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Sunday 10 August 2014

I am Woman

I am Woman

In her many forms

I am Woman

Strong, narrow, wide, black, brown, yellow, white

I am Woman

Whether or not you choose to acknowledge in your sight

I am Woman

Hear me, See me

In all my encompassing might

I am Woman

This is My Time

We are Women

This is Our Time, Our Lives, Our Sight, Our Rights


You may have heard on the news that today, Sunday, 10th August coincides with the occurrence of what is termed a 'Super Moon'. It is something that has occurred 3 times this year, which in and of itself is an extraordinary phenomena - to have that many already in the year when normally there are far fewer.

Another thing that is different about this one is that it is 14% closer to the Earth than any of the other ones have been. This is significant on many levels - one of them being that the waves experienced are likely to be higher than normal, rain and thunderstorms are likely to be more frequent and of stronger intensity. The energy and particles activated in the very air we breathe and touch are also likely to be moving at a faster, more intense and stronger rate than they normally do during a full moon. This is in turn affects the cells and energy levels in our body, as we are - in essence - a trillion celled organism which has evolved in order to have our organs, blood, nervous system,bones, muscles and higher system of thinking - our consciousness - work together the way they do. It goes into quantum physics and mechanics, but essentially as a very quick sum up: our cells are made up of lots of protons, neutrons and electrons swirling around and in a way that means the different parts of our bodies can communicate to do all the things we do without even thinking, and have evolved to let us have higher consciousness and thought systems. Our cells generate their own electricity and energy that can, and has been, proven to be measurable. The air we breathe, the trees and flowers we see, the animals and birds and insects all around us, the foundations of the homes we live in, the food we eat and the things we drink are also all made up of lots of protons, neutrons and electrons swirling around and thereby have their own, unique levels of energy and electricity that their systems have evolved - or we have helped to create when we've created them. (E.g. plastic)

So...when we have a moon that is so much closer to our Earth than it normally is, and when it's the 3rd we've had already this year, it creates an extra-ordinary phenomena and means that our bodies, our cells, and all that is around us is activated at a higher rate, frequency and intensity than they normally are.

We may feel ourselves affected in ways that can confuse us. We may be more irritable than normal, we may have arguments about things that perhaps we wouldn't usually, we may feel we have more energy than we normally do. We may also feel more excitement and drive to start or complete projects or unfinished business. We may feel an itch to go out and do *something*, even if we're not quite sure what that 'thing' is. (If you're curious to find out more about lunar cycle phenomena, a fantastic example to look into is crime rates around the world during even a 'normal' full moon: articles here and here)

Understanding our bodies, the unique ways we each work and are affected by things around us, and understanding what external forces may be taking place that can affect how we feel gives us an immense amount of opportunity and empowerment.

If you are someone who feels an increased amount of energy, why not do something with it? Instead of perhaps feeling fidgety, or even uncomfortable with the higher rate of energy in your body, why not take the opportunity to start or finish something you've been putting off? Or perhaps been thinking about and not started because it wasn't the right time, or any other reason it was put aside? Maybe it's a new kind of exercise, or a room that you'd like to shape into something special, or a task that keeps being put to the bottom of your list but you know ought to be done. With the increase in vibrational frequency that something like a supermoon offers, this is a fantastic time to get going!

If you'd like some inspiration, a brilliant place to look is this incredible programme and Free Giveaway, called Inspired Living. Full disclosure, I am a contributor in the programme, and absolutely, fully, intensely believe in it - it has been a huge part of amazing changes I've made in my own life and has helped lead to what I'm doing now. (My next blog post will share more of how)

If you find yourself feeling irritable or tempers are flying, take a step back and ask yourself if what you're feeling flared up over is truly worth that amount of focus and effort. If it isn't, give yourself a break - take a deep breath before you next speak, or let the person you're speaking to know you are going to go for a walk; you can speak again when you've returned. If someone is being unusually irritable with you, ask them if perhaps they're feeling more ratty than they normally would. Suggest to them that you both take a 10 minute break, and then come back to speak again.

The adage that in order to create wondrous change on the outside, we first need to change what is on the inside is something I absolutely believe. Further, there is a saying that charity begins at home. Meaning, if we wish to enact or effect beauty and empowering change further afield, we can start with what surrounds us and with ourselves.

So, what will YOU do and what amazing doorways and windows will you open? Now is our time. Let's do it!

Sunday 20 July 2014

Donald Dee

Grandpa Don was an amazing person, and an amazing grandfather. He was a man with incredible gifts - he was a commercial artist, whose drawings are in the Smithsonian Museum. He was a skilled craftsman, and made a canoe with my uncles when they were teens. He built a pool table that was the source of many pool games, teaching sessions on how to properly hold a pool stick, the importance of using chalk (but not *too* much) and when to use a cue. He collected old cars that he then did up, and rebuilt so that they ran well enough for not only the parades he sometimes drove them in - and I was lucky enough to be in with him when I was 10 - but perhaps even better than they originally did. A soldier based in London during WW2, he also served as (then General) Eisenhower's chauffeur and was given entrance to many USO parties and events. He indulged my questions, my love of going through his old photo albums each time I went to see him and Grandma Judy for my birthday treat weekend at their house, my love of playing 'phone' with the old 1940's version telephone box (inside of which held a modern telephone they used) again, and again, and again, and...

I looked up to my grandpa, and loved him, so much.

Grandpa passed away when I was 19, due in part to a misdiagnosis which meant that by the time the correct diagnosis was given by doctors, his illness was too far gone. In the end, Grandpa had a moment of lucidity, in which he told my grandma and the doctors that he wanted to go home. And they felt that he knew and was in a correct mind in that moment to know what it meant.

Grandpa went home, and a bed was set near their kitchen and glass doors that led to their garden. So he could see it and feel the sunshine and breeze.

We all got to visit him in those remaining few weeks. Each of us had the opportunity to see him, to speak with him even when he couldn't respond, and we were able to hug him and hold his hand. He had dignity, respect and the comfort of being in his own home, with nurses from hospice that visited daily and who helped provide support for my grandma and the rest of us. In his last days, we got the call that if we wanted to visit again, we should do so now. We each got to have a last conversation, a last moment, a last hug, kiss on his cheek, and chance to tell him we loved him. When one of my sisters had her moment with Grandpa, she said his eyelids fluttered and she thinks he heard her, and that he understood.

I will always love and always miss my Grandpa. The memories, moments, and legacy he created and shared in his life touched so many, and not just our family. But it wasn't always that way. Part of why I admire my Grandpa, so much, is that he started out in some respects very differently to how he later lived his life.

He was unhappy. He wasn't happy with how his life was, his marriage, the roles and responsibilities he'd been living. He knew there was something else, he knew there was something missing. But perhaps he didn't have the courage, perhaps he didn't have the inspiration, perhaps he just wasn't ready to make a change.

He did something difficult, and something that he knew would affect everyone. He did it for love.

He met my Grandma J, and they fell in love. He left Grandma B and in so doing, he found his courage, he found his spirit, he found love and he found more of himself. He changed. Other things happened in each of their lives, and over time, his children learned to make their peace with him - with what had happened, why it had happened, and what it meant now.

As Grandpa grew older, he kept sharing his gifts, his vision and his light. He made two paintings for me (one of 'baby Jesus' when I was 7, another of angels when I was 10 - one with a lopsided halo that I've always loved), a sled and high chair for my younger sister, a beautiful gazebo for the front entrance of the church he and my Grandma J attended, and he volunteered for the children's class and nursery. He was a Grandpa for so many, and during his memorial service, the children's choir sang a song for him. During the service, they also played Louis Armstrong's 'Wonderful World' - a beautiful tribute that encapsulated so much about Grandpa, his love of jazz and music - another thing I know has been passed on to us all - and his wonder and care about the world. His story became a part of my family's story, a part of what is possible. Of what is achievable - for each of us, in our own individual ways. What can be shared, what gifts and lights we each have - and can be part of what lights and inspires those around us, too. He was a man that I looked up to and admired, and as a child - seemed to do no wrong. He was also a man who made mistakes, who had difficult times, who learned how to work through them and face up to his own self - his own fears - to create something amazing at the end.

They say that there comes a point where each of us needs to come home. I believe that's not just a metaphor, but can be a real truth. When I think about the story of my family, I think about our journeys, our lives, our visions and our own needs. We are individuals, but we are also connected. We are a part of each others' lives, of each others' dreams and each others' fears. We can share our stories, our truths, our gifts and talents, our dreams for the world and for ourselves. It is up to us. We may have to face up to things that scare something within us. But in so doing, in sharing pieces of ourselves, we can find out that we're not alone. It's not just us. We can find connections and we can understand.

I'm currently working on a project that means I am based at the client site during the days. It fits the need for what their project entails, and also means that I can be well placed to create the graphics artwork and copy writing using their internal systems. Being on site also means I am getting to know others on the team more, and learning more of who they each are.

It's amazing the power in connecting, in talking, in realising that you have so many experiences, truths, and beliefs in common with others. It's also incredible when you find it in perhaps some of the least likely places. (I think the universe is good at doing that for us at times :) ) As each day on the project is passing, I am realising more and more that so many of us share similar needs and similar hopes - to create our lives and our work in the best vision possible, for us, to follow our dreams and do what we've always wanted to do. I can see shifts for two colleagues, in particular, in recent conversations when they've asked what I do with Shape Our World, what my vision is and what I'd like to achieve. When I explain my background, when I talk about the frustrations and difficulties and coming to a point where I just *knew* I need to change my work in order to help change my life, it's like a light bulb comes on. It's really struck me, as I hadn't even known that these people are considering their own lives, their own work, their own directions as well. I also find it interesting that all I've done is answered their questions, and through my answers, something within them is seeming to come alive. Perhaps something within them is realising they're understood, that they're not alone.

Each of us has our story, has our vision, has our truth. We each have our own journey, our own dreams and our own hopes for our work and our lives. None of us is alone, even if it may feel that way, even if we may feel like there's just no other way. There always is, there always can be. We just need to be brave enough to take action and to listen to our heart.

Sunday 13 July 2014

This is the Season of the Witch

Sorceress, alchemist, wanderer, shaman, healer, new age hippie talk...Witch.

I'm going to touch on something a bit different here, because I think there are a lot of us that may be scared of words like these, while at the same time perhaps feeling intrigued. And the fear can be without necessarily realising what we're actually afraid of. (I absolutely count myself in this, and I'm still learning to better identify and face the reality underneath fears and the stories I've learned to tell myself in this lifetime - but it feels important to touch on this and write in this blog post on it now)

It would be dishonest of me to say I have never felt afraid. That I haven't been afraid when I heard words like those, and felt an unease - whether because of movies, of tall tales, what the church I went to told me, or through my own inner fears. It was only as I got older that I realised that what I was actually afraid of had nothing to do with the reality of what these words, and the people behind the words, truly represent.

When I was a little girl, I used to love to explore. The house I grew up in had a beautiful field behind it, with tall grasses, flowers, a babbling creek and trees that ran alongside it. I loved to be outside. I loved to sit in the field, with the tall grasses going over my head, hiding and playing in the protective branches of the trees and their leaves.

I would imagine that I was an intrepid explorer, forging new paths. Or that I was a princess in a King Arthur story. Or that I could fly and float to new lands.

I loved to daydream, and to picture and transport myself to other places. And I did. I felt cold on otherwise warm days, I felt comfort in the leaves of the trees and felt my body floating and carried softly in the breeze. I felt peace with the birds, the insects (except spiders - they scared me), our family dog Missy and in the green. I could feel something talking to me, if I was just quiet enough to listen, and I spoke to them and knew they understood, too.

When I grew older, I told myself that what I had done as a child was just make believe and not real. I told myself that I could not have actually transported myself, that I could not have felt the things I felt. I couldn't actually have made things change.

