Are you truly awake?

Are you truly awake?

I received a text from a friend today who I travelled with across Australia and South East Asia. He’d watched a programme about a South Korean Buddhist monk and messaged to tell me it reminded him of a conversation we had shared in Cairns.

I remembered it so clearly. Remembered all the conversations so very clearly. Everything from the in depth talks about life and its many intricacies over a tall pint of beer right through to the nights spent under the stars delving into spiritual teachings.

We were so in tune with our own thoughts and innermost questions. Our hearts open, gapingly even, to drink in with a wild desire every new piece of information and inspiration.

Our world was a puzzle, and we felt so very blessed to find those pieces and figure out quite how they slotted together.

My kindle was heavy with readings from Deepak Chopra, Baron Baptiste and Thich Nhat Hanh. Their words gave me the strength to forgive my Mother. And even now, after an attempt to rebuild those bridges and coming to realise they are too broken to repair, their teachings have provided me with the love to accept this truth and live with it.

At that time, I felt full and… I guess, awake?

Awake. That’s it.

So why is it that since returning to “ordinary” life, it has has it been so hard for me to open my eyes?

It took me a long time to understand that I could not (and should not) rest my happiness and self worth on a location. I felt guilty for returning to my home town after so many years away. As if I had taken a step back into a past I wanted to forget and was foolishly leaving behind a life I had only ever dreamt of.

Regret walked with me like a shadow, anxiety my second heart beat. “Itchy feet” didn’t even hint at the intense emotions running from my head to my toes pushing me to pick up that passport once again.

Everything was boring. Everything was dull.

Where was the beauty? Where was the discovery?

I blamed this lack of stimulation and overwhelming sense of monotony on my own inability to connect with that girl I had become those few months ago.

Or, rather, the girl I had allowed myself to be.

I no longer felt full and in a state of mindfulness. Far from it, really.

The only time I stepped back into that beautiful state of being was when I placed myself on the mat. My practice would be transcendent, my mind at peace and hungry for my teachers simple but deeply affecting words.

Until recently. Until I gave myself the permission to take my teachers words away from the mat and into my life.

It sounds silly, doesn’t it? An obvious concept.

And yet something had been stopping me from taking them out of my safe haven into my “real world.”

When my teacher returned from a retreat in India back to Shirley, we were of course all bursting with questions for him. His answers were full of joy but very calm, collected.

“Whether you are somewhere exotic and beautiful like India or back in quiet Shirley, it doesn’t matter really, does it? Those things, they’re just external. They’re temporary. The only constant is yourself. And that is the only place you can truly gain fulfilment.”

*the penny drops*

Isn’t it the oddest thing when someone puts into words exactly what you have been searching for all along?

And now I feel as if I have accepted and welcomed that… now I once again want to commit to living in a mindful existence.

There are many ways I hope to do this. My daily yoga practice. Exploring Buddhist groups in the community. Going back to my readings.

Living, loving, learning.

Maybe this blog can help me chronicle them. Give me a space to be and reflect.

I want to allow myself to be that girl who held herself as a blank canvas and lived every moment as it was supposed to be lived.

Fully.

Consciously.

Awake.

It doesn’t matter whether I am doing that amidst a Balinese sacred site, a remote island or the comfort of my humble flat in Southampton.

None of those things define who I am or what I want to be.

That? That can only come from myself.

The Love Hate Relationship.

The Love Hate Relationship.

I have this love hate relationship with writing. Rather, with my writing. My relationship and motivations behind it.

On one hand, writing is my saviour. It has guided me through some of my darkest days, when the heavy cloak of sadness weighed across my shoulders and clouded my vision. It has helped bring about a sense of understanding within the confusion. Allowed me to connect with myself. Given me a space to be open and honest when words failed me.

And yet, the other hand deals the cards fraught with pressure and self doubt.

Because what is the point of my writing?

Surely there has to be a point?

This other hand traces the ominous question mark above my head asking what is right to write about? This blog, for example. Is to write about yourself in such a way just hideously self indulgent? A desperate plea for attention?

Should I be so open? If I truly let my innermost feelings spill across the keyboard, will the end result be far too messy to ever repair?

For the longest time I have flitted between writing on this blog (which, actually, fills me with an energy only likened to that I find on the yoga mat and comes oh so naturally) and trying to force my creativity into other outlets. I take myself to fiction workshops and attempt fiction exercises. I research and pull together articles to submit to yoga websites and the like. I wonder whether I should be working on a writing project.

You know. Something that matters. Something that would be deemed as “better writing.”

The things I should be doing.

All those feelings, all those questions? They’re god damn exhausting.

I heard a quote today on The Good Life Project. It was in reference to the intrinsic links floating between yoga, meditation and writing.

