When Things Fall Apart

Caroline's seagull 1Between the harbours of our pain and our joy, the sunlit bays that lull, and the rocky coves where beached whales gasp for breath, is the journey. Learning to navigate through clear waters and perfect storms keeps us learning, keeps us evolving, keeps us awake.

Sometimes all it takes is the right book to help us chart our way.

Pema Chödrön’s ‘When Things Fall Apart’ is one of those books I gift to folk and re-read every year, drinking it in to quench a thirst that never goes away. She takes all of life, wraps it up in a gentle smile and makes me grateful to be here right now… and happy to be me. If you haven’t got the time or energy to read one of my long, rambly posts, skip to the bottom; there are some great quotes.

Awakeness is found in our pleasure and our pain, our confusion and our wisdom, available in each moment of our weird, unfathomable, ordinary everyday lives. ~ Pema Chödrön

A new me reads it every year. Last year, a death in the family changed us all; the year before that, I lost two friends to cancer and four survived. And every year, this book speaks to me like a friend who knows and understands the essential me but is aware of my constantly evolving circumstances, offering relevant advice for each one.

This is no bright white toothed self-help guru, survivor turned writer, making me mutter “Oh, give me a break!” This is a person who gently unravels all the pain, happiness and conflicting thoughts and emotions that make us human, but who points out that there, there where we notice those states in ourselves and in others is the learning, the living, the enlightenment and the loving. In the space between the inbreath and the outbreath, the silence between the notes, the glide between the beating of a bird’s wings, that’s where all of our peace and wisdom reside.

Chances are, if you visit my blog, we’ve a lot in common and you’ve probably read this book. If you haven’t, and you’d like a gentle introduction to Buddhism and an instruction manual for a simpler, kinder, richer life, please give it a go. I reread it last week and today’s the happiest I’ve been for months. I accidentally pressed publish on this post earlier instead of saving a draft; the original detailed some of the challenges I’ve had and dealt with this week, but to be honest, I bored myself reading them so I deleted all but one.

I stepped on and broke my cherished old Kindle and feared I’d lost the hundreds of quotes and passages I’d lovingly curated over the years and all the ‘collections’ I’d organised ruthlessly, even though the books themselves stayed safe in The Cloud. But I trawled dozens of forums, tried what folk suggested, and hours later managed to rescue the quotes, because they mattered, because they were pieces of life that had resonated with me and were already distilled right down to the essence.

Which brings me back to Pema. These passages from ‘When Things Fall Apart’ were highlighted in my Kindle. I was going to share them with you gradually, but life’s too short to hold onto things that cry out to be shared.

Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy…

…Life is a good teacher and a good friend. Things are always in transition, if we could only realize it. Nothing ever sums itself up in the way that we like to dream about. The off-center, in-between state is an ideal situation, a situation in which we don’t get caught and we can open our hearts and minds beyond limit. It’s a very tender, nonaggressive, open-ended state of affairs. To stay with that shakiness—to stay with a broken heart, with a rumbling stomach, with the feeling of hopelessness and wanting to get revenge—that is the path of true awakening. Sticking with that uncertainty, getting the knack of relaxing in the midst of chaos, learning not to panic—this is the spiritual path. Getting the knack of catching ourselves, of gently and compassionately catching ourselves, is the path of the warrior…

…Generally speaking, we regard discomfort in any form as bad news. But for practitioners or spiritual warriors—people who have a certain hunger to know what is true—feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back. They teach us to perk up and lean in when we feel we’d rather collapse and back away. They’re like messengers that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we’re stuck. This very moment is the perfect teacher, and, lucky for us, it’s with us wherever we are.

        From ‘When Things Fall Apart’ ~ by Pema Chödrön.



When I’m lost or troubled, I read fewer blogs and more books, real books, the kind you can hold and take notes from. The more rattled and scattered I am, the more I crave books about creativity and writing, especially those written by poets about poetry. The process of reading and note-taking calms me. Because they invoke all kinds of connection and contemplative practice, good books about writing are really guides to leading a more engaged life, inspiring us to distill the essence of our experience so we can share it creatively, and, if we’re lucky, connect with the hearts and minds of those we we long to reach.

