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A Courageous Life: a funeral celebrant’s thoughts

How often do we use the word ‘courage’ to denote someone who acts bravely in the face of adversity? It’s certainly how most people understand the word and its tone of battle-like determination. Yet, when I reflect on what it means to live a courageous life, it is based on the original meaning. Courage comes from the Latin, Cor, meaning ‘from the heart’.


A courageous life is one whereby you tell your heart story without a flutter of doubt about your north star. It is a life based on inner values and the ability to speak your truth. The languages of trust, listening within, intuition and authenticity are ones few people would associate with courage, and yet, they are essential companions walking ‘hand and heart’ with the life of those who listen to their inner drummer.

 

 

The treadmill of life, which we are all hoisted onto at birth and ripped off at our expiration date – no matter how great and glorious the world has decided we are – has most people just trying to get by. At times, it feels like we have to run just to keep up, or else we’ll fall off. If you ended up being born into Western society, you’ll have been enculturated with beliefs about your worth stemmed firmly in external validation (it begins at birth with our measurements and weight!; and continues with grades, certificates and awards, for example), and status symbols of car, career, house, wealth, and so on. A Yang-based cultural soup encourages egocentricity. Now, it’s not that we shouldn’t aim or reach for such things if they’re meaningful to us. The question, however, must be asked: Does this desire mean something to me or am I trying to prove something to someone else? Parents, siblings, peers, friends, and so on? Honest reflection isn’t encouraged by those around us because, if it were and we were true to ourselves, we’d probably all make radically different choices. However, to our great detriment, almost everyone lives their life based on what other people will think.

 

 

If we truly made decisions based on what felt right to us, and on what made our heart move through this world with joy – and therefore lived our days without fear of censure, or the desperate need of applause – how might our life look? Would it even be recognisable? What if, we were simply true to our inner calling?

 

My work as a Heart-led Funeral Celebrant is based on listening intently to the stories I hear of other people’s lives, and then it is up to me to craft meaningful ceremonies and create stories from the snippets of information I’ve gleaned. Being immersed in a family’s grief has a profound impact on me. Deeply empathic, it’s as if I draw their pain right into my heart. The one thing that always stands out for me, though, is the simple truth: we can’t take ANYTHING with us when we’re booted off the treadmill. Except love. Read that again, if you need to. Love. Where does love emerge from? The heart.

A humanist, of course, doesn’t believe that love continues after death. I do, though.

 

 

So, if we really understood that everything is temporary, and that all the stress, madness, ambition, control and power are, frankly, pointless, would we live differently? How about greed, consumption, jealousy? Who are we without our titles, roles, and material possessions?

 

I met a gorgeous young lady recently, aged about 16, who was not only a truly lovely person, but she had a wonderful singing voice too. Afterwards, in conversation I said to Seanna about how blessed she was to have such a gift. I confessed that I mourned the lack of any such gift or talent. She replied “You do. You’re really good at reading people.” Her words stopped me in my tracks. She was right. I’d never really considered it before as a ‘gift’, only as a given. With radar-like vision, I see people because I look beyond the labels, badges, jobs, empires, wealth and all the other human-made plasters. I look into their heart, and perhaps even deeper than that.

 

 

Who are you?

How would you identify yourself if all these externals were taken away from you? I ask these questions not to be morbid or cruel or condescending, or even disrespectful of your life path and choices, but to encourage a deeper awareness of what creates a courageous life.

Who will miss you when you’re gone?

 

Why will they miss you?

 

It certainly won’t be because of your fancy clothes, expensive car or eye-watering mortgage, boob job or bikini wax. I doubt it’ll be because of your job title or manicured lawn or your business logo.

 

A life invested in mindful awareness of the sacred all around, and the offering of compassion, kindness and love, is one that not only contributes to our well-being, but it also leaves the world a better place.

 

Legacy isn’t about our constructions and empires and pursuits, it’s the feeling we leave in others when we’re gone. And this can only come from the heart.

Uneven Ground

One of my favourite places to run is through woodland. To be surrounded by nature in all her exuberant, unapologetic beauty – whether that be silent trees reaching on tiptoes in reverence to the infinite sky above, the babble of a brook giddy with the journey ahead, incessant Spring birdsong, cushiony moss clad to trees and ancient stone walls, or the scent of earth after the rain – simply makes my heart swoon. I am most at home with traversing woodland trails.

 

 

I’m currently three weeks into training to run a half marathon in September. I mix my runs up between the hard-underfoot road, a dedicated running track, and my favourite: a trail run through the woods.

 

 

But it’s not just the beauty of my natural surroundings which draws me to the trail, but what it represents: uneven ground. Every second of the run requires split-second thinking, processing and action.

 

“Boggy mud. Shall I run around it on the side of a hill or through it?”

 

 

Although trail running may be seen primarily as a physical thing, it’s a heck of a work out for the brain. I suspect it does more for the neural pathways than doing a crossword!

 

“A rocky hill at the end of the run. Can my feet manage it?”

 

A stone, a branch, a hole, a tree root, thick mud, a puddle…

 

“A puddle! Forgot to bring my wellies!”

 

Every step of the way there is something to navigate. And yet, even in amongst this constant brain fitness there are moments to really be absorbed in the beauty: the sight of a red squirrel scooting up a tree trunk, the scent of wild apples, the welcoming feel of a soft bed of pine needles underfoot cushioning each landing, the rustle of the wind through the leaves, the unexpected view of a valley through a break in the treeline. The world around calls out for me to feel enlivened.

 

I can’t help but correlate these trail runs with life.

 

How often do we become destabilised when our path – our days, weeks, months or, in some cases, years – become a changed or rocky terrain beneath us? How do we take one step forward? One person’s experience or, indeed, expertise in a chosen path may work for them, but our situation is unique to us. Always.

 

 

How come school was so busy teaching us arithmetic or who discovered what country or the way our government works that they didn’t focus on the fundamental need of all humans: how to navigate our lives?

 

The road to my nearest town is riddled with potholes. Not little holes, but gaping wounds in the bitumen that cause me to swerve in a never-ending car dance. And for the most part, it’s okay: I know where the holes are, and I can almost drive blindfolded. Except for one minor detail: oncoming traffic! And then it’s a completely different story involving brakes or the risk of damaging a spring in my car once again!

“And then that feeling when you reach open road: the view, the stability of even ground…”

 

The truth is that life is uneven ground. We may have times when the road feels easy and smooth compared to other times, and boy is it fun to speed up somewhat and coast along. There isn’t a human alive though who should take the smooth road for granted. Nothing in this life is guaranteed: health and well-being, wealth or reliable income, relationships, our inherent belief system, friendships and community, or home. The very nature of the human experience is that we must travel. Whether it’s literal or metaphorical, the point is that we didn’t choose to incarnate to become stuck in one spot. Our spiritual purpose and destiny is to grow, to become more fully ourselves. But how do we do this if we don’t take risks? Sure, there are risks on the straight, flat, unobstructed path by the very nature of putting one foot in front of the other, but our inner gambling stretches into completely different territory when there are all manner of ruts and ruins before us. How shall we step forward? Do we hurdle, sidestep, plunge straight in? No one can make these decisions for us. They are ours, and ours alone, to choose. We are never guaranteed if our step-by-step choices will be the right ones, but what is certain is this: uneven ground invites us to learn to trust ourselves. To become confident in our sure-footedness. No one can walk in our shoes.

