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On Getting Real from “The Velvetin Rabbit”

When I red the book “The Velvetin Rabbit” to our children the first few times I choked with tears and emotion. Once I even had to hand the book to a friend to carry on reading when we where on a long weekend away together. Brene Brown read this passage in one of her books I listened to recently and I decided to write it in my journal. Here it is for you to enjoy and ponder:

“Real isn’t how you are made” said the skinhorse, “its a thing that happens to you when a child loves you for a long, long, long time. Not just to play with, but really loves you. Then you become real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes.” Said the skin horse. For he was always truthful. “When you are real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up?” he asked. “Or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once.” said the skin horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily or have sharp edges  or have to be carefully kept. Generally by the time you are real most of you hair has been loved off and your eyes drop off and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you re real, you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

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Notes on whole hearted living and courage by Brene Brown

I love ALL of Brene Browns books. Recently I have listened to Daring Greatly again and took notes of 10 points for whole hearted living in my journal. I have just come across them again in my journal and thought I would share them with you. I guess we all know them, but its good to be reminded to shift our focus to what matters regularly:

  1. Cultivate Authenticity and let go of what people might think of you.
  2. Cultivate Self Compassion and let go of perfection.
  3. Cultivate a resilient spirit and let go of numbing and powerlessness.
  4. Cultivate gratitude and joy. Let go of scarcity and fear of the dark.
  5. Cultivate intuition and trust faith. Let go of the need for certainty.
  6. Cultivate creativity and let go of comparison.
  7. Cultivate play and rest and let go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self worth.
  8. Cultivate calm and stillness and let go of anxiety as a lifestyle.
  9. Cultivate meaningful work and let go of self doubt and supposed to…
  10. Cultivate laughter, song and dance and let go of being cool and always in control.

Its something we could all hang on the fridge, over our desk, by the bathroom mirror, by our bedside to remind us regularly to shift our perspective.


Courage has played a big part in my life. Its a play between courage, fear, bravery, anxiety and everything around and in between. I liked this definition of Courage by  Brene Brown and it’s also in my journal to remind me:

“COURAGE is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor. – the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” Over time, this definition has changed, and today, we typically associate courage with heroic and brave deeds. But in my opinion, this definition fails to recognize the inner strength and level of commitment required for us to actually speak honestly and openly about who we are and about our experiences – good and bad. Speaking from our hearts is what I think of as “ordinary courage”.”

Over the years I have been drawn to writers and mentors who courageously and authentically share who they are and how they experience the world – honestly, fully. Its invited me to share more fully about my experiences and allowed to me to process lots of buried stuff. Writing and sharing helps to process and also to connect to other people with similar experience and feel less lonely and alien in this world. Recently someone sent me a private message, that I should not share about personal aspects of my relationships and our journey publicly. But for me that would be just a highlights reel and we already have enough of that. I think those highlights reels are responsible for a lot of anxiety, depression, unrealistic expectations of how things ‘should’ be and how things are for other people causing FOMO and jealousy and comparison and all sorts. If we all shared more authentically and courageously of what’s really going on I am convinced we would live in a better world.

Unfortunately the authentic and open sharing is two fold. It opens the doors to new connections that would otherwise not happen, but it also invites online trolls and people who “know better than us” to give us unsolicited advise or worse make comments that hurt deeply. Sharing authentically, courageously and openly required a soft hart and a strong back – also a Brene Brown saying. It has taken me many years to develop both and I still regularly get thrown off center. But I have enough tools to shake off what needs shaking off and get back to MY center.

Would love to hear your thoughts and experiences.



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Musings from the sea on creativity

I really, really enjoy all the creative time and space I get at the moment. Its one of the things I am most grateful for and try to be entirely unapologetic about. It makes me realise how much of that side of me has been unattended, unseen, unexplored because of the lack of time and headspace. It makes me realise how much creativity will lie dormant in so many other people, because of the lack of time and headspace.

Its easy to say you just have to prioritise this time, but I can very well remember that I was most of the time just functioning with all the responsibility I had and work that needed doing in my businesses, around the house and garden, in our household. the social commitments etc. I am so grateful for this time to explore this side of me, drawing, writing, reading, listening to audiobooks, and doing crochet.

2 of my recent drawings. I usually make a quick sketch or a note in my journal if an inspiration comes in and when I get a moment I can bring them to life with my paint brush. I am secretly dreaming of these becoming cards and a book one day. 

I am just slowly reading bits of the book “Out of our minds” by Sir Ken Robinson – all about creativity, creative thinking and living. Its really reaffirming. Lots of the things I have been thinking and feeling were out of kilter for me in previous years and that brought me to where I am today. The structures for my life had to be rearranged in a big way quite a few times so that I can feel aligned and fulfilled. Each time in those big shifts I was scared, fearful and doubtful and each time (so far so good) it was the best move ever. It doesn’t mean everything is perfect and I float on a rosy cloud, but it means I can live more aligned and closer to my truth and heartspace.