Last week, I grabbed a pen and a notebook and re-read Mary Oliver’s A Poetry Handbook. It’s so much more than a book about understanding poetry; it’s a rallying call to experience life like a poet, to create something that has the power to change lives.

“A mind that is lively and enquiring, compassionate, curious, angry, full of music, full of feeling, is a mind full of possible poetry. Poetry is a life-cherishing force. And it requires a vision – a faith, to use an old fashioned term. Yes, indeed. For poems are not words, after all, but fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry. Yes, indeed.”

(Mary Oliver, from A Poetry Handbook)

Jotting down excerpts from A Poetry Handbook was a delight. Today’s post from the archives is an old article from my Coaching Moments column, but one I hope you’ll resonate with; I don’t know anyone who visits here who isn’t a life-cherisher, a capturer and framer of moments, a wordsmith or an artist.

Treasure Hunting

As a writer, you should have a sticky soul; the act of continually taking things in should be as much a part of you as your hair color. ~ Elizabeth Berg

I’m a quote-hunter, an unashamed gatherer of quotes. Capturing the words that resonate with me is like gathering wild berries, nuts and seeds, windfalls of fruit – food for thought.

Some stand out from the page or computer screen like the flash of a robin in a winter bush. Others are a rainbow of satin ribbons, waiting to be the right words to wrap around a bouquet of thoughts or to become the bow that sets off a simply wrapped sentiment. Then there’s the unexpected treasure, precious gems that dazzle with their brilliance. I keep them somewhere safe so that I can bring them out later, like a child fingering treasures wrapped in a handkerchief, hoping to find a special friend to show them to, someone who will understand.

I never go outCigdem Kobu's Ram Dass quote without a pen, a notebook and a book to read. When I read a book with a ‘quotebook’ and a pen handy, it’s a signal I send to myself and to the universe. It says “I’m open. I expect nothing, but I’m prepared to be moved, enlightened or entertained. I’m a student, ready and willing to learn from the lives and the wisdom of others.”

In my Filofax, stuck on the fridge, pinned to my pinboard and incorporated into my art work, albums and blog, quotes serve as flashes of inspiration, mini mission statements and signposts to keep me on track. Dead poets become heroes, strangers become mentors.

I use a different instinct, a different skill when I capture a quote. In many ways, it’s like the honing in and the active listening I do as a coach.

Finding the perfect quote that illustrates several sentiments or pulls together a complex train of thought is similar to recognising an Aha! moment in a coaching session. It’s synchronicity’s way of helping us focus and pay attention.

Our first instincts are often the ones that bypass our censors and cruel inner critics which is why many quotes become deeply personal and precious to us. They’re like messages sent from our own souls. Every time you choose a quote that resonates with you, don’t stop to ask why; just write it down and keep it safe. Quotes are like photographs, snapshots of who you are, who you were. They’re music that moves you, lyrics that leave you scarred. They’re memories of a moment when you came upon someone else’s words and felt connected, not only to another human being, but to the moment, the thought and the feeling that overflowed from them and cried out to be heard. The ‘Me too!!’ or  ‘That’s it exactly!!’ moment.

It’s our unique life experience and how we channel, choose and arrange the moments, the music and the words that makes us writers, creating collages that turn our lives into works of art.

Learning to resonate with those moments strengthens the treasure-hunting in our coaching sessions; those repeating words that draw our attention, those powerful silences when our clients connect to an answer nestling patiently in their souls, waiting to rise and take flight – they’re the gems.

I never know how my words will affect others but I do know that my best coaching happens and my best pieces write themselves in the moments when I’m most alive, aware and open. Some moments of clarity or emotion are so powerful they brim up and overflow and make me feel that if I don’t channel them into words, control them and create something from them that I will drown or that something very precious, something vital will be washed away and lost. When I sit down to recreate those moments, I feel like my whole life, everything I know and everything I am is a prism being used to refract the light of a message coming, quite simply, from somewhere else.

When I coach well, I feel the same connection.

