Join me for Photo Quest!

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This is an invitation to join me in a photo quest organised by Whitney Freya and her team of Creatively Fit Coaches (I am one of them!).

This July, we are “Celebrating the ART that is your LIFE” with a super-easy and inspiring Photo Quest that starts online July 11th. And I want to invite you to pARTy with me and a fabulous creative tribe!

For 7 days you will receive “prompts” to inspire you to look at your world in a more magical way! Each day, we will all share our photos on Facebook and /or Instagram and you can qualify to WIN awesome prizes!!!

The GRAND PRIZE is an individual membership to Whitney Freya’s program Vision Quest – a 4 month guided journey to connect with your inner artist and create the life you most desire. (This is such an awesome prize.) Vision Quest is a life-changer—it was for me!

You can also win copies of our brand new Super Soul Flow Adult Colouring Book, a box of Elephant Art Postcards, a set of Artual Sacred Symbol Postcards, and Whitney Freya’s fantastic book “The Artist Within – A Guide to Becoming Creatively Fit“.

I have helped Whitney to create this Photo Quest and I can tell you that it was so fun to look at the colours in my home, the flowers in my garden, and the images all around me in a totally different light.

You will learn more about the benefits of living as a Life Artist and connect to an incredible community of positive and happy people!

Remember, it’s totally free and I will be cheering you on the whole way, so just click on this link to join our Photo Quest pARTy!!

I am so excited to share this with you–my time with Whitney and everything I have created in her programs has helped me to feel so much happier and excited about my life. I know you will love this!

Just click here to join me:

https://dt286.infusionsoft.com/app/page/photo-quest

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The time and space to feel

The time and space to feel-2

“Now is precisely one minute to tea time” (one of the magical Alice in Wonderland windows at Fortnum and Mason’s in London). Why not grab a cup of tea now?

“We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen, room for grid, for relief, for misery, for joy.”  

Pema Chödrön

In just a week, I have seen a strong UK fall apart and people experience intense feelings ranging from euphoria to anger. I have seen politicians lie, families torn apart, friends unfriending and generations turning against each other.

Although, as a French citizen, I didn’t have a voice in the Brexit voice, I had an opinion and certainly a lot of feelings. Strong feelings. A few days on, I am reminded that whenever we are facing the unexpected, the unacceptable or the unavoidable, we experience strong feelings before we can react to what is happening.

I have moved countries, experienced bullying in two separate jobs, endured the pain of a marriage breakdown, miscarriage, grief, anxiety and burnout. My heart felt torn apart after too many terrorist attacks, horrific natural disasters or accidents. As an empathetic person, I feel others’ pain very deeply.

I know that the way we respond to the unimaginable and the more mundane is our choice, a freedom that cannot be taken away, as holocaust survivor Viktor Frankel explains in A Man’s Search For Meaning. But this doesn’t necessarily have to be the first thing we do.

One thing I have learned is that before we can find the ‘right’ response or the one others would like us to adopt, we need to allow ourselves to sit with our feelings.

I absolutely refuse to get on with it or embrace what is, before I have dealt with my feelings in the way that is most appropriate to me.

I want to be allowed to fall apart before I can get myself together again in a time frame that suits me.

I want to acknowledge all the harm that has been done and process it before I can consider forgiveness.

There is no limit to the intensity of the feelings I will allow.

There is however a limit to how long I can linger in them. Depending on the source of pain or upset, a few days, weeks or months is fine, with the inevitable and recurring twinges of pain thereafter. Sitting with the same feelings for years is a sign that we need outside help such as counselling, group therapy or medication.

When I suffered two prolapsed discs and a twisted hip, I was resisting what was happening and how it was affecting my life and work. I was desperately trying to get on with it and I am sure it only made the pain worse. Only when I allowed myself to sit with the numerous entangled feelings that came with the pain, was I able to start the recovery process.

In the midst of my present feelings, I make sure that I also allow myself to feel joy as I sit for a few minutes outside with a cup of tea. This morning, I marvelled at the beautiful and powerful singing of a little bird. I live in a big city and it is so easy not to hear, not to notice the beauty of the smallest patch of nature.

