A process to feel better about Christmas (or anything)

This has never been my favourite time of year.  I don’t have especially happy memories of childhood Christmases, and my favourite ones as a grown-up have been the ones I’ve spent abroad.  Like many people, I have a tendency to let deferred-gratification and perfectionism take over, but a bad-feeling journey can never lead to a good-feeling destination! Big J has good memories of childhood Christmases spent with his extended family, though, and I would love for C and J to have a similar experience, so going away every year isn’t an option.

The other day I found myself sounding downright Scrooge-like while talking with Big J about my Christmas present for him (or lack of!) and I decided it was time to make a change! I’d really love to create a tradition of wonderful Christmases for my children.  But for now I’ll settle for feeling good about this one. 🙂

Focus Wheel

Feeling good has to come before action, so I decided to use an Abraham-Hicks process (from the book Ask and It Is Given) to help me get to a better-feeling place about Christmas.

A focus wheel is laid out like a clock.  In the centre you write what you’d like to feel or believe by the end of the process, even though you don’t really feel or believe it at the start when you write it. Around the edges you leave room to write twelve statements which will help guide you gradually towards the centre.

Getting Onto the Wheel

Getting onto the focus wheel  is a bit like getting onto a moving roundabout in a children’s playground – you have to slow it down to get on;  you can’t just jump right onto the middle – there’s too much of a gap between where you currently are and what’s written there.

Instead, look for a statement in the right direction (“downstream”, as Abraham-Hicks say), that you do believe.  Write that down in position 1.

Now you’re on the wheel, and you should be feeling a little better than when you started.  Next, look for a statement to write down in position 2.  Again, be careful it’s not too much of a leap or you’ll be thrown off the wheel.

After you’ve filled in a few positions you’ll be on a roll.  Use this good-feeling momentum to fill in the remaining positions.  By the time you get to 12 you should be able to authentically relate to what you’ve written in the centre!

Focus Wheels on the iPad

In the past I’ve used pen and paper to do focus wheels, but I’ve recently started using the free iPad app Simple Mind to create mind maps, which lends itself perfectly to the focus wheel process.

Did It Work?

As I write this I’m feeling contented and peaceful and – dare I say it? – distinctly Christmassy!  Presents are wrapped under the tree, and I’m actually rather looking forward to a little Christmas party later this afternoon.  There may be more focus wheels over the next few days, but for now the magic is working.  🙂

Further Resources

Since writing this post I came across this great YouTube clip which takes you through the Focus Wheel process.

The Joy Of Home Education # 32

I am SO in love with home educating right now!  Not only are we cruising through maths, English and our other subjects, but we are REALLY making the most of the flexibility our lifestyle brings.


I love being able to take holidays when it’s cheap and uncrowded.

(Still waiting to be tall enough...)

Like last week  at Centerparcs where we swam, biked, climbed, bowled, crazy-golfed, pampered ourselves at the spa (the big ones) and attended wizard training academy (the little ones).

C and J Potter, wizards

I love that Sunday evenings are not over-shadowed by back-to-school pressures.

Last Sunday after C’s rugby and my lovely nephew’s Christening …

C scrubbed up well after rugby!

we were still able to celebrate Big J’s birthday as a family…

by going to see our local ice hockey team play, without having to worry about getting up early for school in the morning 🙂

And … I love that when temperatures hit an unseasonal 27 degrees (80 F) in the last week of September we can close our books for the day and spend the day playing at an open air swimming pool – YAY!

End Of Our First Week

“Ahhhh”.  That’s the sound of me basking in the wonderfully satisfying feeling of everything working out perfectly. 🙂

After months of dreaming up how I wanted our homeschool to look this year, and slightly trepidatious wondering what the children would make of my plans, anxiety is giving way to excitement at the prospect of the great year we’re going to have.

As I made lunch earlier I casually (?!) asked C and J separately what they’d thought of the week – what they’d especially liked and if there was anything they’d like to change.  In the understated way children have they both gave the thumbs up.  J’s verdict: “fine” (in the tone of voice I can just imagine him using when he’s keen to leave the house and his future wife asks “how do I look?”).  He particularly liked the maths and art apparently (we had just done those two subjects so that may have had something to do with it!).  One thing I know is that J does not hold back from letting his feelings known when he doesn’t like something!   C said she’d liked it all apart from one specific book (“and that was just because I was feeling tired”), especially maths, and asked for more art.  Next week our history curriculum gets very art & crafty (yikes!) so she should like that.