“Taking the time, with each step, to enjoy the wild snowdrops.”

 

It’s easy to tell someone else what they should or shouldn’t do to move forward, but if we’re a companion on someone’s journey, just moving alongside them is the greatest gift we can give. That, and giving them the time and space to choose where and how to step.

 

“Take time to enjoy the sunshine in the glade.”

Risky Business

Recently, someone I’ve known for about fifteen years said to me: “You don’t take risks, do you?” I was absolutely gob smacked. It really threw me for a while for two reasons. One was that it made me realise she didn’t know me at all, and the other was that my life has been nothing but a succession of risk taking.

It would be easy to look at my current life: all cosied up in a cottage I love, and spending my days doing work I enjoy, not too mention enjoying a honeymoon with my husband now that we’ve no children living at home. I have handcrafted my life to be one of daily pleasures. Maybe it looks, to the untrained eye, as if I live in a bubble immune from the pain of the world.

 

 

 

When I started counting off the risks I’ve taken in my life I came to the conclusion that, despite appearances, I am still a fab risk taker.

What does it mean when we talk about taking a risk? To my mind, it means doing something that has a potential for failure. It may mean that we’re stepping into the unknown. But it also means we’re doing something that takes us way beyond our comfort zone.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a risk taker. Growing up on 700 acres in rural Queensland, Australia, much of my childhood was spent barefoot. Each time I stepped out the door, I was at risk of something biting or stinging me. My mother had made the ‘best cubby house ever’ from an old dunny (outdoor loo), and decorated it into a little shop for me. It was so beautiful. The downside was that to get there I had to trek through some land where snakes loved to slither. Each time I headed to play, I sent a silent prayer up to the Gods: if you love me, please don’t let me see a snake.

Every time I went on one of our dozens of horses, I was at risk. And in those days, we simply didn’t wear riding hats. And half the time we didn’t bother with a saddle, and sometimes we even skipped using a bridle or halter and would simply use our whole body to guide the horse. One time I came off a horse, and I landed bang on my coccyx. I was about ten. It hurt like hell, but somehow my body adapted to the dislocation (don’t ask me why it was never treated!). I had no idea that injury would end up (after dislocating it twice in childbirth) leading to about twenty years of excruciating back pain as an adult. Risk, yes. I had a childhood full of it. And that’s not even counting in the many trees I climbed that I couldn’t get back down. I always managed to get down but my lanky little body often took hours to work out how to do it.

Each time I jumped over our waterfall into the dam I took a risk.

My childhood ‘play’ was about as risky as it is possible for childhood to be. We’d do crazy things like put on a parka and raincoat and float down a creek when it was in flood. We’d turn a corrugated iron rainwater tank on its side and using pedal power run inside of it to make it roll down a road. Ask my sister Heidi about risk. She’s got a fab scar on her cheek to prove it. We’d often toboggan down our hill on cardboard. Not so fast as corrugated iron! And fast soon becomes ‘no go’ when it hits a eucalyptus tree. I can recount dozens of risky acts in childhood.

Around the age of ten, I took off from an interschool sports day (I hate sports) with a bunch of lads and we headed towards the river for a swim. On the way, they got talking with a truck driver who’d broken down. Me, being the little conversationalist that I am, got talking with him too. The boys finished their conversation about mechanical stuff and left. I stayed talking with my new friend for hours. We talked about all the things that interested me, like angels, reincarnation, auras, and so on. We swapped addresses. Now, if your ten year old daughter stopped and talked to a truck driver for hours (not to mention playing truant from school), you might be freaking out. It was a risk. My friendship with Bluey lasted well into my adult life until he passed away. We’d spent many years as pen friends, and he even came to visit my parents to assure them there was nothing ‘dodgy’ going on. From my part, if felt such a relief to have a friend, besides my mum, with whom I could share my strong spiritual beliefs.

At the age of sixteen I caught a Greyhound bus and moved 2000km away from my family home. I had $100 in my purse, and nothing but my mother’s good wishes. She said she understood my need for freedom.

At the age of nineteen, I was pregnant. Didn’t expect that! However, after my boyfriend insisted I have an abortion (so I didn’t ruin his life as a ‘perfect Lutheran son’) I decided I’d be a single mother. Gulp. It was one thing looking after myself, but oh my goddess, being responsible for raising another human being? I pulled my socks up, and told him ‘no’. Mother Nature had other plans. The foetus shrivelled up, and I required a D&C. I can tell you right now that going under anaesthetic is always a huge risk! It was not something I ever intended doing in my life again (I’d have four more operations during those early adult years). When I emerged from anaesthesia, I was crying. The surgeon snapped at me and said “What are you crying for, the baby was dead anyway!” Oh to go back in time and slap his stupid little face.

Three years later, I was pregnant again. Truth be told, I thought I might just miscarry again, so ignored my tummy getting bigger and bigger. Eventually I went to the doctor who discovered that my ‘baby’ had in fact become a hydatidifoid mole (essentially turned into a large bunch of grapes = tumour). He said that if I’d left it another month, I’d have been dead. Back under anaesthetic! RISK. Tumour removed, and the next year was spent having weekly blood tests and chest x-rays to ensure I didn’t end up with cancer in my lungs. By this time I was living back in Queensland where I’d gotten a job as a phlebotomist (someone who takes your blood) at the local hospital. I ended up taking my own blood each week! Given I dislike pain, and cringe at anything to do with needles, that I managed to do this to myself each week was pretty risky!

What I haven’t yet mentioned is that I’d had a childhood of being sexually abused. Every time any man (other than my dad who was about the only man who didn’t do that to me) came near me, I was filled with fear. Would he do those things to me? When you’ve been sexually abused, your aura has holes in it so you somehow keep attracting paedophiles.

When I was working in the hospital lab, my boss was a fun guy. We dated for a bit, and then he moved overseas. The new boss (who I found physically repulsive and creepy from the outset) had heard about our relationship and clearly thought he could step into A’s shoes in more ways that one. I felt ill, and made it absolutely crystal clear that I was not interested (and not just because the idiot was married).

He persisted, and I kept declining. The work situation was intense. I went and saw the hospital counsellor. I was becoming ill with stress. In one of our conversations, she asked me what job I’d do if I could just make it happen. I told her I’d love to be a writer. She immediately asked me if I’d been to the local paper to see about working there.

