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Contemplation

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Moving with Mindfulness in the Landscape

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I walk along a near-empty beach and find my way to a black rock revealed by the receding tide.  Tenderly I lie down on my side and edge backwards so that the length of my spine rests against its face.

My body is laid on damp sand, my knees curled up in front of me and my head resting on my hands.  I drift into sleep under the watchful eye of Golden Cap, the highest point on this coastal section of Jurassic Dorset.

 

The density and stillness of the rock engenders a corresponding stillness in me so that when I awaken I am alert yet my mind is empty.  No instructions were given; the wisdom of my kinaesthetic body led me to this and it is nourishing to both my body and soul.

The harsh gaunt cliffs are like sentinels behind me, slumping their mass of black clay into the sea while fossil hunters risk their lives at the foot of them.

Rivulets of clay emerge from the base of the cliffs like molten lava coursing across the sand towards the sea. Shards of sunlight pierce the clouds and spotlight my dance across this rocky tide line.  I feel at home here.

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This is what Moving in the Landscape means for me.  A time when I experience myself most physically alive.  A time when I give my body permission to move in response to the immediate natural environment, in this instance the beach.  I have three glorious days of this ahead of me, the mornings spent in the studio in preparation for the afternoons when I am moving outdoors.

As my body finds ways to move naturally and organically in this unfamiliar terrain, I discover ways of moving I'm not accustomed to.  It’s a terrific workout for my whole body while my mind takes a break from an overloaded routine.

As my rib case expands my breathing deepens and this has a calming effect on my nervous system. My headache has cleared and my movements are no longer dictated by thoughts running through my head. I move with a new-found freedom and vitality.  I am present, centred in the very ground of my being and at one with nature.

 

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Sunflowers, bullfrogs and no Costa   

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I never grow tired of flying into the beautiful city of Toulouse.   It's aptly known as La Ville Rose because of the pink terracotta bricks used in many of its buildings.  It's a wonderful place to explore on foot - for a romantic weekend perhaps - with the majestic river Garonne coursing through it.  The boutiques, restaurants and cafés are decidedly chic and it's very easy to part with your euros.
 
Toulouse is also the landing spot for my Soul Alive Retreat.  There are flights here from all over the UK but I favour British Airways from Heathrow Terminal 5; it's easy and accessible.  Then it's only a 45-minute drive to the villa in this lesser known department of SW France where you can quickly feel as if you're stepping back in time.

I host two Retreats a year - in the late Spring and early fall.  In June, everything is bursting forth with new life.  In September the weather is still glorious and the grapes just harvested to make the delicious Gaillac wines for which this region is famous.  

The Retreats take place in the tiny village of Vieux, which means 'old' if your French is a bit rusty.  You won't hear a plane passing overhead but you may hear a tractor passing through or a busy bullfrog if it's the mating season.

Our home from home for six days is the 14th century property called Le Presbytere and we have the exclusive use of it.  It sounds a bit 'churchy' doesn't it and that's because it was once the home of the village pastor who took in weary travellers on the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage trail, which passes right outside the door.  

The solid wooden door of Le Presbytere stands opposite the old church built at the same time.  It's the perfect location for head-weary folk to take time-out from their uber-busy lifestyle to rest and regroup. We use the villa and its charming gardens in the mornings for creative contemplation using the somatic arts and mindfulness practice as starting points.

Not confined to the walls of villa, however, we venture forth to a different restaurant each day for lunch. The afternoons are spent exploring the Tarn Valley with its picturesque Bastide hill towns and countryside peppered with sunflowers and vines.  A suitable balm for the nervous system and the opportunity to stop ‘thinking’ and ‘doing’ and to absorb the riches that life offers so naturally and abundantly.

You won't find Costa on every corner here, not even in the city.  I take my hat off to the French for honouring their traditions and preserving their history so tastefully.

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With your own en-suite double room, this is a rare opportunity to take time-out to muse and to linger on whatever you fancy and to escape the need to be on call to anyone. 