We each celebrated the wrap up of a successful week in our own ways:  C and J went crazy in the paddling pool (lucky neighbours!), while I reorganised a cupboard in our open-plan area to create a new shelf for our colour-coded notebook ring binders, which gave me enormous satisfaction.  I know how to live!! 😀

A Change Of Season

Today we leave our summer home to begin a new season of learning, laughing and loving with a different set of friends in a different yet very familiar place.

We will say goodbye for now to daily dips in the sea, and to lazy mornings and evenings, and hello to a new homeschooling “term”.

Goodbye for now to scooter races, and hello to our lovely green garden and fun activities with homeschool and other friends.

Goodbye to sunset drinks on the balcony and beach, and hello to cosy evenings on the sofa.

C has become a ripstik pro (me, not so much - have you seen how many wheels that thing has? Just two!!)

We’ve all expanded in so many ways, making new friends, developing new skills, learning new things.

It’s been a glorious summer and I am filled to overflowing with appreciation for our home here, the magnificent beach, our friends and my lovely family for every single wonderful experience since we started coming down regularly in April.

Today marks the start of rugby season so C and Big J have already gone, and J, kittens Ellie & Fliss and I are packing up to leave soon.   It helps that after a week of hot sun, today it’s pouring with rain and blowing a gale! There are still a couple more September weekends here to enjoy, but in the meantime I’m looking forward to jumping back into a new routine.  I’m ready to go home.

Rebooting Mummy (The Joy Of Meditation)

Tonight's Sunset (well it's kind of meditative)

When I think of meditation, a part of my mind conjures up images of kaftan-wearing hippies sitting cross-legged, fingers making little “o”s in the air, chanting “om”.  Another part of my mind says “BORING!!”  Which is odd, given that I’ve been enjoying meditating for many years and been interested in altered states of consciousness my whole life!  I guess my default images are a testament to how the practice of meditation has generally been regarded in our society.

As a child of eleven or so I borrowed library books on hypnosis (which I tried out on my little sister; according to one book, as a sleep-talker she made a good subject).  At fifteen I would sit cross-legged in my bedroom facing the wall, chanting “nam eh oh oh ren geh key oh” (I got the words from an article in teen magazine “Just Seventeen”) – this was maybe the closest I’ve ever come to the stereotype; my mother and siblings still giggle about it.   But object of ridicule or not, it worked for me – I would focus on my latest crush being at the pub that night, and there he would be! 😉

In my twenties I briefly toyed with “watching the breath” as recommended by a Buddhist friend in Spain – that one was NOT for me! – before I discovered the joy of guided meditation, beginning with Shakti Gawain’s classic Creative Visualisation (on cassette!).

It wasn’t until I trained in neuro-linguistic programming and hypnosis, in my mid-thirties, that I began to understand the science behind these altered states. When we meditate, our brains are flooded with theta and alpha brainwaves, precipitating a state of profound body and mind relaxation in which the parts of of brain responsible for creativity, clarity, memory, insight and calm are stimulated. (See Resources below for a fuller explanation of the science.)

Meditation is now a key part of my life, all the more so since we’ve been a homeschooling, and my family accept my daily 15 minute mini-retreats as part of who I am.  In fact my children have been known to tactfully suggest “why don’t you go and meditate, mummy” when things are a little fraught  😀   I sometimes think they see meditation as a “Mummy reboot” button.  They’re probably spot on!

Resources

At the moment I love Esther and Jerry Hicks’ Abraham meditations CD, which contains four 15 minute meditations focusing on general wellbeing, financial wellbeing, physical wellbeing and relationships respectively. I just pop in my earphones, breathe, and let the soothing words and music wash over me – bliss!

Brainsync produce both guided meditations and music only products, available on CD or as MP3s. Kelly Howell has a deliciously soothing voice, and the music is specially created to induce beneficial brainwave states.  I’ve enjoyed using Brainsync recordings for a long time.

This short article  explains more of the science.

Things That Help Me Have A Better Day

There are some things that, no matter what else is going on in my life, when I do them, I seem to have a better day.

(Kittens Don't Need Lists)

Here are a few of the things on my list:

  1. Meditating for 15 minutes
  2. Exercising – doing something that gets my heart rate up for at least 10 (ideally 20) minutes
  3. Writing a blog post
  4. Decluttering an area of my house
  5. Spending time outside
  6. Connecting with my friend Sarah
No matter what else is going on in my life, I almost always feel better when I do any or all of these things. (And there are more that I can’t think of right now.)

