Welcome to my Inspiring Read series. In this series I will be sharing books I’ve read that have helped me feel more creative, calm or connected. They will be books that I’ve enjoyed, that I feel you might like too. They will be books that have the power to make our lives a little better in some way.
I listened to Kate Northrup narrate this book on Audible, and I highly recommend it. Who wouldn’t love the idea of doing less?
I have been doing a lot of reading about minimalism lately, and this book fits nicely with that theme. In this book, Northrup encourages you to do less so you can have more time for what’s important to you – the people and experiences that make life worth living.
The approach to time management outlined in the book was totally different from anything I have ever read before. Northrup suggests we should connect time management to cycles (monthly cycles, cycles of the moon, or the seasons). She argues there are times in a cycle where we are better at some tasks than others, and if we take advantage of our cyclical nature, we can maximise productivity and ultimately, do less.
The book includes several experiments that allow the reader to try and do less in a different way, to prove to yourself how doing less can actually give you more. You could try all of the experiments, or just some of them, I love the way they are presented in a way that is not overwhelming.
I loved Northrup’s honesty and “realness” throughout this book. I felt like I was being guided by the experience of a friend who had tried these tips before me and was sharing what she learnt along the way.
This book would be great for those of us who feel overwhelmed with keeping all the balls in the air, those who suffer from or are recovering from perfectionism, or those of us who want a new way of thinking about how we spend our time.
Have a read, let me know what you think. What are your thoughts on doing less? Have you got any tips or tricks that have worked for you?
A cool Sunday at the bustling marketplace, my daughter had asked us to stop so we could listen to the lady with the beautiful voice sing. She amazes me, often noticing the beauty that is all around us, and taking the time to really drink it in. I have always thought our children are sent to us to teach us something, and our little one is a great teacher.
We stopped in a sunny corner to enjoy the warmth of the sun while we listened to the sweet music, the three of us each drifting away into our own worlds. I stood watching my son turn his face up to the sun, soaking in the rays, and my daughter, allowing the music to do its thing within her, moving to it, humming along, smiling at the lady who was connecting with her within the energy of the song. I was in awe of each of them, as I often am. Noticing them, their similarities, the differences, the things that make them them.
I noticed a Greek grandma wander past us, smiling as she did. I noticed her smile, and the way she was so elegantly dressed in my favourite shades of purple. She walked on, stopped and returned to us.
“Is this your daughter?” she asked.
“Yes, she is” I proudly replied.
“She is so beautiful, just like a doll. If she wasn’t moving I would have thought she was a doll….oh, and is this handsome young man your son?”
“Yes, he is” I say with a wide smile.
“Beautiful, beautiful” she muttered as she wandered off.
I agree with her wholeheartedly, but that’s a mother’s job isn’t it? To know that her children are beautiful? Of course, I think they are beautiful. Obviously I am aware that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
What struck me though was her seeing the beauty of the kids in that moment. There was something more than their physical appearance that was shining out of both of them right then that both of us were seeing.
And it felt wonderful to watch my children in that moment, and to see someone else seeing that special sparkle shine too.
What a simple way to make someone feel seen, noticed, connected. By simply being in the moment, taking in your surrounds, and with a few small words, that lady and I connected in something that many others wandered past without seeing.
What a beautiful lesson that lady gave me today.
A beautiful lesson that I will pay forward as often as I can. Will you join me in noticing, appreciating and connecting with others over the everyday beauty that surrounds us in our every day?
Do you ever have those moments where you think that you couldn’t possibly love another human being more than you do right now? I have them, often. Particularly with my children.
I used to worry, when I was pregnant with our daughter, that I couldn’t possibly love another child as much as I love our son. I could not comprehend how it could be possible to be filled with any more love than I already contained.
I needn’t have worried. She arrived, and my heart exploded. Rather than taking a piece of my son’s love away from him, my heart grew even bigger to have enough for both of them.
After that, it was hard to imagine ever loving them even more than I did then.
But I can. And I do.
I often have these moments where time stands still and I breathe them in. I am in awe of something they have said, or done, or a look on their face, or a gesture. And I feel my heart explode again.
Like when my daughter’s little hand reaches out for mine as we are walking along.
Like when my son snuggles into me as I read him a story at bed time.
Like when I catch them talking and playing together when they don’t know I’m watching.
