Being Normal

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When people ask me what I gave up for lent, it’s really simple, I gave up worrying what other people think.

How wonderfully liberating that feels!!

It started when I realised I had no desire to be considered “normal”.

I don’t even know what “normal” is, whether it exists, what it would look like. I don’t even know many people that are what would be regarded as normal. I can’t think of any of the top of my head.

What I do know is that if I switch on to any news of what’s happening in The House of Commons at the moment, I don’t really think I need to worry about being “normal”. Even the people (supposedly) running our country don’t seem to have their **** together.

If they’re just winging it from day to day, oscillating somewhere between chaos and confusion, what hope do the rest of us have?

My answer: maybe there is no way of making sense of the world, maybe there is no right way to live, no template for life. Maybe we’re all just doing the best we can with what we’ve got.

And what if that’s enough? What if we are enough, just the way we are? What if there is no “normal”, but we are all perfectly normal in our own unique and wonderful way?

I’ve long been referred to as “mad as a box of frogs”, but as someone said to me today whilst I was getting my Aura Transformation (you need to ask me about that, I can’t write it here… yet!)….

“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music”.

I recognised this instantly as Nietzsche, a favourite quote of mine, so it completely resonated.

When asked how I felt at the end of the session, I said “In this room, I feel normal”. I also felt filled with love, for all humankind, normal or not, and I realised I didn’t care so much what people thought of me, but I was going to continue to love with an open heart anyway.

I realised how I may be able to thrive and not just survive in this world. I think the trick is to care about everyone while not caring what they think.

While I’m writing this, my cat looks up at me, and I say “what???”.

He just looks at me with approval (this is a rare thing), as if to say “you might just be getting the hang of this”.

Who’d want to be normal anyway?

 

 

Thank You!! ❤️

 

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In amongst all the chaos and confusion in the world at the moment, there is also a great sense of community, kindness and collaboration.

Last night my poor little car pretty much blew up on the way to Powderham, and rather than thinking about the unfortunate consequences of its untimely death, my nerves were soothed by the way people came together to help me sort it out. It still brings a tear to my eyes when I think about it.

I feel such gratitude for the love and care that I received from those known as well as unknown to me.

It was around 6pm on my way to class and all of a sudden I was surrounded by smoke, and it sounded like the engine was running away from itself. Apparently it is actually called a runaway, and I was very lucky that the car didn’t catch fire, and although I wasn’t able to drive it, I still managed to get to the castle on time to take my class.

The spectacle of my car surrounded by a big ball of smoke stopped the road entirely. In shock, I had taken the keys out of the ignition and got myself out the car. I thought it was going to bang, so it felt like the right thing to do. The drivers of the two cars behind me both got out and waved me away from the car, and we all kept a distance. Both were confident and kind, around my age, maybe a little younger, one was from Bridge Motorcyles, that’s all I know. He rang the fire brigade while the other one tried to keep me calm.

Another chap coming the other way, he worked for the council I saw from his sweatshirt, stopped and came over to help as we could push the car off the road. The owners of Millfield Farm B and B came out to see if they could help, and before long I had a tribe of helpers. Then the fire service arrived, one of them an ex landlord of mine, whom I was reassured to see.

I’m looking around and I’m almost redundant as others are checking the car, arranging transport for me, offering reassurances and general all-round kindness, and I am overwhelmed. I’m taking to the chap from the council who has brought a piece of equipment from his van to make some checks (don’t ask me what it was, I was in a daze!).

“I can’t believe how helpful everyone is being”, I tell him.

“That’s what it’s all about”, he answers, “we help each other out”.

I nod, smiling. He is spot on. It is what it’s all about.

I had just earlier been writing about this subject, as I advertised the charity event I am doing on the beach on Earth Day.

More collaboration, communities working as one, people helping each other, as, after all ,we share the same Earth.

“We’re all in this together”, I had written, and as if by magic, I had just gained all the evidence I had needed to believe that I’m not alone in this thinking.

The next day, a Tuesday in the middle of the day, I have my tribe of friends all calling each other to make sure I am OK, it’s like my very own rescue team, and I feel blessed. Truly blessed. The car is dead, but it’s just a car. People and connections, love and kindness, these are the things that matter, and in amongst the chaos and confusion, all I feel is gratitude.