Well, little risk taker Veronika took herself down to the editor and put her heart on the table. “I want to be a journalist.” To his credit, Neil didn’t laugh at me. Instead, he asked if I’d be willing to come in each evening after work and volunteer. Hell yes!

So, I started that night. My job was to phone the emergency services (fire, ambulance and police) and see if there were any stories. At the end of that week, Neil came up to me and said he had no journalists rostered on for the weekend, and ask if I was free to write and photograph stories. Oh my god yes! Now, if I was averse to risk taking I’d have said ‘no’. I’d be too paralysed with fear of doing it wrong. After all, I had NO experience. He showed me how to load the camera (no digital cameras in those days!). Guess who had a front-page story on Monday morning?

Several times over the next few months my editor would say to me “How did you get that photo?” I could see the colour disappear from his face when I’d described either climbing to the top of a derelict building or crane or going out on a lake in a speedboat. “Veronika, my insurance doesn’t cover you doing this like that. Stay on dry land.” I’d become a professional risk taker and had no idea that I was doing stuff others deemed dangerous.

In the meantime, the situation at my hospital job was getting worse. The hospital manager called me in and said my boss in the lab was complaining that my work was shoddy. I broke down and told him the truth: my work was absolutely fine, the issue was that he was sexually harassing me and that I wasn’t interested. The hospital manager was a genuinely lovely man, but he felt his hands were tied. He told me I’d have to go: that it was, in his exact words, easier to hire a new phlebotomist than a scientist.

After a lifetime of having had men walk all over me (in one form or another), something in me shifted that day. The injustice of going through life being treated like “I” didn’t matter was going to end.

I took my case to the Ombudsman. As it turned out, there was no law (at the time) to protect staff in Queensland hospitals from such harassment. Guess what? There is now! Yes, I took a risk. Every time you speak up, and every time you say something is NOT okay, you take a risk.

Somewhere around this time I had started to write more poetry. Before long, I had a small collection which I self-published (HUGE RISK). There was no such thing as social media back then.

 

 

Publishing my own work meant traipsing up and down the city and selling my books to bookshops and newspaper shops. It also meant checking in all the time to see if they were selling, and suggesting better places for them to position my books (oh if only I had that sense of self these days ~ it would make marketing my books so much easier). My poems were deeply personal and autobiographical. If publishing that isn’t risk taking, then I don’t know what is.

 

My work at the newspaper gave me a foot in the world of media, and I shall always be thankful. Before long, I took another risk. I decided to move to New Zealand. I wrote to my old friend, Bluey (who now lived in a cave!), and asked if he’d meet me at the airport.

I stepped off the plane in Auckland. No Bluey. Crap. Next-to-no money on me. Crap. One of the ladies I’d been sitting near on the plane saw me and asked if I was okay. I explained my dilemma, and she took me to her house for a couple of days. Phew. In the meantime, Bluey had finally received my letter. He arranged to come and get me.

So there I was in a new country, no income, no job. But within no time I had a roof over my head (not a cave roof), and got work on an orchard cutting wire. Yes. Cutting wire. BORING. I soon got work picking apples, and then work in a Steiner Boarding School. I was dating a lovely, lovely man, J. Lovely, expect for his ex-wife who wasn’t at all happy that I was on the scene. She made my life hell. Imagine waking up at 3am to see your lover’s ex-wife standing over you. FFS. It was like something out of the movies. To say I was at risk of a nervous breakdown was a bit of an understatement. For my own health and well-being I knew it was time to move on, even though it was going to break my heart. It was at this time I learnt the danger of being in a co-dependent relationship: it’s one where you think if you love hard enough you’ll be able to change the other person. The thing is he simply didn’t have what it takes to put up a boundary and tell his ex that she needed to stay away.

I packed my bags and moved to Tasmania, that gorgeous little island at the bottom of Australia. I managed to pass my time creatively by writing book reviews for the newspaper in Launceston. My heart was aching and I really wanted to see J again. In an act of who-knows-what, I changed my middle and surname by deed poll. My surname was now the same as J’s. (It still makes me laugh. I’d written to tell him and he had opened it during a business meeting and nearly fell off his chair!) After two months, I returned to him only to find (cue: tears) his bloody ex had moved all her stuff into his house.

Air fares aren’t cheap. I could hardly go back to Tassie. What to do? Bluey was heading up the country to Auckland. I asked if I could hitch a ride. About half way up country, we stopped so I could buy the New Zealand Herald. I immediately looked for rooms to rent. As soon as we hit the city, I found a phone box and called. I arranged to go straight there and look at the room. Perfect, I said. I waved Bluey off and knew I had to find a job asap.

One of the things my mother had taught me early on was that sometimes you have to ‘jump off the cliff’ (aka take risks!) and to trust the angels will catch you. Truth be told, I have lived my whole life this way.

The Universe had my back. I quickly secured a job with the New Zealand Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals as their media officer. My primary role was to write a book on the society’s history for their upcoming Diamond Jubilee celebrations. I was already vegetarian, so the care of animals came naturally to me. However, working within that field and seeing the horrendous cruelty that goes on, not just domestically, but within the animal-food industry, absolutely crushed me. I couldn’t bear it. Soon it was no longer enough just to be writing a book. I needed to take action. I was horrified in learning about the plight of hens kept in battery cages, and I headed to war. I was going to put an end to this. With my journalist hat on, I immediately started writing articles left, right and centre about where people’s eggs come from. It’s an uncomfortable subject. People don’t want to know they’re involved in animal cruelty and would rather turn a blind eye and just pay other people to do it for them. Things heated up, and my boss (bless him!) called me into his office. He was shaking in his boots. Five top men from the Egg Board had come. They wanted me sacked. They wanted to sue me. I was causing damage to their industry. If I look back over my whole life, this moment was one that will forever remain a highlight: I felt so powerful. Five old men trying to lord it over me. My response was this: I haven’t written a single word that isn’t true.

Those jumped-up men knew that. They knew they didn’t have a leg to stand on. I will forever be proud of my role in launching the Ban the Battery Cage campaign.

During this one-year contract with the NZRSPCA, I was tasked with taking a VIP (the head of Eurogroup for Animal Welfare) around the country as part of our Diamond Jubilee celebrations, culminating in a conference where he was keynote speaker. We hit it off the second we saw each other at the airport. Within half an hour of meeting, we were talking about my job coming to an end, and how much I’d love to work for an animal charity group in the UK called Compassion in World Farming. He said he could organise an interview for me. I couldn’t believe it! True to his word, he put in a word for me.

I left NZ on a one-way ticket (once again, with next to no money ~ ah well, that’s what you get for spending a year working for a charity), with no job or accommodation to go to, just an interview. What sort of person takes such risks? Seriously? Am I just an idiot? Maybe. Or maybe I just really believe in myself and the Universe.

