The Heart Whispers

The Heart Whispers

I've been thinking a lot lately and I've been feeling very very scared. Scared of where I am, where I'm going and where I may end up. Change, a trip away, sudden surprises and the re-ignition of mental flames we perhaps thought we had once quenched, can cause us to really reevaluate and question everything. 

I find myself in a gushing stream, no control over the ravaging current while being dragged along with the flow, but, it isn't that bad, it's grand, it's ok...I say to myself. 

Suddenly yet inevitably I hit a whirlpool and in the midst of drowning I breathlessly scream, 'how did I get here?', 'why didn't I do something about this earlier when deep down I knew it wasn't alright?', 'how did I allow this to happen?!'. But then the wind changes, the current calms, the tide turns and I can paddle away from the pain.

However, the whirling water haunts me and its memories reveal nature's previous warning signs of which I ignored; believing that being dragged downstream is a quality existence, that a life dulled by fear and pain is ok because at least I'm not drowning; I'm just about breathing, head above water, somehow floating and perhaps that's all I'll ever deserve...I've learned to accept that perhaps, that is ok.

Such whirlpools shock me into questioning my beliefs and into recognising self-denial until the waves and whirls of memory begin to dissipate and I become accustomed to the terrifying currents once again, regaining the thoughts of 'at least long last, I am getting to experience the sea'

Such recent events however, I am trying not to simply swim through. In a way, I want to dissect and hold onto this pain because these feelings are the only times I feel scared enough to not only grab a life buoy but to hopefully get out of the gosh dam water!

The whirlpool I am talking about was a recent trip away with my family. It was magical yet at times I felt so miserable. I don't know how to describe these feelings other than through metaphor. I felt trapped behind a glass bubble, physically there and present, yet, like so very often, never able to fully reach through. On this trip I realised just how much this illness consumes my every moment. The lights were on but there was very much no one upstairs heheh. 

I stood in the Grand Canyon, one of the most beautiful, exquisite, magical places on this earth; a miraculous wonder in our beautiful blue home. I remember very little except for the numbers 140. That's all that was on my mind. The tour guide had poured us drinks. I took a quenched sip before checking the calorie label. 140. 'One hundred and forty calories. He had poured in half the bottle which meant there was 70 calories in my glass, perhaps 65 as the top half of the bottle is thinner than the bottom but I shall estimate 75 just incase. I took a large gulp which means I have approximately consumed 37.5 calories, 45 just incase I should ever be too lenient with myself. However I had spilled some when I tripped over that dirt rock so perhaps I only actually tasted 38 calories but lets stick with 45 just incase, I can't risk not accounting it. When we leave I will jiggle my legs on the journey home as we sit and we'll probably be walking another 4 more hours tonight so I should definitely burn it off. Keep walking, keep moving, keep doing and never forget how awful you are. How dare you do that, you're so stupid, you're disgusting, you're going to balloon up, you're worthless, you're horrible'. This repeated over and over and over and over in my head, like a never ending disk stuck on repeat. Suddenly it was time to leave and I poured the other half of the drink onto the sandy ground as well as emptying the rest of the bottle. I remember nothing. I can't remember ooo-ing over the intricate crevices of the endless winding valley floor or gasping at the never ending height of the towering walls. I took photos, I smiled, I laughed but I wasn't there..instead I was in my head; terrified, worried, frightened..too much so to take in and experience the unbelievable moment occurring around me. 

oh how one small moment can contain such great power

I feel stuck in this realm of being yet never feeling; numb, jealous yet terrified of what it must be like to be fully alive. I feel I am sitting in a dark cold room, watching this life pass me by on a black and white film reel, hoping and waiting that someone will save me; that someday I won't be behind the scenes, that something will happen and I will finally be centre stage of my own life; feeling, sensing, breathing, seeing, hearing,

I think for so long I have been looking for a sign. For someone to pull me away and give me an answer or tell me what to do, but instead, I have been left screaming into the hollow abyss with only my own reflection staring back. Maybe that is exactly what I finally tune in and listen to my aching wrenching heart. For so long I have been denying her. Each time she echoed a truth in beat with my own perceived reality, I ignored her. For what can a heart know? This little life force is emotional, it doesn't consider the externalities of 'real' life yet perhaps that's the most beautiful thing about it. It looks at our sterile ordered world and extracts from it the truth. Void of rules and religions, apathetic towards status and symbolism, nonchalant in fulfilling roles or gathering riches. I believe that while our brains and mindsets have evolved, our heart has remained constant. Each pulse a perpetual pursuit of the one thing I believe it has only ever solely craved; happiness. And so, when I stopped..when I got really quiet and tuned into her pulse instead of humming the ticking clock of our racing reality, I finally heard her. She quietly but defiantly whispered 'I can't live like this anymore'.

