Echoes of Kindness

kind words (1)
Words carry much weight. Which is why it is so important for us to THINK before we speak.

T – is it TRUE?
H – is it HELPFUL?
I – is it INSPIRING?
N – is it NECESSARY?
K – is it KIND?

As Mother Teresa reminds us, when we chose words of kindness, ‘there echoes are truly endless.’ I experienced the power of kind words today when I received a bundle of handwritten letters from my kindergarten students filled with messages of love and appreciation, along with a beautiful heart shaped paperweight. I have spent the last six weeks teaching them mindfulness and yoga. Their gift to me was unexpected, yet my heart swelled with love and appreciation for the time they’d taken to share their words of kindness.

One of my favourite quotes by the Dalai Lama is:

Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.

Today, before you think, speak or act – ask yourself, “Is this kind?” Remember that your words have the power to hurt or to heal, to condemn or to inspire. Choose wisely.

In love & light,
Hayley xx

Be The Change.

be the change

Real change begins within. We must be willing to become what it is that we wish to see in our lives.

I have found that whenever my sense of inner peace is off balance, if ever I am met with difficult roadblocks along the way, there is usually a personal growth lesson I am failing to recognise. Did I waver momentarily from my authentic self? Have I communicated clearly my truth? Did I fail to recognise another’s perspective? Have I neglected my self-care practice?

Once we become aware of what’s going on on the inside, we can recognise the teachings that are being reflected to us in our outer world. Only then can we return our focus to the basic principles for a peaceful existence – acceptance; forgiveness; kindness; patience; love; joy; gratitude. The situation then usually resolves itself.

In today’s quote, Mahatma Gandhi, leader of the freedom independence and civil rights movement in India, reminds us that we must ‘be the change.’

If you crave more peace – be peaceful. Do you long for more love? Be more loving. If you wish to receive more abundance in life – give more. More happiness? Share your joy. The best way for us to experience a life of fulfillment is to be the change and lead by example. Our outer world always mirrors back to us the state of our inner world. The good news is, we have the power to change this. We have the power to shift our perceptions so that we can experience more of the love, joy, and abundance that is available to us.

Today, ‘be the change you wish to see in the world.’

In love & light,

Hayley xx

 

Love What You Do

love-what-you-do

As I sit here with gratitude overflowing, I couldn’t agree more with Katharine Graham’s statement. Today, I taught eighty-one kindergartens how to meditate and do yoga. Their smiling, peaceful faces were a picture of innocence and love. Afterwards, we silly danced to the Beach Boys Surfin USA as we played and laughed and giggled. As the children left, I was gifted with spontaneous hugs and ‘thank you’s’ for teaching them mindfulness. But the truth is, each day they are the ones teaching me. When in the company of children, how can we be anything but in the moment? And this is my daily work. I am so blessed and thankful to love what I do. How can anything else be more fun?

It wasn’t always this way. For a long time I was unfulfilled with my work. I felt it lacked purpose and meaning. But there is a quote by Kahlil Gibran which reminds us that it’s not necessarily what we do, but how we do it.

Work is love made visible.

– Kahlil Gibran

Although it certainly helps, we needn’t love what we do. But we do need to do it with love. When we work from a place of love, whatever our work may be, we breathe life into our work. Which in turn breathes life and meaning into what we do. When we operate from a place of grace and gratitude, we attract more abundance into our lives. Doors begin to open where before, there appeared to be none.

So today, have fun. Whether you are cooking, eating, gardening, cleaning, working, living, loving, laughing! – make each moment matter, and do it with love. Because ‘to love what you do and feel that it matters – how could anything else be more fun?’

In love and light,

Hayley xx

Fade Away

While we’re living
The dreams we have as children.
Fade away

-Oasis

Yesterday I embarked on my first workout of Spring. The sun was high and the birds were chirping merrily. I decided to play an old Oasis album, since I was thinking of my family back home in Manchester. As I sang along to Fade Away, it got me wondering – How many of us have allowed our dreams to simply fade away? The song’s opening verse sings:

When I was young
I thought I had my own key
I knew exactly what I wanted to be
Now I’m sure
You’ve boarded up every door

What childhood dreams have you disowned as a result of ‘life’ getting in the way? I must repair that leaky tap; clear out the garage; tend to the garden; get on top of my paperwork; paint the fence; take the kids to after school club, visit my mother-in-law… The list is endless.