So although I didn’t get the names of everyone that helped that night on the road between Exminster and Kenton, if you do happen to be reading this, thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Grassroots Kindness

 

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I have a lot to thank my great friend Derrick for. Not only did he keep me safe last year when I needed it most, he also provides many of the pearls of wisdom that help me write this column each week.

We’re having our end of week catch-up over a carafe of red wine at his fantastic local pub The Hourglass, and tonight he’s on particularly good form.

I’m telling him about the week I’ve had and all the glorious synchronicities I’ve experienced, discovering connections between people I knew, and also how utterly wonderful it is that we share a mutual good friend in Helen, his neighbour, who joins us later.

He doesn’t need to say much, he puts it simply:

“Good people eventually congregate together”.

I write this down immediately, I love it’s simplicity, and the week I’ve just had saw me meeting a lot of good people.

It started on Tuesday when I met an inspirational woman Sallie Rutledge, who runs The Mede in Topsham. What started out as providing a holiday home for those with loved ones living with Dementia, turned into a day care centre, with 20 staff helping in it’s running.

Sallie used her own resources to set this up, its a not-for-profit organisation, which only exists because Sallie is taking nothing for herself, and it’s been funded entirely by her and the work she does to raise funds with events like her Walk To Exmouth.

We’d not met before, but it turns out that some of these people who have helped in running of The Mede, are connections of mine, and I’m not surprised. This is a group of women I took to Croatia a couple of years ago on retreat, and they are some of the kindest women I know.

Later that week, I was at a coffee morning at the home of another of this group of friends. It was for Home Start Exeter and East Devon, a wonderful charity who help support local families in need. I’m running a charity yoga event for them on Easter Monday and it really is a pleasure to be there. I walk in and I must know half the room as many are yoga students of mine.

I didn’t even know they were connected to the host, but it doesn’t surprise me. They all share something in common, and that’s kindness and compassion, and commitment to causes which help those less fortunate.

I think how blessed I am to know them. I am in awe of how they take time in their busy lives to help support others. It’s happening everywhere. People like this seem to filling in the gaps which are left by a system that is failing us.

I read a quote from Benjamin Disraeli which was:

“Power has only one duty – to secure the welfare of the people”.

In so many ways, those in power do not seem to be doing this, and whilst unimaginable amounts of money and resources are being spent on the “B” word, people are struggling to survive.

Thank God for the good people that do care and their grassroots work that is so much needed.

Sharing the Light

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“Those who give light must endure burning”.

I didn’t expect my latest hero to be a Minister from the Church of Scotland, and I certainly didn’t expect him to be quoting Victor Frankl to me over a cup of tea and a sandwich at the Sliverknowes Golf Club in Edinburgh.

Yet this is what happened.

I’d travelled up for my dear Uncle Mitch’s funeral, and I found myself being really inspired by the minister’s words and chosen psalms throughout the service.

Ian Muir was no spring chicken, by his own admission, he must have been in his 70s, but I found him to be inspiring and we were totally on the same page. As we left the Crematorium, I thanked him for a beautiful service and he just smiled gratefully, although he did seem quite surprised too. I got the impression he wasn’t used to such gushing praise on an occasion like this.

When I found myself seated opposite him at the wake (this nearly always happens to me), we introduce ourselves, and he asks me what I do for a living.

“I’m a yoga teacher”, I say cautiously.

“This should be interesting”, I am thinking to myself, trying to gauge his response.

What ensues is the most hopeful, and reassuring conversation I’ve ever had with someone in the clergy.

In the distance I hear one of my family being asked if I’ll mind listening to what the Minister has to say.

“Im sure she’ll be holding her own”, is the answer, no doubt with a bit of eye-rolling.

It seems that we agree on pretty much everything, mostly that if we all started to focus more on what unites us rather than what divides us, the world would be a much more peaceful place.

What impresses me most is how open he is to hearing from others. He tells me he used to think he knew it all, but now he asks the question: “what can I learn from this person?”.

It seems they are more than open to change. We talk about the churches opening their doors to give the homeless a place to stay, and the realisation that true Christianity is taking action, reaching out into the community, rather than just preaching.

