Browsing Tag


goat king
heart mind writing

The Goat King

Years ago I moved to a new place just days before the area was hit with ferocious bush fires. Shortly after  shifting everything I owned into my new home, I had to quickly pack all my possessions up again, and stack them by the door ready for evacuation.

This new home was a broken-down, rambling 130 year old house that I shared with two other renters. It sat on 5 acres at the top of a ridge, in the Blue Mountains outside of Sydney, Australia. There was no fence and the bush started at our back door and rolled all the way down the valley, which was part of over 600,000 acres of National Park.

Watching The Fire

We spent one anxious night sitting on the back verandah watching the glowing fires out to the west. The winds were forecast to be 80 km/hour and headed straight for us. We scanned the orange glow across the horizon, tracking the movement, waiting for the moment we would have to leave.

The moment never came. The forecast winds only hit 4 km an hour instead of the predicted 80. The next day the local bush-fire brigade came out and did some back-burning in the valley behind our house. It seemed we were safe for the moment.

The day after the back-burning I went for a walk to check things out. I can’t imagine what it must be like to have a full-blown raging bushfire run through, because the effect of a tightly controlled back-burn was pretty decimating.

The previous day,  the undergrowth had been thick, disorienting, and difficult to navigate. My first few attempts to get down into the valley to join the track leading to the creeks and waterfalls were
futile. I ended up turning back, fearful I would lose track of where my new house was.

But after the back-burning there was just an expanse of charred soil, warm underfoot, smoke slowly rising from it. Dead remnants of trees still stood here and there. A few had fallen and needed climbing over. The walk to where the valley dropped down now took five minutes, about a quarter what it had when battling through the undergrowth.

An Odd Visitor

So I was standing there, looking over the seared landscape, when a white shape shifted behind a clump of blackened trunks. At first I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me, and walked quietly closer
to get a look. And there I saw it.

A white goat had come up from the valley and was walking through looking for green vegetation to eat.

I stood quietly and watched it nose around for awhile. The goat was so white. I wondered if it had bolted from a nearby home, frightened by the fire. It was such a strange sight, so clean and seemingly domesticated, calmly foraging through the charred ground.

After watching the goat for a while, I went back to the house and drew a few quick sketches in a notebook. The image was locked into my memory, and still is years later. I thought it might be good to use in a piece of art somewhere down the line. After I made a note of it I didn’t think about it much for a while.

A few months later, the bush had begun the task of regenerating. Even with the undergrowth returning, the bush was still nicely thinned out and it was an easy walk down to the public tracks.

I’d gotten to the point where I could scramble all over the valleys behind the house and had gotten to know the area very well. At least one day of the weekend was reserved for walking in the valleys, I usually followed the creeks that spread out through the surrounding area, climbing up waterfalls as they gradually got smaller and smaller and almost disappeared, or slowed to a trickle at their source.

The area is famous for the golden sandstone cliffs and ridges, and I would often spot caves high up above the creeks and would make a detour to climb up and check them out.

The Goat King

One series of cliffs had these gigantic golden caves that were eroded into the shape of golden waves about to break over the valley. I tried a few times but could never find a path up to the ledges near the top of the cliffs. Whenever I walked by the creek below them I’d look up above the tree-line and check them out.

One day I looked up as I was walking by and saw another white whiff of movement. I stopped and looked more closely. It was the goat, sitting on his belly, paws close to the lip of the ledge, surveying the valley. There was something about the way he sat that struck me, he was so at home, he seemed like a king looking over his kingdom. I’m sure he must have seen me but he must have felt that I was no threat as he didn’t move or acknowledge me in any way, he certainly shoed no sense of skittishness or fear.

That goat, who in some ways seemed so out of place in that wild environment but had clearly made a life for himself out there, continues to walk the the landscape of my imagination. He represents a model for how I want to be in my own life. He represents the qualities of sovereignty  and resilience that I want to bring to my life. The way he sat there on the cliff was so regal, there was such a strong sense of belonging and ease in the way that goat held himself.

And he brought that same calm presence to the blackened landscape as he did to the recovering landscape. He walked among the charred debris with the same confidence he displayed sitting high up on his throne, present and watchful as the land around him bloomed.

He reminds me that all we need to do when things chaotic is to forage calmly, sniffing after any remaining green shoots.

And he reminds me that we, too,  can simply sit here and be fully ourselves.  Settled, calm, secure in the knowledge that we belong.

I like to think of the present moment as my throne, and yours too. And believe that how we occupy that throne matters. How do you feel as you sit in that throne? Can you make your home there? When you sit
on your golden throne what perspective does it give you?

