Looking into the mirror.

lr-cool-wall-georgie-james-photography-6.jpg

Photo Credit: Georgie James Photography

When you look into the mirror…

What do you see? What do you believe? What do you feel?

For many of us, the mirror is an uncomfortable place and we seek to avoid it. (I am not immune to this – I do love that my dance class has no mirrors, so in my mind I am Beyoncé).

The mirror is a place where our real authentic self is shown back to us, right now in the moment. But when we look, we often see the past and the future simultaneously, and a distorted view at that. When we look at the mirror, we also hear the story we hold about ourselves that is not always so forgiving.  It rises up to narrate to us a tale about our failings, our weaknesses, our fears and our flaws.

It is a challenge for us to be visible and fully present every day, and to accept ourselves as we are.

My wish for you …

Look into the mirror and wait. Breathe and wait. You may feel uncomfortable, irritated or silly. Keep breathing deeply.

Notice what you see. Notice what you believe. Notice what you feel.

Allow whatever comes up to be present. Keep breathing. Keep waiting. Keep looking.

Looking at yourself now: Notice your strength. Your courage. Your compassion. Your tenacity. Your hope. Your humour. Your faith. Your curiosity. Your adventurous spirit. Your purpose. Your passion.

That may have felt difficult, or it may have come easy. You may have noticed the shadows too. The shadows may show up as uncertainties, anxieties, doubts, irritations, rages, jealousies, pettiness, fears, hurts, pains, frustrations, selfishness, greed and vanity. Shadows are part of the human experience. They are inevitable. To be self-compassionate is to acknowledge both your light and shadow, and allow them space to co-exist.

Give yourself permission to be a learning, growing and imperfect human being. Release your grip on the pursuit of perfection, the relentless search for happiness – and create a generous safe space for light and shadow to co-exist.

Living a life that is full of juicy, interesting and rich experience necessitates jumping in wholeheartedly with a degree of openness and curiosity about what will meet you. Trying to deny, minimise or completely avoid the shadow side risks cutting yourself off from the full magnificence of life. Reflected light from a mirror is always more startlingly bright against the darkness.

© Naomi Morrow, 2016.

Finding your creativity.

paint.jpg

As a child, I loved being creative. Though I’m quite sure I didn’t refer to it as ‘being creative.’ I was simply having fun and trying things out. We, as little humans, create and play without (hopefully) paralysing analysis, self-consciousness or doubt just as we’ve barely begun.

I loved sketching, dancing, singing, writing stories and staging performances. I created a recipe book complete with a hand drawn character in the bottom right corner whose appearance changed when I flipped the pages really fast. That was a super cool trick! But I digress.

My self-confidence in my creative capacities was high then. Aged 11, I was fond of the funny Pam Ayres poems on our shelf. After entertaining my immediate family with my recitation of “I don’t want to go to school Mum” in our lounge room and then boldly announced that I wished to perform this in the local eisteddfod. I’d never had formal speech and drama lessons. In hindsight, I was pretty out of my depth with the competition. Mercifully, I was yet to hit the full force of painful adolescent self- consciousness and embarrassment. I simply adored expressing myself and having fun. Enjoying a creative life without the trappings of an internal voice judging my expressions as either good or bad.

I have since spent many years in studying and working in the fields of creativity, self-expression and the arts therapies. But that is different. It is not the same as making a true commitment to prioritising personal creativity for my own self. For process alone. Not product. Not achievement. Not outcome.

Recently, I was inspired listening to my amazing client reconnect with her personal creativity and visual art processes. From this, I felt a longing to sketch. It has been years since I consciously sat to sketch (excluding unintentional doodling whilst listening in meetings or lectures – it helps me process!)

I suggested that my young daughter and I sketch each other’s portrait simultaneously. She was keen. It was peaceful and relaxing – and a time for us to connect. Holding extended eye contact is a powerfully beautifully thing. I’m aware that as a parent, I have a wonderful responsibility to demonstrate and promote self-compassion in my creative endeavours. To not judge my work as good/bad, worthy/unworthy, professional/amateur or wrong/right. My daughter is listening. And so is my heart.

So as I sketch, I talk about how fun it is to have a go, to experiment, to play. I remind her and myself that there is no right way just as there is no wrong way in expressing yourself creatively. How fortunate are we to value and nurture our creativity together.

