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At The Happy Starfish we are dedicated to providing a wealth of information, products, workshops and articles all aimed at celebrating health, happiness and peaceful living. We believe that life should be an awesome adventure filled with love; love life and life will love you back. Are you willing to surrender what you think you are for what you could become? Are you ready?

Monday, 20 January 2014

What I learned from meerkats


"The moment is always Now".
Nothing makes me happier than spending time with my family and experiencing new things in life so I was more than a teensy bit excited yesterday to get to hang out with the (allegedly) tamest  meerkats in Britain.
I was preempting my gratitude journal that evening would be full of family, love and laughter (which it was) but I had to add an entry to the meerkats for a great reminder on how to approach life with complete wonder.
My youngest son had velcro trainers on and the curious animals spent huge amounts of time investigating how this worked, undoing them, doing them back up and moving aside to let others have a go. The joy as they played together and jumped onto our laps for cuddles was contagious. When their food came they stopped what they were doing and totally absorbed themselves in the task of mindfully eating, savouring every mouthful. No chance of them automatically consuming their food, not really noticing the flavours while multi tasking as humans often do.
I went to bed last night thankful for the chance to observe these cute creatures living in the moment. It is something I will never forget.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Life after Facebook

“What matters is what we do with the life we have.” Carrie Ryan
I don’t profess to understand how anything works. I am in constant awe of the technological advances of our world and how the distance between us seems to be ever diminishing. With a large proportion of my family living overseas, and having moved away from my birth town myself, I was so thankful to Facebook when I initially became a user. At any given time I could fire up my laptop and check out all the recent news and photos. Despite the miles separating us I felt close to my loved ones. It was official - Facebook made me happy, and had I sustained checking in every now and then it probably would still continue to do so.
I can’t pinpoint when social media became a huge part of my day, every day but it became so easy to access. I bought a smartphone initially due to my love of music, my iPhone saved me carrying around an iPod and a mobile. I installed the Facebook app ‘just in case’ I ever wanted to catch up with recent posts without logging on. Who was I kidding. It became impossible for me to get through the day without constantly checking who was doing what. I didn’t want to miss anything and it seemed everyone was having so much fun, I wanted to be part of that.
As well as close friends and family I hooked up with old school friends, work colleagues, gym buddies. My virtual world was growing larger and larger but I felt my real life was becoming increasingly insular. The more I connected to people online the more disconnected I felt from reality, from myself. I found myself reaching for my phone as soon as I woke up and Facebook was always the last thing I looked at in bed at night, it took me ages to get to sleep, my mind would be full of status updates.
I began to feel lonely. The majority of my friends are on Facebook and catching up over the phone seemed to be a thing of the past. Getting married, having a baby, new job - important events where once people would excitedly telephone around seemed to be announced on their wall instead. If I was having a tough day reading about ‘the greatest night out EVER’, started to bring me down. Not that I begrudged anyone having fun but I felt separate, like an observer, seeing life but not actually part of it.
One day last year, I took my son to the park. I sat on a bench and watched him racing around laughing. Glancing around me every single parent was hunched over a mobile phone or tablet completely missing the joy their child was experiencing in that moment. I felt a sinking feeling as I realised how much time a week I must spend scrolling down my news feed rather than being engaged with the world before me. Facebook would always be there, my family wouldn’t. It was time to make a change.
When I got home I deleted the Facebook app from my phone and can honestly say the benefits have been huge. I continue use Facebook professionally (yes this blog will appear on there too) and still think it is a great tool, used in moderation. My day once again begins and ends with meditation. I sleep better, am more energised and feel totally connected and at peace with myself. I am calling my friends on the phone and meeting up with them more with a renewed appreciation of our friendship. Those important to you will always remain in your life regardless of whether or not you ‘like’ their statuses on a regular basis. 
Every now and then when I am online I sometimes choose to log on, there are pages I enjoy and people I genuinely care about, but it is a choice, no longer an unhealthy habit at best, an obsession at worst. 
This is my personal experience, millions of people participate in social media daily with no detrimental effects. Social networking is great if you enjoy it and don’t feel any negativity from using it but with Social Media Addiction fast on the way to becoming a recognised condition and purportedly harder to quit than alcohol and drugs, please be mindful of your usage.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Coping with chronic pain

“Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional”.
For the last few months my health has steadily deteriorated (my story). Increased pain and a decline in my already limited mobility has been a true test of my faith.
I don’t mean faith in the religious sense but a real challenge to the belief I have that I can manage chronic pain through a blend of meditation, mindfulness, diet and other natural methods.
It is important to me to feel in control of my condition and not the other way around. I don’t like using labels, it’s so easy to get caught up in the definition of who you think you are. 
Eckhart Tolle once said  “Once you have identified with some form of negativity, you do not want to let it go, and on a deeply unconscious level, you do not want positive change. It would threaten your identity as a depressed, angry or hard-done by person. You will then ignore, deny or sabotage the positive in your life. This is a common phenomenon. It is also insane.” This often applies to medical conditions too. It is easy to fall into the “I have ………….. and therefore I cannot ……………. and will never …………..”.
I shall never give up on trying to improve my health but I no longer try to resist it causing me further emotional distress. I have a quiet acceptance  now, a peaceful place inside of me that is always there, waiting for me to reconnect at any time, no matter what my external circumstances are.
I think only those who have experienced chronic pain can have some understanding of how it feels. That said, everyones personal journey is unique. There may not only be unrelenting pain but there can also be anger at your body for letting you down, to the universe for letting this happen, towards loved ones for not understanding instinctively. Throw in a good dose of fear into the mix “is this ever going to improve?”, “am I on a downward spiral again?”, the stress of which causes muscle tightness and pain in different areas as sensitivity is heightened. General function is then reduced further and unhelpful thoughts and emotions such as “I am a burden” surface and once you are on the negative thought train it’s hard to get off. No wonder it’s exhausting. 
I feel such gratitude for all I have learnt the past few years. As much as I love teaching my general meditation workshops I am looking forward to launching my programme for chronic pain later this year. It has been a real experience finding methods that work for me and it will be a real privilege to pass them on.