Writing for Wellbeing

Any writing, including free writing, writing stories, poems, journaling, even letters, can improve our mood and wellbeing. You don’t need any special materials other than a notebook/paper and pen/pencil and you don’t need to write with good grammar or punctuation or be an accomplished writer to benefit, just a willingness to get your own words down on the page.

I am thrilled to be able to offer a series of five Writing for Wellbeing workshops (see my Writing for Wellbeing page for more information). Using a variety of writing prompts such as poems, objects, photos and visualisations, my aim is to help participants express themselves through writing.

By writing down our thoughts, feelings and ideas, things can become clearer, more understandable and gives a sense of perspective and control. Writing helps with personal development and this kind of writing has the potential for therapeutic benefit.

Writing can stir up many thoughts, feelings and strong emotions and so it is important to write what is within safe limits and to practice self-care. Sharing writing with other participants in the group is not obligatory.

These workshops are designed to use the medium of writing for self-discovery, affirming the ability to know what is needed to enhance personal wellbeing.

Benefits: 

  • Experience a sense of release as words are written down on the page.
  • Helps people get in touch with themselves.
  • Helps gain a sense of control over unsettling emotions.
  • Increases self awareness and feelings of compassion for the self and for others.
  • Helps bring things into perspective and helps to see things from other perspectives.
  • Helps with feeling restored emotionally as people focus on what they already have and what they may need to improve their wellbeing.

This series of workshops is designed around 5 different ways to wellbeing which research has shown can improve our sense of feeling good about ourselves and our lives. Whilst including happiness, wellbeing has a much broader concept than moment to moment pleasures and includes how satisfied and fulfilled we feel, our sense of purpose, how in control we feel and how we evaluate our lives as a whole. Wellbeing is a process of discovery and is different for different people.

Clearing Out

The origin of yoga has been lost in the midst of time. The closest we can get, is that it began in India over 5000 years ago. In today’s modern world, many people think of yoga as a physical practice, but this is not the case. The essence of yoga is about stilling the mind, emptying the mind. If you’ve ever tried to sit in meditation, you will realise this is extremely difficult to achieve and certainly for any length of time. The physical poses and the breathing we practice on the mat are tools to use to help still the mind off the mat.

This week I am in the Lake District. On some of my walks, I have been alone, spending time on the hills and mountains practicing yoga. No, I haven’t gone into a downward dog on the summit nor knelt down on the fell to do a cat – I’ve been practicing emptying my mind and having a psychological clear out of all the rubbish I carry around in it in an attempt to find an inner stillness and tranquility.

In recent years, as I have developed my yoga practice, I have been focussing on taking what I practice on the mat, off the mat, and into my day to day activities. I have learnt I can practice yoga anytime and anywhere just by becoming aware and bringing myself back to the present moment.

I have a tendency towards an over active mind and if I am not careful, I can find myself ruminating about things (people, events, issues, situations, imaginings, ideas etc.) to the detriment of my wellbeing.

One of my daily affirmations is to have a clear, steady, quiet and alert mind. This is far easier to achieve when I’m walking in the Lake District than when I am at home. This week I have focussed on having a clear out of my mind and enjoyed peace and quiet when out on the fells. The challenge will be to maintain this sense of being when I leave this beautiful national park behind and return to my usual day to day routines.

It is therefore my intention whenever … :

  • I catch myself ruminating about my past (which I can do nothing about)
  • Worrying about my future (which I have no control over)
  • Getting stuck with an issue I can’t resolve
  • Churning over something in my mind I feel guilty about OR
  • Overthinking a decision I need to make, when all I need to do is listen to my heart and my gut,

… that I pause, watch my thoughts, allow them to float away and then reset. I will remember I don’t need to roll out my mat, practice asanas and breathing or sit cross legged in meditation … I can achieve this wherever I am and whatever I am doing. I don’t need to be solo walking in the Lake District.

All it takes is practice!

LIHazleton.
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Being With Your Intuition – Anja Chakra

We experience the world we live in through our senses.

We’ve all learned to trust our senses in what we we can taste, smell, touch, see and hear, but these sense perceptions can limit us and stunt our spiritual growth. Everyone has heard of the sixth sense; our intuition, our ability to tap into a deeper sense perception, but how can we learn to trust this too? This is what the Anja Chakra or the Third Eye Chakra is all about.