Arrived in freezing England (oh my god, who knew a place could be soooo cold?), and David met me at the airport and drove me to the interview after whisking me off to Brussels for a few days to recover from jetlag. I’d applied to be a media officer for CIWF. I was stunned to find a job offer in my hands by the time I’d left the building. One of the people who worked there mentioned a B&B he stayed at nearby, and checked with the landlady to see if I could stay there. I stayed until my first pay check and was then able to get a studio flat. I’d arrived in November, and with Christmas coming up I was aware that I’d not have any friends or family near me. David asked what I was going to do. I jokingly said how much I’d love to see my old friend Amy who lived in Pennsylvania. Bless! He bought me a ticket to visit her for Christmas. I was so happy. One small detail: The flight left a day before the office closed. My new boss wasn’t having it. I had a choice to make. Have the time of my life and see my best friend, or be a ‘good girl’ and obey the rules. You have no idea how much fun I had in the USA! #risktaker One of my favourite memories in this lifetime was spending that New Year’s Eve in an outdoor hot tub with snowflakes drifting down.

 

I arrived back in the UK with no job to return to, and somehow ended up down in Cornwall. I stayed for a few months managing to get a job wrapping flowers for sale in service stations, and staying with people who were kind enough to put me up. I started to miss New Zealand, and felt drawn to go back. Although my work and passion had led me into animal welfare and rights, I’d been having such a strong pull towards becoming a mother. It all happened after I was woken from a dream where a voice told me I’d write “the beautiful birth book”. I had no idea what it meant, but went into the local New Age bookshop the next day. Two books on waterbirth literally fell off the shelf in front of me. I had no idea the turn my life was about to take.

I managed to get a tax refund and used the money to get a ticket back to New Zealand. I arrived home with about ten dollars. Usual story. No job. No home.

Within hours of landing, a friend offered me a job in a jigsaw puzzle factory (to date, one of the most boring jobs of my life, but I am, of course, thankful that it gave me the chance to get on my feet), and I quickly had shelter. Nothing is by chance, of course, but my new landlady attended a place called Unity: it was a metaphysical church/school. She invited me along. I immediately felt at home amongst the New Thought teachings. Before long, I had a job working there, first as office manager, and then teaching personal-growth workshops. It was at this time that I trained to become a wedding celebrant.

One day, a man came walking through the door and I dropped everything. Where the heck did I know him from? All the women around me were divorced, and were as taken with him as I was. But, he was 19 years older than me. He was hardly going to notice someone like me when he had all those available women his own age. Mind you, I’d thought that about J, and he was 21 years older than me.

Oh how this man made me laugh. He was so funny. But it was more than that. He was different to any other man I’d ever met: there was a depth of kindness and sincerity that I’d never experienced before. It felt as if I’d always known him. I invited him for dinner, and we moved in together the next day. Bit of risk, don’t you think? Next month we’ll celebrate 22 wonderful years together. You could say that was one of the biggest risks of my life.

I was pregnant six weeks later. We, in our culture, often talk of the risks of pregnancy and birth and whether a child will be healthy or not, but how often do we consider the risks involved in sharing our life with an unknown person for possible the next eighteen years. We have no idea of whether we’ll gel with the child we’re bringing into this world. It’s a huge risk having a child.

I was absolutely delighted to be pregnant. I did yoga, aquanatal classes, walked regularly, swam with the dolphins, and made plans for my waterbirth at home. Everyone around me said “you’re so brave having a baby at home”. Given my mum had her last three babies at home, unassisted, it didn’t seem like such a big deal. But, to the world, I was taking a huge risk.

Twenty two months after her beautiful birth, we welcome our second daughter. Six months later, when my husband’s work life changed, we decided to move to Australia in the hope he’d pick up work there in his chosen field of voice over and broadcaster. We were given the wrong immigration advice (although he was a NZ resident, he was a British citizen), and arrived in Oz with two babies and Paul not being allowed to work. Holy crap! We’d sold everything to come to Australia. Risk, risk, risk. I had two breastfeeding little ones, and there was no way I was leaving them to go to work. What to do? Well, honestly, we were on the bones of our bum for six months. Somewhere near Christmas time there was a competition on the radio: Sing a Christmas carol and the winner will have $1000 to spend at the local shopping mall. My darling sang as Pavarotti, and won the competition. The mall had a travel agent. I’d suggested that if we came to England (even though I’d vowed I’d never go back to such a cold country) he’d at least be allowed to work. So, plane tickets bought, and me just scraping through in time with Indefinite Leave to Remain, we arrived in the UK. We’d left 38 beautiful degrees Celsius and arrived to minus 12. I cried. We came with two toddlers, a ventriloquist doll, some suitcases…and £10. If anyone ever tells me again that I don’t take risks, I might just…

Paul’s brother kindly took us in, and within a short time Paul managed to get some work. Within three months we moved to the village we’ve lived in now for 18 years.

You’d think that would be enough risk taking for one life time. By 2002, I had the bright idea to start a magazine on natural parenting. For twelve years I published a subscriber-based magazine. Each issue is a risk. It’s a risk financially, because you NEVER have any guarantee if people will continue subscribing but you are obligated to keep publishing. It’s also a huge risk editorially. Or, at least it was for me. I wanted to adhere to a strict ethos which was all about meeting a child’s biological needs. This is not an easy stance to take. It immediately means you RISK alienating readers as well as advertisers. Financially, the first few years were particularly risky. I was starting from nothing. Although I had journalism experience, I certainly didn’t have design experience (as is evidenced from those early issues). Each magazine was put together in my home, in and around busy family life.

A year after starting, I decided to buy some land. RISK!! Having grown up on 700 acres, I needed to get my hands in the soil and have a sense of freedom. It was a financial risk buying the land as I had to take out a loan. Two loans, actually. What I didn’t know at the time was the huge, and life-changing, risk I was about to take to my health. From that point of view, it turned out to be one of the worst risks of my life.

The land had a right of way which involved going through someone else’s land. It never occurred to me that it would prove to be a problem as I had deeds. But what I didn’t see on paper was the biggest a***hole of a farmer, who made it his mission to make my life hell. He had wanted the land, and most certainly didn’t want a woman with young children up there growing flowers and fruit trees. What started as an absolute joy, going there each day with my girls to grow food, became a living nightmare. Just getting to our land became a risk. He’d tip truckloads of turnips on the track so I couldn’t drive down. He’d padlock the gate. He’d cover it in barbed wire. He’d put a ‘dangerous bull’ sign on the gate. In short, he did everything he could to stop me getting to the land. One day he and his wife barricaded me and the girls in our car, his wife in a vehicle on one side, and he in his tractor behind, and then came up banging on the window and effing and blinding at us. Ah well, at least the five page statement my little girl wrote was enough to have the Crown Prosecution Service bind him over.

Long story short, he took us to court on the grounds of ‘trespassing’. I had been following my right of way deed, going directly from his gate to my gate, but he wanted me to go another route, about two metres to the right, on a steep camber that my car couldn’t manage.

