Kindness Challenge – Week One

sara:

This week’s kindness task is kindness to strangers and bliss bombing…love, love, love this :)

Originally posted on Cauldrons and Cupcakes:

Image from Reem Writes

Image from Reem Writes

“What this world needs is a new kind of army — the army of the kind.” ~ Cleveland Amory

Hello Friends, and welcome to Week One of our six week Kindness Challenge.

To participate in today’s challenge all you need to do is select and perform one of the following kindness activities. The beneficiaries of our acts of kindness for Week One will be strangers.

Of course, if you choose to do this activity more than once, or to work on one each day that’s absolutely fine as well. In fact, it’s wonderful. :)

Okay, Kindness Ambassadors, let’s go!

  1. Give a smile and a warm hello to someone in the street.
  2. Wave and say thank you to the man or woman holding the stop/go sign at the roadworks or pedestrian crossing. (There was an especially grumpy man who does this job at a major roadworks near…

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Inspiration and Wisdom Through Seven Sacred Books – Part 2

The Artist’s Way

by Julia Cameron

The Artists Way

You know how when you pick up a much loved book, just holding it in your hands can transport you back to where you were when you first read it? Here’s where I was when I first read The Artist’s Way: I was 25, and had just moved back to the mid-north coast after 8 years of living in cities. The Bear, who I had known for about 6 months, had come with me and we were living in an open plan house at the beach. Our house used to be a restaurant, and came complete with a 360 degree glass fireplace at the foot of our bed, men’s and women’s toilets and a commercial kitchen at the back of the house. We loved that house :) I had a friend who had found herself stranded in the area while recuperating from head injury. One day, she brought The Artist’s Way along to a little group that we were part of, and showed us how to make our own journals (I’ve still got mine!) – and told us all about the book. I have bought several copies over the years, but each time I get one, I promptly give it away – I think I’m up to number 4 or 5 now :)

The Artist’s Way is a 12 week program designed to revive your creativity – whether you identify as an artist or not. It is a workbook with daily and weekly tasks, and Julia Cameron asks that you make a commitment to finish the whole program at the beginning of the book. I’ve done the whole program twice over the past 13 years, and when I was researching for this essay, it was amazing to discover how many of the tools and concepts have been totally integrated into my psyche.

Morning Pages:

The first thing that The Artist’s Way has taught me was the value of an Anchor Practice. In yoga, an anchor practice is a set practice that you do every day that provides you with the foundations from which your other practice develops. This might be a 15 minute meditation, chanting, pranayama or a particular asana sequence. Whatever it is, it is something you are committed to, even on the busiest day. This practice brings you back to your Self. In The Artist’s Way, the anchor practice is your Morning Pages.

Put simply, morning pages are three pages of longhand writing, strictly stream-of-consciousness. “Oh god, another morning. I have nothing to say. I need to wash the curtains. Did I get my laundry yesterday? Blah, blah, blah…” They might also, ingloriously, be called brain drain, since that is one of their functions.

When I think of morning pages, an image comes to mind of leaving the washing up water in the sink overnight. In the morning, the water is cold, greasy and there are some unnameable floating bits in it. Morning pages pull the plug out and clean the sink.

All that angry, whiny, petty stuff you write down in the morning stands between you and your creativity. Worrying about the job, the laundry, the funny knock in the car, the weird look in your lover’s eye – this stuff eddies through our sub-conscious and muddies our days. Get it on the page.

Imagine if you left that dirty sink water in all day and used it to wash your dishes – day after day. Nothing will be clean, and in fact your dishes may end up dirtier than what they were… I have used morning pages to get me through times of loss, heartbreak and motherhood. They have gotten me out of relationships and back into them. They have helped me choose the right job and leave jobs that aren’t right. I use morning pages to get to the truth of things. What is really going on here? How much of this situation do I own, and how much is someone else’s stuff?  How do I really feel about this? I use morning pages to clarify complex situations, help me make good decisions and as a tool to stop procrastination.

It is very difficult to complain about a situation morning after morning, month after month, without being moved to constructive action. The pages lead us out of despair and into undreamed of solutions.