Know then, that if anything I ever write affects, moves, touches or supports you, it was meant for you, sent from somewhere that neither of us can fully comprehend. I’m happy to be the messenger.

The Desire Map

Daniele LaPorte“Desire leads the way home.” ~ Danielle LaPorte

I needed to write here today. I only ever write for one listener, and today it’s you. Synchronicity. I don’t know what led you here, but I hope you get something from the connection. It’s been a while.

I committed blogging suicide three years ago, abandoning my blog and the blogging community I’d become part of;  I wasn’t in great health and my family needed me, but I’d also accepted that blogging was doing me more harm than good.

Small blogs thrive with lots of mutual support and respect, but I find reciprocal blogging – blogging with integrity – really time consuming. The day I realised I was reading more blog posts than books, writing more comments than blog posts and spending more time struggling with my integrity than I was writing for pleasure, I walked off into the sunset and never looked back.

In the time I’ve been Rip Van Winkling, some of my colleagues’ blogs and businesses have gone from strength to strength, but many familiar bloggers have boarded up, moved on and settled somewhere else. The blogging community I was part of feels like a ghost town now, full of abandoned blogs, broken links and dried up blogrolls blowing through like tumbleweed. Vibrant blogs that used to be full of laughter and companionship stand deserted, their once welcoming doors swinging and creaking in the silence, the odd forlorn comment left hanging like a torn curtain.

So what brought me back here when I could have dived in and joined the party over at Facebook, Twitter and a dozen other social media sites? In a world where instant connection is a phone click away, what led me to start all over again with empty comment boxes and a clunky, homemade, out-of-date site that should really be shrunk into a scrapbook or put out of its misery?

Danielle LaPorte and crochet. More about the crochet another day.

So why Danielle? I read and loved Style Statement: Live by Your Own Design years ago and resonated with Danielle’s quest for authentic, passionate, intentional living. It was so much fun working through the book and distilling my style down to two symbolic words; when I reread it recently, I was amazed to realise that the words I chose all those years ago still express my authentic essence.

Danielle is savvy and charismatic and her words leap off the page, inspiring you to grab a notebook, hone in on your unique style and design an intentional life. After Style Statement, came her book The Fire Starter Sessions: A Soulful and Practical Guide to Creating Success on Your own Terms which was based on her workshops of the same name.

Fire Starter Session 3: The Strategy of Desire is a life changer. It slaps you in the face with its simple heart logic, and you simply can’t ignore it. Danielle herself suggests that the following section “…could be the single most important takeaway from this book.”

“How do you want to feel?

Knowing how you actually want to feel is the most potent form of clarity that you can have.

Generating those feelings is the most creative thing you can do with your life.”

Just when I was enjoying The Fire Starter Sessions and thinking this is what I need, to read powerful books again, to be inspired by the overflowing desire to share what I learn, to share what moves me and shifts my awareness, I stumbled on this, Danielle’s new book which grew out of  Fire Starter Session 3…

The Desire Map: A Guide to Creating Goals with Soul

What can I say? I bought it a few months ago, I loved it and it’s still working! I had fun with it and enjoyed all the honing in and drilling down. (Oh, and the questions!…a coach’s dream collection of awareness heighteners, strength finders, curiosity cultivators and provocative layer strippers!) I carried it to cafés and started quotehunting again. I was inspired – and compelled – to share it with you in case anything Danielle has to say could be of use to you. Working through the book was revealing, energising and uplifting – sometimes bittersweet; we often get to what we want by knowing with a passion what we don’t want. Almost everything I’ve done today – and every day since reading the book –  has been in alignment with what Danielle calls my Core Desired Feelings, the distilled essence of how I want to feel in every area of my life. Knowing how I want to feel makes every choice, every decision, every action, purchase and conversation so much easier.

How about you? How do you want to feel, this moment, today, every day, in every part of your life?



How Resigned Are You?

