Want further proof that my Travel Light program works? I was on the Weekend Today Show talking family travel recently. I never imagined that would be possible a year ago. But the lighter I travel, the more wonderful opportunities are coming my way.
Did you see us in The Australian last weekend? Here’s the link.
I’m so much happier since I embraced this life of experiences over things, and I’m passionate about sharing that with other families. This piece in The Australian is the first of a articles about me over the next month. I’ll keep sharing as they come out.
And so I’m 46. I celebrated my recent birthday with style, love and incredible acceptance. I finally got the hang of the 40s and my goddess it’s amazing.
For those of you who read this blog here, which I’d originally posted as I turned 40, you’d know how pumped I was. Pumped is the perfect word for it. You’ve all seen those personal development gurus working a room full of devotees and they get them all pumped. You can, you will, you are fabulous. And everyone cheers, and believes the hype and then they all go back to their real lives and realize they’re still miserable. Turning 40 was like that for me.
I was pumped! I’d listened to the hype about turning 40. Being a naturally positive person, I believed it. 40s is the new 30s. You go girl!
What no one warned me about was the fact that I would die a spiritual death in my 40s. That I had to… because that’s the point.
Let’s be clear about something. The 40s are not the new 30s. In fact, that completely diminishes the powerful lessons the 40s bring with them. We often start our families later so are juggling the same busy parenting schedules as women in their 30s, but that doesn’t make us 30. There are things I experienced in my early 40s that I know are exclusive to women in this age group. I know I’m not alone because it’s a conversation I’ve had countless times with many different women over the past few years. While my own personal journey had been intense, the collective journey of women of this age group fascinates me.
Firstly, there’s no denying it, we’ve hit middle age. I realise “young” is a matter of perception. One of my dearest friends, who I grew up with, picked me up in a convertible and whizzed me off to lunch on my birthday. “Fuck we’re getting old,” he declared.
I didn’t miss a beat. “When we’re 90 we’ll be talking about the day we were really young and you picked me up in this car.”
So I’m not old. But yes I’m getting older. And I’m getting older in a society obsessed with youth.
When I hit 40 the mirror became my enemy. Lines appeared from nowhere. The slow march of age wasn’t a march any more but a fast run in that first year. I could see the changed to skin tone. And I despised it.
My partner and I started a business. Running that, a house with four kids and trying to write novels took its toll. I didn’t have time for my yoga. I put on weight. I hated that too.
But that was just the external stuff. Internally I was in turmoil. I wasn’t happy. Each month I would be slammed with sadness. Crying jags and insecurity. I said to my best friend, “I don’t know if I’m hormonal or just really messed up.”
“Both,” she said. “And I’m the same.”
The first couple of years of my 40s were such an intense energetic shift for me. I felt like I was disappearing. I was invisible.
Around me girlfriends began erasing their age from their faces. But the results frightened me. I felt like we were missing the point of everything by clutching to our youth. I didn’t want to let go of that either, but I also knew there was something waiting for me just beyond the wrinkles. Just beyond the self-judgement and fear. There was something important… I just had to work out how to grasp it.
I just had to let go.
I went on a Vipassana 10-day silent meditation retreat. It was a version of hell for me but so profoundly beneficial. But even there, I struggled to let go. I spent a lot of my free time packing and repacking my bag while my mind screamed at me. I feel like I was unravelling mentally. It was the hardest thing I’d ever done. But on the sixth day I woke up and felt something I’ve never felt before.
I was in the moment.
Sounds were clearer, colour brighter, everything more vivid. In that moment I understood the concept of annica: impermanence. Everything changes. So having any attachment simply brings misery.
Naturally, that moment passed, and I was in hell again. But I’d glimpsed something profound. I didn’t just intellectually understand something. I had lived it.
I left that retreat with a tool for life, but I still didn’t know how to truly reach into the guts of my issues.
So as is the case with many women my age… the universe provided the perfect opportunity.
“I’m afraid you’re going blind. We’ll get the Royal Blind Society around to your house to teach you how to move around.”
It was the week of my 43rd birthday that I heard this. Many of you already know this story, and the outcome. I’ve blogged about this in detail here.
