Day 27: Gracious acceptance

Being mindful of accepting gifts with grace:

I am a very lucky girl.

I’ve recently received some really wonderful gifts from big-hearted friends; inspiring bracelets, Tibetan Cymbals and Mindfulness Book, audio healing resources and online e:courses.

And today I received a big surprise in the post.

A dear friend has generously sent me a box full of books by one of my favourite authors.

Just because.

A whole heap of emotions pulsed through me from feeling gobsmacked, disbelief, tearful, excited, and over-the-moon.

And if I’m being completely honest, overwhelm and panic has set in.

Sounds crazy, I know.

I don’t know about you, but it’s all too easy for me to feel awkward when being the recipient of a generous gift. Feelings of “I don’t deserve this”, “This is too much”, or “I feel bad I can’t reciprocate at the moment” surface.

But I’ve come to realise that saying this can completely deflate the giver: it can deny them the pleasure of giving. I realise it’s about being grateful for how someone has taken the time to think about you and given you something you’d enjoy.

I recall an article that had a big impact on me. In it, Ellen Langer, a psychology professor at Harvard, said: “Receiving with grace isn’t about taking. You should see it as offering someone else the joy of giving.”

It’s about accepting gifts with grace.

It’s not easy, but I’m working on it.

So instead of feeling bad about the lovely gifts I’ve received, I choose to think : Look what magic and kindness my Fairy Godmothers have sprinkled on me, I am so blessed.

And I smile and say: Thank you dear friends.

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being mindful of accepting gifts with grace.

Day 26: Kindness bookmarks

Being kind by hiding a message inside library books:

Today’s happy is short and sweet and happy.

I wanted to leave messages inside a couple of library books I was returning for the next reader to find.

On the back of my Kindness Cards, I wrote: You are in incredible person. Have a lovely day.

Kindness CardsKindness Card Library Book

I decided to write my blog address on the back too, just in case the finder is intrigued to visit. Wouldn’t that be the cherry on the cake.

But again, I let go of all attachment to the outcome. My intention is what counts: to make someone smile.

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being kind by hiding a message inside a library book.

Day 25: Sunrise splendour

Being mindful by watching the sun as it rises:

Today I woke up at 5am. Feeling tired but too wired to go back to sleep, I climbed out of bed to open the curtains.

And was treated to the most magnificent sunrise.

sunrise splendour

So this is what I woke up at ridiculous o’clock for, I mused.

I love a good sunrise, and a good sunset too. I can sit and stare at them all day long as each changing moment brings new beauty to admire.

Sadly, I haven’t seen either for a good while. In the midst of British summertime, with a very early sunrise and a very late sunset, I’m usually in bed for both.

And while I am absolutely delighted summer is here, I do miss seeing those awe-inspiring skies.

So this morning was a very special treat for me.

As I observed the wonder of this morning’s fiery sky, I felt reflective.

I thought about how uncertain life can sometimes be. But we can always be certain that the sun will rise and that the sun will set. Even if it is hiding away behind those infamous British grey clouds.

I was reminded of how today is a new day, as Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield wrote:

“Each morning we are born again.
What we do today is what matters most.”

Today is a beautiful new day. And I choose to make a good one.

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being mindful by watching the sun as it rises.

 

Coconut Cashew Ice Cream

Coconut Cashew Ice Cream:

I adore ice cream and it’s been one of the hardest sweet treats for me to give up when I realised that sugar is not my friend. However, as I try to live by the 80-20% rule, I do occasionally indulge in the odd Magnum, or a little tub of deliciousness when I’m at the cinema.

Then I discovered that raw dairy and sugar-free ice cream can taste really amazing as demonstrated by the fabulous Booja Booja range. I set out to make my own (see Day 23).

I found this recipe on Appetite Affliction and have adapted it slightly to suit my own tastes.

As it uses cashews, it is a little expensive, and it’s also pretty labour intensive. But the end result and satisfaction from tucking into handmade ice cream makes it all worth it.

Coconut Cashew Ice Cream
Makes approx. 750ml

coconut cashew ice cream

Ingredients:
400g coconut milk (use a good quality one without preservatives if possible)
350g raw unsalted cashews (soaked overnight in water)
40g desiccated coconut (optional)
4-8 tbsp liquid sugar alternative, according to taste  (I use Rice Syrup)
2 tsp vanilla extract or powder

Method:
1. Blend all ingredients together in a high-speed blender until smooth. I give it about two minutes
2. Pour into shallow, freezer friendly, 1 litre container with a lid, or use cling film and foil, making sure it’s air-tight
3. Stir/mix with a fork every 30 minutes for six hours, making sure you get right into the corners to agitate all the mixture
4. For ease of eating and storage, I transferred the ice cream into individual serving pots with lids
5. Leave in the freezer overnight (8 hours+)
6. Make sure you take out of freezer a good 15-30 minutes before eating
7. Eat and enjoy!

