The Devil’s in the Detail (or how that pesky intruder interferes with our relationships!)

It’s funny, isnt it, how you can understand a phrase one way, then something opens up in your experience and suddenly it means something completely different?

I’ve been becoming more and more aware recently, of just how obsessive I can be – how I can grip on to ticking every ‘t’ and dotting every ‘i’ before I feel I can finally let go.  Perhaps there’s the clue “finally let go”.  As I write that I have an image of myself, sometimes feeling like I am hanging on for dear life, to some particular point (particularly in a discussion – argument? with someone)

And how many different savings accounts I used to set up, just so that I could “keep track of” where I was up to?  Tying myself up in knots trying to remember all the different credit cards, covering all different scenarios, just so that I could be sure what outlay was being paid off when.  Isnt all debt just debt?!!

And all the while, considering that little phrase up there was supporting my every obsessive action – justifying each extra  little action, each “just to be sure” as I believed that “The Devil’s in the Detail” was somehow confirming that if you dont pay attention to every detail, then some kind of devil will appear!!

Only, recently, I’ve had the opportunity to be creating new relationships on the phone, peer support and mentoring.  And, well, to be honest, each time a new relationship is begun, a theme has begun to emerge.  I begin to tie myself up in knots with “wanting to be sure that we are doing everything right”.  Labouring and labouring points, getting anxious and uptight if every “t” of the instruction is not crossed and looking to stamp that great big bloody dot on each “i”!!!

It’s so easy for me to blame the poor unfortunate partner on the other end of the phone.  Only I cant get away from the fact that each time I approach this, something happens that leaves me out of sync with whoever I’m in the relationship with.

And to be fair, my poor longsuffering husband John, and 16 year old son Saul (well, 16 year olds bring their own set of relationship issues to the table!!!), have been subjected to my need for accuracy, certainty, and “getting our discussions right” for God knows how long.

And then it dawned on me – there’s a seeking perfection, an unwillingess to allow for uncertainty, for things not be quite finished, to not be absolutely proven or an absolute gripping of life’s situations so bloody hard that knuckles are almost bare!

And that word popped into my head – “detail”.

. . . and just like a lightbulb going off that phrase took on a whole new meaning!  All my obsession with detail, with accuracy, care and perfectionism is introducing a little devil into all my dealings with others.  Instead of there being a smooth flow of communication, a potential for intimacy there is this weird blockage – and it’s that little Devil!!  He’s dancing and laughing away in every attempt I make to be perfect!

I think it’s time to wave him goodbye!  So, I’m making myself a promise, to let that “t” remain uncrossed and leave some bare “i’s” waving in the wind without their dots pinning them down!  To gently front that sense of anxiety as I consider “what if I’ve not finished, what if I’ve not checked it or not made sure that’s absolutely watertight?” and remind myself that if “The Devil’s in the Detail” then maybe there’s some “Love & Life in the Letting Go!”

 

 

 

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To list or not to list?

I don’t know if you’re like me, but I have a long history of list-making.  I’m rather fond of lists in fact – only, I was chatting with a friend the other day and she was talking about something she’d been meaning to do for a long time, she said “oh, I must write a list”, or, did she say, ” I SHOULD write a list?”

A little bell went off in my head – I’m a huge exponent of “look out for those shoulds!” – the minute I hear a should or an ought to, must, or “that would be the right thing to do” I get this probably very annoying look on my face – if it had words it would be something like “hmm, really?”

I think it’s called Doubt, only this time it’s Doubt with well-meaning behind it – not that I’m saying there’s any other kind of doubt?  (hmm, good place for a question mark!)

So, I sat back and thought about my lists, and what they have done for me over the years – there have been times when I have felt they have given me sanity – when my head has been exploding with hammered commands of “you should be doing this,” “what will happen if you don’t do this,” to “OH MY GOD, you have so much to do – what’s going to happen to you?!!” – and, there have been times, when those charming voices even try, “you haven’t even got time to write a list!!”

However, when the noise gets so loud I have learned that peace is negotiated by sitting down and just dumping the whole lot on a piece of paper – going back, and then prioritising, working out how long each thing will take, and working out just how much is possible to be achieved today.  It’s given my controlling mind great pleasure to write little numbers in red, and as each one is ticked off, and I move on to the next, some sense of satisfaction that I am “getting something done”.

