The Happy Starfish

Living Mindfully & Celebrating Health, Happiness & Peaceful Living


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Ditch the New Year pressure

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We’re only a few days into January and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been asked what my New Year’s Resolutions are.

The cashier at the supermarket this morning looked baffled when I said I don’t have any.

‘I’ve put on weight over Christmas,’ she blurted out, ‘And I’m going to join a gym.’

Why do we do it? Heap unnecessary pressure on top of our often frantic lives, only to face crushing disappointment when we can’t achieve the impossibly high standards we set ourselves.

I have goals, dreams, aspirations. Everybody should but I strive every day to be better than I was yesterday, to always be kind, compassionate, grateful and mindful, no matter what day or month it is. To be the best version of myself I can be; to pay it forward whenever I can, and love. You can never have enough love. And that’s the only resolution I need.

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Mindfulness – Responding not reacting

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It’s been a strange few weeks for me. I’ve been betrayed by someone I once considered a friend which has cost me both financially and personally. I’ve been left feeling hurt and bewildered, unable to quite understand what has happened or why.

Pre-Mindfulness I would have reacted to this situation instantaneously, from the heart, without taking time or space to consider my options. As it is, I have been able to wait, think things through rationally and calmly. Reacting automatically is an understandable human response but it can make situations worse. I’m sure everyone has responded, from a place of heightened emotion, to an email, text, or comment and then had that stomach churning ‘why did I do that?’ feeling later on.

In today’s instant world it’s so easy, with 24/7 access to text, social networking and email, to mindlessly fire off a message within seconds and then wish there was a retract button.

Being kind is a choice. 

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Mindfulness has taught me patience, compassion and self-respect.  It’s been an invaluable tool. I don’t know where I’d be without it.

Find out more about Mindfulness, here.

 

 


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What the world needs

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I wrote a short story on my fiction blog on Saturday called ‘Where would the world be,’ (you can read below).

If I was granted one wish in this lifetime it would be to make people a little kinder towards each other. Often it can be hard to know how, or ever when to help but I firmly believe there are small acts of kindness we could carry out almost daily. These small acts could truly enrich the lives of others and if we all led by example and paid it forward just imagine the overall effect on humanity. but, and here’s the thing, everyone needs to do something.

There are those, like Janet, in the story below, who does one thing, to validate her self worth but is blinkered when it comes to others genuinely needing a bit of support, those whose second nature it is to help whenever and wherever possible and those that rarely do anything. I like to think that those who do nothing just haven’t needed a random act of kindness themselves and don’t understand the huge impact they could make by carrying one out.

Kindness. Let’s spread it around.

 

 

Where would the world be?

‘You are good,’ said Father Brian admiring the patchwork of colour Janet had created. Containers of sweet peas, peonies and lavender bought a warmth to the cool, dark church. ‘I wish more people were like you. The world would be a better place.’

‘I do my best,’ blushed Janet.’‘See you tomorrow Father.’

Janet turned into the High Street towards home. The sound of crying sliced through her thoughts. About 40 yards ahead of her was a lone girl of around 6, her face as pink as her torn dress. Long blonde hair hung in matted clumps around her face which was sodden with tears. Blood oozed down her leg from a cut knee, staining her white ankle sock crimson.

Janet pretended to search in her bag for something as she crossed the street. It wouldn’t do to approach a child nowadays. You could be accused of anything. Anyway, she was certain the mother would turn up soon.

Outside the chemist a man hunkered down wrapped in a grimy blanket and sheets of sorrow. His face dark with dirt and loss. A shabby cap was placed in front of him, as he tried to collect loose change and hope from a world that had turned its back long ago. Avoiding eye contact Janet stepped over his dreams of a hot dinner. What was the world coming to begging in the streets? This was England for heavens sake!

At the crossroads the Big Issue seller smiled at Janet. ‘A magazine to help the homeless?’ he proffered. Janet didn’t break her stride, her gaze fixed firmly on a spot in the distance as she bustled ahead.

Turning right into Brown Street Janet was relieved to be home. As she turned her door key she could hear the fumbling of her neighbour unlocking her door.  Stepping over her threshold Janet slammed the door behind her. Old Mrs Davies always wanted a chat. ‘It’s not my problem her husband has died and her children don’t visit’, thought Janet. ‘Besides, my programme starts in 10 minutes.’

The shrill sound of the telephone shattered the silence.

‘Hello,’

‘Hello Janet. I’ve been trying you all afternoon.’

Hello Doris. It was my afternoon for volunteering at the church, doing the flowers for the service tomorrow.’

‘You are such a good person Janet. Always thinking of others.’

‘I know. But where would the world be if we didn’t all do our bit?’


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My lovely random act of kindness surprise

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“You have two hands, one to help yourself, one to help others.”

Anyone who knows me, or reads my blog, understands I get more than a teensy bit excited when I hear of pay it forward stories.