And today, we took a picnic rug under a shady tree in our yard. We brought out the oil pastels, pencils, paper and enthusiasm. This time, we were accompanied by a four year old at the beginning of his drawing journey and an almost two year old more keen on stomping on the pastels and creations.

Was it peaceful? Well, no. Relaxing? Not quite. Messy? Yes. There was a dog as well, I forgot to mention. Imperfect? Absolutely! Fun? You betcha.

And now, I can’t stop thinking about our next family art adventure, and my own renewal of commitment to living a richly creative life.

Maya Angelou said “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, The more you have.”

Isn’t that a beautifully encouraging idea? Even if it’s been a long time, have a listen…there may be a whispering urging you to reconnect with your creative spirit. Give it a little nudge. Be curious and compassionate and just see what emerges for you.

©Naomi Morrow, 2016.

7 Tips for Magic Motivation

work-station-straight-on-view.jpg

Losing motivation. It happens to all of us. You know you need to do something. Finish something. But that pesky motivation, just when you need it…slips away.

When motivation disappears, its friends PROCRASTINATION + AVOIDANCE suddenly pop in for a visit, like two guests – uninvited.

The longer you find yourself hanging out with Procrastination and Avoidance – the worse you will feel. They think it’s a party and invite their rude mates, GUILT, SHAME and SELF-LOATHING.

Here’s my tips on helping motivation stick around:

1. Identify WHAT you need and want to do

Notice I haven’t used the word ‘SHOULD’ here. Should is icky. Should implies it is someone else’s goal or dream, not yours.

2. Consider WHY you need and want to do it

Ask: WHY is this important to me?

What does doing this or not doing this say about me? About my priorities? About my values? About my big vision for my life?

Is this task truly important to me? If not, can I outsource it? Change it? Dismiss it?

If it is, get really clear on this…connect the task to your big vision! Remind yourself.

Eg. You are avoiding doing a difficult university assignment. Perhaps you feel you don’t understand the question, or your inner critic is chattering away at you saying you aren’t clever enough to do it well.

Ask yourself: Why is it important to me to do my best?

Obviously, each person’s answer would be unique. But, let’s say, you want to do well on your assignment because it is an interesting topic, the subject is a prerequisite for passing your degree and you want to move into this career field feeling though you took up every opportunity to learn while you were able. This suggests that your values are about valuing opportunity, participating fully in life and being an active learner.

3. Consider how you want to feel when the task is complete

Relieved? Exhilirated? Excited? Proud? Capable? Confident? Optimistic? Energised?

Connecting to your preferred emotional state and imagine what it feel like at the end. Motivation likes emotion and likes a preview of it too! What will you be doing differently when you feel like this? What will you not be doing once you have this feeling? What will people notice about you when you are feeling like this?

4. Break it up into bite sized pieces

Make a list of every small action that comprises the whole task you want to achieve.

It can be overwhelming to consider the task as an unwieldy whole.

Small actions can be less daunting and can be done in shorter periods of time, but still generate progress toward your success.

Eg. That big assignment? Start by checking out what journal articles are required. Begin the reference list. Make a bullet note plan for your paragraphs and content.

5. Get accountable.

Tell a supportive person, a friend, relative or coach – your plans to achieve this task and the timeline in which you are working toward. Often we are more spurred on to complete tasks when someone else is aware and checking in with us about how we are going and feeling.

6. Don’t forget to speak nicely to yourself

Motivation likes a pep talk. Motivation hides when you grumble, moan and complain. Start telling yourself “I can do this, even if it feels difficult/boring/time-consuming. I can and I will” – ooh your motivation is going to lap up that sweet talk!

7. Reward yourself.

Don’t make yourself wait until the end to pat yourself on the back. Encourage yourself! Spent 30 minutes researching for your assignment? You started, well done! Enjoy a nice coffee or herbal tea before your next action. And when you’re all done? Really do something to celebrate pushing past the barriers to success!

What steps can you take toward boosting your own motivation today?

©Naomi Morrow, 2016.

The time is now.

clock.jpg

You’ve heard that expression: The time is now.  (It’s also a pretty awesome song from Moloko, which is now 16 years old, and not ‘now’).

