Category: lifestyle

The elephant keeps walking

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Life is a car crash – a complete disaster from start to finish.

Life is also the most wonderful amazing thing.

You are amazing. Remember that you were the one sperm in millions who won the swimming race – you were the one that fertilized the egg in the womb! You were born an Olympic Gold Medalist.

But boy does the crap come at you on so many days. Sometimes it feels overwhelming.

I’ve just got back from a holiday into a very busy week. I’m going through this busy week with all my emotional baggage having its own stroppy session. To be honest, I’d be happy to have another holiday – maybe 6 weeks more holiday!

But I can’t do that. I’ve got commitments.

In fact this weekend, I’m doing some public speaking up North.

In one survey, public speaking was voted the number one fear people have. Number 1.

Death was number 2!

So basically people were saying that at a funeral, they’d rather be in the coffin that having to do the eulogy!

But you know what? I’m going to go and do my public speaking and meeting people and sharing my books with people, and I’m going to try and enjoy the whole thing.

Sometimes, I feel we just have to plough on and do our best.

A wise teacher from India shared this insight:

“The elephant keeps walking as the dogs keep barking.”

The elephant doesn’t yell at the dogs for barking. It doesn’t go to a store to get muzzles to shut the dogs up. The elephant doesn’t veer off its path to waste precious energy leaving endless Facebook comments clarifying its position, or attempt to “take the dogs down.”

It just keeps walking.

Right now, I think that’s what I’m doing.

I know at other times, I just need to get away and rest, have solitude and silence.

Life requires us to sometimes plough on like the elephant, and sometimes to stop and be still.

One thing I have learned over the years is that we have to work on our self-care. Some of us are so quick to be there for others we forget to be there for ourselves.

We are all a bit broken – everyone of us. I’ve never met anyone with all the dots on their dice. But last time I checked, broken crayons still colour.

While you plough on like the elephant, or seek stillness and calm, there are 4 things we should do to look after ourselves:

Ask for help.

Be kind to yourself.

Embrace imperfection.

Try new tactics.

Progress

I pray that any dogs barking at you get tired or distracted and stop.

I pray for fresh peace and understanding for you.

I pray for you to colour some new pictures with your broken crayons so you can bless the world with your creativity.

Peace.

 

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Kings, dragons, and picnics

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Miles walked 2018: 345 / 1,000 on the 1,000 miles in a year challenge.

Another Bank Holiday weekend came and went. As we are trying to create a pond and seating area in the garden, Saturday and Sunday was spent trying to make some progress on that but, due to the heatwave, it was just to hot to work outside for long.

I also had an appointment at 2am Monday to drive the eldest daughter and grandson to Luton Airport as they were flying out to see our youngest daughter who is living in Iceland for a year, working with the Red Cross.

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I’ve been a bit ‘between books’ recently in my reading but took up Bill Bryson’s Road to Little Dribbling again. After reading Notes from a Small Island many years ago – which is laugh out loud funny – I thought I’d laugh as much at Bill’s second travel journal around Britain. But I had struggled with it a bit at the beginning and moved onto something else. But now I was back into his journey and warming again to his description of our eccentricity and, at times, nonsensical approach to life.

As I tried to settle down for a couple of hours sleep, I got to the chapter where Bill Bryson visits East Anglia, where we live. He writes about Sutton Hoo – a place we have visited a couple of times but no for a while.

His take on Sutton Hoo stirred my interest in the story of King Rædwald of East Anglia.

Rædwald reigned from about 599 until his death around 624. Sutton Hoo is of primary importance to early medieval historians because it sheds light on a period of English history that is on the margin between myth, legend, and historical documentation. Use of the site culminated at a time when Rædwald, the ruler of the East Angles, held senior power among the English people and played a dynamic if ambiguous part in the establishment of Christian rulership in England; it is generally thought most likely that he is the person buried in the ship.

I got back from the airport run around 5am and tried to get a bit more sleep.

After breakfast I suggested to Mrs E that we should go out and perhaps visit Sutton Hoo. I knew if we stayed at home it was way to hot to work in the garden and if we stayed in I’d just doze all day in the chair trying to catch up on sleep.