The symbolism of the Third Eye Chakra is acquiring wisdom beyond our perceptions, so we can see beyond what is illusion. It is witnessing a freedom beyond the realms of what can hold us back; stereotypes, for example, traditions, conventions, rules and regulations and powerful conditions of worth placed upon us by our parents. We can break out and realise ultimately nothing can hold us back – it is only the mind that has power over us and if we can control the mind, we can then transcend any limitations.

When I think of this, I am reminded of Victor Frankl and his book ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’. A holocaust survivor, Victor Frankl believed that in the most unbearable conditions, one can survive through one’s spiritual self. He noted that animals have instincts to guide them but that we have replaced instincts with social traditions, finding guidance in conformity and conventionality, but overlooking the freedom and the responsibility to make our own choices in life and to find our own meaning.

Connection with the Third Eye Chakra helps us to see beyond what is deemed the ‘norm’ and beyond the mind and all its desires, longings, worries, fears and judgments. We then enter into the realms of knowledge, wisdom, and intuition.  The Ajna Chakra is the seat of emotional intelligence and the sixth sense that regulates the five lower chakras. When Ajna Chakra is open and balanced we feel inspired and creative and are able to see intuitively.

When I was a young person, I looked to other people for guidance and advice. I sought opinions when I needed to make decisions and asked whether my thinking was sound or if I ought to choose a different way. Sometimes, I asked what I should do. I often followed other people in what they did, in all different facets of life; in career choices, in what I wore, what food I ate, in how I conducted myself in social situations and what lifestyle choices I made. As I grew older, this changed as I learnt to pay attention to my inner guide, but I still fell into the trap of social conditioning and in many situations, I didn’t follow my instincts. This only caused further trauma and difficulties in my life; damaging relationships with men, unrewarding job choices, an unhealthy lifestyle. I was suffering, but only because I wasn’t awakened to the life force within me; the ability to ‘see’ with my third eye.

Thankfully, I have left all this behind, but it wasn’t until I fully embraced yoga as a mind, body, soul practice that I realised developing the third eye is the doorway to moving beyond the physical world to a unified whole with an unyielding connection to spirit.

In my yoga practice, working with the third eye chakra can realize the following benefits:

  • mental clarity
  • improved concentration
  • clear self-expression
  • strengthened intuition
  • a sense of bliss
  • decisiveness
  • insight

I have one more chakra to write about, the seventh chakra, or crown chaka, known as Sahasrara or Thousand Petals. This is where there is no intellectual knowing but only serenity, joy, and deep peace.

LIHazleton.
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Being with the Heart – Anahata Chakra

Responding to all things associated with the heart stirs feelings of love, affection, compassion and a willingness to open up to feelings that connect us with each other, with all living things and with the universe.

I know I need more heart stirrings in my life. Moreover, I believe we all do.

Continuing with my exploration of the chakras, the energy centres we have in our astral body, the heart chakra, known as the Anahata chakra, is sometimes referred to as the bridge connecting our state of being in the physical world (the chakras centres below the heart) with our more spiritual self (the chakras found above the heart in our throat, our third eye and our crown).

If our heart chakra is blocked, we can remain ‘imprisoned’ in our desires for physical comforts, sexual stimulations and every experience in life driven by the ego. We neglect (or we are unaware of) human qualities and experiences such as profound love, creativity, self expression and a desire to know the truth, and to come to know our Higher Selves.

Another way of viewing this is that the bridge at our heart chakra connects our thoughts and our emotions, with our spirituality. In my own exploration of the chakras and my own spiritual journey, I believe the Anahata or heart chakra has become the most chakra of all for where I currently am on my journey.

When I practice asanas and pranayama and when I meditate, focusing on the heart chakra, I am working on developing:

  • My capacity for empathy for other people
  • My capacity and empathy for all animals, nature and the planet
  • My intensity for which I can care for another person and all life forms
  • My emotional openness
  • My self-knowledge and capacity for self-reflection
  • The compassion and love I feel for myself
  • How peaceful and calm I can feel and for how long I can sustain this feeling

I know I need to work on my heart chakra. Why? Because I am aware I sometimes feel feelings of irritability with others, I can be judgemental, I can feel hurt in response to the actions of others, I can feel restless and agitated and sometimes I struggle to find empathy or compassion. All traits of being human some might say and why not just accept this and carry on?

