Tag Archives: outdoors

Music Uplift

Certain music raises your emotional vibration. So I suggested that my Positive Living group find a piece of music that uplifts them. And in time, they could put together an entire playlist, which they could listen to whenever they want to feel happy or energised.

Last night, I scrolled down my iPod to see what I would place on my uplifting playlist. My choices had me shimmying, singing along to the lyrics and smiling as I was flooded with lovely memories. Here’s what I came up with…

1. Happy Face – Destiny’s Child

This song helped me put on my happy face when I was going through a tough time in my early twenties.

2. You Make My Dreams Come True – Hall & Oates

If you’re a fan of the film (500) Days of Summeryou’ll remember the scene where Joseph Gordon-Levitt dances through the streets after a night of passion with one very lucky lady.

3. You’ve Got The Love – The Source feat. Candi Station

This track reminds me of being spun on the waltzers by a sexy carnival bad-boy, and later, the emotional final scene of hit series Sex and the City.

4. What Makes You Beautiful – One Direction

No explanations, no justifications. Now excuse me while I check out some of their newer music videos. For research purposes.

*17.32 minutes minutes later* Yep, feeling pretty good alright.

5. Intro – The XX

Cooler than a pair of Ray-Bans.

6. Drumming – Florence and the Machine

This music had me dancing with wild abandon in my bedroom.

7. Taro – Alt-J

And this gets me belly dancing round the flat.

8. Halcyon – Ellie Goulding

I recall feeling hopeful and alive as I raced through the rain while Miss Goulding belted out the lyrics: “It’s gonna be better!”

9. A Real Hero – College feat. Electric Youth

I couldn’t put the treadmill on a high enough speed when this song came on my I Work Out playlist. And anything Gosling-related is feel-good if you ask me.

10. Instant Crush – Daft Punk feat. Julian Casablancas

Cruising along the coast, windows down.

Bonus Track: Sweet Disposition – The Temper Trap

Another tune from (500) Days of Summer, this brings me back to sunny days lying on the grass and gazing at a clear blue sky…

I’d love to know what would appear on your uplifting playlist!

Slow Down

I am currently on a weeklong holiday in the west of Ireland. Each morning after breakfast, I do some work. Then, I take myself out for a walk. I rush the walk to get it out of the way so I can pop into a pub or café to use the WiFi.

Not too long ago, I felt peace. I appreciated nature. I could lie in a bubble bath and listen to music or read a novel over a frothy cappuccino.

How easily I’ve forgotten. How quickly I’ve transformed into a busy, perfection-driven woman who finds it hard to sit still.

Lately, I’ve been trying to fit as much as possible into every single day. No wonder I wasn’t glad when morning arrived.

Even the things I’d once enjoyed had become just another chore to tick off the self-renewing to-do list. Cycle – check. Meditate –check. Prepare Positive Living class – check.

Even nature, my most favourite thing in the entire world, had become an afterthought to work and exercise. When I did get out in it, I sped through it, favouring body tone over nourishment of the soul.

Today, the sun comes out and I decide to go for a walk. Alone. I leave the phone in the car. I don’t listen to music or take photographs. Today, I walk slowly. I roll up my sleeves and feel the heat on the back of my neck. I breathe. I inhale delightful fragrances that bring me back to simple childhood holidays.

I pause to take in the aqua milkiness of the ocean. I watch a man swimming. A fluffy green caterpillar inches its way along the path. Seagulls congregate on a large, flat rock. Cows graze in a field below.

A woman sits on the cliff edge, eyes closed, face tilted towards the sky. I wonder if she’s being truly present, mindfully aware of all of her senses. Or is she simply completing her daily chore of meditation?

Even though it pains me, I challenge myself to sit for a few moments. To just sit. I exhale a sigh of frustration.

Then, I gaze out at the waves as they crash upon the rocks. The waters roar mightily like the exciting take-off of an aeroplane.

The ocean speaks to me of opportunity and adventure, beauty and impermanence, creation and destruction. Tears spring to my eyes.

