thinking about temporary discomfort

Mindfulness has become a focus for me in the last 12 months – exploring it is a journey I have undertaken, a mountain I have chosen to climb.

The word ‘mindfulness’ probably means different things to different people. I’m not actually aware of the dictionary definition but to me it’s the concept of just being happy and calm, here, now, in the present moment, not worrying about past mistakes or future possibilities.

mind web

A completely quiet and care-free mind is something I’ve always struggled to achieve, my entire life. Some of us, we just worry and we don’t know how to switch off. As I reached my late 20s a few years ago, the chaos didn’t show any signs of slowing down. In a busy and noisy 21st century world it can be difficult to find quietness and just be.

So, I’ve been on a little journey of self-discovery the last year or so, deciphering what the things are that make me mindful, and what the things are that make me feel stressed, anxious, unhappy, not present, confused, worried, forgetful, busy and so on.

I made a turning point years ago by promising myself to never feel trapped by my anxieties, but liberated by them. If I see every bump in the road as an opportunity to learn and move forward as a better and stronger person, anything negative – magically and suddenly – can become a positive.

Being able to see any mental health challenges as great opportunities has been life-changing, and a new positive me has definitely emerged this year as a result of embracing that. I don’t wish to change myself, rather, just gather some more quiet moments and little enlightening lessons along the way. I’m constantly trying to learn from life, and I love that about myself. I try to embrace every mistake and challenge, look at it square in the face and say, come on then, show me what you’ve got. Show me what I am missing, what I should know.

wales

I spent this weekend in Wales with my boyfriend. We celebrated six years together with long snowy walks, fire-side mulled cider and my slightly less romantic constant sneezing and coughing. It’s a miracle we got there and back in the treacherous snowy conditions that have swept the Midlands this weekend, but – we were prepared, and we were safe.

On the drive up to Wales, we listened to Russell Brand’s latest podcast. In an open and honest conversation with survivalist Ed Stafford, they discuss Ed’s mental health challenges, and the battles he has undertaken with his own mind, ultimately facing it head on after sixty days in isolation on an island with nothing but a camera and the inner ramblings of his own brain.

 

 

After years of spiritual journeying, Ed talks about the importance of getting outside of your head – “valuing experiences and feelings over thoughts”. Admittedly as someone who is always ‘thinking about’ something (hence the blog titles), someone who places thoughts on a pedestal, looks at them, analyses them, writes them up, shares them with the world… Ed’s comment got me (ironically and counter-productively!) wondering – did I need to let go of the concept of ‘thoughts’ more in order to achieve a more mindful daily living?

If you’re anticipating my answering my own question, the beauty of this mindful journey is that it will remain unanswerable for now. I blogged about my desire to really focus on 2018 as my year of slow but I’m also not anticipating to find the key to happiness magically in 365 days. I don’t think there is a finish line to happiness, that’s the whole point of being in the present moment. Mindfulness isn’t a box to tick, a milestone to reach, it’s just here, already. We just need to find the right tools to dig it out of ourselves.

In the podcast, Ed talks about the meditation app Headspace which I cannot recommend more to anyone looking to find a little bit of mental quiet. Headspace has become just one of my own recent tools of practice, alongside others. I also:

  • Try to schedule in ‘me’ time in the form of walks or solo spa days
  • Take hours out with my monthly mindfulness magazines
  • Have started ‘crafting’ and visiting craft fairs with a friend who is on a similar mindful mission
  • Have reduced my time spent on technology (living in an area with no mobile phone signal, we’ve reinstated the nostalgic landline in our house which we’ve loved!)
  • Deleted various apps and social profiles over the years to reduce the noise (as a digital marketer who can spend up to ten hours per day looking at social media, making steps like this in my personal time has been so important)

I was chatting with a close friend the other day about mental health and she reminded me to see any arising anxious thoughts as just temporary discomfort, which I think is the most perfect way to think about any negative feelings or situations that might tackle you to the ground on any idle day of the week.

Temporary discomfort – a reminder that we don’t have to be trapped in the blizzard forever. If we keep warm, look after ourselves, be prepared with the right tools and people around us, the snow will melt away and we can eventually break free.

This week I am listening to this on repeat. Guaranteed to put a spring in your snowy step and a smile on your face.

 

thinking about slow

Slow

As the backend of 2017 starts to come into focus (albeit struggling to be seen through the overshadowing cheap glitter of the festive period) I begin to think deeply about what I want to achieve in the year that will follow. 2018 will soon be here and ultimately pass in the blink of an eye, in the quick flutter of summer lavender not long for this earth.