For me, being aware of these traits in myself is something I choose not to ignore. I strive to be centred and to be the best I can be, to feel at peace with myself and others around me and to connect at a higher level and develop my spiritual practice.

In my psychotherapy training, I discovered the ‘real’ relationship; being with another and experiencing unconditional love, a love that is compassionate, a love without reason or attraction and born of the understanding we are all one and all in this together. We are all travelling on the same journey, a long and arduous one from unconsciousness to consciousness.

Awakening my heart chakra and discovering who I truly am is bringing me peace and contentment.

Chakra work and the practice of developing self awareness and a greater understanding of what is and what isn’t real isn’t always easy. It’s a path I stumbled upon back in 2009 when I discovered yoga. It is one that is fulfilling and enriching and never-ending.

LIHazleton.
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Being Creative, Being in Tune with Emotions – Swadhistana Chakra

Swadhistana Chakra – LIHazleton – Oil Pastels on Paper

Creativity is inherent in us all whether we realise it or not. For most people, our creativity as babies and children falls by the wayside when we learn to be in the world as responsible young adults. We have to pass exams, find careers, build sustainable lives and conform to social norms. This is what happened to me.

This year I have spent much of my time in creative pursuits and being aware of my emotions and dealing with them as appropriately as I can in the moment as they arise.

In 2008 when my role in the corporate workplace was made redundant, I allowed my creativity to surface again after many years of absence and have been drawing, painting and writing ever since. I also re-trained as a psychotherapist and took up yoga. Both of these enabled me to explore my inner world and understand how to balance and work with my emotions.

The Swadhistana chakra is known as the chakra of creativity and emotions. When in balance it leads to feelings of wellness, abundance, pleasure, and joy. When out of balance, a person may feel emotionally unstable and be susceptible to depression, addictions or anxiety.

In my yoga practice I have been working with this chakra in combination with consistently painting and writing. I have been utilising online courses to keep learning new techniques in landscape and portrait painting. Likewise, in creative writing I have been workshopping with others in tutor-led writing groups and doing a memoir course run by the National Centre for Writing https://nationalcentreforwriting.org.uk and tutored by the novelist Monique Roffey.

There are yoga poses designed to stimulate the Swadhistana chakra to help keep emotions and creativity in balance. I am an emotional person – vulnerable and emotionally charged at times and often easily reduced to tears. By continually being aware of and gaining a greater understanding of my emotions, I am discovering I can cultivate balance in my emotional body and perceive better and higher ways of living and expressing myself.

In my writing life, my goal is to write freely, in a way where I can fully express emotions and expand my awareness. In fiction, I endeavour to do this by writing stories with interesting characters who are emotionally challenged so I can explore their inner world as the plot/story develops in the characters outer world. In my non-fiction, I am writing memoir, exploring ‘the self’, writing in the first person and putting ‘me’ centre stage. To do this in an engaging way, I have to fully express myself and bare my soul, not necessarily on the page, but certainly to myself, keeping nothing hidden. I use yoga to help here in a specific way, on the mat in asanas but also whist in meditation.

Writing doesn’t come easy to me. It’s a constant challenge, but my yoga practice and studying the chakra’s help. Creativity and self expression is entangled and connected. Exploring it, examining what it means for me, brings unbounded joy.

LIHazleton.
Follow me on Twitter where I connect with other writers and all things writing. Follow me on Instagram if you love nature .

How to Be

I am enough.

You are enough.

We are all enough.

So many people are caught up in doing rather than being. They keep themselves busy achieving and fulfilling the roles they assign themselves and end up creating stress and anxiety in their lives. They feel as though unless they perform, achieve or fulfil a role, they are unworthy.

But this is not so.

We are enough and can reside in just being and have everything we need within ourselves to feel good without striving to meet self-imposed goals and deadlines.

But, for many people, this isn’t known. Without being aware of what they are doing, people are constantly massaging their egos in order to feel good about themselves.