I encourage people to switch off their mobiles and not access the internet for these 6 days for their own benefit  - but I don't forbid it!  Out of respect for others I ask that any connection with the outside world is made quietly and discreetly from your own room.

 

Maybe September suits you better the weather is still glorious and the grapes just harvested to make the delicious Gaillac wines for which this region is famous.  Just let me know.

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If you've hit a metaphorical brick wall or know someone who is rather jaded and in need of a break, this all-inclusive Soul Alive Retreat might fit the bill.

 We can always talk it through by phone on 0782 7017188.  

Or I'm happy to meet for a coffee if that's practical.

A toute a l'heure, Mary

 

One participant from Sweden recounts her experience:

"I enjoyed Mary's week-long retreat very much.  A beautiful place to stay and beautiful places to visit.  I particularly liked the combination of inner work in the morning and exploring the surroundings in the afternoon.  The silence before breakfast worked well for me and the writing, drawing, and sharing activities gave me a lot of useful insight and inspiration." 

"I've continued writing and drawing since arriving back home.  I've also been out into the woods gathering mushrooms and into the garden to pick apples for baking and juicing.  A lot of creativity was aroused in me during the week and this has helped me find my way through a career change soon after my return".  

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#retreat #humanspirit #self-reflection #contemplation #timeout #sensuous #possibilities #mindfulness #sensoryplay #intentions #creativity #mindset #goals #hope #passion #motivation #inspiring #inspired #somuchlove #supported #encouraged #motivation #thelittlethings #progress #gettingcreative   

 

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A single women's heart's desire

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Most single women who make a Vision Board have in the back of their mind the desire for a partner to share their life with.  I often see images of couples in an embrace or enjoying each other’s company.  It’s rare the vision board maker is so brazen as to pick an image of a couple quite blatantly getting married.  But on Anne’s board there were two!

Anne was in a long-term relationship of 16-year duration.  During this time her partner had proposed a couple of times but Anne hadn’t been ready for it.  Her hands were full running a family business, which she’d taken over from her parents, and she’d been raising two children too.  Because she couldn’t see her way beyond these commitments, her partner had dropped it.  So when the images of wedding couples first appeared, she assumed it was to do with her son getting married.

Five months later it was a different story.  She had now sold the family business and shed the all-consuming identity that went with it.  She was entering a new phase of her life with a different set of needs and values emerging.  Not surprisingly, marriage seemed entirely appropriate to her now and it was she who popped the question to her partner - who readily accepted.  It was only after this she remembered the images of the two wedding couples on her Vision Board.

When people are making their Vision Boards I always encourage them not to plan in advance what images should appear.  The creator begins their exploration with an empty mind and a blank sheet of paper. And I continue to go to great lengths to ensure their cognitive mind is occupied in order to give their intuitive intelligence the chance to have a voice. 

If a single woman desires a relationship - yet an obvious representation does not fall into her hands on the day of the workshop - then I encourage her to leave it alone.  It's safer to assume it’s not part of her programme for the foreseeable future and she has other priorities.. 

Obviously she can still willfully find a picture and stick it in the centre.  However, in the grander scheme of things, this might be a distraction and cause her to miss out on something important beckoning to her, if she'd stayed out of her own way.

I speak from experience.  For four years the only images of men I found were either in the distance or with their backs towards me!  I had to accept for whatever reason I needed time alone and kept following the signs to learn what was required of me in the interim.  In retrospect I can see that what I’d been doing would have been quite difficult had I also been developing a relationship as well.  C’est la vie.

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Diamonds are forever.  There's one final twist to Anne's tale.  Within a month of completing her Vision Board, Anne came across a craftsmen and fell in love with a stunning pair of his earrings.  She told her ‘James Bond’ partner about them who gallantly purchased them for her. 

 

Now take a closer look at her Vision Board above.  Can you see how Anne had already pictured a pair of earrings next to the couple getting married – and next to the same couple, a picture of daisies in a similar shape and style to the diamond earrings?  Magic! 

So here’s to a woman’s heart’s desire and to the James Bond’s of this world willing to meet it, warm wishes Mary.