I am living my life through Anorexia and not through Lauren. For so long I have been telling myself that that's ok. I have convinced myself that it is ok to live through this black tunnel, occasionally glimpsing the brightness of white light. I am still very much so convinced but I'm scared, my gosh I am so so so terrified. The physical pain shadows in comparison to the mental anguish yet I can't help but still question, almost every second, if this is all real or not. I am also so so terrified of the future changes that I am about to make in my life and the fear of choosing different paths and not knowing at all where I will end up. I feel so lucky because I'm alive, thus I feel such self hatred and disgust for even questioning and considering that perhaps, just perhaps, a life lived in fullness, aliveness and capable of experiencing the light and the dark, adept in transmuting pain into love and gifted in beholding the beauty of true laughter as well as the sorrow of sincere tears, rather than a life lived through the dull, senseless, restrictive chasing of death, may just be the life I want, and maybe even deserve. With each scary worry and fear of disillusionment I pause in sequence to my pounding heart and its endless truth; 'I can't live like this anymore'. 

Dearest heart, I have denied your callings for so long yet have screamed with distrust in reaction to life's unravellings, blaming the unjustness of this world, aching for answers when perhaps, indeed, such faults were on me, and you, have held the answer all along.

I hope you enjoyed this post and I hope you will listen to you heart today. Please leave any suggestions or questions below in the comments section. Thank you so much for reading!

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 lots of love & peace & happiness

60 Ways To Cultivate Kindness

Human Kind

'Ah kindness, what a simple way to tell another struggling soul that there is love to be found in this world.'

Kindness is that little piece of magic, no matter how small or grand, which can completely transform someone's day and even life! I wish I could be always kind. I wish I was a person that no matter what, exuded a forever aura of thoughtfulness, generosity and peace; yet of course, we are all human and nobody is perfect. No matter how hard we try, we can't be perfectly patient and always altruistic. The world is in constant flow and thus there will be ebbs which startle our acquired harmony and we can turn into the antithesis of kindness...(forever learning how to smile and still send love to those who chew with their mouth open or whisper WAY too loudly at the back of lectures heheh). Perhaps however, instead of trying to surmount the task of flawless philanthropy, I, and you, could instead adopt a more meaningful method of spreading tenderness in a way that is full of intention, love, grace and sincerity and which avoids the self inflicting guilt that comes with not being able to maintain the standards of a wholly humane human.

Random acts of kindness (RAKs) are a win win situation for everyone. It makes both the giver and receiver feel amazing! I try to do at least one RAK a day whether it is something as simple as texting my friend a positive quote or making my parents a cup of tea. There are hundreds of ways you can express kindness towards someone today, and, every single day! Kindness, however, is not a solely external act of love. It's easy to be lovely and caring towards others, yet we often forget that we too must learn how to be kind to ourselves. I have compiled a list of 60 extremely simple and sweet sentiments which you can smoothly and swiftly perform whenever you feel like spreading the grace of goodwill. 'You can't pour from an empty cup' which is why this list also contains some simple ways of self loving! I am sure there are probably lots of lists out there like this on the internet but here are my favourite most simplest yet sweetest ideas. I also have included many links to older blogposts which are related to certain topics below. RAK and roll babies, I hope you enjoy!

