Managing the Mundane with Mindfulness

As someone who is not best friends with all things domestic, discovering mindfulness helped with the balance of my day. A busy mum and business owner working from a home studio, I often feel challenged by the needs of the house. Every time I get home from the school run, the house reminds me it is growing dusty, or needs vacuuming. The dishwasher demands to be filled, the shopping list grows and there is daily laundry to be done. I used to find this very frustrating and resented all these tasks that took me away from my art and my desk.

Now I enjoy it. I arrange my day so a list or a project gets done, I measure this by task or by time, I’m quite flexible with it. Then I punctuate my day with whatever needs doing most in and for the house. Sometimes I put on music, I might plug into an audio book or podcast depending on what needs doing and how long I think it will take, this allows me to view the chores as ‘exercising while reading a book’ which, while not strictly mindful in and of itself, it is a practice that has allowed me to alter my perspective, giving me permission to relax and enjoy something I don’t really want to do.

The real difference I have become aware of is when I slow down and notice. I find this most with the laundry. Instead of rushing through it all, now, if I’m standing at the washing line, I feel the fresh air, listen to the birds, or notice how a plant has grown. I allow the experience to nurture me. Indoors, I like the blast of warmth I get from the tumble dryer, the smell of clean washing and the soft feel of the clothes. The heat and hiss of the iron are a friendly break from my desk and my screen. If I’ve been sitting still for too long, a whizz round the house with the vacuum cleaner gets my circulation going and warms me up nicely. Not to mention the satisfaction I receive when it is done, the house thanks me when it is clean and working properly, it is cosier and more inviting.

Another thing I realised by engaging mindfully with my daily experiences is that these chores that loom, that we put off and allow to hang over us, often only take about five or ten minutes, which can be a fraction of the time we spend feeling annoyed about having to do them in the first place. So I invite you to embrace the beauty of your home and your surroundings. I promise you will thank yourself.

This is an extract from my kindle book ‘Find Yourself with Attentive Art: An Introduction to Mindful Creativity plus Five Exercises for You to Try’ You can buy it HERE.  X

 

View Through the Window

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When we moved into our house five years ago, I knew it was the right house for us but I wasn’t sure how long for.

It is a tall town house, over four floors.

On the landing from the first to the second floor there is a window. I didn't pay attention to it at first, it is just another window.

The reason I wasn’t sure about the house was that we moved in five weeks before our son was born and while both the children’s rooms were the same size, I wasn’t sure how it would work with his room being on the floor above ours. Our daughter was two, and as our son, when he arrived, would be in our room for a few months we thought we’d cross that bridge when we needed to. When we did, we needn’t have worried, it all worked out well.

Being over four floors, our house has a lot of stairs and this brings me to the window.

The window is at the top of a flight of stairs, slightly to the left so it doesn’t fully reveal itself until you reach the top and turn to face it. This is why it has such impact.  

Last night, not for the first time I physically gasped when I looked through it. I was presented with a gentle sunset filled with a murmuration of starlings performing a spectacular ballet across the sky. I stood transfixed until I’d forgotten what it was I went up there for and realised that this window has given me so many gifts.

It got me thinking about all the other times I’d been wowed by that window.

One night when my son was a baby, I was waiting for him to finally go to sleep, exhausted at three in the morning. Sitting on the stairs outside his room I was mesmerised by the most full and beautiful moon. In my tired state I soaked it up and communed with it until my little boy slept and I could tiptoe down to my own bed and try and sleep before my daughter got up.

Before Christmas my children picked up every bug going from school and gave it to the other one. Each time I thought we were over something, one of them came down with something else. After six weeks of this and wondering when it was going to stop, we were all pretty frazzled.  One Thursday morning I trudged up to my son’s room, wondering if either of the children might be well enough for school and I was stopped in my tracks by the window:

Everything sparkled white and the sky was the deepest most glorious blue of not quite dawn yet. I stopped and drank in the sky; the surprise snow carpeted the rooftops and gardens and I felt the collective spirit of the household lift, despite being the only one up. One mention of the magic word ‘snow’ had the children leaping out of bed, both keen to go to school.

There have been many other moments of wonder through this window that have me running down the stairs for my camera. It has a habit of presenting beauty to me in a way that I feel privileged to be party to. I have a unique view that nobody else can see and I love it. 

