Work Is Love

I am lucky enough to have experienced work that I love. Teaching mindfulness and yoga to children encourages them to build better relationships with themselves, their friends and family, and the world around them. I can’t think of anything more rewarding than that.

But it wasn’t always that way. I’ve worked many a long hour in jobs I disliked just to earn some money and because it’s what ‘everyone else did.’

Maybe you love cooking, music or design? Maybe you’re passionate about the environment or making a difference in the lives of others, but feel you can’t make money following your passions?

We are so conditioned to work ‘for the other man’ in order to get ahead, often working long hours for very little in return. Worse still, we dislike the work we do.

Today, I encourage you to consider a different paradigm.

What would your life look like if you were getting paid to do what you love? What steps can you take to make your vision a reality?

Is it going to take grit, determination and perseverance? Yes. Do you have what it takes? Yes!!! Believe you can.

Work is love made visible.

– Kahlil Gibran

This photos was snapped spontaneously by one of the students from school as the kids played with my hair and goofed around 🤪

I think she’s captured perfectly the joy I receive from working with children and being in their company…

🌼 They remind me not to take life too seriously

🌼 I love the way they are in complete awe and wonder of the magic of life

🌼 Children are full of enthusiasm, even about the smallest of things

🌼 They say what’s on their mind! Zero filter 🙈 ..this can be scary, but it can also be so beautiful and pure that my heart melts every time 😌

And that folks, are just a few of the reasons I friggen love my work ❤️🌈

Do you love what you do? If yes, or if no, why? I’d love to know if your work aligns with your heart’s values…

Love always,

Hayley xx

Breathe.

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Today, I noticed a six year old boy distressed and crying. He’d gotten into a fight with his friend and was quite shaken by the event. I sat beside him and reminded him to breathe. I’d taught him yoga and mindfulness last year and together, we pretended we had balloons in our tummies. We filled them with air as we breathed in, and then let go a little more each time we breathed out. As we sat breathing together, I felt my own worries subside a little. Within seconds, he’d stopped crying. We smiled at each other. Little did he know, that I needed to breathe just as much as he did…

Later, I noticed he was alone. He was making something using card and sticky tape. I asked what it was. ‘It has special powers,’ he replied. ‘This button, when pressed, creates a protective shield around you.’ He pointed out a little scribble he’d marked on the card. ‘But this button here is the most powerful…’
‘What does it do?’ I asked.
‘It helps you to stay calm,’ he said.

Even at the age of six, this young wee soul understood the power of remaining calm.

We are each faced with adversities. There are things that happen to us in life that are beyond our control – events that we can’t stop or change. This can be difficult to accept. At times, we’re not even aware of why we feel sad or anxious. We just do. But it’s ok to not feel ok all of the time, so long as we don’t get stuck there for too long.

Today, be gentle on yourself. Sometimes it’s ok if the only thing you did today was breathe. Take it day by day, and trust that everything will be ok.

In love & light,
Hayley xx

From the Inside Out

My inner peace is the best gift I can give to myself and the people around me.

– Louise Hay

Doing the inner work…

…is rarely easy. But is always necessary.
It can bring us to the depths of our knees whilst lifting us to heights which before, seemed impossible.

Doing the inner work…

…enables us to come to know ourselves, wholly, fully.
It relieves us of those burdensome traits which no longer serve.

Doing the inner work…

…reveals that which is true and that which is false.
It requires for us to stare fear in the face; to acknowledge it, to dance with it, to see it for what it is – an excuse to play small. Only then can we embrace it, love it, even, and dissolve it with our truth.

Doing the inner work…

…is messy. But always worth it.
It is wading through all of the humility, anguish, vulnerability, ugliness, defensive grasping and denial; only to emerge light and humble and free.

Doing the inner work…

…makes visible the dirt.
It opens our eyes to see, and clear it away – bringing space and clarity.

Doing the inner work…

…is rarely easy. But is always necessary.

A Letter to My Younger Self

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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)

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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.

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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…)

1 + 1 = 2

Writing 101, Day 7: Let social media inspire you

Today’s prompt was to choose one of five possible tweets as inspiration for today’s post. Since I work in a primary school and am studying for a degree in English Literature, this one stood out to me the most. (I don’t use Twitter so hopefully I have been able to imbed this tweet into my post correctly.)

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I am somewhat torn when it comes to education, I am a student of English Literacy; but mostly, I am a student of life. I love to learn new things, but admittedly, I tend to stick to the subjects I am most passionate about and those which are relevant to my life. As a result, I am often at a tug of war when teaching from the National Curriculum; a curriculum which, with its increasing demands and emphasis on Maths and Literacy, threatens to pigeon hole children and crush creativity.

