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in the world

What Are You Called To Do Today?

How’s Your To-Do List Today?

Mine is jam-packed (bet yours is too) and everything feels urgent. The tasks crowding the top of my list are mostly things I’d rather not be doing and set against a backdrop of expectations and consequences for not getting them done. Which just adds to the sense of crisis and urgency.

Putting aside urgency for a moment, it can be useful to take a few minutes to pause for a bit and take stock.

You might notice feelings of agitation at the thought of having to do these things.

That sense of agitation probably comes from thoughts about these things that need doing. Often, tasks aren’t really that bad, it’s our thinking that can make us feel really antsy.

So. Imagine letting go of thinking about your To-Do list right now. You might feel some of that tension drain away immediately. They’re just actions that need doing. There’s still a slight sense of agitation, perhaps, but once the thinking is stripped away and you’re left with the tasks themselves, it doesn’t seem so bad.

Inside / Outside

One thing that stands out about most To-Do lists is the ‘outside’ nature of them. How so many tasks are generated by external needs–from other people, or from circumstances outside of ourselves that need fixing. It’s like your list is pulling you out from yourself.

When you move your focus from things that need doing ‘out there’ and look inside, sometimes a new list shows up.

By ‘look inside’ I mean shifting awareness out from your head and all the thoughts swimming inside it and allowing awareness to settle into your body. To be conscious of the physical sensations in your body. To feel your feet on the floor, the temperature in the room and how it feels on your skin, the movement of your chest as it breathes in and out. Then, moving deeper in, being aware what’s going on in your chest, your heart center.

There might be a slight sense of unease there, we have been talking about To-Do lists after all!

Maybe you’re feeling calmer than when you started reading, more present.

Whatever is going on for you now, going deeper you’re likely to find there’s something more underneath these sensations if you’re willing to check.

Something inside of you that wants to be heard. A desire for actions that come from a deeper place and that are infused with a sense of ease. Actions that come more from this place, inside, rather than from the outside. Actions that are both restful and productive. Tasks that are generated from a sense of purpose and are more closely aligned with who you are, and what you want to accomplish.

What might those tasks be? What are you called to do today?


writing prompts
heart mind writing

Imagine This …

Imagine This …

You are sitting at your desk

You are sitting at your desk staring at a blank page in your notebook

You are sitting at your desk staring at a blank page in your notebook and this blank page stares back up

You are sitting at your desk staring at a blank page in your notebook and this blank page stares back up as you twirl your favorite pen in one hand and nurse a mug of peppermint tea in the other

You are sitting at your desk staring at a blank page in your notebook and this blank page stares back up as you twirl your favorite pen in one hand and nurse a mug of peppermint tea in the other, you blow steam from the top of your mug because the tea is hot and it is very difficult to start writing

You are sitting at your desk staring at a blank page in your notebook and this blank page stares back up as you twirl your favorite pen in one hand and nurse a mug of peppermint tea in the other, you blow steam from the top of your mug because the tea is hot and it is very difficult to start writing when a robin bathes vigorously in the birdbath outside your window reminding you how low the water really is

You are sitting at your desk staring at a blank page in your notebook and this blank page stares back up as you twirl your favorite pen in one hand and nurse a mug of peppermint tea in the other, you blow steam from the top of your mug because the tea is hot and it is very difficult to start writing when a robin bathes vigorously in the birdbath outside your window reminding you how low the water really is, so you go to the garden to fill the birdbath back up and maybe water the roses, and the rhododendrons by the back fence, before heading back in and then

You are sitting at your desk …

Be Kind To Yoursef. Self kindness is self care with a heart. It springs from self compassion. Being kind to yourself is self care imbued with tenderness. Self care tips |
self kindness

Be Kind To Yourself

Every once in a while I make a decision to treat myself with kindness and watch what happens. Here’s what happens: things get better.

When I’m kind to myself there’s a softening, a releasing of actual contractions in my body that are there through the habit of continually pushing through my day.

That softening happens even before I do any actual act of self care, whether that might be taking some time to meditate, to rest, to go for a walk, to stop working and feed myself some nourishing food.

All those actions are helpful as well. But it’s important to know that even making the decision to be kind to yourself has an effect.

Something in you responds to self kindness. Something shifts. You will feel it inside, and it will change how you react to other people and to your circumstances.