When my son and I get to spend some time together, just the two of us, and we talk and I am in awe of how grown up he is becoming. He’s not a little boy anymore, but someone to have interesting and thoughtful conversations with.
When I watch them running down the beach to play in the waves and I soak in the shrieks of delight.
When my son looks at me like I have ruined his life for kissing him on the head before school – because I’ve mucked up his specially gelled hairdo.
When I catch our daughter lost in the world of dance, the music moving her in a way that is deep in her soul.
When I breathe them in as they fall asleep, drinking in the beauty of their perfectly shaped eyebrows and long, dark eyelashes. Hoping, in that moment, that each child eventually chooses a life partner who looks at them the same way I am doing now, with all the love and all the feelings of closeness.
So, my dear babies, please know that even though I am not the perfect Mum, even though I yell sometimes and lose my cool. Even though I hurry you up, or sometimes seem distracted, I love you more than you could ever imagine.
What I learnt during my 30 day meditation challenge
I have always wanted to develop a good meditation practice. And by practice, I mean habit. I have tried several times in the past to create a habit of meditating each day, but for some reason it never quite stuck.
I am a big believer in the benefits of meditation like:
improved focus and productivity,
enhanced feelings of calm,
improved immune system,
changes your brain for the better – meditation has been shown to grow the part of the brain responsible for emotional regulation,
improves sleep and blood pressure,
helps manage anxiety
If you are interested in finding out what science is saying about the benefits of meditation, see some articles here, here and here.
I decided that in preparation for becoming fabulous at 40 , I would give myself a 30 day challenge – I would meditate every day for 30 days without fail.
Here’s some lessons I learnt along the way
I like the habit of meditating first thing in the morning. It helps set me up for the day in a good frame of mind. I feel more positive, calm and able to experience joy when I meditate first thing. Sometimes on the weekends I would miss my early morning session to allow my husband his weekly sleep in (we take turns – he gets on weekend morning and I get the other for a sleep in) and get up to the kids. On these days I would always do a session later in the day, however it never quite had the same effect.
It is important to make sure you are physically comfortable before you sit down to meditate. On day 5 of my challenge, I had to stop my session, go to the bathroom and then restart my session again. It is almost impossible to concentrate, calm my mind when my bladder is full!
Meditation isn’t easy for me. It took a good week to get into the swing of being able to quieten my mind during my sessions. I was able to relax my body almost from the first session, but it takes longer for me to slow my mind. As the challenge went on, I got better at it and found it less effort to get into the zone.
Insight Timer is a fantastic meditation app to use. It is free (and also has extra services you can purchase in the app) and has literally thousands of guided meditations to choose from. There are meditations of varying styles, lengths and for different purposes. There are a wide variety of meditation teachers from a range of backgrounds. There is a timer too, if you feel like just sitting (either in silence or with background music).
The effects of meditation seem to be cumulative/have a multiplier effect. Some days of my challenge I meditated twice in a day. The feeling of lightness and calm on those days was more than double what I would normally feel from just a morning session.
I think the ild zen addage is true….
You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes daily. Unless you are too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.
I heard about a different style of meditation while on my 30 day challenge – T M Meditation. It sounds promising – 20 minutes, twice a day, you can do it anywhere you can sit and close your eyes. It promises several scientifically backed benefits, and is apparently very easy to learn and access. You need to learn T M from a certified teacher – I wonder why? I am investigating this as a possible addition to my list of 40 for 40 (40 things I will do for my 40th year). I will keep you posted on that. Have any of you learnt T M? I would love to hear from someone who has – is it worth it?
My favourite meditation guide is Jason McGrice from The Meditation House in Adelaide. Jason has an album called “Daily Meds” which is fantastic, and also teaches a course on Insight Timer. Another favourite is Alison Potts from Innate Being . I find Alison’s meditations to be really grounding and are great if you are not yet ready for more woo woo things like chakra balancing and white light 😉
Meditation didn’t fix me! I felt more calm, more patient with the kids, but there were some days where I absolutely still lost my sh*t with them! Maybe 30 days just isn’t enough!
Meditation is addictive. After about day 18, I began to really look forward to and crave my meditation sessions. Even when I temporarily lost my meditation mojo for a few days and found it a really hard slog, I still wanted to do it, and it bounced back from the distraction pretty quickly.
I must have enjoyed the challenge, because I am now up to day 78 in a row!
I am going to continue with my new habit, and hopefully reap the benefits for years to come.