Whatever you are experiencing at the moment, be it disappointment, grief, illness, upset, betrayal, anger, pain, take the time to sit with your feelings. You might also benefit from writing a dialogue with it/them on a piece of paper or your journal. Ask your feelings why they are so intense, when they think they will start to ease, what their purpose is (you might be surprised at the answer you get) and what they would like you to know or do. By writing as a stream of consciousness, you will likely unlock some helpful information.

Don’t forget to allow yourself to experience other feelings. If you feel serene when you stitch or draw, colour or sculpt, allow this feeling in the midst of grief or upset. Life is lived moment by moment and even if you can’t change the overall story that is unfolding in your life, you might be able to enjoy a moment of grace.

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The need to miss out

The need to miss out-2

Last year, I spent an extraordinary amount of time on line, listening to podcasts and interviews, signing up for tele-summits, newsletters, courses and webinars, ordering more books than I could possibly read. I was suffering from an acute case of FOMO, the Fear Of Missing Out.

At some point, I realised it was dangerously impacting the time and space needed for mindfulness and it had to stop. First to go were the six-figure self-proclaimed experts and their almost daily emails. Only the work I have done over months with more discreet coaches has moved me forward. Next were the tele-summits, high-productivity courses and webinars which never resulted in any new learning, nothing that applied to me anyway. It was harder to stop buying books as this is a life-long ‘disease’ and I can’t say that I am fully in control now although I have curbed it a bit.

That fear of missing out is so intense that we expose ourselves to the viewing of so-called perfect lives and end up in a constant feeling of failure, of never being enough. This is no way to live.

I have by no means unplugged completely. I love the internet and Instagram, and I enjoy reading the words of people I can relate to. Some inspire me. Some are just good company. And when a course feels right, I sign up for it.

I have tuned out the noise of people who don’t make me feel good about myself and far from missing out, I am making time for creative play and sitting in the couch with a book, a journal or just my thoughts. I have discovered the pleasure of listening to free drama from my BBC Radio app when I wash up or fold the laundry rather than listening to the podcast of an overactive business coach.

I am claiming back the right to live a slower life, doing what lights me up and I am letting go of the pressure to keep up with what doesn’t enrich my life. I only have one life to live and it is going very quickly so I intent to spend my time as I see fit. In order to do that, I need to miss out, but truthfully, I am not missing out on anything that really matters.

Tonight I will go and see the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts with my friend Claire and it is something I don’t want to miss out.

This is true

This is true

I was walking down the street when these words on the side of a black cab caught my attention: This is true. My first reaction was to ask,

What is true?

In my work as a Life coach, part of the process is to help my clients question what they believe to be true. This is a two-part question. First, we need to identify all the things we have accepted as true without previously verifying that they were. The second is to give voice to those things that we think are true but have not dared to utter because they might not be well perceived.

So my mission today is to be a bit of an agitator and to encourage you to consider these two elements. What have you accepted as true that doesn’t ‘fit’ you? What truth have you not been admitting or considering?

How do you unveil truths you have readily accepted and ones you have been ignoring?

A good starting point is to look at parts of your life that create either frustration or anxiety. These are signs of a discordance between what is and what you feel deep down. You might have the feeling that you are not living your life authentically, that you are stuck, helpless, overwhelmed, powerless/disempowered or that you have lost yourself.

1. Take your journal or something to write on write down all these things that you believe are true, such as I am stuck (in this job, this relationship, this town, etc) because… I am helpless because… I am overwhelmed because… I feel powerless/disempowered because… Signs that I have lost myself are…

2. Question each of this point by considering both points of view. This is true because… This is not true because…  For instance, list all the reasons why you are stuck in your current situation, the list all the evidence that you are not which are all the other options available. This exercise will be harder the longer the situation has been going on, but stick with it and keep exploring all the options and know that they might not all come in one sitting.