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#visionboard #arttherapy #imagination #family #craft #crafting

 

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 Too much to do and not enough time? Five good reasons to favour a Retreat

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A client was musing-out-loud recently and touched on something that resonated with me and possibly is true for many of us.

"I have too much to do and not enough time.”
“But when I get time, like on holiday, I can’t sit still for long because I want to explore where I am."
  

“It's just occurred to me the kind of ‘free time’ I really need is contemplative time just to be still and with my own thoughts and to take more notice of what's going on around me."

"I'd need a specific environment and particular conditions to provide me with this kind of free time.”
“So a holiday is not the ‘free’ time I need.  It's something else... like your Retreat!”

 

Yes, there is a big difference between taking a holiday and all the joys and pleasures it brings versus the virtues of taking contemplative time-out just for you.  

I've been running the Soul Alive Retreat  for five years now for the purpose of giving people time to themselves because:

1. You have too many plates spinning and it feels relentless  

While you’re busy spinning the plates, it’s impossible to decide which ones to drop.  Yet continuing to spin them - and more - is exhausting, especially if you’re being pulled in different directions at the same time.  

Recognising that you have a choice and deciding what changes to make is impossible when you’re in full spin  Taking time-out on a Retreat allows your head to clear and the better, alternative options become evident.

2. You're starting to snap at 'nearest and dearest'  

In fact, they may be part of the problem!  No kidding, I’ve often thought I should rename the Soul Alive Retreat “Escaping Housewives” - not that they’re exclusively for women.  It’s just that typically women leave it too long, giving so much of themselves to others; we forget to balance this with receiving - until we’re so replete and desperate to leave 'them' all to it.  

When you go on holiday with your partner, children, or friends – delightful as it is – they naturally want a piece of you so you’re still on call 24/7.  There’s no time to switch off completely and be idle and daydream with your thoughts and feelings.  On a Retreat you can.

3. You need to take stock of where you are in life because it’s been too long

Trundling along in the daily routine, there’s very little time to rise above it all and get a hot-air balloon perspective of what’s going on below.  Continuing as is, you could end up at the wrong destination before you know it.  Much better to get that higher perspective and make any adjustments now before it's too late.  

Not that any course is irreversible. It may just take a little longer to get back on track, beginning again where you are and at whatever age you’re at.  I know that one.
 
4. You've had a recent loss or change in circumstances

Hitting a wall can happen to any of us at any time – whether through health issues, bereavement, relationship problems, a career change – this is life.  The difficulty arises when you can't address this properly  because you’re so preoccupied with it, sat right in the middle of the situation.  

You cannot figure out a way through when you’re knee-deep in.   You must step back from the wall in order to come to terms with it and to receive the inner guidance you need to determine the next step… and the next.  This is the grace a Retreat offers you.

5. You have a ‘dream’ that won’t go away.  

It keeps nibbling at your ankles to get your attention and you keep pushing it to one side because it’s not convenient.  

The truth is that there’s never a perfect time to begin so why not start now.  The mind will always come up with very good reasons for you not to pursue the dream  - or to delay its start.  By going off-duty on Retreat you can see a way to begin.  You’ll also gain the support, energy and motivation to keep going.  Remember providence can move with you only after you’ve taken the first step. 

If any of these 5 reasons resonates with you, a Retreat will serve you well.  

There are many types of Retreat you can choose from but whatever the focus, its ultimate value is to restore balance, repair your sanity and improve your well-being – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.  When you stop being swept along by the agendas of others and start favouring your own, it's life-promoting.  

This requires longer time-out than an hour’s therapeutic or coaching session, valuable though they all are.  To make a deeper, sustainable connection to your self and to receive the powerful guidance this can provide, requires you to slow things down and slip into a more spacious experience of time and rest there for a while.  

A Retreat isn’t a selfish activity.  Returning home feeling good about yourself, empowered and confident, you have more to offer your loved ones, your work, and the world in general.  You are making a  solid investment in yourself, your happiness and well-being - and this is priceless.

If the promise of six unadulterated days to yourself lights your fire, consider joining me and other ‘blazing’ women.  