It wasn't until much later, that I realised - and felt brave enough I could admit - what actually scared me. That the idea of having such power within you, the idea of truly making your daydreams come true...that was what scared me. Looking on it now, I know I was bringing my imagination and therefore energetic state to a point where I could physiologically induce feeling cold. I could breathe deeply enough and quickly enough that I could make myself feel like I was floating. When I heard the birds and the flowers and trees speaking, I was speaking to myself. I was learning to hear my inner voice, and what my instincts and subconscious wanted to tell me - how to start empowering myself, my life and to start creating my dreams. And that is what words like shaman, healer, sorcerer, sorceress and witch meant to me. Powerful figures, powerful strength they held and could wield, to make their lives their own. It frightened me. It was the unknown, it was too big, too scary, too...real. It was easier to stay within what my life later taught me to know. To stay and believe that life is what happens to you. Whether in life or in business, that you have no choice, that there's nothing you can personally do - to change things, to expand and grow. It was easier to tell myself that what I'd created as a child wasn't real.

I learned to be skeptical, to discount my own thoughts and feelings in favour of what was accepted by the mainstream - at least to the wider world, even if it's not what I tried to share with those I felt closest to. Gradually, I learned to be afraid to say anything even to those closest to me in the world.

It's not that I stopped believing altogether, but the part of me that believed in those things I experienced, that believed in my own power, that believed that what I felt was real...that part grew sick, began to wither and started slowly to die.

There's a book called The Biology of Belief, written by Dr Bruce Lipton, PhD, that instantly appealed to me - even if I couldn't yet fully understand why. (You can also get his book on amazon, but I like to link to the author's website wherever I can) The book was lent to me by a dear friend, and I can honestly say it was a crucial step in bringing some of what I've long felt - that our mind/body and self are intrinsically aligned with science and medicine. In the book, Dr Lipton explains the field of medicine he works in, epigenetics, and the ways in which our cells take in stimuli - events, emotions, visual and audio information, thoughts and our experiences - and how our cells can literally re-form themselves according to how we choose to react to all that we are taking in. He deals with genetic conditions, illnesses either specific to us and/or that onset later in life, as well as how the ways in which we personally take in, hold, and choose to believe in and place meaning on things affect our physical form. Now, I've read a few things about Dr Lipton in researching for this article, and it feels like more of the 'be ruthless and fear that which you don't understand' type of mentality. As already said, I get it if you feel skeptical- I've been there, too...but I hope you'll read on, and then decide what you ultimately feel.

From 2008-2012, I worked for a prestigious, well respected mental health charity - a third sector think tank, who do research in mental health within employment and criminal justice, and make recommendations to government for policy and to government health organisations, based upon the results of their research. They also do mental health awareness training for managers. The charity has been going since the early 1980's and is incredibly influential and has been a part of major initiatives and the ways in which many of those in the UK are treated and/or receive care for their mental health issues. Perhaps partly because of its prestige, there are many highly placed people who either work directly at the charity or are aligned with it in ways. One of those who works for the charity is a man who once worked for the Department of Treasury. An economics guy, a budget guy - the one who takes research and policies and finds out how much money it will cost or save any given government if they choose to enact the policy and programme change. He's quite dry, blunt and doesn't beat around the bush.

I will always remember one lunchtime meeting we had, when a project had been presented and it was time for the rest of us to ask questions. He related the project to work he and another colleague had recently started, evaluating how a major NHS hospital in the midlands was doing with a new public health initiative. Instead of treating new patients to the hospital for their physical illnesses, and waiting for 'healthy' results before even considering any underlying or mental health issues, this hospital was doing something that is still revolutionary. When patients presented with physical health issues, as a part of the first triage conversation they had with the nurse, they were automatically asked about their mental health at the same time. How was their family? Their work? Their marriage or dating relationship? Were they close to family? Or was family far away? Did they have any worries? Did they live alone, or with others? Did they have hobbies, or things they enjoyed doing?

Considering a patient as whole - in any way like this - just hadn't been done before, not as a matter of course. Not as a publicly sanctioned way of running a health system. Certainly not in a country where in the workplace, 6/8 people will have experienced or known someone with a mental health issue - but don't talk about it. Certainly not when 3/4 people have a mental health issue themselves at any given time in their lives - but don't talk about it. And where the frequency of people who actually talk about something so many of us face, or encounter, is still so rare and so looked down upon. So what he said at our lunchtime meeting not only impressed me, but made me think in a way I had begun to forget. 'This insistence in treating people who present with more than one condition as if those conditions belong to more than one person is ludicrous. They are all connected, they are felt by one person, they are all symptoms of something happening within one body. To treat them as if they are somehow disconnected, as if they somehow aren't in touch with the person who is experiencing them...that is madness. That needs to change.'

I was taken aback, even working in a mental health charity...by his forthrightness, his conviction, by his bare, honest, stark truth. (I think we all were, a bit, judging by the meeting chair's reaction afterward in making slight light and moving swiftly on) But his comments...they were right. They touched something, something real. Something I'd been letting myself forget. Been letting myself be influenced by others in how I viewed them. And I realised that I was at the start of something. At the start of an important part of my own journey. My own truth, my own body, my own understanding of energy, emotions, physical health and happiness. And of what we can do to empower ourselves, to make change and to truly change our lives and our society for the better.

Towards the end of 2011 and beginning of 2012, I began experiencing my own difficulties. It was a mix of personal things, work stress and the inner knowing that I wasn't happy. I wasn't living my life as I wanted to be. I wasn't being fully present, fully me. I wasn't making my dreams come true. I am so blessed and forever grateful that I had a doctor who believed in me. Who did ask questions about how I was, how I was feeling, just as I came in with my physical health symptoms. I realised I felt stuck, I felt disempowered, I felt overwhelmed and like there was no way I could change things. That life was happening to me, and I had no way out. I ended up being signed off work due to stress, and though it was hard for me to let him give me that kindness, it will always mean the world to me that he did. Because that was the start of a new phase, a new evolution, a new me. I ended up never going back to the workplace, and though it was frightening and I didn't know at the time exactly what I would do, it opened a doorway I could not have envisaged with where I was before in my mindset for not only work, but life as a whole.

There is a doctor I've recently found out about, due to a series of beautiful and amazing interviews by Jonathan Fields as a part of his Good Life Project. Her name is Dr Lissa Rankin, and the interview is here. Dr Rankin is based in the US, and through her practice, and her own work and inner questioning, has completely transformed not only her own life and health, but how she can help others, too. Another thing that makes Dr Rankin fascinating to me, is that she comes from very much the establishment. She works in and has been formed by the mainstream medical system in the US. Whereas Dr Lipton has had a bit of freedom with being in academia, Dr Rankin has spent her training and years as a practicing doctor entrenched in the pharmaceutical/medical company world. And yet, Dr Rankin has used her scientific background, her belief in the scientific method to help take further steps in proving what so many remain skeptical of. The power of the mind and how it absolutely can help shape our health, our cells and as a result, our lives. (There's also a TED talk here, and you can get her book here - again, she's also on amazon, but I'm linking direct to her website so she gets all the thanks your money pays :) ) I also like that she, like myself, does not advocate having no medical treatment whatsoever. There is a place and a need for healers, conventional or 'alternative', for all of us and for various points in our lives. What she is saying, though, is that there is something powerful here to look at and make sure we consider - just as we would anything else. It's not 'just' the placebo effect, it's not something to scoff at, it's not something to laugh at. This is true. With more and more research being done all the time, and as our understanding of our bodies, health and lives grow, more and more of us can learn to shape not just our lives, but our world as well. Things like EMDR and hypnosis are just two of many therapies that are becoming more mainstream than they once were. People are realising that there is something in this. That when you look at the whole person - body/spirit/mind - that is when you can achieve true and lasting positive change. When we stop being afraid of what we don't fully understand, that is when we can fully embrace our own strengths, our own power and our fullest selves. (This is where I can get into the butterfly effect, but I'll leave that for another post :))

Just because something has always been, doesn't mean that is a reason why it should keep being. See this fascinating look at the reason why circumcision has continued in the US, when it's not in other countries in the world for another example of acceptance of tradition, and when we forget why something began. (If you would like more insights into the pharmaceutical industry and its influence in medicine you can look here and here - but that is an entire blog post on its own) These truths have application not just for our physical health and personal lives, but for our business, our careers, and for the way we view and live in our worlds.

We are amazing creatures, human beings. We have evolved in such incredible ways and we can be the power that we wish for, we can make our dreams come true, we can help in making ourselves healthier, we can be the changes we wish to see. So you, you reading this now - what will you do? What are 3 things you can do this week to help make your world a happier place? Is there a situation in your workplace that you wish was different or could be better? Is there an idea you've been feeling stuck on, or afraid to give voice to? Is there something you've always wanted to try, and you find you keep thinking about, but can't seem to make the next step to make it happen? This is our time. Right now. Believe in yourself, believe in your own power, believe in your dreams. You have got this!

Sunday 6 July 2014

My Independence Day

4th of July. Independence Day.

It's a date forever etched into the heart and mind of so many of us - almost irregardless of whether we are from the US. Through movies, songs and fireworks photos that feature the US flag, the 4th of July and what it can symbolise in the USA is virtually impossible to misunderstand.

For me, it holds memories of hot dogs, baked beans, potato salad and the smells of barbecue. It brings sunshine, dogs happily barking as they play, children laughing and riding my bicycle around-and-around-and-around-and-around...the road next to our house, where the street stopped as it led to a park, our elementary school and the field with its creek running through. It brings the time I climbed on the roof of our house with my dad, as my mom worried and told him to be careful - my excitement at seeing things from so high, seeing so far, and having the courage and faith that we wouldn't fall. It brings safety, happiness and belonging. Knowing I was a part of something, and that our country was built on courage, belief and faith of all those so long ago. Of knowing that I was part of a place, a country and a belief that if you worked hard enough, if you set your sights and believed in yourself, anything was possible. That anything is possible.

It doesn't take into account all those who were hurt, taken advantage of and who's own liberty was lost in the pursuit of those finding their own. It doesn't mean that there aren't things the founding fathers, as they're known, couldn't have done differently if they had thought differently, thought more independently themselves - of the time and the place from which they came. It doesn't mean that the country they created doesn't still have things to learn, ways it can grow, and things that it can get better every day. Independence Day is also about the acknowledgement that things can be better - should be better - from this moment onward, in whatever way or ways it can be.

For me, the 4th of July also brings with it a message of standing up for, and creating, your own independence. For your own truth, your own needs, your own dreams. It means creating the world you want to believe in, that you want to live in, that you know is possible - not just for you, but for your friends, your family and your loved ones. For those who will become those you know, care about and love. It means having faith and courage, that your dreams can be made, that your beliefs can be true, that when we reach out and when we care about each other, whatever we hold important can become real.

There's a lesson in this, though, and one that shouldn't be forgotten, I feel. And that is that when you wish to create, when you wish to bring in something new, it's important to also be done and to leave that which you no longer need. It's a basic tenet that I imagine many of you have heard before, in varying ways - that in order to bring anything new into your wardrobe, you need to make space by releasing the things you do not need. If there was ever a lesson that has proved valuable, and dear in my life, that is one of them. It's a bit like having a wound, filling it with toxicity, and expecting it to heal. It's the definition of insanity, in doing the same thing over and over, but expecting different results to magically come clear. Simple logic, the law of action-equal and opposite reaction - result, and sheer common sense will prove to you otherwise. Whatever we put out, is what we get back. Some would say times three. You may call it karma, you may call it the golden rule, you may call it self fulfilling prophecy - but if we want change, if we want to be brave, if we want to make things miraculous in our lives, we need to change the way we do things. We need to change our attitudes (yes, the glass half full or half empty comes in here) and we need to change some possible expectations. We need to look at what things, experiences or memories we may be holding onto for fear of anything else. We need to be real, honest, and brave - with ourselves, before we can expect to be with anyone else. We need to let go, we need to shed our snake skin, we need to stop letting ourselves be gripped by fear of what might happen, rather than the true and valid circumstances of where we are now. Of who we are now.