But most of all, 12 weeks of  morning pages brought me back to writing, which had been lost to me for years. More on that later.

The Artist’s Date:

As artists, we must learn to be self-nourishing. We must become alert enough to consciously replenish our creative resources as we draw on them – to restock the trout pond, so to speak. I call this process filling the well.

In the Artist’s Way, the artist date is the other compulsory activity, along with the morning pages. Once a week, for a minimum of two hours, we must commit to taking our inner artist (who looks and feels very similar to our inner child) on a date. By ourselves. To go somewhere or do something fun. Not an adult, educational, this-will-be-good-for-me type of activity, but just plain old fun.

I remember having trouble with this at first. I was (am) an uber-sensible Taurean eldest child – and I was not a dreamer. What was the point? Dreamers were annoying people who thought a lot but never actually did anything! I was about action, not dreaming. What I didn’t know, and what artist’s dates taught me, was that dreaming is how we connect with our innermost selves, our sacred purpose. I had the action bit sorted – I knew how to make stuff happen – now I had to work backwards and start playing and dreaming so that I could make the right stuff happen.

Stop telling yourself that dreams don’t matter, that they are only dreams and that you should be more sensible.

Back then it was difficult – now, artist’s dates have become so ingrained in my psyche, I forgot their name until I started researching this book. When I need to feed my artist, I feel a desperate tightness, a dryness, a cranky, out of sorts, wanting to run away kind of feeling that tells me my well is dangerously low. Now, to fill my well I do things like: go to a writer’s festival or retreat, have a ‘me’ day, get a massage, watch a movie that only I like, take a neglected novel to a beautiful spot by the water and just read, go to a yoga class, dancing or even go shopping and eat at my favourite cafes.

The artist’s date taught me how to dream, and gave me the tools to keep myself juicy as well to pay attention to the warning signs.

Everyone is creative, even me.

Creativity is God’s gift to us. Using our creativity is our gift back to God.

The title of this book is a little misleading. The Artist’s Way implies that this book is for people who already think of themselves as ‘artists’ or have a desire to be one at some time in the future. I can tell you that, at 25, I had no concept or desire to be an artist. I was not writing, and hadn’t written since I left school. I feel so sad telling you this, but it’s true. If you had asked me if I was a creative person, I would have laughed and said, “No way! Not me, I haven’t got a creative bone in my body!” I don’t even know why I did this book in the first place, except maybe I was under the spell of my gorgeous, creative Leo friend with the head injury :)

I know now that creativity is not some mystical ability doled out randomly to certain special people at birth. Creativity is what we are. Creativity is the language of the soul, and in the way that everyone has a soul, creativity is commonplace. Some people can access their creativity easily, some people, like me, need some help. Creativity is like a fingerprint – we all have one, but each fingerprint is completely unique, and the way we express ourselves creatively is too. There is no ‘high’ or ‘low’ creativity – that’s just bullshit the ego tells us to separate us from our essential selves. Some of us garden, cook or craft; some of us paint, sculpt or write. It is all sacred, it is all our gift back to God. It really doesn’t matter what you do as long as you do it. Because to not express your creativity is a crime against your soul. It’s called coming here and not doing what you came here for.

The purpose of art is not a rarefied, intellectual distillate – it is life, intensified, brilliant life – Alain Arias-Misson

Looking back, I can hardly believe I am the same person as I was back then. Baby, you’ve come a long, long way :) For me, that is the mark of a life-changing book.

So tell me – have you read The Artist’s Way? Did it make a difference in your life?

Saturday Inspiration – Week 4

You know what I really love about writing these Saturday Inspiration posts? The way it makes me pay attention during the week. I find myself taking note of what I read, watch, listen and learn – and if I come across something awesome, my heart skips a beat (yes! that is definitely going in the Saturday Inspiration file :) )

So, without further ado, let’s jump in:

Best Article: The One Illusion we Cannot Afford to Believe In
Click on the title to read the article – come on, I can tell if you don’t :)

Written by Dr Kelly Flanagan, this is a beautifully written piece on the apparent disconnect of people today, the ubiquitous presence of mobile devices and the instant gratification of information and media at our finger tips. What we forget though, is that rather than being more independent, we are actually more interdependent than ever before. The article begins with a story:

I’m on the fifth floor of a hotel in Pennsylvania, waiting for an elevator to the lobby. It’s July 4th—Independence Day in America. Early morning, and I’m leaving the hotel to find a cheaper breakfast. As I wait, I become aware of piped-in music overhead. I hear lyrics that remind me of my wife: “Fortune teller said I’d be free, and that’s the day you came to me.”