If you put your best foot forward, you will be rewarded. If you do your part, if you take one step toward expressing all the greatness that lives within you, the universe will take a hundred steps toward you. But you must be willing to take the first step.~ Debbie Ford

Debbie Ford - The Best Year of Your LifeI was so tired of feeling storm-tossed and twinkle-less over Christmas that decided I was going to go back to basics and work really hard at separating what I can control from what I can’t.  One of the things that came up for me was how resigned I was becoming about my own less than vibrant health and the dreams I was no longer pursuing. I realised, just in time, that I was dulling my awareness deliberately, using some really devious devices to disconnect my gut feelings from my ability to analyse patterns. Some folk self medicate with drink, or do drugs; instead of writing, I was drowning myself in daily drudgery, deadening my brain with chick-lit drivel and sedating myself  with evening DVD’s. Writing opens me up and keeps me aware and open, so it’s no surprise that I hadn’t logged on for a while, or didn’t read anything that got me reaching for a notebook to jot down quotes.

One of the little bits of synchronicity I told you about in my last post was getting a Kindle from my husband and kids for Christmas. It got me exploring different genres,  just to see what was available, and downloading dozens of free samples from books. It was like being given bags full of samples in a sweet shop! One of the books I went on to buy was Debbie Ford’s The Best Year of Your Life

If you need a wee boost to get your year started, it’s the kind of book I’d recommend. She writes with an uplifting style that inspires and sweeps you forward, and even if you’re familiar with the tools, tips and nuggets of wisdom she covers, it’s a refreshing way to revisit  old favourites. After I finished it, I gave it to my daughter to read; one of the most frustrating things about teenagers is how resigned they become to what they see as the ‘bad stuff’ happening in their lives. Seeing the damaging effects of resignation in someone so young made me very aware that in my fifties, I have to fight even harder not to let it drag me down. Learning to let go leaves me with that beach holiday feeling of getting clean and clear. Resignation’s not the same, nor is it the same as being ‘realistic’; it’s creeping and inciduous and disguises itself as a variety of malaises. It sits heavy in your heart and saps your soul.

Most of us are unaware of the extreme resignation that is brewing just beneath the surface of our consciousness. The voice of resignation is a little different for each of us, but its tone usually sounds something like this: “Why bother? It’s never going to happen. I don’t have what it takes. It’s too much work. I don’t have time. I can’t deal with it. I don’t deserve it.” When we fall short where we had hoped to succeed, when our day-to-day lives fail to resemble our visions of what is possible, when our goals haven’t turned into reality, our hope for a great life begins to die, our senses deaden, and gradually we become resigned about our futures. Since most of us are unaware of this fact or don’t know how to deal with it, we wind up spending countless hours and much of our attention trying to cover up our resignation and fill the void that exists inside of us. Instead of making peace with our past, we develop addictions, create drama, and attract upsetting incidents in order to change our focus and avoid the painful feelings of not having expressed our potential. Resignation comes in many forms. It might show up as cynicism, sarcasm, or hopelessness. It can feel like depression, sadness, loneliness, or emptiness. Left unexamined, our resignation will continue to mask the real issues at hand while diverting us from fulfilling our highest visions for our lives. ~ Debbie Ford

If you dug deep enough, would you find anything that you’ve become resigned about, something that might be stopping you creating the life and the changes you crave?


101 Slightly Unpredictable Tips for Novelists and Screenwriters

Writing is writing, and the means by which it finds wings is still the product of,  for better or worse, a process. This book is all about empowering that process.  ~ Larry Brooks

Every so often I discover and resonate with a new blogger. It’s not just because of the concepts they convey in their content or comments; sometimes we share a common life view or I find their personality engaging and I start to care. Most of this happens through the medium of writing, with the odd photo or podcast thrown in.

Does your writing engage folk like that?

Can you lead readers into your life, make them hungry for the skills you share, inspire loyalty and cause them to care if you reach a crisis point in your blogging or your life?

