How To Climb a Mountain

Overcoming Obstacles

'If you are faced with a mountain, you have several options. You can climb it and cross to the other side. You can go around it. You can dig under it. You can fly over it. You can blow it up. You can ignore it and pretend it’s not there. You can turn around and go back the way you came. Or you can stay on the mountain and make it your home.'

Here are some things I focus on to help me climb my mountains. I hope they help you too, whatever your 'mountain' may be.

'It's not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.'

Take Baby Steps
Have you ever heard of someone climbing Everest in a day? Just like experienced mountaineers, we too can not expect ourselves to race up our 'mountains' just because we may expect ourselves to be capable of dealing with it or because we may see others who can overcome their own difficulties. A lady once told me, 'Baby steps Lauren, don't worry about the thought of running before you can even walk. Take each challenge as it comes and focus on the task at hand. Baby steps, one foot in front of the other, one step at a time and you will climb your mountain'. As you slowly inch forwards, focus on each step you are taking with all of your awareness and attention. Try not to look up or down, behind you or in front of you. Avoid comparing yourself to other mountaineers and or previous battles you yourself have won. Always remember, that if the 'now' you are experiencing is unpleasant, it will not last forever. 'Your current situation is not your final destination'. It's so simple to become overwhelmed by all of the challenges that may lie ahead, instead, try and place all of your energy in the task at hand. Try to deal with what life throws at you when it throws it!

Ask For Support
Ropes, maps, compasses, boots and oxygen are some of the many things that people need when they are climbing cliffs. We are the same, we can not climb our own mountains alone. We need help and support and that is ok. Talk to someone, reach out for advice, gain a different perspective, open up to support, choose to accept help. Seeking help is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of true and solid strength. Weakness is climbing mount Everest alone, barefoot and naked..oh and you also left your glasses at home! Now that's just silly, so how can we expect ourselves to do the same? 

Get Lost
'Not all those who wonder are lost'. Some of the most beautiful paths in life can not be discovered without getting lost. Perhaps you could take a step off the beaten track and try something different, something new, as you face your obstacles. It's ok to get lost and it's ok to feel scared, sometimes, it's even better to linger and immerse yourself in the journey for a while before you reach your final destination. You never know what you may discover about yourself and the world. Be open to new ideas and different paths. Take the road less travelled and who knows what may happen! Read my blog post 'Lose Yourself to Find Yourself' to gain a deeper insight into the value of feeling lost.

Enjoy the View
While progress is important, it isn't everything. Take time to relish in all you have achieved so far in your life. It can be so easy to get caught up in work, goals and projects that sometimes we forget to actually live. Find a balance between complacency and over exertion; work hard at school, college or work but also, in balance, relax and do things you love to rejuvenate and reward yourself. You deserve it, I promise. This is your blessing to please do something nice for yourself today.

The Final Destination 
Something I am recently beginning to understand is that the journey never ends; perhaps there is no final destination. What goes up most come down, when you think you have climbed your mountain, suddenly, you realise you have to crawl your way back down or maybe there's an even greater mound that needs mounting. I am trying to learn to accept that this is the process of life; you think nothing more could go wrong yet suddenly the Universe decides to upheaval your plans again or throw you a curve ball. Luckily, you get to decide whether you view these changes as tormenting or exciting! In Maslow's hierarchy of needs he expresses how as one need is fulfilled, us humans move on to try and fulfil the other. We are living on the constantly growing and evolving conveyer belt that is Earth and if we can come to accept and let go to the truth that uncertainty and change is the very essence of life itself and nothing is permanent then perhaps we can learn to enjoy experiencing the journey rather than worrying about the destination a little more! 

'Every mountain top is within reach if you just keep climbing.'