I instantly reach for my phone, Google the lyrics, and the song title is the top result. I click out of Google, tap my Spotify app, search for the song, and the song playing above my head is now coming out of my phone.

I enjoy the dopamine rush of immediate gratification and I marvel at the convenience of technology. But mostly, I revel in my apparent self-sufficiency. Twenty years ago, I would’ve required the help of a number of people to identify the song, find a music store, and purchase the CD.

In 2014, I interact with no one.

In 2014, I can completely ignore how interdependent all of us are…

Awesome huh? Check it out here. (Thanks Kara-Leah for sharing!)

Best Music: The Essential Snatum Kaur – Sacred Chants for Healing click on the link to view in itunes…

There’s not much that can be said about Snatum Kaur, other than you just need to listen to her. The first time I came across this artist was through this clip, a year or so ago:

More recently, I have heard her on Yoga Revolution and Spotify – and have realised somewhat belatedly that she has a huge catalogue of music. This is a beautiful album, perfect for yoga, meditation and early morning writing sessions :)

Best Watching:

This week, I’ve had a little bit of an Elizabeth Gilbert moment (author of Eat, Pray, Love). You know when someone or something just keeps jumping out at you until you’re forced to pay attention? Okay, so on Sunday night, Baby Mac mentioned she was reading her new book, The Signature of All Things. I have read Eat Pray Love and its sequel, Committed: A Love Story; I enjoyed both of them, so I checked it out on my kindle – it looked good, and it was on special, so I bought it straight away. I haven’t started reading it yet, but no doubt you’ll hear about it when I do :). Anyway, the next day, Dr. Christiane Northrup shared this article on her facebook page: Elizabeth Gilbert: The Seven Books That Shaped Me as a Writer. There’s a short article and then two Tedx talks that she has done. It was this talk that really tickled my fancy:

Now, I know you think you don’t have time to watch this Tedx talk, even though you love them, and you get so much out of them, but believe me, if you are interested in creativity, then you have time to watch it. In it, she talks about this concept of creativity, and how in ancient Greece and Rome it was thought that creativity was something that came from outside of yourself, and you as an artist brought that inspiration into being. You weren’t a genius; you had a genius. In the Renaissance Period, we decided that humans were much more important than that, and that all creativity came from within – so we became a genius instead of having a genius. It was probably about that time that artists became alcoholics :) Anyway, watch it, it’s great.

Best Thing I Learned:

Apart from re-learning such things as how to use a protractor, and that the angles in a triangle add up to 180 degrees (in my teacher’s aide world). I also learned (wait for it) that you can upload an image directly into the Google search bar (so that’s what the little camera is for!) – and it will come up with all the other places that it can be found on the internet! I have often wondered how to find the artist for unnamed pictures that I find floating around – and now I know :). If that doesn’t work, I have also discovered there is a thing called a Reverse Image Search, which may also help. Yes, I understand that is information that probably everyone else knows, but I didn’t :)

Best all round awesomeness:

Last week my album of the week was Harry Manx’s Bread and Buddha. Guess what? He’s touring Australia – and coming to Bellingen (a town only an hour away). Yippee! He toured a couple of years ago – and inconveniently scheduled his Bellingen gig on my son’s birthday. This time it’s on Father’s Day. So I say to the Bear – do you want to come and see Harry Manx with me? He pauses for a minute to consider, and then he said Only if I can pay. A big, silly grin rearranged my face for me. Man, this must be love :)

A friend who shall remain nameless, but she knows who she is, heard that I was working on a largeish (but still secret) writing project, so sent me a book writing tool that represents a decent investment – and one that will help me move my If Only into Reality. In fact, I have felt the Universe supporting me in so many ways this week – carving out time, giving me gifts, showing me articles and putting me in inspirational conversations. I am listening, and I feel blessed. On that note:

Best Image:

The Chinese character for Listen

The Chinese character for Listen

 

That’s all folks! Have a beautiful weekend :)

The Stars Within

Nuit, Egyptian Goddess of the Stars. Unknown artist.