Turns out I’d been misdiagnosed, but I had to wait three months to hear that. For those three months I lived with the possibility of losing my sight. It was the first thing I thought about when I woke, the last thing I thought about as I went to sleep. I researched and studied and found amazing people doing incredible things with “sight.”
There were many powerful changes for me during that time. I learnt a lot the mind’s eye and sight and light. I certainly learnt about control. I had a complete overhaul in how I perceived myself and the world around me. What is happiness but just a shift in perception?
It’s not getting what you want, or getting rid of what you don’t want, but seeing things differently, as they are right now.
It’s about changing the way you see your world.
The threat of going blind also changed the way I viewed myself when I looked in the mirror. My foe became my friend. I realised I really wanted to see myself age. That realisation was a gift. By the time I turned 45, I was here.
I no longer criticize what I see in the mirror now. I simply don’t. I’m grateful. I don’t give a shit about my lines. I’m happy to see them. I believe one of the most rebellious things a woman can do is grow old gracefully and naturally.
By my mid-forties, things were unfolding for me internally. I was practising what I’ve now developed into my Travel Light Self Development Program. I wrote my novel The Happy Endings Book Club, which is a book about how seven women find happiness through discovering how to have a shift in perception.
What does it mean to see?
I turned 46 last week and I realised I see myself more clearly than I ever have before. There is an inner calm and acceptance that I feel and I’m proud of.
My friendships and relationships are deeper. My partner and I are stronger than ever. I find more joy in my kids. Sex is freaking awesome (oh yeah, come on, it totally gets better with age!)
And I really care about myself. And I use the word “care” rather than love. It’s important to take care of yourself.
I’ve stilled my mind with meditation, strengthened my body with yoga, and balanced my hormones through completely eliminating sugar from my diet, and with the help of a Chiropractor and natural bio-identical progesterone (a miracle in a jar).
And beyond all that, in a deeper Space, I’ve found a powerful new version of myself that wasn’t there in my thirties. Couldn’t possibly be there in my thirties. Because you have to be consumed first by your forties, and the loss of your youthful self before you can even fathom who you’ll become next.
Women in their 40s experience a spiritual death that they must face. If they don’t, they’re doing their 40s all wrong. I’m not done with it yet, but I’m happy to be here embracing instead of battling this decade of my life.
It makes me wonder what excitement the 50s will bring.
Dinner is a big event in our home. Not because of the meal itself—I hate cooking and am the first to admit that what I serve up often doesn’t actually have a name. In fact, I’m thinking I might publish the Dunno Cookbook. Recipes like Dunno Pasta, Dunno Curry, Dunno Pie… so named because I dunno what’s in them…
But I digress…
So the food itself isn’t important to me. It’s healthy. They eat it. Case closed.
The reason dinner is a big event is because we all sit together every night and talk.
With four sons that talk often turns to penises, bodily functions and FIFA15. So I guide the conversation. Every night I ask the same two questions, and then we go around the table while they answer.
- What was the highlight of your day?
- What’s something you’re grateful for today?
They all roll their eyes… but they join in, probably out of habit more than any genuine enthusiasm. But that’s the key isn’t it? Habit. Do something for long enough… it becomes a habit, and we rarely question our habits.
Make those habits positive and beneficial, and there’s no need to question them.
I started this dinner question time years ago. We’re a blended family, and this dinner routine created cohesiveness. Also, we were in a situation where my partner’s children were arriving with new things every week. Expensive gifts. Huge Lego sets, toys, electronic devices. I’d always taught my own children that things had no meaning… that experiences were more valuable. We had two sets of kids under one roof, both being taught very different lessons. How did we deal with that?
Both sets of kids had to learn to be grateful for what they had. And for very different reasons.
I started the dinner conversations about gratitude and week after week, after month, after year some interesting changes have taken place.
Firstly, my own kids very quickly stopped questioning the things the other boys brought home. They valued the experiences that they had. They were grateful that they had other opportunities and family dynamics that their stepbrothers didn’t have.
Next, my stepsons began to say thank you, and appreciate things in a way they hadn’t before. They stopped expecting, and started thanking. They started acknowledging small things as well as the big things.