“I wonder sometimes when I write… wouldn’t it be cool if I could create an experience that could bring somebody to the same point that they were at when they were on their knees… in terms of an openness and motivation to take action… without actually having to have their shins hit the floor?” – Jonathan Fields

And it made think…

If writing in this open, raw, self questioning and discovering way I do gives me even a small element of the feeling when I am deep in the midst of a yoga practice… maybe I can give other people that feeling too?

Maybe it’s something I need to clutch hold of, rather than push away.

Because writing? It’s my practice. It’s my meditation. It takes me anywhere I want to be and turns the volume down on all the noise around me.

Isn’t that enough? Doesn’t that matter?

I guess what I’m trying to say is that in this quick fix world we live in where answers are constantly a few seconds away at the edge of our finger tips, sometimes we can question things too much. And sometimes, the answer is far simpler than we could ever have imagined.

Or, at least, we can allow the answer to be simple.

We live in a society of intense pressure. Whether it’s the worry of why we are doing something or whether we are doing something enough (I couldn’t count the amount of times the worry of having not written for so long stops me from writing entirely… even with my journal! My journal for goodness sake!), there’s the constant niggle prodding you in the side until you trip out of the present moment and into that messy place of self doubt.

I think… I THINK… I’m finally committing to the path of saying thank you, but goodbye to the niggle and carrying on regardless.

And the first step? This. My writing.

Carrying on. Persevering.

Tipping the scales back into love.

Maybe.

Thinking out loud #1

An unexpected sunny Sunday, my scrawny arms relishing in that familiar kiss. A week of work achievements, of knowing I’ve found my “thing”. The reassuring nod, the gentle smile. Another week stepping back onto the uncomfortable, sometimes painful conveyor belt, rushing full throttle back into the past. But it’s okay. It’s all okay. The tenth paper envelope at the door, your familiar drawings scrawled on the front. One day I’ll scrawl them onto my skin, a story inked across my own canvas forever more. The music you recommended has echoed around the flat ever since.
“And a lion, a lion roars would you not listen?
If a child, a child cries would you not forgive them?”

A transcendent yoga class. Laughter on the sofa. My sister’s smile.

Everything. Nothing. All the colours in between.

Review: National Theatre’s Jane Eyre.

Review: National Theatre’s Jane Eyre.

I am fascinated by productions that can say so much by doing so little. The talent, the mind power, that goes into creating something so effortlessly poignant without the aid of gimmicks. It’s a rare and brilliant feat and one that consistently takes hold of my attention long after the curtain has fallen.

National Theatre’s adaptation of Jane Eyre at The Mayflower Theatre was a glowing example of that. Set on a sparse stage with a series of wooden platforms and ladders with floating white drapery as a backdrop, Michael Vale’s design was simple and adaptable. It threw all focus directly on the performance whilst still capturing a sense of childhood innocence and the passing of time as the cast darted, twisted and ran between pillars and ledges. It didn’t want for any more.

NT Jane Eyre Tour 2017 ensemble. Photo by BrinkhoffMögenburg (15).JPG

This simplicity wove its magic throughout the rest of the play. Performed by an ensemble of 10 (three of which were musicians),  the cast seamlessly switched between characters with an ease that made each transition unnoticeable. It played homage to their skill: every single person on stage embodied their characters flawlessly. Costume changes were carried out softly (almost eerily) in plain light meaning that for every step of the way, we as the audience were a part of the story. This clever technique pulled you in and left you feeling like you were sat right there, embedded in the script, with them.

Tim Delap (Rochester) Nadia Clifford (Jane Eyre) NT Jane Eyre Tour 2017. Photo by BrinkhoffMögenburg (2).JPG

The story itself was a superb balance of contemporary interpretation and staying true to the classic. Under Sally Cookson’s direction, both Bronte lovers and newbies to the tale would connect with the production just the same. I found myself almost bursting with my inner geek during the classic monologues (“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.” – goosebumps!) whilst totally enthralled by the modern twists. A stand out had to be the role of Bertha, played by the exquisite understudy Dami Olukoya. Dressed in a regal red gown (the only burst of colour in an otherwise subdued selection of costumes), she had an ongoing presence in the shadows of the set. Her haunting singing voice echoed around the theatre between key scenes, a chilling reminder of her constant hiding in the darkest corners of Thornfield. Dami’s rendition of “Crazy” in the closing scenes had the whole audience on the edge of their seats… you could have heard a pin drop.