60 Ways to Cultivate Kindness

1 Ring your best friend and tell them you love them.
2 Make someone a cup of tea.
3 Allow someone to skip you in the queue.
4 Smile at a stranger.
5 Use the Forest App to boost your productivity and plant trees, save the earth man!
6 Pay a visit to someone you haven't seen in a while.
7 Make an extra plate of dinner for that person who lives alone.
8 Pay for the coffee of the person behind you in the queue.
9 Leave a little love note for your loved one in their pencil case or lunch box, where they will stumble upon later in the day.
10 Sign a friend (and yourself) up to Notes from the Universe.
11 Send someone a text that you are thinking of them.
12 Offer to help someone with something eg a younger sibling with their homework or your father in the garden.
13 Say a prayer for someone/send love their way.
14 Write a postcard to a friend faraway.
15 Buy an extra parking space ticket thing and leave it in the machine for someone.
16 Pick up a piece of rubbish on the ground.
17 Wash out and recycle that plastic that you know can be recycled yet never partake in the hassle of it. (Join REPAK's team green and see what you can do to help our planet).
18 Post an inspiring sticky note on the back of a bathroom door or mirror.
19 Share an inspiring quote to your friend.
20 Give someone a compliment that has nothing to do with their appearance.
21 Write an encouraging, hopeful, inspiring anonymous letter and leave it for a stranger to find.
22 Hold open the door for someone.
23 Help someone pack their bags at the checkout.
24 Surprise someone with a bunch of flowers.
25 Protect your heart and mind from potential pain eg don't talk to that person if you feel bad whenever you leave them, don't go to the party if you are exhausted after work.
26 Say I love you to yourself if you begin to internally compare yourself with others.
27 Donate your clothes to charity.
28 Use Ecosia for your internet browsing and plant a tree with every 45 searches.
29 Start a conversation with someone who looks lonely.
30 Do a chore for someone.
31 Surprise your office/class mates with baked cupcakes or treats.
32 Pack someone's lunch for them.
33 Leave the person serving you a generous tip.
34 Post a positive quote online.
35 Put your spare change in a charity box.
36 Give someone your favourite book/movie.
37 Send someone a card for an occasion or just because.
38 Give up your seat on the bus/train for someone.
39 Write someone a list of all the things you love about them.
40 Truly listen to someone and engage in meaningful conversation.
41 Put out seeds for the birds.
42 Create little care packages and give them to your loved ones or yourself.
43 Use a reusable mug for your morning coffee.
44 Check if you can buy that gorgeous outfit second hand (and cheaper) on Depop.
45 Send a thank you email to a person, company, brand, blogger etc who have had a positive impact on you.
46 Make someone giggle.
47 Write a gratitude list of all the things you are grateful for today.
48 Make a music playlist for someone.
49 Text someone good morning and that you are glad they are on this earth.
50 Give someone a hug.
51 Say something nice about the person that others are gossiping about.
52 Forgive a past hurt.
53 Apologise, make a mends, say sorry and truly mean it.
54 Change a negative conversation topic to something more hopeful and loving.
55 Delete social media, even for a day, it will give your monkey mind a much needed little break.
56 Walk down the street with eyes of compassion rather than with spectacles of judgement; witness an altering perspective of the world through the lens of love.
57 Swallow your complaint and give thanks instead.
58 Give extra thanks to someone for something they do everyday eg the postman.
59 Ask that person you see everyday how they are and truly mean it eg the man who you always see on your morning train, the lady who always serves you coffee.
60 Grant yourself the love you so graciously give to others.

Every act of kindness, no matter how small, can change the world.

We can all be a little more kinder, so why not start today? Why not try to complete every single RAK on this list and 60 days later witness the accumulated joy in others through your affection but also experience the effect it has on you! Be the reason someone smiles. Be the reason someone feels loved and believes in the goodness in people.

I hope you enjoyed this post and I hope you can be extra kind to yourself today. Please leave any suggestions or questions below in the comments section. Thank you so much for reading!

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 lots of love & peace & happiness

How To Improve Your Body Image

The Body Image Battle

Body image; a person's perception of the aesthetics or attractiveness of their own body. It involves how a person sees themselves, compared to the standards that have been set by society. Body image is the perception that a person has of their physical self and the thoughts and feelings that result from that perception. You can read a more in-depth analysis and description of body images (plus lots of tips) here.

Perhaps a simpler everyday question more aptly defines it; 'how do you feel when you look in the mirror?'. I am not an expert in body image, in fact very much the opposite hehe! This is just the rambling for a girl who seriously struggles with her body image and who hopes to help you through the various techniques and tools learned. I understand how lucky I am to have received help and to have had professional treatment from some of the best in our small country and so if anything I learned can be shared and help others, then, I hope and pray I can do that and that it does! I'm not going to lie, the exercises and tools I will be sharing with you did not change my life or in true honesty, impact on my body image for more than a few minutes or hours. However, everybody and every body is different, perhaps these exercises may transform your thoughts or maybe, like me, the may even ease your unease for a few moments..and that's fantastic too! Maybe my thoughts may enlighten or perhaps upset you but I hope by the end of this, that you may leave with something greater than when you came <3

My beautiful sister made me this scrapbook a few years ago. Looking back at it again now fills me with tears. I am so lucky to have her. It makes me emotional also looking at photos of me as a young girl who was happy and free and only cared about how fast her legs could run and not their size.