How To Be Mindful When It Feels Impossible
presence practices

How To Be Mindful When It Feels Impossible

You’ve heard about the benefits of being mindful, and you’re in! You want to be present and available to life. You want more clarity and calmness. You’re done with being dragged around by wasted moments, and now it’s time to feel more present, more grounded, more able to really take in and appreciate life.

Let’s do this! you say. But when you get to the doing, something happens to bounce you out.

Because there’s always something waiting to bounce you out, if you’ll let it.

Once we commit to being more present we are presented with a variety of challenges.

What Is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is simply the practice of being intentionally present and aware of what you are experiencing in this moment. That includes an awareness of physical sensations, thoughts, feelings, and what is happening around you. And we try to hold all these perceptions without a sense of judgement, just allowing what is present to be here. And if it’s hard to stay present, we try not to judge that either. Self kindness really helps.

Whether you are new to mindfulness or an old hand, there are always difficulties to navigate. Problems that make it difficult to remain present may also provide opportunities to deepen your mindfulness practice as you solve them.

Here are three common problems and some ways to move beyond them.

All The Thoughts

It’s time to be mindful. You might be sitting down to meditate, or standing at the bus stop with a few minutes to spare, maybe you want a moment to get quiet before a meal.

Then all the thoughts come flooding in.

When the mind becomes a Pandora’s box of swirling thoughts, mindfulness can feel impossible.

This is such a common state to find yourself in, and it’s important to remind yourself that this is the most natural thing in the world.

The function of the mind is to think.

This problem will often sort itself out with a bit of patience. With a little time the activity of your mind will often settle all on its own. Sometimes it won’t, but there are things that you can do to make it easier on yourself.

One way you can help this settling down process is to gently guide your awareness away from the head.

Get curious about your the place where your feet meet the ground. What are you experiencing in the soles of your feet? your toes? Do you sense anything there?

Your feet are a great place to focus on as they are the furthest point from your head, but don’t feel restricted to your feet. Your whole body is your ally.

You can try a full body scan, slowly move awareness all through your body. Track the air as it fills your lungs, your belly. Feel those places where the air meets your skin.

Not only does this take the focus away from an over-active mind, it’s like entering a new world, like trying scuba diving for the first time: here everything is new and has it’s own way of being.

Too Busy

Maybe you’ve worked with mindfulness before. Maybe you’ve felt like you were making progress, but life got too busy. It’s hard to maintain a practice when you have so many demands being placed on you. That is a difficult position, and everyone finds themselves here at some point.

That sense of busy-ness, when you are scheduled to the hilt and running from crisis to crisis can feel like standing in front of an impenetrable brick wall. It seems like there’s no way through.

But like any brick wall when you get up close it’s full of cracks. Once you start looking for them you start seeing them everywhere.

Everything contains space. Even the densest, most compacted objects contain space. Your task when feeling overwhelmed like this is to find the space.

Find the gaps between activities. Then find the gaps inside the activities.

Insert small moments of mindfulness in the gaps. Choose one simple cue that reminds you to come back to being present: a mindful sip of water between meetings, taking a moment to feel your feet on the floor between phone calls, move your attention to just below the belly and feel it rise and fall with your breath.

Keep it simple and repeat your cue whenever you remember, you’ll be surprised at how quickly becoming present for small moments at a time becomes a habit for you.

Be Here Now (And In The Future)

Richard Strozzier Heckler says “You are what you practice.”

If mindfulness is your practice, eventually your natural response to even impossible situations will be mindfulness. and even if those impossible situations knock you off course, with practice your natural instinct is to return, again and again.

Practice when things are not not feeling impossible. Enjoy that feeling. Know that you’re creating fresh neural grooves that will enhance your ability to be mindful later on.

Practice when it does feel impossible. Just making the effort is a win. And that’s not just a pretend win either, I’ve sat through so many awful meditation periods where my body felt tied up in knots and my head felt on fire, only to feel a delicious sense of clarity and calmness an hour or two later.

Trust that something is happening for you. Have faith and play the long game.

Practice in short bursts. Find your own style, own it, have fun: make a game of it. Rack up flying hours and soon enough, being more present and mindful will become second nature to you.

Every moment of awareness is a victory. Every moment of awareness helps to create a habit of being more and more aware in the future.

And hey, if you need some help–I offer bite-size, half hour coaching sessions that help you get into a mindful, grounded state as preparation for working on a challenge you face right now. They’re very effective and great fun as well!


Forest Bathing: Shinrin-yoku translates as "taking in the forest atmosphere" or "forest bathing".
in the world

Forest Bathing – Shinrin-Yoku

“If we surrendered
to earth’s intelligence
we could rise up rooted, like trees.”
—Rainer Maria Rilke

The term Shinrin-yoku sounds ancient and mystical, as if it was handed down from a mountain monastery by a wizened Zen monk before he turned and disappeared back into the mists, never to be seen again.