Please let me know any ways in which you have learned that help you climb your 'mountains'! I hope you enjoyed this post, please leave any suggestions or questions anonymously in the 'ASK' section of my blog and in the comments below. Click here to subscribe to my newsletter for updates on new blog posts. Thank you so much for reading!

 lots of love & peace & happiness
Lauren x 

You Are a Mirror

Mirror Mirror on the Wall

After writing my latest blogpost I received an overwhelming amount of beautiful messages from the most amazing of people. Even over the past few nights out, people have come up to me expressing their care, love and gratitude towards me. What really amazed me was that these people who were texting me, hugging me and being so kind were the exact same people whom I admired, looked up to and adored. With every word that each person spoke towards me, I felt as if they were talking about themselves. 'How can this amazing person see this in me when it's them...they're the beautiful human here, inside and out! Why is everyone making all this up?!'. I was dancing to Abba with my friends in the middle of the town square when I suddenly remembered the words of a beautiful girl I once met; when she was younger, a lady told her that only beautiful people contain the ability to see the beauty in others. 

We are mirrors, the world around us is a reflection of both our benefits and faults. 

Have you ever had an experience with a truly dark person? The light that shone from them was so dim and practically non existent that it became impossible for them to see any light in others. All they could recognise were people's negatives and down points but never, ever their good qualities; their beauty. If you feel the fire inside you has dwindled and you find it hard to stay bright, please don't lose hope! All it will take is a little inner work and perhaps facing some harsh truths to fan those flames and rise from the ashes. 

Or perhaps, do you find yourself constantly noticing a particular wonderful aspect in certain people? Maybe you should try looking inwards as you could just hold that exact same quality yourself. When you think of a little baby, you realise that they have no faults or particularly amazing qualities, nor are they pointing out your characteristics...why? The little children haven't developed their personalities yet, they have yet to evolve into their full selves and therefor have no good points or bad points. Consequently, they can not recognise the good or bad in others; they just see the soul. Therefor this proves that in order to recognise something, you must first have known it for yourself.

You may enjoy art. You appreciate the colour, texture and mastery of beautiful paintings and sculptures. The fact that you are so experienced and learned in this form could only then mean that you yourself are a beautiful artist, capable of producing the most exquisite of work. 

Like a different language, in order for you to communicate with anyone, you must have first learned the art of speaking through language. Similarly, in order for you to see the beauty in others, you must have first embodied that same beauty yourself. 

'The good you find in others, is in you too.
The faults you find in others, are your faults as well.
After all, to recognise something you must know it.
The possibilities you see in others, are possible for you as well.
The beauty you see around you, is your beauty.
The world around you is a reflection, a mirror 
showing you the person you are.
To change your world, you must change yourself.
To blame and complain will only make matters worse.
Whatever you care about, is your responsibility.
What you see in others, shows you yourself.
See the best in others, and you will be your best.
Give to others, and you give to yourself.
Appreciate beauty, and you will be beautiful.
Admire creativity, and you will be creative.
Love, and you will be loved.
Seek to understand, and you will be understood.
Listen, and your voice will be heard.
Show your best face to the mirror, and you'll be happy 
With the face looking back at you.'
- Unknown

Next time you find yourself complimenting someone or being taken away by the sheer beauty of another person's mind or the radiance of their heart, remind yourself that you can only understand and appreciate this because you, yourself, have those exact same qualities, even if you may not believe it!

In order to recognise the light in others, one must first have harboured it within themselves.

I think you are beautiful. I hope you enjoyed this post, please leave any suggestions or questions anonymously in the 'ASK' section of my blog or in the comments below. Click here to subscribe to my newsletter for updates on new blog posts. Thank you so much for reading!

 lots of love & peace & happiness
Lauren x 

Let It Go

Letting Go & Embracing Change

'You are killing yourself...for now you're surviving but how long more will you pretend to be living?', my doctor asked me yesterday and for once, I burst into tears. I had been told since diagnosis that I was in constant danger of death but for some reason yesterday, in my state of 'I'm doing great' oblivion, her words really upset me. I always heard of people experiencing a light bulb moment in their recovery journey but after all of this time I think perhaps, maybe, it finally happened to me. She continued, 'But there is hope; you have the power to change this, it may be destroying you but you can choose to fight back and finally turn your life around, you can choose to get healthier, you can choose to change'.