Nuit, Egyptian Goddess of the Stars. Unknown artist.

I closed my eyes and looked inside

and saw that I was made of stars

In and down, round and round

In I go without a sound.

The sacred drum pounds;

My heartbeat echoing the Mother’s pulse.

My blood follows her rivers

Slippery, wet, salty – life-giving.

My breath, made up of Her breath

Expands and fills the spaces.

My muscles and bones wrap me up

Like the roots of Her mighty trees.

In every cell glows a single light

Echoing the star-shattered void,

The starry abyss.

And yet:

We go outwards in our search for the Heavens

When all we need to do is close our eyes

And see the stars within.

- Sara Foley

2014

If Only…

This is a writing prompt from my writers group that has morphed into a post on my blog :) When we were first given this task – write  a piece that begins with ‘If Only…’, I was totally uninspired. If only, what if, maybe, would have, could have, should have…boring! I thought to myself. My brain just doesn’t really work along those sentimental, regretful pathways. And then, suddenly, I caught myself in the middle of an If Only thought – and quickly captured it and wrote it down before I forgot. And while I was writing, I found that  ‘If Only’ can be a creative beginning, one that I have used often. Here it is:

If only…I could do an unsupported headstand in the middle of the room, I thought to myself wistfully. I can kick up into headstand easily and do an unsupported headstand for five minutes – but I need a wall to kick up against. I want to go to the next step and get into a headstand without a wall to catch me, but so far, I haven’t had much luck.

Kneeling on my yoga mat, I place my forearms on the floor and interlock my fingers in the classic headstand preparation pose. Straightening my legs into dolphin pose, I pause for a moment, feeling the weight of my torso settling onto my arms, shoulders and thoracic area. Shifting my weight forward, I bring my knees as close to my face as possible and go up onto my tippy toes…and then attempt to get my feet off the ground. I overbalance and fall sideways with a thud. Damn! Defeated for the moment, I roll over to the wall and effortlessly kick up into a headstand. The wall – my friend and my enemy :)

Coming down and resting my forehead on the floor in pose of the child to normalise my blood pressure, I thought for a moment about some of my other ‘if onlys’.

If only…I could be a published writer

If only…I could have my own sacred space

If only…I could have a regular yoga home practice

If only…I could work from home

If only…I could do an unsupported headstand against a wall :)

I smiled to myself, still resting in child’s pose.

Published writer? Yep. I’ve had three articles published by The Elephant Journal (here, here and here), three articles published by The Yoga Lunchbox(here, here and here) – and I’ve written nearly 120 posts in this very blog! And that’s only the start, people :)

My own sacred space? Yep. I wrote a great piece on this a while ago called My Accidental Yoga Room. And that was only the beginning as well – this is what my sacred space looks like now:

My sacred space - where I work, do yoga and regenerate.

My sacred space – where I work, do yoga and regenerate.

A regular home yoga practice? I’ve written about this here, there and everywhere, and in fact I blogged every day through my first 40 days of yoga. That was about 18 months ago, and I’m still doing yoga  every day.

Working from home? First I needed an office (thank you accidental yoga room). Then I needed internet in that office (thank you Glen for installing my router). Then I needed a job (thank you Elizabeth for sending me the link for my first online job) . I have worked for nearly a year doing social media, blogging and newsletters for a company specialising in helping wellness practitioners create successful businesses.

Headstand against the wall? I wrote about that here – but let me just say that I was just as defeated and doubting  about my ability to do that as I am about doing a headstand in the middle of the room now.

