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Go back in time to boost yourself out of boredom

One of the exercises I write about in The Journal Writer’s Handbook is called Back in  Time. It’s an opportunity to reflect and get in touch with the stuff you used to love as a kid – and perhaps recognise how much or how little of that you’re doing in your current life.

Of course, when you think back to childhood activities it might be a bit of a stretch to consider what the adult version of it might be – but have a go. You are bound to come up with something. When I wrote the book I was into cycling, and remembering how riding my bike used to be the thing I would spend most of my time doing at the age of 13.

The idea is, that if you feel in a bit of a rut, you might find inspiration from your childhood to shake things up a bit – a new hobby or pastime, or something to give you a clue about a new experience you might try.

Adolescent shyness and adult shame are terrible accomplices in knocking out our inner child. If we listen too closely to them we very readily lose our childlike sparkle unnecessarily. Reflective writing affords us the space to take a step back from our daily routine and gain a new perspective about what inspires us.

As well as bike-riding as a kid I used to love writing and performing comedy sketches with my friends at school. And ever since even younger I used to enjoy singing, dancing, performing and entertaining. I would always find an audience wherever I could.

At the age of 48 some might say I’d missed the boat to get on the stage. But then, 8 weeks ago, I saw an ad for a stand-up comedy course in my local area and I didn’t think twice about signing up. Maybe I would have thought twice if I’d realised from the get-go that I would be performing my first ever stand-up gig to a paying audience only two months later. But now I’ve done it I’m glad the temptation to not bother never crossed my path.

The course itself was excellent and the support from the coach and the other participants was brilliant, despite everyone feeling various degrees of terrified. It surprised me how much structure there is in joke writing, and how precise it needs to be, with as few words as possible. Brevity being the soul of wit and all.

On the night of the performance  I thought I was going to die from an adrenaline overdose 30 seconds before I went on stage.  My mind was blank and I couldn’t remember my first line. But once I was on stage and connecting with the audience it felt awesome. Everyone looked so engaged and happy – it was very encouraging. Hearing people laugh and applaud my jokes was a great feeling – and unexpected.

Afterwards I felt euphoric, relieved, and really proud of myself and the group. I also felt like a bit of a superhero in the eyes of my friends who all told me I was brilliant.

In the week since doing the gig I’ve noticed that I’m a lot less guarded with things that I say – I just come out with it without worrying what people think. I was always a bit like that anyway, but having done the gig gives me even more confidence and attitude!! I might lose friends…

The experience definitely got me back in touch with my ballsy inner child, and I would heartily recommend it to anyone whose idea of fun is to do something that scares you everyday.

Whatever you find when you go back in time in your journal could hold the key to a new lease of life. Go for it!

For more information and inspiration about stand-up visit



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Attract more good things to you through journaling

The Law of Attraction has created a New Age buzz for over a decade, ever since the book and film The Secret hit mass consciousness.

Before that it was the beautiful work of Esther and Jerry Hicks to bring the wisdom of the Law of Attraction to the world through the spiritual teachings of Abraham – a task which Esther, now a widow, continues tirelessly and generously.

For the past thirty years Esther and Jerry have been articulating a message that has caught the imagination of thousands of people who are interested in getting a blast out of life.

It’s been three years now that I have been practicing gratitude in my journal. Those entries where I have written about at least three things that I am grateful for on a daily basis reflect a life of appreciation and serenity, even though my felt experience may not have always played out that way.

So I started to get curious about how to turn up the volume on the good feelings that my journaling practice was beginning to evoke, and turn down the noise that interfered with the sense of well-being I was experiencing.

I learned that in writing about the interference, the whinges and the moans and the objections and the rants, I was actually breathing more life into bad feelings.  Recently I have understood from Abraham Hicks that focusing on these aspects reinforces them in our experience and attracts more of the same to us.

I naturally began to want to turn away from generating complaints and criticisms. It felt too bad to me to be constantly logging what I felt was wrong with everything. Whereas writing about the things that I appreciate, the beauty that catches my eye, and the good things I wish for myself and those close to me, would make me take more of the good feeling into my daily life, and encounter more delightful things.