Whilst I love my job and fulfil my role to the best of my ability, I often feel torn between doing what’s right for the children, and doing what’s expected of me in terms of the National Curriculum. So much pressure is placed on schools to meet the paintinglevel of expectations in Maths and Literacy, that nurturing children’s inner passions and creativity are often pushed to one side. Children are quickly categorized into ‘lower ability,’ ‘middle ability’ and ‘higher ability’ groups based on their Math’s and Literacy results. I often find myself thinking; ‘Maybe those particular children do struggle with long division, and maybe they don’t know the difference between a verb and a noun – but has anyone noticed how well Alfie plays the drums? Has anybody else seen how intricate Libby’s drawings are and her care for detail?’

It does sadden me when children have to sacrifice their chance at creativity in favor of extra Math’s and Literacy. In an attempt to bring them up to scratch with the expected level of ‘standards’, they are taken out of lessons that aren’t viewed as ‘core subjects’, such as Art and Music. This isn’t just happening in the school I work in, it happens across the country. For all we know, Alfie could be the next Ringo Starr and Libby the next Beatrix Potter, but we won’t discover that yet because Alfie and Libby are too busy taking extra Maths and Literacy for us to nurture their God given gifts and talents.

It’s not that I don’t see the importance of Maths and Literacy, because I do; but is it really necessary for a child of eight and nine to be doing algebra and long division and calculations that are so difficult even the teachers are struggling to teach them? Surely teaching children how to save, to budget and how to handle their finances has more relevance in the real world? Take Literacy for example, is it necessary for children of primary age to know the difference between an embedded clause and a complex sentence? Or is it more important that they know how to express themselves without fear of forgetting to use the aforementioned? Or that they know how to write a letter or apply for a position in a workplace or college?

In my ideal world, all children would learn how to read and write and be taught basic Maths and Literacy at the start of each day, along with Physical Education. In the afternoons, those who wish to pursue further Maths or further Literacy are given that opportunity; those who wish to pursue Art, can, and those who wish to develop in Science or sport or languages or any other subject for that matter, can. So, in essence – an opportunity to enroll in subjects, with specialized teachers of that field, not just at college level, but at Primary level too – so that children have the freedom to explore the subjects they feel most passionate about and are encouraged to do so from a very young age. If we have the opportunity and skills to nurture our children’s inner passions and creativity whilst preparing them with valuable life skills for their future – why wouldn’t we do this? Why is the focus placed so strongly on Math’s and Literacy? Offering a varied curriculum would also open up job opportunities for parents and adults who can play music, coach sports, sew, paint, have published works etc Every one can get involved in shaping our children’s education and future – regardless of how good we are at Maths and Literacy.

When I read EJ Koh’s Tweet, I realise that I know nothing of the things I learnt in school, other than the subjects I was passionate about. I don’t remember how to do algebra, I don’t remember how to speak in French, but I do remember how to read and write; and that, for me at least, is enough.

What are your thoughts on how children should be educated?

10 Things Every Teaching Assistant Can Relate To

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Since today was national Teaching Assistant day in the UK – I thought I’d share some experiences that most fellow TA’s can probably relate to! And most parents and teachers alike come to think of it!