Do you meditate? Would you like to? I would love to hear your thoughts? Do you know me? Did you notice any difference in me over the last 30 days?
Get in touch – comment below or send an email! I always love hearing from you.
I suppose that milestone birthdays often spark a period of deep self reflection, questioning who we are, what we have achieved, and what might yet be to come. For me it is no different. This is the story of how one devastating day last year provided me with a turning point. The chance to get back to me and who I want to be. Who do I want to be? Well Fabulous at 40 of course!
One hard day that changed it all
Something happened at the end of last year that quite possibly changed the trajectory of my life. A kind, lovely person who I see regularly asked me when my baby was due. And I was not and am not pregnant. I want to make clear that her question was not malicious or intended to cause me hurt. She was genuinely excited that I might be looking forward to another baby coming along.
I had been putting on a bit of weight for a while as my love of Doritos, hot chips and wine became an every increasingly hard consumption pattern to break.
Looking back now, that day, crushing as it was, was a positive turning point for me. I went to the doctor for my regular (which had become not so regular) blood test check ups and discovered that I had extremely high cholesterol. My doctor gave me three months to change my numbers, or I would have to go on medication.
So how did I change?
I cut out corn chips and hot chips, significantly decreased my alcohol consumption and started using milk and butter containing plant sterols. I started trying to make healthier choices when I ate, and to drink more water. These changes alone made a significant difference. In fact, I got a big gold star from my GP three months later when we discovered that I now had cholesterol levels in the normal range. Put simply, these changes might have saved my life.
Along with the obvious benefits of my blood being able to circulate my body more freely, I discovered that I was feeling better too.
Which sparked something in me.
See, in August, I will be turning 40!
And I thought it would be a great way to celebrate this milestone, as well as kick start this new decade by feeling even more fabulous than ever before.
I feel like the 40s will be the decade for me. The 30s were all about having a family – lots of IVF and all the hormones that entailed, being pregnant and so so very unwell, losing babies during pregnancies, having babies, feeding babies and giving my two precious babies my all. Our little one is three now, and it feels like the kids are developing a level of independence now that allows me some time to focus on me. But who am I, who do I want to be and how will I get there?
Inspired by Project Me for Busy Mothers, This is 50 podcast, and The Minimalists, and lots of inspiring conversations with my Soul Sister, I have decided to focus on reconnecting with and developing certain key areas in my life. And what better time to do that than now, in preparation for my big birthday.
I have been thinking about how I want to feel when I turn 40.
I still want to feel creative, calm and connected. I still find these core desired feelings a useful compass as I navigate my life. (For information on how I came to choose these feelings and what they mean to me, go here and here)
I also want to feel healthy, strong and alive.
I want to feel inspired, hopeful and hungry for more.
I want to embark on this new decade with a level of intention never before seen in my life. Annie Dillard’s famous quote “how we spend our days is how we spend our lives” resonates deeply with me lately. Maybe it might strike a cord with you too? We can easily get caught up in everyday life, the routine of things, letting that routine take over us without much through to what really is important to us.
An from now on, I really want to focus on those things – the things that are most important to me. Because as Gretchen Rubin always says “the days are long but the years are short”.
Do you have any advice for me along the way? What kind of things would you change in your life if you wanted to feel more fabulous?
I invite you all to follow along with me as I make my way to 40. Check out upcoming posts in my Fabulous at 40 series to find out which areas of my life I am going to focus on and what I plan to do.
At the beginning of 2018, I decided my word for the year would be “intention” (see here). Because we are now half way though the year, I thought it timely to reflect on what it means to live with intention, and how I am going with it so far.
Why did I choose “intention” as my word for the year?
The simple answer is time. Time is so precious, we only have a finite amount of it and I can feel it passing way too quickly. It is easy to get caught up in the everyday routine of life and forget what it is that really matters – I wasn’t living life, life was living me. As I approach 40, I want to pay more attention to what is important to me, to live a life I am proud to live, without time or other people dictating how my time is spent. I felt like too much of my time was being spent mindlessly moving from one required task to the next, without giving much thought to making sure I am achieving what I want out of life. I needed to take back a bit of control.
What does living with intention mean to me?
Intentional living is about knowing what you value in life, what’s important to you, and what you want to get out of life. It is about making every effort to ensure that what you do every day helps bring more of what you value into your life. What you value becomes a sort of compass, directing you back each time you feel like life is mindlessly progressing along without you. It is about being focused rather than wasting precious time on things that don’t bring value to your life.