So we packed a picnic (but forgot the picnic blanket!) and headed off to Sutton Hoo.

The place was heaving and we eventually parked in the overflow car park. After showing our NT passes to get in free we took the free map and decided to do a perimeter walk as we hadn’t done that before. Also most people stay near the burial mounds and the museum and don’t venture further afield.

But first, I wanted to see the amazing helmet – or a replica at least – of King Rædwald.

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Soon we were on the walk and, sure enough, we had the woodland walk almost to ourselves and escaped the crowds.

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We met a dragon and walked through peaceful woodland.

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When we got back to the centre we found a couple of free deck chairs and sat in the shade of a tree as we ate our picnic.

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The day’s total was 5 miles of walking – not a huge walk but a bit more than my average day, and all eats into the 1,000 mile target for this year.

To date I have walked 416 miles – that’s 6 miles further than the length of the A1 (which is 410 miles long).

416 miles is exactly what I should have walked by the end of May to stay on target so that’s reassuring.

Right, I off now to go and collect daughter and grandson from Luton as they are returning shortly from their Icelandic adventure.

The vine and branches

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I’m currently reading a little book by a monk – Finding your Hidden Treasure by Benignus O’Rourke, an Augustinian friar. The book is about silent prayer and meditation and discovering ourselves and God in the process. The chapters are very short, which make it ideal as a sort of daily reading book. Here’s today’s thoughts:

Jesus told his disciples: ‘I am the vine and you are the branches.’ (John:15:5). In our time of silent waiting we are allowing the sap, the life that flows in the vine, to flow through the branches. We are not seeking union with God. We already have that. Our task is to remain close to him and enjoy that union. ‘It’s not that God comes to us, as if he were absent,’ Augustine reminds us. ‘or even that we “go” to him. God is always present to us but we, like blind people, do not have the eyes to see him.’ In order to see God we have to enter a new relationship with him, enter into a new place. ‘It was in my inmost heart,’ wrote Augustine, ‘it was there, Lord, that you made me begin to love you, and you made me glad at heart’ (Confessions 9.4). The awareness of our union with the life-giving vine, the unknown sweetness that we find in our inmost heart, is not achieved without a struggle. It is a struggle between our surface-self, the person on show to the world, and our deeper self.
Benignus O’Rourke
Finding your Hidden Treasure

Have a banana!

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Over the last couple of years of intentionally trying to improve my diet, one simple habit stands out as the easiest and possibly the most effective change I made. A daily dose of banana.

A banana gives an instant, sustained and substantial boost of energy. Bananas contain three natural sugars – sucrose, fructose and glucose combined with fiber.

There is no question that bananas give us a great energy boost, that’s why they are popular with athletes.

But bananas also help protect us from several illnesses. Blood pressure, anemia, constipation, nerves, and ulcers are all often eased by eating a banana.

According to a recent survey undertaken by MIND, those suffering from depression felt much better after eating a banana. This is because bananas contain tryptophan, a type of protein that the body converts into serotonin, known to make you relax, improve your mood and generally make you feel happier.

The old saying, ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’ should be updated to a banana a day.

I prefer mine when they are nice and ripe, with a few brown dots on the skin. I have one chopped into my porridge every morning for breakfast, with a spoonful of honey.

I also use them in my fruit smoothie recipe.

Go on. Have a banana!

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If you want energy, avoid energy drinks!

EnergyDrinks

When I read this tragic story I realised caffeine is a much more dangerous drug than we realise.

‘My heart just hit the floor’: A mother’s pain after her son died from drinking FOUR energy drinks daily… as a doctor warns no more than two caffeinated beverages per day

The 35-year-old truck driver had suffered a massive heart attack and died from caffeine toxicity

A mother is determined that no one else will have to endure the pain of their child dying from consuming too many energy drinks.

Shani Clarke’s son, Michael, used to drink at least four 500ml cans of Mother a day – as well as four to five cups of coffee before he was found slumped behind the wheel of the 11 tonne truck on the side of the road in Perth on January 30 this year.