Larry Brooks of Storyfix.com, a guest writer at Write to Done and Copyblogger, can help you do that with your writing and your blog. Better still, if you want to make your living as a writer, he can help you boost your creativity and sell what you write. The first draft of Larry’s debut novel was bought and published ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­- with only slight revisions – and went on to become a minor best seller. His screenplays have been optioned.

storyfixebooksmallHe’s recently published an ebook called 101  Slightly Unpredictable Tips for Novelists and Screenwriters: Innovative Ways to Jack your Creativity and Sell What you Write.  I’d recommend you buy it, print it off, study all 141 pages and scribble notes all over it. Unless, of course you have a shelf full of published novels, a portfolio of produced screenplays, an enviable life style paid for by your writing and an agent who adores you because you make their life easy.

Larry’s writing voice is strong  – often humorous – and the ideas are clear, fresh and easily applied. His ebook and blog posts have inspired my teenage daughter to write better stories for school by giving her structural templates she can explore and experiment with; they’ve enabled her to tap into her love of film and TV drama in order to analyse what makes a compelling story.

Many tips struck me as innovative, some are classics worth rediscovering and there are a few I disagree with. Most of the ideas, though, resonated with me, made a lot of sense or inspired me to action. Here’s a random sample of the kind of chapters the book covers; most of the topics provide rich material for bloggers as well as help for budding novelists.

  • Less really is more.
  • Pay attention to song lyrics.
  • Watch Dr.Phil.
  • At any point in the story you need to be able to answer this question: what is the reader rooting for and caring about?
  • Forget most of what your high school creative writing teacher taught you.
  • Imagine your novel as a movie. Or imagine your screenplay as a novel.
  • Nothing you write is ever wasted. Ever.
  • Don’t sweat your prose. Do sweat your story.

You’ll find an even more detailed list here:

This isn’t a how to of grammar, punctuation and slick prose. You’ll still have to work hard on your own style and hone your skills – but you do that already, right?  It will encourage you to discover what makes you special as a writer and show you how to learn from writers who have that special X-factor. It will help you structure your writing in such a way that you can’t fail to improve everything you write, from a paragraph to a screenplay.

At its heart is Larry’s belief in structure – the architecture of good writing – and the importance of constructing a story with pivotal points, drama, conflict, tension and emotional resonance.

The term “story architecture” refers to the sequence of an unfolding story according to an accepted – and expected – sequence, complete with certain milestones, timing and criteria. In effect, a blueprint.

Mess with it and your story will suffer. As will your readers.

Music has architecture. Sculpting and painting have architecture, even the most obscure pieces. All art is based on some form of structure, even if the lack of structure is what defines the art.” ~Larry Brooks

I’m a fairly organic writer, but I know the value of structure. I’m not a novelist or screenwriter – my background is language study, translation and song writing – but an awareness of essence, empathy and emotional resonance has been vital in everything I do.

For a story to work, it must have stakes. You can have character and plot without stakes – stakes are what makes the reader care – but if you do, what you won’t have is a book contract or a movie deal.” ~ Larry Brooks

Larry’s belief in the importance of knowing what’s at stake in any piece of writing drew me to his work. That, and his passion for incorporating music into the writing process.

Great writing has rhythm to it. A lyrical sensibility. And nothing says rhythm and lyrical sensibility more than music…

…And in case you think I’m speaking only to screenwriters here, you’re wrong. Novelists need visualization and emotional resonance every bit as much. In fact, because novelists have to paint the sky with words instead of stage direction, music can be an even more powerful tool for getting there.” ~Larry Brooks

I’ve watched movies and good TV series all my life and I’m a consumer of the kind of novels that sell millions of copies. I can tell in five minutes if a film will bomb. Most of us have an innate understanding of the structures that sell; we all know the kind of heroes who engage our empathy and create our concern.  Larry’s blog, ebook and tips show us how to craft that unconscious competence into something we can leverage in our own work.  Even if we baulk at the idea of formulae and structure, he articulates how we can blend the organic and the structural to marry art and craft.  

I could say more about what’s in the ebook, but I don’t want to spoil your pleasure. It is, after all called 101 Slightly Unpredictable Tips. I wish this book  – and Storyfix.com – had been around when I taught creative writing classes. If I could have written an ebook as succinct and practical as this, trust me – I would have. Larry’s work has got me reaching for my old screenplays and manuscripts, thinking “I wonder…”

This ebook could be exactly what you need to make some of your writing dreams come true. It may take less than you think.