When we first viewed the house five years ago, I had no idea that such an inconspicuous looking window would have so many treats in store for me and has taught me to slow down and appreciate the little things in life.

 

Sophie x

 

 

 

Why do People Keep Smiling at Me?

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Why do people keep smiling at me?

I’ve talked at some length about my experiences with PND and isolation so I'll keep that bit short: When my daughter was two, we moved 140 miles to a place I hardly knew, five weeks before my son was born. It is hard to explain how much of a wonderful time this was while at the same time on another level I was hardly functioning. But this is how it was.

I went around in a bit of a bubble and found it hard to make friends. I had this assumption that how I felt on the inside – like I was totally failing in every area of my life, would be somehow visible to people and nobody would like me. So it would be safer to keep myself to myself. I enjoyed going to playgroups with my children and I did get out and talk to people but I still felt really isolated.

When my daughter started pre-school I was terrified of the playground and the school environment, I didn’t know what the correct procedures were or what the right etiquette was. The other mums all seemed to know each other, and also all 'seemed' much younger than me (I was 40).

I tried to smile at people, but also kept my head down, I was sure nobody would want to talk to me and my difference to them was painfully obvious. Many of them were in their early 20’s and I was in Yorkshire with a London accent. If they didn't return the smile I felt crushed, when they probably just hadn't seen me.

Gradually I spoke to other parents and got to know some of them, I was surprised that they were nice to me and started to realise how much of my reality was in my own head.  Then I started to study psychology and mental health and learned about mindfulness.  I slowly began to heal. I questioned my thoughts and turned them on their head. I felt better and soon my son was old enough for pre school and I wasn’t a newcomer any more.

One day I was walking back from dropping off my children and noticed that several other parents smiled at me; I was confused by this until with a huge jolt, I realised that I was smiling. I was walking around with my head up and a smile on my face because I was happy and thinking nice thoughts. When had this changed and how hadn’t I noticed?  What must I have looked like before when I spent all my time staring at the ground and hiding behind a hat or a huge pair of sunglasses? Now I always make a point of smiling and saying good morning to people, I realise I can't be the only one who has felt that way and that as parents, the school environment can be awkward for everyone. 

I learned first hand the power of perception and the simplicity of a smile. 

If you have lost connection with yourself, particularly after having children, let me help you reconnect. Take a look at my Self Reconnection Package, and please email if you have any questions. 

The Mindfulness of Mending

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This weekend I tackled some things that needed mending. Things that need mending go in a pile, or are shoved in a bag; tucked out of the way and forgotten about for a while. To tend to them seems like a chore. I am annoyed with them for being broken or torn or having created a hole in themselves. To fix these things feels like an irritation, time I could be spending doing something more worthwhile. 

Common culprits for me are tops. I have a massive aversion to labels in clothing, to the point where just cutting a label back isn't sufficient. So often, no matter how delicate I am with my unpicker, there is a hole in a new item of clothing. It turns out my children don't like labels either. 

Yesterday afternoon I mended a top, a pair of silver sparkly tights belonging to my daughter, which were a present on her seventh birthday last month. They were fine until she started playing with one of our cats, Sid. So Sid made a hole in her tights but somehow I blame the tights. Next I swapped my thread to pink. My four year old son has a giant pink teddy called Big Pink Teddy. He won it at a charity event we went to last year. It is bigger than he is. The constant sitting, rolling and jumping on of Big Pink Teddy has caused one of his seams to split, poor Big Pink Teddy. So I stitch up the broken things, I don't mind, the kids are playing and the TV is on. With some satisfaction I put the needle and thread away and return the no longer damaged items to their places and carry on with my day in the knowledge that my mending is done, for a while at least.

This morning, my husband was taking the children to visit his parents nearby. I was getting a rare treat 'The House To Myself At The Weekend'. I thought of all the options that didn't involve work or housework (apart from doing the laundry, changing the bed sheets and cleaning the inside of the shower whilst having a shower). As my daughter, a vision in different shades of pink floated past me in the dining room on her Shopkins scooter I noticed the bobble was loose on her hat. On closer inspection, half the hat almost unravelled. I gently removed it from her head, the only non fully pink thing she had on, and replaced it with, yes, her pink one, promising to mend the other one while she was out. 