When you’re kind to yourself, other people notice. Because you become softer, kinder in your contact with them. The kindness ripples out. You develop fresh habits that reinforce self kindness. That kindness will start coming back to you as people respond (in kind!) until it becomes a self reinforcing loop of kindness.

So, being kind to yourself becomes a way of calling in kindness from other sources as well.

What Is Self Kindness?

Self kindness is self care with a heart. It springs from a sense of self compassion.

The idea of self care can easily become a chore if the heart is not involved, a list of things you do out of obligation to yourself, like a daily maintenance program. Self kindness is self care imbued with a sense of tenderness towards yourself.

That used to sound hard to me

“Be kind to yourself” — if someone had said those words to me when I was 24 I would have let loose on them. At that time I was struggling, a lot. I had just entered a twelve step program and was in the process of getting sober and drug free. I did not feel kind towards myself at all.

Self criticism was running strong and, as my life was falling apart, there was also a sense of urgency to put my own needs aside and get things right. I was doing my best to get on track again but, looking back, it seemed like I was making things as hard for myself as I possibly could.

The idea of self kindness would have been hard to take on at that point, even if I had tried. So I know very well that the journey towards self kindness can be difficult in the beginning.

Some ways it can be hard:

  • You might be working against a barrage of unhelpful internal / external messages: ”I don’t deserve that’ or “You don’t have time for self kindness, you have work to do!”
  • Distractions, obligations, expectations: sometimes you can have so much on your plate already that it seems impossible to carve out more time to practice self kindness, even if you see it as important.
  • indulgence = bad:  We’re told that a lot, and I’ve definitely heard that little message coming up in my own mind, it can be a hard one to ignore. But really,  I don’t think it’s true.

The great thing is that these obstacles to self kindness start to melt away when you apply a little self kindness. Another great thing is that most of us aren’t starting at the beginning, most of us have some experience with being kind to ourselves, some small area in life where we’re able to do that. Finding that place is a great start.

All It Takes Is One Drop

Here’s what I’d say to 24 year old me: “All it takes is one drop.”

One drop of kindness towards yourself, it doesn’t even have to be fully sincere.

5% would probably do. So let’s say, 5% of one drop of self kindness will do to start with.

If you can’t find that 5%, pretending helps. Imagine there is, inside of you, a small drop of something–let’s say mostly water, with 5% of that drop being open to self kindness.

Then get started by acting on behalf of that imaginary droplet.

“Indulge me.” I would say, “Because I’m the same as you, I just learned how to be kind to myself and it made things easier.”

Because all you need to get the ball rolling is the slightest impulse to start. Once you’re doing things in the name of self kindness it starts to feed itself.

How Can You Make It Easier?


Cultivate an attitude of gentle persistence.

Working in the spirit of gentle persistence means you don’t ask too much of yourself. You give permission to make slow progress, and you simply keep going, no matter what. No self criticism, no blame. Just moving gently forward, trusting we are going at the right pace.


Catch those moments when you are being kind to yourself. Sometimes it just occurs naturally, so it’s good to note when that happens. Note down how it felt, what difference it made to you as well. These are useful things to come back to and over time it can be encouraging to be able to look back and see how much progress you’re making.


Set a direction for where you want to go. If you sit down and think of a few ways you’d like to be more kind to yourself then you can plan for that. You can make a time, create a ritual, maybe find a nice setting to do that in, imagine what it will be like beforehand. Setting an intention can be a powerful way to start moving forward.

Know your tendencies

I’m more likely to remember self kindness a little later in the day. Mornings are a blur of activity and I focus on getting the boys fed and off to school, it’s only then that my mind clears a little and I can sense more clearly where I’m at.

That means late morning is when I’m most likely to remember to do a Yoga Nidra meditation, or to write in the garden for a while, so I usually wait till then to build self kindness into my day knowing that fits with my daily rhythm. Again, writing down your observations can be helpful here in finding out the best opportunities to do something for yourself.



Be Kind To Yourself: E-course coming in September

I’m currently in the process of rewriting my course on self care and bringing more emphasis on self kindness, with some new guided meditations and exercises. It will be  happening in September (Sign up to my newsletter in the yellow box below if you’re interested to know more)

And how about you? How do you build self kindness into your life? What helps? What gets in the way?

world in all its brilliance
in the world

The World In All Its Brilliance

In Paris I went to neither the art academy nor to the professors. The city itself was my teacher, in all things, in every minute of the day. The market folk, the waiters, the hotel porters, the farmers, the workers. They were enveloped in something of that astounding atmosphere of enlightened freedom that I had never come across anywhere else.