If you’ve ever been involved in a court case, you’ll know the toll it takes on your health. While all this was going on, I was publishing my magazine and homeschooling our two girls, and dealing with major back pain from my old horse-falling-off injury. My stress levels were going through the roof.

Court came and we ended up representing ourselves. By this stage I had severe but undiagnosed adrenal fatigue. I could hardly stand up, and would eventually need about three weeks of bed rest.

I took a risk going to court. A huge one. Financially, but most importantly for me, emotionally. I had literally put down roots on that land: planting hundreds of fruit trees, a hundred blueberry bushes, hundreds of raspberry canes. We had goats, a polytunnel, vegetable beds. This place was my children’s playground.

One thing I was clear about: that rotten farmer was NOT getting my land. I sold it to a friend for WAY less than I’d paid for it. Broke my heart, but at another level I felt grateful that it wouldn’t all be ripped out just to have sheep on it. I trusted that she would treasure the land.

The years between 2003 and 2006 were deeply painful, and the risk I took to my health is one of such damage that I am still paying the price with a frustratingly fragile endocrine system.

Also, around the year 2003 I dislocated my shoulder for the first time after slipping on wet paint. I have never known such excruciating pain. I would go on over the years to dislocate that shoulder more than a dozen times, and the other shoulder about half a dozen times. It got to the point my arms were permanently pinned close to my sides. I was scared to reach up or move them in any way. Every physical movement felt like a risk. And don’t even start me on stepping outside when it’s icy. My huge fear is falling over and risking another dislocation. Women who say childbirth is painful have no freaking idea of what pain is if they’ve not had a shoulder dislocation.

Last Summer, I decided to do the Couch to 5K programme, and in eight or so weeks I learnt to run five kilometres without stopping. Sure, I don’t run fast, but who cares? I don’t. What I do know is that every single time I run, every single time I go to the gym or an aquafit or Pilates class, I am taking a massive f****** risk of putting myself in a situation where I might cause a dislocation. I’m also hypermobile.

 

If I wasn’t a risk taker, I wouldn’t leave my home. Hell, I wouldn’t leave my bed. I wouldn’t exercise. I wouldn’t do anything. But I do take risks. Sure, I have the luxury of being in a marriage that is beautiful, easy and harmonious, and living in a home that feels peaceful, but does that mean I don’t take risks? No. The fact I choose to abstain from alcohol and drugs doesn’t mean I’m not a risk taker. What it means is that I am comfortable and confident in my self and my life choices that I don’t need to anaesthetise myself from life’s harsh reality. I can simply be.

I am self-employed. I have been since 2002. Every single work day of my life is a risk. It’s a risk financially and creatively. I never know where the next celebrant client is coming from, or if they’ll come. It’s the same with my astrology clients. And as for my books: each time I put a book out into the world, I risk rejection. I risk people saying “well that was crap!” Being a writer is an incredibly vulnerable career and not for the weak of character. I write for myself, but if I want to earn a living from my words, then I am risking myself every single day.

It’s true: I love my life. I love my family. I love my home. I love my work. But I got to this place through one thing, and one thing alone: risk.

 

The Life You Want

One of the questions that has been dominant in my mind for a few years has been: “What am I really good at?” Yeah, sure, there are plenty of things I’m good at, but what I really mean is: “What do I excel at?” I’m a classic ‘Jill of All Trades’, and have lots of skills at my disposal, but do I actually have any God-given gifts?

 

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The thing about having various skills is that it doesn’t allow one to master a particular skill when we’re being all “butterfly” about it, skipping here and there to enjoy the next passion. I even toyed (ever so briefly!) with the idea of going to university so I could become an expert in a particular area.

 

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And then something happened: something that changed my perception. It was mid December last year, and as much as I’m not a fan of the British Winter, I do look forward to Christmas. I genuinely love it (my family’s version, not the commercialised one) and was savouring the sweet and gentle crescendo of having my younger daughter come home from uni, and then the three of us travelling to our other daughter and her partner, and scrumptiously gorgeous granddaughter, for some more family time.

 

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I had an overwhelming ‘push’ to go and visit my dear friend. She’d been struggling for a long time with life, love and loss, and was the Queen of “Putting up the Drawbridge” (her words). I tried ignoring the voice telling me to visit her, thinking that if she wanted to be in touch she’d reply to one of my emails or visit or pick up the phone. We’d been friends for 18 years, and she knew that our door was always open to her, day or night, no matter what.

I followed my intuition (rather than ego), and turned up at her door unannounced. It took her a long time to answer. When she finally did, I didn’t recognise her. I cried. Had we passed on the street, I wouldn’t have known it was her. That she was standing in her doorway, was my only clue that it was with her. She was skin and bone, and her skin was shrivelled to that of someone twice her age. Hunched, with more than 50% of her vision gone, I knew there was a LOT of work to do to try and repair her health.

She was ashamed that she’d gotten to that state, and didn’t want to let me in the door. Well, I was hardly going to leave! Damn that bloody drawbridge! Her house reflected her inner and physical state. For someone who dearly loved their home, it was quite shocking to witness.

I spent a few hours with her, and promised I’d return. I then spent a whole day with her: cleaning her house, washing her hair, giving her a little foot massage, and just chit chatting all day long about this and that. The big stuff. The little stuff. I had made a couple of big pots of soup to put in her freezer so she could just take a portion out each day and heat it up. I knew my efforts were a drop in the ocean, but I’m also an optimist and truly believed that with time and love we could get her back on her feet. If I could help her get strongly physically, then we had a better chance of shifting the emotional and mental health. I begged her to come and live with us, but she wanted to stay in her own home.

Despite the grim situation, we even managed to laugh several times. It was a joy to see the light flicker in her eyes. All was not lost! We hugged for the longest time, heart to heart; and we both sobbed. We had eighteen years of friendship under our belt, and knew each other’s deepest secrets.

As I was leaving, I asked: “What can I do for you?” She replied: “Take me to the vet!”

The truth is that had any compassionate person seen an animal in that condition, they would have taken them to be ‘put to sleep’. Pain and misery is uncomfortable to witness if you have any level of empathy.

 

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I drove away with a heavy heart, and the light bulb went flashing on! “Veronika, you are really good at looking after yourself!”

Hell, yeah!

I suppose because I take my level of self-care and nurturing for granted ~ because it is so ingrained in what I do and who I am ~ I had never fully recognised it as one of my greatest gifts (even though, ironically, my friend had mentioned it many times over the years). Between her home and mine, another book was gestating inside me. The seed was planted. I would dedicate it to her, and she could use it as a workbook on self-love. The way my friend and I were mothered in childhood was completely different. My mum was the ultimate role model in self care!

 

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That friend, who had shared many Christmases with us over the years, and joined in family meals, and talked on the phone with me for hours, and went to the movies with me, and helped me plant an orchard, is never going to read that book.