So, once 'all of the things that needed doing' had been done and I finally had some time to myself, I put on an audiobook and sat down to mend the hat. I parked myself on the sofa and picked up the needle. A few stitches in I paused. I was in the moment of calm, of total tranquility. The sun was beaming through the bay window highlighting the house in a beautiful way. The room was quiet and my other cat Nancy had curled up next to me. I mended with intention, savouring each stitch, taking great pleasure in knotting the lost loops back together. So absorbed I was almost disappointed when it was done. 

In future I will treat the mending pile with a little more respect and save it for a Sunday morning when I have the house to myself. I will even look forward to it. 

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THE Mindful Living SHOW

Last Week I visited the Mindful Living Show in Manchester UK, I wanted to go because I was looking forward to connecting with people who shared my passion for mindfulness and creativity and I also wanted to find out more as I intend to take part in the London show later this year.

It was a three and a half hour train journey each way, which seemed a bit mad but it was important to me that I went. I then saw the cost of the train ticket - to Manchester from where I live in Yorkshire you can only buy a one month open return, it isn't the sort of journey you would normally do in a day. I took a deep breath and booked the train tickets online, then went with my four year old son to collect them the next day - he always loves an excuse to look at trains. As I checked my phone for the purchase code I noticed an email from the estate agent in Liverpool who sold my house there seven months ago. I hadn't expected to hear from them again so I opened it. Inside was a remittance note to say that on the day I would be travelling to Manchester, they were going to pay some outstanding money owed to me. It was the exact same amount as my train ticket, to the penny! 

So I knew then it was going to be a worthwhile trip!

Here are some of my highlights:

Meeting the editor of In The Moment magazine, which is one of my favourite magazines (I read a lot of them). It was great to talk about all things mindful and creative. I plan to stay in touch.

Talking to people who do mindfulness based activities for children, including Max Mindpower the Bear - a teddy that talks you through a meditation when you squeeze his paws, he even breathes with you! There is a brilliant series of children's books about dealing with emotions. I also met the people from Relax Kids who have a whole programme of brilliant resources for kids and they kindly gave me some fabulous wall charts for my children.

I watched a talk by Christine Bailey on Eating to Enhance Brain Performance and Memory which was fascinating and reminded me not to overlook the importance of good nutrition as I can often do. 

I met the people at Mindful Resilience Enhancement and took away plenty of information, including the learning zones of the brain, a more in depth look into what I've been studying in Modern and Positive Psychology.

I had a lovely chat with the people selling and promoting Thich Nhat Hanh, some of whose books I have read and they shared with me a lovely pebble meditation which I will do with my children over the school holidays next week.

I took part in a fun and insightful workshop by a company called beanddo. We had a minute or so to fill in a page full of circles into whatever we could think of, each circle had to be different. I had read about this exercise online so it was great to actually do it. We also did some blind contour drawing (drawing the person opposite without looking at the paper) and drawing our own portrait by closing our eyes and tracing with the finger of one hand and drawing with the other, then swapping over. 

I met Naomi Kendrick, an artist who is running a project at Manchester Art Gallery called 'De-Stress and Draw'. She had a huge area of plain paper, dotted about with beanbag cushions and headphones. Along the side were pots of coloured crayons and pastels. I was in my element as you can see above! As well as thoroughly enjoying the experience it was great to connect with a fellow artist who thinks along similar lines and gets what I do. Manchester Art Gallery has a whole programme around wellbeing over the next few months and into next year, Naomi's De-Stress and Draw is a part of that. My day in Manchester didn't afford me the time to visit the Art Gallery as well, but I will definitely be going back. 

Your Blank Canvas

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Hello and Happy New Year!

Yes, this is a picture of a blank canvas. As an artist, why would it make sense for me to share a blank canvas?

Well, it is all to do with attention, or awareness. When you pay attention, you are able to question. When you question, you can begin to look for answers. There may be more than one answer and that is fine, it is a matter of deciding which one to try first, then repeating the process, or trying out a different solution. This is how the blank canvas of your life becomes filled with what you create. The canvas will fill up anyway, but if you aren't aware, aren't questioning, then you aren't in control of what you place on your canvas or what it looks like.

You might not like what is on your canvas hanging on your wall, but you have looked at it for such a long time that you don't even notice it anymore. The same applies to your life and habits. 

