Path to Serenity

Fill your bowl to the brim
and it will spill.
Keep sharpening your knife
and it will blunt.
Chase after money and security
and your heart will never unclench.
Care about people’s approval
and you will be their prisoner.

Do your work, then step back.
The only path to serenity.

From the Tao Te Ching
Give yourself a break today, stop before you are full, finish before everything is done – enjoy the acceptance of yourself and your work just as you are without driving on with the goal of perfection.
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When words speak louder than actions: the language of love

I was always led to believe the saying, ‘actions speak louder than words’. There is no doubting the logic in this statement. However, through my work with couples and studying my own and other people’s ‘languages of love’, I have come to realise that actions speak louder for some than others, depending on their language of love.

Margaret (all client identities, genders and names have been disguised) worked full time in a job and was a great cook. She woke early every morning to clean the house and iron the children’s school uniform. She cooked two evening meals, so she could serve her husband delicious food after the children were in bed, she dressed the table, she dressed herself, she showed up every day. This to her was absolute love and the dedication of actions. Sadly it didn’t hit the spot for her husband and he left. He was drawn to someone else who thought every joke he made was funny, who affirmed his intellect and who admired the dimple in his chin, whose first actions on seeing him were to hug and touch him. Words and touch spoke more loudly to this man. This man is not a lousy, ungrateful s**t. he, like all of us, needed to feel loved by his partner and he could not read Margaret’s language of love and she was unaware of his language.

Andrew complained to his civil partner, ‘I spent 2 hours sitting on the sofa with you last week, eating popcorn and watching a movie and then you say we don’t have quality time together!’. His partner was unaffected by time spent this way because his language of love was about touch and quality time which includes, for him, eye contact. Andrew had effectively paid into a ‘love bank’ in dud currency and had satisfied neither of them.

So what are the five languages of love? These can be found in Dr Gary Chapman’s book of the same name*. They are 1) Words of Affirmation 2) Quality Time 3) Receiving Gifts 4) Acts of Service 5) Physical Touch.

Would you feel the most betrayed if you realised your partner was flattering another person or cooking for them? If you discovered your partner had been touching another or had bought them a gift or mended their lawn mower?

I only realised this week that words speak louder than actions for me, despite the logic of the opposite position! I expect that people will do things that are thoughtless, or hassle, or mistaken, things that affect me, make me sad, or stressed, or angry and I don’t judge these actions as proof that I am not loved by them – I too can impact other people negatively at times. What really makes me feel unloved is lack of empathy; I can get very hung up on whether someone has apologised or not for inconveniencing me and I can forgive instantly if offered words of understanding and empathy, e.g. ‘I’m sorry I left that mess for you to clear up’ works for me because I feel understood, better still, ‘You are a wonderful and kind woman and I love you’, is a massive pay in to my ‘love bank’ and will keep me going for weeks! Like Margaret’s husband I don’t need someone to do things for me, I appreciate it but it won’t hit the spot if someone wants to make me feel loved. I set great store by, ‘please, thank you, sorry’.

The opposite is true of Manjit, when her partner is late, or leaves the house a mess or doesn’t ask how her day was, she feels unloved, unconsidered and that her feelings are unimportant. Manjit likes ‘acts of service’ and gifts. An apology won’t work. She does feel loved when her partner buys her a gift or surprises her by cooking dinner and when she remembers to hang her wet towel up.

Many people feel that working 24/7 so they can buy their partner nice clothes and holidays is enough and are outraged to then find their partner wants them to make love to them as well! As if what they are already doing is not appreciated, not enough. It all comes down to love languages.

If you are feeling unloved, today’s blog is not a reason to blame your partner. Feeling unloved is your unhealed issue, your partner may be triggering awareness of it but they are not causing it. We can rant and rave or secretly ‘bash’ and criticise our partner for our feelings but this will not deal with the fear within that we are not loved.

Healing Meditation

Take a moment now and close your eyes, go deep within, into your heart and there beneath the anger, the resentment, the fear and the hurt, just connect with your heart, remember you are a loving soul, full of love to give and let that love expand out with each breath.

Smile into your heart until your heart smiles back at you. Ask yourself, ‘how can I be more loving to myself today?’  What understanding, actions, gifts do you need? What words do you need to hear? Give these to yourself.