I tell him my reservations about Jesus, and the Bible, the distinction between fact and truth, and I have to admit, he may just have opened my eyes to a new way of thinking about the Son of God.

I tell him about my book “Slivers of Light” which I wrote last year, and that I wrote it when I had gone through my darkest times, but now I feel like I’ve been “awakened”. He nods knowingly, which is when he delivers the Victor Frankl line, and I want to kiss him.

That would have got the tongues wagging even more. It seemed we had quite the audience.

It turns out that it may not have been our first meeting. He ran the Sunday school at the church we would go to in Edinburgh every Easter with his wife, and in a beautiful twist of fate, it was Easter I thought of when we got the chance for silent “reflections” on our memories of Uncle Mitch during the service.

Mitchell was a passionate gardener, who loved nothing more than taking us to the Botanical Gardens where he used to work, so we could roll our painted Easter Eggs. I’m not sure if this is just a Scottish tradition, but I have fond memories of my Uncle’s enthusiasm, warm nature and endless good humour.

I make a commitment to myself that, in memory of Uncle Mitch and what I learned from Father Ian, I will roll my Easter eggs this year, and I’ll smile as I think of all that we have in common.

 

 

 

108 On The Beach for Earth Day

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“We’re all in this together!”

This was us last year, doing 108 Sun Salutations on Exmouth Beach, where we raised over £800 for Open Door Exmouth.

 

2019’s challenge will be in aid of Home Start Exeter and East Devonand I’m setting myself a “stretch target” of getting 108 people doing 108 on the beach, which (according to Google) , will be a world first!

 

The theme this year will be “We’re all in this together!”, celebrating people coming together in their to support each other in their time of need.
We share  the same Earth, the same sky, sun, water and air, and surely a world where collaboration is encouraged over competition would lead to a happier, more secure place for us all.
In the spirit of coming together and supporting each other, I am inviting other local yoga teachers to help in leading the Yoga Mala, so you will get the chance to meet and experience lots of different styles of teacher. I believe we are all equal but different, and we each have something unique to bring, but most of all, we will be bringing our own light to share.
Exmouth Beach is the perfect place for this to take place on Earth Day. Having your feet in the sand, breathing in the sea air, drinking in the landscape, and soaking up the rays from the sun – there’s nothing like it. It’s where yoga should be done, out in nature, and trust me, you will feel increased energy from being outside.

To sign up go to http://www.bookeo.com/behappyfit and click on Special Events.

 

You can get in training by following the video on the Facebook page :

 

So, what are we supporting this year?

Home-Start Exeter and East Devon – supporting local families in need

Home-Start makes perfect sense. It’s about one person supporting another, making things a little easier, making a difference that will have a life-long effect. Sometimes the simplest idea is the best and that is how the magic of Home-Start works, by matching one person to another with no strings attached.

Established since June 1986 in Exeter, Home-Start commenced family support throughout East Devon in 2009. We continue, though, to need more supporters as demand for Home-Start support in Exeter and East Devon continues to exceed available resources.  Year on year we support more families; 125 families with 299 children received our support in the year 2014/15.  92% of those families expressed a positive difference in having Home-Start support, thus demonstrating the real benefit Home-Start can bring to family life.

 

The Facebook page is also here for you to follow and share with your friends.

 

Even if you’re not taking part, please come down and support us. There will be collection buckets on the day for you to donate, and of course a fantastic atmosphere of people joining together to celebrate that…

“We’re all in this together!”.

 

Love and light

 

Gillie xx

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Nature’s Jigsaws

 

 

 

 

There’s a Zen proverb I’ve heard before, but it’s meaning is just starting to sink in.
“Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water”.
I know, it takes a while to get your head around it. Some Zen proverbs I’m sure are intentionally
obscure, so they challenge us and it takes time to figure out what they mean. Like a cryptic
crossword clue, we are forced to give it our full attention to figure it out, it’s not a quick-fix, no
instant gratification, but a slow, steady process to get to the answer.

 

This is the whole essence of Zen, which is a Buddhist practise, which really needs to be experienced
to understand it. You can’t read a book on Zen and think you’ve mastered it, you can’t try to use
your mind even to intellectualise it and think you’ve got it.
Zen is not a theory, an idea, a piece of knowledge, or even a belief. It’s a path to enlightenment
which is actually very simple, but almost impossible to describe. But I’m going to try, as ever to
explain it in stories.