I make resolutions and new ambitions quite regularly throughout life. Those around me roll their eyes – they may see me as fickle, or changing, or inconsistent, or ‘all over the place’. Well, this is how I see it…

Based on the average UK female life expectancy, of which there is no guarantee, I’ve got just 52 years left to experience all that this magical world has to offer. Why would I choose just one goal per year? 52 is not near enough of an allocation considering this vibrant and fulfilling planet we call home. No. One simple annual resolution will not suffice.

Only through a constant re-evaluation and appreciation of my own life will I make the decisions to ensure that I live it in the best way that I possibly can. I’ve only got one shot, this is it.

Take five minutes out with yourself today to ask yourself some questions. How is your life going so far? How has this year in particular treated you? Where are you left at the end of it?

In December 2017, I find myself in a familiar place – one of fullness and fastness. I have so much that I’m grateful for, and brief moments of thankfulness that visit me sporadically bring me such joy. But they are too infrequent, appearing like quick blasts of sun through the clouds on a predominantly bleak day. I bask in their joy for a moment, am distracted, and, then… they are gone.

My goal for 2018… is to seek out these moments. To pause, to reflect, and to enjoy a slowness, from which I believe new things will arise. This will be my year of slow.

What do you wish for your year? If you could pick one word, what would it be?

Now that I’ve decided on my word, I shall use this winter hibernation to plan, to craft, to outline of the next chapter of my story. It hasn’t been written yet, and there’s only one person in the world who owns the pen.

Tonight I am listening to this, and pondering over a text message I just received from my editor telling me that “really, all YOU want to be for the rest of your life, is you”. What’s that thing, about people knowing you better than you know yourself?

thinking about transformation

Back Tattoo Web

At Samhain, I had a day of witching, crafting and tarot reading with my sisterhood.

Towards the end of the day we decided to find our spirit animals, to connect with and remember going forward throughout our spiritual journeys. As my hands reached into the pack of cards I knew what I wanted to pick… an enigmatic and interesting bird.

I visualised her heavy black wings, her deathly stare and more importantly my in-progress back tattoo – a creation by tattoo wizardess Jo Black (Black Moon Tattoos, Frome), which was actually a nod towards my mum’s favourite image… the raven.

The card revealed itself. I was… a seal.

Sure.

I wasn’t too disheartened. Card or not, I was going to have the striking image of the raven walking around with me ’till death do us part.

Yesterday saw the fifth session on my back tattoo with Jo and the transformation is already taking my breath away every time I look at it. Jo has taken on the mammoth task of covering old, existing work on my skin and the result is already *not enough adjectives to adequately describe how I feel*.

I spend my long drive back from Somerset each month feeling obviously very reflective about this tattoo journey and how it will transform me physically and mentally. More to come on that (with much better photos) at a later date.

I’ve learnt a lot about myself over the last few months. At the top of that list is the glaring truth that after ten years of getting tattooed, I’m not even half as tough as I thought I was physically. I love our sessions, but love to get back to vegetating in the comfort of my own home after each session.

As the full moon transforms tonight’s winter sky, I want to dance naked beneath it – my raw skin pounding and dirt beneath my claws. Yet, I’m not partaking in such affairs. I’m lounging on the couch, doing absolutely nothing, moaning about my aching limbs and being fed by my considerate boyfriend.

Perhaps I’m a seal after all.

 

 

 

 

 

thinking about perfection

Perfection

The last few years have been a real journey for me in terms of writing.

In 2014, I decided to scratch a life-long ‘writing itch’ by starting a blog (called ‘Inkluded’). Three years later, the site reached the awesome milestone of 1 million hits and went on to win its first industry award. Now, a few months later, after taking a mini blogging break, I have come to the conclusion that the blog will close permanently in 2018.

As a digital marketer and huge tattoo enthusiast, I had very high standards for my blogging endeavours from day one. Creating a brand that people could connect with and find online was super important, as well as positioning the website as a source of reliability in the industry. Trustworthy companies grown from individual passions are few and far between in the tattoo world and I wanted my blog to fill that gap.

The next few years were a complete blast. I was dedicated to my blog more than anything else in my life. I gave every penny in my pocket and inch of my skin to immersing myself in the tattoo world. I made some amazing friends and memories and collected an incredible collection of permanent artworks that I cherish every day and will cherish forever.

Many other bloggers out there will understand what I mean when I say that – a blog can start to have a mind of its own. I was very proud to have created something from scratch that people enjoyed accessing, but that also meant that there became no room at all for imperfection. When a blog becomes influential, there’s a pressure on the owner to get it right. As I’d set such high standards for myself and my brand, I was unable to deal with any inevitable negative comments about the site itself, my writing style, my opinions or my community.