It's not an easy thing to do, I know. The times I've spent staring at my closet - real or imagined - and almost paralysed by indecision...well, if I had a buck for every time, I'd certainly be a millionaire by now. And it may feel trite, it may feel cliche, but it's not - when all is said and done. When we've been brave, looked deep into that mirror, and seen ourselves taking that old shirt, putting it into the bag and taken it to the charity store or (especially if it has lots of holes in it) thrown it away. The hardest step can be that first one, and then once we have done it, it's in the flow. It can become a part of the process, and so freeing to do. The lightness we allow ourselves, the release from the burden of emotions, memories, and energy we've tied ourselves to can be majestic. Because in that moment of flight, in that freedom from the shackles of things we no longer need, we give ourselves the possibility to dream. We give ourselves the possibility to believe. We give ourselves the possibility to feel...to feel the happiness, the accomplishment, the satisfaction and knowledge that we've done it. We did it. We can do it again. And next time, with the next thing, it'll be that much less scary, that much less worrying, that much less an unknown.

Something I've mentioned once before here is that, last autumn, I was diagnosed with lymphedema. For me, they think it may be genetic, but they're not entirely sure. I have all the classic symptoms, but it's an area that is still quite new in medical knowledge terms, and when it comes to treatments and what to do to help those who have. I also don't meet the usual criteria in those who have lymphedema later in life, as I've never had cancer, eat generally well and moderately exercise. So it's all a bit new to me, and it's all a bit of a change.

Something I've realised, though, is that having a sickness - any sickness - is also not a complete unknown for me. From the time I was a baby, it sometimes feels like I've always been sick. Colic, strep throat, ear infections, colds, fevers, issues with my circulation, with my knees, with pain in my shoulders and back - for so many years, that was my life. That was my ever present condition. That was my fear. But it was also my comfort.

It's what I knew. It is what was familiar. It brought a sense of identity, of comfort and sympathy, it made me feel worthy, it brought me others' love, attention and care. It made me feel safe, and protected. As long as I was sick, no one and nothing could hurt me, or make me feel scared.

It's a weird way to look at sickness, I know, but it's also how my brain developed at a certain point in my life, and what was reinforced through later experiences and the memories and emotions I attached to them. So when I was diagnosed last autumn, I felt a bit of fear, but I also felt a huge amount of comfort and relief. Something was wrong, I wasn't imagining it, I wasn't crazy and it wasn't just me. Science and medical tests bore it out. What I didn't think about, and what didn't occur to me, though, was that I was also repeating something in my life. Something that had brought me comfort, just as much as it brought me any pain. It brought me safety, to be able to continue my story. To be able to be the sick girl, the one who needs safety and care, the one who should be made worthy because of facing her physical fear.

But that's not a story I choose to continue. It's not a tale I need to live on. It's not my Independence Day, it's not the legacy I want to leave.

So I am changing my story, I am facing my fears. I currently still have lymphedema, but it is not what makes me worth care. It is not what makes me valued, it is not what makes me admired, or supported or loved. It is not what makes me brave, or courageous or have faith in my dares. I am brave. I am strong. I am worthy, loved and cared for. I care about the world, and have so many gifts, talents and a light to share. I love those in my life, just as I love myself every day.

This is my Independence Day. This is what it now means. To me, to those I tell my story to, and to the future ahead. I am loved, I am worthy, I am valuable in this world. Just as you are, sitting and reading there.

So let's do it. Let's shape our worlds. Let's change how things have been, and let's make our dreams and visions become realities. Let's follow our ideas, and let's make this thing happen. Let's do what we can, what's important, what lights us up and what we know can make our lives, our business and our world a magnificent, beautiful, happy place - for all of us.

Sunday 22 June 2014

Shaping Our World - One Tip at a Time :)

Beat those Meeting Blues

Monday 9 June 2014

It's the way you say it, yo!

Speak. Communicate. Whisper, shout. Parler. Hablar. (insert 'sign') (insert 'mime')

However we do it, however we fashion it, whatever mode of taking your thoughts and ideas and passing it onto anyone else that you prefer...communication is a vital and crucial part of what makes us, US.

Human beings are an immensely evolved set of cells, nerves, blood, bones and quantum physical reactions all working together to make each of us the unique, funny, intelligent, caring, and amazing people we are. We are also social and familial creatures who evolved a set of sounds, signals, mannerisms, social and behavioural codes and mores in order to figure out who we can trust in our tribes and who we CAN'T.

It's a set of signals and messages we humans have developed to help us figure out - who is a friend, who is family, who would be good on our team, who to avoid. (And so on, obviously the list isn't exhaustive or we'd both be here all day ;))

Along with things like body movements, the way we might move our hands (or not) when we speak, and social codes of what is an OK way to speak to someone and what isn't, the WORDS and the TONE we use is an absolutely crucial and key part of how we learn to trust each other, how we fit in each others' lives, and how WE behave in the world. What do I mean by tone? I mean - how loud or soft do you speak? Do others have to strain their ears to hear you? Do others hold the phone away from their ears when you talk? What area of the world are you from, and therefore, what's your accent? (We all have one...) Are you younger, older, are you female or male, do you tend to use language that's a bit more complex and may need to be looked up in a dictionary, or do you tend to speak in a more everyman type of way?

Our personality, our gender, our age, where we were born and grew up in the world, what our family is like and who our friends are can all affect the way you speak and what you hear when others speak to you.

It's something I've always known to an extent, but which really clicked once I moved abroad. I moved to the UK when I was 23, and it was my first lesson in how different my way of speaking, and interpreting the messages I heard, were from those who hadn't been born in the US, weren't female, didn't have my family or the friends I'd had. It may seem a bit obvious, and I would have thought so before, too. But sometimes until you've actually been in a situation where you find yourself away from all you've previously known, it can be hard to comprehend just how big the divide can be. (*cue jokes about 'fanny packs', 'stuffed', how to pronounce 'Leicester', 'Worcestershire', 'Edinburgh' or 'Birmingham', and even regional/class differences such as 'quid', 'dosh' and 'cash')

My partner (AKA Lovely Man) is French, and if I thought there were language and culture differences before, oh boy...I had NO idea.

The words we choose, the ways we say them (our tone), and our body mannerisms and behaviour as we're speaking can all affect the way our messages are heard, seen and perceived. And it is actually not that much an exaggeration to say it can also sometimes be the difference between, 'Gosh, that annoyed me a bit' and 'I am so angry!! I spit on and curse the name and memory of your mother, father, siblings, uncles, aunts, and anyone who might not yet be born!' (Truth. Luckily a lesson I learned not through my own experience, but someone who'd moved to the UK a few months before I did)

I'm sure we've all been there, and had those moments of wishing we'd taken a few more minutes to think before the words left our mouths. And we've all had those moments where we've apologised and done what we could to make things right again.

As in life, in business, getting your message and your tone right is what can be the key to getting that client to hire you after an email or a face-to-face meeting, it can be what makes a producer decide to put you on a radio programme, it can be what makes a reader decide to finish your article are reading the first few lines - or get that article printed in the first place. It can be what makes someone decide to buy your product after seeing your advertisement online or on a poster. It can be what makes someone come to your event and want to donate to your charity or cause. It can be what makes your team feel enthusiastic and want to support your new process or new marketing and branding approach. It can be what gets those social media campaigns new supporters to your cause. It can be what helps you to create the life and business that you always dreamed of and would love to have.

So, great theory...how do I make it HAPPEN?? (You might be thinking...)

Well, I totally get you, and I hear you. I'm glad you asked! : )

1. In a quiet, and uninterrupted space, take at least 5 minutes - more if you can - to think about what you want to say. Do this for all the steps that follow. (More is OK or a bit less is OK, too - 5 minutes tends to be at least a good starting point to give your mind and your thoughts a bit of space to start focusing and getting their wheels turning)

  • Be VERY clear and VERY specific.
  • WHY do you want to say anything, in the first place? Why is it important? Why is it important to YOU? What do you want your message to be able to express? How will that help you? And who do you want to speak TO? What do you want THEM to get and to feel when they hear, read, see what you have to say?
  • Write down whatever comes to your mind, and don't worry about what comes to you. It's all there for a reason, and you need to know the WHY before you can figure out the HOW.

2. Once you've got your list, next you'll start making connections.

  • If it helps, start drawing lines between what words go together for you. For instance, you might draw a line between something like 'Profit' and 'Customers', or 'Team' and 'Support', or '(Your Cause/Campaign Name)' and 'Media Interest'.
  • Feel free to make this as colourful (or not colourful) as you like, too. Everyone has a different way of working, and of learning, and so you need to do what's right for you. As as it makes sense when you're reading it, and you can explain any concepts or themes to others when needed, that's all that's important.

3. With your connections made, start looking at how they fit together and begin to prioritise them.

  • What is the most important thing to do FIRST? And what's second, then third, then...?
  • Make your list, and then decide what your targets are.

Is there anything that you'd need to do sooner because it relates to something else that has been planned for further in the future? Is there something that would be good to do, but isn't as necessary to do in any particular order?

Is there something that you'll need to have someone help you with? (So you'd need to find that person to help before you can do it? But maybe that thing is really important, so finding someone to do it should take a higher and earlier priority?)

4. Now that you've prioritised them, look at whether you have the capacity to do it all yourself, or if you'll need anyone to help you?

  • Be REALISTIC. There is no sense overloading yourself and spreading your energy too thinly. You need to be able to get things done without feeling frazzled. Being frazzled will lead to you being unfocused, and not working as effectively, efficiently, or as beautifully as you could have done if you'd given yourself the chance. (And make sure you give yourself time to eat and sleep at least 8 hours a day - if that's your optimal amount of sleep to not be fuzzy headed and less than your top self - YOU are your most valuable and important resource...treat yourself with respect and treat yourself well, you deserve it!)
  • If you don't have the time or capacity to do something on your own, start looking for where you can get help from and still meet your target deadlines. This can be friends, co-workers, former colleagues, or others that you hire as external and freelance help. If you want freelance help but are worried about the budget, go to your local city, town or area's website. Chances are they'll have a list or organisations with volunteers that would love to help you and love to have experience that they can then put on their resume/CV. Not only will it look good for THEM with future employers, but it can be an enriching and valuable experience in helping to build their confidence and expand on the skills they already have. YOU feel good, THEY feel good - it's a win-win. :)

5. You've got your message, you've got your team, you've got your timelines, and you've got your strategy.

Now go out there and MAKE YOUR DREAMS HAPPEN! : ) (And I'll be cheering for you all the way!)


If you liked this, please feel free to 'like' it and share it with your friends. And if you'd like more tips like these, please feel free to go to www.shapeourworld.eu and sign up for my mailing list, along with your chance to be the first to know of special offers, programmes, free gifts and insights that I will only share in email.


**UNTIL 20th June 2014 ONLY!!!

Are You Ready To Shape Your World??

Have you always wanted to send and share with the world your incredible ideas, your dreams, your fundraising needs, your amazing campaigning vision, your TRUTH? Is there something you've been thinking about, that would make such a huge difference for others and not known what to do in order to get those vital funds in to make it happen? Do you have a beautiful campaign and cause, but aren't sure how to build those all important media relationships or how to get a social/online community off the ground so others not only also know, but can support you and help your amazing work grow? Are you thinking of starting your own charity or non profit, but aren't sure if it's for you? (Or who to even ask about it, if it IS for you?) Do you have ideas for brilliant publicity stunts, but aren't sure how to make sure others know about it, too? Do you wish you knew where to look for venues, festivals, and other community events to speak about your campaign, your cause and your vision - so needed in this world? Do you wish you could talk to someone who's successfully learned how and who has done ALL those things, and more??