She chose to leave this earthly world at Christmas. Her pain has ended, but I feel mine has only just begun as I try and ‘process’ everything about her life, my life, our differences, and my eternal optimism that the second half of her life could be so much better than the first fifty years, and that she could have joy, pleasure and meet a true soul mate who could be fully there for her. She is never going to walk through my front door again, or sit in the garden with me sipping tea. We’ll never discuss books or philosophy again. Certainly no more shared walks through the woods when the bluebells are in flower. There are no more hugs to be shared.

My grief is raw, deep, harrowing. I can only hope that I emerge as the Wounded Healer, and do for others what I couldn’t do for my dear friend: help them love themselves so much that they thrive in this world. That they recognise that self-love is priceless, and the fuller we are with a high-level of nurture, the more we can give to the world around us.

 

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Last weekend, I posted some pictures on Instagram of what I’d been doing. I’d gone for a run in the lovely countryside around my village. There was a pear and vanilla gluten-free vegan cake on the bench that I’d baked. Snuggled on the sofa by the woodstove, I immersed myself in a fabulous book. When the Sun beckoned me outside, I did my first spot of gardening for the year. I was in a state of joy and peace.

I started receiving messages from people saying things along the lines of: I want your life.

I guess what they were witnessing through my photos was a sense of contentment. And that is (grief aside!), how I feel about my blessed life. I’ve had more than my share of ups and downs over the years, but through it all I have always honoured my fundamental need for pleasure (and every human is born with that need).

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My senses are nourished on an hour-by-hour basis, through beauty, integrity and simplicity: love, flowers, wholesome food, my husband’s gorgeous coffee, music, friendship, water, solitude, lovemaking, nature, hot showers, essential oils, touch, laughter, and so the list goes on. It never occurs to me to deny myself the joy of pleasant scents in my home, or to not take advantage of gorgeous rays of sunshine. Whenever I can, I make time to meet with friends for a cuppa or a walk. I exercise most days of the week, whether that’s walking, running, gym or aquafit. Meals are made from scratch, and with love. I cherish the hours I spend with Mr Sweetheart. The key to my lovely life is that I don’t assume I’m going to be here in a year, though I most definitely plan ahead! I adore my diary!

My joy for life comes from today: here. Right now. And with that, is always the intuitive pull towards what I enjoy. Rainbows on my walls from the sunshine going through the window crystal. Yep. Fresh fruit in various hand-carved wooden or glass bowls. Yep. Flowers here, there, and everywhere. Yep. Beautiful music in the background. Yep. Jasmine essential oil infusing the air. Yep. Woodstove on. Yep. Cuddle with my darling. All day long! Company. Yep. Solitude. Yep. Reading. Yep. Walking. Yep. Time for a run? Yep. An urge to be creative? Yep. Doing work I love. Yep.

 

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Creating the life you want is about listening, and saying yes. It’s what I call the Sacred Yes.

There are times when I’m faced with something I don’t enjoy, like annual accounts or washing the mud off my car because it’s always getting filthy with living rurally. And grief isn’t one of my favourite things, either. But when I’m faced with such things, big or small, I find cushions to bring me comfort. I can do the BORING accounts with coffee in my favourite mug, and a candle burning. I can rest my eyes on beautiful flowers in between inputting figures into a database. Music can soothe my soul while the maths part of my brain is being tortured.

 

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When washing the car, I tell myself I’m getting strong leg muscles each time I squat! I fill the bucket with warm water and a hint of lemongrass oil (for my pleasure, not the car’s!). I let the piano music CD nourish me while I rub that pesky mud off.

And as for grief: if it flows through me, it helps. I give myself permission to hibernate and just be with the tears. I allow myself to snuggle into bed that bit longer, or allow the shower to get that bit hotter so I’m warmed down to my bones. The dawn chorus makes my heart lighter, so I listen for as long as I can before the rest of the day beckons.

Creating a beautiful life doesn’t grant you immunity from the shitty times, but it does offer you the grace to humbly see just how much there is in life to be truly grateful for. Even the hurt offers up beauty, if only we can see it.

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We are humans incarnated on this Earth to experience BEING HUMAN. We have this idea that we do all our growing through pain, but I don’t believe it has to be that way. Why can’t we grow through joy? Love? Passion? Contentment? Satisfaction?

I start and end each day with the affirmation: I am so grateful for my beautiful life. I repeat it in my mind throughout the day, too, whenever I’m not having to think about anything else.

Gratitude is life changing.

My guiding purpose in life, and for the rest of my days (and maybe years, if I’m around that long), is to create as much pleasure, love and beauty as is humanly possible. Like the flowers that grow in my garden, I want to hold my head to the sunshine and sigh with nothing but bliss. To melt into the warmth and light. That’s the life I want. That’s the life I have.

 

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Slow Living: what death has taught me about life

A consequence of getting older (50 is on my horizon in just over a year) is an ever-growing, deeper appreciation for this amazing thing called life. I suppose, in my youth, it was something I simply took for granted. After all, I was going to live for a very long time. Often reckless, I bumbled along always ready for the next crazy adventure.

 

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When my dad died four years ago, his life cruelly snatched in a car accident one rainy morning in Australia, I faced mortality in a way that impacted me more than any other person’s death ever had. Hell, if my dad—superman—could die, then what hope was there for the rest of us? My dad, who’d survived third-degree burns in a fire in Papua New Guinea, malaria, pneumonia, cancer (twice), triple-bypass surgery, was gone. Just like that.

 

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In life, I was all too aware of how different we were. I hadn’t realised, until his death, the things we’d had in common: workaholic and ambitious. His death was my turning point, and for that I am so grateful. No longer was it acceptable to work seven days a week. Seriously, what was the point? The only thing we take with us when we die is love. And so death taught me to slow down. Really slow down. I no longer put pressure on myself. I haven’t gone from Type A personality to lazy ass, but I have slipped into a way of living that rests on one thing: pleasure. Does it make me happy? Does it honour me and my loved ones?

Interestingly, today’s super Full Moon is in the sign of abundant, money-loving, security-conscious Taurus. When I held my dad’s hand in his open casket, thanking him for all the hard work he’d done so we could have an abundant childhood on our property in rural Australia, my overriding feeling was: what was the point?

 

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He had worked so hard. He’d earnt a lot of money (and lost it, too) in his life. He worked overseas for months at a time. All that work. All that money. None of it was with him anymore. That moment solidified for me the true meaning of wealth: it’s in the minutiae of daily life, and the joy we allow ourselves to feel. It’s never about money in the bank (or under the bed). It’s the wells of gratitude we feel for this amazing life, and the passions we explore. I actually don’t know how long it would have taken me to figure that out had I not experienced my father’s death or witnessed his dead body.

 

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I don’t measure my wealth by my bank statements, but by the feeling I have when I wake up in the morning (glad to be alive, and looking forward to the day ahead), and the sense of satisfaction that tingles through every cell of my body when I crawl into my cosy bed at night.