Melanie Marshall (Bertha Mason) NT Jane Eyre Tour 2017. Photo by BrinkhoffMögenburg.JPG

(Melanie Marshall playing Bertha)

But Dami was by no means the only stand out performance. In fact, every single person on that stage was a stand out. From the oddly endearing and mysterious Tim Delap playing Rochester to understudy Francesca Tomlinson taking on the roles of Adele and Helen Burns (amongst others) with poise and sophistication, everyone turned the script into something alive and truly intoxicating.

NT Jane Eyre Tour 2017 ensemble. Photo by BrinkhoffMögenburg (7).JPG

Of course, Nadia Clifford was a complete dream as Jane. Her transformation from a confused, lost and yet head strong little girl to a brilliant and spirited woman taking the reins on her life had me thinking “dear lord I want to be like her!” She embodied a powerful, feminist lead and commanded the stage. A fierce talent and one to watch.

Nadia Clifford (Jane Eyre) NT Jane Eyre Tour 2017. Photo by BrinkhoffMögenburg (4).JPG

Music, humour and intelligent prop use were interspersed throughout, further strengthening the unique appeal of this gorgeous production. I was captivated, from start to finish.

Nadia Clifford (Jane Eyre) NT Jane Eyre Tour 2017. Photo by BrinkhoffMögenburg (14).JPG

You can’t really go wrong with National Theatre. Their quirky and charming approach to performance art never fails to bring something fresh to the table. Followers of literature and the theatre alike will fall in love with this extraordinary tale, told in a timeless and unique way.

Jane Eyre is showing at The Mayflower Theatre until Saturday 13 May. You can grab your tickets here.

Photos by Brinkhoff Mögenburg

Pandora’s Box.

Pandora’s Box.

The room

was exactly how I’d imagined

the soft seats

table in between

water, in case your throat closed up

 

(or the words got caught, more like)

 

I was nervous

although, nervous felt too small a word

for the gut-wrenching feeling

that my whole world was about to

spill out

pour out

until

it was so bold

so obnoxiously bright

it couldn’t be ignored

 

not anymore, anyway

 

the clock was reflected in the mirror

 

the words didn’t stop

 

and the minutes kept ticking

 

as the sharp hand

worked its way around the loop

my own shackles loosened

just a glimpse, but a glimpse all the same

 

I could taste the soap in my mouth

bitter and stomach churning

as I screamed

until my throat was raw

 

I could see your face

twisted in anger

disgust

hatred

 

I could feel the burn my nails had left

my skinny arms

red with the dirty proof

 

young

confused

alone

 

and now that box is open

the demons of the past and their smug faces

tapping me on the shoulder

 

what have I let out?

what have I set free?

 

can I trust in the journey?

 

will I have the power

to not lock the box

but greet the darkness

bid it farewell

until only hope remains?

10 Tips for a More Eco-Lifestyle.

10 Tips for a More Eco-Lifestyle.

Wanting to leave your print on the planet can seem like a pretty overwhelming feat. The more I delve into the dangers impacting our world, the less I feel as if a solution is within grasp.

Rather, the solution is there. It just needs mass implementation to start reversing the damage.

It’s all too easy to say “It isn’t my problem” or “It’s too impossible a task – why even try?”

And yet… there’s only one thing we can control in life, isn’t there?

Our actions. Our beliefs. Our journey.

That bigger story? It isn’t ours to write. And whether or not we believe our own choices to alter our behaviour for the good of the planet will help, you can guarantee the impact of our choice NOT to do anything.

A big fat nothing. Zilch. Impact of 0.

This doesn’t have to mean anything radical. If you want to drop everything to travel the oceans with the Sea Shepherds or simply make a small change in your diet, you can do as much or as little as you want to create an eco-friendly lifestyle.

To get you started I’ve rounded up my top 10 tips to ease yourself in. See it as some simple sustainability to dip your toes into a more environmentally conscious life!

1. Get on your bike!

Easy peasy. And now the Spring sunshine is starting to peak its face out from behind the clouds, it really is the ideal time. Of course it isn’t ideal for everyone to cycle EVERYWHERE. But if you can change just a few of your driven journeys per week to a cycle (or even a walk!), you’re immediately reducing your carbon footprint.

Plus, cycling gives you KILL-AH thighs and butt. My legs have never felt so rock hard. Winning all round.

2. Purchase less.

Right, this is the one I personally am still working on (this month is my total commitment to it).

We live in a society of “stuff”. Look around you. How many items that you’ve purchased do you really need? How many were impulse buys? How much clutter is bursting out at the seams?

Product production can have a huge impact on the environment, let alone the further impacts of product disposal and getting rid of all that packaging. So try and push yourself into the 14 day test – give it a fortnight after the moment you decide you REAAAAAALLY want that new pair of shoes or Moleskin notebook to commit.