The 35-year-old truck driver had suffered a massive heart attack and died from caffeine toxicity.

by Leesa Smith For Daily Mail Australia – 3 September 2014.

(Read full article)

Most of my life I have been a chain coffee drinker. I needed a shot first thing to get the day started, another to get to work, and throughout the morning to keep me focussed… Or so I thought.

In my mid-thirties I began suffering from chest pains. It felt like I was having a heart attack. I went to the doctor. His first question was ‘How much coffee do you drink?’ When I told him he said that was almost certainly the problem. I cut back on the caffeine, and guess what? The chest pains stopped immediately.

As life went on the caffeine consumption increased a little. But I could feel myself starting to get irritable and tetchy by mid-afternoon.

Caffeine is a strong addictive drug. It is the fact that we are addicted to it that makes us think we ‘have to have it.’

Caffeine is in coffee but it’s also in tea – lots of teas not just ‘normal’ tea. It’s also in cola drinks and most energy drinks.

It might come as a surprise that caffeine is not just an addictive drug, it’s also a model drug of dependence

Caffeine is produced by more than seventy-five plants, which use it as a pesticide. That’s right – a pesticide! When we consume caffeine, our body thinks that some kind of emergency is happening. It floods itself with dopamine, epinephrine, cortisol, and acetylcholine. That’s what gives us that feeling of stimulation and being wide-awake and alert. But the human body is not designed to live at that intense state of emergency alertness for long periods of time, let alone every day.

It takes about 24 – 36 hours to come off this drug so, if you are a daily consumer, prepare for a serious pounding headache for a whole day.

Once you are off the drug, you’ll feel a lot calmer, happier and less irritable.

I quit caffeine on 16th October 2014 and I’m not planning to go back. I no longer wake up with caffeine cravings. I still meet friends in coffee shops and cafes but only if they serve decaf, which most of them do.

The alternative

If you want a slow release, safe energy drink, try my smoothie recipe. A pint of that should see you right for the day, with no health risks and lots of health benefits!

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dANGER

anger

We all feel angry sometimes. That’s part of being human. Feeling angry isn’t a sin. However, we need to be cautious if it happens frequently. If we have made anger a lifestyle, we are in real danger.

I’ll hold my hands up – I’ve been angry for a long time about the death of my son. It was no one’s fault. It was just a serious health issue he was born with. Those who tried to help did miracles. For the three years he was with us, we are very thankful. But small children should not die. That is just wrong.

I was never sure what to do with those feelings of frustration and hurt. For the most part I tried to block them out. I can think of times when I felt really angry about things that really didn’t matter. I’m sure I was projecting my frustration and anger onto those petty situations.

The word ‘anger’ is one letter removed from ‘danger’ If you fly into a rage, you can be sure of a bad landing. When our emotions are out of control, so is our life. Anger makes our mouth work faster than our mind. We end up saying and doing things we will regret later.

Anger is like a theatre curtain ready to part for the first act of the play. Behind the curtain stand all our lonely feelings – the actors ready to perform – guilt projection, discontentment, discouragement, abandonment, despair, unending feelings of inadequacy. Anger is the curtain that hides all these feelings from the outside world.

It’s easier to be angry than to deal with the real feelings because then people won’t see how much you’re really hurting because anger keeps people away.

Getting into a rage doesn’t make us ‘big’ or clever. In fact, the opposite is true.

Anger and rage are really unpleasant for those around you. If you are just an angry person, who takes things out on your family and those around you instead of dealing with the real issue, you will soon be without friends and your family will look for ways to avoid you.

Anger never accomplishes what you want it to.

In addition to all of that, anger is actually dangerous for your physical health.

Emotional stress and anger trigger the release of stress hormone cortisol in the body. Small releases of cortisol can give the body a quick burst of energy.

However, higher and more prolonged increases can cause lots of negative effects.

Cortisol is public health enemy number one. Scientists have known for years that elevated cortisol levels interfere with learning and memory, lower immune function and bone density, increase weight gain, blood pressure, cholesterol, heart disease. The list goes on and on.

