Growing a spine

I was driving along in my car a couple of days ago, and contemplating life (as I often do).

And  I realised that I am a much stronger person these days.  Stronger on the inside and the outside.

I found out the hard way early on that I have a lot of resilience, and unfortunately I’ve found that out by going through hard times over and over and over again and picking up the pieces.  Which I guess is what resilience is in a nut shell!

But in a lot of ways I was still very meek and passive.  Far too much so.

I don’t know exactly when that changed, but it was quite suddenly.

I suspect it may have been the day I found out that someone was spreading lies about me and accusing me of cheating.  That was the day that I finally cracked and said no more.  The old me would have been upset and said nothing.  The new me had some very firm and direct words to say to them.

And that’s when I learnt…

I’m not afraid to speak my mind now.  I’m not afraid to say no, and to stand strong in my beliefs and stand behind my ethics.

I used to care too much what people thought of me, and of upsetting people.

And now that I am stronger I’ve noticed that I am occasionally having people upset with me.  And that’s still not easy.  But firstly there’s no pleasing everyone.  And secondly I’ve found that I don’t want to be that “doormat” any more that tries to keep everyone happy.

I will always act ethically, and as kindly as I possibly can.  But I WILL also stand behind my beliefs, and my morals.  And I won’t compromise those to keep other people happy.

It is a great opportunity for me to temper this new found strength with my belief in right speech, so I’ve been very mindful of that lately – more so than usual.

Maybe this is what ‘almost 40 feels’ like 🙂




Use your thoughts for good and not evil

I saw this great post on FB this week, and it hit home for me, because it’s something I really believe in.Ordinary things

I think part of it is due to my mindfulness practice (which encourages noticing all the small things), but maybe more because I’ve found that it’s doing this that brings real happiness.

My belief is that you should have lots of things in your life that make you happy – all the small moments combined should bring you a sense of gratitude and satisfaction. And if they don’t then it’s probably time to look at why, and what you can do to change it.

Life isn’t always sunshine and rainbows – actually from my experience it’s usually the opposite – but if you can focus on the small things that you love then it balances it all out.

For me personally the things that have made me happy this week are:

  • Going to the shops as a family and buying beautiful fresh fruit and vegetables for the week.  I’ve found a great fruit shop that sells the most beautiful fruit – it’s always such fantastic quality.  And things like that give me so much happiness.  I adore my fruit and vegetables and knowing I have a fridge full of the loveliest produce makes me really happy.
  • Nourishing my soul with classical music.  I work from home, so I have the freedom to listen to whatever I like to during the day.  And lately I’ve been listening to cello music.  It’s something Mr ISFS and I both have a passion for.  I just love having it on in the background as I work.
  • Books.  I’ve always been a huge bookworm since I could read.  Sometimes I find I get too busy with other things to read much, but it’s always such a joy to go back to it.  On Thursday during lunch I sat with my feet up, a cup of tea, my cello music playing, and a new book to read, and it was (to me) the idea of perfection.
  • Sharing my favourite takeout (noodles) with Mr ISFS.  This is something that we have always done – shared our favourite takeout together at least once a month.  We are trying to save for a house, so we are mostly budgeting very carefully, but once a month we splurge and get all our favourites – Kway Teow, Garlic Prawns, Special Fried Rice, and spring rolls.

and lastly

  • 12599343_960538727371424_1772379474_n(1)Valentine’s Day.  Today has a heightened meaning for me today, and it’s been a chance to realise how truly blessed I am.  I bought Mr ISFS a 1st edition copy of DeadPool (the comic), and he bought me a pair of amethyst earrings.  They have such special meaning for me as he picked them specially as they are my birthstone, and he knows how much I love them.  But the gifts are really only a very minor part of the day – the day is a reaffirmation for me of how much I love the life we have built together, and how much it means to me.

I am struggling with some personal issues at the moment (health related), but it’s focusing on these small things that makes my life full, and I realise how truly blessed I am.

Much love,

A different take on mindfulness

I came across a talk yesterday called “Science of Mindlessness and Mindfulness” by Ellen Langer.  I really love challenging my thinking, and learning/growing and this talk has been a real eye opener.