In fact, Shinrin-yoku translates as “taking in the forest atmosphere” or “forest bathing.” and describes a program developed in Japan in the early 80’s by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

It seems funny that such a sensitive and healing practice could spring out of a beaurocratic body with a name like ‘The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’, but forest bathing is inspired by Shinto and Buddhist practices and comes at a time when the need to be reimagining our relationship with forests, with all of nature, is hitting a crisis point.

Mindfulness and Nature

Humans have lived in close communion with forests for all of our existence. We’re wired to be affected by, and respond to, our natural environment. For so many of us living in urban environments, it’s common to feel that pull towards wilderness in whatever form resonates for us, whether that’s hiking in the forest, climbing mountains, or the gazing out at the ocean. We all know that spending time outside in nature can have a rejuvenating effect on us.

What makes forest bathing more than just ‘being outdoors’, however, is that participants are encouraged to engage with and explore this natural environment consciously, using their senses. So there’s the experience of being outdoors combined with the element of mindful engagement.

There are certified Shinrin-yoku guides who are trained in leading groups in the forest bathing experience. Their job is to guide the group safely and assist them in opening themselves up to the forest through a loose sequence of activities.

Some of the activities include mindful breathing, smelling, listening, and other exercises that encourage interaction with the environment through the sensing body.

Here is a description of a beautiful invitation called ‘shared breath’

With the help of the guides participants get to experience themselves in relationship with the surrounding forest, to feel immersed in the experience, to allow the boundaries of the self to soften a little and let the forest in.

In this way there is a sharing of energy, as the forest is allowed to influence you and nourish the forest bathers.

The guides sometimes lead the group in an activity called ‘The Way of Council’– small meetings where the group is given a forum to support each other in reflecting on their shared experience.

Benefits Of Forest Bathing

Some of the benefits of forest bathing include: lower blood pressure, a reduction in stress, more energy and improved sleep. People who have tried the experience often report feeling a closer, and deeper, connection to nature and themselves. And a lot of people have tried it, with over 2.5 million people in Japan walking forest therapy trails in Japan every year. Yes, they have have spent millions setting up dedicated trails throughout Japan.

It makes sense that Japan would be leading the way with forest bathing, and the extensive research they are doing into the effects of the experience. Japan is highly urbanized and city life is chaotic and draining on the people who live there. One area of the research focuses on the effects of “aromatic volatile substances’, the oils exuded by trees that are breathed in as people walk through the forest. These substances are proving to have profound effects on people’s brains and bodies.

And while the chemical properties of forests might be rejuvenating and contribute great health benefits, my instinct is that the opening up of yourself to the forest, that process of allowing the outside world to come in and affect you, is where the deep healing comes in, as people reconnect to the old ways of being in right relationship to the world that holds us.


forest bathing shrine-yoku mindfulness

in the world

What Does It Mean To Be Present?

How present are you in your own life?

Are you present to the world around you? How about the people around you? How present are you to your acquaintances, to your loved ones, to yourself?

We’re all capable of being present, at least some of the time.

Even before I started working at this stuff in a serious way, I was often able to be present when I needed to. But sometimes, even these days, I find myself drifting off or forgetting that I’m here.

Presence oscillates. Sometimes it’s here, sometimes it fades a little. I don’t even think we’re built to be present 100% of the time.

But to be present just a little more? We all have room for that. Actually, once you get into the habit of trying to be more present you’ll find your capacity is pretty great. To notice you’ve been absent and gently welcome yourself back is a nice start.

For me, being present means feeling grounded in your body. It means being receptive to the person, or people, in front of you. A big part of being present means being aware of what’s going on in your heart: do you feel tender right now? a little closed off? what are you noticing in there?

We all want to feel more whole, more sane. We all want to feel that we belong. In moments of presence and quiet I start to believe we are all more whole, more sane than we think we are. I certainly believe we all belong.

A Matter Of Kindness

I used to think being present was a matter of trying hard, and wrestling with countless, urgent thoughts. And if you’re thinking that too, I want you to know–it’s not about that.

I used to think no matter how much I meditated, or tried to be mindful, that I was never doing enough. That I wasn’t devoted enough, or smart enough to ever get it. These days I’m so much kinder towards myself because I know that’s all untrue. It’s not true about me, and it’s not true about you either.

Sometimes it’s simply enough to hear birdsong outside your window and remember, “Oh, it’s Spring.”

What does being present mean to you?

presence practices

One Simple Doorway Into Presence

It makes sense that we would all want to be as present as possible. After all, who wants to fritter their life away in constant distraction?