Please RSVP below or email mary@marynonde.com.   I’ll send you details about the Soul Alive Retreat in SW France, which rolls twice a year.  Set in beautiful sunshine and countryside bursting with life, this is an opportunity to be still, take stock of where you are, and arrive at what needs to happen next.

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#humanspirit #self-reflection #contemplation #timeout #sensuous #possibilities #mindfulness

 

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Your body never lies...

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When I attended a 4-year dance-movement therapy training, there was a performer in my group from  a prestigious London Contemporary Dance school.  Karen had a vast movement repertoire and a highly tuned body.  This was her first real taste of dance-movement improvisation however. 

During the  first module she touched on something through free movement and began to cry.  Something that had been buried in her subconscious for years was surfacing but she didn’t yet know what. 

As she continued to explore over the months/years so too did she unravel memory of incest that had remained a family secret until now.  The trauma now surfaced completely to be released, her shame located and healed through movement, simply by allowing her body to move of its own accord, at its own speed, with its own mode of expression.  The result can be more immediate than any verbal analysis. 

When Karen later turned her experience into a performance piece, her sister was in the audience.  Without providing a verbal description of what her piece was about, Karen conveyed her story through the dance.  Her sister received it - through her body - and remembered her own experience of incest that she too had buried.

I don't want to suggest this happens in every somatic movement or dance-movement therapy session.  It’s just to illustrate how informed the 'soma' (the inner intelligent body) is. 

Here's a more typical experience from Caroline, whose husband bought her a movement session as a present. 

“Wow … I want to give a shout out to Mary Nondé.  After a 2-hour movement session with her I feel like I’ve had a deep massage and my body is aligned in a completely new way; I feel freed up and relaxed at a whole new level.  

“If you’re feeling stressed, stuck or want to be more in your body, I would highly recommend this.  It does require you to be open to moving and really get into your body, and to park the old thinking brain for a while.  But that was a relief to be honest!” 

Caroline Burr, Your Relationship Coach.

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When one door closes another one opens by making an Intuitive Vision Board

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Recently I was faced with a conundrum.  I was ready to let go of my lovely flat in Marlow which had served me well for two years, yet where I was to move to instead was a mystery. With my daughter due back from University any minute for five weeks, I chose to park fretting about it and enjoy my time with her instead.

About a week later out of the blue a very good friend called me.  Her mother had just died after a long and graceful decline and she asked me if I'd go over the next day and give her some Reiki.  As I lay my hands on her shoulders, she said:  “Mary would you like to come and live here until I get around to selling this house.  You can finish writing your book.  There’s a room for Celine too.  And Willow is accustomed to sleep overs here anyway.”  I was gob-smacked - and delighted. Here was a clear way forward without me having to use willpower and must to arrive at it.

I recalled the two doors at the top of my Intuitive Vision Board: one door closed and the other slightly ajar. When the imagery of front doors appears on Vision Boards, it frequently represents moving house. Front doors often and also sit in the “Career/Path in Life" area of the Bagua map used in Feng Shui, which is the entry point of chi into the home and the area to work on to encourage movement generally.  I had no plans to change home when I made this particular Vision Board but the deeper part had clearly known otherwise. 

"Hidden Treasure."  The words alongside the two doors resonated with me too. The value of the intuitive work I do with Vision Boards is to help people to reclaim their hidden treasure - the diamonds in their back yard which so often get overlooked because they're right under their noses.

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Ou est Marie? Now folks to find me you cross the white ornate bridge with Marlow behind you and zig-zag up the steep gradient of Winter Hill, heavily populated by cyclists at weekends since the Olympics.  Be sure to take in the wonderful view from the summit before dropping into Cookham Dean and coming to rest at my friend’s home nestled in the trees opposite Herries prep school.  All that playful, creative energy coming my way surrounded by nature.  It affords me the perfect environment to complete the writing of my book. 

