Thursday, August 30, 2012

Vlog - Make Up Your Own Mind

Apologies for the poor quality of this vlog entry. My videographer was unavailable when I was struck with the idea for this one. It's inspired by the book I've been writing (Which is almost ready for submission) about cultivating wisdom at any age.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Meditation - Getting to know yourself

I've been practicing meditation for five years now and I am a firm believer in its benefits. I don't believe you have to identify with a particular religious or spiritual sect in order to meditate and appreciate what meditation can do for you, but I do think it's important to understand what meditation means. To do this it's a good idea to seek out different teachings an teachers to gain a stronger understanding.

In recent years the psychoanalytical world has taken a keen interest in meditation as the benefits of the practice have been observed for centuries. Through meditation people have solved issues with anxiety, depression, addiction, chronic pain and countless other ailments which tend to hinder a human being from embracing life to the fullest. As medical professionals have taken an interest, so too have the public. A growing number of people are reading the works of Pema Chodron, Sharon Salzberg and Eckhart Tolle. Audio books, CDs and YouTube all offer multiple guided meditation practices of varying sorts.

Yet I find there are often misconceptions when it comes to the nature of meditation and a meditative state. 

MYTH: Meditation is relaxing - Anyone who has done any amount of meditation knows this isn't true. The actual act of sitting still and focusing on the breath is a challenge. Our bodies can grow uncomfortable and weary even when our posture is right. Our minds are also a general whirlwind. Thoughts arise on their own and the act of 'not thinking' is far more challenging than most realise.

In fact, to meditate well, one must create a sense of relaxation prior to sitting. It is a good practice to allow some time - five minutes even - before sitting down to meditate to come into your body and relax your mind. Repeating phrases such as, "I am here now, and nothing needs to be done" or taking five to ten deep, deliberate breaths, are great ways to calm the mind and body and prepare for meditation. 

MYTH: Meditation is blissful - Meditation is a practice done to cultivate wisdom. We meditate to focus the mind and in doing so gain a more resourceful state. A resourceful state is merely a state in which we are able to act effectively, rather than irrationally or with strong emotion. A resourceful state is any state in which we can perform at our best. 

When we meditate we focus the mind and experience the state we are in at that very moment. We free ourselves from the distraction of the past or the future or any story lines we may be holding onto. In any given moment we could be experiencing a range of feelings from calm to anxious, happiness to anger. Meditation allows us to sit with our experience rather than being averse to it or clinging to it. 

For anyone who has ever sat with their anxiety, anger, sadness or any other feeling commonly referred to as 'bad', the feeling is not one of bliss. It can actually be quite scary to sit with an emotion which makes us uncomfortable but in doing so we can recognise that emotions are as fleeting as our thoughts. They come and go, ebb and flow, just like the tides.

MYTH: Meditation will 'fix' you - I don't believe that people are broken. People can be confused, oblivious, in turmoil, struggling, frustrated, neurotic and so on, but these states are not broken states. They are simply unresourceful states which can make life seem challenging to lead. 

The purpose of meditation is not to 'repair' anything but to learn to accept what is. Meditation is an exploration of the self. 

Many of us, myself included, do whatever we can to ignore or avoid the things about ourselves which we don't like. We can use any manner of distraction. I used to throw myself into work or into 'fixing' other people in order to avoid working on my own stuff. Through meditation I became acutely aware of this fact.

At first, seeing ourselves for who we are and all the things we do, even the things we are averse to, is actually quite disheartening. It can be crushing to our spirit to think that we are not put-together, well-adjusted beings.

But meditation is not about just being able to see where we are still growing or in need of change, it's about embracing the fact that we are flawed. Until we obtain enlightenment we will always be flawed but our flaws are part of us just like anything else. They do not define us but they do contribute to who we are as individuals.

Meditation allows us to make friends with ourselves, warts and all, and in doing so learn to let go of those things which are not beneficial to our growth. 