When thinking about meaningful moments in our lives it’s easy to run off a list of the big moments-birthdays, weddings, births, promotions, achievements, retirement. We all make a special effort to be present for these moments and in many cases there are special rituals and traditions that helps us.

But what about all the small moments between the seemingly big ones. Are they any less important? A child hugging you tightly after they’ve fallen and hurt themselves, seeing the small wisp of steam rising from a cup of tea, a stranger smiling at you at the grocery store.

We dream of the big moments and expect that we will be present for them because they’re big. But if we’re unable to be there for the small moments, why do we think we’re going to do a better job of being there for the bigger ones?

Being Present Is A Practice

Somatic Coach and trainer, Richard Strozzi Heckler, says “You are what you practice.”

If you spend time being distracted, you cultivate the practice of distraction. If you spend time being present, you cultivate the practice of presence.

It’s as simple as that.

It’s a difficult truth because we are saturated in convenient and enjoyable options for being distracted. To turn away from all of this we need to make an intention to be more present.

And this ‘being more present’ becomes a new practice.

That starts with making presence something that is focused and engaging for you.

Because a practice is something that you are going to want to come back to again and again. The best way to make the door slam shut on a good intention is to make it seem like a chore.

A Simple Doorway Into Presence

There is a doorway into presence that, by its nature, wishes to stay open.

It’s the door of Curiosity.

The door of curiosity is a doorway that invites you to leave judgements behind. It encourages a sense of playfulness. There is a lightness to curiosity, and when you are deeply curious everything becomes fresh and gives you a sense of nourishment.

There’s an energy to curiosity that keeps pulling you lovingly forward. Well, it my also invite you sideways at times, which is why it helps to have a clearly focused goal to work with that will keep your curiosity on course.

We will talk about how to build that in in a little while.

Getting Curious About Curiosity

One of the root meanings of curiosity comes from the word curiosa meaning ‘full of care’. I like that the quality of ‘care’ is inherent in the concept of curiosity. It makes sense too, that care wold be a necessary ingredient that allows curiosity to remain engaged with it’s subject.

The act of remaining engaged through curiosity also deepens the sense of care. When we are with something in a curious way, care seems to naturally come up. There is this self generating quality of aliveness that also builds up over time.

Curiosity is in all of us. It pretty much ran the show when we were small children and is lying there inside you always ready to be reactivated.

The How Of Curiosity

Curiosity begins in the body.

It’s awakened by our senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, touch. The flood of information from the outside world is met at the door by curiosity, which then proceeds to hang out with them, relish, mingle and learn from then.

Our mind is awakened in this meeting, and thoughts and questions rise up as we try to process new information.

This wonderful and natural process can also get a little overwhelming if our goal is to not get carried away.

It’s important that we take some time to think about how we want to be present. This will help us find ways to harness our curiosity, to allow us to remain present  and not be pulled away.


Questions are a simple tool we can use to create a sense of focus and direction. A question gives our curiosity an agenda, a purpose. Unchecked curiosity can lead us in an infinite amount of directions, and that’s not a bad thing if that’s what you are wanting to so. But if you have a specific goal, like being present for ourselves, then direction and focus are going to be helpful.

In his book, ‘The Big Leap’ Gay Hendricks introduces the idea of wonder questions. These are questions designed to inspire a  sense of wonder in the questioner. They are open ended and yet focused at the same time. And start with the phrase “I wonder …”

A useful wonder question might be “I wonder what it would be like if I could feel my breathing whenever I wanted?”

This kind of question allows our curiosity to wake up a little, and gives it a sense of focus. Our curiosity is being given the sole task of feeling the breath.

Another benefit of the Wonder Question is the aspect of embodiment it offers. Hendricks suggests that when you ask the question to yourself, you ask the question out loud and at the end you add a humming sound.

As in, ““I wonder what it would be like if I could feel my breathing whenever I wanted? Hmmmmmm.”

This humming is something that we’ve all done when asking a question, but in this case it has a distinct effect that helps the process.

When you hum in this way after the question it sends a vibration through the body, as if you are infusing the question through your whole being.

Try it. There is something magical about humming, and it certainly gives a sense that you are bringing your whole self to the question.

And this is important, because sometimes questions can exile us from the body. Holding a question in this embodied way helps keep it engaged with the body and infused with aliveness.


Reflection is something that generally happens after the event, but this is a really helpful step and will help you to direct and get the most benefit from your rides into curiosity.

After you’ve spent some time with this question that’s designed to help you explore the present moment, it’s really helpful to scribble a few notes about your experience.

Was it interesting? Dull? Did anything new reveal itself? Did anything shift in your thinking, in your body, when you were present to your breath in this way?