3. Now describe what your life would be like if you were not in this situation. What would you be doing? What would you be feeling? Who would be supporting you?

4. Explore the choices or options you realistically have, to create a change in your situation. Write them down even if they scare you. Fear is easier to curb when you have clarity and support. Incidentally, the clarity and support my clients get from working with me is the reason why they are able to move through fear.

5. Add your own truths. By that I mean, look at what you consider important to you and a source of joy or wellbeing. Go past the traditional ones (my children, my family, etc) quickly. What makes you happy? What you envy in others is a great clue of a truth you have been denying. For instance, since my teenage years, I had always felt a twinge of envy for people who were artistic. My accepted truth was that I wasn’t artistic and that I didn’t belong in the creative world. A few years ago, I challenged that truth and now live a creative life. What truths do you need to own? Keep in mind Walt Whitman’s words, “Whatever satisfies the soul is truth.”.

What to do next

Armed with that list of choices and options, decide on what you can do first to change a particular situation and implement it. We always go back to small steps and there is a good reason for it. Everything is created one small step at a time and often the next step is revealed after the previous one has been taken. Maybe you need to enquire about other jobs that would better suit your skills and aspirations, maybe you need to take your first yoga class so that you can live the life of a yogi within your own circumstances, maybe you need to discuss moving house…

Don’t wait! Question what is true for you and explore it like a detective or a cross-examiner. I know that it might be scary but as Thomas Mann said, “A harmful truth is better than a useful lie.” There comes a time when we have to go beyond the useful lies or unexamined truths. And as you do, make sure you remain kind to yourself.

Those empty spaces in your life

Those empty spaces in your life

I was not going to go on that photo walk after all. Wasn’t it going to be awkward, walking around a London neighbourhood with women I don’t know? I feared they’d be much younger. Rain was forecast for that time. I had plenty to do…

This is me with the rainbow umbrella with half of the group that took part in a pre-bloggers’ conference photo walk. Yes, they were younger. Yes, it was awkward for a few minutes. Yes, I was dressed for heavy rain and the others had faith in the weather. But I went.

Imagine a photo album with blank spaces for all the the events you haven’t been to: the parties, the conferences, the museum exhibitions, the concerts, the dinners, the classes… Are there many blanks?

How many times have you decided not to do something or go somewhere because it might make you feel awkward or you should be at home with the kids? Or fear got in the way?

We live in a highly connected society thanks to the internet and social media yet we crave more connection. We are aware of all the possibilities and things happening out there, yet we stay home connected to our electronic devices and everything out there becomes scary. We catch up with our friends on social media and forget to meet up in person.

So my question for you today is: What if you signed up for that class you really fancy? What if you went to that conference you really want to attend? What if you went out for that dinner you’ve been talking about? What if you gave yourself permission to do what you really want to do?

Yes, it might be awkward for a short while. Yes, it might mean asking someone to watch the kids. But before you know it, you’ll learn, feel great about yourself and have fun.

There is a photo I am waiting for someone to send where we are jumping in the air, pretending to be flying down like Mary Poppins. It was fun! That’s a photo I am looking forward to place in my virtual album. I might even print it. No more blank spaces.

Five lies I used to tell myself

Five lies I used to tell myself

 