Then leading up to my younger son’s 9th birthday, we had this conversation:
HIM: “Mummy, for my birthday… I don’t want a “thing”… I have enough things…Can I have an experience instead?”
ME: “Sure honey, that’s an awesome idea.”
HIM: “Just not parachuting. I don’t want to skydive…”
ME: “Okay, I’ll keep that in mind.”
The following year, all four boys asked for experiences rather than things.
My stepsons went from being completely confused by the concept of gratitude (during our first dinner conversation) to being thoughtful in their responses. They stopped asking for things all the time…
If I ever missed asking the questions at the dinner table, the youngest of the four boys reminded me.
Gratitude does get in!
Last Christmas our four sons woke to nothing… well no things. They had a box that they opened together… and in that box were details about an experience we will have as a family. In June we’re going to Angkor Watt in Cambodia. We’re doing it rough… and the boys were told they are expected to pitch in and work towards it. Six months is a long time for a child to wait for a Christmas present… but all four boys were so excited by the promise of this experience that they didn’t think twice about not opening the latest toy from China.
Consistently asking them to focus on gratitude has shaped them all. It has shaped us as a family, and defined what is important to us in our home. It has brought us stability as a unit, and that is especially important for blended families.
Daily gratitude is a very simple and effective tool for any family.
What are you having for dinner tonight?
February might not be our major decluttering month, but that doesn’t mean you let your stuff build back up around you. Each monthly challenge should become a new habit that then works in partnership with the other challenges. Serious change takes place when you commit to this.
Decluttering might not be your major focus this month, but it should be a healthy habit by now.
Here are a few tips to keep the decluttering momentum going:
- Just bought something new? Throw out two old things to make room for it.
- Just spend 10-minutes a day doing SOMETHING to keep your house organised.
- Waiting for the jug to boil? Tidy a pantry shelf or a cutlery drawer.
- Be honest with yourself: who are you keeping all your stuff for?
- Do you really need multiple products in the bathroom?
- Every single day, find a place for three things that have been lying around.
- Struggling with throwing out clothes? Do a one-year shelf and toss what hasn’t been worn in a year.
- Same with books. Have a one-year shelf and toss what hasn’t been read in a year. (I’m doing this one at the moment… I didn’t realize I had so many “new” books to choose from.)
- Just focus on one room at a time.
- Remove yourself from unwanted newsletter and email lists.
- Appreciate your space… clear space is very important.
Are you struggling with finding inspiring and positive media to immerse yourself in? Here are 5 fabulous and inspiring sites:
- Pinterest… I’ve talked about the rabbit hole of news and negativity. Well Pinterest is a rabbit hole of pretty pictures and positivity. Spend some time surfing Pinterest and you’re bound to be inspired.
- Positive news sites: Let’s focus on great news stories. We hear enough about what’s wrong with the world. Here’s what’s right with it.
- TED: It’s been around for a long time now but TED is still an amazing portal into speeches and ideas that educate and inspire. Make it a regular hangout this year.
- TINY BUDDHA is a lovely site where you’ll find posts about happiness, motivation, inspiration, love, relationships, meaning, possibilities, mindfulness, and letting go. Bookmark it this month.
- What’s your passion? Travel, food, parenting? Go in search of your top three sites within that genre, bookmark them, and regularly spend time feeding your spirit there.
Space is important. It’s vital for change. I don’t mean space from loved ones, or your own personal space. The Space I’m talking about is an essence that’s more difficult to access. It’s deeper. It’s not just pushing your partner over to his or her side of the bed.
This Space is where you connect to the True You.
When you understand what this Space is… once you can connect to it… it’s in this Space that change takes place.
More than that… it’s where you can consciously create change.
You can alter vibrations, and create your reality.
To grasp and access this Space you should go and sit in a cave for a year, with no TV, no one to talk to, nothing to read… just you and your mind.
Only kidding. Who has time for that? Instead, let’s fit this into our lives, and take it slowly, step-by-step over the next ten months.
I’m taking you on a journey to destination SPACE. It’s an internal destination and once there you’ll never want to leave.
In January, we cleared the Space around us at home. Continue doing that.