The ego is our self image, our social mask, the role we are playing. Many people are unaware of the vice-like grip the ego can have and can fall victim to it. Unfortunately, this is the accepted norm i.e. the belief that our identities are wrapped up in who we are and what we do. We use labels to describe ourselves; we are mothers, fathers, doctors, bus drivers, tennis players … in addition, we employ self talk which can either inflate or deflate our ego; I am kind, I am generous, I am lazy, I am selfish …

But the ego is not who we really are.

I have been pondering this for many months and wondering how I can massage my ego less and be in the world as I truly am, as the real me, rather than put on a mask and rely on my ego when in social situations and when I am out and about generally.

After many months of socially isolating, I am slowing emerging back into the world, meeting friends, enjoying day trips away from home, coffee and meals out. Holidays in the UK are planned and travel further afield is being discussed.

In my previous blog post https://lihazleton.com/2020/06/28/emerging/ I wrote about emerging being a process and how I would like to resist falling back into old habits and ways of being. I have been pondering how I can achieve this and how to make effective and long-lasting changes.

For a long time, I have been using daily meditation and yoga practices to connect to the ‘real me’ — the part of me that is unchanging, the essence of my spirit, the pure consciousness that abides within. It is my hope that by continuing with these practices, where I can connect with the ‘real me’, I will be able to find that feeling when I am with others, when I am out and about in the wider world and away from the calm and peaceful surroundings of my home.

In the past, I have used my strong ego-self to thrive. I have survived an emotionally abusive upbringing, unloving and difficult relationships with men, a highly demanding and stressful corporate career and many challenging personal situations. These are all advantages of having a strong self image driven by a strong ego. I have thrived by employing and relying on my ego, rather than being transparent and showing my true nature. This has worked, but only so far. My relationships, my wellbeing, my sense of self, my contentment, what makes me feel happy and fulfilled have all suffered because of my ego. I lost myself along the way and suffered from worry, stress and anxiety.

A strong ego has many pitfalls and disadvantages. The negative side of the ego manifests as arrogance, pride, vanity, judgements, and prejudices. In the more extreme cases, it emerges as the need to control, the lust for power, fanaticism, or an obsession with materialism. I regret to say, in the past, I have often fallen foul of these unloving qualities and still do, if I am not careful.

So, I have been spending time in awareness of my ego and watching it like a hawk. If I catch it taking over, displaying those parts of me that are not the ‘real me’, I take action and come back to my heart, the centre of who I really am.

The more I meditate, the more I use my breath to connect to my centre during my physical yoga practices, the more I can let go of my ego and just be, knowing I am enough.

With time, with sustained practice, I hope this will become easier and I can take the feeling of being the ‘real me’ with me wherever I go.

I have discovered I can let go of my ego self, knowing that high self esteem doesn’t come from a massaged ego, but comes from cultivating spiritual values of truth, beauty, love, compassion, creativity, inner peace and bliss.

Being myself, being yourself is the ultimate form of self worth.

I am enough.

You are enough.

We are all enough.

How then is this linked to my writing?

Writing is a creative art, a form of self expression. I write because it helps me discover, what I think, what I feel, what I am grateful for, what I want to be in this world and how I can best serve. It is helping me discover my purpose and the true nature of who I AM.

LIHazleton.
Follow me on Twitter where I connect with other writers and all things writing. Follow me on Instagram if you love nature, dogs and other animals.

Emerging

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Emerging is a process.

For many weeks now, I have been pondering how I will emerge from this extended period of personal isolation.

I have written previously about my contentment during the period of forced isolation and how I have welcomed the time to reflect, heal and consider my own life and how I can make positive changes in the way I live, the way I am.

If the world and all life on earth is going to thrive and survive, then we as human beings need to change because it is us who are destroying this beautiful planet.

Emergence for me is about that — change. I don’t want to ‘go back to normal’. There is no normal. I want to be the change that can help the world. I want to help create a ‘new normal’ — for my own wellbeing, for my immediate community, society and for the world.

I want to be able to see and feel that I have lived through the past seven months and grown and developed as a person. I want to emerge with compassion and love in my heart, with an energetic and joyful body and with a peaceful, calm and alert mind. I want these things not for myself in a selfish way, but because I believe if I can have wellbeing, then I can better serve my community, I can be a kinder person to myself and I will be able to reach out to others with empathy and love. My relationships will be rich and rewarding and I will find peace, joy and fulfilment.