 

Last weekend, I set off to Port Isaac with a busy mind and an overactive nervous system. In my head
I was problem solving, and my body was responding to perceived threats in a not altogether
pleasant way. Not very Zen at all.

 

Yet walking the South West Coast Path for a few hours, just focusing on putting one foot in front of
the other, taking time to enjoy the views and some interesting chats, my head is starting to clear,
and I feel loads better.

 
One of my favourite parts of the hike was climbing over the rocks on Port Quin, trying not to fall in.
All I could think about was where to place my foot next, calculating my next move, and using my
instinct to tackle this natural jigsaw.

 

My mind was distracted from all the worries from back home, I had to concentrate fully, and be
completely in the moment, connecting the pieces of the puddle so I could cross to the other side
without getting wet. This was starting to feel a lot more zen-like. I was at one with nature, and
completely in my element.

 
The walk back felt lighter and I started collecting flowers and noticing the birds more. The colours
were appearing brighter, and my breathing was deeper, more effective. We talked about Ancient
Yogic theory that we only have so many breaths for the length of our life, which is why we practise
taking long and slow breaths in yoga.
Our breath is an indicator of our mood and our mood is an indicator of our breath (another Zen
puzzle for you there).

 

At this point in time, both my breath and my mood were feeling in pretty good
shape.

 
By the end of our walk, although ready for a nice, big roast, my mind is clear. I haven’t really got a
worry in the world. We sit outside the Port Gaverne Inn, enjoying a well-deserved Cornish Rattler,
and I’m thinking life is pretty good. I don’t care that we’re too late for lunch and they’re not serving
food.

 

I’m living in the moment, and I’m going with the flow, accepting what is, and trusting what is to
come.

 

For me, this is Zen, and back at home later, chopping wood, I realise I now have the true
understanding of the proverb: “before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water”.

 
Whether it’s cooking dinner, doing a jigsaw, climbing a tree, or painting mandala stones, when we
engage ourselves fully in what we are doing in that moment, we free ourselves from the mental
processes that have been weighing us down, and start to feel a lot closer to enlightenment.

hot choc port quim

 

 

Love Is In The Air

 

 

Love is in the air…

Much as I’d love to be able to plan my creative work, planning doesn’t come naturally to me, and I find I have to wait until the day to know what to do.

After a week that was hi-jacked by the reappearance of an annoying pest from last year, I hadn’t really been able to focus properly on my work all week. But needs must, I had an important event to run, and the show has to go on.

So I cleared my whole day of everything else to put to preparing for it, and when I woke up, it was the first thing I thought about.

What was the key message?
What am I going to teach?
How is it all going to work?

I realised before I even got out of bed I was overwhelmed and didn’t have any clarity. So I did what I always do in these situations, I took to the beach.

As I sat down to enjoy my chai halfway through my walk, it came to me what tonight was all about.

It was Valentine’s Day, it was a special event at the castle involving yoga and live music, and I didn’t want it to have anything to do with having a partner or not. I wanted it to be about love in all it’s forms.

Looking out to the sea, I just knew what my message was:

“Love is in the air”.

It really is, it’s in the air that we breathe, the Earth we walk upon, the sky above, it’s in the waters, and it’s in the space around us.

We were blessed to have the most love-filled space I could have dreamed of, thanks to our hosts Charlie and AJ, the space was filled with this special energy – they’ve brought the love to the castle. They have the most beautiful love story, a fairytale, which just adds to the magic of the castle.

Jo Hooper our cello player was married here and , and Viv has worked at the castle for 7 years as a guide and she was able to tell us all about the history of the previous Earls. My colleague Jennifer has been coming here from the start, as a Kenton local, and she’s one of the army of angels I have around me, whom I am blessed to have.

For me, and I guess many others, no matter what is happening in the outside world I drive up to the castle and I feel safe, and I feel loved.

The places we spent time in have the ability to bring joy or bring pain. As do the people we spend time with. So we need to be aware of this, and choose carefully.

We are being conditioned to think it’s a big bad scary world out there, and of course there are a few monsters and dragons that we could do without, but there’s also something magical happening…. there is a rising up of people being led by love.

Love is in the air… can you feel it?