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My blog series started BL - Before Lockdown. We are now a year and some months down the line and much as the world has changed in the last 18 months, my theme has not changed much. In fact - it has become more urgent than ever.

We need to live more deliberately.

We live mostly in automation mode and may look back one day and feel we have hardly lived at all. Or we live for the future, delaying doing many important things 'to do another day'. That day may never come.

Life is less linear and more unpredictable than ever. No-one is assured of anything anymore, especially how many tomorrows we may have. We all know someone who we never thought would succumb to COVID but did. Our universe of people has shrunk dramatically and unexpectedly.

If you had to die tomorrow, or in a week or two (which has suddenly become a thought we have to face) will you have done what you wanted to? Will you have planned as you should have? And most importantly, will you have fully lived each moment?

Instead of living mindfully, ensuring that each moment is well spent, and felt, we fly through our days hardly aware of what we're doing while surrounded by a million distracting things. Our days are filled with stressful thoughts, nights don’t give sufficient rest, and our list of what we should do but don’t get around to grows.

Come with me to the woods...

Imagine living fully in the moment. Think of how it would feel to be immersed in what you are doing for some of the day at least. Perhaps it's simply being aware of your breath! Just doing that for a brief while is quite exquisite. Imagine having clear energy available to put your absolute best into each today.

When we fully live each moment, a day can be a beautiful lifetime. More than ever people are now aware of the need to live deliberately, fully and joyfully, and to build their wellbeing and resilience.

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. Henry David Thoreau

Living Deliberately: The Basics

A good place to start living deliberately is by doing the basics in the best way possible. If you simply breathe intelligently, keep your self nourished, and get a good nights sleep your life will completely transform - simply from doing the basics better.

Nourishing Body, Mind and Soul

Nourishment is more than just the food we consume, it is what we consume with all our senses. We deplete ourselves when we eat food that does not create but rather gobbles energy. We also deplete ourselves when we over-indulge on social media, and under-indulge in nature, music, beauty and touch. We should take in what we need to build our energy to ensure quality of life, resilience and good health generally. When we take in more of what depletes than energises, we are going to be left with a zero sum in the energy account which results in declining health, anxiety and stress. We also risk ending up potentially disconnected from nurturing relationships when we give too much time to social media and virtual relating.

Getting More than a Good Night's Rest

Do you know that your brain is incredibly active while you are sleeping? Your brain is doing all kinds of clever things such as getting rid of toxins, storing information into memory, controlling various hormones that contribute to overall physical and mental well-being, ensuring good brain function and making cytokines that support a strong immune system - to mention just a few! There is so much to learn about good sleep habits in terms of both our sleep hygiene as well as sleep architecture.

Learning how to ensure a good night's rest is one of the best things you can do to ensure you live your best day when you wake up!

Breathing to Thrive rather than to Stay Alive

Luckily for us, we are designed magnificently. Basic functions such as breathing happen automatically. Imagine if you had to think about each inhale and exhale! The catch however is that even though our breathing is automatic it is often not optimal. Stressful living and circumstances cause us to breathe faster and shallower, which in turn exacerbates our levels of stress. Massive amounts of incoming information (a fairly addictive stimulant) along with poor lifestyles result in a viscous cycle of stressful breathing, unconscious living and increasing health issues.

The rythm, rate and ratio of our breath is critical. Slight changes in these result in a very different experiences on all levels. Our breath rate is deeply connected to the functioning of our nervous system, influencing our emotional state, our physical wellness and our very sense of being! Learning to be aware of our breath and to breathe intelligently is simply put, life-changing. Science has isolated breath awareness and slow breathing as a huge common factor that experienced meditators, and people with high levels of resilience, mental strength and inner joy share.

Becoming aware of our breath is becoming aware of life.

Cohort Learning On-line Series

It seems therefore that we don't automatically do the basics correctly, or often learn poor habits over time. The critical moment comes when we realise this and decide to cultivate healthy habits, deliberately.

In my work as a coach focusing mainly on mental wellness, resilience and personal development, I have been running on-line masterclasses in various organisations over the last 18 months, giving an introduction to the above topics. I will now be running similar classes for anyone who would like to learn how to shift to a more deliberate lifestyle, and also potentially become part of a group who can work together to build purposeful routines.

The first class will be around how you can effectively create healthier habits and a purposeful routine. Understanding how the brain works when it comes to building habits is vital. If we don't get this right to some degree we will stay stuck in good beginnings and poor endings. There will be 3 further classes on how and why to do the basics optimally.

The classes are modular so you can attend as many as you wish. Each one can stand alone or form part of a series of learning. You can also get the recording should you not be able to make the dates that I give the class on-line. Each class will be followed by a one hour workshop to integrate the information and help build healthy habits. The workshop will follow a week or so after the class to give those watching the recording a chance to watch. This way we can create a cohort working with one or more topics. A cohort is a group who work through specific information together, encourage each other and offer accountability. It has proven to be one of the best ways for adults to learn new info. I personally highly recommend investing the time and effort to form part of a cohort. I find it easier to build new habits and break bad ones by working within a small group. The cost of these classes will structured in such a way that they are accessible to everyone.

Please let me know if you are interested in learning more about these basics so I can send you further info. It will be a great way to end the year, by accessing new information in order to start your 2022 in a more deliberate and joy-filled way. Remember - joy is something that we can own in spite of difficult circumstances. Joy is beyond happiness and goes down to a deeper level of being and trusting.