Hot damn! That if only statement must be pretty powerful :)

It is…but only if it is accompanied by a couple of things:

  • It’s our job to come up with the what: it’s the Universe’s job to come up with the how, when and where. Don’t for God’s sake try to step out of your job description. We need to keep our desires as general as possible because we don’t have all the information, we don’t have access to the big picture. Patience and faith, people.
  • It is not enough to sit around and wish for things. Action is the next principle. Ever heard that saying God helps those who help themselves? What this actually means is to attract Universal attention, you need to take small steps towards your dream. Does the thing you want cost money? Start saving, look for another job! Do you want a job that you aren’t qualified or experienced enough for? Sort that out – study and volunteer. Do you want to be a writer? Start a blog, go to a writers group, do a writing course. You must take action, because action creates momentum on all sorts of levels – some that you see and some that you don’t.

Hang on a minute, I’ve just had an idea about the headstand. What about if I practice the technique for getting into a headstand in the middle of the room – against a wall? Hang on a minute and  let me just see if that works.

I’m back. It does work :) For me, writing creates clarity and understanding, which then goes on to create action. If I am not clear about something, I become stuck.

So, if onlys are super powerful when accompanied by patience, faith and action, huh?

If only…I could get a new car (small to medium 4wd please). What do I need to do? Get more work, keep my eye out, have faith and be patient.

If only…I could get a great job that I can work from or close to home, that suits my interests, skills, experience and passions, earn enough money to get what I need and fit in with my family. What do I need to do? Apply for jobs that suit my criteria, make sure my experience and qualifications are up to date, be patient, keep the faith.

If only…we could have our house extension completely finished within the next 12 months. What do I need to do? Earn more money, save hard, be patient, keep the faith.

If only…this gorgeous book idea that is germinating in my heart and mind will become a reality! What do I need to do? Research, get my ideas together, write, be patient, keep the faith.

What are some of your ‘if onlys’ – and how do make your dreams come true?

 

 

Inspiration Saturday 3

Hey, I love Saturday mornings – not only do I get a chance to cast an eye back over my week cherry picking all my favourite bits out of it and then share it with you guys, but today we get to combine my favourite sport (under 11s soccer) with my favourite markets (Bellingen community markets). Yay :)

It’s been a good week for me – first week of my new job as teachers aide as well as another exciting job interview process (more about that later) – as well as heaps of writing inspiration. I’m loving being here more often, I really am, and I’m also loving the new friends I’m making this time around!

So, let’s get into it:

Best Article: Learning to Trust the Source of Your Creativity

Written by Julie Daley of Unabashedly Female, this article started with these words:

Now it is the crickets
that say Ripe Ripe
slurred in the darkness, while the plums

dripping on the lawn outside
our window, burst
with a sound like thick syrup
muffled and slow

Margaret Atwood, from “Late August”

I stopped, in awe, and read them again. Oh my :) This is a beautiful article about the welling up of creativity, what it feels like and how to work with it. Beautifully written, it really struck a chord with me. Here’s some more:

I feel the impulse. It rises up inside me from deep in the dark. It rises up on its own, like breath.

This impulse is alive, like breath, like me.

This impulse is whole. Everything is contained within. Everything I need in order to express this impulse comes along with it.

This impulse is ripe. And, because it is ripe, the entirety of it is ready to be eaten, tasted, digested, and made new again through expression.

This impulse is wise. It knows what I don’t know. And when I admit I don’t know, it comes. In its own time.

This impulse is responsive. When I listen to, and feel, the deepest longing inside me, and actively create, and engage within, a space for epiphany and insight, it comes. It always comes. In its own time.

My willingness to trust and admit that I do not have the answer to a question I truly want to know serves like a clarion call to grace…to be graced.

Grace comes on its own, in its own time. That is what it means to ‘be graced’.


Best Music:

Harry manx

I absolutely love Harry Manx, and this is the third album that I have from his collection. It’s not new – it was released in 2009, but he is a prolific artist with 12 albums released in 12 years and I can’t keep up! Why do I love Harry? He’s a travelling blues man who spent the formative years of his musical life playing slide guitar in Toronto Blues Clubs – and then moved to India and spent 12 years learning the 20 string Mohan Veena, under the rigorous tutelage of its Indian inventor. So, he brings East and West together in this wonderfully unique ragas/blues combination. Also, he’s awake – and you can hear that in his music:

“Like many people I’m interested in my own development as a person and that’s represented in my songs, I’m searching for truth through art and spirituality. My songs are a synthesis of everything I’ve absorbed, all my experiences and I share that. I’m glad that it means something to people.”