Anger does kill. A study in the journal ‘Circulation’ finds that those who explode with anger are at a greater risk of strokes and sudden death.

Chronic stress and elevated cortisol levels also increase risk for depression, mental illness, and lower life expectancy.

So what can we do?

If we don’t deal with the cause of our anger, we end up projecting that anger onto other people and situations.

After years of feeling overwhelmed by past hurts I think I have somehow come to terms with my grief and anger. Life is a bit poo sometimes. That’s just how it is. Time to move on.

Better to make some new happy memories with those we still have than waste our life with rage.

We do have a choice. We don’t have to be angry. We can change.

What is the root of your biggest frustration? Does it come out as anger to those around you sometimes?

If so, what are you going to do about it?

My friend Paul McGee has a lot of helpful advice on this issue. Check out his books or watch his short videos at SUMO (Shut Up Move On).

Whatever you do, do something! Don’t let anger become a lifestyle!

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Avoid Kodak moments

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A quick glance at nature now and then will tell us that living things are always growing and changing. The world changes. Society changes. Our lives change from one season to the next.

When I left school (years ago!) someone advised me to get a job with a big successful company and work for them for life. That was the route to security apparently. But since that conversation those jobs have all evaporated. Big companies have downsized and reduced employees to a bare minimum.

Wiser advice today would be to work out what your gifts and skills are, develop them, and then see who is willing to pay you to do those things. And it may be several people or jobs rather than just one these days.

One danger with success is that it feels so good we don’t want that season to change. But it will, so get ready.

Kodak dominated the photographic world for over one hundred years. It had a 90% market share of photographic film sales in America. Almost everyone used the brand.

What followed was a colossal story of failure and missed opportunities. Kodak was a gigantic casualty in the wake of digital photography – a technology that Kodak invented!

Kodak engineer Steve Sasson invented the first digital camera in 1975. But it was filmless photography, so management’s reaction was, ‘That’s cute, but don’t tell anyone about it.’

As a result the company entered into decades of decline, unable to perceive and respond to the advancing digital revolution.

In 2012 Kodak filed for bankruptcy.

Simple steps to avoiding your Kodak moment:

Understand your passion

Kodak’s leaders thought they were in the film business – instead of the image business. They misunderstood the essence of who they were. When you boil it right down, what is your passion in life? Write it down. Stick it on your fridge.

Embrace change

Kodak thought their success was fixed. Life and technology are changing all the time. They made a lot of money from selling film so it was hard for them to think of a world where no one used film.

How is your world changing? What trends are happening in society? True, we don’t always want to be following the crowd but, if a sea-change is going on that affects you, shouldn’t you try and understand it?

Don’t be paralysed by fear

Kodak was so afraid of losing their lucrative film sales they buried their head in the sand. Don’t cling to the past when the past way of doing things is already passing away. Find someone who knows about the new way and learn from them.

Take some risks and experiment

In 1994, in my spare time, I set up a charity to develop my work in Africa and the UK. I wanted to see lives transformed and people rescued from poverty. Four years later, in 1998, my job contract came to an end. I was about to lose my home, which went with the job, and my monthly income.

I decided to try and go full time with the charity I had founded. I’m glad I experimented and set up the charity four years previously. I didn’t have to start from scratch. Although it was a big risk and a scary time, it worked. We now employ three people and are not only still viable but also still growing, these seventeen years later.

As we start 2015, is it time to do an audit of where you are going in life?

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Don’t believe Facebook spin

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Was life better before Facebook? Possibly. I never saw what you were having for lunch, or the amusing thing your cat did.

On the other hand, I do like being in regular touch with distant relatives and friends.

Last year, a couple of people commented on how idyllic my life sometimes looks on Facebook – the family walks, meals together, and smiley selfies etc.

To be honest, my life is just like most other people’s life – happy bits, sad bits, boring bits, cooking dinner, putting the bins out, paying bills, blah blah…

Some people’s life does look idyllic on Facebook and maybe it makes us jealous. But we really need to understand what Facebook is.

Facebook is mostly spin.