  • For a VERY limited time I am offering a reduced rate of £30/pp for the course, and to a limited group in order to ensure the learning experience is the best and most powerful it can be. (this is also a huge reduction of its full value price) This offer is only valid until 20th June! If you'd like more details, you can find more here: https://tinyurl.com/OneAngelAtATime

The 6-week course includes 7 guided meditations, templates I have personally developed and have been part of my own success, my own artwork and exercises throughout the course - to help guide and show you how to put your incredible dreams into action. I also know how valuable feedback sessions can be - for any questions you have along the way, to help point you in the right direction, and to give you time for that one on one experience with me as your cheerleader and guide. So I am also giving you exclusive one-to-one sessions with me, at times and days that are most convenient for you - by Skype, email, or in person if possible.

These extra sessions are not an obligation, as I know how busy we can be - so you can just let me know if you'd like to have them, and if so, when. However, I am SO committed to you, and to giving as much of myself as I can to help you and to assist in this incredible Changing the World e-course experience being the most full, and life-changing, one it can be. And so I wanted to ensure that the course not only is one I can truly stand behind, believe in and know in my heart of hearts that it WILL help you, but I also wanted to make sure I am there to help you - as much as I can - every step of the way.

I believe in you, I know how powerful it is when you take a chance and take a step towards what you've always wanted to do. Be brave! Have faith in YOU! Don't lose out!

Buy the Changing the World: One Angel at a Time e-course by 20th June before the remaining spaces are taken! https://tinyurl.com/OneAngelAtATime


**Email me on contact@shapeourworld.eu with any questions - I am SO grateful for your time and can't wait to hear from you!**

Monday 2 June 2014

Confessions of a Life Long Writer (Almost)

I remember the first time I wrote.

I was 4 years old, on a car trip with my parents and 2 of my sisters (I am the 4th of 5 daughters). My mom bought me and my older sister our own diaries for the long journey, to keep us occupied and amused. They were little, small, and mine had a young girl on the cover - in silhouette, wearing a Laura Ingalls Wilder type of outfit. I was already obsessed with Little House on the Prairie and its iconic opening scene, which my sisters and I would at times attempt to recreate in the field behind our home. (I was always Laura)

So it was not only special to me that my mom gave us each a diary, all our own and to write down our own private, special thoughts, but it had a girl dressed like Laura, too.

And already at 4 years old, I wanted to be a writer like she was.

Thus began what remains my love of words. Of writing. (And reading) My love of the power of books, articles, plays and films - words and stories, in all its forms - to transform. To inspire. To empower. To strengthen. To connect. To show me that I was not, and am not, alone in this world. In how I think. In what I enjoy. In what captivates me, enthralls me and encourages me to follow my own thoughts and dreams.

Words, for me, have always held a significant amount of power. But with that, there has also been a significant amount of risk.

For just as I have always found refuge in the power of words, and in the empowerment it has given me - to express things otherwise difficult, to infuse with enthusiasm and excitement when others had gotten bored and moved on, to share my secrets, desires and wishes for not only me but also the world around me - words can also bring risk. They can bring pain, they can bring sadness, they can bring fear, they can bring loss, they can bring darkest despair.

Because, for me, words were always tinged and inextricably intertwined with the messenger.

The same words can have such different effect, depending on the tone of voice, the context, who is the speaker, when and where they are being said. They can also have different feelings when in the written form, depending on who is the messenger, who is the reader, and how either of them is feeling as they express or take in the words chosen to communicate deep, real, meaningful expressions.

Just as I loved the escape, the refuge and the ability to communicate when I otherwise felt unable that words provided, I knew that they could also hurt me in ways that I feared the most.

But there was something that I, as a young girl and teenager, didn't realise and wasn't strong enough within myself to comprehend.

That power I gave to words was misplaced. Misaligned. Misunderstood.

For it is the energy and belief *behind* the words that is its true source of power. It is the person who communicates that infuses their speech and written tome with negativity or positivity. It is the reader or listener who decides what energy to take in from what they hear and see. It is the exchange of both that determine what *true* power a word can hold, or should hold, or will hold.

And that, to me, is the *real* power. That is the true source of strength, of wisdom, of inspiration and deep inner soul *knowing*. The ability to know. To know what words to use, what words to leave out, what is meaningful, what is important, what possesses true clarity - versus what are words said without meaning, without truth, without the deep force of inner knowing. That, to me, is where real power comes from. It is in the speaker and the receiver, and what energy they *choose* to give the words chosen. And not the other way around. __ Each of us shapes our world, every day and in so many ways. At times without even realising. It is a level of consciousness that, in the hustle and bustle of every day life, can sometimes get lost in the rush. But it needn't be. __

What are the words *you* choose? Are there times you use certain words over others? Are there times where you find yourself wishing you could take back what you expressed? Are there times when your joy and excitement lights a room with beauty? And how does the way you communicate make you *feel*? Are there times where you find yourself at a loss for that best slogan, speech, or email to a colleague? Have you surprised yourself with how eloquently you've communicated when you let go of self doubt and instead follow your joy? Do you perhaps write in anger, or in fear, or in worry of what the other person could possibly be thinking?

And what about being the receiver of messages communicated in anger, fear, excitement, joy, elation, distrust or frustration? How do you feel?

This ability to listen and to communicate clearly may feel far away, but it is also something that I truly believe we can all learn. And when we take that learning into our every day lives, the paths for immense and incredible steps in all that we do can be created.

So the next time you find yourself at a loss for words, or imbalance as a listener, here are a few things you can do:

1. Check in with yourself and be *very* honest about how you're feeling, in that moment.

Are you distracted? Are you frustrated or upset? Are you feeling fear or worry?

If it is any of those things, you may not be receiving the message or communicating the message in the way you mean to. It is very easy to let our emotions override what the words are actually saying. So first, check in with *you*.

2. If you're confused by someone's reaction upon hearing you, or by what someone has said, ask them if you understood them correctly.

Then repeat back what you think they meant, and specifically ask if you've got it right. If you haven't, ask them to explain again and repeat the process until you are both on the same page.

3. If you're having trouble finding the words for a slogan, project, important email or media campaign, sleep on it.

If possible, write a first draft or an outline, and then allow yourself to sleep before pressing 'send'.

The body's ability to process and gain clarity as we sleep is a remarkable evolutionary step, and an incredibly easy way to let our subconscious process any doubts or strategy thinking it may need to do before we take action. How many times have you woken up, either feeling even more assured that you're on the right track or perhaps that, actually, you should try an alternative method instead? More than you can count, I'm guessing. Well, me, too. Sleep, it's not just good for something to make kids do in kindergarten or to give parents a bit of a break from rambunctious toddlers.

4. Make notes on how you feel.

If you're not sure how to proceed with something to even be able to do an outline or a first draft, or you've slept on it and you're still confused, write down whatever comes to your mind.

It's a process sometimes referred to as 'free association' and it's about getting *whatever* you feel, whatever you think of down on paper. And once you get it down, you can begin to see connections. Perhaps two ideas that you wouldn't have put together, but once you look at them in written form, you begin to see how they could work together to progress your goal. Perhaps you look at your sheet of paper and you realise that you're losing sight of the original goal. Maybe you're worried, or hesitant to believe that your new project will work, and so instead of focusing your thoughts into a strategy that can be turned into reality you are letting yourself get hung up on minor aspects that are actually more insignificant to your overall success.

5. Let a trusted friend or colleague see your draft before you send it or before you publish it.

Sometimes someone who is outside of a situation, especially if it may be a more emotionally charged one, can offer insights or clues into where your communication may be misunderstood and misaligned. Ask them to read the draft and then give an honest opinion over whether you might want to retype anywhere, in order to get your message heard and understood, without either alienating others or potentially aggravating a situation.

6. Then once you've hit send, posted that post, or sent the report or presentation to the board, let it go!

Something I am guessing we can all relate to is finding it difficult to stop thinking about things - after the conversation has been had, the publication has gone out, or the report has been sent. But, it is important not just to our minds, but also our bodies, to allow them to rest.

When we continue worrying, feeling anxious or afraid, we continue putting our bodies in a state of stress. That stress causes a cell reaction whereby our bodies, our nerves, our muscles, our bones, our skin and every aspect of *us* receives stressor signals and energy that creates a further state of stress. There is direct and longitudinal evidence, around the world, that shows when this stress is prolonged and extreme enough, it can create illness or prolong illness as well.

Do yourself and your body a favour - let the worries and the anxiousness go. You don't need it, they don't need it. You'll get any answer or reaction soon enough, and worrying yourself over it won't speed the other person any faster. Yah?

So, that's good for me and I hope that's good for you, too. :) If you like this, please feel free to leave a comment here, share with your friends and keep in touch. I'd love to know if this is a help to you, and what positive changes you've created to help shape *your* world!

Blessings to you all, and Namaste!

Friday 23 May 2014

Feminism and Believing in Our Dreams - It's for all of us...me and you. (Yes, YOU :))

Feminism. Fem-i-nism. Why is it such a contentious word for some? Why does something that is actually just a series of letters and syllables also bring out such strong emotions and all levels of responses?

For me, I think it’s partly because of the history of the word, the times in which it has been used for political agendas, popular culture, media and the way it continues to be used today. The images that it can provoke in some people…either the Victorian-era feminist, or the bra-burning, breast bearing 60’s and 70’s woman, to the butch lesbian man hating version that has been used to scaremonger and attack a huge, varied movement that knows no age, type or religious belief amongst its participants.

I think it’s also partly because of the historical background from which the feminist movement is something that keeps coming up, again and again, in different ways, for different reasons and with different classes, backgrounds and spiritual beliefs of those involved. Women like Emily Pankhurst, Susan B. Anthony, Florence Nightingale, Gloria Steinem, Hilary Clinton, Maya Angelou, Aung San Suu Kyi, Oprah Winfrey, Amy Poehler and Meredith Walker through to the billions of others – women who deal with and look on misogyny and anti-feminist thoughts and behaviour for what they are…attacks on billions, simply because of their gender and what the attackers *think* they represent. Nothing more. When I think of and look at the incredible, strong, brave women throughout history who have stood up for what is only right – equal rights under the law, in attitudes and in the way we all relate and interact with one another – I have always been enthralled. I am still enthralled.

I have always looked up to these women. Women taking control of their lives. Saying enough is enough. No. More. I have always admired such bravery and such command. Of their own lives. Many times at risk to their own safety and sadly, sometimes also those of the ones they love.

Unfortunately history has also taught that whenever those in power feel threatened, they will attack with all means they deem necessary. However unjust their power is judged by later generations.

I always wished I had that courage. To stand up. To say that’s not OK. You cannot and will not treat me that way. I have every right to feel how I do and to demand so much better than this.

When I was younger, I sometimes dealt with my emotions in harmful ways. Taking it out on others that didn’t deserve it. When that didn’t work, I took it out on myself. I let myself stay in situations that were harmful to me. Because nothing else was working. Because I didn't know where else to turn. Because deep down, I didn't feel I deserved any better. All these emotions, all this energy…and it was eating me up inside. I decided that it was best to bottle them, and that it was best not to express (which often meant they came out in other ways, that were hardly ever as I'd wished they would). I did not understand how to deal with them in a good way.

Dealing with life, dealing with setbacks, dealing with struggles to fully believe in me and my dreams is something I've learned how to do as I've gotten older. The older I get, the more I know and that I feel I deserve better. We deserve better.

So when I see things that are disrespectful, crossing lines of how we should behave towards each other - out of common decency and some level of understanding, if nothing else - I feel angry, frustrated, sad and sometimes despair. Things like a male colleague making lewd comments and sexual inferences about a female colleague to another male co-worker, as I did recently. Things like female politicians and writers being sexually threatened by men online, because they have dared to suggest it would be nice to celebrate the bravery of suffragettes. Things like women afraid to put their heads up as they walk for fear someone may take it as a sexual invitation. Things like women attacking others who support women’s family planning and abortion rights care, and the rights of young girls to not have to marry middle aged and elderly men. Things like women distancing themselves from other women because they see that person’s success as threatening. Things like backstabbing and gossip used to discredit others. Things like people yelling at their children or smacking them in the street. Things like women who have been attacked then being publicly criticized for their choice in clothing, what they had to drink when the attack happened, or who they were in the company of. Things like anyone being discouraged from pursuing their dreams because others feel it’s not a sensible choice. Things like people feeling such low confidence in themselves and their abilities, that they talk themselves out of pursuing their dreams.