These are only three misconceptions about meditation practice, but three which I have encountered most often. The important thing in all of this is to find out what works for you. Seek different teachers, different teachings and different methods. Until you have found one that suits your own sense of reason, do not settle. 

If you would like to learn more about meditation and how it can benefit you, it's one of the tools I use in my life coaching to help you access your own unlimited potential.

  I was asked to make a contribution to the C.R.O.W.N (Creating Radiant Outgoing Women Now) Project, a blog that aims to help build the self esteem of women all over the world. The entry I wrote was published today so please go take a look-see at it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Enjoying your own company

Loch Voil, in the valley where Dhanakosa is located
I was away for eight day at the end of July, beginning of August. I attended a retreat at the Dhanakosa Buddhist centre in Scotland. It was an amazing time for me as I was able to spend a lot of time in my own company. 

I know that, for a lot of people, the idea of spending time in your own company can actually be quite frightening. I know this because I used to really dislike being in my own company. I used to go through long periods of depression and for several years I suffered from an anxiety disorder. For anyone who has experienced depression or anxiety (Which is probably everyone reading this) the idea of spending time alone in your won head when either of these very strong emotions is running its course isn't just uncomfortable but potentially frightening and possibly even dangerous.

It took a lot of work and a lot of paying attention to what was going on for me to work through both of those things, but here I am! I've gone nearly two years without taking medication, loving who I am and being able to spend time with that person.

For me this retreat was a big step in that it meant I was going for my own growth and not to run away from anything. I am a firm believer in not running away from your problems. This is because you can't. The thing about your problems is that they belong to you and therefore, wherever you run, they will follow. But there can be exceptions to this rule. For example, if your problem is that you really want to go travelling but you can't seem to motivate yourself then running away is, in fact, solving a problem.

I want to talk about this problem of inaction because that's the sort of problem I help my clients solve. The problems that niggle and sit there but always seem easier to ignore than to deal with. First of all, ignoring something doesn't make it go away. In fact, ignoring something is usually a really good way to aggravate it to the point where you can't ignore it anymore.

Depression and anxiety are a good example of this. Depression begins in sadness and anxiety begins in fear. Both are natural emotions which must be expected in life. They are just things that happen and generally, they are there to tell us to pay attention. Sadness is asking us to pay attention to loss or a need not being met. Fear is telling us to prepare or plan for something.

Ignore them and they will become more urgent. They will grow in strength as they work to get you to pay attention to the issue at hand. The more you don't listen to them the louder they become and at their loudest they are no longer sadness and fear but depression and anxiety. Leave it even longer and they can become Clinical Depression and Panic Disorder or some other diagnosable mental illness.

Learning to enjoy your own company means learning to listen to these emotions as they arise. When we can pay attention to them from the start we can see what needs or wants are being neglected and rationally determine what is needed.

This retreat was great as it allowed me time and space to sit without distraction and reflect on the things which fulfill me. I was able to focus my energy, appreciate the amount of time in a day, and really analyse what I want to do in the coming months. It was also a chance for me to pay attention to some of my own little niggles which I've not given a chance to be heard.

Giving yourself time and space to be heard is important. No one else is going to do that for you though, so you need to give yourself the right setting and tools to go there. This isn't always easy, especially if you've not done it before or done it often. As a coach I believe in giving my clients the space they need to listen to their own dreams, hopes and wishes. Then, working together, make them a reality.
Want to help support Dhanakosa?
Buy an original FaunawolfCreations painting and 50% of the sale will be donated. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Mighty Women - Beatrix Potter

I had a new batch of business cards made up. I wanted to have all my stuff on one card instead of having one for my Creative Specialist side and one for my Life Coaching side. This is because I don't really see them as 'sides' exactly. They are all part of me: what I love, what I do and what is important in my life. This was why, under my job title, I included the word "polymath" in brackets.

This small inclusion has led to a frequent question. Upon handing my card over to an interested party I will get a quizzical look before being asked, "What's a polymath?"

pol.y.math (Noun)
A person of great or varied learning
- AKA a Renaissance Man 

To provide an example this entry is about a particularly humble polymath who I feel doesn't get enough credit for her incredible range of work. I've not done a Mighty Women post in a while so for those who are unfamiliar with them, this is my tribute to incredible women who have shaped and changed the world.