It seems that as we move through the system, the creative vision we once held as children gradually becomes lost: Yes – it would be great to be an astronaut, dear… But what about a real job? When I was a child, whenever asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I responded without hesitation; an author and an illustrator. I adored Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake and wanted to spend my days immersed in the world of books. As it goes, my vision of becoming an author was soon replaced by logic and the need to get my grades and find a ‘real job’, just like everyone else. Like many, my childhood dreams soon lay dormant in favour of following the status quo. It wasn’t until my thirties that I allowed myself to tap into that realm of imagination and creativity again. Coincidentally, that’s when life, for me, began to flow.

What dreams have you boarded up behind closed doors? Today I invite you to dust off the key, open up those doors and allow your dreams to run wild and free.

open-door

A Letter to My Younger Self

14

Dear Hayley,

It’s me, Hayley. Your future you. I wanted to write to you because, well, I guess there are some things you don’t know yet that I think may help you along the way. Let’s begin at the start shall we?

See that photo? That’s you on the day you were born, all red faced and new in your Dad’s arms. In years to come, when he is gone (don’t panic – you have nineteen more years together before that happens…), you will look at this photo a lot; at the way his hands, which are almost as big as your body, are holding you tight in case he drops you. You’ll wish you could remember being held as you look longingly at the presence of you both together. Don’t worry – see how Dad is looking down on you even though your eyes are closed tight? Your eyes do open eventually… And when they do, you can see the bigger picture. Although there are many years of feeling bereft, in time, you do heal. So don’t fret little one – he’s with you now, just enjoy the warmth of his embrace.

23

This is your first birthday. (Healthy right?) This is pretty much your diet growing up as a kid. In fact, you’ll eat nothing but white stodgy stuff right up until the age of about eighteen. It’s surprising you don’t resemble a loaf of bread really! (And by the way, you go through a really weird phase of eating nothing but instant noodles and meatballs.) But fear not, after much trial and error you finally discover the beauty of fresh ingredients, and by the time you are thirty one, you are eating a diet rich in wholefoods – you’re even eating organic! (I know – madness right?) But I just want you to know that you’ll be ok and that miraculously, you manage to avoid any fillings or cavities despite the copious amounts of fizzy pop you’ll consume far into your late teens. In fact, you haven’t drunk a drop of sugary beverage for the last seven years! Can you believe it? I still don’t know how you manage to survive not drinking a drop of water until you turn eighteen??? But you do. And now you can’t get enough of the stuff!

62

This is your first school photo. I don’t know how it became all speckled like that, but it looks as though you have a terrible case of the measles. Behind your smile is a frightened little girl. This is the year you first witnessed Dad have an epileptic fit and it’s made you very fearful. You’re scared of the dark, of sleeping on your own, you still wet the bed and you’re even scared of your soft cuddly toys because you think they come to life at night! You hallucinate quite a bit and have scary dreams too… But I’m here to tell you that everything will be alright. I know it makes you sad when Mum won’t let you sleep in her bed; I know you lie awake all night in terror that something will eat you… But I promise that you won’t get killed by the freaky looking pot doll Mum bought you, and you don’t need to long jump into your bed in case an arm pops out from beneath it to grab your ankles and swallow you up! You are totally safe. And yes, there will be times in your teens, shortly after Dad dies, that you begin to have nightmares again. In fact, you will experience a year of terrible insomnia, but you get through it and, although you are still a light sleeper, you now have a healthy sleep routine. You’re even brave enough to walk to the toilet in the dark! (I won’t lie, your heart does beat a little fast as you do) – but the affirmations you say whilst tip-toeing down the hallway help! I am safe. I am protected. All is well…  And all is well!

Hayley - film (5)

Heyyyyy twenty year old you! Don’t you look fresh? But behind that smile is a sadness so great I can almost feel it rendering me paralysed again now… In fact – here is another shot taken whilst you were off guard, and it reveals the true emptiness behind your eyes and your smile.