Marc Chagall

Do you ever have moments where the veil falls away and the world presents itself fresh and new?

My wife and I spent a morning running errands recently and pulled up at a stoplight outside a cafe. A woman on a bicycle was propped beside our car waiting for the light to change. A couple walked, arms linked, in front of the stopped traffic. In the cafe every table was occupied, at least those visible from the street, and on each table there was at least one laptop open. One man looked through the window, checking out the woman on the bike.

I was struck by how particular this scene was to this moment, to this corner of the city, to the people present, and the activities they were doing. It was a grey Seattle day which threw a soft light over everything, and beneath the bustle of activity everyone seemed relaxed. Things moved in slow motion.

That moment will never be repeated exactly again.

Well it’s Seattle, so the clouds will probably be repeated. Never in that exact same way, though.

The woman on the bike will never lean in just that way, in just that spot, watched by just those eyes as she waits for the light to change. The relationship between the couple crossing the road will never be quite the same again. Tomorrow it may be deeper, or fonder, more fraught, or finished. The man looking out the window might never see the woman bike-rider again. Or he may see her tomorrow, run down the road and ask her out.

The light changed and we drove off. The moment of seeing, of really seeing that little scene, dropped away and a veil slipped back over the world.

I don’t remember much at all of the rest of the trip. I was caught up in thoughts, or conversation for most of it. We probably stopped at a few more lights at which nothing really caught my eye, and soon enough we were home again.

But that small moment outside the cafe stays with me. It was just a plain moment, but bright in its plainness.

I read recently that when visitors came to Chagall’s studio they had to wait for him to throw on a pair of pants, because he painted naked. That nakedness shines through in his paintings, too.

I love this gesture of casting away what stood between him and his canvas.

Brief moments where I see the world clearly make me realise how muffled my view usually is. It makes me wonder if sometimes I walk around like a guy wearing a pair of pants over my head.

I’m not sure we’re even built to see the world in all its brilliance all the time. I’m sure we gather that mental clothing around us in self-protection, but I’m also pretty sure I go through life a little overdressed.

One payoff from building your capacity to notice, to be present, is that the discipline in showing up regularly in this way ensures you’ll hit roadblocks and stop signs that occasionally strip away your mental clothing, forcing you to see things as they really are, if only for a brief moment, before the rush to cover back up again.

in the world

Finding Beauty Through Simplicity

Beauty surrounds us,
but usually we need to be walking
in a garden to know it.

My father was a landscape artist and he used to carry a small piece of cardboard with a rectangular section cut out which he used as a viewfinder. Looking through this simple tool helped him isolate different aspects of the same scene and settle on a composition for his paintings.

I carry one around in the folder of my sketch book, and when using it I notice how it de-clutters my field of vision and simplifies my choices.

There are many ways we can use the idea of a viewfinder to focus our attention.

Every time I’ve attended a silent meditation retreat, I always relish the feeling when that first bell rings, signaling the beginning of silence. It’s like having a frame of simplicity placed over my life for a few days.

That single change reduces the many social interaction choices we need to make during the day and ushers in a velvety cloak of silence. This has an immediate calming and focusing effect on me.

By taking away these choices it becomes so much easier for the mind and body to settle deeply.

The writing practice of noticing works in this way too. It limits your writing choices to one: record what is happening in the present moment. It takes something infinite and provides an access point that retains a sense of expansiveness, while reducing the sense of overwhelm.

This act of framing and simplifying makes it easier to give your full attention.

Once your attention is focused and intensified; beauty, and detail, and previously hidden patterns are revealed. Curiosity is fed, and you are open to the vibrancy of everything around you.

This might be where we get that idea of attention as a form of love. When you think of the word ‘attention’ in this way, other words may float up; like ‘attending’, ’tending’, and ‘tenderness’.

As Rumi points out, when we find ourselves walking through a garden, we have our own cultural frames that guide us in how to experience that garden so we can receive it fully. Beauty is all around us but a garden acts like a frame, so when you visit a garden all your senses become attuned towards beauty, and you can’t help but find it.

Great focus and attention is required in the creation of a garden. It’s there in the act of envisioning the garden, the deliberate care given as each plant is put in the ground and nurtured along, the thoughtful placement of each element with an eye to how future visitors will experience the garden.