At first it feels good to use our journals to get things off our chest. And there is perhaps an important ritual in doing so, such as burning our pages, or expressing our fears and judgements and then handing them over to a greater power to deal with on our behalf.

But as an on-going practice, writing down the things that we appreciate and are grateful for, no matter how small, stands us in good stead to achieve a more positive and joyful experience.

And that’s how journaling ought to be.


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Get over yourself

I made my bed this morning! And then I decided to reeeally challenge myself.

It was this:

It’s always been ‘a thing’ with me, whenever I’ve felt scared, to stare down the scary thing and do it anyway. And I haven’t even read Susan Jeffers’ famous book.

As a child I would perform song and dance routines for people with toothache who came to my Dad’s home-based dental surgery. It must have been hellish for them, nursing a raging pain and having to put up with the precocious offerings of a 1970s version of Shirley Temple, singing into the handle of the vacuum cleaner!

But somewhere along the line I got shy. And then later I realised that if I wanted to experience something I needed to put myself out there. I needed to pluck up the courage to get over my shyness and reconnect with the fearlessness of my early childhood.

What’s one thing that scares you today? If you got over yourself and stared it down what would be possible for you on the other side?

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You’ve made your bed…

Today is, apparently, National Make your Bed Day. I have no idea where this idea comes from – answers on a postcard – but there is something quite inspiring about it, especially since I am often guilty of not doing it.

As the saying goes once you’ve made your bed you’ve got to lie in it. So it’s worth making sure you’ve made it as comfortable as possible. There’s nothing worse than itching and scratching in a bed full of crumbs, or tossing and turning on a lumpy sheet.

And, since as we do one thing so we do everything, leaving an unmade bed doesn’t bode well for the rest of the day. If there are lots of loose ends in our life, perhaps we need to check how smooth we left the duvet this morning.

Making your bed is a way of showing yourself love and kindness. Taking a few minutes every morning to straighten the sheets and pillows is a gift for later. And it gives us something to be grateful for even at the end of the crappiest day.

Of course, the metaphorical significance of making your bed is not lost on journal writers. Are there aspects of life which aren’t too comfortable? Are there tasks unfinished? Is there more you can do to show yourself kindness?

On this unlikely national day see what comes up with the prompt: Making my bed means…

It’s a small practice, but repeated over time has a positive effect. Sweet dreams.


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Go with the flow – or rock the boat?

What does it mean to you to go with the flow? Or to rock the boat?

Which is best?

Which is your approach?

Normally I like to go with the flow of certain things. I like serendipity. I don’t like to plan too much and limit my options. I like to have an open mind and take things as I find them – in the hope and expectation that others do the same.

But sometimes going with the flow can be dangerous. Imagine throwing yourself into a fast-moving body of water with no means of propulsion, protection or defence, with the only intention to go with the flow and be carried along wherever the current might take you.

Of course the danger is you are overwhelmed. You might drown, or you might strike a rock, or get stuck behind one. You might be carried into the open ocean, when all you wanted was to go down-stream a little.

Going with the flow oughtn’t be a reckless act, or a wilful loss of control. Unless you are comfortable with the consequences. If you are not you will at worst be either crushed or lost; at best terrified.

Alternatively you can take a more cautious approach. You can study the flow of the water and you can approach it as an adventure. You can choose to get the most out of the experience, harness the power of the stream to your advantage and navigate the rocks in safety so as not to diminish the exhilaration of the ride.

In this scenario it’s wise to use a life jacket and a helmet. You might take a canoe and a paddle and ride the white water.

But what about rocking the boat? What good does that do?

Personally I’ve always been a boat rocker.

I’m not one to put up with the status quo. I’m always looking for new and better ways to live, think, work, relate. Sitting still equates to stagnation to me. You’ve sometimes got to rock the boat in order to get moving; in order to make the most of the next adventure; in order to live.