I got on the train home and in a flurry of tears I took out my journal and started scrawling. I begged the Universe, God, anyone who was watching over me, for help. 'I'm so scared, I don't know what to do, will I ever get better, I'm trying so hard but it's still not enough, I want to live, I want to recover but I don't want to get fatter...please give me a sign; something, anything, please let me know it is all going to be ok'. I hadn't even put down the pen when my phone lit up; a message from Spotify notifying me of Kesha's newest album. I put in my ear buds, pressed shuffle and maxed the volume to try and drown out my thoughts. When I heard the lyrics of 'Learn to Let Go' I started to smile, here was the Universe, or whoever's out there minding me, giving me the sign which I had just been begging for!

I know I'm always like 
Telling everybody you don't gotta be a victim
Life ain’t always fair, but hell is living in resentment
Choose redemption
Your happy ending's up to you

I see now maybe there’s a reason why
I've been through hell and back
Honestly, it's all made me who I am
Holding on to wasted time
Gotta learn to let go in life

And so, as terrified and stuck as I feel, I know that this is the time when I really need to let go. I didn't choose this illness but I can choose to fight it. Is there something holding you back? Is there something you're terrified of letting go? It's now or never. Perhaps you are stuck in the hope of 'someday'; someday it will be good, someday I'll be happy, someday I'll be free. It occurred to me that in order to reach that 'someday' we have to take action on this day. Nothing changes if nothing changes. I was alerted yesterday that this day last year I believed that that 'someday' would have occurred already, but here I am still believing in a better tomorrow and if I don't push forward I will be still stuck in this 'someday syndrome' when I'm 50 years old, living my life in and out of hospital, merely surviving instead of truly thriving.

Change is scary, uncertainty is scary but nothing is scarier than remaining stuck in somewhere you don't belong. Here are some ways I am helping myself embrace this scary but exciting change.

1. Promise
Make a 'promise of change' action plan and ensure you stick to it. Accountability with change is very important so maybe you could share your new adventures with a friend or loved one? Identify what you need to do and figure out how you will do it. Break it into small but manageable steps. Put all of your emotions aside, act as if you are taking charge of someone else's life and ask yourself the question, 'What would someone who loves themselves do?'. Perhaps you are miserable in your college course, friendship or work situation; it will be difficult but if you are truly in such a desperate need of change then you have to figure out exactly how you will change. Are you going to quit your job and set up your own business? Will you cut ties with that person who leaves you feeling awful? Can you sell your house and finally live off grid in the jungle? Try to also identify any possible obstacles which you may encounter and make a list of ways in which you can and will overcome them. Keep a look out for my future post on how to overcome obstacles!

2. Inspire
This morning I followed my 'promise of change' to increase the calorie content of my snacks, and so with that, I ate my first banana in over three whole years, in addition to my normal snack. I was terrified, my head was screaming 'fat fat fat' but with every mouthful I mentally repeated, 'do it for Hong Kong, do it for Paris, do it for Cape Town, do it for Rome'. It helped me immensely and gave me the extra boost of motivation and hope I needed. Do whatever you have to do to help embrace your change! Perhaps you need to cover your walls with inspiring quotes, make a list of reasons why you want to change or maybe you need to take time off work and care for yourself. I want to be known for kindness, love, care, altruism and inspiration...not pitied and viewed as the 'poor sick girl'. This is your life, you owe nothing to no-one, do what you have to do, for you!

3. Transform
'Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change'. My amazing doctor reminded me of the beauty of the true person I am beneath my illness and of the wonderful life that is still ahead of me, but in which only embracing change and uncertainty, I can attain. Instead of viewing change as a scary and terrifying ideal, view it as exciting. Instead of being terrified of gaining weight, losing control, eating more food, becoming fat, failing and the many other fears that come with recovery, I am going to try on focus and believe in the beauty of my dreams; finishing the leaving cert, finally going to college, learning new languages, helping the less fortunate, travelling the world, meeting new people, experiencing different cultures, starting my own business and inspiring other beings. All of your dreams are possible but you have to have the courage to pursue them! This video on alternating viewpoints may aid you in transforming your perception.