Even if you don’t keep these notes there is value just from taking a moment or two to process and integrate what happened.

It also helps to build habit, ritual, and a sense of history into your presence practice.

A Presence Practice For You

Softening Into Curiosity:

Pick an activity that gives you pleasure-eating chocolate, drinking tea, sitting in front of a fire, stepping into the garden.

Think of a simple question you can ask yourself that focuses on your present moment experience of this activity.

Eg: “As I drink this cup of tea, I’m wondering if I can be aware of these sensations I’m feeling?” or “As I walk through the garden, I’m wondering if I can be aware of the smells that come to me?”

Oh, and remember to hum at the end … Hmmmm? Now that you have your activity, and a question to help you focus:


Let go of everything you know about this activity.

Let go of your previous experiences, and any thoughts about how it might be this time. Just soften so that you can be receptive for the activity.

Do this by allowing your awareness to drop down through your body. Imagine your awareness as the slowest, gentlest waterfall—the water is perfectly warm and comfortable as it moves down through your body. Allow this awareness to move all the way from the top of your head down to your feet.

Once you feel present and receptive, begin your chosen activity.

Pretend it’s the first time ever.

Allow your question to guide you, and if other sensations/feelings come up, notice them too.

Once you’ve spent a few minutes doing your activity, exploring your experience make sure to jot down a few notes.

It could be in a journal, on a scrap of paper. It doesn’t matter much, the important thing is to capture it somewhere. Doing this helps you to integrate the experience. If you do this exercise regularly your reflection notes will become valuable as you will begin to see your experience shifting over time.

You might start to notice different sensations and feelings that come up, and your relationship to this activity may deepen, or change over time.

catching ideas welcome presence
creative presence

The Idea Catcher


“I have so many ideas that I’m lucky if I don’t trip over them each morning.”


I love the image of Bach tiptoeing through his room, over ideas strewn on the floor like discarded underwear. Isn’t that just how creativity works, too? Ideas are abundant. Having ideas is much easier than grabbing hold of them and bringing them into the world.

An Embarrassment Of Brilliance

When looking for a good metaphor it often helps begin with nature. And the abundance of creative activity in nature amounts to an embarrassment of brilliance: millions of eggs laid by sea turtles on a beach on a single night; galaxies bursting at the seams; countless fruit rotting under countless trees; the outrageousness of Spring  where whole landscapes burst into bloom for a few weeks.

Maybe you’ve experienced one of those lazy days sitting in the garden, trees swaying, bees droning in the background as a s stream of creative ideas flow through your mind, only to be swept away as you fall into a nap. Or maybe your ideas arrive in the shower. Or you receive wild visions while stuck in traffic. You, too, are the conduit for an embarrassment of brilliance.

Like Bach, ideas are floating all around us like a rabble of butterflies. The next step involves action. We need to pick up an imaginary butterfly net and snatch the ideas we most resonate with, the ones we commit to working on.

Why It’s Hard To Move From Idea To Action

Once we commit to an idea it is removed from the safe bubble marked ‘daydream’ and we start to make a place for it in the real world. Undertaking this process means to risk mucking it up, or being ridiculed.

I have piles of notebooks that I keep in a red box, each one filled with sketches, doodles, ideas. I love that box. It’s like a bright red cocoon for my ideas. They sit there like fat little grubs, readying themselves for the day they’ll burst out into the world.

Flipping through my notebooks can be like walking through a butterfly pavilion.

I safely watch all my ideas and sketches from here, some more viable than others; there goes a lime green one floating up to the canvas ceiling, while another struggles to free its soggy orange wings from the edge of a water feature.

But this is an exercise in separation, too. I keep myself apart and safely view my ideas with both hands tucked into pockets to avoid squashing anything.

In Order To Create

We need to get involved, no more viewing from a distance, it’s time to pull out that net and commit.

Problem: you might find a sense of dread rising when it’s time to do that.

Sometimes, dread comes from the tension between the ideal version of the idea in your head and the flawed version which your limited abilities may actually produce.

And it’s true, the flaws will be there. Ideas are delicate things, their wings can be easily torn, they might not adapt well to a new environment. But the work of adding beauty and meaning to the world involves the realization that a lot of ideas just won’t make it. There’s no need to take that personally, it’s just the truth.

And the beauty and meaning we’re talking about there is the singular beauty and meaning that comes filtered through you, and your perfectly flawed life. That’s the flavor of your personal magic and only you can bring it into the world.

Leap Into Action

Here are some tips for moving from idea to creation. Let’s snatch these ideas as they float past, then do something with them.