Yesterday I was a recipient of a random act of kindness which instilled such a warm and fuzzy feeling, it hasn’t worn off yet. Following my post stating my intention to want to write a novel I was touched to receive a gift of three books on novel writing, via amazon , from a fellow blogger. This was accompanied by a lovely note wishing me luck.

I don’t know this blogger (who wishes to remain anonymous), and living on the other side of the world I am unlikely to ever meet them, but am so grateful of their encouragement.

It would be easy to paint a bleak view of our world today, hate, crime and war appear to be everywhere. Many of us live in fear, stress and uncertainty, our anxieties fuelled by the media and drip fed with every bad news story circulated.  We can make a difference. We can create our own good news stories. I blogged last year about a kindness book we have in our kitchen to encourage our children to be mindful of things they can do for others, and there is always something we can do for others, however small.

Kindness is contagious – be a carrier.

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I am not a super hero

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Last night I attended, what I thought was a talk on publishing by a creative writing group. Being brand new to fiction writing I was curious about the process.

On arrival we were given a word and then timed for 10 minutes while we wrote a piece relating to our prompt. Eek. No pressure then! After 2 minutes of staring blankly at the page I thankfully managed to cobble together a perfectly acceptable little story.

Phew. And breathe.

Umm, not quite. We then were invited to read out our pieces with me going first.

By this time I was so far out of my comfort zone I couldn’t even see it. With sweaty palms and a shaky voice accompanying my trepidation I somehow managed to get the words out.

Pre mindfulness I would have had a lot of negative things to say to myself about the anxiety I felt during this experience.

What mindfulness has taught me is compassion and self kindness. Yes it would have been great to have been able to have read my piece, with no anxiety, and enjoyed it but I was able to accept the moment exactly as it was without any judgement,

It is perfectly natural to have times we feel nervous, and I do. Mindfulness hasn’t given me super human powers and the ability to choose exactly how to feel all of the time but it has allowed me to give myself a virtual pat on the back and say “you know what? You did ok”. For that I am grateful.


The lost art of letter writing

 

“To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart”. Phyllis Theroux

I was deep in my morning meditation when I heard the post drop onto the mat. I was in no rush to collect it. It had been a long time since I received anything other than a bill or statement in the mail.

Imagine my delight therefore to receive a beautiful hand written letter from one of my closest friends. Crafted on proper stationary I was touched by her heartfelt words and also by the time and effort she had taken to let me know how much she appreciates our friendship.

When I was at school I used to eagerly await the postman every morning. I had numerous penpals and savoured every word written to me eagerly replying as soon as I could. Gradually as I got older, and became more reliant on technology I somehow, sadly, stopped writing to people properly.

Texts and emails are a quick, easy way of keeping in touch but there is something special about receiving an unexpected letter in the post. I am going to make a conscious effort to do my bit to resurrect the lost art of letter writing. Here are five reasons why you should too: –

Letters can be preserved – the letter I received this morning is now safely tucked away inside my gratitude journal where it will bring me joy each time I reread.

Letters form a connection – the writer really connects to the recipient. It’s like love in an envelope.

Letters are a mindful way to communicate – emails and texts are easily sent without thought and often regretted afterwards. Taking the time to find stationary, write a letter, buy a stamp and walk to the postbox gives you plenty of time to reflect on your words.

Letters are personal – you know the writer has sat and thought about you specifically. Totally different to being copied in on an email or being sent a mass text.

Letters will survive – ever felt the wonder of looking through your grandparents old photos and letters; discovering who they were and the world that existed before you were born? Letters preserve a sense of history that technology can never recreate.

So whatever your weekend plans are – why not incorporate writing a letter to someone you care about? This small gesture could really make their day.


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Giving while living

 

“If you haven’t got any charity in your heart then you have the worst kind of heart trouble”. Bob Hope

I love a good pay it forward story and they don’t get much bigger than the phenomenal generosity of Chuck Feeny. Chuck, an Irish-American, made a fortune from duty free shopping and quietly in the 1980’s began giving much of his fortune away. To date he has given an incredible $7.5 billion/£4.9 billion to good causes including health, science and education.  

“People who have money have an obligation”, Chuck said. “I wouldn’t say I’m entitled to tell them what to do with it but to use it wisely”. 

Chuck has his feet firmly on the ground, wearing a $15 dollar watch, and made his children work to support themselves during college.

“I became convinced that there was greater satisfaction from giving my money away and seeing something come out of the ground, like a hospital or a university”, he stated during an interview. “It just seemed logical to put the money to good use rather than putting it into a bank account and letting it accumulate and accumulate. I concluded that if you hung on to a piece of the action for yourself you’d always be worrying about that piece. People used to ask me how I got my jollies, and I guess I’m happy when what I’m doing is helping people and unhappy when what I’m doing isn’t helping people”.

Chuck currently has around $2 million left which he plans to also donate before he dies. A great believer in ‘giving while living’ he says “I want the last cheque I write to bounce”. 

What an incredible guy. While we can’t match his cash donations we can all be generous in our own way. Giving our time can be as important to the recipient as money.

Pay it forward. Be kind wherever possible; it’s always possible.