Having them on this list helps remind me to do them, because they’re not necessarily things I “feel like” doing in the moment.  I don’t wake up in the morning gagging to go for a run or sort out the hall cupboard; when the phone rings, my automatic (introvert) reaction is to recoil, even when I see my best friend’s name come up on the display; and in the depths of winter (or autumn, or early spring…oh ok anytime the sun’s not shining) I really do have to generate myself to leave the comfort of home!   I can even find myself putting off meditating, which I LOVE!  Come to think of it, however much I may procrastinate about doing any of the things on my list, something they all have in common is that I almost always enjoy actually doing them (yes, even sorting out the hall cupboard.  Weird, I know).

I’ve done this exercise (which I learned from Michael Neill; I think he writes about it in his great book You Can Have What You Want) with coaching clients and I’ve noticed that everyone’s list is different.  Lists might include going for a walk in the woods, taking 30  minutes to read over a cappuccino in Starbucks, writing in a journal, meeting up with a group of friends, doing an exercise class, or taking special time out to play with a child or cuddle up with a pet.

What’s on your list?

Opportunities To Feel Good

What a great weekend! I often hear Abraham saying (on workshop recordings) that we are here for the thrill of the ride, the joy of expansion, for identifying a desire and riding the wave of bliss as we allow it into our experience.

One of my long-standing desires has been to be able to be keep my good humour even when other people around me have lost theirs.  It seems like I’ve had lots of opportunities to do that lately – and I say that without a trace of resentment, Pollyanna-ism or self-righteousness, I promise!

It is said that every question you bring to an Abraham-Hicks workshop is answered, whether or not you are called to “the hotseat” and have the opportunity to ask your question directly.  This was exactly my experience last year at the Abraham Alaskan cruise workshops, when on the last day a man asked “how do you stay in the Vortex [of wellbeing] when your partner is outside of it?”  I reflect on one part of the answer often: you never need worry about leaving the Vortex when you know how easy it is to get back in.  Over the last few years since I first came across the Abraham work I’ve got better and better at finding my way back to wellbeing.  It’s so true that it’s worth being out  for the thrill of getting back in 🙂

Blessings

1. New shoes.  Sparkly! Shiny! Perfect for the wedding Big J and I are going to next week 🙂

2. My lovely friend of a year, A, the Universe’s perfect answer to my requests for a friend with a heart filled with love and light, who lives 5 minutes away, whom I can text when I buy shiny new shoes!

3. C playing guitar, a week after I gave up asking her to 🙂

"THIS is how I like to play my guitar"

(You can see why I drove to Wales for that lazy-boy sofa.)

4. Our tomboy C has been playing with her dolls! Not dressing them in pretty clothes, exactly (Grandma did that at the weekend), but she did colour one of the casts a nice shade of purple 😀

5. J has been listening to Sara Book 1: Sara Learns The Secret About The Law Of Attraction! C listened to all three Sara books two years ago when J was a bit young to follow (and of course too young to have forgotten all that stuff anyway ;-)).  I read him a chapter last week,  soon after that he rounded up the CDs from around the house – and now he’s hooked!

6. While he listened, J joyfully arranged his Yu-Gi-Oh cards into “attack-ical” order 😀

7. My new friend C. Oh my, the BLISS of sharing ABRAHAM! A fellow home-educating deliberate creator! I appreciate myself and C SO much for allowing law of attraction to bring us together!

It’s All Unfolding Beautifully

Two summers ago my dear friend Sarah visited us at the coast.  It was a windy summer and on that particular day the high tide sea was completely wild, but having made the journey from London, Sarah was keen to try the water.  Once we’d mustered our courage and run down the steep slope through the point where the waves crashed mercilessly down on the beach, we found ourselves in deep, deep water, waves as tall as us hitting us every few seconds.  Once we were in, I realised this was the roughest sea I’d ever “swum” in (I decided not to share that observation with Sarah until we were safely back on dry land!).

We spent an exhilarating 10 minutes making split second decisions as to whether it was safe to let ourselves be lifted up high by a still-rising wall of water, or whether an approaching wave had passed the point of being safe to float over and had to be dived through.

My experience of home-educating over the last few weeks has felt a bit like that day in the waves.  Making a decision about whether C is to take up an offered place at a local (“outstanding”) junior school has put our homeschool under a magnifying glass, at a time when it’s probably not wise to look at it very closely at all!  It’s been a very intense few weeks, with some highs – I’ve loved researching different homeschool styles  and exploring some of the wealth of practical and inspiring home ed information out there – and some more, as we deliberate creators say, “contrasting” experiences!