Check him out here playing the first track from Bread and Buddha:


 Best Things I’ve Learned:

This has been a learning week, which excites the hell out of me, because I love learning!

  • It was my first week as a teacher’s aide, so for the first time in a long time, I had to get dressed in nice clothes and make up to go to work :) My first day was a training day where I learned about Autism, Dyslexia and Anaphylaxis. Fascinating. My next two shifts were at school, where I learned the difference between a prism and a pyramid, and that the definition of a three dimensional shape is that you can look at it from three ways – above, below and from the side. What? How did I not know these vital pieces of information? :)
  • I’ve learned that Colorado is 16 hours behind my time, and that an interview at 2pm Tuesday Colorado time is 6am Wednesday morning here.
  • I’ve learned, and please don’t laugh, that I do not need a videopress upgrade to embed a youtube video into my blog – all I need to do is copy and paste the URL into the blog and wordpress does the rest. I am so happy to know that, and also amazingly embarrassed that I have been blogging for two years, and I never thought to find that out. OMG. It feels a bit like when I dicovered a few years ago that thunder is the sound that lightning makes. I was absolutely delighted with that piece of information, because it made such beautiful sense – but completely gobsmacked that it had never occurred to me before in all of my 35 years. Yep, welcome to the mind of Sara Foley – it sure is an interesting place :)

Best Bit of Awesomeness:

A little over a month ago, a friend sent me a link to a job for Nourished Kitchen, a well-known American food blog, which focuses on whole foods, proper food preparation (particularly of grains as well as fermentation), sustainable farming, local and seasonal eating and community access to good food. I loved the sound of  it because it sounds just like my food philosophy, and the position as team assistant seemed a perfect match for my skills and experience. So I applied for it. Why not? When i checked, the Facebook link for the job advertisement had over 1000 likes and 500 shares…but nothing ventured nothing gained, right? Anyway, a week or so later I received a reply – could you answer some questions – which I did. Then on Monday morning (10 minutes before I was due to leave for my first day as a teacher’s aide) I received another email: we are interviewing on Tuesday between 10 and 4 mountain time. Shit! What’s mountain time? A quick google told me that 2pm mountain time Tuesday equals 6am my time Wednesday. Okay, can do. I had that interview, and it all went well – I’ll know some time next week whether I have the job or not. But here’s the really cool thing: 500 people applied for that job, and they only interviewed 10.

:D :) :D :)


Best Thing to Look At:

Long Lost Photos Show What Hasn’t Changed About Motherhood in 50 Years

I was out and about today – in the supermarket, cafe and my children’s athletics carnival – and there were babies and little children everywhere. I had not much else to do but watch, and I saw the mothers do what mothers do everywhere – nurse, scold, laugh, frown, cuddle, feed, take to the toilet, tie shoelaces, wipe snotty noses, change bottoms, push prams – and I felt relief that my children were no longer that little. I know, that’s not what I hear most women say. I should say that straight after relief, I felt admiration, compassion and that unnameable quantity that happens to a person when they see a child. I said to a friend today that I think I still have a little bit of PTSD from early childhood mothering, and while that’s probably not technically true, it feels like it. I’m not a bad mother; I am loving, connected and committed. But for me, mothering under 4s was challenging.

Anyway, I saw this photo blog today, and it opened my eyes to motherhood in a whole different way. The photographs were taken by Ken Heyman 50 years ago, and show mothers and their children all over the world. Beautiful, beautiful photos. I felt again that exquisite kinship with mothers everywhere, that is part and parcel of motherhood. Other mothers, they know.


Favourite Quote:

“Nobody is superior, nobody is inferior, but nobody is equal either.
People are simply unique, incomparable. You are you, I am I.
I have to contribute my potential to life; you have to contribute your potential to life.
I have to discover my own being; you have to discover your own being.”

- Osho

Have a beautiful weekend everyone!