We all make choices, almost every moment of every day, some small, some significant. Even if we do things automatically, at some level we are making choices. The change in us begins to happen when we become aware of our choices, when we become self aware and conscious.

When I consider my own wellbeing, I can recognise that many of my choices in the past, I made when I had very little self awareness. Many of my choices were not beneficial. Now, with full awareness, I can make lifestyle choices that aid my wellbeing rather than hinder.

I have spent much of my time during lockdown focussing on my own personal healing.  The word healing comes from wholeness. To be healed, is to be whole. Healing comes from within and I have been concentrating on self care, making the best choices I can to ensure I maintain homeostasis – an equilibrium in my body, mind and spirit. I have recognised that healing comes from within. With self awareness and consciousness I can heal myself, I can renew my body, mind and spirit and emerge as a new me willing to re-engage with the world in a new way.

So, what’s in store for me and what’s all this got to do with writing?

I have developed a creative life, an artist’s life, a spiritual life and a willingness to take what I have learned, what I have discovered, out into the wider world with the hope of helping others. I have plans and ideas of how I can do this. All I need now is the continued belief and faith in myself, the daily rituals I have established and the trust that I can fulfil my dreams.

As for my writing, I am pleased to have established a writing routine and to have a growing body of work, a store of stories and ideas for stories which will sustain me for years to come. I am grateful to my writing community — my writing friends with whom I have shared work and given and received feedback, Norwich Forum Writers, my writing group and the many tutors and mentors I have engaged with for their continued help and support.

As I emerge from lockdown and my time of self isolation, I hope I can do so with a lightness of being, replacing all fear with love and the sustained awareness to look after my wellbeing and to keep writing.

 

LIHazleton.
Follow me on Twitter where I connect with other writers and all things writing. Follow me on Instagram if you love nature, dogs and other animals.

 

Rhythms of Bliss

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In recent weeks whilst in the midst of the shut down for Coronavirus, I have been spending my time absorbed in daily rhythms of bliss – practicing mediation and yoga, reading, writing, painting, communing with nature and communing with my inner self. It has been a time for reflection and an opportunity for growth and for making positive changes for how I live my life.

A wind of anxiety, a hurricane of panic is threatening to envelop the UK and the world. Now, more than ever it is important to be still, to be calm and to find inner peace. We are being encouraged to exercise daily to keep ourselves healthy in order to support our NHS. Exercise is fundamental to good health, but there is more we can do. To help ensure the immune system of our body is working as it needs to in order to keep us free of infection, we can build into our daily lives practices that still our minds and boost our immune system. Practicing yoga and mediation with integrated breathing practices strengthens the respiratory system making it more efficient and the whole approach helps to keep us calm, centered and stress free.

My hope and my wish is that everyone considers their own daily rhythms of bliss and keeps safe. Namaste.

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During these weeks, I have also been observing my patterns of behaviour and watching myself closely for any slippage … any backward step into the fear and anxiety I had been suffering since when the result of a routine scan in October last year threatened to turn my life upside down.

In the personal challenge I faced, I wrote about how I used my daily yoga practice to centre myself and transition to a state of mind where I could begin to manage the debilitating emotion of fear. I slowly realised that fear is an absence of love and with this realisation, I focussed on moving mediations to instil a practice of deep listening where I could connect with my inner self, the real me, the ‘I am’. As I looked at my greatest fears and lived through the worry, anxiety and trauma of what I was facing, I discovered unbounded blessings, compassion and gratitude for my experiences. I encountered loss and profound change, but by embracing the ensuing grief, I discovered a new way of being.

Emerging from this hugely testing period in my life, I realised it presented the opportunity for a new beginning and a new way of being in the world. I no longer needed to live with fear. As I began to focus my attention on healing, both physically and emotionally, I discovered I no longer felt any need to control my circumstances, I could let things be and trust the journey.

I have unearthed truths about myself, about my boundaries, my foibles, my behaviours, and my relationships. I have learnt valuable lessons and I am committed to ensuring I honour where I am, live in the present moment and keep focussed on what really matters, by practising self love, compassion and being open to all experience.

I live in hope. I live in trust. I live in love. I live in bliss.