And, there it goes again, that little bell.  So, what’s so great about “getting something done?”  Is it just appeasing all those floating, annoying “Shoulds?”

I was now beginning to think that this whole list culture of mine was not all that it seemed.

Was it possible that every time I wrote a list I was just reinforcing the fact that I needed to be perfect, needed to be behaving well, doing what I was supposed to do, being productive (oh, now that’s a familiar one?!), and only generating more thoughts and ideas of things to go on further lists – are any of you familiar with my old favourite, the list of lists?!!

I didn’t necessarily have a nice neat answer to all of this.  Only, what it did was make me stop and consider that something that has worked extremely well for me at times – calming the madness, as it were!!, is not always the best way forwards.

So, I’ve ended up with recognising there may be two kinds of lists (for now, I could always end up with a nice list of kinds of lists!).

Quite simply, there are the lists that help me get clarity, to calm down, to get some peace in my mind, and give me a sense of direction when I am flailing all over the place.

And then, there are the lists that leave me feeling I’m not good enough, not matching up to the mark (where is that mark, by the way?), the lists that tell me I’m a failure because I STILL haven’t done something, the lists that don’t accept me for who I am, and where I’m up to right now and that say, “you cant feel OK – about yourself or anything – UNTIL you get to the end of this list”, and the clue that you’re on this list is that as you reach the end, a new one is already composing itself in your mind . . .

So, I think I might start just pausing the next time I pick up my pad and pen to start scrawling – one moment to ask myself, is this list going to give me peace and clarity, or is it just going to remind me I suck?!!!

Phew – that’s crossed that one off anyway!!

Love to you all x!

Size 14 Pants?!!

I use the word pants, not knickers, with intent. I know Bridget Jones had her “big pants” but I bet they weren’t Size 14!!
So there I am sweaty and steamy in the M & S changing room, on the hottest day of the decade. Hung up on the rail in front of me are a selection of ladies upper body underwear – you get what I mean? I had just spent twenty minutes looking at all the delicate light and pretty bras that sit on the front of all the rails – then slipping each hanger forward, and forward, searching out the size that I can no longer deny is required to hold everything up and in. By the time I’d reached the 36D the pretty and delicate garments were a distant memory. I’m thinking “surely that great thing will never fit me?”
Eventually accepting the truth, I gathered together the best selection I could find of summer bras and headed off to the changing room.
I wished I hadn’t . . .
Something began to stir as I peeled off my top layers and fiddled about with the straps, struggling with the “2 pack” sets that were bound together with a sealed plastic hoop – working out how to try one on, with the other hanging down the front!
They do have wonderful changing rooms in the lingerie department of Marks – spacious, with mirrors on all walls, so you get to see yourself in glorious technicolour from all angles.
I looked up, and all I could see was my 56 year old body, with all it’s imperfections, folds which wont disappear no matter how big a cup size or bra size I move up to.
Where had that Size 8 (and less) skinny tight body disappeared to? Who on earth did this awful truth I was staring at belong to? Bottom lip goes, and the tears fall – feeling very sorry for myself! Only, there’s no escape. That woman in the mirror is me.
I think the tears helped. After all, they’d been scratching away all the time I had been roaming the aisles, hoping for a miracle to occur.
And, after all, I am 56, what do I expect? This is it, I’ve read about it, not seen much about it – you don’t get to see many steamy sex scenes with the Over 50s – and of course there is the memory of my mother, who continued to wear bikinis well into her 70s – maybe her confidence (in this department) meant I never really noticed the aging details as she used to wander around the garden, flipping in her flip flops, secateurs and gardening gloves in hand.
So, now it has arrived, the time when I accept that all the dieting in the world (that would be if I could actually stick to one!) and maybe all the Cross-training, Cross-fitting, Getting Cross!! or whatever it’s called, wont actually bring back that tight youthful body from the past.
OK, so, perhaps I can work with what I’ve got, I thought. Maybe it’s not too bad – and after all, it’s not like I’m going to parade out of the changing rooms around the shop floor for all to see!
And, perhaps, after all, if I really start looking around, I’ll see, when I arrive on holiday, that I’m not the only woman in the world who is in her 50s, who has a rather wobbly structure.
That what I am is normal, what I am!
I took a closer inspection – yes, everything fit where it was meant to. I dropped all my choices into my basket and headed out and off to the knickers department.
OK, I thought, if it’s time for Acceptance, it’s time for comfort. I couldn’t quite believe as I reached out for a 5-pack of Size 14 knickers!
This morning, I thought “it’s time”.
What a discovery. By actually dropping all the vanity and clinging on to the idea that I couldn’t consider any number above 12 I was actually wearing something that fitted me, and not only did it fit, but because it did, it had the opposite effect of that I was expecting. No more tight ugly lines and rolls, but a smooth acceptable curve – and comfortable too!
I feel like I’ve stepped through the back of my wardrobe, only this time there is no way back. It’s time to get used to the new landscape, and start Accepting What Is, try out some new confidence.
Time to publish . . . .!