Start Small

Small starts are a great way to build momentum. Once you begin the transition from ‘idea’ to ‘action’ it’s like adding oxygen to kindling. I’m an anxious starter and have learned over time to build in small, non-intimidating actions at the start of each project. For writing, a brief entry in your journal can work. For art,  sharpening pencils, organizing paintbrushes, selecting the right paper can be enough to get you settled and ready to make those first few marks. Once you’re on your way your project starts taking over and sweeps any nervous energy away.

Get Present

Being in the moment is a great way to both open yourself up to inspiration, and to grab what the muse offers you and run with it. Being mindful and aware allows your perception to open out a little and gives inspiration more chance to strike. Noticing is a simple writing meditation that can help you get settled into the present moment and open to creative possibilities.

Inhabit Your Body

A great way to get in touch with your creative abilities is to move your awareness down into your body. Your body is a vessel of inner wisdom and connecting with your body allows you to sidestep the bustle of mental chatter. Things are quite here and there is space for wisdom and beauty to emerge.

A great way to bring awareness into your body is to let your feet be flat on the floor and imagine that you are breathing in and out through the soles of your feet. As you breathe do a simple body scan , moving your attention down from your head–to your throat, the center of your chest, belly, pelvis, knees, feet. Even a few seconds of this has a settling effect and you can feel the difference.

Fail Often

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

Samuel Beckett

Lowering the stakes is a great way to begin a project. Realizing that your self-worth is not tied to every blog post, painting, or workshop that you create is a blessed relief! Is it really a problem if this blog post tanks? or if an illustration looks a bit out of whack? No. It’s tempting to aim for perfection but th truth is that the more you’re prepared to fail the more you produce.  And BONUS: the quality of your work improves dramatically.

Give It Some Air

I used to be a drug and alcohol worker, and one thing we did was to sit with clients as they wrote down what they saw as the ‘good’ and ‘less good’ aspects of their substance use. This exercise had a profound effect on people, it was often the first time that all the desires, consequences and judgements, good and bad, that had been swirling around in their heads was released, and they had a different perspective on them.

You can get this same effect with your ideas–by telling someone else about it, or putting it into another format–I often sketch my blog post ideas, or write a mini description of an illustration I want to do. A simple shift in perspective can really freshen things up.


Ideas are tender beings, sometimes they just need to work in the dark for a while. It’s like being in a cocoon, if it’s opened up too soon everything is lost. No one can tell you when, either. Only you can know.

Leave Foot Prints

At 5 years of age I got a pair of ‘Bata Scout’ school shoes. They had lion paw prints stamped into the sole, and at the back of the shoe, just above the heel, was a tiny opening with a secret compass tucked inside. I remember walking in the dirt and checking out my foot prints with the air of a seasoned jungle explorer.

We can also leave footprints of our creative projects. I keep notes of each stage of creation whenever possible. When a project tanks, it’s footprints are left behind for you to retrace and get a sense of where and why things went wrong. Sometimes you can even pick up a failed idea and set it in a new direction.

How About You?

What’s your favorite way to get from ‘idea’ to ‘action’? Do you use some of the methods outlined here, or do you have your own strategies? If so, I’d love to hear them in the comments!

you deserve some space in your day
in the world

You Deserve Some Space In Your Day

Daily life can get so hectic, so quickly, that sometimes you don’t feel the mental, emotional, and bodily effects of that until you’re deeply affected.

That feeling of constriction arrives in response to being squeezed on all sides by a rush of distressed thinking and racing to meet impossible expectations.

But in the thick of all this, it’s still possible to reclaim a sense of spaciousness in your day. To release some of that tension, and allow your daily activities to nourish rather than drain you.

Being stressed and harried is unhelpful, and while unavoidable sometimes, it’s definitely not our natural state, and there are ways we can avoid feeling like this, or at least reduce those feelings of tension and anxiety. You deserve to have some space and ease in your day.

What Does It Mean To Have ‘Space’ In Your Day?

To answer that question, it might help to look at the opposite of spaciousness—feeling cramped and constricted. This is what anxiety and stress can feel like: our breathing gets squeezed, our limbs tense up, our movement is restricted, we make ourselves smaller in our bodies, less of a target. To hold ourselves in this way, while racing to get a ridiculous to-do list completed, takes up so much energy.

Spaciousness is the opposite of that. Our bodies are more free to open up, we breathe easier, we move around alert but with our bodies more at ease, maybe we decide to lower the number of things we want to get done and this leads to a series of quiet spots in our day, like the space between notes in a piece of music.

Let’s look at a few ways you can build a sense of spaciousness and ease into your day:

Set An Intention

A great starting point is in setting the intention to take care of yourself and create some space your day. Making this commitment means that you have something to guide you through the day, to keep you on track.