For most, Beatrix Potter is simply a name on tiny little storybooks for children. The life of the woman behind the writing and painting is not well known. At least for me, until I visited the Lake District, this was certainly the case.

Miss Potter, later Mrs. Heelis, was born into a middle class family when the middle classes were something very new. This was a class of people not quite born into wealth and not quite born into poverty. They perhaps had to work for a living but also often had a bit of wealth from family members before them. The difference between this inherited wealth and the wealth of the upper classes was that it was earned, often through industry. This was the case for Beatrix Potter's family, who had come from a long line of 'Tradesmen' who had done well and made their fortune.

For Beatrix, much of her life was spent observing duty. Her parents looked down on tradespeople, despite the source of their wealth, and they expected both Beatrix and her brother Bertrum to play the role of dutiful upper class children.

For Miss Potter this sort of life felt quite false, although the impression is that she didn't feel that she could often disagree with what was expected of her. It was a time when women were particularly beholden to the household life. If you were unwed you were expected to stay in the charge of your parents. If you were married then it was to your husband that you belonged.

But Miss Potter had ambition and refused to let it be squashed. She had been painting and drawing since childhood and in her early twenties she began to look at turning her art from hobby to work. Miss Potter first attempted to publish the many drawings and paintings she'd done of fungi specimens whilst on holiday in Scotland or the Lake District. She was, unfortunately, turned down for not having an education in the field and, of course, for being a woman.

This did not put Miss Potter off in the slightest, however. She was a head strong individual and she knew very well what she wanted to do. She enjoyed writing as well as art and in her thirties she finally managed to secure a publisher for a little story she'd written in a letter. This was 'The Tale of Peter Rabbit' and this was the beginning of Miss Potter's independence.

She was, in her day, a more successful author than J.K. Rowling. In just a few years the royalties from the sale of her books was significant enough that she was independently wealthy, despite the fact that she still lived in the care of her parents.

She did eventually marry at the age of 47, to Mr. Heelis, a solicitor in Near Sawry. Married life did not at all hinder her incredible passion for knowledge and developing new skills. She became an avid baker, enjoying the exploration of this field as she'd enjoyed learning about farming or discovering the many fungi that grew wild in Scotland.

In her life, besides being the artist and author of 23 different tales for children, Miss Potter was a conservationist, farmer, property developer, and political activist. She owned thirteen different farms in the Lake District by the time of her death in 1943, which she left to the National Trust to ensure that the Lake District continued to be the stunning, undeveloped land that it is. She was active in the farming community and made a solid effort during both WWI and WWII despite the fact that she suffered from frequent illnesses.

She truly was an incredible human being with a great passion for many things. She had an insatiable desire to learn all she could about the things which interested her. I believe she is a great example of a polymath and all that embodies. She is more than worthy of the title 'Mighty Woman'.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Vlog - Be The Change

I would like to thank my wonderful partner for her help in making this Vlog happen. A fellow polymath, she is a talented photographer, poet, sausage maker, cook, gardener, creator of Calgary Food Heroes and most recently, videographer!

Without further ado - my first Vlog!

Monday, August 13, 2012

An exciting art announcement!

"Worthy of Love"
See original
Starting today I am very pleased to announce that fifty percent of the proceeds of the sale of all original FaunawolfCreations paintings will go to charity!

Paying it forward is a great way to contribute to the world around us. I have recently had an incredible experience at the Dhanakosa Buddhist Retreat centre in Scotland. The centre, which has retreats for hillwalking, writing, yoga and meditation, is open to anyone to attend. It's a wonderful space where individuals are invited to connect with themselves, regroup, and centre. It's also a charity and one which I believe deserves support to ensure that others have the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful surroundings of the Scottish Highlands.

To thank them for this space I've decided that fifty per cent of the sale of any original painting I've done will go towards Dhanakosa.