When you are ready, (whether this is today, tomorrow, next year), then think about how you can be loving in the world, how you can connect with the loving soul you are and let your true loving nature shine in your life. Ask yourself, whose language of love do you need to understand?

We are all unique and we are all different and while it is not our partner’s job or our family’s job to make us feel loved, it helps make the world go round if we take the time to show our love. If we show this in the language of love that the other person can understand then we have struck gold!


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* Or google the languages on the internet and you can do a quick questionnaire to find out your own language.


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I have the body of Wonder Woman!

Do you remember the pose? Hands on hips, legs firmly planted a couple of feet apart, spine straight and head held high? Last Saturday, Dr. David Hamilton had us hold this position for two whole minutes, in his seminar on the Science of Self Love at the Tree of Life in Birmingham.

Blood tests and observational studies of people holding this stance show increased confidence, and also increased testosterone and lowered cortisol (the stress hormone).

David also offered evidence from MRI scans to show that we can re-wire our brains if we keep repeating new patterns. These may be actual, for example playing a scale, doing a dance routine or they may be in our mind, we may simply be visualising managing a situation in a different way, the brain scans show the same result and repetition grows new pathways. As those of you learning an instrument probably know, practice doesn’t make perfect, practice makes fixed.

So it’s very important what we practice. Can you just pause for a minute and notice, what is your body telling your brain right now, what signals is it sending? And what are your thoughts telling your body? Just noticing may help you see more clearly the sort of repeated patterns of body and mind that have become your default way of being.

Our bodies, our thoughts, our muscles are all linked together and as you know, when I am teaching about the anxiety cycle, we can intervene at a chemical level (alcohol or prescribed drugs will temporarily reduce stress) or a physical level (I invite clients to focus on breathing, relaxation and posture) or a thought level (in therapy we look at the thoughts that are causing the muscles and the brain chemistry to cause a stress response) – whenever possible I encourage myself and others to avoid intervening chemically because we can alter our natural chemicals through working with the body and working with our thoughts.

I often liken our body to a blender or smoothie maker: If I press the ‘on’ button on my smoothie maker, it doesn’t think to itself, ‘I wonder if Miriam meant to switch me on or whether she just accidentally pressed the button when cleaning?’ or ‘I’m not sure if these pears are ripe enough to blend.’ The smoothie maker doesn’t reason or decide whether being switched on is necessary or fruitful (pun intended), it just responds to the switch. Our stress system is like this. If I think, ‘I’m late, it’s a disaster!’ I press the stress switch in my body, my body now produces the chemicals necessary to deal with a disaster and I have adrenaline racing around my system for what can be several hours. If something then startles me while my stress system is aroused, for example, another driver pulls in front of me, this adrenaline will be exacerbated.

So our thoughts can produce stress chemicals and our muscles respond, our breathing changes and our mood is affected. We can intervene by changing our thoughts, our body or our chemistry, they are all inter-linked.

depressed posture

I love this Peanuts cartoon, and Imogen from Body Intelligence and I use it on our International Body-Mind Workshops (there’s one this August 2nd, details below).  It was wonderful to hear David Hamilton (scientist, author and speaker) explain that due to neuro-plasticity (that means the brain wiring isn’t set permanently but is open to constant change) the work I do on my own development and with clients can make a difference quickly. Changing our self-talk and our thoughts really can have an impact, meaning that our brains change and this impacts our brain chemistry, our muscles and our health.

Changing our posture, can also change the chemicals in our brain. For many years I have known that the body work component of Gestalt psychotherapy can change our mood, and it was fascinating to hear how blood tests prove that different postures raise or lower our stress hormones, our cortisol levels. Of course knowing the theory won’t change us, it is action that re-wires the brain. If you haven’t read my posts on laughter yoga, the links are on this page. I honestly believe that I , and those I work with on a Monday morning in my Laughter and Happiness Group, have re-wired our stress responses through physical exercise and laughter exercises. We learn to laugh in response to triggers that might have once stressed us, like a visa bill, a traffic jam, the internet not working. We open our chests and breathe deeply – the signal to my brain is, ‘Miriam is clearly not in danger as her chest is open and her breathing is deep and her face is smiling’, my brain identifies this as happy and relaxed and produces the appropriate chemicals. This is why even simulated laughter has been shown to have the same health benefits as genuine laughter.