It also means that you get to spend some time at the start of your day imagining space opening up for you. Feel this in your body, hold it in your mind, move a little this way, and that with a sense of spaciousness. Allow the intention to set in your mind as a commitment. Also allow it to settle in your body a little. Give yourself a physical experience of spaciousness so you can recall it throughout the day.

Note any emotions that bubble up when you contemplate the idea of bringing in spaciousness, maybe write them down and see what they might have to tell you. You want the intention that you set to touch all aspects of you, to really sink in.

Give Yourself A Subtle Reminder

Once your day gets busy it can be easy to forget that you were working on creating space for yourself.

This is one of my favorite ways to remind myself when I’m doing a project like this. It’s subtle, it’s self sustaining (you get lots of reminders through the day) and there’s app alarms or post it notes up in public view—so no one else needs to know what’s going on.

You simply write the word ‘space’ (or even an “s” will do) in the little triangle of flesh between your thumb and index finger at the base your right hand.

What I love about this is your eyes will land on this little message at random times throughout your day and remind you. It never fails. And it’s amazing how the reminders seem to come at just the right moments, at the very spots in your day where you need them the most.

Create A Space For Yourself

Don’t just wait for space to appear. Create it.

Sometimes it can feel like our lives are being constricted by external forces. It’s possible to take some sense of control here. Even if it’s just giving yourself a fifteen minute block of time here and there through the day. You can schedule small breaks, or just rely on your body to let you know. It always will (if you listen.)

If your time is super squeezed you can also seek out a small, physical, taste of space. Whenever I feel squeezed I find a way to get outdoors, even if it’s for a moment or two. Just to get my body underneath the sky, to steal a moment away from a cramped room, to escape my desk, and to touch base with the unlimited space in front of me, behind me, all around me.

This is such a quick and easy thing you can do for yourself, and you will feel your body respond immediately. And the best thing? Even a minute will work wonders.

Noticing and Interacting With Space around you

Here’s a lovely mini exercise from Sally Kempton: Focus on the space around things.

As I’m writing this I look up and see the lamp on the stand beside my desk. I’m noticing the space between me and the lamp, the space behind and around the lamp. Taking this the next step I imagine  the space between all the atoms and molecules of the lamp.

Other things to try:

Notice any empty objects that cross your path today: an empty mason jar, cleared dish rack, open sky, empty shoes.

Become aware as you perform actions that create space–like exhaling, finishing a glass of water, cleaning out a room.

Pay attention to the breaks between songs on a CD or your i-pod, notice the silence between birdcalls in your garden.

Just noticing and acknowledging the space that exists in your external environment has an effect on how you perceive and interact with space in your internal environment. Drink it in.

Noticing and Interacting With Space within you

Yes. You can do the same thing internally.

Breathe in, feel the space inside you expand.

Where can you sense space inside your body? In your throat? How about your abdomen, between the organs there? Inside your organs?

You might not physically feel space in these places, but you know it exists there. Can you imagine that space?

What about the space between your knee joints, And the space held by in bowl of your pelvis? the space between your rib bones?

And don’t forget the empty spaces around your body, between your toes and fingers. The shell-like spaces in your ears. Relax your arms and feel the small pocket of space in each of your armpits. space exists within you and around you.

You are intimately connected with space. No one can take that away from you.

Close Your Day With Spaciousness

Reflect on your days experience of focusing on space. Do you feel a sense of space now? Did it change how you experienced your day?

If someone was watching you move through your day, without being told that you were building more awareness and space in your day, would they have noticed anything different about you?

Just a few minutes of reflection and journalling makes a huge difference here. Especially if you spend a few days working on creating space. This is a great way to remember any changes in your experience and to become aware of any habitual patterns that you may have in the way you relate to space.

Watch This Space

I’ve been hard at work behind the scenes designing ways to help you create more space in your life.

The first is my new presence coaching offering: The Refresh Sessions

These are mini sessions (1/2 hour each) that take you through the process of starting your day grounded, refreshed, and focused–so you can move ahead with more clarity and ease.

They’re a great help if you want to get your week off to a fresh start, or if you have a big event coming up and want to feel clear, energized, and ready to succeed.

Click Here to read more about the Refresh Sessions!


in the world

The Wisdom Of The Duck Dive

When you take up surfing one of the first things you notice is how difficult it can be to paddle out.

The worst part about being a beginner is the amount of wave-beatings you have to take before you even get to the business of trying to catch a wave.

One thing I noticed when learning was a move experienced surfers make when faced with an oncoming wave–they push their board under the water and pop out the other side of the crashing wave, unscathed, and resume paddling out.