This Christmas will be the first time, as a family, that we will have one daughter at home instead of two. It was just yesterday, though, I’m sure, when I decorated the tree with all the baby booties knitted for the impending birth of my first-born child; and how my loving husband would massage my pregnant belly beneath the lights of the tree. And now, that daughter will be having a Christmas tree with her first-born daughter. She will be starting her own family traditions. Oh how swiftly life travels by!

 

Each day, I find myself wanting to slow everything down just that bit more. I bought baby clothes for our little granddaughter, Sarah, yesterday…always thinking ahead to what she’ll need. At 11 weeks old, and blessing our lives in such beautiful ways, I find myself looking at clothes for 6 month olds, and even a year old. And yet, as fun as it will be to watch her become more fully who she is, I want to treasure these moments of babyness forever, and to breathe in the delicious scent of her skin. But life doesn’t work like that, does it? And each day she spends getting older, is one more day closer to my mother (now aged 77, living in Tasmania, Australia) getting closer to her transition. I’ve not seen my mother for eleven years now, and each day I am conscious that I want to see her again, and wrap my arms around her tightly. I don’t want to find myself in Tassie at her funeral without having had more time with her.

 

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Death. It makes you want more of life. Makes you greedy for all the love, joy, pleasure, fun and happiness. Life is so precious. Grab it with both hands. Enjoy that cappuccino, laze in bed that little bit longer on a Sunday morning, slow kiss your lover,  throw out your scales, snuggle up by the fire with a good book, take luxurious walks in Nature, kiss your kids even when you’re busy, make time to chat with friends, be extra loving to your partner, create meals you love to eat. These are the things which make life rich and beautiful. These are credit in the bank of life.

 

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If Tomorrow Never Comes

Anyone who knows me well is aware that the first song Paul ever sang to me was If Tomorrow Never Comes (the Garth Brooks version). To this day I can’t hear the song (especially if it’s Paul singing) without tears in my eyes.

If Tomorrow Never Comes…will she know how much I loved her?

 

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This song is a beautiful reminder, if one is needed, that all we have is today. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m the Queen of having projects on the go, and writing to-do lists, but that’s because my Capricorn nature is founded on having a goal. The goat wants to climb to the mountain top. We Cappies need little things to work towards. But I also know without doubt that whether I actually achieve these is irrelevant. What’s important is this moment. This is always where the point of power rests, and is where our greatest joys are to be found.

 

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If tomorrow never comes, my lists and plans won’t matter. If tomorrow never comes, you can be sure: Yes, I did know how much he loved me. I also know that the incredible magic that exists in today is so positive and meaningful, but if we live our lives without seeing the abundance at our feet we end up missing out on the whole point of our existence.

 

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So, today, think about this: If tomorrow never comes, does your partner/best friend/child/mother/co-worker know what they mean to you? How about your mechanic or accountant, or what about the friendly person at the petrol station who is always singing a song when you come by?

 

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If tomorrow never comes, can you say that you’ve lived according to your heart?

If tomorrow never comes, did you leave this world a better place, whether by a smile or a kind deed?

And most importantly, if tomorrow never comes, what might you do differently today?

 

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Manifestation Journal

In my last blog, The Cosmic Kitchen, I wrote about putting your order in to the Universe as if you were placing an order with a chef. This isn’t just about ‘things’ to acquire, but also state of mind, health, wellbeing and so on.

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Thoughts have wings…

If you’re sceptical about the idea of ‘change your thoughts, change your life’, then I urge you to start a manifestation journal. This is a notebook of any size where you write down (daily, but ideally twice a day) what you’d like to manifest in your life. Don’t go writing £20 000 000 on lotto. Go for something your mind can relate to (for now!).

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Always keep a notebook handy

It might be material things like a new TV or pair of shoes. It might be to heal an underlying health condition. It might be to improve your marriage. Maybe you want to manifest the time and energy to exercise five times a week? Write it down. Let yourself have dreams, goals, ambitions and plans. Don’t, for one second, think you’re not worthy of having pleasure, time, abundance and excellent health.

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Focus clearly on five to ten things, and write these down each day (in the present tense). I have…or I am…(healthy, happy, fit, toned etc.)

Date your list. From time to time, go back to the front of your journal and work your way through, crossing things off your list that you’ve manifested. And write the words THANK YOU next to each one.

I guarantee you that the more you focus on creating the life you want, the more rapidly and easily it will manifest into your life. The next time someone asks you “What would you like for Christmas/birthday?” answer: a spiral notepad and pen. YOU, and you alone, are the author of your life. Get writing.

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Inspired: the art of channelling life

“Your daily life is your temple and your religion.”

Kahlil Gibran

Yesterday I asked myself: “Who is the most spiritual person you know?” I was rather surprised when no obvious person came to me, but had to laugh out loud when I saw Azaria’s face. For those of you who don’t know Azaria, she’s the main character in my novel, Sisters of the Silver Moon.

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I modelled Azaria’s physical characteristics on this lovely Danish hairdresser. I adore her open face.

I pondered our cultural notion of spirituality, and also why I’ve heard from women who say they want ‘to be like Azaria’. I was intrigued, but not surprised, that a fictional character was held up as an archetype of  ‘spirituality in action’.

As a writer, I adored watching Azaria unfold. She’s 56 years old, and has four adult daughters. Her husband died some years ago in a storm. She lives in an old homestead in the mountains of Colorado, and spends her days tending her beehives and growing/harvesting herbs. Without doubt, she’s well-loved and respected in her community. But she’s not perfect, and that’s part of her charm.

The more I think about this character (and certainly where she’s heading in the sequel, Behind Closed Doors) I can understand her magnetism. Although she’s a fictional character, she does represent something to which we can aspire. And isn’t it interesting, when you look at the Latin roots of words, to see aspire and spiritual both containing ‘spir’? As a metaphysician, I also see it as ‘to breathe in life’. Indeed, to breathe in the Divine.

Perhaps you or someone you know meditates regularly or goes to church. Maybe they or someone else burns incense or keeps a gratitude journal. Maybe their temple is Mother Nature herself. Perhaps they’re avid readers of spiritual or person-growth books or the Bible. Maybe they regularly consult divination cards? Do these things make us spiritual? No, no more than hitting a piano key makes you a pianist. All these things, and more, may well be integral to our daily practice, but spirituality is about the outer experiences of our life reflecting and being congruent with our inner values.

So if we breathe in the Divine, then surely we must breathe out the Divine, too?

What are our values? Examples include: independence, adventure, family, beauty, kindness, justice, love, wisdom, truth, compassion, trust, fidelity, power, healing, leadership, knowledge, intimacy, integrity, growth, humility, dignity, food, friendship, community, creativity, etc.

Do our interactions with friends, family, colleagues and strangers mirror our inner values?