As well as the blood test results of those adopting postural changes, David was showing us brain scans of people who do repeated exercises (mental or physical) a few reps at a time with short breaks and how this massively increases the brain growth in the part of the brain being used. I don’t have all the references to the studies but you can find these in David’s books and on his website.

When Imogen and I joined forces to write and create our workshop based on the interface between Alexander Technique and Gestalt Psychotherapy she and I invited participants to focus on how certain thoughts fire our muscles into action. For example, Imogen invites participants to think, ‘I’ve got to do it now and I’ve got to do it right.’ Just try this for yourself now. Do you notice a change in your heart rate and muscle tension? Which muscles respond?

You can also try, ‘I can’t do it, I give up.’ What do you notice happening in your body now?

For many years as a Gestalt therapist, I have worked with the body, e.g.. ‘Try saying that sentence standing up, standing on the table with your arms open…. try saying that sentence curled up small, in a quiet voice…what differences do you notice in yourself..?’ and so on.

Alexander Technique teachers invite you to notice not to change, Gestalt therapists too invite you to notice how you feel in different postures or as the result of different behaviours. By undertaking Alexander lessons or psychotherapy we can learn to observe ourselves and we can choose to adjust ourselves in order to improve our wellbeing. We make the unconscious conscious and this gives us choice.

David Hamilton taught us that loving kindness, meditation and BODY MOVEMENT can all result in our arteries relaxing and widening. How great is this? Scientific evidence that love is good for our physical heart! Loving, kind and gentle people live longer. David’s new book about the science of self-love will be published in January and he’s doing talks and workshops on this at the moment.

If you are interested in learning more about your unconscious body patterns or thought patterns, then do come on the workshop on August 2nd with me and Imogen. It’s a relaxing fun day, we do floor work, teaching, experiential exercise and discussions. There are spaces for ten participants. Further reading on these topics you will find via David Hamilton’s website and on this website and on Body Intelligence.

So I have adopted a daily Wonder Woman practice, and by having the body of Wonder Woman for two minutes, I know I am now growing the confidence, the brain chemistry of Wonder Woman too!

Poster-2014  For the Body-Mind workshop on August 2nd 2014 is on this link.

You might also like my blog Mind Magic or a report about last year’s workshop.


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Laughter is Soul Medicine

Are you looking for a way to feel calmer and more balanced, to improve your health, your mood, or your connections with others?

You might think that laughter is a superficial answer to your problems, but please take a few minutes to think again, while I tell you why I became a Laughter Yoga Leader and Gibberish Professor.

I’ve posted elsewhere about the physical and emotional benefits of laughter but today I want to focus on what I see as the spiritual benefits of laughter. These I see as

• Taking a different perspective

• Choosing how we react

• Living with humour and joy

Very often the things that stress us are not as important as we think they are, and when we tell ourselves this is a ‘disaster’ our body responds accordingly, limiting our oxygen intake, tightening our muscles, increasing our stress. Laughter increases oxygen and relaxes us, but it also helps us take a different perspective. It’s quite funny really how worked up we can get because the internet is down, the washing machine broken or the traffic is slow. In Laughter Yoga we do exercises where we learn to laugh at the things we can’t change, such as our Visa Bill, getting wet in the rain or, as we practiced in December, receiving an awful Christmas present, or no presents at all!

From a psychological perspective the trigger is an event and the emotional response is a choice. Is it a disaster? Is it funny? You choose. The more we can choose that it is unimportant and not a disaster, the healthier and happier our systems will be.

Spiritually, I like to think of laughter as giving us the perspective of being able to laugh at ourselves, not in a cruel way, but compassionately. I think to myself, “Oh, poor you. You think your perception is reality, don’t you?”  For me, laughter can remind me these are just our human experiences, our training exercises, to help us develop our personality, our responses, our compassion and other qualities. It is necessary to have challenges so we can learn to choose our responses. And so many challenges turn out to be either assumptions in our own head, or situations forgotten about in the future.

In Laughter Yoga, we laugh for no reason, this means we are no longer dependent on other people or circumstances to make us laugh, we choose to laugh because it is good for us. It improves our physical health and our mood. This reminds me of Robert Holden’s ideas in Happiness Now! I remind my group participants that happiness is not, ‘when’ or ‘then’ (‘when I get that job’, ‘when I find my soul mate’, ‘then, when I was young’, ‘then, when I lived by the sea’) but happiness is there inside us, waiting for us to notice, to feel it and claim it.