Listening to an Abraham workshop CD in the car earlier (one that just happened to be still in my CD changer – my boot is so full (I’m not sure what of 😐 I don’t change the CDs often), I was reminded that “it’s all unfolding beautifully”.  After over four years of school (including nursery), C has been at home for just five months.  I’ve only been home-educating for a year, and the changes I’ve seen over that time have been profound and wonderful.  The children are happy, bright and confident, they have plenty of friends, and they participate in a broad range of activities at home and within our community.

That day two summers ago the children played happily on the beach as we grown-ups were tossed around by the wild sea.  I would probably never have gone in if I’d known quite how scary it would be, but it was also one of the most fun experiences of my life.  And so is home-educating my children.  It’s all unfolding beautifully.

The beach that evening

A Tuscan Adventure

We’re just back from Italy!  And I’m reeling with joy, not just because of the fantastic experiences we’ve had over the last four days, but also with the sheer delight of having witnessed a desire manifest so exquisitely!

The trip was so good I’m in danger of letting the old perfectionism get in the way of writing about it …  so, while my memories are still fresh, I’ll list a few of the highlights of our Tuscan experience:

  • The best thing of all, and the one that’s hardest to put into words, was how C totally “got” the joy of Italy: chic Italians eating ice creams as they go about La Passeggiata; narrow streets winding their way between beautiful old buildings;   the legacy of centuries of magnificent art strewn liberally around the city; golden sunlight on the Ponte Vecchio in the early evening…

  • The view from our Florence hotel room

  • The children’s excitement at spotting things on the “treasure hunt” I “put together”.  (I use both terms loosely; I am really good at launching ideas and less good at following through – what started out in my head as something involving laminated photos and a treasure map ended up as post-it notes flagging pages in our guidebook.  The kids didn’t mind a bit though.)
  • We’ve been lucky enough to take the children abroad many times, but mostly on package holidays to the beach or ski slopes, so this felt like their first real experience of another culture, close-up.  They were thrilled, as I still am, by simple experiences like taking Italian trains, window-shopping and enjoying the early morning sunshine at pavement cafes, savouring super-sweet croissants while locals at the bar chatted noisily over their breakfast cappuccinos.  J admired the taxi which took us back to Pisa airport: “it looks like a racing car!” (earning him an appreciative grin from our suave young driver), while C remarked, excitedly, “I’ve never been in a foreign taxi before!”

  • C’s delight in the miniature statue of Michelangelo’s David she begged me to buy for 4 Euros from a Florence souvenir stall.  I cherish her innocence of any cynical grown-up notions of tackiness!
  • Climbing the narrow, windy steps (and ladders!) to the very top of the Duomo (dome) of Florence Cathedral.  This really was the perfect culmination of a desire which began with our reading of “Pippo The Fool”, the story of how Filippo Brunelleschi designed the dome.

  • Our afternoon wandering around Boboli Gardens, the grand, sweeping gardens just south of the river Arno, laid out nearly five hundred years ago by the Medici family.  My consistent inability to orient us on the map made for wonderful meanderings through parts of the gardens we never would have seen had I had more of a clue where we were at any point!  We spent about an hour indulging our senses on this smooth, cool piece of marble nestled in a dappled glade.

The children spent another hour happily messing around with the trickle of water flowing down here…

While  I took  photos.

And of course there was ice cream at the end of our travels.

  • Pisa: basking in the sunshine with C in the Field Of Miracles (while a few feet away J added “in the shadow of the leaning tower of Pisa” to his list of “places I have played my Nintendo DS”!); playing “I Spy” in the botanical gardens; J’s photos!

One of my favourite things to do when I’m on holiday is fantasize about the next one. (I used to worry that this was detracting from enjoying the moment; but when I checked in with myself I realised that, for me, it enhances it!)  I’d like to continue the Southern European theme and make our next destination the Spanish city of Granada, where I spent a wonderful year when I was in my twenties.  In my planning I’ll take on board one of the things we learned in Italy – that, as introverts, we need to balance time spent in the exciting hustle and bustle of a city, with green open spaces and, in warm weather, cooling water to play in .  Granada, home of the magnificent Moorish palace, the Alhambra, with its delightful Generalife gardens, is perfectly situated right next to the beautiful Alpujarra mountains and within easy reach of the beaches of the Costa Tropical.  I’m getting excited already!

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