'Suddenly you know it's time to start something new and trust the magic of new beginnings '.

Please let me know what 'banana' you are going to 'eat' on your journey, heheh, we are all in this together! I hope you enjoyed this post, please leave any suggestions or questions anonymously in the 'ASK' section of my blog and in the comments below.  Click here to subscribe to my newsletter for updates on new blog posts. Thank you so much for reading!

 lots of love & peace & happiness
Lauren x 

The Magic of Mindfulness


Imagine living in a world where you are so deeply routed in the present moment; richly tasting every colour, exquisitely experiencing every shrill of sound and joyfully content in what is your true 'now' whether it may be perceived as 'good' or 'bad'. For a long time I didn't really understand what it meant to be mindful, the word itself is contradictory but through reading different books and articles and trying it for myself, mindfulness really inhabits the act of being mind-less rather than mind-full. It involves living fully in the present moment and being completely in the 'now', without judgement or non-acceptance. When you are first introduced to this you might think it is an airy concept but it naturally enriches your life experience and values beyond being drunk except without the hangover lol! Here are some ways that I have found help me in becoming more grounded in the present moment and appreciating the magic of mindfulness.

Mindfulness is about being fully awake in our lives. It is about perceiving the exquisite vividness of each moment.

1. Mindful Moments
In a recent post I talked about how you can introduce a gratitude practice through making it part of your daily routine. Similarly you can incorporate the magic of mindfulness through your various daily activities. Choose one task that you carry out on 'auto-pilot' every day, perhaps it is washing your face, making your bed or driving to work. I have decided to start mindfully straightening my hair each morning. Slowly, bring awareness to each of your senses. What can you feel? What can you see? What can you hear? What can you taste? What can you smell? It may look something like this, 'I can feel the heavy weight of the GHD in my hand. I can feel each strand of hair tug at my scalp as I feel the heat warming my locks. I can see varying shades of brown and blonde. I can hear the sizzle of electricity. I can taste peppermint toothpaste on my tongue. I can smell the burning heat and frying hair.' Try and experience this truly authentic moment without judgement, just view the facts. If your thinking mind starts to analyse the situation and perhaps begins adding untrue commentary like, 'Ew your hair is need to get a that a grey strand?', just observe your mind and watch how it tries to interpret the situation into something of which it is not.

2. Awareness
'Nothing that comes and goes is you. You are the knowing, not the condition that is known'. I read this beautiful quote this morning in 'Stillness Speaks' by Eckhart Tolle, a true sign from the universe, I believe, as it gave me a greater understanding of mindfulness. Emotions and feelings are oscillating. The beliefs that our mind contains are not constant, they are always changing and morphing into something new. As human beings we are solid and whole. We grow and evolve but essentially we are one with ourselves forever, this includes our true inner self. Our mind however is different, the thoughts it contains are not part of this 'one' as they are completely separate to our true selves. This is difficult to explain but if you think about it, your thoughts are the only thing that change in reaction to outside stimuli. For example, if you get bitten by a dog your thoughts are suddenly consumed with fear, anger and sadness even though moments previously you may have felt boundless happiness and joy. Your leg may be bleeding and swollen for a few days but eventually it heals, it returns to the true place of 'oneness' in which it always has been and is. Your mind however does not return to this place, perhaps it has now developed a fear of animals and walking alone. The difference between the mind and our true inner selves is that our mind is not who we are, our thoughts are not who we are, our feelings are not who we are; if they were they would be permanent and static. Who we are is the silent watcher of the thoughts and the mind. We are the awareness behind the thoughts not the thoughts themselves, that is the key to mindfulness. Instead of engaging with your thinking mind, silently watch it. Watch how your mind jumps to different conclusions, engages in negative self talk and makes unnecessary judgements. Try not to allow your mind to add more judgement by giving out to yourself for thinking certain things. I am really sorry if I haven't explained this very well as it took me a long time to understand it myself. The one thing I read that really advanced me in my understanding of this was in the opening of Eckhart Tolle's book, 'The Power of Now'. He spiritually awoke one night when he cried out in pain, 'I am so sick of myself'. He suddenly realised that he had split his 'self' in two; who is the 'I' that is fed up and who is the 'myself' that is being fed up with? The 'I' is the true inner awareness within you, the mindful watcher and presence, the self is the egoic thoughts and feelings which we associate with as our true selves. My mind hurts a little after writing this, I hope I explained it as best I could!