This isn’t to say there aren’t times when we are filled with great sadness and then this becomes the emotion that most needs to be expressed. The perspective of choosing our responses to circumstances helps us be more resilient and to respond in ways that promote our health and those around us. For example, if we choose to get drunk in response to sadness or to overeat when we are angry, there are consequences for our health and for the people around us. If we choose to express our feelings appropriately, we minimise fall out and can move on more easily. If we have trained ourselves to laugh at the small stresses, we can devote our sadness or anger to the situation without feeding difficult emotions on into deeper intensity and distress when we then lose our car keys or the cat is sick on the carpet.

Roberto Assagioli, the founder of psychosynthesis wrote about the spirituality of laughter further in Smiling Wisdom:

Spiritual humour is a paradoxical combination of an attitude of serene and detached observation, the feeling of the oneness of life, and deep sympathy for and compassion with others.

From another angle, humour is the contemplation of the passing pageant of life….[the Sage] keeps his higher and real Self a detached and smiling spectator.

To attain such a state of inner freedom, it is necessary to use humour first of all toward oneself, gently making fun of one s little personal self which is so full of its own importance, giving itself such airs and taking itself so seriously, and which is touchy, restless and suspicious.

I invite you, me, all of us, to live with a little humour, to face the day with a smile, even if it’s a wry smile. Let’s take life a little less seriously. Laughter will increase your resilience so that when happiness is available you can choose it and take it, and when more painful feelings are appropriate you can feel more resourced to express those feelings clearly.

So when can you start?

This Saturday, 1st of March, I am beginning my

31 Days of Laughter

I am challenging people all over Facebook to follow my laughter tip for 31 Days and see if it changes their life. It’s easy, it takes a minute or two and you don’t have to travel anywhere or pay anything. Just click “like” at the top of my Facebook page and the tips will show in your news feed daily.

Of course if you want some more interaction you would be welcomed with a smile at my Laughter and Happiness Group. And if you can’t make it I will be posting laughter clips on my YouTube channel. In the meantime enjoy this clip of Laughter Meditation with me and my friends laughing, because we want to.


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Is Love ‘blind’?

I’m not a cynic and today is a good day to express my inner romantic and reflect on falling in love…

I was with a client a few weeks ago discussing her relationship problems with her partner and we were remembering the stage in her relationship of falling in love and questioning why this phase ends in relationships and empathizing with the hardships in romantic partnerships. My training and experience usually leads me to consider the idea of falling in love as a stage of projection and fantasy which is later replaced with reality. I was reminded of the phrase

Love is blind ….

But is it, I wondered? I reflected on falling in love, I reflected on the love I have for my children, my clients. No, I decided, love is not blind. Love sees beyond the dross, the issues, the dramas. When we fall in love, we see our beloved in all their pure potential, we see the beauty in their design, we see the person they are meant to be. Our love gives us hope and faith in that person and their love, hope and faith in us lifts us up to be our best selves. What a wonderful time that is!

I feel that in my therapy practice I am usually not dealing with a lack of love in relationships but really a lack of hope or faith or trust. Is falling in love just projection and fantasy? Maybe. Or is it more than that? Is it insight? Is it this second sight, or other sight that gives us the hope and faith to love on even once we are smack bang in the middle of the baggage?

Sometimes people say, ‘Only a mother could love him / her!’ as a way of describing someone they see as unattractive. A parent can see the beauty in their baby, their child, that is hidden to others. I see the potential in my children of who they are, who they were born to be, their talents and their beauty. Of course my children are the most beautiful to me – I see through eyes of love. I don’t think that makes me blind, perhaps it gives me a sight of something invisible.

It’s February 14th today, and I invite you to see through eyes of love today, your partner, your children, your clients, the people in your life. When we first love someone, we see past the dross, the flaws, the hang-ups. There is time enough later to complain later about the flaws, the small print, the catalogue of hurts that build up after the ‘honeymoon period’, but for today, let’s fall in love, and see the true soul beauty of others, beyond the daily aggravations.