Hayley - film (2)

You are numb. You are confused and your heart is heavy. You are also smoking a lot (thank God you’ve stopped that filthy habit) and drinking to numb the pain. Recreational drugs are taking their toll on your relationships and your job. You feel as though life is grim and grey and it is. You have recently lost your gentle giant, and Dad’s absence weighs heavily on your heart. Why pretend you are happy when you are not? It’s ok to feel grief, it’s ok to feel pain – just roll with it, everything is in divine order. I want you to know that things do improve. You have a few more years of losing yourself in drugs and alcohol, and unhealthy relationships. So if I could give you any advice right now, it would be to stop putting on a brave face. Stop worrying that your grief will effect others. This stuffing down of your emotions is causing you to turn to external ‘pleasures’ and false sensory highs. You needn’t numb the feelings. It’s ok to allow them to just be. I know you feel lost, I know you feel lonely and misunderstood, but this, in time, will pass.

hayley-paris

And this? This is me (you) now. (Well – actually that photo was taken last year in Paris) but still! – this is you at thirty one! Not as bad as you thought eh? How could you ever think thirty was old?

So a little of your life now…You are learning to love yourself. In fact, most days you look in the mirror and say, I love you Hayley. And guess what? You actually mean it! Some days it’s harder than others, but deep down you know that at your very core you are love. You have replaced drugs and alcohol with yoga and meditation. You love to spend time in nature (just as you did when you were little.) And you are a teacher too! You love working with children and seeing the world through their eyes. In fact, it has reminded you of the importance of embracing your own inner child and to follow your childhood dreams of becoming an author (just like Roald Dahl! Remember?) You write again and feel so much joy when you do. You have neglected your passion for drawing and sketching – but we can look for an art class here in Melbourne if you like?! (Oh yes – you now live in Australia!) And behind that lens is your best friend and man of six years, Mark.

It’s been a journey of self-discovery, of learning to love and be loved. But do you know what? You finally feel joy again. You have a deep and profound gratitude for life. You’ve discovered your true nature, your authentic self, and with that comes a knowing far greater than ever imagined – a knowledge that you are whole, connected, one – despite being imperfectly you. Dad is in your heart, you are in his, and that, my dear child, will never change.

Love always,

Hayley xx

Losing My (Self)

lost_childhood_

There was once a time when I thought God was just a made up story, like Father Christmas, or the Tooth Fairy, or the Easter Bunny. Of course, there was also a time in my early childhood when I believed in all of the magic of the world; but by the age of eleven, when asked by my peers if I believed in God, I would respond with a firm: ‘No.’ A genuine disbelief? I’m not quite sure … A fear of being ridiculed? Most likely.

It wasn’t uncommon to be picked on for being different in our school. Those who grew up in the tough neighborhoods bullied the ‘posh kids’; the ‘posh kids’ looked down their noses at the ‘rough kids’. And if you came from the council estates like I did, but was raised with manners and respect – you were constantly pulled in both directions, your allegiance questioned at every opportunity. Social boxes became apparent from a very early age, and, although I was aware of the divide, I wasn’t quite sure where I fitted in.

Bullying would take place for all manner of reasons, verbal and physical; if you admitted to still believing in Santa, you were a ‘baby’; if you admitted to believing in God, you were a ‘bible basher’; if you didn’t have nice trainers, you were a ‘scruff’ or a ‘dosser’; if you did have nice trainers, someone would stomp on them with muddy feet and yell ‘Christened!’ (Kind of ironic really.)

As a result, much of my time at school was spent trying to keep a low profile and aligning myself with other kids smart enough to do the same. In doing so, however, it wasn’t long before I lost my sense of identity along with my ebbing belief in magic and miracles. By the time I reached the end of my primary years, the magic carpet had been swiftly pulled out from under my feet and I came crashing down upon the concrete floor of ‘reality’. There began my new life in secondary school, where things only went from bad to worse.

I was smoking by the end of my first year, drinking alcohol by the time I was fourteen and dabbling in recreational drugs by the age of fifteen. With the brief magic of childhood behind me, I took comfort in the false security of my peers. I was totally lost. And despite a continuing nagging that I was straying from all that I loved; books, Roald Dahl, drawing, Disney – I continued to follow the crowd throughout most of my teens.

