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 Expressive, Being Creative – Vishuddhi Chakra

‘Can we speak in flowers? It will be easier for me to understand.’ – so says the poet and reclusive writer Nayyirah Waheed who describes herself as the ‘quiet poet.’

The Vishuddhi Chakra is located in the spine at the base of the neck. Known as the throat chakra it is associated with change and purification and establishing your voice.

Interestingly, I have noticed in myself over the last ten years or so (since my mother died and since I immersed myself in my yoga practice), a growing disinterest is some of the normal aspects of life; for example I no longer watch or listen to the news, I have no interest in going shopping, I have withdrawn from incessantly scrolling social media and pull away from political discussions or negativity and grumbling in general. If I ever did enjoy celebrity news or gossiping, I certainly don’t partake in it now, or at least I try not to by keeping vigilant and stopping myself if I do!

In studying the Vishuddhi Chakra, I realise this slow but steady shift is an unwitting, positive and inspired change in me, an indication I am refining the texture and calibre of my mind. As Deepak Chopra often talks about, I am expanding my awareness.

With the Vishuddhi chakra awakened and functioning properly, any experience, thought, emotion, or word, can be transformed into nectar for my own personal awakening and enlightenment. All I need is awareness and directed intention. This is why I focus my time and energy in pursuits that bring me great joy: writing, painting, walking in nature, reading, cycling, yoga and meditation.

I’ve written previously about the Swadhistnan Chakra, the energy centre of emotions and creativity: https://lihazleton.com/2020/11/05/being-creative-being-in-tune-with-emotions-swadhistana-chakra/

When Swadhistana is awakened, Vishuddhi is spontaneously energised and helps transform emotions and creativity so you can express yourself in many different ways.

I have noticed this happening to me. Here are a few examples:

  • I find it easier to show love – for myself and others
  • I can confess mistakes I have made with ease and say I’m sorry
  • I find it easier to let go of past hurts and forgive
  • I speak out and I am no longer afraid to say what’s in my heart and what is true for me

The Vishuddhi Chakra is our voice and is where we affirm life in the way we speak and express ourselves and through the way we are and what we do. I am aware that to communicate love and vocalise an appreciation for global matters beyond the fixation of ‘normal stuff’ that has little importance to me, is where I want to focus my energies. Why immerse myself in negatively and grumble when the very fact we are here and have breath is a miracle?

But none of this is easy or possible if we are not aware. We all have mental and emotional struggles – this is human life but we do have choice and we do have willpower and the tapas to exert that willpower for greater good. It’s just a matter of opening up to possibilities and listening to what’s inside. This is where meditation can help.

I have grown my meditation practice over the last year and it helps me connect to my true authentic self. Deep listening enables me to formulate who I am, what I want, how I can serve and what I am grateful for. I can then take this out into the wider world, drop the conformity of social conditioning, be who I want to be and speak out for what I truly believe.

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.

 

Do you know where you’re going to …

Do you know where you’re going to?

Do you like the things that life is showing you?

Where are you going to?

Do you know?

 

Meaningful lyrics from the song by Diana Ross and the theme song to the 1975 movie Mahogany. 

I have never seen the film (or at least I don’t remember seeing the film!), but I know the song very well. The words are evocative, bringing strong memories to mind and powerful feelings.

Listening to this song, thinking of my younger self and who I am today, I could choose to be troubled by the sentiments in the lyrics, allowing myself to be seduced by melancholy and nostalgia or I could choose to let the lyrics to wash over me and move on to the next song.

But I choose instead to be inspired by the lyrics, to explore my feelings, to dive into the deep waters of my past, my present and what my future may hold.

Life is short and we only have one.

A cliché but a universal truth.

So think about it. Do you know where you’re going to? Do you like the things that life is showing you? Where are you going to? Do you know? Do you get what you’re hoping for?
When you look behind you there’s no open door. What are you hoping for, do you know?

This song poses questions of humanity which we all ask ourselves. But in essence it’s a song about regret.

Regret. A big theme.

Artists, writers, music makers, all creatives who are brave enough to explore big themes grow in their work.

As a writer, I draw inspiration for my writing in many different ways. Music has the ability to move us, stimulating our memories and our imaginations. When I listen to a song, when the mood is right, when I am open and reflective, I can tap into and channel my emotions and the energy is stirred into inspiration for my writing.

How?

By considering the mood that the song sets and by focussing on that feeling – joy, sadness, triumph, love, regret, whatever it is and by writing from emotional depth, from wherever it is the song has taken me.

Sometimes the lyrics will tell a story, or perhaps the song shines a light on a portrait of a character, or the lyrics may take me back to a time in my past. I can then mine that memory for inspiration for a scene, I can explore the portrait of the character and flesh them out, I can ponder the story in the lyric and try and expand upon it.

I can even use the story in the lyric as a springboard for a longer piece, a different piece  or a chapter in my current book.

What type of music inspires you? Is there a song that really moves you?

 

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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.

Dare to be … me

I am me in the here and now.

I am my past from which I can never escape, nor do I want to.

I am my future in which I want to grow to be best me I can be. I recognise this is a well worn phrase, a cliche, but it’s true. I do want to be the best I can be. For me this means striving for continued personal development. Among other things, this means I want to develop my talents and potential, learn about myself, enhance the quality of my life, realise dreams and aspirations, help others and contribute to the universe.

Committing to personal development means I am willing to change. It means never giving up, putting myself in uncomfortable situations, experiencing challenge and taking risks. It also means looking after myself and meeting my needs. It means putting me first. This is not being selfish. It is being self aware. It is being where I want to be, doing what I want to do and being with who I want to be with. It is knowing wherever I am, whatever I am doing it is the right thing for me because it is only when I care for myself, can I care for others.

Attending to my personal development has led me to becoming a writer.

I dare to be a writer.

I dare to be me. 

 

Day 8 – Kinlochleven to Fort William – 15 miles

The last day of my West Highland Way walk and the last (for now) of my ‘Dare to be’ reflections.

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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.