But even now, in this blessed moment, I am eager to get back. Because I have been mentally making note of everything I’ve experienced. This is the curse and wonder of being a writer.

I take a deep breath. I breathe in and out. I accept myself as I am in this moment. A writer who is forever composing. A human being who is doing her best. A person who is learning and growing and steeping herself in the awareness that will ultimately set her free.

IMG_1484

This evening, I go for a second slow-paced walk along beach, cliff and country road. I peer out at boats bobbing in the bay. I stroll past jellyfish, seaweed and salt-polished pebbles.

I sit several times along the way. I marvel at the sheer magnificence of a cliff face. Gulls soar overhead. I walk beneath a cacophony of starlings perched upon wire.

The sight of fuchsias makes me well up. The scent of cow dung and the perfume of a passing stranger make me smile.

I saunter past stone walls, a tractor and a good-looking horse. I feel my body as it moves. My hips roll and my arms sway. This evening, I do not rush or yearn for the finish line.

I stop to taste roadside blackberries. I pick a handful to take home. For the remainder of the journey, I walk palm up, my hand ink-red with an offering of sweetness.

I realise that when I’m an old lady, reflecting on the beauty of my life, I won’t be thinking about the times I power-walked up hills. I’ll remember the magical moments when I sat and witnessed the silent majesty of a gliding gull and the mesmerising movements of the ocean.

Images: Author's Own

Images: Author’s Own

Stinking Thinking vs Good Gut

In the space of a couple of days, a handful of people have told me to stop thinking and listen to my intuition. And this morning, I tore off a page from my Louise L. Hay calendar to read: “All that I need to know at any given moment is revealed to me. My intuition is always on my side.” And just in case I hadn’t taken notice, as I write this blog post, the following picture pops up on Facebook!

louise hay

For about a month now, I have been thinking, thinking and more thinking. I haven’t felt as calm as I had been. Chinese Medicine tells us that too much thinking puts extra heat into the body. I’d done so much over-analysing that my mind was ready to erupt and I’d given myself an infection. I was exhausted, sick and cranky and the negativity had deviously spotted a chink in my threadbare armour.

Today, finally, I feel that I have dropped back into who I really am. I trust that my gut won’t lead me astray. I realise (or re-realise) that worry is a useless and destructive activity. Today, I choose to breathe, to be present and gentle with myself, and to enjoy this wonderful day.

So this morning, I went for a walk by the river in the August sunshine. A warm breeze swept over my bare arms. I strolled beneath lush green trees that whispered soothing lullabies. And the river kept moving and flowing. As all things do.

You’re Alive: So Feel It!

Have you ever read something that’s changed your life? I have. After bawling my eyes out at Tuesdays With Morrie, a moving memoir about a dying professor and the important life lessons he shares with author Mitch Albom, I vowed to do one thing each day that makes me feel alive. I even purchased a colourful journal that I have dedicated to writing about all the wonderful things that fill me with energy and enthusiasm.

This doesn’t mean that I complete daily bungee jumps or declare my lust for every passing handsome stranger. But what it has done is push me to seize new opportunities, try different and exciting things, and appreciate the present moment. It has also made me more aware of the things, places and people that spark something electric inside of me as I go about my day-to-day activities.

Today, I flick through my handwritten recordings. Here is a sample of the delights that have jazzed up my days so far:

  • The sounds and smells of the countryside as I freewheel past giant trees.
  • How my entire body tingles as I speak to my Positive Living group about something particularly inspiring.
  • That pleasant surprise when a random man tells me how gorgeous I am.
  • Driving in the sunshine, windows down, stereo turned up loud.
  • A sudden, heavy downpour as I race home, feeling fit and strong (and completely drenched!)
  • Roaring laughing when a friend or family member says something that really tickles me.
  • Ducking head first into a crashing wave.
  • A procession of ants. Butterflies. Grazing sheep. Gangly calves. And how my heart melts when a dog looks up at me with his hopeful, brown eyes.
  • Twin babies chuckling and gurgling in a language only they understand.