I used to tell myself some lies and I believed them, accepting them as truths. They used to play in my mind like a broken record. They still do at times, especially when I feel tired or disappointed.
Of course, I didn’t deliberately lie to myself or try to fool myself into accepting these false ideas despite my better judgement. No, I genuinely believed them and found that my environment and society reinforced them.
Here are some lies I used to tell myself
1. I don’t have the time
This used to be a big one! I believed I didn’t have time for anything else but work, family and chores. At the end of the day, I would ‘reward’ myself with some down time, but felt too tired to do much else than surf the internet which always carried on past my desired bedtime, and every night I wished that there were more hours still ahead. However at some point, I had to get real about how I was spending my time and looked at what I could cut down or out. So I started going to bed earlier, waking up earlier, being more mindful of my time and looking for other ways to do things. For instance I used to struggle to read and would often fall asleep with the book in my hands, after trying to read the same paragraph over and over. Now I listen to audio-books while I am cooking, showering, doing the laundry or in the car. With my subscription to Audible, that’s one book a month guaranteed to be ‘read’. I also always have a book and a notebook in my handbag so if I have to wait anywhere, I can pull out either one.
2.   I don’t know enough/I am not ready yet
The internet is a wonderful source of knowledge but it can also make us feel like there is so much we don’t know. Gradually I understood that I had to switch off the noise and stop listening to the people who make me feel that way, only because they wanted to sell me an expensive program. Years ago in Lakeland (kitchenware stores), I heard a customer say “They’ve got things that I didn’t know I needed!”. Same thing! The only thing I really needed was my coach who supported me when I took a new step and demystified the next one. I know I will learn what I need to know so I stopped thinking that I am not ready for this or that.
3.   I’m too old
I love reading about people who started doing something new later in life. Having a new project at any age is exciting and keeps us engaged with life and in the world, even at an age when others want to slow down. Besides, no one ever looked at my age as an obstacle but me.
4.   I am not confident enough/ I am scared
I used to think that confidence was a pre-requisite for stepping out of my comfort zone. I realised that it actually came as I was working towards my goals. Every single step that I took, however small,  contributed to build my confidence. I have learned to say yes to things that scare me before I could think about it. Having no choice but to do it turned out to be the best way to go through the fear. Mostly I have learned that most of what I was afraid wasn’t worth worrying about so I just focus on the next tangible thing I need to be doing.
5.   I don’t have what it takes
I believed I didn’t have what it takes to be successful until I realised two things. First, my definition of a successful life involves a whole lot more than being successful professionally and I do have what it takes to be a mother/a daughter/a sister and to appreciate the present moment. Second, I have more in me than I have uncovered. I love the opening words of a poem by Hafiz, So Many Gifts,
There are so many gifts
Still unopened from your birthday
Most of us don’t know how much courage and resources we have within until we need to call upon them. I have decided that whatever quality I need will reveal itself when I need it  Believing in me has become a essential, daily practice of faith.
Does this resonate with you? Leave a comment and let me know. I’d love to hear about the lies you used to (or still) tell yourself.

The myth of ‘Reinventing yourself’ (and what to do instead)

The Myth of 'Reinventing Yourself' (and what you can do instead)

Let your true self roar!