Because life does not need to be this way. We can each decide that just because our lives have been that way, doesn’t mean they always need to be. We can change ourselves. We can change the world.

It’s not easy, and believe me, I know what it’s like to make mistakes, to feel fear and self doubt. But here is the deal – none of those are forever. We can learn from them. We can move on. We can let go. We can free ourselves.

When we tie ourselves to the past, it is like a weight that drags us to the ocean floor. We don’t need to keep ourselves bound to the emotions, to the feelings, to the guilt. It is absolutely OK to feel them. It is also absolutely OK to say no more. We don’t need to stay there. It is OK to move on. It is OK to make things better. It is OK to say, I am sorry, now let’s make things better. It is OK to forgive. It is OK to say, I forgive but I will not be hurt again. It is OK to have boundaries. It is OK to give chances. It is OK to say your chances have expired. It is OK to strive for your dreams. It is OK to make that event, project, benefit or cause you’ve always wanted to do something about happen. It is OK to say – I’m so angry and it’s not fair and I want things to be better, and here’s how. It is OK to say – I’m sad, and I feel alone, and it’s not fair and I want things to be better, and here’s how. It’s OK to say – this is really hard, I’m scared of the change, and I want things to be better and here’s how. It’s OK to say – I love me, and I love who I am.

We do not need to be friends with everyone. We do not need to please everyone. We can raise our daughters differently, starting now. Women can truly support each other and not see each other as a threat. It is OK to believe in ourselves and our dreams. It is OK to stop judging on appearance, and we can stop seeing weight as such a factor that outweighs all other qualities and achievements. We can stop judging not only others, but ourselves, too. It is OK to take the time we need to work on and give ourselves the love we need. We can say that we demand better. We can speak out. It is OK to say things need to change. It is absolutely, beautifully and wondrously OK to say that YOU are making things better and to have a plan and to make it happen.

Something I’ve recently learned is just how incredible our bodies are at holding onto energy. At holding onto the energy created by emotions, memories and past ways of dealing with life. And how it can make the very mind-body cell connections literally vibrate when you introduce change. When you create new patterns, new habits, new ways of looking at life and at yourself. It can feel scary, it can feel uncomfortable partly because your body literally is not used to how these new cell vibrations feel in the body. BUT – that doesn’t mean it won’t be OK. Our cells will get used to the new vibration, and all the incredible serotonin you will be feeding them through knowing you are making your life so much better, so much healthier, so much more empowered, so much more the incredible YOU that you have always been. Deep inside. In your core. In the essence that makes you, you.

Yes, it’s scary. Yes, it can feel daunting. But the self loathing, the insecurity, the self despair we can then feel when there is yet another project we haven’t accomplished will always feel the worst. Because we will know it is yet another opportunity we’ve let pass by. Yet another chance to make our lives and our selves into the amazing, brilliant, fantastic people we know we can be. When we stop the process of making changes a part of what we just do and that we know, at our heart of hearts, in our core of cores is RIGHT. When we stop those things, we stop our chances for making our lives even more beautiful than it already is. Even more pure. Even more free. Even more exciting. Even more exactly what we need, who we are deep inside, and at our very cores. When we stop taking chances, stretching ourselves, challenging ourselves to make our biggest dreams happen…we stop all that, we are stopping ourselves.

We can do this. YOU can do this. We can change things and make our lives, and this world, a better place.

Truly. I believe in you. And I know you can believe in yourself.

Sunday 30 March 2014

Faces Within and Around

Fear. Criticism. Taking risks. Facing things we've pushed away for days, weeks, months, years. We've all been there, we've all felt it, we've all faced and dealt with our own struggles, our own paths, our own dreams and own fears. Facing up to things we've long pushed aside can be scary, but it's so important when we do. It frees us. It frees each other.

Yesterday after the Iyengar yoga class my Lovely Boyfriend and I attend each Saturday, our teacher - an incredible, inspiring, encouraging and amazing person, on top of being a brilliant teacher - said something to me. Something little. Something that, to her, she may have just said as she would encourage any of her students when she sees them doing well. But it touched something. It clicked. It almost made me start crying, before I quickly caught myself and stopped. (we were still at the yoga centre and I didn't want to start crying in front of everyone, so I calmed myself down)

She said, 'Your legs are getting stronger. I can tell. You must be able to feel it, too. Good job.'

See? Seems small, seems nice but perhaps not mind-blowing. Certainly not something that could make one start crying from having heard it.

But what not a lot of people may know is that I have something called lymphedema. I have it in both legs, ankles, feet and I've recently found out, my hands as well. It's a medical condition most often found in cancer patients, as a result of the radiation therapy that burns and damages their lymphatic systems and cells. I have a genetic form, and it's something I only received the diagnosis for last autumn. I am not the typical lymphedema patient. I am quite small, look quite healthy and have healthy habits with no other pre-existing conditions.

After close to 10 years of asking doctors to look again. Of saying that I don't mean to bother them, and I'm sorry as I know it must be a hassle, but could they look just one more time. I am sorry to be such a pain, an inconvenience....After close to 10 years of being afraid to ask again. To stand up for myself. To demand they take me seriously. That what has been happening to my legs and my ankles and feet isn't normal, that I'm not making it up. That I'm not crazy and it's real....I found a doctor who believed me. Who listened. Who took the time to pay attention to me, and not just write me off. Who cared about making me healthy.

After close to 2 years of various specialists, tests (and re-tests when the first ones didn't yield conclusive results), I found out that not only am I definitely not crazy, but I have a very important, debilitating if left untreated, dis-ease. It's genetic, in my case (there are two types of lymphedema, though the genetic one is far more rare). I am in the process of receiving treatment and may seek private treatment for manual lymphatic massage as it has been proven to help but isn't covered in my current health plan. It has been a long struggle, with many moments of self-doubt, fears, and coming to terms - with the current state of my health but also the fact that it doesn't mean my state forever more will be pre-determined. That there are things I can do to help, that I am not alone.

But perhaps most important to me, it does not mean my self, my label is already decided. The dis-ease does not determine my identity. It does not determine me. We are not the sum total of the parts placed upon us. We are so much more than that. And so are our dreams, our desires, the changes and hopes we wish to see in our lives and our world.

Last autumn I had an accident while out jogging in our local area. The pavement (e.g. sidewalk) doesn't tend to be very well maintained, and tree roots come up all the time causing bits of the slab to be uneven and wobbly. It was dark, and I was running quickly. I'd only just been thinking to myself how healthy I felt, how strong my muscles and feet and ankles were. Thanking them for all they'd done and were doing to hold my body strong. And then I tripped and fell. Far. I ended up in A & E (ER) as I'd bit through my lip, chipped a tooth, and was bleeding profusely from my upper lip, chin, hands and knees where I'd tried to stop my fall.

For a while I took a break while my body healed. Then I was ill over the winter holidays due to work and other stress. (My body and mind tend to be quite aligned - when one is out of balance, the other will feel it. Strongly) Then a recent event took over my every hour leaving me not much room to sleep, let alone anything else. I am glad I did it, and it raised much important awareness, money and what look to be lasting connections for those there. All through this, I've been keeping with the yoga. Important to have at least that bit of connection for my body and soul.

So when our teacher said what she did yesterday, it touched me. It resonated, it meant something. Deep inside.

It is time to run. It is time for each of us to run. It is the Year of the Horse, after all.

Sunday 16 March 2014

Thoughts in a cafe

It's a gorgeously sunny day in the city today. Very unusual for a March day in the northern hemisphere and region in which I currently live.

I've been to the local farmer's market - first time in many weeks after illness, client site work during the day and an event I've been working on in my spare time took place on 1st March - and got to enjoy the sun's rays, walking amongst the different stalls, smells, sounds of laughter, children playing and local musicians performing their uplifting tunes for us all. I huddled into a favourite cafe with the fresh bread, vegetables and juice purchased before I headed back home for an equally favourite meal I'll make my Lovely Boyfriend and I. Mexican food for a dinner treat after several weeks of hard work for us both - with our projects, daytime activities and life and health events.

As I've sat here, with my soya cappuccino, yogurt and fruit compote, working with the sun's rays falling in through the wide windows, I've been reminded of how different my life is. Of how lucky I am in all I get to do, experience and live. And also of how much I've come through, worked for and done to deserve this happiness now. And of how I will continue to work and grow and evolve, as this journey called My Life continues, day by day.

A post I published on this blog a few moments ago, 'Prelude', is something I don't normally think about. It's a post written close to 3 years ago, and at a very different point in my life. Long before I'd met my Lovely Boyfriend, long before I moved to the amazing area he and I have made our home, long before I had answers to a genetic condition I've battled for many years to have the diagnosis and treatment I am now embarking on (a subject for another post). It was long before I started listening to not only others in my life, but my true inner self, and began following my dreams, my loves, my talents and my inspiration and took Shape Our World from something I did as a part of work for others into something for myself. And in a way that at last aligned with how I've seen it and hoped for it, in my mind's eye. It was long before I at last found the ferocity of courage, faith and strength I've always had inside.

I've often wondered why things aren't always equal. Why some people have such a harder time in work, opportunities, traditional relationships than others. In their communities, daily lives and experiences. As a woman, I am still confounded on why some things are still the way they are. I know the logic of it, the history, the way many societies have developed (note, I do not say evolved) to be patriarchal, with religion, laws, politics and communities so often centred around what older men think is the best, easiest, most just thing for all those around them.

Now, this is not to say there aren't times where those men get things very right. Take the men who put into law the changes that came about as a result of the US civil rights' movement. Take the men who found courage and followed their vision to release from prison and then vote in Nelson Mandela as South Africa's president. Take the men who,with their partners, are changing the way many families carry out their roles as parents, in household duties, in who is the breadwinner (if it even can be classed as one person more than another), and in how they think, feel and act in all levels of their lives. Take the men who have raised daughters to believe that they can achieve anything they want to. That there is no reason why they can't work for what they believe in, want to do, and dream of. That there is no reason why they cannot have and do all they wish for in life, just like the boys they go to school with, are friends with, and will get to know as they grow older.

Sadly, though, those amazing men are not the majority of men. Sadly, there are many men in many areas of the world, of many different ethnic groups, backgrounds, financial strata and occupations who are not evolved and still do not understand the importance of tolerance, true freedoms and encouragement for all, and of the need to encourage all children to strive for and make their dreams come true. For me, as a woman, it is also sad to note that there are many women who also do not understand or live in alignment with the understanding of encouraging and helping everyone - regardless of gender, class, spirituality, ethnicity or race - to achieve all they wish for.

I understand the logic and psychology that can be involved in making it so that traditional, patriarchal favouring laws and attitudes continue, year after year and generation after generation. I understand that past experiences, insecurities and jealousy can oftentimes be part of the equation. But I do not understand it on a deep, real, fundamental or personal level.

I especially do not understand why, when it can be difficult enough to be a woman at times, there are some who make it so much harder. Not only for themselves but others as well. To take one example - professional and workplace insecurities and competition amongst women can be some of the toughest. Many women grow up knowing and being told that, in order to succeed, they must achieve in a 'man's world' and that they must do what it takes. Unfortunately 'what it takes' can sometimes mean backstabbing, gossip in order to discredit the 'competition', bullying and overall ostracisation. There is a psychological phenomena that can occur and which finds its roots in evolution. Survival of the fittest. When others come in that may be a threat to one's own position or welfare (whether real or imagined), evolutionary reactions can take place and effectively, the 'competition' is got rid of. In situations when still so few women get to top positions, when the gender pay gap is still so alive and real, and when some areas of the world seem to be taking horrifyingly scary steps backward in enlightenment and prevailing attitudes towards women, it can become clear that at times humans are not as evolved as we may sometimes like to think. We women can be very mean sometimes, to each other.