Reading back on these entries, I realise that nature features strongly. There is just something about the miracle of nature that stirs the life force that inhabits my body. Physical activity also plays a huge part in what makes me feel alive. And connecting with animals and other human beings reminds me that I am alive and part of something bigger. Something incredible.

Another thing I observe is that I struggle to come up with reasons to feel super charged on the days when I’m tired. This has shown me the importance of rest so that I can enjoy life to the fullest.

I set down the journal. The sun is shining so I lie on the grass, amongst daisies and buttercups, and gaze up at the sky. The clouds sail swiftly towards one another, joining to blot out the sun. Instead of cursing them, I am amazed at this spectacle that I am privileged to witness.

Recently, I came across the Rocking Chair Test. I remember it now as I stretch beneath the clouds… Imagine that you’re old and frail. You’re sitting on your well-worn rocking chair, pondering the span of your long life. Are you happy with all that you’ve experienced? Or are there still things you wish you had done? The beauty of this exercise is that you still have time. Time to really live. Time to fulfil your potential and follow your dreams. Time to live each moment in gratitude and aliveness.

What makes you feel alive? Could you commit to doing one thing each day that gives you that feeling? Try it for a week. I’d be delighted to hear how you get on.

journal

Leaning into Life

Listening to the Hay House World Summit at the weekend, I heard one of the speakers say: “Successful people do what they want to do, not what they feel like doing.” At the time, I didn’t really get it. The following day, it hit me.

For quite some time, I’ve been teaching myself to get quiet and listen to my body. I’ve learned how to say “No” and how to know what’s right for me at any given moment. I thought the best motto for life was to “go with the flow”.

Then, I came across an article by Noor Shawwa, who wrote about the three ways we approach life. He suggested that we can go with the flow (lean back), walk away (quit) or make the most of it (lean in). A couple of days later, I read another article, this one by Jack Canfield, telling us to “Build Momentum by Leaning into It.”

Going with the flow is a welcome relief after a lifetime of resistance and control. But upon reading these articles, I realise that there is something empowering about leaning into life. If I always sit back and do what I feel like doing, I’d skip the workout and eat lots of cake. Alternatively, if I were to do what I want to do, I’d do things that make me fit and healthy and full of energy. Yes, I might feel like watching the latest Ryan Gosling flick (and that’s okay too) but I might want to prepare an inspiring Positive Living class more.

So today, even though I don’t feel like it, I take myself out for a cycle. And boy am I tested on that, as yet, uncertain balance between going with the flow, leaning in and downright quitting!

The wind is strong. No matter which direction I go, it blows against me. I huff and puff in annoyance. I want it to stop. A plump bumblebee dives onto my head and bounces off my eyelid. As I pedal along, a dog chases me, barking incessantly. I reason with it in a sing-song voice, trying to appeal to its gentler nature. Eventually, it gives up. Just before I cycle right into a giant pothole. I am totally jarred but I remain upright. Minutes later, two tiny flies simultaneously suicide-bomb into one eye each. I pull over and rub my eyes vigorously, only burying them further into their watery graves.

I sit back on the saddle and laugh. Up until this point, I thought everything was against me. Now it feels more like nature is working with me in order to wake me up. There is nothing I can do about the weather. I have two legs that are working hard to bring me into the beautiful countryside. The wind is warm (and it’s not often you can say that in Ireland!) and it’s forcing me to get more out of my workout.

Just as I relax into it, it begins to drizzle, thus breaking the weeklong spell of glorious sunshine. I can’t change the weather, I mutter. But I can change my attitude. I understand that leaning into life still requires going with the flow. It’s just about adding momentum. So I lean into the rain and keep going. I’m like a human hearse carrying two tiny insects who have sacrificed themselves for the cause – my awareness.

Riding the Waves

I forced myself out for a walk yesterday even though the weather was being particularly indecisive. It went from sunny blue skies to windy dark grey to pelting rain in mere minutes. As I headed up the street, raindrops began to appear, slowly at first like the initial deliberate bursts of popcorn, then hard and fast and loud. No, I muttered silently. Please don’t. Then I realised that my resistance, my pleading and cursing, wasn’t going to stop the rain from falling. It was just going to make me feel miserable.