These all require shifting viewpoints that bring simplicity. The results of these choices then come together, like a mosaic, to bring forth an experience of beauty for us as we arrive to experience the garden.

Are there activities in your life that you frame with simplicity? that inspire attentiveness, tenderness and focus? Leave a comment, let me know.

heart mind writing

The Art Of Noticing


How do you feel when you face a blank page?

Some days it’s not a big deal for me, some days it’s difficult.

When it’s good, writing and creating is like something fresh and vivid pouring itself onto the paper.

Then there’s the not-good times. The block shows up first in my body–as heat, as tension–it’s like I’m a thermometer and the red mercury of dread is rising up through me.

That feeling reminds me of exams I’ve taken where I sat, pen in hand, mortified as every drop of knowledge evaporates, leaving me stuck on a hard seat staring at the sheet of paper demanding answers from me.

Most of my experience of writer’s block is somehow related to false expectations. Set by me, or a someone else, as if I’m being examined and about to be ‘found out’ as lacking something.

I’ve developed a practice that helps me with all of these things, that is changing my relationship to writing, it’s called ‘noticing’.

Noticing is my way of dissolving false expectations, and tapping into what lies underneath all of that anxiety. It’s a way of claiming a small victory for myself. the small victory of starting. Which often leads to a snowballing effect–once I’ve pierced the crust of my anxiety I’m free to mine all the good that lies beneath it.

This Is How It Works

Start by writing the word ‘noticing’ at the top of your page, and begin to write whatever comes into your awareness, in this moment. Anything counts, if the pen is moving, this is working. There is no quality requirement here, we just record what’s happening in the moment, even that is just a starting point, if you veer away that’s fine, too.

Whenever you get stuck, or need a moment to regather, or simply want to follow a new train of thought write the word ‘noticing’ again keep the pen moving:

Noticing the boys walking outside my window, chatting away. The sound of geese? ducks? the light is low and I see grey through the window. The room is warm. Noticing tension in my head. At my temples. I’m tired and flat. Noticing the light falling on the page, how my hand casts a shadow over the tip of my pen and each word is written in shadow then moves into the light as my hand moves across

The repetition of the word noticing does a few things. First of all, writing the word noticing means that before I come up with my own first word, ink has already met the paper: no blank page. It sounds insignificant, but with writer’s block there are no insignificant victories. There’s writing, and there’s not writing.

The word noticing also gives me a focus, I have a clear simple action to perform, that keeps me from spinning my wheels.

I also like the rhythm of the word: ‘no-ti-cing‘. I often write it out a few times when I’m stuck and just enjoy that rhythm, and what it draws out from me:

noticing noticing noticing … a plane flying overhead, the small of my back is tight, I’m leaning forward in my chair, now shifting a little, my back has eased slightly , still tight. the window just brightened, the sun is out and there’s a mess of garden hose all lit up on the ground outside.

No grammar check, no spell check, no checking anything here. The exercise is all about getting the pen moving, and touching base with your present moment experience.

Noticing is for everybody. The great thing about this exercise is you can’t get it wrong, because you’re just recording what is coming into your field of attention as it happens. And also, you can’t get it right, because no matter how fast you write you can’t possibly capture with pen and hand all the things that are you are noticing in any given moment.

Ideas of right and wrong become completely irrelevant. Take that! Inner Critic.

It’s a great practice to begin a writing session–that’s my favourite use. I also find it calming, and will often ‘notice’ for a few minutes before writing an email, or filling out a form I’ve been stressed about, or even if I just want to sit and do some journalling (I never know what to journal about, so noticing is really helpful there. )

I’ll sometimes take a pen and paper out into the garden when I’m supervising my son’s play, too. It’s nice to sit out there with a cup of tea, do a bit of noticing, run around with the boys for a while, do some more noticing. It’s a great way to check in and touch base.

You can go as lightly or deeply as you choose to with this. Sometimes, I’ll start off noticing and hit an idea or a feeling that really draws me in and the noticing becomes something else entirely– a blog post, a starting point for a poem, or a painting.

Anything can happen.

And Hey! Did you know I’ve written a whole ebook on noticing for you?

It’s called ‘Notice Your Life’ and it’s free for you to download right now!

Just fill out the form at the bottom of the page, then hit that big orange button to get your copy delivered.

You will also receive the Welcome Presence newsletter with tips, blog updates, and conversations on being more present in the world.