So, what can change it? When such hurtful, damaging to life and profession things can at least partly be explained by evolution (or lack thereof),what hope is there?

Well, quite a bit, actually. The first step is knowledge. Knowledge is power. Because once you have it, you've identified what the issue is and can then set about creating a plan to make it better.

We women need to help each other. Men absolutely have their part, and it is vital that we all do what we can to challenge attitudes, behaviours, and things we see and experience that are unfair or unjust in all aspects of life. But we are doing ourselves a disservice if we think that we, as women, cannot make significant changes and grow immeasurably for the better. If we do not recognise the power of working collectively and supporting one another to achieve and make the world a happier place for everyone. There is a saying that I truly and absolutely believe in. Charity begins at home. Also, think globally, act locally. Meaning, that we do not need to save the world. However, when we each do what we can in our individual ways, in our individual spheres, communities, relationships and lives - each of those steps will save and change the world. It is a knock on and butterfly effect. There have been countless psychological, anthropological and sociological studies on these very topics and have proved time and time again that we humans can make a difference. And when we do so, it not only affects and changes us as individuals, but it changes and affects those we encounter and know personally, which then changes and affects the people who know them, and so on and so on. One individual may not change the entire world. But each of us can change the world around us. And that will change the world.

So what kind of world do we want it to be? What are our dreams? What are our challenges? Is there something you've always wanted to do, something you've always wanted to talk about, something you wish would change? The first step is you.

According to the Chinese zodiac, we are currently in the year of the horse. According to the western tradition, we are in the Age of Aquarius. Both of these are all about change, are about evolution, are about being visionary in both our dreams and everyday lives. Both are about making our dreams and visions happen, in real terms. I have felt the energy within me and around me changing, and growing more and more, as each year and each day passes. From speaking with others, I know I'm not alone in this. Sociologically, politically, environmentally, spiritually and in our everyday lives, more and more of us can feel that the time is now. More than ever before.

I challenge you, as I'm challenging myself, to be impeccable. Impeccable with our words, our actions, our thoughts and our behaviour. We are our worlds. And we can make this world the one we've always wanted it to be. In each of our own, individual and unique ways and whatever that means to each and everyone of us. The time is now.

Prelude

**NOTE: This post was originally written on 12th June, 2011 on another site. Upon a re-read today it serves as not only a reminder of what has changed for me, personally, since then but also how much it still pertains to what women go through and deal with everyday. In their daily lives, situations and experiences.**

Today has been a really strange day. For many reasons. I went to a protest and rally today, entitled 'Slutwalk'. I have issues with the naming of the event, but I can also understand what they were trying to achieve with the name. They were trying to challenge the negative connotations with that name and women. Trying to stop the attitudes that if women look a certain way, act a certain way, talk a certain way...that it means they're somehow asking for rape to happen. I get that, but I do still think the naming could have been given more thought. However, it's possible that says more about me than the title of the event.

Moving on, but with wanting that for background, I had a pleasant rest of the day, catching up with friends, seeing a geek inspired comedy act, before going to Bethnal Green to catch the side band for the guitarist of the band I saw last night. (that's not confusing, right? ;)) After I got to Bethnal Green, and while walking from the main road to the venue, I had a really unpleasant experience. It was ironic, in a way, given the protest and rally I'd attended earlier in the day.

As I was walking, a group of 3 men walked towards me. One of them was holding a large bottle of beer - maybe he was drunk, but that's really not the point - and he asked if he could speak to me. I said, 'Um, sure..' completely unprepared for what came next. He proceeded to explain to me, in graphic detail, a particular sexual act he wanted to do to me, and then suggested that his friends join in, saying, '..so what do you think of a gang rape? Because I think you need it'. When I paused, he asked again what I thought of it. I said I thought he was a twat. He then made another lewd remark, and I responded by saying 'Does that ever work?', before he then made yet another lewd remark and I walked on towards the club. His friends stayed silent the whole time.

More than anything, what happened made me feel angry. I wasn't scared, though if that had happened even 2 years ago, I may have been. But, no, what I felt was shock, that quickly turned to anger. What society do we live in where people can honestly think - drunk or not - that saying such things is ok? How would they feel if someone spoke to their sisters that way, or their girlfriends? Would they be so cavalier, would they be laughing then? Something tells me they wouldn't be. And yet...that is the world we live in. Where men think it's perfectly ok to walk up to a woman on her own, who is smaller and much slighter than they, and suggest that raping them would not only be something they'd like to do, but something the woman would need. That guy (for I don't think he deserves to be referred to as a man...a man would not do what he did) knows nothing about me. He does not know my history, he doesn't know what I've been through and lived through, he doesn't know my political beliefs or attitudes. I am not drinking alcohol nowadays and was carrying a water bottle along with my handbag. I was dressed in jeans, converse, a long sleeve shirt and jacket. I had sunglasses on my head and was wearing contacts, and had eye makeup on that had worn off as the day had gone on. I was not dressed provocatively and nor had I said anything to him to invite such an insult. (what I wear should not be something I need to explain to defend my point; unfortunately the world we live in is one in which there are people out there who would doubt my position if I'd been dressed differently, however) I was glad I said something back to him - again, even 2 years ago, I might not have - but I am angered that I had to, at all.

One of the speakers at the rally said something that really hit a chord. The speaker is a transgender woman - from man to woman - and said something very significant, that however men may understand the statistics and issues to do with rape and sexual assault/intimidation, they simply *cannot* truly understand what it is like. The speaker said that, as a man, she never experienced any sexual intimidation, at all. As a woman, however, she experiences sexual intimidation every week, oftentimes almost every day. And it is only through that, that they feel they have been able to understand just how it feels, just how much it angers, just how much it can intimidate, just how much it can make a person afraid. Women experience all of this, many times almost every day in her life, *simply by virtue of being female*. Women have to think about the clothes they wear, who they speak to, how they walk. Do you walk with your eyes down, or looking people straight in the eyes? Do you smile as you pass? I have a friend who once smiled at someone as she walked on a daytime afternoon - her reward? The much-older man immediately stopped his direction of walk, and proceeded to follow her. To the point she felt scared and intimidated. What happened to my friend is unfortunately something I can completely believe. Similar has happened to me before, too. And things like this are things that I and many other women have experienced. The majority have experienced them several times.

These are the issues and possible situations women deal with, every day of our lives. Yes, things can happen to men too. However, statistically, things happen far more often to women. It's the way our world works. But it doesn't need to be.

Sunday 16 February 2014

Opening

It's an interesting experience, this whole shaping your world, your life, your business thing....one that I'm sure a lot of us can relate to in our own and individual ways.

Shape Our World is something I've thought about doing...well, for a long, long time. Being community and globally aware of issues, social causes and wanting to do what I can to help isn't new. It was something I became aware of from a young age. The family down the road whose children always came to school in dirty clothes, who hadn't had their hair washed, and whose parents always seemed to be angry with them and yelling. The kind, grandparent couple next door whose grandson had a breakdown and threatened to detonate the bomb he said he'd built, and why we spent a night in our other neighbours' house one night while the police used ours as a barricade and tried to talk the grandson down. The older couple across the road, who were never very nice to anyone except my dad who would help with odd jobs around their house from time to time. The wife in the couple who we later learned had been stealing and storing playground equipment from our elementary school, along with my older sister's bike (thought lost many years before) and things from other neighbours in the couple's basement. And which we only found out about because my dad saw it one time while there to help fix something in their house. Ending one day when the police being called because the husband in the couple had a gun and was threatening to shoot anyone who came near. (I don't remember seeing them after that, and imagine they must have been taken to see doctors or other community mental health support teams) I remember the stories of what my own family had been through in their lives - the hardships, the struggles, and fights for their own survival to carry on and make something better of their lives.

Then when I was older and started paying more attention to the news, I became aware that there were other people, all around world, who were going through hard things, difficult issues, and perhaps had never really been given a fair shot from the time they were little children. I remember learning about the Peace Corps, the first time I signed a petition. I remember the first article I wrote for our high school newspaper talking about the rates of sexual abuse and assault students had experienced (already, at ages 16-17), and the lack of programmes or support at our school for victims and survivors. I remember my shock at things like Chernobyl, the Exxon Valdez disaster, the video footage of the polar ice glaciers melting (and realising it wasn't just my hometown's glacial water supply that was at risk of no longer being there with the climate changing, more and more, year by year). I remember my sadness when the field I used to play in, behind the house I grew up in, was re-landscaped to ward against the devastation a 100-year-flood could effect on the neighbourhood and all those around. (and which sadly finally happened, and even worse than imagined partly due to the effects of climate change, this past autumn and from which my hometown, the county and many counties throughout my home state are still grappling with - coming back from, and pulling together in an amazing testament to the human spirit and community kindness) I remember my deep, inner anger and sadness at all the devastation, the injustice, the unfair and horrible things I saw not only in my community, but in the world all around me. I remember wanting to do something about it, and wanting this feeling of helplessness to go away.

I am not someone easily satisfied with the status quo. I am not someone who hears about horrible things going on in the world, and can accept that because it's 'how things have always been', that it means that's how it should keep being. My parents will easily tell many stories of the fighting and independent spirit I have perhaps always had. From the time I refused to take my mom's hand when she was teaching me how to look both ways before crossing our (very quiet) neighbourhood road, and indignantly marched my 2-ish year old self across the road, looked back at her with hands on hips as if to say, 'see, I can do it myself'. I want to make things happen. I want to do what I can to make things better. I want to help others to know and to see that they can, too. We deserve happiness. We deserve peace. We deserve justice. We deserve transparency. We deserve to have our voices heard. We deserve to have positive, lasting change happen, in real terms. We deserve all this and so much more beyond. I know I am not alone in these things.

As part of my work for the upcoming event, An Evening for Amnesty, I designed the artwork and had flyers and posters printed to advertise it to others. I've been taking it around to areas near where the event will take place in Paddington, London, and while doing so have had conversations with the owners and managers of shops, cafes, pubs and so on. One of them was a man, perhaps mid-late 40's in age, and his questions surprised me. He seemed interested, and then a bit angry when I mentioned that the event is to raise money for Amnesty and also raise awareness of their campaign against the NSA and GCHQ spying programmes. He asked me, 'What about the KGB? What about Russia? What is Amnesty doing about them?' I answered that for this particular campaign, Amnesty had looked at and responded to the NSA and GCHQ spying programmes' revelations, and most recently revealed to the public by Edward Snowden, Wikileaks and the Guardian newspaper, with the leading journalist on the stories, Glenn Greenwald.

I said to him that, if he feels Russia and the KGB (or the FSB in its current form) should also be campaigned against, he should let others know. Say something, have his voice heard.

He looked at me a bit incredulously, and then just thoughtful, but didn't say anything. His colleague (we were in their cafe, and I had been asking permission to put up one of the event posters) joined the conversation, and noted that the man I'd been speaking with was from Kosovo. That was all that was needed and instantly I had a better understanding, a better insight, a better clue as to why he'd asked his question, and why it was asked with such fervour and emotion. His next comment surprised me though, in a way. He said that the 'US was there. They helped us. They made things better'. I asked if it was the UN, as that'd been my understanding, and that the US helped with the UN peacekeepers. They both said that, no, it was the Americans. Really, they'd been the ones to help.