The move is called the ‘duck dive’ and learning it is a real transition point for a surfer. It marks a shift from flailing novice to a surfer who is at least beginning to get some sense of control in the water.

To do a duck dive you paddle quickly into the oncoming wave, grab the sides of your board at chest level and push down. You then push down on the tail of the board with one knee. Your body naturally follows the board down under the water as the wave passes over you. You then pull up the nose of the board and it will naturally pop up to the surface, pulling you along with it.

The first successful duck dive is a revelation. After being relentlessly bashed by the surf for way too long, you suddenly have access to a place just a few feet under the water where, no matter what turbulence is going on at the surface, a whole world of relative calm exists.

It’s been a decade since I last surfed and I know the next time I go surfing, when faced with an oncoming wave I will instinctively remember what to do.

The wisdom of the duck dive is locked deep in my body.

As a presence coach, a lot of my work with clients involves using simple exercises to become more present, so we are able to respond creatively to circumstances, rather than reacting to them from our deeply ingrained habits.

Being aware of our bodies–of the sensations coursing through us, our emotional state, our energy levels, our posture–is an important element of being present. In coaching sessions I am reminded again and again of the simplicity and beauty of the duck dive.

In the sessions we use simple shifts that allow us to slip beneath the chaotic energies of our habits and patterns, our critical voices, and the churning expectations that get heaped up on us.

And from this place, just below the surface, we get a taste of the calm ocean that exists in all of us. In this quiet space we can make small, helpful adjustments before we tilt ourselves back up into the busyness of the everyday world.

welcome home to your body
presence practices

Welcome Yourself Home


Sometimes the world around us can feel jarring. Full of busyness, and obstacles. We are bombarded with messages urging us to strive, maneuver, and push ceaselessly forward on our way to … something.

I say something, because we are rarely presented with a clear picture of what we’re supposed to be striving for. The something is usually packaged in very generic terms like ‘success’, ‘respect’, ‘wealth’, ‘having it all’.

I believe we are all trying to find some sense of meaning in our lives, to make some sense of all this. That we are good people trying to have a good life. Which is a really difficult task given the distractions all around us.


A Different Story

It’s a really unwelcome environment that we have collectively built for ourselves. But there is something within us that whispers a different story. Some part of us that knows we are welcome, that we are connected to something larger, that the possibilities for our lives are boundless.

Learning to become more present is the best way I know to get in touch with that different story. The one that’s being whispered to you underneath all the noise.

When I say become more present I mean something like mindful, but I prefer the word presence. Sometimes, the word mindful comes across as a little clinical and detached. The term presence seems to invite more of us into awareness than just our minds: our bodies, our emotions, our thoughts, even our surroundings.

I actually think all of those things are supposed to be included in the idea of mindfulness, but something got lost in translation.

Working with presence can:

  • Encourage you to access your own inner wisdom.
  • Create a sense of spaciousness around the issue you are working on.
  • Help you disentangle from other peopleʼs, or your own, misplaced expectations.
  • Make it easier to recognize your own habitual responses.
  • Make new and more skilful responses possible.
  • Give you a sense of belonging.

What excites me most about presence is that once you get a taste of being with yourself in this way, it creates curiosity, and a desire to be even more present to your life. Thatʼs what makes this such a beautiful practice.

A Simple Presence Practice

Your hands are highly sensitive. They are a great tool in helping you to be present. A simple starting point when you wish to be more present is to place one hand over the center of your chest and direct your attention there.

Through that simple act you can feel so many things: bone, skin, your breath moving through you, the warmth of your chest, you might even get a sense of your emotional state.

By giving your attention to your hand as it makes contact with the center of your chest, you drop into a state of deeper presence.

You might only stay there for a moment before you drift away again, but this experience of presence is always available. You can access it whenever you choose.

I do this practice countless times each day. It’s my small ritual for coming back to myself when all the distractions of daily life have dragged me away.

It’s a simple and easy way to welcome yourself back home. And it’s kind of addictive. The more you do it, the more you want to do it. Each time you do it, your experience is a little different. You might have  a feeling of being soothed, you might feel more energized, you might become aware of tensions dropping away.

When you make this a regular practice you begin to notice subtler things going on underneath the surface–tight spots in your body, relaxed and pleasant sensations, a quiet feeling, an old memory, a thought that has been looping over and over in your mind without your knowing.

Just noticing these things can make a big difference to how you experience your day. Coming back to yourself in this way helps you to feel grounded and makes it easier for you to resist being bounced around on a hectic day. When something throws you off course, doing this practice can make you feel soothed and energized and ready to get back into your routine.

So next time you are feeling overwhelmed (or when you simply remember) try this exercise out. Welcome yourself home, even if only for a moment or two. See how it goes.