Desiring something to be different from the way it is brings us out of alignment with reality, which naturally creates unhappiness and frustration. So I looked up and said, Do what you have to do. I shrugged off thoughts of Everything’s going to get so wet, dumped them on the ground beside me and walked away, eyes scrunched and hair matted against my face.

I felt a strange sense of elation. A Fuck you world mixed with Bring it. I wanted to punch the air and sprint past sheep and shriek along to Ellie Goulding’s Halcyon.

You know that point when you understand that you are powerless? That life will continue to roll no matter what reservations you might have. That moment when you simply give up. And in that instant, you feel oddly powerful. Free. Like you’re riding the waves instead of swimming against them. It’s exhilarating.

My lower back is still stiff and painful but now, instead of struggling against it, I’m leaning into it. I’ve stopped the hard-core gym sessions and started doing gentler exercises at home. I discovered a Pilates studio in Newbridge and attended it for the first time this morning. A man approached me about a new yoga class he’s setting up next week. And I’m getting out in the fresh air and daylight for invigorating walks in the Irish weather.

As I neared home, the sky cleared. I gazed at enormous tree trunks, orange berries and smiling daffodils, and I nodded: Yes, all is well.

Check out this lady making the most of her time waiting for a bus. It brings to mind the following poem:

“You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching,
                                                         Love like you’ll never be hurt,
                                          Sing like there’s nobody listening,
                                     And live like it’s heaven on earth.”

Falling into Winter

Right about now, people are starting to complain about the cold weather and shorter daylight hours. “Oo, it’s getting wintry,” they’ll say as they shiver and rub their hands together forcefully. Some of us have not so happy memories of low moods during the long, dark season. Spring and summer are like autumn and winter’s bubblier, more popular cousins; the ones we long to be around and can’t wait to see. However, autumn and winter do have their own unique, positive attributes. Here are some tips for surviving (and enjoying) this time of year:

  • Follow in nature’s fashion footsteps and treat yourself to some autumn-coloured accessories.
  • Wrap yourself in cute woolies and go outside. Who needs makeup when you’ve got fresh air to blush your cheeks and brighten your eyes?
  • Walk through a park or by the water and watch the leaves dance.
  • The most important thing is to continue getting exercise and daylight so, if it’s raining, pull on the waterproofs and connect with nature.
  • Take a good book to your favourite café and allow yourself to relax and enjoy just as much as if you were on holidays.
  • Put together an amazing costume and throw a Hallowe’en party for adults. Except do all the things you used to do as a child – play bob the apple, eat coconut and colcannon, watch movies and buy stuff in for the trick-or-treaters.
  • Make plans. If you’ve something to look forward to, it’s less easy to fall into an apathetic mood. Book a January sun or snow holiday or a city break. Or buy tickets for an upcoming show or gig.
  • Grab your best mates for a comedy night or get all dressed up and go for dinner followed by dancing.
  • Join a dating website and use the never-ending nights to chat up some potentials. Then, line up a few dates.
  • Enrol in a new class like pilates or flower arranging or take the time to learn a new language or instrument. Or be proactive and start your own book or film club.
  • Keep warm. Light a fire and snuggle up in a blanket with a mug of tea or hot chocolate.

If you’re worried that you have all the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), get support from loved ones and professionals. Then, to help yourself further, try out alternatives like homeopathy and acupuncture, take a vitamin D supplement, and do some research on purchasing a lamp. Also, make sure to get at least 30 minutes exercise in daylight each day.

And if it’s (dare I mention it) Christmas you’re (already) dreading, take the pressure off by buying the odd present here and there, starting from today. Or even better, suggest a Secret Santa arrangement so you only have to buy one or two presents each. Remind yourself that Christmas is a time to spend with loved ones, many of whom will travel home from abroad. So, you can look forward to being together, to fun nights out, good food, movies, hilarious board games, magical fairy lights and the inimitable scent of pine.

And just remember, if it weren’t for the cold, dark times, you wouldn’t appreciate the sunshine, would you?