My Body Image Journey 
My personal body image issues seemed to begin at around the age of 8 when I was making my communion. I don't know why but I felt fat, short and stout. Even looking at pictures of the girl I once was now, I see a chubby little piggy, a lego man; boxy and compressed. Fast forward 12 years later, this is what I still see. It's strange because without a doubt, the degrees of which this image is seen varies daily. When I eat a scary food or before a big event or when I am having a stressful day; I can interpret myself as the Michelin man. When it comes to describing my body, I am the human thesaurus heheheh 'little miss piggy, garden gnome, fat dwarf, big clunky box (like what?!?! how does my mind interpret my body as that lol!!), squashed marshmallow, Toad from Super Mario Bros, chunky mushroom, hippopotamus, Oompa Loompa, munchkin'...the list goes on! (I spent hours combing through my diaries to find each description so I do promise you that those thoughts and feelings are wholly true and real for me). I am giggling away at myself as I read these as to how absurd they may sound to you but its what I see yet more importantly, how I feel. While on other days, I can accept that maybe my vision is a little bit skewed. I find that particularly scary about my own sense of my body. How, without any physical change in appearance, the mental image with which my own eyes perceive can completely transform, petrifies me.

I feel so lucky that I don't have full fledged body dimorphic disorder however, a few years ago after being asked to draw a picture of what I see when I look in the mirror (see below), I was diagnosed with body dysmorphia (or distorted body image) as a direct symptom of anorexia. It's terrifying, not because of what I see, but because I am being told to trust and believe that what I see isn't real. I remember trying to explain it to someone, asking them to describe the colour of the night sky which was sparkling above us. When I told them that their answer was wrong and the sky was not black but in fact a bright neon yellow, they laughed and told me I was crazy. That's what body dysmorphia feels like. It is seeing something with your own two eyes, it is feeling it with every cell in your body, it is deeply innately knowing a truth which is disputed by the world as a lie...and that is what terrifies me. I don't understand how I can read a novel, rejoice at the colours of the rainbow and compliment the beauty of my best friend yet when I look in the mirror, the reflection I perceive is said to be a lie. Then, even if I do try to consider that perhaps what I see isn't real, I quiver at the thought that maybe exactly what I see is real yet I just don't like it and this is people's way of trying to make me feel better about it all and to accept myself as is. What if I can perceive myself perfectly as is and it's all just a lie?! I always try to remember one doctor's response to these fears, 'that is a symptom of the dysmorphia in itself, the belief that you don't have it, the belief that everyone is lying except your mind'.

I once met a fabulous guy who had body dysmorphia. His pain and suffering was tragically incomprehensible. The intensity and power of the lies his mind was telling him just truly did not make sense to me. His horrific pain (I hope and pray that he is doing well) however now has purpose in my life and that beautiful soul luckily helps me in trying to remember that he couldn't perceive himself properly even though every doctor and stranger and friend tried everything to convince him, so perhaps maybe neither can I, and maybe, neither can you. I would really recommend the BBC3 documentary 'Ugly Me' which beautifully captures the pain and irrationality of body dysmorphic disorder.

The #bodypositive movement seems to be everywhere recently which I think is so exciting and brilliant yet slightly intimidating. The concept of body love seems both magical yet, personally anyway, extremely allusive and inconceivable! At times, even body acceptance seems too far fetched, which is why for now I am striving towards body tolerance. The other day I was having a really tough time. I tried my best to ignore every mirror, camera and shiny surface, however that evening when I shuffled through the kitchen ensuring I wasn't looking at the reflective spoon in my hand, I caught a glance of my thighs and hips in the mirror and immediately broke down. Whether you can stare at yourself forever (go you!!!) or cripple walking past a shop window (I feel you honey), I believe we could all do with cultivating a more positive life long loving relationship with our one true home, our body.

The image I drew of what I believed I looked like. This is the image I still hold today and work to change.

How To Improve Your Body Image
When I was in hospital we had a weekly body image group. It was the only group we always had and was of course the one which we all absolutely dreaded. It was hard; really really really hard. Some of the exercises were, while extremely painful, transformative. Others however, like having to stand with minimum clothes on in front of a mirror and stare at yourself...were not. I recently found my notes from those groups so I thought I might share somethings with you that may spark a counteractive body thought within you or perhaps help you in your body image journey someway. PS these are my own notes and writing so I hope I am not doing anything bad or illegal by sharing some of the help and guidance I received from these classes ahh! I believe that I am truly so lucky and blessed to have received help and guidance from services and I am so aware that not everyone can access these. I hope that I can share everything and anything that I learned (whether I found useful or not) and that they may be of help to you. I wish every single person, specifically every young adult and teenager, could access this information but I hope in sharing these exercises that a change in how people view and treat their bodies may begin. You will need a pen, paper, a cup full of compassion, an open mind and a tissue (you may just cry, hopefully with tears of happiness).