What To Do When No One Shows Up, Nurturing the Nurturer

Everything was in place – after a brief hiccup – the room being full of large tables covered with white cloths, taking up all the space. The staff were so helpful – in less than five minutes the receptionist and her burly assistant had expertly whisked off the cloths, sprung down the legs, and rolled out the door the enormous round wooden tables, leaving a huge empty space, ready to receive all the participants. By 10 to 6 I stood at the window. I looked out at the steely grey sea – no blue skies tonight, just a few clouds scudding by – there were various boats bobbing up and down by the pier, and the palm trees were blowing around in the breeze. Inside, there was the beautiful fragrance of cedarwood, mandarin and petitgrain as my Four Principles candles burned on tables around the room. Soft music filled the room, and I wrote the word WELCOME up on the board, accompanied by a couple of hearts, as a reminder of why we were all there.
Only . . . 6 o’clock came, and . . . there was only me there.
No one turned up.
The carefully planned one hour taster session that I had organised at a local hotel in the town of Beaumaris, I had placed fliers up in every conceivable place, in this and the next town. I had handed fliers to friends, messaged and emailed people. I had posted pictures on Facebook promoting the event – to local community pages and my own Four Principles page.
And yet no one turned up.
Disaster? Or another opportunity to learn from The Four Principles, and remain connected with my own heart. As the minutes ticked past six o’clock, and the certainty that no one was coming became real, I had no choice but to connect to my own heart. Looking around the room I felt a deep sadness – I had such hope of seeing those faces arriving anxious, unsure and nervous – and yet, willing to grab a short opportunity to switch off from all the racing and running around, and allowing themselves to turn towards opening up something gentle and kind – allowing themselves to be nurtured as I chatted to them briefly about our precious hearts, our true and trusted guide, and then led them through forty minutes of gentle relaxation, opening up to what is happening in our bodies, and a guided meditation opening our hearts to ourselves and ultimately everyone out there in the world. I had been so optimistic about seeing those same anxious arriving faces, leaving with softened smiles, with looser shoulders, a gentler step, a thought that tomorrow they would make a point of doing just one nurturing thing for themselves, however small, but just taking the opportunity to notice themselves, for just one moment, and then again the next day.
Instead I was facing an empty room.
Opportune, or serendipity that the candles I was burning were Acceptance, the second principle? And, I know only too well, that when we practice Acceptance, acknowledging just “What Is”, what we cannot change, and let go of any attempts to distort the truth, we then are faced with our natural responsive feelings. And I felt that sadness deeply. I knew the importance of allowing that, and trusting that by allowing and accepting whatever I was feeling, only then would I know what action was the next step for me.
So, time for Nurture. I was so grateful that John, my husband, had offered to come along and unload all of my things from the car – spare blankets and cushions, music and bags. He was waiting in the hotel lounge and looked up surprised when I walked in at 10 past 6, a sad smile on my face, “No one came.” I hunched my shoulders to acknowledge the “oh well”.
What should we do next? Having allowed myself the Nurture of support from John’s presence, I remembered that Nurturing is what was called for now. “Let’s go and sit looking out at the sea, and have a coffee, and I’ll chew this over,” I suggested.
As we sat, a few moments later, on the balcony of a local restaurant that looks right over the water of the Menai Straits, sipping coffee, wrapped in a blanket, I realised how grateful I was that I had been able to set up the room, write the fliers, play the music and burn the candles – discover that I was able to get that far.
Only, there must be a message for me. I had a choice – to stay disappointed and feel stuck, a victim, it’s not fair and all other similar lines from old familiar scripts. Or I could consider, something is telling me this isn’t the right way. I want to share The Four Principles and the pathway to heart, with others, and maybe this just isn’t the way to reach them right now.
I have been trying to share some nurture face to face, arranging Retreats and this taster session. And I have been avoiding writing this blog, and avoiding writing the book that I would love to write.
One last principle when we got home. I felt I needed space and quiet – Solitude – I came up and sat in quiet meditation for an hour, just letting the thoughts come and go, trusting that whatever I need to do next will be revealed to me.
So – here I am – first blog in months – and a new commitment to write and share my own experiences of living and learning about life through using The Four Principles of Self Nurture, and never giving up on the pathway to my heart and encouraging you to do the same!
So – the next time no one turns up for you, don’t give up – turn to these four simple principles – Solitude, Acceptance, Gratitude and Nurture Rituals in order to find your way back to your heart, and see where it leads you . . . xxxx