This month we’re clearing a lot of the negative chatter that comes from what you read and watch. You are training your mind. It starts with what you put into it. Choose wisely.
Month-by-month you will feel clearer. Your energy will be vibrant. You’ll be more productive and have more opportunities coming your way. Month-by-month you’ll feel happier and more balanced.
It’s not difficult. Follow the Travel Light program and it will happen. It’s simply the laws of this amazing universe.
“I keep forgetting to do the program. I really want to do it, but I only remember once I’m in bed trying to fall asleep.”
That’s a quote from an email I got last week.
Sound familiar? If that’s you, create some visual triggers around the house to remind you to spend time focusing on the program.
Changing a habit takes work and persistence.
Use post-it notes, or something similar, as a reminder.
Before long, you’ll remember without the notes. The habit is formed.
January was clear-cut: declutter.
Whether or not you really did clear your external space, only you know. But the great thing about each monthly challenge is that they continue all year.
CONTINUE DECLUTTERING ALL YEAR FOR THIS TO WORK.
You don’t need to declutter daily, like you did in January, but it’s important to continue the habit… THE HABIT. And if you followed through on the January challenge then it should be a habit now. If not, you can still make it one.
This program is about creating twelve new habits that together will completely change your life in amazing and positive ways.
Great, now choose five things that need doing next week. Don’t do them now… just choose which ones you will do.
Next, stick a Post-it note to each. The notes will remind you to do one each day next week… and toss the note once it’s done.
Alternatively, write a list of seven things that need doing and stick that to the fridge… and cross them off as you go. Notice the list, see what needs to be done on that day… and do it. No matter how small the task is the act of doing it keeps the energy flowing.
Do it regularly. Be consistent. Don’t forget… if you forget it’s not habitual. Use triggers to stop you from forgetting.
February is more challenging: filter your information.
It’s so easy to fall down the Internet rabbit hole and surf crap online. Let’s create a new habit where we use that time wisely.
As a reminder, find a photo or a meaningful quote and use it as a desktop image to inspire you to actively search out positive media and reject negative or inane media.
This is an important challenge, which I’ll write more about in my next blog.
Until then, love and light.
I’ve been quiet for the past week because I’ve been practising what I preach… I really have toned down my online time and the content I’m consuming.
Admittedly, I’ve also had a flu, which helped.
I could barely move for days so instead I read and watched movies.
Now that I’m better, I’m trying to catch up on my work, which means a lot of procrastinating and aimless surfing the net.
The past few days I’ve been focussed on not allowing negative and meaningless stories to filter back into my daily routine.
- They waste my time.
- They waste my mental energy.
- They trigger emotional responses in me that I don’t need to have, such as fear.
- They block me from forging new habits and new neural pathways.
The longer I refrain from clicking through on silly kitten clips and frightening news stories, the easier it becomes to move towards the content that feeds my spirit.
I’m not sure what Kim Kardashian is up to this week (and that’s a relief).
I have no idea what ISIL is doing today.
My one struggle is not knowing the latest updates on Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran’s execution date. It’s the one news story I have problems switching off from. But that’s the point of February’s challenge. My heart aches for these men and their families… their mothers. But my life is in no way connected to these men, and yet my emotional energy is being impacted daily. I’ve allowed that.
Here in Australia it will be hard to escape the media after they die. But I’m doing what I can to not obsessively watch it unfold… and instead, when they cross my mind I send light to them and their families.
I’m even swamped energetically, writing about this now… so let’s move into a more positive vibration.
This month’s challenge is to filter the media we consume. To stop ourselves from disappearing down the rabbit hole of negative media.
So what have I been doing?
- I’ve set up an ebay shop (remember all that clutter from January? The best pieces are on here)
- I’ve been putting together a teaching course.
- I have been spending time reading up on Japanese Yoga, the form of yoga I practise and adore.
- I’ve been reading more about Vipassana meditation.
- I’ve been planning a holiday for my kids, later in the year. There’s nothing I love more than putting together an amazing itinerary for an overseas adventure. Sometimes I think I should be a travel agent.
- I’ve read a couple of books and seen some lovely films.
And I’m feeling clear and inspired. How are you going?