Dear Body
If you could write a poem to your body, the one thing that has been with you for every single moment of your existence, what would you say? Would you scream at your thighs for not being skinny enough? Would you yell at your legs for not being muscly enough? Would you roar at your hips for not being curvy enough? Or, would you thank your legs for holding you up while you dance into the early hours of the morning with your best friends? Would you rejoice at your brain for getting you through an exam having pulled an all nighter? Would you smile at your palms for allowing you to hold the hands of those you love? Or perhaps you would apologise; say sorry for all the years that you hated it for not being enough. Or, maybe you would say nothing, maybe engaging with your body now is still too scary but at least you may have just opened up that initial space for thought and conversation. Maybe even just the idea of cultivating a more loving and accepting relationship is enough; maybe that is where the healing begins.

Image Impact
Draw a small circle, another circle around it and finally a third circle encompassing all three. In the middle write 'me', in the second perimeter write 'loved ones' and in the third write 'others'. Beginning from the side out, insert the effect of having a negative body image relationship upon each of the various titles. For example, in the innermost circle you may have 'self hatred, anger, low mood, anxiety, avoid social events, avoid photos, fearful of intimate relationships, unable to enjoy shopping' etc etc! Then work outwards until each circle is complete eg loved ones may contain 'distrust towards others, feeling left out, too self absorbed to interact fully with them' while others may contain 'perceived as a loner, inability to develop more meaningful relationships, perceived as uninterested'. I found this exercise really helpful when I did it, as upon completion, I realised that the issues within the two outer circles all stemmed from the pain of which I held within me. For example, if I could improve my body image and ability to attend group gatherings well then I would solve the problem of feeling left out and then I would solve the fear of being perceived as a loner. Apparently it is the whole point of the exercise; to help us to recognise that in order to change our life and situations, we must first change ourselves. This can be hard as while we may do everything to shift our own mindset, it can take a while for the ripple effect outwards to occur and thus we may give up thinking 'it's hopeless', however 'never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn'.

My body image impact diagram from that point in my life. 

Body Blessings
This exercise may be very similar to the body letter but perhaps your piece of personal prose had a completely different approach! This is to simply write a list with a steady beating grateful heart, of everything your body can do and has done for you. Your eyes allow you to view the magic of sunsets, your ears enable you to wake up to the sound of birds chirping (or your dreaded alarm heheh), your nose reminds you of a magical childhood memory as you walk past the sweet shop. These tiny things we take for granted, yet, such luxuries are not available to everyone sadly. Can you imagine just how much someone without the ability to see would give up just to see the faces of those they love? To make this exercise even more powerful, try appreciating the very specific parts of your body which you detest the most. It's hard and will go against every grain of your soul. Crying about my hips last night seems incredibly insignificant and ignorant now.

Shedding the Struggle
What could you lose if you ended the conflicting relationships with your body? Personally, I fear losing a sense of control, that I would let myself go and be 'happy' and 'accepting' of my features and flaws. I also fear losing my identity, who would I be without this self awarded 'I hate myself' label? My biggest fear in essence, perhaps what it all bubbles down to, is happiness...but that whole topic is for another day maybe lol! More importantly however, the question is; what would you gain if this struggle was severed? Freedom in mind, body and soul, headspace, peace, joy, better relationships, enriched experiences, ability to reach your full potential...the list goes on and on! What could you absorb or shed in growing towards the light of love?

'Listen to me, your body is not a temple. Temples can be destroyed and desecrated. Your body is a forest—thick canopies of maple trees and sweet scented wildflowers sprouting in the underwood. You will grow back, over and over, no matter how badly you are devastated.'

This can be quite a hard and painful topic for many people. Please seek the adequate support and self care you may need. If you are suffering from any pain, please reach out for help. You do not deserve this pain and your suffering should not be in silence. It's ok not to be ok but it is absolutely NOT ok to do nothing about it. As a species, us humans are not doing too ok and that is ok! If we were we wouldn't have overflowing psychiatric hospitals, countless therapy centres and numerous mental health campaigns. Your feelings are valid but that doesn't mean they are true and deserving of inflicting pain. If you or anyone you know is in pain, scared, suffering, lonely, sad, angry, addicted or hurting please please please do not suffer in silence. Reach out for help, talk to someone. 

I hope this post may have helped revolutionise your reflection, open your mind and maybe even lift your heart. Please leave any suggestions or questions below in the comments section. Thank you so much for reading!

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 lots of love & peace & happiness

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