Just switch on the light . . . and follow the path

Everything had been going too well . . . not that I’m a pessimist or anything! Just, I do still have that sneaky little part of me that doesn’t trust when things start to flow nicely . . . who knows just how influential that untrusting part of me is?

Whatever – fact is, that my old friend the black cloud descended a few days ago. Not necessarily in his usual garb of glugging tiredness and sense of pointlessness with everything. This time it was more like an invisible wall that I bumped into every time I set off on a path of “doing”.

No matter how hard I looked though, I just couldn’t “see” the wall – couldn’t work out how to get round it. I tried my best to put into words what I was experiencing – “fog”, “lost my way”, “seem to have forgotten everything I have learnt”.

And underneath all of that, a very familiar subtle underlying sense of panic that I am going to run out of time . . .. I wonder if you know that one?!!

Days started to pass, and the feelings still wouldn’t shift, no matter which way I looked, analysed, pushed, squeezed, wished myself into feeling different.

I had forgotten everything.

Emergency measures were called for – without really knowing or understanding why, I found myself going “right, that’s it – I’m going to take a break from all this working things out and trying to push or work my way through it”

I sat my morning meditation as usual, still feeling fidgety and uncomfortable, only, knowing that I had set aside all plans of work that morning and took myself off for a swim.

I had the pool all to myself. I trudged up and down the pool, counting the laps in both directions, freeing my mind of all “working out” thoughts.

Slowly, clarity dawned – I’d made a space – and, whatever it was, just let go. The flickering light that had inspired me to just stop, step back and take some time to myself opened up to illuminate the dark space that had been around me. I felt free again!

Three practices:- Acceptance, Nurture Rituals and Solitude.

What I discovered was the practice of Acceptance involves not “thinking” or “overthinking” when we finally let go. Little did I know but the beginning of the process had already started when I decided to Nurture myself by cancelling the days programme. The Solitude is crucial. When we get flickers of light of “knowing” that Letting Go is what is necessary to free us from the chains of struggling against something we cannot change – even if that something is just how we are feeling – REMEMBER – just switch on the light follow it, and learn to trust, let go of thinking and Just Be.

Watch the results – you may be surprised!

Never Give Up or . . .Nurturing Yourself to Stay!

I’m on to my own gremlins and demons!

Do you know what I mean?

There’s things in life that I know I HAVE to do, and there’s things in life that I really WANT to do!

Funny, isn’t it? How, when the time arrives when you want to take action on the things you WANT to do, all sorts of stuff starts happening?

I finally got my website up and running a couple of weeks ago – having posted my first blog only a couple of weeks earlier.

How easy would it have been at this point to just breathe a huge sigh of relief, sit back and start polishing my chest? After all, it has only taken me about six years!!!!

Yes, I was tempted – it felt good, after all – constantly clicking on the internet tab, typing in the http://www.thefourprinciples.co.uk and just grinning stupidly at all that lovely green background and swirly writing!!

But – no – I swatted my sword of self-determination at the gremlins, and reminded myself that the point of the website was to promote the Self-Nurture day retreats that I hold.

“OK, OK,” the little voice in my head began to make itself heard.

What I really meant was, this was only the beginning – there is always more work to do!! Writing promotional fliers, creating Facebook posts, emailing contact, and more.

