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.



“It’s all about the why…”  was the first thing I read this morning, one of Danielle LaPorte’s truthbombs in my inbox.

Some coaches shy away from asking “Why?” because asking “Why?” about the past can lead us down rabbit holes as we retrospectively speculate, fill in the gaps, make excuses and convince ourselves that we’re analysing our actions to learn what worked and what didn’t, so we can build on successes or to avoid making the same mistakes.

But asking “Why?” in the present uncovers much more powerful answers: Why am I thinking this? Why am I feeling this? Why am I doing this? Why am I choosing this? And to make every “Why?” more curious and childlike, non-judgemental and painless, step back a bit and prefix each “Why?” with a quizzical “I wonder…” Do what young kids do and follow each answer with another “Why?” and another and another till you start peeling away the excuses, the ego, the rationales, the analysis and start replying with your inner wisdom, your gut, and get to an Aha! Moment, the heart of what you want.

Ask “Why?” about your actions, your plans, hopes and dreams for the future, and if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to sort out the should’s and the have to’s from the things you really want to do. Try taking some of those ‘wants’ and make a To Want list instead of a To Do list today.

Me? I want to pick up my crochet hook again and make more brightly coloured mittens, scarves and granny blankets; I want to paint; to write more songs and poetry; to write quality coaching material that supports and touches folk; to get my stamina, agility… and waistline back so I can enjoy a healthier future. Looking at that list, it’s fairly obvious I want to create, to make a difference, to feel more expressed, to leave a legacy.

I prefer to be love-led by inspiration, not fear-driven by motivation.

Asking “Why?” can empower your future.

Get clear on what you’re choosing – why you’re choosing. Not just the big things, but the details and the thoughts you choose to focus your attention on. It’s the key to clarity and peace.

The first question that I asked myself this morning, faced with another {0} comments day was a curious – but weirdly calm – “So why am I still choosing to keep this blog alive?”

Then I looked at stats and wondered why someone in Nepal read my blog. And someone in Peru. And Romania. And New Zealand. The US… What a wonderful world shrinker WordPress is. It made me smile.

And you read this today. I wonder why?

9 Simple Solutions for Procrastinators – and the Scent of Spring…

freesiasSpring is definitely stirring. Woven through the frosted days and chilling winds, we’ve had days of weak, wintry warmth and seen sneaky wee snowdrops peeking through the loam, smiling shyly beneath the bare trees and bushes. The tiny green shoots of brave, determined daffodils have pushed through to greet the first warm rays of spring, and it feels like time to do the same and welcome the season into my home.

Freshly painted in soothing shades of jasmine white and linen, sea shells and sandy beaches, with painted wood cladding on the walls and a rustic wooden floor, my living room and hallway now form the perfect canvas for me to express myself year round.

During the winter months, shades of cranberry, rusty-red and Christmas green added warmth. I didn’t have the energy to be very creative, but that was OK. My Christmas decorations have a life of their own and all we had to do was to bring them down from the attic and they brought the cheery warmth and spirit of the season with them.

freesia stem with hyacinthsI bring in the spring by filling every container I can – teapots, jugs, teacups, treasured old mugs and vases  – with bulbs and spring fowers. I echo the yellows, cornflower blues and sage greens in my wall hangings and ornaments, cushion covers and garlands. It’s an easy fix, but one that lifts the spirit.

coffee table spring flowersI’m especially fond of hyacinths and freesias. I have hyacinths in the kitchen and freesias in a jug on the living room coffee table at the moment; the fragrance fills the house. I love the structural elegance of freesias, the way their stems arch and the buds along the stem open in sequence, guaranteeing perfume and flowers for days to come.

I’m enjoying being uplifted by the scents and sights of spring, the birds suddenly louder at dusk and the promise of longer, warmer days and brighter spirits.

quotebooksI’ve been writing again, suspending some commitments until I can go back to delivering quality, and rooting around in my files and archives, ready for a shake-up and a spring clean. I’m clearer than I have been in months about what I have to offer and how I want to connect. Most reassuring is that I’ve gone back to reading with a pen and quotebooks; after weeks of wondering when the tide would would turn, I feel a sea change coming.

If you’re inspired by spring to make changes but find it all a bit overwhelming and don’t know where to start, do what nature does. Grow and blossom a tiny wee bit every day. Fill a jug with spring flowers today, breathe in inspiration and share your gifts with us on an outbreath of joy.