3. Listen like a New Language
I noticed in school one day that the only time in which I was completely and mindfully absorbed in the present moment was during my French class. We were doing tape work and I was concentrating with so much diligence and commitment that my thinking mind had stopped racing, all I was focused on was what the recorded voice was saying. What if we could do this in our daily conversations? Today if you are conversing with someone, try and listen as if they are speaking a foreign language. Instead of thinking about what you will say next or analysing their mind, try simply listen and absorb the information without judgement but full acceptance. This will not only enhance your mindful magic but it will also strengthen your relationships with others.

4. Passion
Have you ever been in so much fear and danger that you stopped thinking? There is a reason why horror films, bungee jumping and rollercoasters are so popular; they halt your thinking mind and bring you directly into the present moment. Luckily for any non daredevils out there like me, an activity you adore that is carried out with full attention, love and mastery will produce the same effect. Da Vinci wasn't thinking about what his neighbour's sister said to him three years ago when he was painting the Mona Lisa, Misty Copeland wasn't thinking about what she'll wear out Saturday night when she gracefully leaped on stage, Lionel Messi wasn't thinking about what he would cook for dinner when he scored his winning goal; all of these masters of different trades were so completely consumed in their passion that they had no time for thought, they were focused on the NOW, they were mindful. There is something out there that you love, perhaps you haven't found it yet and it is still waiting for you. Maybe it is reading, writing, singing, acting, painting, walking or simply smiling. Your passion is waiting for you to completely immerse yourself in it and discover the magic of mindfulness.

5. Meditation
What would be a mindfulness post without mentioning meditation?! Please don't knock it before you try it. I once thought all meditators and mindful masters were spiritual hippy fairies, totally not connected with reality when, realistically, those who practice meditation are perhaps the most mindfully connected and aware people in our world. The benefits of meditation towards mindfulness and life in general are endless. Through taking even five minutes out of your day to be silent and still, you can hugely expand your present awareness and consciousness. The free apps Headspace and Aura contain many short, simple and sweet guided meditations. Similarly there are many short videos on youtube like this and this which are bound to give you that mindful magic!

6. Breathe
The breath, the truest most important embodiment of life. Through focusing on your breath you are focusing on life itself as it flows in and out of you. Try taking big deep slow breaths through your nose. Listen to the sound of the inhale and exhale. Focus completely on the feeling of the air passing through your nostrils, down your throat and into your lungs. Imagine a beautiful colour passing through your body spreading love, peace and happiness to each fingertip and toe, to every nook and cranny. Watch the way your belly rises and expands. If your thoughts begin to drift away, bring the awareness back to your breath. Breathe out every last drop of air until there is no more left inside you. Repeat this process for one minute and notice how you feel afterwards. Try not to punish yourself if your mind constantly drifts to its thinking state, it is completely natural at the beginning and how we as humans have been groomed. Hopefully you will feel a little more relaxed, at ease and clear headed. Now imagine being like that all of the time; that is mindfulness! There are many other breathing techniques which can enhance your mindful abilities, here is a tutorial on my favourite exercise.

'We only have this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand and melting like a snowflake.'