We have our own dance studio too. YES!  Since we’re both dancers we’ve dedicated the large open-plan lounge, with floor to ceiling views of the garden,  to somatic movement. Now anyone wanting to book in for a dance-movement session it's easy peasy.  Drop me a line using the sign up below, or email mary@marynonde.com, or give me a call on 0782 7017188. 

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"I'm not interested in how people move but what moves them"

Pina Bausch, dancer and choreographer extraordinaire strikes a powerful chord.  Dance is not just about technical perfection which means only a minority should pursue it.  It's also about giving the soul a voice through movement.  And this practice is inclusive and as old as the hills.

I’m in the throes of learning West Coast Swing.  There’s a woman in my class who’s in her late 70s.  You’d never believe it to see her move, let alone the way she dresses.  She always has a big smile on her face when she dances, while her husband is at home watching the rugby.  I’ll wager a bet on which one of them lives the longest.

While I’ll always try my hand at any dance form, the method I believe offers the greatest potential for restoring your equilibrium on all levels has no prescribed form.  It’s organic.  It’s natural. And has nothing to do with following the prescribed moves of the teacher. 

The fastest route to stillness.  I currently call my practice Moving with Mindfulness. I used to call it Dancing for Joy.  But since we're all very familiar with the concept of mindfulness, it requires only a small stretch of the imagination to see how mindfulness applied to the whole moving body can have a marvelous effect.  It's also described as Somatic movement.

It’s the fastest route to stillness, returning you to the inner river-of-life and at a pace and a rhythm that is nurturing for you.  And believe me, anyone can discover this for themselves.  You don't have to be a dancer to arrive there.

With the impulse to move arising from within, who's to judge whether it’s right or wrong, good or bad; it is as it is.  You have total freedom to be spontaneous.  

With the subtleties of movement taking priority over getting steps right, this practice creates a bridge to deeper intelligence which is impossible to language through words alone.  Carl Jung called this engagement with the unconscious 'the active imagination'.  To explore this way is both liberating and delicious - like arriving home to your playful self after a long time away.

Moving with Mindfulness is an embodied practice that awakens your creative spirit and refreshes your relationship with your living, breathing body.  As you grow to recognise what it is you feel (through the sensations, intuitions, emotions and instincts that arise naturally), so  too your trust in your yourself to know what's right for you grows.  

When you over-ride these feelings because you don't understand their value or can't find a file to put them in can leave you disenchanted with life - and then wondering why.

If you'd like to find out more about what moves you please drop me a line: mary@marynonde.com or call 07827017188.

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#dancemovement #organicmovement #naturalmovement #somatic #imagination #sensoryplay #presence #embodiment #phenomenology #kinaesthetic #engagement #relationship #responsive #sensuous #standyourground #gettingcreative #confidence #connection

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Being comfortable in your own skin is worth more than the bigger house.

A personal epiphany that began 8 years ago ...

My relationship with Catherine began when she attended my weekly dance-movement class. What a great class it was too! Both men and women lapping up that liberating feeling that moving freely to music gives you.

Catherine arrived without expectations.

Since she’d never done any dance-movement improvisation or expressive art before, she anticipated Moving with Mindfulness would open her up to new experiences and she was ready to bring them on.  

After these classes she came along to make a Vision Board with me.  

Then she joined me for two Soul Alive Retreats in a row.  

More recently she returned to the studio for a Moving with Mindfulness workshop. 

“My creativity has snow-balled," she says.

And finally Catherine is now embracing Feng Shui & Decluttering as a valuable mainstay for living an authentic life.  As a person inclined to hold on than let go, she would never have believed she'd find herself getting into that at the outset!

I remember Catherine in her first class.  She had a big smile on her face throughout the movement section.  But when it came to capturing on paper what was alive and moving through her in that moment, she declared that she might skip this because she had trouble drawing anything beyond matchstick men.  I gently told her it was not about being artistic but giving her inner creativity a voice .... and so she continued to draw.

Reflecting back on this 8 years later, she recognises the limiting beliefs operating and had been in place since her childhood.  But working with expressive creativity over time has helped her to salve these wounds – not that this was visibly top of her agenda at the outset because she wasn’t aware she was holding those beliefs.