Tonight my husband, myself and our three young children visited a gorgeous new beer hall and twilight market. It was a balmy Friday night and the end of a long week. A beer and relaxing conversation appealed. We got ourselves a cosy booth and the children bounced around energetically and exuberantly, as is their birthright. Our best intentions to chill out with them were thwarted. It was simply too exciting for them to sit still. We hurriedly finished our beers so we could get outside again so they could run and play at the market. Later, as we were leaving, admittedly with (by then) tired, hot and cranky children – we stopped to talk for a few moments with a table of energetic looking twenty somethings sans tired, hot and cranky children. Sans children.

It was unspoken between me and my husband. The wistfulness, even if only temporary, for the past. A time where we were free, and could linger for hours over a few beers, and great uninterrupted adult conversation. No nappies, spilt food, or tantrums.

But we have had our time. And now – what we have is now – is a new beautiful reality. A little noisy and chaotic, and certainly different, but it is our amazing life right now.

We need to lean in to the moment now and give it our full and wholehearted presence.

Lean too far back – we risk romanticising the past, remaining stuck, not fulfilling our potential and living a half-hearted life.

Lean too far forward, desperately trying to peer into the future and we might fall. Into an uncomfortable place of worry, anxiety, uncertain times…it is the unknown. The future should not be a reservoir for happiness.

Does this sound like you? “I’m not getting into my bathers and going swimming until I lose 10kgs” “I can’t possibly host new friends at my home until we extend the decking area” “Things will be great when all the kids are at school” “I will be happy when I get that promotion/ win lotto/ move to a new city”

Consider, what are you missing out on when you keep delaying what you could be doing right now? Connection? Happiness? Being your fabulous and authentic self? Achieving your amazing goals?

Time will continue to move forward. Things will change. We will grow, and our family will grow. Freedom will return in different ways. In ways we are yet to know, because it is the future. This is our time now.

So the challenge is this: lean in closely and notice the now with all of your senses…because it’s real.

It’s not easy this leaning in thing. I’ll be the first to put my hand up and say that at times, the present moment is the last place I want to be and I’ll find myself wishing away a difficult moment or hour or afternoon. But it’s the resistance and the struggle against the reality that often causes the most distress.

And maybe next time I write, I will lean in to the now and reference a song that is not from 16 years ago.

©Naomi Morrow, 2016.

Is your story calling the shots in life?

stretching-498256_1280.jpg

I’ve been carrying a story about myself for a very long time. It’s called: “I hate exercise, it’s boring and I suck at it.”

This story started early on in life, where school reports highlighted my lack of skill and interest in Physical Education (PE) and team sports. I dreaded cross country days, where I would be one of the last ‘runners’ at the back. I felt really embarrassed by this. At high school, I just could not co-ordinate myself to hit the damn shuttlecock in Badminton.  I recall being so thrilled that the PE teacher at the time was also a musician, so he graciously looked the other way when I excused myself from PE for yet another saxophone lesson. It’s not as if I am not competitive, I am ridiculously so when it comes to trivia, Scrabble and quizzes but sport? Not me. There were exceptions to the story, like the time I won a footy kicking competition in Grade 6 or was commended for my flexibility in the sit-and-reach.

But as it goes with unhelpful stories, we have our blinkers on, only noticing the negative events and experiences that serve as proof.

So I tuned in to this story about exercise being difficult and boring. I shaped my identity and activities around what I was good at and what I enjoyed (music, reading and being creative). This was understandable. It gave a sense of joy, meaning and purpose to life. But in this process I not only sought out what I enjoyed, I actively shunned and rejected other things. I sat on the sidelines at high school swimming sports days listening to Nirvana on my headphones and wishing I was somewhere else. I watched as my university friends played netball and I joked that it was ‘boring’ and ‘lame'. I was deeply suspicious of anyone training to be a PE teacher, laughing that we would never have anything in common and couldn’t possibly be friends. It’s quite a safe place to be, living half-heartedly to avoid risk and shame. In hindsight, there was an awful lot I was missing out on.

But over the years, my story started to change. I began to notice that I enjoyed individual exercise, like walking, yoga, dancing and aerobics. If there was really amazing music then I probably forgot that I was exercising and forgot to be bored. When I was struggling with the demands of daily life with a toddler and newborn baby, a wonderful psychologist recommended I join a gym. I did. Sometimes I would go four or five times a week. I became a ‘gym bunny’ and I loved it. I felt incredible: capable, strong and fit. I wasn’t bored and it wasn’t difficult.  A truckload of endorphins were now buzzing happily about in my brain. Great self-care became important to me, and exercise was a significant part of that. When the Body Attack instructor announced that I had ‘smashed it’ at the end of a gruelling class, I was ecstatic. I had changed my story.