 

 

Inspiration and Wisdom through Seven Sacred Books – Part 1

This is the first part of a seven part series exploring seven books that have literally changed my life. You know those books so powerful that the wisdom of the author seeps through the pages and osmotically deposits itself into your hard wiring? These are the books where you look up after reading a line, a page, chapter, and know that something fundamental has shifted inside of you – for good. What is known cannot be unknown.

In this series I will be sharing with you the things that I have learned from these books. It isn’t a summary of the book – you can get that anywhere. This is the gaining of wisdom made personal – a sacred journey if you will. This is wisdom directly applied and worked on over years – these are books that have had profound effects upon me.

And now, for the first book:

The Power of Now

Eckhart Tolle

The power of now

I first read this book in 2006. I remember very clearly walking into a bookshop in Bellingen and buying it, with the knowledge that I needed to read it. It must have been perfect timing, because I drank that book in like cold lemonade on a hot day. It has been wonderful to look back over the book eight years later and see just how deeply the lessons have embedded themselves into my life.

Presence: Before I read this book, I didn’t have a concept of the value of the present moment. It’s like this: both the past and the future exist only in our imagination. The only thing that is real is Now, the present moment. Our mind will continually want to pull us out of the present (reality) and land us somewhere else, whether it is fretting about the past or worrying about the future. Our task is to continually return to reality.

Nothing ever happened in the past; it happened in the Now. Nothing ever happened in the future; it will happen in the Now.

Acceptance of Reality: Have you noticed how we humans refuse to accept reality? Something happens that we decide that we don’t like. Oh no! Why is this happening to me? I don’t like it, I don’t want this to happen, this is not how I planned it. And so on.

To complain is always non-acceptance of what is.

By coming into the present moment, Tolle is asking us to accept reality. Like everybody else, I was desperately trying to control as much of life as I could, and like everybody else, I was constantly dismayed at the results. Accepting reality means that when a situation occurs – stop freaking out, come back from the past (where you are thinking about the last time something like this happened) or the future (where you are imagining things that might happen) and rest in the Present. Yes this situation has happened. Am I okay, at this very moment? Yes I am. Okay, what now? This has been and continues to be of profound benefit to me, every day.

Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you have chosen it. Always work with it, not against it. make it your friend and your ally, not your enemy. This will miraculously transform your whole life.

What I have come to understand through accepting reality, however it comes and how unexpected it is, is that I do not have access to all the information. Things happen a certain way because they need to. By accepting reality, I let life unfold in all its innate wisdom and grace. I let life do what it does best. This does not mean that we just lie there accepting whatever life throws at us. What it does mean, is that we accept what has happened. We then have three choices:

If you find your here and now intolerable and it makes you unhappy, you have three options: remove yourself from the situation, change it or accept it totally. All else is madness.

Using your body to access the Now.

One of the very best techniques Tolle taught me was how to come into the Present Moment by bringing my attention to my Inner Body. Be in the body – feel it from within. Can you feel how alive you are? Do not think about it, feel it.

The Inner Body lies at the threshold between your form identity and your essence identity, your true nature. Never lose touch with it.

As I began to practice shifting my attention to my Inner Body, I realised that my focus was a gift. With this gift, my very cells come alive. As I practice, I become more and more aware of the subtle energy that fills my physical body and gives me life. This feeling is my doorway into the Divine. This is meditation. Centered, grounded, present, aware, awake.

Transformation occurs through the body not away from it.

This is why yoga is so powerful.

Taming your Mind.

Your mind is an instrument, a tool. It is there to be used for a specific task, and when the task is completed, you lay it down.

I am not cursed with a a hyperactive mind thank goodness, but like everybody, my mind thinks it’s higher up on the ladder of importance than it actually is. Tolle teaches that over-activity of the mind – the mind that chatters ceaselessly all day and half of the night – has not only made us entirely insane as a species, but is actively blocking us from our true essence, our Being. Our inability to separate ourselves from our mind (we are not the thinker, sorry Descartes) traps us in anxiety, regret and every type of self-inflicted suffering.

Learn to use your mind instead of it using you – and know the difference.

That is why every Spiritual Master will tell you to learn to meditate, and then practice meditation every day. That is why bringing your attention to your Inner Body is so effective – it takes your attention away from your mind.

Creating a space between perception and thought.