 

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The character Azaria shows us that everyday we are learning, and every day of our lives is an opportunity to be congruent. When our outer life truly reflects our inner values, then life has a way of flowing harmoniously. And when Fate brings unexpected life-changing events our way, we do have the spiritual tools within to ‘breathe in the Divine’. More than anything, I believe she teaches us that when we love and accept ourselves, then loving others is easy. And isn’t that at the heart of spirituality? To recognise that we are all one? All drops of the same ocean?

What does spirituality mean to you?

Love, Veronika xxxx

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Living With Purpose

Hello to you on this beautiful Autumnal evening. I trust your day has been loving, gentle and beautiful.

 

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Do you go through life wondering what this human existence is all about? Do you feel out of place in this world? Sometimes I’m sure I must have arrived from some other planet. It’s one of the reasons I love being a writer. I can create worlds that I’d love to live in.

I have a beautiful life, and am grateful for the kind and wonderful souls who are part of it, whether they live close by or far away. They give me a sense of being part of this world in a way I might not if I didn’t know them.

This afternoon I said to my husband that when I wake up in the morning I have this inbuilt expectation that something wonderful is going to happen in the day. Perhaps I take being an optimist to the extreme, but I’d certainly rather live this way than wake up with low-grade anxiety or a feeling of dread. Before I step out of my cosy bed, I give thanks for my life. I then say quiet, gentle words such as “I Create My Day”. There’s no fanfare or drama. It’s a statement of fact. I think through the things I may have planned, or what I’d like to accomplish, and imagine them going smoothly and easily. We may not be able to control life but we can certainly put ourselves in the right mindset to expect the best.

I saw a beautiful postcard once which had the words: The meaning of life is…

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The final word or words were covered by a flowering bush. It frustrated me for years! I know now, though, without doubt, that the meaning of life is…whatever meaning we give it.

The values we hold as important are with us night and day. They shine through us and are what draw (or repel) people around us.

To live a purposeful life is based on awareness, listening to ourselves, and finding pleasure in our passions. There is more to life than going out and getting a job to pay the bills. Our lives are precious, and when we really understand what that means then we make changes (first to our belief system) to create days which mirror what is in our heart.

Too often we put up roadblocks to our joy, success, curiosity and love. Perhaps we live in fear about what other people might think of our choices. Those people don’t have to walk in your shoes. You do. If you find the shoes uncomfortable, or you don’t like the view on your journey, then you know what? Ditch the shoes. You can change direction. You can step off the path. You don’t even have to wait for a crossroads. Get out your scythe and determine the life you want to live. You don’t need anyone’s permission. You will never have this day again. Don’t waste it.

Living a life of purpose means we awaken to our sacred origin: that of being a creator. There is no creation quite as unique as handcrafting the life you choose to live, and the choices you make. Isn’t that one of the most exciting things about being human? Nothing is set in stone. Whatever challenge is before us, we can choose to see it differently. We choose. No one can make us feel anything unless we give them permission. But isn’t it easy to get cross and blame others when things aren’t going the way we want? We don’t have to let others steal our joy.

And this is at the heart of what it means to live on purpose. We become so attuned with who we are, and what our needs are, that we don’t become tainted with the toxicity of others in the same way we might have done in the past.

Today I purposefully gathered herbs from the garden to put into the soup I was making, and gave thanks for the handsome bunch of bay leaves my friend Denise had given me a couple of weeks ago. A gorgeous gift straight from her garden. I imagined her standing in the kitchen with me, us both laughing so hard we couldn’t stand up straight.

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Around the 100-year-old dining table, I took time to savour the black bean minestrone. With my husband and our younger daughter beside me, I gave thanks for this precious family time.

In the course of my day, I tended to my work: writing my novel. I’ve spent time in South Carolina at a remote lighthouse, and then drove towards Tennessee. Juice from a plump ripe peach dripped down my chin (well, my character’s chin). I’ve heard frogs sing, and eaten corn chowder. In my writing life I have many wonderful experiences, but the truth is that my ‘real’ life is no less pleasurable. The sensations I have when I witness the first sunflower come into bloom or taste a perfectly ripe tomato with red onion and fresh basil leaves or watch the full Moon rise over the hills are just as enlivening as when I have a book published. One experience isn’t ‘better’ than the other. To live on purpose means every experience is deeply meaningful and enriching.

Today I spent time outside and enjoyed sunshine. The cat and I had a deep and meaningful conversation.

Last night I dreamt about someone I’ve not seen for a few months, and then today he was at my front door. I do believe that when we live on purpose our dream life and/intuition become finely honed.

Throughout the day I’ve enjoyed hugs with my husband. There’s always that moment when, with my head resting against his shoulder, I get to smell his skin. Every single time, I come alive. Without doubt, it’s one of my favourite places to hang out! I wouldn’t trade that for all the fame and fortune in the world. Ever.

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I have come to understand the true meaning of what money can’t buy, and that clarity of purpose refines our values every single day.

Living a life of purpose isn’t necessarily about doing something big and grand in the world for millions of people to notice. For me, as a writer, it’s not where my book is ranked on Amazon or how many retweets I get or likes on Facebook. It’s about the small things. Does my work having meaning? Am I passionate about writing? Do my words change lives? Have I helped just one person see their life differently?

The ordinary things become extraordinary simply because we have taken the time to notice them. When we live, move and have our being in gratitude then we do indeed live purposefully. It’s impossible not to. A purposeful life is one where we don’t apologise for who we are and the space we take up on this planet.

In what ways are you living a life of purpose? What has the most meaning to you? Love, Veronika x

#my500words

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Celebrating Autumn

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Autumn has arrived in Cumbria. The garden rewards me with handfuls of blueberries. Such a treat! It won’t be long till I have to start ordering in firewood, but for now, my main celebration of Autumn is: enjoying the elderberries and rosehips, autumnal mists in the fields, and in the use of foods in my kitchen: butternut, blueberries, apples and pears.

In two weeks, my daughter Bethany will be travelling to Bangor University in Wales to study music. I spend each day mentally preparing for this huge change to family life.

My daughter Eliza started A levels this week, and is loving her new teachers. It is such a joy to hear her sharing her delight.

As the days grow darker (and colder!), my time will be spent writing. Things came to a bit of a lull during the school holidays. Autumn will see me release some e-books all based on ten steps.

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I will sink myself back into writing my novel a few days a week (really looking forward to that), and the remaining time will be divided between the recipe books and editing Starflower Living magazine. I have to admit that I’ve really enjoyed stepping back into a magazine-editing role (but without the stress of bulk mailouts). If you’ve not yet read this digital magazine, you can download the first issue FREE from the Starflower website. www.starflowerpress.com Each issue is just £2.50

 

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For this weekend only, I am running a special offer. If you order a mentoring or astrology session off my website, you can have a second session FREE (for any member of the family). Offer expires Sunday 7th Sept, midnight (UK time)

However you celebrate Autumn, I hope you enjoy it. For my southern hemisphere readers, enjoy Springtime! Love, Veronika x