And if you do still feel the need to buy it, try to steer towards fair-trade, ethical stores. Many of these will be independent as well, so you can rest easy knowing you’re helping the smaller guys.

3. Go to a clothes swap.

Leading on from that, if you do look around and realise you’ve got more clothes than a Kardashian photo shoot, why not pull the bits you don’t need together and take them to a clothes swap?

You get to recycle your old items AND pick up new (to you) ones on the way. Pretty cushty, really.

They’re easy to find with a quick google search of clothes swaps in your area. Southampton followers, there’s a great one coming up on April 22 in Gods House Tower. Check out more details here.

4. Buy used when possible.

… another way to reduce the problem of the purchase is by doing to second hand. I grab all my books from charity stores and Amazon (which also tends to reduce to price a ton).

For bigger items, eBay is also a goldmine for furniture. We kitted out our whole living room for about £30 and it looks and feels fab-u-lous. Chuck a vibrant cover over a sofa, upcycle a table and you’re sorted.

5. Cut out the plastic bags.

I’m sure you’ve heard this one over, and over, and over again.

It’s certainly coming more to the forefront of people’s minds since the 5p carrier bags were enforced in supermarkets. Bravo for that one, folks. But it really is SUCH an easy adjustment to keep a canvas bag on you to use instead of shopping carrier bags.

I keep one under my desk at work, one at home and a squishy one (good adjective) slotted into my handbag. Always ready and raring to go… just like WonderWoman.

6. Get a re-usable coffee cup.

Drink a lot of coffee (*cough* obscene amount *cough*)? A lot of coffee cups from stores aren’t bio-degradable, and it’s been revealed that 2.5 billion supposedly paper coffee cups are being thrown away in the UK every year. Whilst we might be led to believe that these cups are recyclable, the reality is actually a different story.

And whilst you will find coffee shops (normally the more independent stores) with biodegradable cups (I’ll be carrying out some research on those that do in Southampton soon) it’s well worth keeping hold of a re-usable cup that you can just get the barista to fill up for you.

Hungry City Hippy (one of my fave eco bloggers who did an awesome roundup of 10 coffee shops in Cardiff, my old home, that do biodegradable cups) recommends these lush little bamboo reusable coffee cups from Surfers against Sewage. I’ve ordered the pink one, obvs.

7. Buy cruelty-free makeup.

This one doesn’t need much explaining.

I’m in the process of re-purchasing all my skin care and makeup to that which I know is 100% cruelty free. Unfortunately many of the makeup brands who claim to be cruelty-free are, along the line, still taking part in animal testing. This is because the actual ingredients that go into the products may be manufactured in factories that do test on animals.

Despite the controversy recently surrounding The Body Shop, it has come through from PETA that the company is and will remain 100% cruelty free. I can also say that my skin has never been clearer since moving over to their natural products.

The Vegan Kind is also a great resource for finding out about cruelty-free, vegan cosmetics. They also run two subscription boxes (one for food, one for cosmetic products) which are both brilliant for finding out about ethical brands. Plus, all packaging is totally recyclable. What’s not to love?

8. Go meat-free.

When people ask why I’ve gone vegetarian (and gradually transitioning to vegan), the answer is always three fold. The first is of course the ethical side of it – and that one is self-explanatory, really. The second is health. And oh lord, have I felt the benefits already in my energy, skin and mental well being. The third? The environment.

An animal-free (vegan ideally) diet is a hugely powerful way to help protect our planet. The livestock sector is one of the most significant contributors to our most critical environmental issues, at every end of the spectrum from local impact to global climate change. It’s one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas as well as the extreme amounts of grain required to feed livestock reducing the amount of food available for the world’s starving.

I pulled together 5 brilliant documentaries that dig deeper into all of this, which you can read here. Believe me, coming from someone who used to be a huge meat eater, they will seriously open your eyes.

9. Get involved in the Real Junk Food Project.

The Real Junk Food Project is a national movement that intercepts food before it goes to landfill or incineration and distributes it to the community or uses it to cater events.

These projects normally crop up within “cafes” with a “pay as you feel” ethos. It’s all totally safe and works to create a more ethical approach to food by avoiding chucking food out that is still entirely fit for purpose.

You can see if there are any cafes near you on their website. For Southampton folk, The Curb Kitchen will pop up regularly in the city so check them out and pay them a visit.

10. Join a local green group.

And finally, why not suss out the local eco groups in your community? They’re easy to find – I mean, these guys tend to be a tad vocal. So whether it is something like a Real Junk Food café, a local division of Greenpeace or just a meetup, this is a great opportunity to meet with like-minded people and work together to initiate tangible change.

Do you have any tips you’d add to the list? Let me know in the comments below!