The best way to explain this concept is as a story.

I am walking along my road in the early morning. I am facing west and see the colours of the sky start to change, telling me the sun is coming up. I turn around and see a glorious sunrise. The sky glows vivid with colours of every hue of pink and red, the golden crescent of the rising sun shining golden, plump with anticipation of the day. All of a sudden, the colours dim, and my head is filled with a voice: Ah! Red sky in the morning is the shepherd’s warning! I wonder if it will rain today, we need the rain, oh, but I need to get my washing dry. Hmmm! Look, is it getting redder over there, or is it more pink? Look at that bird! Oh, it’s one of those currawongs I’ve been seeing around lately…and on and on and on.

Sound familiar? I’d never noticed it before reading The Power of Now. Seriously. I am a writer, so it’s natural for me to convert the things that I sense into words – but this is ridiculous! What Tolle taught was that as soon as your mind starts having a commentary on the sunset (or whatever you are perceiving), you have stopped perceiving the sunset as it actually is, and started perceiving the sunset as what you think it is.

So, I started to notice what happened when I perceived something. Sure enough, there was a split second (or less) of perception, followed by a description in my mind of what I was seeing. Why is this necessary? It’s not. It’s just the mind trying to make itself more important than it actually is.

Ever since that moment, my practice has been to catch myself in the act of perception, still my mind, and absorb whatever it is through my senses – with no inner dialogue about it. Later, if I want to tell someone about it or write about it, I can access that information quite readily in my memory. Until then, there’s really no point bringing the mind in.

The longer and wider you can keep the space between perception and thought, the more profound will be your experience of what you are looking at, as well as your understanding of Presence and Being.

The release of worry.

This was HUGE for me. I was a worrier, probably born that way. My first words? Oh dear. As a child I worried about everything: the environment, the baby seals, world peace, the burning oil wells in Iraq, the weather, global warming, the hole in the ozone layer – everything.

Tolle taught me that there are no problems, only situations that we have projected our own ideas onto – positive or negative. If we have decided that this is a negative situation, we need to ask ourselves – can we change this situation? The only answers can be Yes, no, or not now.  If it’s yes, then change it. If it’s no, or not yet, then accept it and sit with it. In the moment of acceptance, there is great power. Acceptance opens the doorway to miracles and grace.

Let me tell you another story:

Not long after I had read The Power of Now, I was hurrying home from work to pick up my son from school. I had been held up on the highway, my mobile was flat, and I had no way of contacting the school to tell them I was going to be late. I immediately started imagining horror scenarios in my head: Nick would be worried and upset that I was late. The teacher would be upset and angry with me, and would yell at me for being a bad mother and inconsiderate to boot. I was starting to feel panicky  – my heart was pounding, I was sweating and my face was hot. All of a sudden I stopped and asked myself: What is actually happening right now? Um…I’m driving along in my car. Okay. Are you alright? Yes. Okay. Can you change this situation? No. Okay. Is worrying and imagining scenarios going to change anything? Er…no. Okay, quit it. So, I did. I brought my attention to my inner body, accepted that I could not change the situation, and continued to drive. I arrived at the school about 20 minutes late. I walked into the school and found Nick and his teacher watering and weeding the school garden. When I approached, the teacher looked up and smiled at me. “Look Nick – here’s your mum. We thought she must have been running late from work.” My eyes pricked with tears. “Don’t worry Mum, we’ve been having a lovely time playing in the garden haven’t we?”

This simple story with its grace and forgiveness was a milestone for me in letting go of worrying. It doesn’t solve anything, will definitely make things worse for you, and may actually make things worse in reality (worries are prayers for the things you don’t want).

When you create a problem (out of a situation), you create pain. All it takes is a simple choice, a simple decision: no matter what happens, I will create no more problems. Although it is a simple choice, it is also very radical. You no longer contaminate the Earth, your inner space and the collective human psyche with the negativity of problem making.

Phew! 2000 words later omg :) It shows  how important this book is, and what a profound effect it has had on me. If you haven’t read this book yet, do. It’s like the handbook for Earth School. Seriously. It makes life easier. And if you have read it: what did it teach you?