I know that is their experience, and I absolutely believe (and feel pride) in knowing my fellow countrymen/women helped people. People in need, and people who needed their voices, rights, and lives to be heard and made better. I also know that without the help of other countries, it would be hard for even such a large and powerful country such as the US to make the world better and that it was the US along with other countries who contributed to the UN efforts in Kosovo. Additionally, I know that even with such good work, there are things the US has done that aren't right, aren't ok and it is our rights as citizens of the world, wherever and whoever we are, to hold governments accountable when they do things that are wrong. I know that so much of the world has been glad of the US and its intervention to help where needed. But that there is a trust that comes with that. A trust that they will maintain a standard of good, of positivity, of helping for the betterment of each and everyone of us. And then that doesn't happen, when they do things that aren't good, that aren't ok, and do things that only serve to closely guarded, illegal programmes such as PRISM...that is when they are breaking that trust. They are betraying the trust, and confidence, that others have placed in them to act for the best. They are betraying their own words and promises...not just to other governments, but to the people - their own country's people and people all across the world. And that it what is wrong, and needs to be stopped. When the US government is caught out, and instead of sitting back and reconsidering their programmes decide to crucify, isolate and scapegoat strong, brave individuals who are speaking out on behalf of each and everyone of us...making the brave into villains...that is when we have a choice. We can sit back, read the stories, believe the rhetoric. Or we can stand up. We can speak out, we can join together, we can help organisations and individuals who are fighting for each and everyone of us to be able to live our lives without fear. Without fear of surveillance, without fear of the CIA knocking on our doors due to their own overreactions, without fear of being held for hours in airports with no truly just cause, without fear of being kept in solitary confinement under conditions decried by human rights groups as inhumane, without fear of being chased and disowned by our own government...perhaps never to be able to see our own friends and family again, without great and very real risk being taken.

There is a saying that one snowflake may feel insignificant. But hundreds of thousands, millions, of snowflakes together create a storm.

We can change our world. Truly...it's not a pipedream, it's not 'just' a hippie talking, it is real and historical fact. When people stand together, when they fight for their rights together, when they are brave and stand their ground, the governments, hierarchies, monarchies....people in power are *forced* to listen. They need us. In order to stay in power, they need the people to follow them. They need us, and when they do things that are not ok, that are illegal...that are wrong....our voices are powerful. We are powerful. We can Shape Our World. Each of us, and together.

Saturday 8 February 2014

Stories

This week I turned 36. This week I got 4 years closer to a big life number. This week I made a turning point in an area of work and had success in my bravery. This week I made exciting in-roads for an event I'm organising, An Evening for Amnesty, with a BIG STAR donating an incredible raffle prize that will make someone an immensely lucky winner. It will also go such a huge way in helping raise money for an amazing charity, and their enormously brave stand against the NSA and GCHQ spying programmes. This week I gave myself a birthday treat of a luxurious massage, jeans (my last pair having sadly passed on over a year ago), and shared a special birthday dinner with my Lovely Boyfriend. This week I realised even more how amazing my family, friends and aforementioned Lovely Boyfriend are. This week I gave myself permission to let go of some belongings I've moved across 15 years, two US states and one ocean. This week I gave myself permission to let go of the me that was, and to step even more fully into the Me I am now. The Woman I Am Now.

We all have our stories, we all have our life paths, we all have the forks we've taken at significant moments that have led us to where we are now. That have shaped us, that have helped to mould us, that have helped define us. But how honest are we? How open are we? How much do we share and how much do we not share? It can be a tricky line to tread in business, in communities, in our lives and with ourselves. It's something I've been going over in my head for the past few weeks and that this week has brought into focus.

My business, Shape Our World, helps organisations and individuals with their communications, events, fundraising, strategy and development. I help with ideas, projects and events in mid-flow, and with the entire process of idea, development through to delivery and post delivery analysis should a client wish. The non profit arm, Arts Inspire, is my opportunity to help charities, groups, individuals and campaigns that are brave, important and help to shape the world we live in be a better place for us all. With Shape Our World and Arts Inspire, I am able to help others in the amazing work they do. I can help them reach an even bigger audience. I can help them make a difference, in real, positive, vast and lasting ways wherever they're based, whatever their walk of life, whatever their personal past. I can help them change our world for us all.

Shape Our World started off as an idea in my head, in my mind's eye, and it took many years, many periods of facing up to self doubt, facing up to fears, facing up to roadblocks whether real or imagined. Facing up to me, to become a reality. It can be hard to be brave sometimes. To be impeccable with our deep truth. To be open and honest in our integrity. To be real, with others as well as ourselves.

So what is MY truth? Who am I, just as much as I ask you to be real and courageous in who you are? Well, take a seat for a brief tale:

Born in a smallish mountain town, to parents who have known of each other since they were 7, I was the 4th daughter in a family of 5 for a total of 7 - parents plus children. Inquisitive, with a wide imagination, I was small and a bit of a sickly child with frequent strep throat, ear infections and so on. So much so, that when I was 3 I didn't talk as a 3 year old ought to (having had ear infections so frequently during the time a baby learns to talk by hearing - thus, I hadn't heard and therefore hadn't learned at key developmental points). My parents sent me to speech therapy class where I learned sign language in case I never fully regained my speech, made friends who I saw for many years after in elementary and junior high schools, and learned to use my voice. So much so my parents later had to learn not to speak so frankly when I was in the room, lest I tell the world all our family's tales. I liked helping my mom make cookies, watching movies and going to our town's university basketball games while eating homemade popcorn with my dad, playing 'school' and baseball bat chase with my sisters, and when I could, being quiet and still, and 'reading' to my dolls and stuffed animals. I loved knowing I was helping and the chores each of my sisters and I had to do served to instill that sense of pride in contributing to a greater whole. Knowing I was being a help gave me a huge sense of pride, of belonging, of knowing I was doing the right thing - the best thing. I was also always very strong willed, with a stubborn streak and fierce independence. Wanting to do things myself. To be a big girl, to show the world that I could do it.

I was a happy girl, though often sick, who liked pretending she was in a jungle while underneath our garden's sunflowers, making pet rocks complete with painted on smiley faces, and a princess in Arthurian England while playing in the tall grasses and trees of the field behind our house.

When I became a teenager, I went through the rebellious phase almost all teenagers go through, and questioned everything. The stubbornness and independence I'd shown early on continued and developed into a questioning of the world. Into wanting to do things in the best way for me, into wanting to carve my own path, my own lessons, my own truth. I stopped going to the Baptist Christian church I'd attended since I was a little girl - I even taught Sunday school, such was my dedication - and probably threw everyone a surprise. I started dyeing my hair, listening to moody European pop and dance music, wearing darker coloured clothes, and delved deeply into the worlds of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Maya Angelou, Aldous Huxley and the work of Art Deco and Art Nouveau painters. I began a spiritual quest, reading and testing out traditions such as Judaism, Zen Buddhism, Hinduism, Unitarianism, Christian Science and Toltec Shamanism until I found a combination and a sensibility that fits for me. I started looking into the works and thoughts of people like Caroline Myss, Deepak Chopra, Paulo Coehlo, and those recommended by Oprah.

As I neared toward my 20's, I started becoming more interested in yoga, meditation, earth and nature based schools of thought. I started working with groups who would mark spiritually important celebrations together, meditate together and do things like make paper mache models of our faces, paint them, and represent our 'shadow selves' or our animal totems. As I grew older, I started leading meditations and taught people things such as the Cone of Power - raising voices in unison while focusing positive energies, until they are eventually released to the universe. In my early 20's, I also began my life as an office worker, working for a company called Moller International that literally made cars that flew. (honest, there's test footage and everything) Then I moved to the bay area in California (eventually moving to the UK) and joined one of many dot-com companies, and my love of business and the possibilities of technology never looked back. For the past 10 years, I have worked primarily in the charitable, as well as private and public sector worlds. I have continued the love of writing I began with the first journal I ever had - a present from my mom to me and one of sisters on a road trip to Yellowstone when I was 4. Though I still keep written journals, I have blogged online in various formats, various guises and have met life long friends. I have forged connections across oceans and continents, and discovered that we truly are a global world. That we all share the same struggles, the same emotions, the same needs and the same desires - to make our lives and the lives of those we care about happy, healthy and special.

I have learned that the internet, technology and the way each of us lives our life makes a difference. That we can each either make our world and the worlds of others a loving, positive, supportive and happy place with our day to day personal choices, interactions, beliefs, words and behaviours. That we can do so both online and 'irl', in real life, or we can make it a hard, dark and unhappy one. The choice is ours, each of us, and these choices, the energy we decide to bring to the table and share with the world...they absolutely make a difference. And they can either add to the positive whole, or they can try to take away from steps gained.

There have been quite a few ups and downs, adventures and amazing experiences, people, and memories I will always treasure. All the negatives as much as the positives have shaped me. Have further developed and strengthened my drive, my desire to do something real, authentic, to make a positive and lasting difference to the world. I have learned I am absolutely willing to hold up my hand, to make a change and to make things better if I make a mistake. I have learned that being honest with myself and what I need, and being honest with those around me, makes a world of difference. I have learned that being impeccable with my word and my actions helps others to feel safe to do the same. I have learned that just as I am inspired and encouraged by those who shine their light and help make the world a positive place, the light I shine can help to inspire and encourage others, too. I have learned that asking for help is not a weakness. I have learned that standing tall and being brave is an amazing rush of goodness, confidence and deep inner knowing that makes my heart happy and my soul sing. I have learned that I have an incredible resource and circle of people who care about me, love me and who are my cheerleaders. That they love to see me doing what I love, what I am gifted at, where my experience and knowledge lie, and to see me being my real, authentic self. I have learned that whatever I need, whatever my gifts are, whatever I can offer and share with the world are important, are valued and CAN make a difference. I have learned that I am not alone - in any of these things. And that we each have amazing stories to tell, ideas waiting to be given to the world, incredible work that the world needs more of, and that when we help each other in our goals, the possibilities TRULY are endless.

There's my story. What is yours? Are you ready to shine it on the world? Are you ready to speak your truth? I hope so, and I can't wait to see what's next!

Namaste

Saturday 1 February 2014

The Song Inside

Sometimes I wonder how I got here. Sometimes I wonder where I'm going. Sometimes I'm just grateful, so grateful, to be where I am, who I am, doing what I am and surrounded by the amazing friends, family and loved ones that I am.

See, there's this thing called empowerment. I like the word. I like how it sounds, how it sings, how it rolls off my tongue when I say it. It feels right, it feels emotive, it feels powerful.

For a lot of my life, I don't think I gave myself permission. To be free, to care about myself in a healthy, happy and truthful way, to be impeccable with myself, my word and with those around me. To know the strength, power, and the freedom that Empowerment holds. I don't think I felt I really deserved it, deep down.

And the thing is, I know I'm not alone in that. From conversations with friends, loved ones, people at work and people all around me...from the words we've chosen to use, the ways we've held ourselves in our minds' eyes, from the way we've felt deep within. There seems to be this strong lack of feeling a deep, honest and clear sense of self worth. That we *do* deserve happiness, we *do* deserve to speak our truth in a responsible, healthy and loving way, that we *do* deserve to have those around us speak and treat us with the same loving, caring and impeccable way. That we *do* deserve to express ourselves, and our thoughts, and our emotions, and our values, and our creativity, and our individual, amazing expressions of who we are. Each of us, deep inside.

To be Empowered.

I recently had a conversation with someone I don't know very well, and they said to a group of us that they don't like the word 'empowered'. That it bothers them on a deep, fundamental level. And I was surprised, and to be honest, quite taken aback. Why hold such disdain for something that holds such opportunity? Such fruitfulness, such amazing possibility for moving forward and achieving our dreams in such meaningful ways?

This person has fought struggles of her own, and I know has worked very hard to achieve what she has. And she's done really well, with limited resources, in achieving it all.

But she's also incredibly negative - in words, attitudes expressed and the way she's responding to others offering alternative points of views - doorways that could lead to windows not yet discovered. Or even thought about. The disdain she spits is very palpable, actually, and she has noted that she knows she can be so.

She really, really doesn't like the word Empowered (or any of its variations).

And it's something I have been wondering about, for quite some time now. Something that I find hard to understand, on a true, deep and soulful level. I understand it logically, psychologically - how life and certain experiences can make it difficult for optimism. How struggles and difficulties in life can make it hard for people to see the light. To see that it truly doesn't need to be this way. That we *can* make a difference, make a change, in a real, lasting and deeply meaningful way. That we *can* change the world, and be Empowered and true within ourselves and all those around us. That we *can* change our lives, our thoughts, our attitudes, our stories. And that in doing so, we *can* change the world - our worlds, others' worlds...the stories we each hold onto, that we each create with every breath, word, thought and deep-felt emotion within...we *can* make a difference, and make things better. We *can* achieve our dreams.