Stories are powerful, and they can help us make sense of ourselves, others and our world. But I’d love us all to consider – is it time for us to change the story? Or ditch it entirely? Maybe you can give your story a new title? You have the go ahead from me!

Is there a story you are working to change or have changed? I’d love you to be brave and share!

©Naomi Morrow, 2016.

For the Love of Things.

My four old keeps asking me, “When are we going to swap our house?” Now, last time I checked, we are not members of a fancy house swap arrangement whereby some unsuspecting family trades their spacious Tuscan villa for our warm and cosy home. It took me awhile to work out what he was really getting at.

He wants a house with new/different stuff in it. And by stuff, he means toys.

Whilst I admire his big picture vision and quirky veiled question, it’s not something that aligns well with me. I have cupboards. Full ones. Doors that get slightly stuck because the contents are spilling out (and that’s not all toys, it’s just the overflow of life).

blog-post.jpg

I daydream about being a minimalist. But then I get shocked back into reality.

I’m a sentimentalist. I love my special things. Artefacts from long gone grandparents, the dress I wore to my 21st birthday, my deflated teddy bear from the 1980s, a mammoth box full of Baby Sitter Club Books, assignments from university subjects long ago…and the in-flight menu from our honeymoon. In 2006. (Ok, I was horrified at that last one. Straight in the bin. I don’t scrapbook. And I don’t recall if I had the Penang Curry or Pad Thai). But true mementos and trinkets, worthy and special, are tactile and real and can connect us to memories, loved ones and experiences.

It doesn’t seem to be flavour of the month. No- one is writing bestselling non-fiction about the art of collecting are they? I’m aware that people may suggest I will feel lighter when I ‘detach’ from stuff. I know from experience that this method is successful. I feel lighter every time I ‘detach’ from a preschool inspired milk carton sculpture. The detachment process is necessarily delicate. One must give due admiration to the artist’s work and then seek full consent to ‘detach.’ Often artists are inclined to change their minds, in which case, if the recycling truck has already gone, you’re in trouble.

So for now, much to Master Four's chagrin, we are not ‘swapping house.’ It’s cosy and comfortable here, surrounded by the things that remind us of where we have come from, who has loved and loves us, and how we want to feel every day (connected, loved, inspired and just a little flustered when we open the cupboards).

©Naomi Morrow, 2015.

Time for Imperfection

img_8477.jpg

So here I am. Embarking on another chapter in my career and life. Training to become a heart centred life coach with the Beautiful You Coaching Academy. The last time I undertook extensive formal study was in 2007 when I completed my Honours Thesis in Social Work. I had no kids then. Just a dog and a husband, and seemingly all-the-time-in-the-world to hone beautifully crafted and thoughtful interpretations of my data. Now I have three children under six, and still the same dog and husband. I no longer have all-the-time-in-the-world.

This means a big shake up of how I do things. Before, I really dug in deep to my identity as a perfectionist, and would often delay or avoid doing tasks unless I was certain it would be top notch. I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a blog for some time…but delayed and avoided, because I listened to these unhelpful internal messages:

“What do you want to do that for?” “You don’t have time for this!” “What are you going to write about?” “What if people don’t read it?” “What if they DO read it?”

And you know what? I started to get annoyed at these messages. I really wanted to write!

A whole host of positive and helpful influences started to filter in a little more, including:

-The uplifting and inspiring teaching and learning from The Beautiful You Coaching Academy, led by the amazing Julie Parker --- has really motivated me to start being brave and really living what I have always believed in (for other people)…and now I’m doing it for myself;

- Professor Brené Brown's inspiring research about how when we dare to have the courage to show our vulnerability, we can live our most meaningful and authentic lives;

And that which did not seem initially positive or helpful – the devastating news about a family member’s ill health…gave me the jolt to realise that

no-one has all-the-time-in-the-world.

This morning I finished reading “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brené Brown.

I then wrote this, my very first blog post, between nappy changes, helping to dislodge a wobbly tooth, grocery shopping, cuddles, nap time and housework.  I made a commitment to embracing imperfection and just did it.

© Naomi Morrow. 2015.