I enjoyed this article in Christine Kane’s newsletter recently and thought you might find it useful.

9 Simple Solutions for Procrastinators
by Christine Kane

Irony: As I started to write this article, I thought, “I’ll just go play one Sudoku game first.” I caught myself in the act and marched to my laptop.

People who say that procrastination is about laziness are probably the same people who think that anorexia is about not eating enough.

Procrastination isn’t about laziness. It’s about fear. It’s about perfectionism. It’s about overwhelm. We all experience it, and there are some tricks to help you get moving again.

Here are 9 ways to break the procrastination habit:

1 – When you get an idea, do some little thing to begin.

When I read Stephen King’s book On Writing, I noticed something. I noticed that when Stephen King gets an idea, he writes it. Immediately and imperfectly.

Most people get an idea. Then they sit there. They wonder if it’s a good idea. Then, they wonder if it’s a good idea some more.

Got an idea? Begin it now!

2 – All hail small chunks of time!

Lots of us complain about having no time. My guess is that we all have lots of time. It just doesn’t happen to be all at once.

Are you waiting for many hours of spare time to begin your idea, your project, or your taxes? Stop waiting! Learn to use the spare half hour that comes up here and there. (I gave myself 45 minutes to write this article just to take my own advice.)

3 – Agree to do it badly.

Set a goal to do it badly. Set a goal to show up. Let go of doing it ALL, or doing it WELL.

Some of my coaching clients’ biggest victories have a lot more to do with getting over perfectionism and fear, than they do about getting it all done perfectly.

4 – Commit aloud.

Call a friend and say something like this: “I’m going to spend the next half hour working on my Law School Essay.” Then go do it.

Call the friend after the half hour and make her congratulate you. Repeat daily.

5 – Define quantities.

Nebulous goals make for nebulous results. “I’m gonna get my office organized” is a lot like saying, “We oughtta do something about Global Warming.”

Most procrastinators have a hard time defining quantities. We think everything needs to be done NOW.

When are you going to do it? For how long? Which part of your office? The file cabinet? Or your desk?

Define the goal and acknowledge its completion.

6 – Install this System Upgrade into your Mental Hard Drive: Less is More.

Have fewer goals. Have no more than three priorities for a week.


Because you’re not lazy. You’re just trying to do too much.

Find out what it feels like to accomplish one thing instead of not quite getting to everything. Wow – what a difference this makes!

7 – Do it first.

My first coach made me write songs first thing in the morning. He told me to schedule the 2-hour chunk as my first activity upon waking.


“Because you’re telling the universe that this is your priority. And then the universe lines up everything to align with your priority.

Action grounds your priorities. It makes them real. It also makes your day easier because you’re not wasting energy thinking about this thing you’re supposed to be doing.

8 – Avoid nose-bleed activities.

Email, voicemail, web stats – any activity that bleeds itself into your whole day becomes a non-activity. It becomes a nose-bleed.

When you do it all the time, you never complete it. You just let it slowly drain the very life force from you. Define times for these activities. Then, turn off your email, your cell phone, your web stats, until that time comes.

9 – Don’t ask how you “feel” about doing the activity.

Have you ever committed to getting fit? And then when the alarm goes off, you lie in bed thinking, “Do I really feel like going to the gym?” (Like you even have to ask!)

Change this pattern. Make your decision the night before. Commit to getting up and going right to the gym, the computer, the blank canvas. Don’t have coffee and sigh and think, “I’ll probably feel more like it at lunch time.” You won’t!

If it’s a priority, don’t waste time asking yourself how you feel about doing it. Feelings are an easy out.


There. I did it. I wrote this article. And now, I don’t even want to play Sudoku! How about that?

Performer, songwriter, and creativity consultant Christine Kane publishes her ‘LiveCreative’ weekly ezine with more than 11,000 subscribers. If you want to be the artist of your life and create authentic and lasting success, you can sign up for a FRE*E subscription to LiveCreative at www.christinekane.com.

What’s the weather like where you are? Do you have any projects stirring, waiting to blossom in the next few weeks? Is procrastination a problem for you? Let me know if there’s anything  I can do to help. After years of battling perfectionism, and the overwhelm that often accompanies prolific wide-ranging creativity, I  specialise in coaching creative folk who thrive when they take things one wee step at a time.