"Guardian" Original not posted on website,
email faunawolf 'at' gmail 'dot' com for details
I would like to extend this to at least one other charity, so if you think there is a particular charity that is doing amazing work please let me know with a comment below. I will be doing research into any suggestions and choose at my own discretion. I am very interested in including a charity which supports youth and providing them with opportunities to grow and learn or one with a focus on animal rescue and rehabilitation.

If you'd like to buy one of my original works please visit

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

How hard can it be?

I've got a friend who was involved in a community project to save her local library. They were organising a day to rally people around, boost awareness of the services offered and get people to see why their local library is so super awesome.

They put together a variety of activities, from a storytelling corner to a selection of crafts. They wanted a bit more though and it was my friend who asked if anyone knew how to do balloon modelling. After asking around it was determined that this wasn't a talent any of them knowingly possessed so my friend asked herself, "How hard could it be?"

One of her amazing creations! 
She went online and looked up the supplies she'd need and found an ample selection of instructional videos on YouTube. Soon she started posting photos of the most incredible balloon creatures, from turtles to monkeys.

They are absolutely brilliant and I want to thank her for letting me use her story in my blog because what she did is exactly what I like to do and exactly what a lot of people I know like to do but not always what happens. And I don't mean I know a lot of people who want to make balloon animals but that I know a lot of people who want to try something new and different just because.

The difficulty, and the reason why a lot of people don't, is that we can unconsciously believe that something is too difficult or complicated or expensive or challenging. Without even giving it a go, without even looking into it, we can already make up our mind that it's just not going to happen.

This is why I like the fact that she asked herself, "How hard can it be?"

She didn't decide, because no one she'd asked said they could do it, that it was something to write off as undoable. She figured that it was worth finding out. 

When I wanted to learn something when I was a kid I'd write it down and when I got to go to the library next (This is why libraries deserve to be saved) I'd find out about it. In 2012 the library is still a brilliant resource but we now also have YouTube, Google, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, Linda and so many more resources literally at our fingertips. Type in a question and you can find an answer.

But if you don't ask you'll never know which is why it's totally worth remembering to say, "How hard can it be?"

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

...then it's not yet the end

Life isn't fair. 

When people said this to me when I was younger it would really frustrate me. I took it to mean that they were pessimistic and believed that life was difficult so suck it up.

I think about the phrase differently now. Life really isn't fair. Life is unpredictable, convoluted, intense, random, interesting, confusing, baffling, challenging, exciting, difficult - but not fair. This doesn't mean that you should 'suck it up' or just accept what happens. It just means be prepared. Be aware that things won't always work out as you would expect them to, nor will they seem just or right all the time.

That is the essence of life and it is the unfairness which allows us to grow. If life were fair it would be dull. You would never be challenged to stand up for yourself, embrace change, and take life by the figurative horns and show it that you're up for whatever it has to throw at you.

Life is, however, balanced. I recently watched the very delightful and well cast 'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel'. Even if you haven't seen it, if you've seen a preview you've probably heard the line:
"Everything will be alright in the end. If it's not alright, then it is not yet the end."

There is a wonderful Buddhist story that often gets told about a family in a small village. The mother and father live there with their son, who grows to be a handsome young man. The couple are pleased as it means he will be able to care for them in their old age. But one day the son is thrown from a horse and crippled, confined to a wheelchair. The parents lament his poor fortune, mourning for his strength.

One day a General comes through the village. The country is at war and all able bodied young men are being called to go fight. The couple are relieved that their only son is able to stay with them, rather than be taken away to fight and almost surely be killed.

This is a demonstration of how something which seemed unfair came to have a balance in it. Sort of like 'be careful what you wish for.' But the story continues on. The next situation could reveal that the family is distraught because none of them can work and in the time of war they seemed doomed to starvation. But then it can continue still and because of their son's confinement they are given food and care by the other villagers.

The point is that life just happens. How we deal with it is up to us but what we have to deal with is never predictable nor planned. But in the end, there will always be balance.