You might also have to rock the boat to steer or to wriggle free of the rocks. And believe me if my canoe were ever to capsize I’m going to be rocking the boat like holy crap in order to get back upright.

Yet what I’ve noticed is that when you’re truly in the flow, when you’re not blocked against rocks or trapped in eddies, then you have neither the time nor the inclination to rock the boat. Why would you? How could you?

Better to surrender to the thrill of the ride. And let it take you as far as you want to go.

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Magic is never too far away

In July I spent seven days on my beloved Isle of Mull, in the Western Isles of Scotland. It is a place of breath-taking beauty and glorious wildness.

On the second day I walked from Tobermory up through Aros Park to the Upper Falls. I was familiar with the route, having ventured there two years ago and been awe-struck by the drama and lushness of the waterfall.

I had to return. The memory of the Upper Falls has become iconic for me – a symbol of freedom, cleansing and affirmation. On this visit I longed to be close to its banks once more.

I approached the waterfall from below, from where the streams of Aros Park spill into Tobermory bay. It has been a wet summer so the waters were in full flow, rushing white over rocks, with eddies pooling in the lea of the boulders.

The excitement mounted as I crossed the ranger’s drive and then commenced the final leg of the climb up towards the top of the falls.

On my last trip I had contented myself with watching the cataract from the bench just below. I had been aware of the path that wound on higher, but I had chosen at that time not to take it. Two years ago the bench had been enough, and I had been happy with the illusion that my stamina and curiosity had been rewarded by the discovery of a natural gem.


At the time I claimed the waterfall as my own – the place where only I could reach and where only I would rest.

But this year I did a different thing. I didn’t stop at the bench. This year I was more adventurous and I followed the path onwards until I was looking down at the falls rather than up. And what I discovered made me smile.

From the bench below what lay beyond the top of the falls was invisible. Hence my tendency to imagine this my zenith, my final resting place even. However from my new vantage point I could see there was nothing heavenly about the top of the falls.


There is a road bridge spanning the lagoon where the water pools before gushing over the edge of the precipice. The bridge is on the main drag from Craignure to Tobermory. I’ve crossed it dozens of times without even realising what lay beneath.

I found it amusing that something I had found so magical should be found so close beneath the surface of something so ordinary. It made me smile to think of how we typically travel along in our metal bubbles of speed, oblivious to what we’re crossing, intent on the next destination in our busy lives.

And yet if only we were to get curious about the land we’re traveling through, we would discover that magic is never too far away.




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How dense is your shadow this Summer Solstice?

Today is the Summer Solstice in the northern hemisphere. When the sun is still in the sky and when we cast our shortest shadow.

Perhaps when shadows are cast the shortest the things that lurk within them are more intensely felt.

When the sun shines its brightest and longest we have no choice but to allow light to shine on the dark places of our experience. This is how the Summer Solstice brings its gift of clarity.

We each have a shadow and we each are responsible for what our shadow-side may contain. Shadows are only discernible in the light, but once they are visible we can study them better.

This is a good time to journal and to shine your reflective light on whatever is lurking in your shadow.

One way to deal with our shadow when it arises is to be grateful. No matter what hides in the darkness we can often transmute it through embracing it and getting curious about how it reminds us to be and to behave.

For example in my journal I find myself writing “I am grateful for this unsettledness. It reminds me to stay in the present moment and to do whatever is needed to keep myself grounded.”

At the moment the thing that is unsettling me and many people in the UK is the  EU Referendum which is only now three days away. What grounds me in the face of so much rhetoric and politicking is finding out as much impartial information as I can in order to think independently and make an informed decision at the ballot box.

And this brings me back to the value of reflective writing at these times. Seven years ago writer Dermot Bolger said in the Irish Times:

“The moment you begin to write…you are making a declaration of independence, determining to think for yourself…”

When faced with big decisions that will have far-reaching consequences being able to think independently about them and make an informed judgement is vital. Reflective writing helps to identify what we need to do to ‘think for ourself’ and it helps to lighten the shadows.

Wishing you clarity and light this Summer Solstice.



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