I also simultaneously work my way through the book “The Artists way” by Julia Cameron chapter by chapter . One thing that made me chuckle yesterday was a quote I came across in this book:

“Take your life in your own hands and what happens? A terrible thing: no one to blame.” Erica Jong

I also got my first sunburn, as I was reading right in this spot in the hammock and it felt too nice to feel sun on my skin again after months of cold and winter.

Its all good while its all good, but when things go wrong there is only me that is to blame for making bold, brave and out of the box decisions. That is a bit scary, it feels so convenient and comforting having the possibility to blame someone else. Our kids are masters at this 😉 and at making star art – Luca below working with his origami stars and Nina’s on the right side making a wordspiration box. So proud that both of them can express in so many creative ways.

Another thing I noticed is that I go through cycles with my creativity. I have burst of inspiration for drawing. If I ignore them they keep niggling until I get my brush out. Then there might be nothing for a few weeks or even months until a new inspiration or niggle comes. Same with my writing – there are times when I feel really inspired to write and times when nothing will come. There are crochet projects that just work and feel right and there are some that don’t and get undone. I found this quote in the same book that reassured me:

“Marathon runners suggest you slot ten slow miles for every fast one. The same holds true for creativity.”

Here are some of my crochet projects from the last few weeks – a blanket for me, a shirt for me and shirt for Nina. Its colour therapy, a moving meditation, a quite space of creation and fulfillment. 

And I also marked these in bright pink in my book:

“Anyone honest will tell you that possibility is far more frightening than impossibility, that freedom is far more terrifying than any prison. If we do, in fact, have to deal with a force beyond ourselves that involves itself in our lives, then we may have to move into action on those previously impossible dreams.”

“I have learned, as a rule of thumb, never to ask whether you can do something. Say, instead, that you are doing it. Then fasten your seat belt. The most remarkable things follow.” (Gosh did we need that seatbelt in the last 1.5 years!)

“In my experience, the universe falls in with worthy plans and most especially with festive and expansive ones. I have seldom conceived a delicious plan without being given the means to accomplish it. Understand that the what must come before the how. First choose what you would do. The how usually falls into place of itself.”

” Take a small step in the direction of a dream and watch the synchronous doors flying open. Seeing, after all, is believing. And if you see the results of your experiments, you will not need to believe me. Remember the maxim ‘leap and the net will appear’.”

“Whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it. Action has magic, grace, and power in it.” -Goethe-

Here are some actions for reflection from the book, that you could work on this month:

  • Where does your time go? List your five major activities this week. How much time did you give to each one? Which were what you wanted to do and which were shoulds? How much of your time is spent helping others and ignoring your own desires?
  • Take a sheet of paper. Draw a circle. Inside that circle, place topics you need to protect. Place the names of those you find to be supportive. Outside the circle, place the names of those you must be self protective around just now. Use this map to support your autonomy.
  • List 20 things you enjoy doing. When was the last time  you let yourself do these things? Next to each entry, place a date. Can you do and schedule some of these in the next week/month?

I would love to hear and see your creative projects and any thoughts that might come up for you reading / seeing this.

And lastly a beautiful quote that touched me:

I shut my eyes in order to see. – Paul Gauguin-

My yoga mat is one of the places where I find peace, inspiration, where I shut my eyes, listen to my body, move stagnant energy, place some oils on my body, breathe deeply, feel the wind and sun on my skin, smell the salt in the air, close my eyes to see…




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Breathing exercises to improve your wellbeing

I have practiced different breathing techniques for many years now and observed the many benefits of bringing consciousness and practice to breathing cycles. I definitely expanded my lung capacity big time and when I breathe shallow or have periods of holding my breath when stressed or panicked I am now aware enough to bring myself back to deep, slow, conscious breaths. There is nothing like a big sigh of breath out and a deep inhale.

Pranyam – Breathing is a key practice and in this book he mentions that breathing in yoga came long before the asanas – movement where developed.  I practiced mainly yogic breathing techniques over the past 13 years, but I also loved attending workshops with Helle Thompson, who holds space for Transformational Breath sessions privately or for groups in Havelock North.  There are many different breathing techniques from so many teachers.

I have just finished reading the book Breath by James Nestor (link below to Amazon), which outlines and explains important research on breath. Many people are unaware how bad mouth breathing is for example and how many people have health problems because of mouth breathing. He even goes through an experiment with another breath expert, where they plug up their noses for several weeks and monitor all their vital functions and get their health monitored and checked before and after thoroughly. James Nestor visits lots of specialists and pulmonologists around the world and at the end of the audio book there are a few breathing exercises explained that we can implement into our daily rituals.