Ellen discusses the concept of mindfulness, but from a very “stand alone” view point.  Her research and opinions are of mindfulness as it’s own practice, and not as part of meditation or Buddhism.

And it’s fascinating.

I’m still absorbing her concepts – as they are many and varied (and brilliant!).  But a few things have resonated with me already.

A lot of her work (as I understand it so far) explores challenging our thinking and the labels we apply to certain situations.  And how changing our thinking changes our experience.

For example it’s proven that most of us view our jobs as “work”.  Our attitudes are that it’s a necessary evil, and we approach our work days as such.  We don’t enjoy our jobs (that’s what our personal time is for!).  However if we can approach work our work as being fun/pleasurable/interesting our experience changes vastly as does our enjoyment.  The work is the same, but the approach and outcome are different.

She also challenges us to explore our set beliefs.  One question she asks is “what is 1 plus 1?”.  And naturally most people are going to roll their eyes and say “2”.  But as she says, that’s not always the case.  What if you had one wad of chewing gum, and one more wad to it?  It’s not going to be 2.

And personally I love challenging my thinking that way.

Maybe I’m weird (okay I own that I am lol), but I often question the labels that we give things.

For example – the common belief is that going into a shopping centre/restaurant/business with bare feet is considered rude.  Why is it rude?  Because as a society we frown upon it.  But why?  Who came up with that rule that shoes must be worn?   We are raised with that belief, but what if the belief was that it was rude to wear shoes in a shopping centre?

It’s an odd example I know, but I often think about small things like that.  Or “the sky is blue”.  Why do we call it the sky?  Why have we given it that label?  Where did that come from?  What if we knew it by a completely different name?

And it’s true of basically everything in life.

Which leads me to say I’ve always been very vocal about my belief that things never black or white.  A neighbour of mine is always very very firm in her opinions.  She will argue – violently – with anyone who doesn’t agree with her take on life.  But I often wonder – how could she be so set in her opinions?  What makes them unshakeable?

I can honestly say I never have set opinions or beliefs on anything.  I just don’t see life being that way.  It’s fluid, and changeable and only appears to everyone differently based on their experiences, on their upbringings, their financial situation, their religion, etc etc etc.


I’m enjoying learning more as I listen to her talk.  And I’ve immediately downloaded her book as well, so I am sure this subject will come up quite a lot in coming weeks.

Take care my friends,




The value in sincerity

I was inspired by something I heard this week.

I was listening to another Gil Fronsdal dharma talk, and he related a story from the Zen tradition.

A student asked his teacher “If I practice Zen will I become enlightened?”.  And the Zen teacher replied “If your practice is sincere, it is almost as good”.

I was incredibly inspired by this simple concept.

I know myself that I practice Buddhism because I identify with the precepts very strongly.  However I do not hold the belief that I will become enlightened – I would imagine very few Buddhist practitioners ever will become enlightened.

However I can practice with sincerity.  We all can.

And it doesn’t have to relate to Buddhist practice – we can live our lives with sincerity full stop.

I love that thought so much.

Sincerity encompasses so many things – living ethically, honestly and with pure intention.  And all of those things make such a difference not only to our lives, but to the lives of those that we touch.

You can’t really put a value on sincerity and honesty.

So this week I’ve tried to really keep that as my intention.

Also in this past week I heard a discussion on the Buddha – how before he became enlightened he had to live through many lives, and learn from each one.  He was reborn many times.  And of all the lives he lead, and the mistakes he made (as a lay person) one thing he never did was lie.  And specifically he did not lie to himself.

It’s a deep concept – to never lie to ourselves.

It’s also been on my mind this week, and I have given a lot of reflection on the ways I have lied to myself in the past.

There are so many great things that can be gained from self analysis and knowledge.  I feel blessed to have access to the dharma teachings.

And a new day each day to learn from them.




Let it go

Regular readers of my blog will know that last week was a less than ideal week for me.  Stress caught up with me, and I cracked somewhat.  I acted out of character, and I had to live with the consequences.

I’m feeling so much better in myself now.