 

“Bliss is not a feeling but a state of being. In the state of bliss, everything is loved. Nothing is more important than reconnecting with your bliss. Nothing is as rich. Nothing is more real”

Deepak Chopra

 

In my writing life I am taking this opportunity of being in lockdown to write flash fiction and short stories and to enter them into competitions. I am doing this with two friends from my writing group. We choose a competition we all want to enter, write our stories and peer review our work. We enter our pieces and then we keep our fingers crossed! Writing is fun, writing in stimulating and thought provoking. Most importantly, writing keeps me connected.

 

LIHazleton.
Follow me on Twitter where I connect with other writers and all things writing. Follow me on Instagram if you love nature, dogs and other animals.

Happy Birthday

It’s my birthday today. In recent years on my birthday, rather than celebrate, I choose to reflect and give thanks. I give thanks to the two people who gave me life and my Higher Self who has always been there.

On my birthday I think about my Mother who was alone and my Father who, for whatever reason was absent and remained absent in my life until my Mother died. On my birthday, I think about why it is I would rather push away my presents and cards and messages of love and just be with my husband who is my soul-partner.

Please do not stop reading.

This is not a misery blog post or a sympathy/attention-seeking piece of writing. Rather I am choosing to explore my emotions on a day when many people generally want to do something to mark the day by celebrating. Being more self aware is the key cornerstone to emotional intelligence and is helping me to act consciously rather than react passively and to be in good psychological health, have greater depth of life experience and be more compassionate to myself and others. It is how I want to live my life.

But there’s more and it’s to do with my writing.

I want to consider how I can bring out the essence of who I am into the character (Lisa) who is representing me in the book I am writing.

Show without telling is a beginner writer’s mantra.

In this scenario, this would be straightforward to describe in my book. It’s Lisa’s birthday; she doesn’t open her cards or presents, she doesn’t arrange to go out with anyone, she hides herself away, she doesn’t answer the phone. Easy. But how to bring out in the writing what Lisa is feeling inside, in her internal world is not easy.

One way is to employ backstory.

Backstory is a tricky element of fiction. Often introducing backstory can slow the story down. But backstory is often crucial to revealing a character’s inner wranglings.

Lisa is impacted by the events of her past and my intention is to write backstory that enthrals the reader so that they need and yearn to know what happened to her.

This is my task.

Today is my birthday. I have been at home with my husband. I have been alone with my own internal wranglings and have enjoyed my day.

Happy Birthday LyndyH.

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LIHazleton.
Follow me on Twitter where I connect with other writers and all things writing. Follow me on Instagram if you love animals.

A step towards acceptance is a step closer to peace.

I am writing towards peace. To find peace, I need to invite acceptance into my life, wrestle with it, debate with it and honour it. For unless I do, peace will elude me.

As a writer, facing the thing that scares us most, frees us.  If we tackle the challenging topic, we can tackle anything.

For me, in my writing, I know I need to tackle how I feel about a person who I feel ruined my childhood and with whom I fought against for my mother’s love. I lost that battle but I know if I persist with my writing, if I complete my manuscript and find a publisher for my book, if I can reach just one reader and touch their heart, then I can find peace.

If I can accept this person for who who they are, if I can reach out with love and accept they are as weak and as vulnerable as I am, as any human being is, then I can be free and through freedom I can find peace.

In my book, I have based one of my characters (my antagonist) on this person, my mother’s friend. The other day when I found myself immersed in a chapter, writing in her POV, I was surprised to discover I was feeling empathy for my antagonist. When I reflected upon these feelings, it was astonishing to acknowledge I was really feeling empathy for my mother’s friend. This was a breakthrough moment. A step towards acceptance.

Through writing comes healing. Through writing with emotional depth, when the past demands to be acknowledged, when I examine my childhood through my adult lens, when I create fiction based on fact, I can move beyond acceptance to peace and isn’t it peace that the world and every human being yearns for?

This week I am walking in the Lake District, pondering peace and acceptance. This environment and landscape inspires me to persist with my writing, even when I struggle to get the words to flow. Being here, immersing myself in nature and finding stillness helps. Walking with nature motivates me to carry on writing even when it becomes a battle. I believe challenge brings out the best in all of us and facing our fears frees us.

I want to be free. I want to find peace.

What will you face as a writer, so you can be free?

 

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LIHazleton.
Follow me on Twitter where I connect with other writers and all things writing. Follow me on Instagram if you love animals.