Here are a few breathing exercises you can practice and implement in your daily rituals. For all those techniques its best to sit comfortably on the floor or in a chair, spine straight, shoulders and face relaxed. Remember to never force anything and not overdo, especially if you are just starting out with these breathing techniques. Make sure you do the breathing exercises in a comfortable, safe environment, where you can be fully present.

Many of the breathing techniques have similar effects – lowering heart rate, blood pressure, stress, expanding lung capacity, calming the mind.

Alternate Nostril Breath:

Put the 2 peace fingers (pointy and middle finger) of the right hand on the 3rd eye chakra between the eyebrows. Use your thumb to close right nostril and the ring finger to close the left nostril. The little finger is just relaxed. Close right nostril with thumb, inhale through left nostril. Close left nostril with ring finger, open right nostril, exhale through the right nostril. Inhale through the right nostril. Close right nostril with thumb, open left nostril, exhale through the left. Inhale through left, close left, open right, exhale. Carry on for as long as it feels comfortable and right. 10 – 15 cycles to start with.

Kumbhaka Breath:

This breath is called box breathing in the above book, but is also a yogic technique, called Kumbhaka breath. The inhale, exhale and hold of breath is all done to the count of 4. Inhale for 4, hold for 4, exhale for 4, hold for 4. You can slowly increase your count if it feels comfortable.

For more relaxation / before sleep  change the count of the breath to Inhale 4, Hold 4, Exhale 6, Hold 2.

Another variation of this was made famous by Dr. Andrew Weil, called 4/7/8 breathing. Inhale through Nose for 4, Hold for 7 and Exhale though mouth with an audible sigh for 8

Repeat Cycles for as long as feels comfortable and right

Belly breathing:

I personally find this super relaxing combined with legs up the wall pose (Viparita Karani) before sleep, but can also be done sitting. Put one hand on belly, one hand on chest. Breathe into belly and feel belly expand. On exhalation feel belly lower. Do a few rounds like this then try to fill the belly with breath first and then the chest next, feeling both rise as you breathe in and as you breathe out you first try and empty the chest – feel it lower and then last the belly. Carry on for a few cycles.

Conscious breath restriction methods from the book Breath:

Inhale deeply through the nose, then pinch nose closed with fingers and hold breath for as long as feels comfortable. Use a stopwatch to measure progress over the weeks. You should not be gasping for breath on inhale. Slow and steady inhale.  Something to aim for is 45 seconds – 1 minute breath holding. Start slowly and take small steps.

Something more rhythmic is inhaling for 3, exhale for 6 and imagine anchor sinking really deeply as you exhale.

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The Artists Way by Julia Cameron Book Recommendation

This book has been in my bookshelf for many years, but I never made the time or headspace to work through it. It was one of the few books that made it all way from New Zealand to our boat in Greece. I bought it second hand in the Little Red Bookshop in Hastings. One of the main practices is to write morning pages on a daily basis in freewriting, ideally by hand straight after you get up. The other practice is to have an artists date with yourself once per week.

I am only in week 1 so far, working my way through the program week by week and really loving it so far. With my key word being fluidity and really tuning into what works for me I have adjusted the practice to writing on my laptop. Handwriting just frustrates me, as I write with 10 fingers on the keyboard and its so much faster. While I love the idea of handwriting, I simply don’t enjoy it and if I don’t enjoy it I don’t do it.

The artists date can be anything creative. Whatever makes your heart sing, cooking, crochet, drawing, pottery, writing, tidying, decorating, parenting. I was always one of those people who thought that I didn’t have a creative bone in my body and I have since changed my mind. I am finding the idea of creative living and exploring creativity in everything I do fascinating. At the moment I explore my creativity in the following areas:

  • Writing (writing helps me release & process and it makes my heart sing)
  • Drawing with back ink and water colours (it helps me to visualise my thoughts and I love to play with shapes and colour and turn words and emotions into something visual)
  • Crochet (colour therapy, feeling texture, making something with my own hands, creating something unique that can be used, a mindfulness practice – ticks so many boxes for me)
  • Living in general – what else apart from the mainstream narrative is possible? (It feels so scary to do this as a family – hello fear and vulnerability)
  • Parenting (an ongoing mystery)
  • Marriage (getting better at it every year I think – but certainly requires copious amounts of creativity)
  • Business ideas – lets be honest everyone has to survive and earn money. I would love to find a way to feel abundant and prosperous in all areas of my life and money has always been a red flag for me. I would love to earn enough money with something that feels authentic and brings in enough money to cover basic living expenses in New Zealand and some luxuries like travel, alternative healthcare.

Would love to hear your thoughts on creativity and art and what makes your inner artist sing and if you have already read and worked through this book and how its impacted you.