NB I teamed my ice cream up with Flourless Chocolate Cupcakes by Teresa Cutter. Yum! Yum!

Day 23: Booja Booja

Being grateful for making raw vegan ice-cream:

A few weeks ago I lost my heart to Booja Booja.

Booja BoojaA dear friend introduced me to their Hunky Punky Chocolate Ice Cream Alternative. My taste buds jumped for joy as I tucked into this heavenly bowl containing only four ingredients: water, agave syrup, cashews and cacao.

I’m not kidding when I say it tastes like a high quality Belgian chocolate ice-cream. Creamy deliciousness in every spoonful.

In fact, I would go as far to say this is one of the best ice-creams I have ever tasted: healthy or non-healthy. And I don’t usually go for chocolate ice-cream either!

I couldn’t wait to visit my local health food store and was over-the-moon to see they stocked it. But alas it’s a tad too pricey for my present budget.

So I had the great idea to try and make my own.

After lots of trawling online, I finally found a recipe that was right up my street. Most recipes use bananas as the base, my least favourite food in the whole wide world (the only exception I make is for  Banana Bread, toasted with butter please. A staple treat for me when I lived in Sydney). Thankfully I found an alternative that uses cashews and coconut milk.

It’s so simple to make: pop some soaked cashews, coconut milk, vanilla essence and rice malt syrup (my choice of sweetener) into a blender and blend away.

But then comes the tricky part.

Pour into a shallow dish, cover well and freeze. Every 30 minutes, take out of the freezer and whisk with a small whisk or mix with a fork. For six hours. That’s twelve times. Twelve times! Then leave for a further eight hours and it’s ready to eat.

And you know what, it tastes mind-glowingly delicious.

I am so impressed with myself that I’ve actually made ice cream. By hand.

Even my mum is impressed. We sampled it this afternoon – although it hadn’t had its full proper freezing time, I mean who can wait overnight, seriously!

I added a scoop to my previously made Chocolate Cup Cakes (dairy, sugar and wheat-free too) and the ultimate afternoon snack was born.

Although, it’s pretty labour intensive and pretty expensive to make, there is a huge satisfaction of knowing I’ve made this bowl of deliciousness all by myself.

Booja Booja who?!

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being grateful for making raw vegan ice-cream.

Day 22: Child’s play

Being mindful while playing with my nephews:

Today we have my two young nephews here. Ages three and six. All day long.

While I absolutely love playing with the little munchkins, I’m usually wiped out after half an hour or so and have to go and rest. So I try to make every second I spend with them count.

The eldest Callum is really into doing mazes at the moment. I’d printed a few off for him so we could sit together and have some quiet, creative time.

Of course, little Thomas wanted to get in on the action and climbed onto my lap. And while Callum got stuck into helping the dragon find his egg, Thomas scribbled on a dot-to-dot.

It was a precious half hour spent.

I always try to make sure I am fully present when I am with them. That I am Mindful Auntie Helen instead of Distracted Auntie Helen. I listen to what they have to say and I devote my whole attention to them and what they want to do.

I truly think one of the greatest gifts you can give someone is your full attention, adults and children alike. Especially when we live in a society that is very much attached to our smart phones and bombarded with distractions from every direction.

I sense that the boys appreciate it too. So much so, that later in the day Callum excitedly burst into my room to tell me what they’d just got up to in the park, and Thomas declared me his best friend when his mummy came to collect him.

Heart melt moments.

My nephews are also my inspiring teachers. They live and play wholeheartedly in the present moment.

Like when Thomas hears music, he leaps up to dance around with unabashed freedom. Or a minute after crying uncontrollably, he is playing happily, all previous upset forgotten.

And like when Callum wants me to play with him, he means now, not “in a bit”.  Or when he plays his computer games, he completely disappears into that moment.

Unlike adults, children don’t dwell on the past or worry about the future, and this is one of the biggest lessons I am learning on my recovery journey.

It reminds me of one of my favourite quotes about living in the present moment:

“What day is it?”, asked Winnie the Pooh
“It’s today,” squeaked Piglet
“My favourite day,” said Pooh.
― A.A. Milne

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being mindful while playing with my nephews.

Day 21: Artist’s Date

Being grateful for a yummy brunch on my Artist’s Date:

Today it was time for a change of scenery.  I needed to get out of the house. And thankfully I felt up for going on an Artist’s Date.

I’ve been taking myself on Artist’s Dates since first reading about them in Julia’s Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way, around ten years ago.

“Artist Dates are assigned play,” says Cameron. And the best thing is that you don’t have to be an artist to go on an Artist’s Date.

The idea is to take yourself on a date once per week to “fill the well” of creativity.  There are the rules:

  • You must do the activity alone.  The idea is to get in touch with your inner creative self, to spark your imagination, and having anyone else with you will change your behaviour.
  • The activity should be fun.  Find something that appeals to you and do it.

Of course, the nature of an Artist’s Date can be something different to everyone.

