I was defiant in my love for him. Who needed money or common beliefs or a partner who thought you were lovely just as you were?

I didn’t think enough of myself to expect nice dates and holidays with my boyfriend. I didn’t even think enough of myself to expect to be treated with respect and acceptance.

What did it matter if he was pressuring me to change, pressuring me to marry him? I had such a low sense of self that I was okay to bend to his will. Until one day I wasn’t.

So I left him but I went on to date addicts and emotionally unavailable men. Why? They say like attracts like. It was all I knew.

Recently, something big happened in one of my closest relationships. I had to make a tough decision to change my behaviour. I had to break free.

This comfort zone was no longer comfortable. Although it felt impossible to cut the ties of this codependent relationship, not doing it was a scarier option. So I did it.

The guilt and fear threatened to push me backwards but I forged forwards anyway. In order to do that, I had to let go of some of that baggage.

And now I’m moving into a gorgeous house in a lovely little village. I’m surrounding myself with people who think that I’m awesome. I’m doing things that nourish me. I’m meditating, exercising, reading and writing. I’m stepping out of that comfort zone and I’m proud of myself for it.

This morning, after the Life Coaching session, I decide to treat myself to a soya latte and a gluten-free scone with strawberry jam and cream.

I walk into the café where an attractive man catches my eye. Out of habit, I duck my head. Then I remember who I am. How amazing I am.

The smile comes from deep inside. I raise my chin. It doesn’t matter whether he likes me or not. Because I like me.

And my healthy sense of entitlement is telling me that I want to be open to all the wonderful possibilities that are staring me right in the face.

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Images: favim.com

Into the Wild

“We’re supposed to be different. Thank goodness.”

I posted these words on my Facebook page yesterday evening along with a quote from Susan Cain’s insightful book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

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In Quiet, Cain explores the differences between introverts and extroverts. In a society that seems to reward the confidence, charm and exuberant energy of extroversion, introverts often feel the need to step up, speak out and pick up the pace just so they too can succeed at life.

In the questionnaire at the beginning of the book, I scored a whopping 18 out of 20. This signifies that I’m more of an introvert. It means that I enjoy my own company. I need space and time alone. I recharge by spending evenings in with a book or a movie. I get energy from walks in nature and lying in the sun. And I like to sit in stillness and reflect on my feelings and the meaning of life.

I’m a thinker and a writer. And I’m sensitive. Sensitive to beauty, music and wonderfully worded pieces of prose. I’m sensitive to energy, people’s moods and violence on the television.

I feel deeply. I get depressed. An act of kindness can bring me to tears. I marvel at the many miracles of the universe. Spirituality is more important to me than material things. I’m passionate about life. But at times I feel like I’m drowning in it.

When I feel intimidated, I shut up. It can take me a while to feel comfortable around new people. On nights out, I’d rather not compete with the loud music and the din of chatty pub-goers. So I don’t. My voice just doesn’t seem to carry. If someone really wants to hear what I have to say, we have to lean in to one another.

However, when I’ve had a drink, none of that matters. Cain likens an alcoholic beverage to a glass of extroversion.

Most people aren’t exclusively introverts or extroverts. I love being around people and I lead a fairly busy social life. I enjoy meeting friends and trying out new hobbies but I much prefer participating in deep conversations with one or two people rather than chatting in large groups.

I recognise the benefits of team playing and brainstorming but I work best alone in a quiet room where I can retreat, silence my phone, and concentrate.

When something is bothering me, I tend to write, meditate, read and think. Then I discuss my problems, one-to-one, with someone I trust.

I end romantic relationships if they’re not right. I’d rather be alone than with someone who doesn’t help me flourish.

favim.com

favim.com

Last night, I watched Into the Wild for the second time. This true story is based on American adventurer Christopher McCandless. At twenty-four, Chris has fulfilled his parents’ dream of getting good grades and going to college. Then, instead of attending Harvard, he burns the remainder of his college fund, cuts up his social security and credit cards, and disappears, without a word, into the wild.

One of the reasons I love this film is because I feel it’s quite balanced in its storytelling. The different characters have different viewpoints, personalities and lifestyles.

We learn of Chris’ perspective on life. He resents the control and expectations of society and his parents. He wants to roam free. He needs to be independent and true to himself. He’s happiest when he’s diving into lakes, climbing mountains, and living off the land.

When he enters Los Angeles, he regards the skyscrapers and city-dwellers with an expression of disappointment and despair. We can almost see his soul dimming as he trudges through the metropolis. He imagines how his life could have been and he doesn’t regret his decision to break away. He can’t even stay one night there.

We also hear his sister’s version of events. She understands Chris’ reasons for abandoning the family. Her parents desperately desire a particular way of life for their son. Their intentions are good. This is the only way they know how to guide and protect him. But they’ve also caused their children a lot of pain. Ultimately, we watch them suffer too.

This movie really got me thinking. Was Chris acting selfishly? Was he foolish and naive? Or was he right to go on his own journey, to figure out his meaning of life, to really live and experience and come to his own conclusions?

busaff.com

busaff.com

I’ve often felt different. I’ve struggled to fit in. I’ve felt stifled by society and I’ve agonised over the following:

What is being true to yourself? And what is running away? When do you stop living in the clouds and finally conform? When do you “settle down”?

Then there are the shoulds and norms of society. You should be responsible. That’s what being an adult is all about. You need a good job. You can’t live without money. You need your own home. When are you going to find a husband? Will you have enough time for children? For goodness’ sake, you won’t survive without a pension.

I got 525 points in my Leaving Certificate but secondary school may as well have been a battlefield for all the anxiety I experienced. I did well at swimming and athletics but competition didn’t sit well with me. I dropped out of college twice.