I created my brand with an initial aim for it to become the responsible parent, or best friend, of the tattoo industry. A brand that could support and represent the unbelievably talented and passionate tattoo community of the UK. But often, my responsibility would fail. At busy times, I couldn’t keep up with the site and the understandable needs of its followers.

Sometimes, my passionate and quickly-written editorial (much like this!) would be written from the heart, rather than from the head. Packed with emotion and expletives it would sit uneasily amongst other more formal and informative blog entries. My philosophical ramblings didn’t give the brand that responsible status that the readers desired and deserved. Most importantly, like many other perfectionist bloggers, I would beat myself up about these things.

That perfectionist – she kept me awake at night. How could I have more thoroughly fact-checked an aftercare article? How could I better manage the uncontrollable inbox of press releases and editorial requests? Should the tone of the blog be neutral, or represent me as a collector? Could it ever do both? Could I get through my ‘Tattooists I Want To Interview’ list (which still sits at 179 people, and growing)? How could I give all of these incredibly talented and selfless artists the coverage they so deserved?

For months, I made changes to attempt to answer these questions: new strategies, new brand visions, new logos, new social handles. But I never reached a happy solution.

What had started out as me idly blabbering on about why I loved tattoos had clearly grown into something much bigger. My blog was a now a news company, with a day-to-day management like any other large brand. This was great! But hurt my head a little, as admittedly I wasn’t a company. I was just… me.

As a blogger, I want to be able to be imperfect. Contrary to any ‘how to blog’ guides that you might read online, it shouldn’t matter if you don’t follow the rules. I don’t want to force myself to follow any guidelines or public expectations, and as the following of my blog has grown, I’ve realised that this is now impossible, especially as an unpaid hobby.

Having taken a few months to step back from my blog, unexpected creative writing is flowing out of me. I appear to have opened some sort of floodgate of words that cannot be contained. I think what is perhaps happening, is that I’ve spent so long writing for an audience with their desires in mind, that there are backlogs of thoughts in my head that are longing to come out.

Tattoos are still my life. I’ll continue to tell you all how much they shape my life, on this new blog and on the other tattoo channels that I write for – as an enthusiast, never an expert.

I might regret writing these words. I haven’t quite explained adequately what I was trying to communicate. I may re-open my tattoo blog at a later date. I could completely change my mind about all of the above in just a matter of days and end up contradicting myself completely…

But, guess what, that’s OK! This is just a snapshot of my brain. I am human, I make mistakes, and I am not perfect. That is what I want blogging to celebrate for me.

Rebecca x

thinking about minimalism

Minimalism

I’ve been banging on about this so much, I can’t remember if I’ve already blogged about it. Oh well, here goes (again?).

A month or so ago I stumbled across a documentary on Netflix called The Minimalists. As a big lover of not loving stuff, I decided to give it a watch.

Since then, I’ve re-played it three times and told as many people as I can to go and check it out. As the overwhelming festive season creeps upon us, I just can’t stop thinking about this film.

I’ve always tried to live minimally. I’m reasonably good at getting rid of things that I don’t use. I own five pairs of shoes, one coat, one pair of heels… you see where this is going. At the same time, I am also a sentimental collector, of: tattoos, fridge magnets, polaroids, magazines, books, crystals, dried herbs and flowers, birthday cards, and more.

Anyway, despite already currently living with little, watching this film about de-cluttering still had a massive impact on me and appears to be changing my life with each day I can’t shake it from my brain.

“There’s nothing wrong with consumption, the problem is compulsory consumption…”
The Minimalists

The Minimalists isn’t about throwing all of your shit away. It’s about making conscious decisions about what you do with your time and money in order to appreciate the things in life that really matter, the things that really bring you the most joy.

You can put everything you own in a skip tomorrow but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll wake up the next day, the happiest person in the world. Mentally exploring how you consume is what allows you to acknowledge the things that can completely alter the course of your life.

I’ve come to realise that having an airy and empty house does help me live lighter, yes, but where I’ve failed over the years is having that internal dialogue with myself about why I have always wanted to live like this, what it says about who I want to be, and what I need to do to finally be that person.

Watch the documentary. You’ll either get it, or not. Deep down, you will either want to change something about your life, or you won’t. I know plenty of people who will never throw out old clothes, will always find pleasure in buying things that they don’t really need and don’t wish to change. These words aren’t for them – I’m talking to anyone who has an itch.