If I did try to stay home – it wouldn’t be long before they would come knocking at my door, rarely taking ‘no’ for an answer. As an introvert, I had always struggled to say ‘no’ in case I offended someone – and my friends knew I was a push over, so off I’d go against my better judgement, dawning my hoody and trainers and joining them out on the cold, wet streets of Tameside, Manchester.

Mum would constantly tell me I was being led astray and that she didn’t like the person I was becoming. Whilst Mum was frank in her disapproval, she was not so forthcoming with solutions. I would resort to asking Mum to pretend I wasn’t home, but she soon tired of lying and eventually ran out of ideas of where she could pretend I was, especially since they came knocking daily. This would cause Mum and I to argue, her words felt like an attack and our relationship became more and more strained until eventually, those friends became my family and I was sleeping at their house more than my own.

Their parents were usually at the pub until late most nights. Feeling like rejects, we took solace in each others company. Despite the early exposure to the smoking and the drinking and the mayhem; we would make time to laugh, and sing and dance like the children we longed to still be – there was nothing that Spice Girls and Five couldn’t fix. Whilst we had no idea how to live, our bond had grown stronger and bound us together during those lonely days. As different as we appeared to be on the outside, at the core we wanted the same – love, belonging, understanding and connection.

***

By the time I was sixteen, my relationship with Mum was fairly beaten – I went to live with my Gran and stayed there for a year before moving to Spain with a friend and his family. All the while I felt separated from the world and my family – disconnected, lost. It never occurred to me that within, was a deep well of unconditional love that was just waiting to be accessed. Never once did I turn to God, to Source, for healing and guidance. I had forgotten myself – my true Self. There I was, wandering through life making unconscious decisions, partying too hard, living recklessly and failing to notice that whispering voice within. Is it any wonder, then, that God sent me a huge wake up call?

Are you able to pin point the moment when you began to feel separated? Disconnected? Have you managed to find connection again? Moreover, what do you do to sustain that feeling of Oneness?

To be continued…  (I promise – there is a light…)

Think.

Writing 101, Day 12: Critique a piece of work.

Today, express your opinion on a topic or a piece of work. This is your opportunity to comment on something you’re passionate about, or review a piece of art or entertainment that you love or despise.

When I first read this prompt, my initial thoughts were: who am I to critique the creativity of another? And then I remembered that not all critique is negative. However, for some reason, when I think of the word ‘critique’, I am reminded of the many ways in which people criticise and vilify one another; our co-workers; that person we saw on the television last night; our children; our spouses; the lady on the bus! Sometimes we don’t even realise we are doing it… But why do we criticise others? It is as though we believe tearing shreds out of one another will make us feel better.

I am not immune to this and have expressed opinions I have later regretted, particularly in my teenaged years when I simply followed the crowd and was far less aware of the power of my words. As I have grown, so has my compassion for others. These days, if I catch myself or another being insensitive or narrow minded, then I will simply remove myself from the situation, or speak up should I feel it necessary. Quite often we get caught up in the moment and we forget to be that beacon of light – our true authentic selves.

Working alongside children, it becomes easier to notice the effect our words have on others. Even a seemingly harmless comment made in jest can have a profound effect on the way children see themselves and the world around them. Although we become thicker skinned as we get older, we are still, as adults, sensitive to criticism. That is why I believe that critique should always uplift and inspire, that our feedback should allow one another to grow, to evolve and expand; it should never cause ridicule or upset.

Next time we catch ourselves or someone else criticising a friend’s recent weight gain, or the lady from the television who seems to have gone overboard with her plastic surgery, let us be mindful of the deeper issues that may have contributed to their actions in the first place. Could it be that outside criticism has driven our friend to take comfort in food as a way of filling the void? Maybe the lady from the television has been made to feel ugly all of her life and has changed her appearance in an attempt to fit in and feel accepted? Equally, is it necessary to provide negative feedback about someone else’s work/painting/book/production? Of course we are entitled to our opinions, our unique likes and dislikes are what make us human and differentiate us from everyone else – but what doesn’t speak to my heart may speak volumes to another. That is why I take little notice of book or film reviews; they are, after all, just personal opinions.

So in a world that, at times, feels clouded with criticism, prejudice and judgement, let us refrain from following the crowd and stand up for what we believe in. Let it be that our words, thoughts and actions uplift, inspire and empower others, not tear them apart.

Peace be with you.

THINK1