One of the defining moments for me was a bus ride I took into the city on Monday morning.  I decided to make the most of that time, and listen to a dharma talk by Gil Fronsdal.  I may not have mentioned it before on my blog, but he is my absolute favour dharma speaker.  His talks (found at Audio Dharma) have taught me so much.  I am the person I am today thanks to Gil’s teachings.  So many of them have resonated with me on a very deep level.

So on this bus ride I decided to really take stock of what was going on in my life.  I put on my headphones, and picked a talk by Gil on “thinking”.  I spent the next 45 minutes looking out the bus window, and mindfully listening to his wisdom on thinking.  And I consciously let all the stress go.

I tried to just focus on what was happening to me in that present moment.  And when I did I found I could much better reconnect with myself.

Because what was happening in that moment?  I was having a day off work, I was on the bus (which I love).  I was lucky to be listening to a dharma talk by Gil.  And I was on my way to a rally against violence.  Something I felt very strongly about supporting.

Aside from the bus trip, I have also spent time recently doing things which replenished my soul.

It’s a bit of a daggy hobby (maybe), but I really adore doing jigsaw puzzles.  Ever since I was a child I have found them incredibly relaxing.  To me they are a form of meditation.  I sit there, and sift through the pieces, and let the thoughts come and go in my mind.  I find that afterwards anything I’ve been stewing over is released from my focus, and I feel much calmer and more focused.

I’ve also started to take a lot more note of the people in my life that I am grateful for.

And I have received so much support in recent weeks from my closest friends.  It makes me incredibly humbled.

It’s all these little things that make life so rich.

And on that note I’m going return to my cup of tea, my puzzle, and my classical music.


Namaste my friends,



Contagious laughter on a commuter train

I couldn’t resist sharing this wonderful video.

What a beautiful thing to share with fellow passengers – positivity and happiness and laughter.

“Contagious laughter on a commuter train in East Anglia. One person starts laughing at something funny in his smart phone, and within minutes virtually the whole train is laughing too.”

People that inspire me ~ Andy Smallman

The people I find inspiring are those who embody the traits that I value – kindness, generosity, compassion and positivity.  And I feel incredibly grateful to have very inspirational people around me – both in real life, and on the world wide web.

I recently had the idea to do a weekly blog post to recognise these wonderful people.  

And to say thank you for inspiring me and countless others, and making the world a much better place.

The first person I wanted to feature was the person who has made the biggest impact on my life thus far – Andy Smallman.

It was this (relatively) simple video that inspired a chain reaction of events in my life.

I have long tried to be a good person, and to make a difference in other people’s lives.  However it was watching this video that inspired me so much, and moved me to action.

I was blown away – a school dedicated to teaching kindness.

Thanks to Andy I was inspired to start my own random acts of kindness, and also this blog.

Andy was kind enough to let me interview him for the piece.  The questions, and his answers are below.


About Andy:

Andy Smallman is an education innovator and director of the Puget Sound Community School. His unique approach to learning has kindness as it’s foundation and is inspiring students and their communities alike.

In one sentence, describe yourself…

ImageI try not to take myself too seriously, hence this description. 😉

What is your life motto?

Be true to yourself.

 Happiness is….

… being warm, both on the inside, with myself, and on the outside, with everyone and everything else.

 What are you passionate about?

I am passionate about those moments when a person taps another person on the shoulder, metaphorically or actually, and the second person turns to see the sunrise, metaphorically or actually.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

Just today I went for a run and saw an early spring flower blooming. I thought, “Who put that there? What a kind thing to have done for me.”

Who inspires you?

Children. Nature. Honesty. Oh, the question said who, not what. Sorry.

What are your goals?

To grow in wisdom and to learn to love better. That’s it. Everything else flows from those two things.

What’s the best decision you’ve ever made?

Well there’s always a “right” answer to this question, like the decision to marry Melinda, my wife, right? And that really was a good decision, a great one, in fact. But I never would have even had the opportunity to make that decision if I hadn’t made countless decisions that led to it. So the best decisions I ever make are the good ones I make in the present, right now, to be positive, the decision to be present. These “now” decisions are what lead to great opportunities in the future.

What are you most grateful for?

How wonderful is it that right now I can feel the sun on my skin?!

What was the most defining moment in your life?