As the only child growing up in the early 50s, her mother worked in the home while her father was the breadwinner.  She remembers with fondness her mother encouraging her to cut out images from greetings cards and sticking them into scrapbooks. Colouring in was also very popular and she enjoyed that too. She cannot remember being encouraged to do any freestyle drawing.  “You simply weren’t allowed to unless you evidently had a talent for it.” How curious is it that artistic talent is expected to descend on us from the heavens without any cultivation while other subjects like Maths, say, don't carry this expectation. 

When it came to writing, the pressure for Catherine to get it right, "i-dotting and t-crossing" she recalls, removed any joy for her and burdened the task with perfection.  This was before the days of computers; writing was long-hand - and in pencil - and you were only allowed a rubber if you were lucky. In using a typewriter, any mistake required you to rip out the paper and start all over again.

Hardly surprising Catherine developed a creative block – a fear of committing pen to paper in case she got it wrong and was reprimanded.  Coupled with the fact that she was the youngest in her year group, resulted in her repeatedly finding herself near the bottom of the class which was tough on her self-esteem.

She remembers her mother as the grounding force in her life, consistently encouraging Catherine in all her extra-curricula developments including amateur dramatics and Scottish dancing.  Then suddenly age 10, her mother died.

Catherine’s first thought as she watched her mother being wheeled into an ambulance from an upstairs window was: “Oh no, there’s going to be lots of letter-writing now!” 

Catherine was left alone with her father and dog.  After 10 months of being shunted between relatives, Catherine arrived at a Royal Masonic boarding school at the other end of the country.  To her horror she’s learned that she would be required to write home every week.  From school she went to catering college and from there took a job as an au-pair girl in the South of France.  Returning to the UK for a holiday, she stayed with a friend in High Wycombe and has lived and worked there for 40 years since - and still thinks of herself as a Lancashire lass at heart!

"I am convinced that the creative journey enabled me to become fully myself for the first time ever."   What a profound realisation!  Catherine believes that by eradicating her fear of not needing to be perfect restored her confidence in herself. And with my encouragement, she came to realise it was more than ok to just do it – move, write, draw, make – and not have to worry for one moment about the end result because the transformational power was in the process itself.  

"It could be make-believe, abstract, representational – whatever.  My creative expression didn’t need to be anything in particular.  I came to trust that it was only and always about me being authentic with whatever I was feeling, sensing or imagining at the time.  This enabled me to become unstuck from my old story, which was most liberating.

Her journaling and freehand drawing has continued in spurts.  Over time Catherine has clearly observed themes emerging in her writing as she reflected on issues she was working through at the time.  

“Journaling slowed me down and allowed me to look over my own shoulder so I became much more self-aware.  In the beginning, the theme of 'time' was very evident in my creative work, particularly during the first retreat; what I was doing and how I was spending my days preoccupied me.  

I’ve now moved into a ‘sifting and sorting’ mode that comes out in my journalling too.  It also compels me to condense, clear and clarify all my belongings and this focuses my mind and body in the home.  It's highly creative and productive work yet demands a lot of my energy so I can only get stuck-in on my days off.”

With only 12 months to go before retirement, Catherine’s creativity is clearly preparing her for this major life transition and will guide her in deciding “what next?”  The sorting helps her prioritise what is truly important and how best to arrange her life for easy access to this – and to ditch the rest.  

“What began as an exercise in ordering my material things has turned out to be all about sorting me out - and it’s very satisfying.”  "I am now very clear what my life is about and what I truly enjoy.  As a young woman I needed to be accommodating in order to survive.  I've now released the need to do so and I only accommodate what is right for me." 

"I can see how the creative process opens doors to different people in different ways depending on where they are in their life.  For me it’s been all about my giving myself permission to be authentically me.”

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#humanspirit #self-reflection #contemplation #timeout #sensuous #possibilities #mindfulness #sensoryplay #intentions #creativity #mindset #goals #hope #passion #motivation #inspiring #inspired #somuchlove #supported #encouraged #motivation #thelittlethings #progress #gettingcreative

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