Just as the Blair government made an art form of spinning negative political news to make it look like something positive, so people are doing a sort of life spin on Facebook. We show only the best bits, the happy positive bits. There’s no intention to deceive. Just to show ourselves in the best light.

I tend to post happy family times because it’s something positive. I don’t post about arguments, or the time I had to go to the eye hospital and was quite scared about my eyesight, or when I get a letter with bad news, or times when I feel hurt, and a whole load of other stuff that would make me look bad, irritating or boring – even though I can be all of those things!

Facebook seems to be split into two types of people – the angry people who rage about something new everyday, in a way they never would if they were talking to the person face to face, and normal people –  those who mostly post simple moments that made them smile or think.

There is possibly a third group – the show offs – those playing the ‘keep up with the Joneses’ game of look-at-what-we-just-bought-that-you-haven’t-got.

I tend to block the angry people and the show-offs.

The problem is, if you think what people post on Facebook is their whole real life, you may become depressed that, by comparison, your life seems boring.

Here’s the thing. Everyone’s life is boring or mundane a lot of the time. We have to make our own joy.

A few years ago our family moved from buying mostly material gifts at birthdays and Christmas, and started giving ‘moments’ instead.

We went to see the Chinese State Circus when they came to town. We booked into a Jazz Breakfast. We hired a boat for the day and cruised down the river in Norfolk, for a picnic. What were we doing? Making memories.

Good stuff rarely just happens. You have to organise some stuff to create memories. Sometimes it can all go wrong, but the memory of it all going wrong can still be a funny memory.

Facebook isn’t real life. It’s a million tiny snapshots of what’s in people’s heads at a certain moment of their day.

If you want more happiness in your life do two things:

  1. Don’t think Facebook ever tells you much more than a bit of spin.
  2. Organise your own spontaneity! Plan some stuff. Make some memories of your own.

And perhaps it is time to write down the dreams you have for your own life. Then go and make the dream come true. And, when it does, tell us, on Facebook!

End of the year as we know it

2014

Well limbo is coming to an end – those few days between Christmas and New Year. As Ian McMillan put it:

‘At the tail end of December, the days huddle together for warmth.’

– Ian McMillan

I don’t know how you feel about 2014 but I have mixed feelings about it.

Several friends were diagnosed with life threatening cancer in 2014. So there has been lots of prayers and visits to different parts of the country. So far so good.

This in turn made me get myself checked out. I’m not very good at going to the doctor – I average one visit every decade. But this time my visit turned into blood tests, scans and having a camera shoved up my rear end!

Fortunately, it turned out I only have a slight problem with my prostate but nothing serious. Old age apparently.

But remembering that gratitude increases happiness, what am I thankful for in 2014?

At the beginning of May I finally gave up alcohol. And in September I gave up caffeine. These were two things I’d been trying to do for years, so well done me! (Pats self on back).

(By the way – if you want to quit alcohol all together but you are finding it hard or impossible, I can recommend Jason Vale’s book Kick the Drink Easily! Lots of people think they could just stop if they wanted to, but find it’s a lot harder than they think!)

In November I began keeping a food diary again, which is the only way I’ve found to lose a bit of weight.

I took more exercise this year specially cycling to work more.

All that has given me an increased feeling of health and wellbeing, so I plan to stick with all of those things.

These are things I sometimes have as New Year resolutions and then fail to achieve.

Resolutions never work unless we are prepared for a change of lifestyle.

Dieting for a coupe of months achieves nothing, if we just go back to unhealthy eating at the end of it.

As ever, I am very grateful for a loving family and the friends I have, and all the great supporters for the work we do in Africa and the UK.

I want to continue to take more simple steps to improve my life every month, so that the accumulated effect of these simple steps becomes transformational.

I’ll be putting together a FREE e-book and also publishing a more substantial book on Simple Steps to Improve Your Life in 2015.

If you want the link to the FREE e-book, it will only be available to members of my email list. They also get a FREE extra thought on life improvement each month. One email a month. No SPAM. I NEVER pass on your info to anyone else. Period.

One click unsubscribe option in every email.

You can sign up for FREE here.

Happy New Year! All the best for 2015!