I hope you find something here that can help you on your happiness journey and of which you can mindfully incorporate into your daily life. Please comment if you tried any of these or some ways you practice mindfulness! I hope you enjoyed this post, please leave any suggestions or questions below or in the 'ASK' section of my blog. Click here to subscribe to my newsletter for updates on new blog posts. Thank you so much for reading!

 lots of love & peace & happiness
Lauren x

Passion for Compassion


Compassion is defined as 'a basic kindness with deep awareness of the suffering of oneself and of other living things, coupled with the wish and effort to relieve it'. It sounds so eloquent and simple but it is perhaps one of the most deceptive attributes out there. We love to be called compassionate beings; it evokes a personal sense of care, love and thoughtfulness. I used to thrive on the idea of being a compassionate human until a few months ago when someone sat me down and said, 'Lauren, as a compassion training expert, you are the least compassionate person I have ever met'. I started crying, it sounded horrific, I hated myself until she continued, 'You give and give and give to anyone but yourself and on top of that you refuse to simply can not pour from an empty cup. In fact you are a compassion fatigued poster girl. In order to be a truly compassionate person you must learn to be open and accepting of help from others while also willing to be kind towards yourself'.

If you're like me then you are now probably thinking, 'What's the point in being compassionate towards myself?! Why burden others and receive their grace?! I don't deserve kindness. I must give and never receive'. These are called 'blocks' towards compassion and are something which every human struggles with. Compassion is not a luxury, it is a necessity for human survival. One of my favourite teachers, Deepak Chopra, wrote that compassion is in fact an intrinsic part of our basic human nature and functioning, we need it. But how can we tap into our inner compassionate selves and what can we do to grow that beautiful humane part of us?

'If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.'

Expressing empathy and care is perhaps one of the simplest ways to access our compassionate roots although similarly others may find this their biggest problem area, it's completely subjective. Have you ever held someone's hand as they cried, given spare change to a homeless man on the street or sent a thoughtful text to an upset friend? There are many roads one can travel to expand their compassionate self. Similar to random acts of kindness, these outward gestures of love will result in both you and others feeling emotionally stronger. They can be small and simple but hugely mighty and potent.

Some people may find this easier than giving, but, allowing the inward flow of human tenderness is another route towards expanding your compassionate side. Allow yourself to be cared for when you are sick, hugged when you are sad, complimented when you achieve. If you struggle with this I have found a sneaky way of bypassing the 'I don't deserve compassion' feelings. Next time someone offers you a loving word or displays affection imagine how you would feel in their shoes if your response was, 'I'm fine...leave me's grand...there's nothing wrong with thanks but no thanks!'. You would feel awful, rejected, lonely and hurt if someone constantly shut out your kindness. Yes it may be a selfless back door route into activating your compassion receptors and I am sure I go against all teachings in saying 'receive compassion so you don't make the other person feel bad', but if it get's you accustomed to the act of accepting in love then why not!

The crux of compassion. We often hear the words, 'love yourself' and 'be kind to yourself', yet here we are all still so hard on ourselves. It's hard, it is really really hard. How do we train ourselves to be loving towards our own selves when we have been raised in a world that sensationalises altruism and selflessness yet somewhat shames self care and love? Similar to above, curating self compassion can be accessed through recognising the ways in which it benefits those that surround you; you'll be happier, more loving, kinder, healthier etc. But, what if we could be gracious towards ourselves just because? I challenge you to pick one loving activity that you will do for yourself every single day this week, just because. It doesn't have to be as grandeur as hugging yourself when you make a mistake, but if you can manage that, GO YOU! Perhaps you will treat yourself to the cinema on a Monday, run yourself a bubble bath on a Wednesday afternoon or wear your favourite 'special occasion' lipstick on a rainy work day. Why? Just because!

'Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive'.

Please let me know what self compassionate act you will choose to carry out every day this week! I am choosing to allow myself to listen to a self compassion meditation every night, I may feel that I don't deserve it but we ain't letting that stop us no more now are we?! I hope you enjoyed this post, feel free to ask me any questions or leave any blog requests anonymously in the ASK section of my blog or in the comments below. Click here to subscribe to my newsletter for updates on new blog posts.

lots of love & peace & happiness
Lauren x

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