May you find at least one idea that helps you move forward toward the birthing of the best story you can write. If I can deliver that, then you won’t be asking for your money back and we’ll both be delighted with the outcome.

That’s any writer’s dream. If you can touch one heart outside of your own, you have succeeded. ~Larry Brooks 

Re-invention 101 and a Special Book Launch Giveaway

When it comes to our own life, it’s easy to lose sight of the cyclic way of things. Rough times give us selective amnesia. Especially if we’re having multiple struggles — work and relationship problems, or a health challenge along with money concerns — we tend to forget that we’ve been through hard stuff before. We’ve always survived, and sometimes we’ve triumphed. ~ Victoria Moran

Victoria Moran is one of  my real life idols and her book, Creating a Charmed Life: Sensible, Spiritual Secrets Every Busy Woman Should Know, is one of those I wish I’d written. Have a glance at the book cover below. Hard to believe she’s in her fifties – there’s hope for me yet!

(*Guys ~ Victoria’s books are universally useful and enjoyed by women and men alike – they also make great gift ideas – but if this post turns out to be a bit girly for you, please scroll down to the questions at the bottom, especially if you’re a writer.)

Her books Fit From Within : 101 Simple Secrets to Change Your Body and Your Life – Starting Today and Lasting Forever and Lit from Within will give you some idea of where she gets her glow from. Younger by the Day: 365 Ways to Rejuvenate Your Body and Revitalize Your Spirit was her way of passing on all of her health and happiness tips to people like me who are no longer in their twenties!

She has two new books out at the moment and I’m hoping The Love-Powered Diet: Eating for Freedom, Health, and Joy will help me use all of my spiritual side, my wisdom and skills to help me shift the weight I’ve gained this last few months. the-love-powered-diet-by-victoria-moranWhen I’m overweight and sluggish, I find it harder to cope with financial anxiety and it can turn into a vicious circle of  comfort eating.

We all go through phases where we feel a deep need to re-invent and re-create ourselves, to love ourselves better so that we can cope in difficult times. I often get inspired to do this through a new book or a new piece of music.

If you’ve visited my book shop, you’ll have noticed that I’ve given Victoria’s books their very own section. I’ve known her for years, absorbed every one of her books and been blessed to receive many emails full of wisdom from her. When one of my manuscripts was rejected by a publisher after ten months in the hands of various editors at the publishing house, it was Victoria who urged me to keep going. She told me how many times she’d had to pick herself up and re-create and re-invent herself over the years.

She was widowed young and raised her daughter alone. Recently, her teenage stepson James died tragically of a sudden illness. But no matter what life throws at her, she remains poised and grateful and keeps reaching out, writing beautifully and wisely and touching thousands of souls along the way.

living-a-charmed-life-by-victoria-moranHer other recent release is called Living a Charmed Life: Your Guide to Finding Magic in Every Moment of Every Day which I’ll be reviewing properly when I’ve had a chance to devour it.

Writers and people interested in improving their lives are often addicted to reading, so I’m guessing you may be too! That’s why I share my favourite books with you. There are affiliate links under most of the books I highlight in my blog – I know you’re probably an Amazon affiliate too and believe in making money with meaning – but I hope you’ve come to know me well enough to believe that I share my favourite bits and pieces with you because I promised you soul food and support over here in our wee café bistro.

Books have always helped me turn my life around and become a better me and I hope that synchronicity may send you one of these recommendations to help you on your journey, too. That’s why I tell you about my favourite books and authors.

Here’s a clip of Victoria  reading from one of her new books; I found the clip in her most recent blog post at Your Charmed Life. She reminds us here that our lives are made up of stories, not atoms.

Have you had to re-invent yourself recently?

Do you struggle to live a healthy lifestyle and nurture yourself?

Which books do you wish you had written? Why? Which elements of that book could you model with integrity in your own writing? What do you have in common with the author?