Every month I see another magazine or online programme suggesting that we ‘reinvent’ ourselves and it really saddens me because this implies that there is something wrong with us. There isn’t. Our life might not be what we would like it to be but there is nothing wrong with us. The term self-improvement is also reinforcing the idea that there is something in us that needs to improve. There isn’t. Our life might need some improvement and that’s why I like life coaching, but one thing is for sure, I never had to “improve” any client. I just helped them reclaim their true self. As their life aligns with their true self, the best version of themselves is revealed.
You must accept that you are wonderful in your essence.
The problem is that there are two of you: your true self and your conditioned self (or ego).
Most of our unhappiness comes from believing that we are one. The confusion was made worse by another trend in self-improvement that wants you to be whole. Wholeness is not a bad thing but suggesting wholeness without helping you to clearly distinguish your true self and your conditioned self/your self-image/your story, can lead to disastrous effects such as self-loathing and despair. If you feel bad about yourself and you believe you are just one, then you are going to loathe your whole self.
Let me unpack this. There is a part of you that is authentic and that vibrates with playfulness, happiness, enjoyment of life, ideas, purpose, enthusiasm, willingness and optimism. This was you when you were small and it still makes guest appearances in your life today. This is the part that has lots of projects that you start with enthusiasm, the part of yourself that comes out when you are having a good time, the part that activates your smile.
Then, there is your conditioned self and that one is ridden with fear, doubts and comparison. This is the part that stops you carrying on with your projects because of ‘rational’ reasons such as ‘you’ve got nothing new to offer, you’re too old, you’re not pretty enough or smart enough, you don’t know enough, you don’t have what it takes’. This one speaks in your head when you are on social media and shows you the proof of all that by pointing out that this person is prettier, this person knows the secret to success, that person has what it takes and has it all together.
That conditioned self also has good sides too. She is the one who knows what to say or do in specific situations. She is the one who has learned really useful things at school and in life. She is the one who has skills and experience and is able to apply them. So in truth, you cannot live in this world without her.
The problem we have is when our conditioned self becomes so predominant in our everyday life that our true self loses her voice. You feel that you are not living an authentic life, that what makes your life is not aligned with who you really are. You feel that there is something missing and one sign might be that you are seeking what the purpose of your life is or another one might be that you are trying to deepen your spiritual life. You buy books and courses on either or both topics but are always left with the familiar feeling that there is still something missing.
Let me tell you why you will not find that what is missing that way. What is missing is your true self and it will not return by reading about it.
Finding your true self is an active process that allows you to uncover what is already there. You don’t need to know more. You need support in peeling the layers that have produced who you are today so that you find your true self again.
A short while ago, I was having a conversation with someone and I was listing all the things that were going wrong this year and she said, “And yet you’re still smiling!”. It stopped me in my tracks and I walked away wondering why I was still smiling, when a few years ago, my shoulders might have been hunched under the weight of all this.
I went home and asked myself the question. Why am I feeling happy most of the time even when life is really tough? Sure some days, I feel down especially when I am tired or I get bad news, but mostly I feel happy despite circumstances.
Why am I happy?
I thought of what I was doing differently and consistently now that I wasn’t doing before my life fell apart and I had to leave my job and rewrite a second act for myself. The answer was clear and two-fold. I was practising mindfulness and exercising my creativity. I had started both practices a few years ago but as I rebuilt myself from the ground up, I paid more attention to them and I dove into them with more intention.
Mindfulness and creativity are the shortcuts to finding your true self.
My guess is you’ve already had glimpses of this and you might have started developing one or both. chances are though, your conditioned self has put you down time and time again. Always the same self-bullying: You can’t meditate because you can’t control your thoughts. The only way you might succeed is if you go to India or Nepal, but the thing is you don’t have enough money and who is going to take care of the kids/pets/parents/partner? Yeah, nice try at drawing and painting but let’s face it you’re never going to be as good as these artists you’re following on Instagram. You’re not creative, you can’t draw straight line or a circle for that matter.
Let me tell you now. This self-bullying voice is the one in your left brain, the one that can’t stop comparing herself=you to others. It probably never will disappear BUT you can quiet her voice by allowing your true self to roar.
How do you uncover your true self?
You true self lives in your right brain and the way to allow her to reclaim her role is to make more time for creativity and mindfulness.
The object of developing your creativity is not to make art that is valuable, it is to enjoy the process and access your right brain for other purposes than art, like a business project, dealing with change, solving ‘real’ life problems. It also is a way to access that happy inner child in you. What you are creating is almost irrelevant. In other words, you could throw away what you create because what you are left with, is more of yourself, your true, happy self. But of course with time you might produce creative work you might want to share with the world… That’s the cherry on the cake!

The object of developing mindfulness is not to be able to sit for 20 minutes without a thought, it is  to let your senses rediscover the wonders of this world and of yourself. It is an active process that you can practise when you drink a cup of tea, sit in your garden, stand in front of the ocean, enjoy a beautiful sunset or when you engage in a creative activity.

How do I get started with intentional mindfulness and creativity?
Colouring books for adults are not the only path to mindfulness and creativity… Which is why I created a class to get you started in the right direction. It consists in daily creative activities for right-brain activation. The focus we need to create instantly generates mindfulness, in other words, using your creativity is a form of meditation that generates calm, a sense of peace and greater happiness.
The class is free and you can sign up here. I hope you will take part.
let's get creative multi
“Creativity and imagination are not frosting on a cake: They are integral to our sustainability. They are survival mechanisms. They are of the essence of who we are. They constitute our deepest empowerment.” 

Matthew Fox