There's an event I'm planning right now, and that will take place on 1st March 2014 called An Evening for Amnesty. It is important to me, it holds meaning for me, it's something I feel passionate about on a true, deep, soul inspiring way. I think, I feel, I *know* it has the potential and the opportunity to open many doors. To spark conversation, to spark debate, to help the path towards real, meaningful, important, lasting and *global* change. And it is something that truly does affect each of us, everyone of us, around the world - whatever our age, whatever our income bracket, whatever our political or spiritual beliefs, male, female, white, orange, blue or black. It affects each and everyone of us.

So I am planning an event that will be fun, that will be relaxed, that will be informative and nourishing for the mind, body and soul and that will be a chance to enjoy a fantastic night out for all who are there.

The level of negativity I've heard from a few people in regards to the issue overall continues to astonish me, though. I must admit. I just *can't* understand the level of apathy. The level of cynicism. The level of, well...deep feeling that it doesn't matter and that speaking out against it won't do anything. That it won't make a bit of difference. And that truly does gall me.

Even with knowing and understanding why, on a logical and psychological level. It still just doesn't make sense, doesn't resonate, doesn't feel real...or true, on deep, meaningful and soulful way, for me.

I know my experience, my meaning, my way of looking at life isn't how everyone else views the world or how they'll even see things if they stand back and try to look with different eyes. With a different perspective on things. But I hope that maybe someday they'll see, they'll start to grasp, they'll start to understand on a logical level (leading to something more? deeper, more real and more meaningful, for them) that things *can* change. That no great social change, no laws, no global effort - heck, no smaller government or local community effort - ever happened with only one person. One person may spark and encourage others, but true, big, wide and lasting change happens when each of us - in our own, unique, individual ways - adds to the greater whole. Look all through history and you can see examples of this - the US civil disobedience movement led and inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr, the Berlin Wall coming down, the release of Nelson Mandela from prison and his eventual election to be the leader of South Africa. Each of these were inspired by one, or perhaps a smaller group of people who united and stood for their cause. For their truth, for their meaning, for what they knew and held, deep inside, was right and important.

But they didn't do it alone. Others joined their cause. Others stood their grounds. Others spoke their truth, their meaning and joined together in making change happen. In making the *world* happen. In taking that spark of thought, of truth, of meaning and seeing it through - sweat, tears, light and love - into something real. Something meaningful, something lasting, something palpable and wider than perhaps could have been first imagined.

But they did it, each of them, each in their own ways, in their own light, in their own uniqueness and meaning. They held onto what they knew was right, what they knew was important and what they knew was needed.

And they changed the world.

We can each do this, lovelies. Honestly, we truly, truly can. We *can* change the world, our worlds, our life and the lives of those we care about.

Our words, our thoughts, our beliefs, the stories we create for ourselves and others. They *do* make a difference. They *do* matter. They *can* help to create the world as we'd like it to be, and as we know it should be. For ourselves. And for all those around us.

I've been teased for being a hippy. For being a bit new agey. For being a bit out there at times, and not like others. Over the years I've had my ideas, my truth, my meaning laughed at, ridiculed, bullied, put down as being fallacy, nonsense, and just stupid.

But I know, deep down, deep in my heart of hearts, that they aren't weird. They aren't strange, that they *do* matter, that they're not so off the mark, that they *can* make a difference. In a positive, happy, lasting and meaningful way. For myself and those around me. And that fighting for what is important, what is real...for the rights of all of us, for each of us, all around the world...it's important. And that if enough of us stand up, speak up, make things real and be counted...that if enough of us join together, join our efforts, take a deep breath, have courage and be brave...we *can* make things change. We can make it better. We can make the world better.

You. Me, The neighbour down the street you pass every day but may not say hello to. Your kids, my (someday) kids, their kids and their kids after that.

It all matters. We matter. Each of us. And we *can* do it. (honest)

Sunday 26 January 2014

Shades of a Woman

Being

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Wednesday 4 December 2013

Bravery - speaking out, demanding change, making a difference

Listening to the first of the 2-day Human Rights First Summit, and current speakers are taking part in a panel discussion, looking at the privacy rights violations and actions by government agencies such as the NSA and GCHQ. And it strikes me that they are being very brave.

We live in a world where people are increasingly afraid to speak out. Opinions that are at all anti establishment risk punishment. Retribution. Indignation. Demonisation. Real threats to their own safety and the safety of those they care about. (See examples such as Russell Brand, Glenn Greenwald and his partner, UK charity Liberty, UK charity Reprieve despite evidence they're not the ones at fault as seen here, here and not limited to here.) What is it about our world when things such as government programmes spying on everyone and everything even happen? I know the basic ethos: people get a sniff of power, people decide to run with their power because they believe they are the 'good guys' and have a moral high ground, people feel afraid of those with power and it helps the powerful in their self justification of abusing their power even more. People don't let things like 'laws' get in their way because they begin to feel they are above the law - they are the moral 'lawmakers', they get caught but it's hard to stop lying once you've been doing it for so long so they keep it up, more and more of their lies get found out and they can't deny it anymore. The extent of their abuses of power, trust and lies is released to the public and the world almost can't believe its ears. But they ultimately must believe it, because it is the truth. Things need to change, and in a big way, or it will just happen again.

But what do you do when you are punished for others' crimes? When you speak out and are vilified? It strikes me, having listened to the panel speakers and their direct condemnation of the actions by agencies such as the NSA and GCHQ that they are being very courageous. It also strikes me that in a country such as the US where freedom of the press is one of the constitutional rights proudly held, speaking out on the importance of being *able* to state when you feel your government is wrong, and then knowing that you risk much in doing so is irony in one of its greatest forms.

As someone who was deeply, excitedly and truly overjoyed when Obama was voted in, it saddens me that while there are indeed positive things coming from his administration, this could very well shadow and perhaps even negate any good work done.

......................

As I write this, I am fully aware that it could leave anyone reading feeling angered, pessimistic and perhaps at a loss for what to do to make things better. Perhaps feeling there is nothing they could do. However, despite my sadness and frustration, I am also feeling optimistic...I have seen an interesting flipside to the justifiable distraught reaction to all that has happened and is taking place. People are banding together.

In the midst of all the disappointment, anger and cynicism, there is a growing sense of connection. That the public, around the world, understands. We understand the shock, the pessimism, and the aghast feelings at their actions. We understand the anger of those who are being brave in their speaking out against it. We understand calls for governments and their agencies to to stop what they're doing and be held accountable. We understand the need for things to be different from now on. We understand and also call for things to change.

And they can. We can make it change. Just by banding together, by signing petitions, by going to protests, by speaking out. by writing letters to politicians and lawmakers, by demanding real, positive, lasting change and not giving up until it happens. We can each make the change happen. In our own ways, in our own towns, in our own communities and in our own spheres.

Change is happening. With things this, this, this and this. (and this from Amnesty, along with events like this :))

It's not just you. It's not just me. We are not alone. Collectively, we can all make a difference. We can each help to shape our world.

Tuesday 19 November 2013

Shaping you, Shaping me, uh huh...

It can feel a daunting task. More and more, the world seems to be growing, changing, evolving. In big ways, little ways, on the global scale, on a community scale, for large groups of people and individually.

I started Shape Our World, because I felt a drive, a thirst, a need on such a deep level that my body, my conscious and my soul wouldn't let me ignore it anymore. (*see repeating instances of strange dreams, anxious feelings in my chest, and irrational arguments with my Lovely Boyfriend TM for the not-so-subtle clues my higher self was giving that Something Needed To Change) I've long loved organising things, planning outings and events, and I've long felt a drive and a sense of Doing Good from helping others. Whether they be at work on difficult projects, in the charitable sector as a volunteer, or as a little girl and helping my mom to weed the family vegetable garden to ready it for spring planting. I love helping, I love being a part of things that I know will help others, and I derive a huge amount of self esteem and satisfaction from knowing I've done a job well. But as several months passed, not even the thanks from colleagues with tasks I helped on in the office felt enough anymore. (as lovely as they were to ensure I knew their appreciation)

The feelings deep within that Something Just Wasn't Right wouldn't go away, and became a literal sore, a pain, a wound I felt in my chest. And no amount of meditating, yoga or hugs from my Lovely Boyfriend made them go away and stay away. That was my clue that something else needed to happen. That my subconscious was screaming, and in no uncertain terms making sure I knew it was not kidding, and that I needed to finally face up to my fears. I needed to own my fears. I needed to do what I knew, deep in my heart, was what I should have been doing long ago.

And so, Shape Our World was born, and is going strong. It's evolving, and like anything in life, will likely continue to grow, to develop and to seek challenges, accomplishments, ways to further the work I have done and that lies ahead, and dreams will be actualised. It's an interesting process so far, and it is forcing me to face things - some that I'd anticipated, but some I had no way of possibly predicting - and it is through this process that I know I am on the path to fulfilling my soul's purpose. It feels good, even in the uncertainty of exactly how things may turn out or end up 5 years down the line. At the base of it, I know this is important. I know that in my facing of fears, in my drive and determination to make my vision and dreams a reality, I will be able to help others around the world to make their dreams take physical form, too. And that is both a bit daunting, and thrilling. Am I up to the task? Can I really do this? Honestly? Yes, I truly know, deep in my heart, that I can. Just saying that gives me shivers, but they're shivers in a good way. Shivers of anticipation, shivers of recognition. Shivers that say, 'I know this. I trust this. This is truth'.

This has been a tough week. Well, last week was tough, too, but this has been a tough week on another level. I realised there was a part of me that was afraid. I know exactly what that fear stems from, and though it was brought out in that situation, the fear's home is actually very far away from here, and took place long ago. But it was the fear that was holding me back. It was the fear that was stopping me from being *able* to step forward, to move closer to where I know I need to go, where I am meant to go in life. And it was the fear I needed to acknowledge, and do what scared me anyway.

I think there are many of us who have this, in ways, shapes and areas of life individual to ourselves and our life experiences. But fears that we each need to deal with, need to stare directly in the face, and need to turn from something we are thinking about into something we are *doing something about to make better*. We each have so many things inside of us...ideas, dreams, skills, areas that we know could be so much better - bigger, more inclusive, revolutionary. Sometimes we just need someone to give us the encouragement and the words to inspire us to do what is within our souls. Someone to say 'You can do this'.

Here I am, and here I am, saying to each of you: Wherever you are in the world, whatever your age, your background, your life experience so far, your education, your income or your current location - I *know* you can do this. Whether you do it individually, whether you are connected with others and work together or whether you follow the guidance of those who have done it before you, and their thoughts on what works and what may not - every single one of you can Shape Our World.

Monday 4 November 2013

A Welcome, a Warm Hello, and a Bit About Shape Our World... (and me, too :))

  • drum roll*

FIRST EV.ER. VIDDDDDEOOOOO POST!!!!!!!!

(check it out out out out out!!!! :))

Yes, I might be a bit excited. This type of thing is completely new to me, but something I've known I should do, and have felt a strong, deep drive to do for a while now. So, so, sooooo ridiculously excited that I am finally doing it.

And it was *fun*!! The chance to be a bit creative, to say a bit about me and Shape Our World and to share with all you lovely people what I hope to do. What I hope I can help you do. What I know, deep in my soul, we can all do when we put our heads, minds, fingers and hands to the task. What I know we can accomplish, together, and all the amazing things that can be done when we work together and when we help each other.

It may sound a bit cliche, but it's also so incredibly true...we absolutely *can* help each other to Shape Our World...and together, we truly can make this world and these lives of ours and those around us into the wildest, most happy, fulfilling and wonderful lives possible.

So...who's in? :)