I always had an itch that I couldn’t scratch. A niggling anxiety, a feeling that happiness and peace was somewhere that I must get to, a destination that I hadn’t arrived at yet. I had a desire for everything to be perfect – for me to have achieved all the things I want, travelled to all the places I can. Quite literally moving things out of my life has allowed me to see that I’ve reached that destination already. I am so lucky to have the life I have right now and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

In the corner of our small lounge are two bookcases filled with magazines, crystals and other collectables. Last night, I boxed up 50% of those things, found homes elsewhere for the items I wanted to keep and have now cleared a successful 2.5m x 2.5m area that we’re now going to fill with a six seater dining table. For the first time ever, my partner and I are going to be able to sit down and eat across from each other. We’re going to be able to have friends round for dinner. Thirty years into my life I’m cooking my first ever Christmas dinner this December.

I’m so excited to have a home that’s going to be lived in, and filled with memories rather than objects. If you get rid of stuff, it makes room for new exciting things, on so many levels: metaphorically, literally, emotionally and mentally.

The Minimalists touches on subjects that I’m always thinking about and chatting about with my friends. The importance of: quiet time away from technology; being able to switch off from this noisy 21st century existence; seizing the opportunity to just be happy here, right now, in this present moment. For years I’ve been saying that the thing I need most in life is the ability to switch off, find quiet within my mind, turn my phone off in the evenings, stop worrying about silly things, and so on, and so on. The list goes on for us all. I’ve suddenly realised that I’m sick of hearing myself talk about these subjects and not action them. Maybe watching something on Netflix has kicked my ass into gear, or the fact that I’m approaching 30, or some other third thing that I can’t identify right now.

Who cares why. All I know is – it’s now or never. I’ve decided to choose to be peaceful and happy now. I know I won’t look back.

Today I’ve been replaying my favourite song of all time:

 

thinking about sisterhood

Sisterhood 900

This week, my mum, a close friend and I formed a spiritual sisterhood.

I’ve always been my mum’s apprentice when it comes to all things occult. She’s gifted me some of her most precious possessions and knowledge from her life-long practice of witchcraft and professional tarot reading.

For the last year, me and my friend have been visiting other tarot readers in the UK and practicing reading for each other. We have a friendship that from day one has been built on daily support and guidance – something we both needed when we met and have now found within each other. So, tarot and the art of advising and guiding, is the perfect hobby for us to share together.

On Sunday, as my mum and friend met for the first time, I wondered what our day of spiritual sharing would bring. As the rain hammered down outside, we shared our ambitions and passions by an open fire, sipped wine and ate home-made bread.

You leave a full day of life-reflection… empowered. Sharing how you feel about your past, present and future, with a small group of people, in a close and cosy atmosphere, can truly be life-changing. It’s not that you’re given all the answers, no… but you feel more equipped to go forward asking the right questions.

We’d blocked off this first sisterhood meeting in our diaries months ago and I had big hopes for it to turn out as something enlightening and uplifting, something that in the future I couldn’t life without. I wasn’t wrong.

Try it for yourself. You don’t even need to have tarot at your fingertips or any shared hobby at all. Just choose a day that works for a small group of you, huddle together through the cold seasons and talk about intentions, dreams and challenges. Where do you find yourself in your life at this present moment? Where do you wish to be this time next year? What are you grateful for? What would you change?

In these small meetings with big intentions, these quiet moments with close sisters, we can find what we’ve been looking for all along.

thinking about retreating

Retreat 900

Tonight I’m packing my (various) suitcase(s) in preparation of disappearing into the woods for 6 days. I’ve spent today tidying the house, catching up on various projects, and I think I’m ready to retreat.

Have you ever just blocked off a period time to do absolutely nothing? In today’s busy ‘YOLO’ world, I find it completely liberating. I blogged earlier this week about feeling the need to cram as much into life as possible, and we all do this with our time off work.

So, earlier this year, me and my mum decided to have a ‘retreat week’, in her cosy Cotswolds house which is nestled between clusters of forestry up a mile long dirt track into the hills. It is not my childhood home but it is home, a peaceful blackspot: 300m-high views across beautiful scenery, no mobile phone signal, horrendous WiFi strength and unlimited chocolate biscuits and champagne.

If you didn’t know, my mum is a professional tarot reader who has been practicing witchcraft the entire of her adult life. I learn something new from her every time we make magic together. She’s also learning bits and bobs from me too – how blogging, vlogging and social media can help share her skills with the world.

The next week is quite structure-less, as all relaxation weeks should be, but there are a few things we’re scheduled to do. The next 150 hours of my life will be spent: sleeping, eating, drinking, chatting, reading, writing, tarot-ing, learning, walking, meditating, chanting, thinking, summoning, channelling, connecting, re-charging, re-focusing and re-connecting.

I’m so excited, you’d think I was getting on a plane tomorrow morning! I’ll no doubt be blogging every day next week but in the meantime, the top of my thinking list is something along the lines of this:

Sometimes we have to retreat from the world in order to see what is right in front of, or within, us.