Posts tagged values
Reflective Reads for Autumn
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Hello friends,

Naomi here! I’d like to share with you some reflective reads that have inspired me recently…

The Power of Kindness: The Unexpected Benefits of Leading a Compassionate Life by Piero Ferrucci

This is a beautiful little book with a simple but profound concept. Written by a respected expert in Transpersonal Psychology (a branch of psychology that emphasises positive influences and addresses, as a whole, the spiritual, social, intellectual, emotional, physical and creative aspects of a person's being), the book is divided into eighteen chapters, each devoted to a facet of kindness, such as empathy, generosity and forgiveness. Kindness, the author argues, should be our guiding compass and will not only lead to the happiness of those around us but will ultimately develop our own self-compassion and help us to thrive. This may not be a ground-breaking book, but I found a gem of wisdom and a powerful one-liner in every section. It was a comfort to read a chapter before bed each night, to end the day reconnecting with an attribute that should always, inarguably, be a core value for all of us - because wouldn't it make life just that little bit easier if we all decided to be a little bit kinder?

The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo

Coehlo is an exceptional storyteller but the message he delivers in this poetic novella is what's most memorable. It's no wonder it's sold over 65 million copies and has been heralded as a modern classic - so often it's these humble books that make the most impact. The Alchemist is an allegorical story of a Spanish shepherd boy who dreams of travelling the world in search of treasure and riches. Making his way through northern Africa, however, he experiences a number of fateful encounters and omens that finally lead him to a life-affirming conclusion. I read it in one sitting and on finishing, I had that flutter in my chest that you get when you receive good news, like a renewed sense of hope. It is a book about gratitude, personal values, self-discovery and, (one of our favourite words here at COR), courage which, as the boy in the book is told, "is the quality most essential to understanding the Language of the World". We agree, wholeheartedly.

The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle

This was one of those books that I'd heard a lot of people mention as a seminal work but had never got round to reading. So when I did eventually pick it up, I had high hopes. And I wasn't disappointed; in fact, I'd go as far as to say I found it life-changing. Eckhart Tolle suffered with severe anxiety and episodes of suicidal depression, until he experienced a personal epiphany at the age of 29. The thought, “I cannot live with myself any longer”, had been a constant in his mind until he realised "If I cannot live with myself, there must be two of me: the ‘I’ and the ‘self’ that ‘I’ cannot live with.” Suddenly he understood that only the "I" was real, and that this was the true, observing self; the rest was fiction. What followed was a path to self-discovery and the pursuit of pure consciousness, a journey which he shares with us in The Power of Now. It's a tough book to follow; you need a highlighter in hand and the patience to re-read paragraphs, but the lessons you will learn will stay with you forever. I often catch myself indirectly quoting lines from the book and I will always be grateful to Tolle for teaching me that "Life is now. There was never a time when your life was not now, nor will there ever be".

Lots of love, N x

HOW TO MAKE A SELF-CARE PLAN

Hello you lot, how are you all?

Fine? Busy? Tired? It’s a question we don’t often answer honestly, or at least with any substance. But I’m going to be honest. November has been a blue month for me. I’ve felt a bit flat, irritable and, at times, self-conscious and insecure. There’s been no obvious triggers. In fact, when friends have asked me how things are, I’ve been able to reply with “nothing much to report”, a rare and much coveted statement in my world.

Yet, instead of enjoying this period of calm, I began to feel anxious that I didn’t feel anxious. A ridiculous catch-22. Being in crisis feels familiar to me. Being high on adrenaline has become my baseline. I know who I am then and I know how to act. I like myself and am proud of my strength and resilience. Even small feats seem exceptional in difficult times. I feel like SuperWoman.

I’m not quite so keen on the person I am in the quiet. The lack of distraction enables insecurities to surface. And it’s always when things have settled, that we realise we’re exhausted and run-down. When my resources are low, I can very quickly find myself entangled in negative thought patterns once again. I doubt myself and my capabilities; I lose my ability to rationalise; and I take every remark to heart, certain that other people's’ anxieties have been caused by me. I berate myself for being useless / lazy / anxious, the list goes on and the cycle continues...

But in the past 2 years, I’ve learnt so much, enabling me to recover myself much more quickly. Some “Anxiety Truths” for you:

  1. Anxiety always wanes, even if you can’t see a way out when you’re in it

  2. It’s a natural, human condition; every single one of us experiences anxiety

  3. You’ve been at “breaking point” before, and you didn’t break (because what does it look like to “be broken” anyway?)

I know what can help me to feel grounded and in control once again so I have spent the past few weeks implementing my self-care plan. If anything, low mood months are important because they can bring you back to yourself, reminding you to take care and reinstate your routine.  

Routine is at the top of my self-care plan. I’m lucky that I work for myself so I can be in charge of how I structure my time (although I made the conscious decision to leave my 9 to 5 job so that I could do just that, so not so much luck, as self-determined). Monday is my favourite day of the week as it’s my day off. My out of office goes on, although I’m still up early to head to my favourite cafe for a coffee and most probably a chocolate muffin. I read. I reply to messages. I do some life admin. I look out of the window. An hour later, I go to counselling - something I’ve done every Monday for 2 years now. This commitment to myself has undoubtedly saved me. If counselling is something you’re keen to explore, there are lots of centres that offer low-cost options, and run sessions outside of work hours.

After counselling, I go bouldering all day. Nothing helps me to my let go of my anxieties more than a climb, as, for me, it’s not only exercise but a form of Mindfulness and problem-solving. Climbing is a full body workout that heightens your bodily awareness, bringing your attention to every muscle, from the tips of your fingers to the tips of your toes. Your only focus is how to make it to the top without falling, whilst remembering to breathe, which leaves no space for worrying.

I begin every day by reading a chapter of my current book. This gives me time to fully wake up and warm up my brain, rather than launching straight into my to-do list. It’s my way of doing something kind for myself to kick-start the morning, and I try to do this at intervals throughout the week. Sometimes, if I’m in need of a special treat, I might even take myself to an afternoon cinema screening. Being able to do things like this whenever I need to is what success ultimately looks like for me.

I find it really difficult to meditate on my own but I’ve found a guided meditation group for beginners that I love. It’s become an anchor in my week and I feel incredibly proud when I realise that I’ve carved out that time simply to sit quietly with myself, something I absolutely never thought I’d be able to do. If you struggle to meditate too, try listening to a clip by the wise Alan Watts; my favourite is ‘The Mind is a Vicious Circle’.

Finally, I try to live each day according to the values that matter most to me. A couple of years ago, I made a list of my core principles (or “COR principles”?), and I carry this with me at all times. Reviewing this list can help to ease my anxiety, for, as long as I have compassion, courage and connection, I know that I’m OK and that nothing else really matters.

Having worked through my self-care plan for several weeks now, I’m feeling in a much better place; more grounded, productive and self-aware. I’m guessing many of you might also have been feeling out of sorts this month, preferring to stay under the duvet rather than facing the cold, grey, rainy days? If so, why not have a think about what your personal self-care plan might look like and make a conscious commitment to stick to it for the next few weeks in the lead up to Christmas. Give yourself a little love and let’s make December a good one.

Lots of love, as always,

N x