Truthfully, the only reason I went back to college as a mature student was because I felt I had to. How else would I become a functioning member of society?

I obtained a First Class Honours degree and received the Sunday World Cup for Best Student of Journalism with a Language. Though proud of my achievements and happy to gain approval from the people I care about, it added to the pressure I felt to do more with my life, to live up to my potential and to succeed.

And I don’t do well under pressure. So instead of applying for jobs in journalism, I threw myself into an alternative world of acupuncture, homeopathy, personal development and spirituality. And I’ve never been happier.

Of course, I still experience paralysing moments of fear. The voices in my head go something like this: What are you doing with your life? Grow up. Be normal.

So I tentatively move forwards with one eye clamped on everybody else in the world who’s doing things the “right” way. I compare, criticise and compete. I alter my behaviour and try to change who I am in the hope that I will prosper. I worry that I’m not adult enough for this big bad world of business and mortgages.

But what does “adult” mean? How “should” a 34-year-old woman live? Why must we all melt into one right way of doing things? We’re not all the same. That much is very clear.

Yes, there’s a reason why most of us follow the well-trodden path in life. There’s safety and security in the tried and tested route. Most people want to see life’s landmarks so they know where they are and what to expect around the corner.

But some of us thrive on change. The unknown excites us. Newness is revitalising. It’s what keeps that spark inside of us alight.

It’s a relief to realise that we don’t have to be the same as one another. We don’t have to compete because we each have unique gifts to bring to the world.

There’s no point trying to do things his way or attempting to be as good as her because you’re not them. You’re you.

Some of us want to climb the career and property ladders all the way to the top. And some of us are quite happy to keep our feet on the ground.

Whether we’re commuting to our permanent jobs, bringing our children to school or backpacking across the globe, we can be fully alive and true to the essence of who we really are.

Whether we’re writing fantasy novels, saving lives, cleaning the streets or designing websites, we can be the people we’re meant to be.

Whether we’re introverted or extroverted or a dollop of one and two tablespoons of the other, we are unique and perfect just as we are.

We’re different and brilliant in our all of our shade and all of our colour. We blend and we clash and we all come together in this stunning masterpiece of humanity.

We may think we know who we are. We stamp ourselves with neat and convenient labels so we can understand and make sense of the world around us. But life changes. We change. We grow and develop and we dip in and out of lots of different attributes and characteristics. Every colour of the rainbow is available to us to try on and see what suits us best.

And whether we’re paying into our pensions or collecting the dole, none of us can really know what to expect next. Nothing is certain.

The weather is unpredictable. And the terrain is constantly changing. We may want to know the exact directions to a predetermined destination. But we are all, in fact, walking into the unknown. We are all on a journey into the wild.

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favim.com

Stepping into 2015

Over the past few days, there’s been a lot of talk about the coming year. I’ve been asked about my new year’s resolutions, I chose my Word for 2015 (Free), and yesterday, my friend and I played a thought-provoking game which highlighted our fears and desires.

My new year’s resolutions are to be present, to be brave, and to love. Last night in the pub, a friend asked me if I had any more concrete goals, things that I could tick off my list with satisfaction. She mentioned wanting to read and go to the theatre more. Another friend would like to participate in a project that excites her and to find a new hobby that raises her adrenaline. Somebody else listed off the countries she wants to visit.

I paused. The other evening, my mother had asked me about romantic relationships. “I have to sort my life out first mam,” I declared. It’s difficult to think about hobbies, classes, holidays and dating when I feel like I’m currently in limbo. I need to figure out my career and where I’m living.

So I’ve set up a session with a great Life Coach for next week. I finally feel ready to be completely honest about myself, and about the fears, issues, blocks and beliefs that are limiting me. It’s my life and I deserve to live it to my full potential. I want to grow and move forwards. I’m also going to exercise more.

Yesterday evening, I called over to a friend. I asked her what her Word for 2015 is. She decided on PeaceShe explained that there is no greater thing than Peace. In Peace, you are present. You can be more creative and efficient. In Peace, you break through fear. “Yes,” I say excitedly. “You can’t feel fear and Peace at the same time. What a great Word!”

Then, my friend suggested a wonderful exercise. She took out a page and divided it into 16 pieces. On each slip of paper, we wrote things like: I desire. I fear. I need. I am. 

We took turns in finishing these sentences. It was interesting to see what came up for us and how much everything overlapped. It enabled us to become really clear on what we need to focus on (and let go of) for the coming year. I realised that I have to love and accept myself no matter what.

self-love

Many people use this time of year to reflect, plan and motivate themselves. The way things have worked in my life has been quite synchronistic. I’m starting afresh right at the beginning of a new year. I’m releasing old patterns that are no longer serving me. I’m willing to change.  And I’m open to new opportunities.

And despite the fear, negativity, confusion and over thinking that I’ve fallen into over the past month, I have also really enjoyed the holidays. And I’m so grateful for the lovely people I surround myself with.

I’ve appreciated and been present to the simple things in life like laughter, music, movies, nights out, sleeping, eating, exercising, reading, writing, being in nature, and spending time with friends and family.

The other night, I caught the end of a documentary called Unhung HeroThe documentary-maker was struggling with insecurity and he considered giving up on the film altogether. His mother gave him the following advice: “With growth there’s pain.”

I feel that I am on the cusp of something great. I’m about to take a massive leap forwards. And it’s natural to experience fear when you’re challenging yourself to step into the unknown.

And so I step into 2015, a never-before-seen year, with freedom, presence, courage, love and peace. I wish the same for all of you. Thank you for reading. You make this labour of love all the more worthwhile.

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