There have been several, each of which directly influenced EVERYTHING that followed. But I’m going to say that founding the Puget Sound Community School in 1994 is the most defining. To do so, Melinda and I quit our jobs with their known salaries to start a venture conventional wisdom said had no chance of working. That we did it soon after having our first child and soon after buying a house, as well as having no savings to speak of, adds to its “definition.”

What’s the number one thing you want to achieve in the next five years?

See my answer to the “goals” question above and let the “achievements” take care of themselves.

If you had the opportunity to get a message across to a large group of people, what would your message be?

Take care of yourself and by that I really mean it: TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. Your REAL self. Find something that you love doing and commit to doing it regularly. Oh, and while you’re at it, make it simple. Because it really is simple.


For more information on Andy:

Please visit:

Puget Sound Community School

Kind Living Blog

Chat with Andy

Yes, I’m positive

Surround yourself with people who reflect the person you want to be

I made the decision recently to try to surround myself with as many positive people as possible.

The company that you keep really does make a difference – to your mood and your outlook on life.

I am lucky to have some wonderful, positive and inspirational people around me.

In keeping with that theme, I have decided to start a weekly blog post featuring a person that inspires me.

So keep an eye out for the first post in the coming days 🙂

In the meantime, here is a quick reminder of the benefits of surrounding yourself with positive people:

  • They are fun (and who couldn’t do with more fun in their lives?!!)
  • They are energising
  • They smile a lot
  • They encourage you to be the best person you can be
  • They help you appreciate every moment, and notice the beauty around you
  • They think positively, and therefore act positively
  • They will lift you higher
…and together you will generate more positivity and kindness in the world ♥

Everybody deserves somebody who helps them look forward to tomorrow. If someone has the opposite effect on you, because they are consistently inconsistent and their actions don’t match up with their words, it’s time to let them go. It’s always better to be alone than to be in bad company.  ~

Marc and Angel Hack Life


Resistance is futile

“Everything changes, nothing remains without change.” The Buddha


The one thing that I struggle with – still – is a resistance to change.

As a Buddhist, I can understand the concept of impermanence.  

However I’ve had many years of good practice as a control freak, and it’s a hard habit to release.

I thought I would dedicate today’s post to reminding myself why change is firstly unavoidable, and secondly – a positive thing ♥

Top reasons why change is good:

  • Change is exciting.  There are countless possibilities in each new situation.  
  • Change brings opportunity.  If you decide to make it a positive, fun, and enjoyable experience, then that is what it will be.
  • Without change there is no adventure.


How to overcome resistance to change:

“Smile, breathe and go slowly.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

  • Accept that you can’t control everything.
  • Be aware of your thoughts regarding a fear of change.  Then let them go.
  • Accept things as they are.
  • Breathe deeply.
  • Meditate.
  • View change as a series of small events.
  • Enjoy life as a flow of change, chaos and beauty
  • Focus outwardly instead of inwardly
For me personally, I have noticed that when I am anxious and depressed I am entirely inwardly focused.
If I can shift my focus outwards – towards others, or other activities, then I notice a big sense of relief.  And of “perspective”.


“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them – that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” – Lao-Tzu


Be not afraid

Love is all you need

Special thanks to derekcheyyim for the suggestion for today’s post 🙂

“Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared” ~ The Buddha

Among all the helpful emotions developed on the Buddhist path, love is perhaps one of the most important.

It helps to ensure that a person’s spiritual life is based on healthy and open relationships with the people around them, and with other forms of life.

It also creates the right inner conditions for the heart to relax and be at peace.

It is usually easy to have kind and loving feels towards those people that we love – our friends and family.  Focusing on developing those feelings towards the people you care about is an important basis for developing a loving kindness practice.

The stronger the foundation of our loving-kindness practice is, the easier it is to expand our loving-kindness practice to those people towards whom we would not normally feel kindness.   The ultimate goal in developing a loving-kindness practice is to feel the same level of goodwill, love, friendliness, and acceptance towards everyone – friends and strangers alike.

The sense of “self” and “other” will fall away, and be replaced by an extensive feeling of open heartedness.