  1. Children love to hug spontaneously. This is beautiful (apart from when they are covered in paint/glue/snot!)
  2. Children can consume an alarming amount of bogies. It amazes me how they manage to conserve any room in their teeny weeny tummies for actual meals.
  3. Most TA’s will have experienced the painful moment when a child suddenly, and unsuspectingly, vacates their seat at the precise moment you walk passed their chair. Cue rigid, midget furniture plunging deep into soft fatty thigh tissue. Ouch.
  4. Which leads me nicely onto UCIB’s (Unidentified Child Inflicted Bruises). These are usually caused by children bashing you with their chair/ruler/shoe/cricket bat. It isn’t intentional…at least…I don’t think it is?! Children are also in the habit of standing on your foot/leg/chest/head if you happen to be in their way. To put it simply, children will try to walk through you instead of around you if you come between them and their toys.
  5. If you thought you were good at Maths, you haven’t worked in a 21st century Primary School. Children aged six and seven these days are not adding single digits and reciting their three times tables – no!!! They are performing long division, fractions, algebra, adding and subtracting with decimal places – they even know every single times table including their twelve’s!!! And they know them without the need for funny rhymes or mad methods of remembering!!!! They just know (Don’t ask me how – but they do.) That’s why during Maths, it pays to use the phrase ‘Why don’t you share how you arrived at that answer with the rest of the class? Y’know, so that we can celebrate that strangely advanced ninja robot brain of yours (and so that I can quickly grab a calculator to check the answer, of course?!)’
  6. Children are mini mistake correctors. If you say something wrong/spell something incorrect on the board/call somebody by the wrong name – they will immediately and simultaneously proceed to point out your error in a very loud and intimidating way. (Think thirty laughing pointing spell checkers yelling at you from your computer screen – minus the annoying red squiggle.)
  7. You often hear yourself saying the words ‘you should try to go to the toilet during break times and not during lesson times!’ Despite saying this – you let the child go pee. Partly because you don’t want to clean up the mess afterwards, but also because you yourself have ducked out of the classroom at least twice in the last hour to empty your over-caffeinated bladder; and you now feel like a bit of a hypocrite.
  8. People often comment on how wonderful it must be to have all those holidays and to get paid for colouring in and cutting out. Although it’s hard to resist, I would advise strongly against committing any acts of crime against these people (it will show up on your police check and you’re likely to be out of a job as a result.) Besides, it’s not their fault. They either don’t have children; hire a nanny; or are just of the view that all Teaching Assistants do is make paper dolls and sing nursery rhymes. Believe me – there is a reason why we have all those holidays!!!
  9. Which leads me onto my next point. If you didn’t drink alcohol before you became employed in a school – there is aee1a573aee30f88846f8d1a04080079b
    90% chance that you do now. If drinking at 3:30pm on a Friday was once unheard of – it has now become the norm for you and most of your friends (who by the way, also happen to be Teaching Assistants and Teachers.)
  10. Despite working shorter hours then most – you fall out of the doors feeling like you have been inside a washing machine on full spin. Yet with the random madness and unpredictability of the life of a TA; the pulls and the demands of the national curriculum; and the amount of clothes that you have had to throw out due to ‘spillages’ – there comes a responsibility and an emotional reward that far exceeds most other jobs you have experienced – and it is that which makes it all totally worthwhile 🙂

Happy national TA Day!

What would you add to this list?

“Not even a little kick?”

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Writing 101, Day Six: A Character-Building Experience
Who’s the most interesting person (or people) you’ve met this year?

Today’s twist: Turn your post into a character study.

Whilst twenty-nine sets of eyes face the front, attentive; one set of almond-green eyes sparkle and dance, fixated on an illusory picture show of magic and wonder. As the group engages in the classroom discussion; she occupies herself with unicorns and ponies, Powerpuff girls and Pokémon. As the children raise their hands in response to a question; she raises her brow in an astonished response to her heroin’s fanciful defeat.

I don’t know to where her vivid imagination transports her – only that her sweet, animated face radiates with contentment every time. It seems a shame to interrupt her reverie, to bring her back to the mundane.

Humour helps. Anything remotely comical will capture her attention and have her utterly gripped until it’s over. She loves all things yucky, and sticky and downright absurd. If you’d like her to count – count with pretend bogies made of play dough; if you want her to subtract – pretend to eat those bogies!!! If you need her to write a story – let her choose her own heroes and villains, and if she asks if it’s ok to kill off her arch enemy using ‘an epic fart blast!’ – say: “Yes! A trump gun is a fantastic idea! Now can you describe to me how horrific the stench was?!”

Her classic one liners often have the classroom doubled up with laughter. It’s her way of injecting fun into an otherwise boring topic. During a persuasive language lesson, when asked:
“How can we persuade Stoic not to kill the dragons?” Her response was:
“Beat him up!”
“Well, I’m not too sure we should be condoning violent behaviour…” And to that, her eyes twinkled as she replied sweetly;
“Not even a little kick?”

She loves all things magical and all things funny. There is often an empty seat where she should be sat. She can usually be found hidden in the book corner, immersed in a book, or skipping around the room, her eyes bright, her smile ignited with the joy that her private adventures bring.

It isn’t easy for her to express how she feels, this makes it hard for her to connect with her classmates on that deeper, personal level. Despite finding it hard to engage in social interactions, it is a task she is faced with daily, especially since the other children are so fascinated by her quick wit and humour, they want nothing more than to be her best friend. She finds this overwhelming. She becomes frustrated and loses her temper, often doing or saying the wrong thing. Afterwards, she becomes caught in a landslide of worry and regret; “What if they never forgive me?” “What if they hate me?” “But what if?” At times, there is just no consoling her. Of course, they always forgive, unlike adults, children rarely hold grudges for long.

One day, I asked: “If you could have one superpower, what would it be?” Her reply?
“The power to make friends.”

She says I am her best friend. I am, in fact, her teacher. But in truth, she is the one teaching me – teaching me to see the world through the eyes of a child who lives with autism.

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