Intentional living is about slowing down. I realised that I need to stop multitasking and start paying attention to what I am doing right now, in order to get the most out of myself and every moment. It is about being able to say no sometimes to other people and their requests or demands, so that I am able to say yes to what is truly important to me. It is about listening to my body and mind and honouring what it is that I really need, trying to create a sense of balance in my life. This is about protecting myself so I am able to give my best self to others.
It is about trusting my intuition and following my heart. About being less impulsive in areas where being impulsive doesn’t serve me well (like eating, drinking wine, shopping, snapping at the kids). It is about being mindful about every moment, every choice, and making the best of every day.
What have I done to implement this into my every day life?
I have developed meaningful habits that focus and centre me each day:
meditation – I have begun a daily meditation practice which started with a self imposed 30 day challenge. I have a blog post coming soon on that so watch this space.
daily list of priorities – Each day I set a list of three priorities that help plan my day and focus my efforts on what is important to me
set a weekly theme for each week to help me achieve success in particular areas – for example, I know that I need help establishing good routines that will enable me to function better and have more time connecting with loved ones. One week I made my theme water and washing – drink at lease a jug of water and do one load of washing each day. Feeling well hydrated gives me energy, and keeping on top of the washing protects precious weekend time that could be better spent with my family.
I have practiced saying no to things when I feel overwhelmed, which is a good start. I hope to one day be able to say no without feeling guilt. How amazing would it feel to be able to say no to something just because you didn’t want to do it?
I am beginning to slowly declutter some of my possessions in an attempt to free physical space within our home and provide more space for what is important to me (the people in the home!)
I am moving towards a capsule wardrobe
I am having phone/device free time each day
I am training myself to “look up”. Every single day. And I am loving the benefits. I am seeing more gorgeous expressions on my children’s faces. I see the beautiful blue sky and clouds moving along in their journey to wherever. I am noticing more little things which are really the big things in life.
I am seeking out information on things that interest me and move me closer to where I want to be. I have been doing a lot of reading on the concept of minimalism! Those that know me may laugh at this (especially my husband!), but I am finding that more and more I am being drawn to the concept. Keep an eye out – I may even share some of my thoughts on this with you soon. There are so many great books, podcasts, websites etc out there with so much inspiration. I am feeling energised and keen to keep gaining momentum on this new way of living.
I am more conscious about how I spend money. This is an area where I need a lot of reforming! I am very very good at shopping and spending money! Just ask my long suffering husband 😉 I am trying to be more intentional about the way I spend money – really thinking about what I/we need, looking out for sales, less impulse buying. I am definitely a work in progress in this area, but have made a good start. I have taken more control over our family’s finances too, which is helping to make me more aware of how things are going. My mantra in this area is progress not perfection.
How is it going?
I am really loving how it is going so far. I feel lighter, I have more energy. I am really enjoying my meditation practice, and feel like it brings a sense of calm and perspective that stays with me through the day (most days!). I am happy to be pursuing what makes me come alive.
The funny thing about it is that my life hasn’t changed much at all. But my experience of it has. I still have the same demands on me that I had a couple of months ago, but I am approaching them differently now. I am more protective of the time that isn’t full of scheduled activities, and I am being true about how I feel. I am asking for help or a break when I need it and am finding that people are more than willing to lend a hand and be understanding.
I am noticing things more. Things I didn’t even know I was missing until recently. I am paying attention to facial expressions, to the tiny hand reaching up to hold mine regularly, to the way my son hugs me in his own special way. I pay attention to the colour of the sky, to the sound of the birds singing, and to how warm or cool my skin feels when we are outside.
When I was writing the paragraph on what living with intention means to me, I was conscious that it could sound like I am being selfish… what is important to ME, what I value, protecting MY time, saying no to others…. but I’m finding that the opposite is in fact true. By living intentionally I am better able to give the best of myself to others. I am making time for those that are important to me. I am feeling more like me than ever before and I have the energy to put into those things that I am choosing to take on.
I’m not saying that everything is perfect and that I am living with intention 24/7 yet. But I feel like I’m off to a good start and I’m making progress in the right direction.
Do you like the idea of living more on purpose? How might that look for you? I would love to hear from you. Let me know in the comments below if you have practiced putting more intention into how you live and what difference you have felt or seen in your life.