Here are some of my favourite tips for strengthening loving-kindness:

  • Practice loving=kindness meditation.  Here is a great resource to find out more
  • Be a good listener.  Listen fully and openly without thinking about what you are going to say next, or trying to offer advice or a solution
  • Smile at everyone
  • Practice random acts of kindness (RAOK’s)
  • Cook a meal for family of friends
  • Call or visit someone who is sick
  • Tell someone you appreciate them
  • Pass on feedback if you receive good customer service – let the person’s manager know
  • Be generous with compliments
  • Be positive
  • Share inspirational quotes
  • Be grateful for what you have
  • Treat everyone equally and with respect
And my favourite:
  • Act on feelings of warmth and compassion.  Don’t be afraid to express feelings of kindness and goodwill.

I am really excited about developing my own loving-kindness practice.

I have only recently started focusing on it intensively, and practising loving kindness-meditation as well.  However I can already feel a huge difference.

A real sense of an opening and softening of my heart, and a very deep desire to help people, and to ease their suffering.

It’s such a beautiful feeling ♥

May you be happy

May you be safe

May you be healthy

May you be peaceful

Join the kindness movement ♥

“To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded- Ralph Waldo Emerson -“

I created this blog because I feel passionately about spreading love, kindness, positivity and joy in this world.

I want to make a difference in people’s lives – if only to ease their burden a little.

Thank you to everyone who has followed this blog, and commented on our posts.  It means so much ♥

Please feel free to also join us on Facebook, and like our page

Our Facebook page contains a number of resources, links and updates on all things positive and kind.

We would love to see you there!

What exactly are your intentions?!!

Intention sets direction

All of us have different intentions that will arise – depending on the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

We can’t control those intentions, impulses and desires that arise, but we can choose whether or not we follow them.

The intentions you do act on define who you are.

There are many different situations that we face throughout life – some of them difficult – and most times we have little direct control over them.

What we do have control over is how we react to those situations, and with what intention.

Our intentions have a huge effect on our minds, and our behaviour.  And not only do they affect our ourselves, but also the people around us.  And subsequently how we see and experience the world.

For example if you have an intention to be kind and generous, you will mostly find that people around you will react positively and kindly.  Conversely if your intention is to be angry, you will likely be met with the same from those around you.

It’s nearly like “instant karma” where we can immediately feel the effect that acting on certain intentions has.  And this doesn’t just apply to our speech and actions, but our thoughts as well.  By practising mindfulness, you will notice how angry thoughts produce unpleasant sensations in your body.  And vice-versa.

The intentions that we live on also create a habit in the mind.  It strengthens those intentions, so the mind is more likely to react in the same way in the future.  If your intentions are mean-spirited, then you are strengthening those tendencies.  If your intentions are to be kind and generous and giving, you will also strengthen those conditions in your mind.

And the time that your unconscious intentions and reactions are most likely to arise is during times of stress and anxiety.

Practice exercises

Spend some time considering the following:

  • Which intentions do you act on?
  • Which intentions do you decide are useful?
  • What conditioning arises for you during times of stress?

And most importantly, spend some time asking yourself the following question:

“What is the deepest intention that I want my life to be based on?”

And how can you follow through on that intention?

All that we are is the result of what we have thought.  What we think we become”.  The Buddha.

I’m afraid it’s bad news

Unfortunately it’s always bad news…

If you believe the media that is.

I recently read a great post from Manage Better Now – which talked about “a little known secret that can make you considerably happier, and save you a great deal time.  Stop reading and watching the news.  ”

This is something I passionately agree with.

Everyday we are overloaded with news from so many sources – newspapers, internet, TV, radio, iphones, ipads ….

It’s easy to infer from the way the news is portrayed that the world is a very negative and dangerous place.

This is not the case.

The media sensationalises everything – because bad news sells.  The media’s coverage of events is skewed towards the dramatic.

How much good news do you see in the media?

I suggest you disengage from their world, and the perputual drama associated with it.

Use your time to focus on your own dreams, and what you want to achieve.

Concentrate on the positives…

The things you are grateful for, the things that are going right in this world.  The random acts of kindness, the generous and selfless acts that occur all around us (and get far less attention than they deserve).

The news we are provided with does not represent true reality.

Change your perception of the world – immerse yourself in good news.