Our basic classes will lead on to further offerings to increase awareness and connection next year. Each day lived fully and well is a gift beyond measure.

Watch out for the next blog with more details!

Sometimes breathing deeply is not enough, and neither is being quiet and stopping the noise. Sometimes things get so tough that the noise in our heads just won't stop no matter what. Right now is one of those times and the going is getting seriously tough. And furthermore, it's going to get tougher. So yes - we can breathe deeply (especially for that fraction of the day that we are allowed to foray out), we can stop looking at all the constant bombardment of info, we can bake sourdough and clean our houses. We can and should do all those things.

But is no longer enough to stop the noise in our heads.

When The Going gets Tough, the Tough get Going

I have made a decision not to get drawn into the increasingly negative conversations going on around me. Everyone is dealing with severe fall-out on some level or another, and lockdown is starting to test our tempers no matter how lucky we are to have a roof over our heads and food on the table. The current group-think and speak is bouncing between anger and frustration, hopelessness and despair, health and wealth anxiety and flat-out fear of this unknown future that we have to live after being pared down to the bone.

And yet there are other conversations happening, some that I have been privileged to be a part of. The tough are truly starting to get going. People are becoming wildly creative, turning out ideas and new revenue streams that I could never have imagined. The profile of how we do things is changing and may never look the same again. I am seeing chefs and restaurants turn around with astounding agility, creating meals that can be delivered instead of consumed on premises. I read today that one restaurant is trying to put together virtual dinner parties by dropping ingredients and then arranging a session with the chef, so you and your guests can all prepare together. I have spoken to teachers who have come up with novel ideas to teach their students. We need new ways of learning so badly! Now is the time to not get bogged down by despair - rather it is time to be part of the solution and the future. Let's join up and become big think tanks. Let's push back hard on things we don't agree with, create platforms that make accessing food and relief easier, turn businesses around to face new challenges rather than trying to do the same as we used to. Many voices make a big noise. We need to stand together now more than ever. Take charge of what you can - get credit or rental reprieves, look at costs you can cut or cull, support SME's, think like an entrepreneur by anticipating needs that will arise when we get through this. Start marketing these ideas now. Make new ideas real.

But still the viral wave continues to roll in towards our shore. We are already so over this whole thing, and yet the worst of the curve is still coming. So look after your health - if you are of sound health the overwhelming chance is even if you get this virus you will survive it well. Stand strong, don't be afraid but be very responsible and careful.

It is no longer about me. It is about us - an us we all need to take responsibility for, teach our children about, and make them a part of. We now live in a world of us - all survivors of one of the worst human crisis in living history. Let's all take up the challenge to be the very best version of ourselves, to make up an extraordinary us.

In the words of Joseph Campbell - It is time to let go of the life you had planned, and step into the one waiting for you.

This is such a journey - in spite of the fact that we can hardly step outside at the moment, we are managing to step into a completely new reality! We are slowly coming to a point of realisation that everything has changed and most likely will never look quite like it did before. The changes are so fundamental that by proxy it changes most of our lived experience, from if and how we work all the way down to our perspective and sense of security. I know for sure that I will never look at life in quite the same way. The biggest shift for me is a lessened sense of me and an increased sense of us.

Kindly does it.

I have been reading some profound journalism lately as well as some valuable articles on social media. The observations and perspectives that I am exposed to are revealing an aspect of human nature that we are often too distracted to pay attention to - our intrinsic and abundant ability for kindness. Going through what we are as a collective is making us so much more aware of others and their suffering. And so many people out there are doing incredible work, not for themselves but for us.

We have gone from denial, to panic, to hyper connectivity and then to quiet. Perhaps it all just became too exhausting and being quiet became a refuge. In this quiet space thoughts, feelings and awareness arise without distraction. Much of what arises now is around uncertainty, and fear of an unknown future. But we are imagining the future from where we were, separate and isolated from people around us. Not only separate but also often in competition with those around us. As I look at photographs and stories from around the world I think the future may look different. We have no choice but to stand together to cope with the rigors of a new beginning.

When life conspires to strip you of all the old securities, you have to search for something new to fill the vacuum. We are experiencing a paring down so seismic and spectacular that our internal reference points and narratives may be completely redundant soon. Our sense of who we are is dissolving. And just like our caterpillar dissolved, there came a moment when something new had to start taking shape. Something completely different. It is time for us to start thinking of new narratives and reference points that are inclusive, that acknowledge what is true rather than what we choose to believe, and that brings us into close support with all other human beings in order to create the one big heart you see above.

I love Naomi Shahib Nye's poem on Kindness.

"Before you know what kindness really is

you must lose things,

Feel the future dissolve in a moment

like salt in a weakened broth.

What you held in your hand,

what you counted and carefully saved,

all this must go so you know

how desolate the landscape can be

between the regions of kindness..."

I won't quote it all but do yourselves a favor and read it. In a discussion on the poem it is said she sees kindness not as a bland act but as a deeply felt communion. Kindness born out of the toughness of life.

I have had experiences in my life that temporarily felt like a terrible kind of death, and at those points the only thing that soothed my hurt soul was kindness - of being and receiving. Kindness stood in stark relief to the pain of loss I felt. Anyone who has been through true grief will attest to that.

So if you want to start filling the pockets of loss, remember this:

Kindly does it.

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