Amongst my favourites are: a long walk in the country or along the coastline;  a visit to a Farmer’s Market; a nose around a photography exhibition; a visit to the cinema; a day trip to somewhere new; and a delicious brunch in a nice cafe.

Ever since discovering brunch culture when I spent time in the US and Canada, it’s become my absolute favourite meal to enjoy out. I love catching up with friends over brunch, and I also really love my solo dates.

Taking myself out for brunch provides a welcome break from my current mainly sedentary lifestyle. It feels like I’m living a normal life again. I try to go a couple of times a month, depending on health and wealth of course.

This morning, I went to my favourite brunch place Bill’s, and enjoyed Eggs Royale; a toasted English muffin topped with smoked salmon, poached eggs and Hollandaise sauce, and finished with a sprinkling of pumpkin seeds.

Yum. Yum. Yum.

Upon returning, I feel restored, refreshed and rejuvenated.

Hooray for Artist’s Dates. Hooray for yummy brunches.

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being grateful for my yummy brunch on my Artist’s Date.

 

Day 20: Turtle Power

Being kind to myself by retreating into my shell:

Today I am grateful that I gave myself permission to have a few days off from writing this blog.

As much as I love writing about my ‘100 days of happy’ project, I realised I was putting too much pressure on myself to write the “perfect” posts (whatever the “perfect” post may look like!).

I was feeling incredibly overwhelmed.

And having chronic fatigue does not bode well with overwhelm.

I’m also a perfectionist.

And perfectionism is not a friend of chronic fatigue either.

So feeling overwhelmed with writing the perfect blog = crash, bang, wallop!

It was only a few weeks ago that I started easing myself back into writing, just for 20 minutes each day. But then decided to set myself this 100 day project, and write about it every day, and then turn it into a blog, and then tell all my friends what I was doing.

Yeah, I know.

I don’t do things by halves me! And it’s probably not the best idea when you need to be taking things slow and gentle.

While I really enjoyed writing it ‘off-line’, as soon as I set up the blog and put it out there, I fell to pieces. Knowing a handful of lovely people have kindly subscribed and are now getting my posts directly into their in-boxes, completely freaked me out.

Now my posts HAD to be good, I warned myself. I couldn’t post just any old crap.

I’d started writing it for me, but now I felt a responsibility to write something really fantastic and interesting every single day. Something others would enjoy reading. And keep reading.

It absolutely terrified me and I felt myself shut down.

I crumbled under the pressure.

And I know that I’m the one putting pressure on myself. No one else is doing that. I can do a perfectly good job of that all by very myself thank you very much.

When the fact is, I’ve been absolutely bowled over by all the kind lovely comments and support I’ve received so far. I really couldn’t have asked for a nicer bunch of readers.

I knew I needed to take a break from writing. I needed to gift myself with complete rest. The sky wasn’t going to fall in if I didn’t write for a few days.

I retreated back into my turtle shell, put my laptop away, and delved into my recovery tool kit. I did what I had to do to help myself recover.

I’m proud that every day, I continued to find my happy. But instead of writing about it in the blog, I wrote a short couple of lines in my gratitude journal.

As I tentatively started to emerge from my turtle shell, my thoughts slowly turned back towards my blog. I reminded myself of why I started it.

Thankfully I’ve put it all back into perspective and am feeling much better for it. For now. I realise this may crop up again, and if it does I’ll know what to do.

It’s ok that my writing isn’t perfect. It’s ok that it’s not for everyone. And it’s ok to not write for a day or so if I’m not feeling well enough.

I’m giving myself permission to be ok as I am: to be the best that I can be in this moment.

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being kind to myself by retreating into my shell.

Day 19: Time to rest

Being mindful of what my body and mind need:

My energy bucket is empty.

So today I am having complete bedrest.

I’m not panicking or worrying about this blip like I’ve often done in the past. Even though it’s a biggie this time.

I was expecting a blip of some sorts after putting so much energy into facing one of my biggest fears: writing this blog.

I’m not turning away from my condition either. Instead, I choose to turn towards it. I choose to listen to my body and honour what it needs.

I choose to accept this blip with love, patience and grace.

But it’s not easy.

And I don’t manage it every single moment.

But once I’m aware that my mind is spiralling downwards, I gently bring myself back to focusing on the now, on my breath.

I focus on the glory of the trees outside my bedroom window.

My spirits are lifted as I watch the wind rustling through these magnificent beauties, their branches swaying, bursting with life. Watching them is a soothing balm to my soul and helps bring me back to the present moment.

This blip, I gently remind myself, this too shall pass. I will feel better in time. I’m not putting pressure on myself with a timeframe. I will take as long as I need.

I have given myself permission not to write if I don’t feel well enough. I also don’t want to pretend on this blog that everything is always ok. I want to show myself that even on days like today, I can still find my happy. And I’m so grateful that I have.

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being mindful of what my body and mind need: complete rest.