Victoria has gifted me with signed copies of Living a Charmed Life and The Love Powered Diet to give away to two Sharing the Journey readers. All you have to do is answer any of the questions above, tell us why you need a bit of support to re-invent yourself or share a few of those moments that make you feel like you’re living a charmed life. The winner will be chosen at random next weekend. (I’ll put the comment numbers on bits of paper in a hat and the kids will draw one each. They’ll feel like film stars!) Victoria’s happy to post the books anywhere so it doesn’t matter which country you’re from.

So go on – one of these books may hold the Aha!! moment that signals a change of direction, a new phase of your journey!

A Touch of Grace

Believe in the power of grace. When we least expect it, a new door will open and the light of grace will illuminate our next step. ~ Cheryl Richardson.

grace-illumination2I have a link in my toolbar to Cheryl Richardson’s ‘Twinkle Stars’, the interactive animated version of her Grace Cards.
The quotation above is one of the gems you’ll find in each card, all of which are beautifully illustrated by an artist who reminds me of both Caspar David Friedrich and the Pre-Raphaelites.

I click on the link every day, and not once has it failed to guide me, inspire me or give me a lift. You can find the interactive version in my toolbar on the left  – just click the star – or on Cheryl’s site. As this blog grows, I’m hoping to offer you more resources like this, sounds and sites to help you have that moment of respite in a busy day online. Here’s what Cheryl says about her cards:

Grace Cards

There is a benevolent force of energy available to guide your life, and it always has your best interest at heart. This energy is grace. When you open yourself to its influence, you’ll begin to see the signs, symbols, and messages that are placed in your path to lead you in the right direction.

Grace Cards are a practical way of working with this Divine Energy. Close your eyes, ask a question, then choose a card. Follow the message and watch what happens.

They would make a perfect gift, or you could buy a spare pack and place  a card in a returned library book or on a café table. Who knows; you could turn someone else’s day – their whole life – around.

I’ve always been open to signposts, to signals and symbols from the universe, from our divine source. That’s why my daily reading away from a computer is so important to me. I never read without a notebook – quotebook – close to hand. (I explain why in my post Quote-hunting.)Fragments of wise and holy texts, favourite poems and pieces like the Desiderata, Ithaka and and I thank you God for most this amazing day! all leap out at me unbidden, gracing me with moments of insight or guidance for my day.

Too much self motivation, pushing and fear-led planning and busy-ness can lead to paralysis. By staying open, by having moments of silence where we’re content to simply be, we send a message to the universe, to our divine Creator saying “Open for inspiration – fill me with spirit!” For that’s what being inspired means, to live in spirit, not just in our heads or with our bodies.

I first discovered Cheryl Richardson by pure chance. A review of her book Life Makeovers: 52 Practical & Inspiring Ways to Improve Your Life One Week at a Time appeared in a magazine the same week as The Alchemist literally fell at my feet in a book shop and I read the chapter in The Celestine Prophecy about objects and people somehow standing out brightly to catch our attention.

I devoured it in a day, then went back and did each section properly, focusing on one a week. The reference section after each chapter led me to some of my favourite books. This book is worth buying simply for those recommended book sections alone; it’ll help you create a library that will transform your life.

Life Makeovers turned my life around, led me out of what I later realised was low grade chronic depression caused by an undiagnosed medical condition. It also marked the beginning of my journey towards becoming a life coach.

At the start of her career, Cheryl was mentored by an amazing coach called Shirley Anderson. I was moved beyond words when Shirley wrote this about my own coach certification ebook, Sharing the Certification Journey:

I read your section Janice and thought it was totally wonderful. I have now read the whole book, and each section was individually different but equally inspiring. There is great basic information and advice in the book and it needs to be shared with every new coach. I especially appreciated how you each told the truth about what a long time it took you to feel competent (it takes practice, practice, practice for everybody), plus the various ways that you each did it….Your book lays that out with warmth, intelligence and humour.

I somehow felt like I’d paid forward the gift I’d been given by Cheryl.

Where do you turn for moments of guidance and grace? Have you had any breathtaking  moments of synchronicity recently?