And that’s when it starts – the pulled up shoulders, red cheeks and an imaginary tiptoeing walk to the door out of my writing room, off to occupy myself with piles of washing, emptying the dishwasher, or, better still – just lazing in a long warm bath – after all – that’s nurturing myself isn’t it? Isnt that the point?

Ha ha – not exactly! There are different times and different kinds of Nurture.
And right at that point, the Nurture I needed was supporting myself in staying right here!

Thinking about what I wrote above, scratch that slightly, to say, there are times when, in order to do what you WANT to do, there ARE things that you HAVE to do!! And in my case they seriously turn into things I DONT WANT to do!!

And this is where Nurture Rituals come in. Even now, as I rattle away (well, perhaps tip by tap) on the keyboard, I want to run. So, what can I do to help me stay?

Affirmations (reassuring ones) are a big favourite of mine. On my desk I have a handwritten note of a Julia Cameron line, “Treating myself like a precious object will make me strong” and one of my favourite crystals sitting on it. I have various tealites in little objects that all have their own significance burning away. I treated myself to some white fairy lights and have strung them around my desk. And I’ve just been listening to a collection of songs based on Sarah ban Breathnachs Simple Abundance (one of my favourite inspirational books).

And, most importantly, Acceptance (2nd principle). Acceptance, that for whatever reason, when it finally comes down to doing the things that I REALLY DO WANT to do, the greatest way I have of preventing that is allowing my own little gremlins to turn them into DONT WANT!!

I just do that – it just is – so, instead of beating myself up about it, my job is to Accept, have some compassion, and lighten things up, make it all rather lovely – just another version of Nurture Rituals being incorporated into my everyday.

Right . . . now, what was I doing . . . ?!! (lights more candles, puts on more music . . . )

The Myth of January!

So, you made it.  All that eating, drinking, socialising ?  How much TV can you actually watch?  And, crikey, did I know I could manage to squeeze in quite that amount of chocolate?!! Only, of course, now I cant actually squeeze into anything in my wardrobe.  Natch.

And what comes next? Yes, of course, our old friend the New Year Resolution!  So, 1st January arrives, we sit, pen poised, or maybe facing the mirror for great effect – yes, how about those “affirmed” resolutions – feeling better?  Hmm, perhaps not.

And then here comes the myth . . .all that rest, time off, time to think, time to plan, make all sorts of promises to yourself and to others about what you’re going to do and what are you left with?

Great Expectations.

No, not visions of dark graveyards and clanking of chains in mist . . . just the belief that now January is here, trumpets will sound, birds will start singing, the sun will shine, light will flood into your life and energy will come flooding through your veins.

Sounds familiar?

Only, from where I’m sitting, that energy is stuck somewhere around the centre of my suitably increased waistline, so far there have been plenty of clouds and grey skies – and where’s all that daylight when I set off in the morning on the school run?  Where’s the sunlight and trumpets?

Actually, it is hovering in the future, in about two or three months time – remember that thing called Spring?!!

However, all is not lost – I have a new idea!

I am sick of arriving half way through January  feeling cheated, depressed, gloomy, unable to bear the thought of more and more dark, cold weeks until a glimmer of warmth and sunshine.

Because I PEAKED TOO SOON!

I got it all wrong.

January, February AND March can all be dark, cold, wet sometimes.  Yes, there may be a few teasing snowdrops peeping out of the earth, well – OK, maybe a few crocuses too – and, oh well, alright, there are actually some narcissus poking their heads out down by the beach – but, generally, it’s all pretty much “GONE AWAY  – BACK IN A COUPLE OF MONTHS” on the garden front.

So – what do we do?!!  Well, I’ve got it  – we throw out all those thoughts of bursting energy and springlike activity, and we hunker down.  Yes, Nurture Rituals well and truly come into their own at this time of year.  It’s time for blankets, log fires, comfort food, catching up with your favourite novels, lying in candlelit bubble baths, early nights or all-nighters watching boxed sets!

So – Ok, don’t actually throw out all those Resolutions and bright ideas.  Just park them gently to one side perhaps.  If you want to surive what can feel like the gloom of January February and yes, even some of March, I think you need to slow right down, take it easy, get in tune  with nature and see the Truth of January, and smother it with loving, nurturing activity.

Don’t be deceived by the Myth Of January!

It can be tough out there!!

Happy Nurturing!

xxx