If you keep doing the same things then you will keep getting the same results. By paying attention to your processes you can look at how to change them.

One way to do this is to practice mindfulness. This could involve daily meditation or reminding yourself to pay attention to each moment in the day to avoid thinking too much in the past or future.  I like to use meditative creative practices such as stitch and painting where I become so absorbed in the process that my mind feels as though it has ‘switched off’ for a while and I feel refreshed and energised afterwards. I believe this is what is known as ‘flow’. According to Wikipedia, Flow is defined as ‘…the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energised focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterised by complete absorption in what one does.’
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes it as when ‘existence is temporarily suspended’, and claims it is the ‘secret to happiness’.

If you would like some more awareness and flow in your life then sign up for my newsletter about mindful creativity, as well as new products and courses - oh and the odd treat and discount as well.

How will you fill in your blank canvas this year? 

If you'd like a taster of mindful Creativity, try my FREE eBook 'Find Yourself with Attentive Art'. As well as learning about Mindful Creativity, there are three creative projects to get your new year off to a creative start. Download it here:

Bye for now and all the best for 2018,

Sophie xxx

 

Who Are You and What Do You Want?

Numerous studies have concluded that when we truly know the answer to this question, well two questions really, then everything else falls into place. At the very least, we know what we are aiming for, and, because we are aligned with it, we are likely to have more success in achieving it.

I made a piece of art around this subject earlier in the year; identity is a big theme in both my artwork and my creativity coaching. Here is my painting, it is made on a large canvas, about 1 metre x 1.5 metres, each letter has been hand cut from reflective fabric and machine stitched on to a painted person, each person is then hand stitched on to the painted canvas. As you can imagine, this gave me plenty of time to ponder the question of identity!
 

Who Are You and What Do You Want?

Do you know who you are and what you want? 

If you'd like me to help you find out, click the button for more info. X

Bye for now,

 

Sophie X

ARCHETYPES

Hello!

This week I’m studying archetypes and it is thoroughly fascinating. I’ll share more about them later.  For now here is a basic wheel of the different types. You might recognise yourself as one of these but in truth we all adopt more than one archetype and use them as we need to depending on our current situation.

 

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Here is an amazing quote from an archetype expert called Carol Pearson.

“The natural way to activate inner potential is to shine a light of consciousness upon it”

YES! That is exactly what I do in my Mindful Creativity Programmes! If you have read and completed my e-book, that is what you will have been doing as well.

If you haven’t read the book you can get your copy here:

If you have and you’d like to make any comments or share some insights about it that would be brilliant, you can do that here:

What areas of your life would you like to shine a light onto?

Bye for now,

Sophie X

PS. If you want to shine that light with a 15% discount (till 31.10.17) you can sign up here.

 If you’d like a free chat with me first, book yourself in here, I’m looking forward to it. X

Perception

I recently visited the Ferens Art Gallery in Hull. In the foyer was this. 

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What is a pile of rocks and stones doing in the Foyer of an art gallery? Well, first of all this is a work of art. Secondly, the rocks are not rocks. They are indeed picked up off the beach, but are actually worn down pieces of float foam and fibreglass, collected by artist Alexander Duncan.

This is a challenging point in our perception of our environment: What we perceive to be products of the natural world, are in fact litter, rubbish.

Where else is your perception inaccurate?

For me it is my perception of time and what I can realistically get done. I am always overestimating what can be achieved in any hour/day/week/month/year.

I love to write, make art, do yoga, swim, and read. I read a lot and realise I will never read all the books I will want to read, because there are so many out there already and so many being written all the time.

Until I remember that in the same way, just because a book exists, it doesn’t means I have to read it.

I am not required to cover every canvas in existence in paint and beads. (although I might try!)

I do not have to visit every country in the world even if I think I want to.

This is where mindfulness comes in and helps me to be less frenetic all the time, to savour things and notice them with curiosity. This in turn allows me to see an alternative perspective. 

We can choose what we want to take as our truth.

How much of your perspective is based on what you were told?

Are you sure everything you believe is really true?

Would you like some help in finding out?

YES

If you’d like to make some friends and share your mindfulness experiences, what creative pursuits you enjoy and maybe even join in with my enthusiasm for visual journaling, join the Attentive Art Facebook group, I'd love to welcome you. 

Much love,

Sophie X