How to Feel Happy for No Reason

Most of the shadows of this life are caused by standing in one’s own sunshine. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson.

happy-for-no-reasonLooking for a Mother’s Day gift? A thank you present for a loved one? Or maybe an investment to support your own soul in tough economic times? I can personally recommend Happy for No Reason: 7 Steps to Being Happy from the Inside Out by Marci Shimoff . (Marci Shimoff was co-author of  ‘Chicken Soup for the Woman’s Soul’.)

I agree with Jack Canfield when he says that Marci Shimoff has “a unique talent for making deep spiritual concepts immediately accessible”.

Some self help books make you feel like you’ve just eaten a nutritious salad; they’re full of great stuff that’s good for you but leave you feeling hungry very soon afterwards.  This is a book whose message lingers and whose practical tips, used daily, can help you become happier for the rest of your life. I’d always used the following questions with coaching clients, but this book reinforced and expanded them so that they are now part of my psyche:

What expands you? What contracts you?

The book is in three parts.

Part One explores the whole paradigm of feeling happy for no reason through three guiding principles:

  • What expands you makes you happier.
  • The universe is out to support you.
  • What you appreciate appreciates.

Part Two shows us how to raise our level of happiness using the metaphor of creating a ‘home for happiness’. It looks at the 7 main areas of our lives: personal power, mind, heart, body, soul, purpose and people. For example, the first section is called 1. The Foundation —  Take Ownership of Your Happiness. The last section is 7. The Garden— Cultivate Nourishing Relationships.

Part Three gives clear directions for putting happiness habits into action each and every day.

Woven throughout the book are a hundred real life stories about people who have discovered how to feel happy for no reason  – often in turbulent or traumatic times  – and how to sustain that feeling. I cried in a café when I read one of them. I won’t spoil it.

Please check it out. If you’re not ready for it, someone you love may be. Happy for No Reason: 7 Steps to Being Happy from the Inside Out


What expands you? What contracts you?

Find Your Great Work

“This book may be little but the idea is big. Find Your Great Work will help you think bigger about who you are and what you offer the world.” ~ Michael Port.

Do you feel like you spend most of your days, your life, busily working away, doing OK work, good work maybe, but always stilling that voice in your heart that sighs, sometimes sobs, sometimes screams that you’re not doing great work, the work you were born to do?

Are you at a crossroads? Have you ever laughed at someone who suggested you hire a coach, thinking If I could afford to hire a coach, I wouldn’t need to!?

great-work-coverBuying – and using – Michael Bungay Stanier’s new book  Find Your Great Work: Napkin-Size Solutions to Stop the Busywork and Start the Work That Matters could be exactly what you’ve been looking for. It’s small, it can be read quickly and easily and will impact your life right away.

It also comes with a ton of additional resources, podcasts, interviews and downloads.

It’s the kind of book you’ll end up wanting to buy copies of for colleagues, family members and friends – especially the ones who are interested in personal development, and the ones who’ve been in a slump, feeling they’re pushing a boulder up a hill.

I won’t lie to you. As a coach, I’ve read dozens of personal development books and some are just rehashes of stuff you can glean from selective blog surfing. But this one is good and do-able. Michael is an award winning highly respected coach; in this book, he has succeeded in effortlessly condensing all his energy, experience and powerful coaching questions, models, processes and insights into a serious of digestible  ‘maps’ – called ‘maps’ for a variety of reasons, one being that they require action.  As Michael himself says, “they provoke you to make some fundamental choices” such as

  • Do I keep going?
  • Do I stop?
  • Do I take a new direction?

These ‘maps’ encourage us to stop and ask deep questions like

  • Why am I here?
  • What  am I doing?
  • What matters?

It also give us the tools to answer them.

I’ve enjoyed Michael’s work for years and can personally recommend the service I got from him and his team when I bought the book. I had an international delivery enquiry that was dealt with personally and sorted out within ten minutes! An awesome achievement in an online world that can often be cold and calculating. Chatting in an email exchange with Michael before I launched also gave me the extra rush of courage I needed to get my blog live.

Learn more about Find Your Great Work , watch the Great Work movie or check out Michael Bungay Stanier’s company Box of Crayons.