I will be blogging more over the next few weeks about how we can get tangled in our closest relationships and hope to help you understand the problems and solutions, but today, I invite you to just see the highest potential of those you love. There is also a short healing love meditation on my website on this link to Student Resources, under audio links it is called Heart Meditation.

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Why Ho Ho Ho is the perfect affirmation for the Season!

It’s for many good reasons that I have dedicated December as ‘Look after yourself month’ at Blue Skies.

MIND – as a psychotherapist I know December is often a very stressful month for people with most of my referrals coming in January (straight after Christmas). Loss is experienced more acutely too. Family tensions and expectations, being busier at work and socially can all add to stress. The ending of the year isn’t always easy. I have some tips for soothing your mind in December.
BODY – many people are pushing on through tiredness and viruses trying to tidy up loose ends or create what I call the ‘airbrushed Christmas’ when their bodies are crying out to stop. When we do this I believe we are fighting nature, that’s nature’s way is there around us seen in the plants and animals. I have some tips about going with this flow rather than fighting it.
SOUL – This time of year is also a time for many religious and pagan festivals. As trees are bare, lakes freeze over, darkness is around us, we naturally turn inward.  In Chinese 5 element theory this is a time of deep reserves, of purification, in other traditions there are miracles of light in the darkness, of new birth and new cycles and beginnings. These are the profound reflections of winter time.

Miriam’s 7 Tips for December

1 Perspective in Goals

Start by deciding what you want December to be. Look for the goal and write it down. What is this about for you? Is is family? Giving? Rest and recharge? Spiritual reflection? Friends? Make sure you are clear what is important to you here, because as sure as anything you are going to have to make some compromises to the perfect picture and this will help you see what the important things are. Remember, “The main thing, is to keep the main thing, the main thing.” (Stephen Covey) so be clear what the main thing is.

2 Stop Comparing

This is important all year round and at Christmas a lot of pain is caused by these comparisons. The TV ads do not help, all those perfect family scenes which don’t take account of the bereaved, the estranged, the dysfunctional families. Everyone smiling and laughing doesn’t reflect tired, sad, sick people with real life problems. I strongly recommend not watching the ads at all. Don’t dwell on what you imagine everyone else has and you think you don’t. The increase in comparison thinking in December, in my view,  has a great deal to do with the winter blues.

3 Health Resilience

Pay extra attention to health and don’t overload your system with stress, chemicals, alcohol and food (at least not until the end of the month). You will need stamina to meet your goals.

4 Follow Nature

When you can, remember the trees going within and not producing, remember the bear hibernating. Nature knows what to do now. It’s a completely different energy this season, honour that and you will feel better. I’m usually a super-busy, super-productive person. Some years ago I noticed a my sudden and acute depletion of energy when the clocks went back. Two things helped for me: the first was not fighting this tiredness,  but hibernating, going with the flow being quieter. For the times I really needed to be productive, a light lamp worked to temporarily boost my energy.

5 Slow Down

Pause and breathe regularly this will help us remember to look back at our goals and to take action to boost our immune systems. Sing along to the Christmas songs, take a moment to look and wonder either at nature or decorations. Stop to breathe, stop to look, stop to listen and feel. Pause to smell, to taste, to experience what is around you.

6 Connect

This is naturally a time to go inward, we may experience inner darkness at times, we may look for hope, lack hope or contemplate light in the darkness or at the end of the tunnel.  The dominant religion in the UK, Christianity, celebrates God becoming human. Winter gives us time to connect with what is within, whether we see that as God, our true Self, Source or our feelings. Say hello to the deeper you when prompted. Going within is about resourcing (returning to Source) ourselves ready for spring.

7 Ho ho ho

“Ho ho ho”, is an excellent exercise for all of the above. Laughter boosts the immune system, turns off the stress arousal system and helps us regain perspective. It encourages us to not sweat the small stuff. In Laughter Yoga last week we laughed as we imagined receiving an awful present, and we laughed as we received a perfect present. We can laugh at burnt potatoes, we can laugh at spilling drinks, this helps us remember we can choose our responses and to keep the main thing the main thing! It will enhance other people’s moods, as well as your own, and the atmosphere around you and everything will become easier if you add some Laughter Yoga principles in (this is not sweeping things under the carpet, it’s keeping things in perspective).

My Lesson

I have huge amount of empathy for those who like me have learned these lessons the hard way. We all need to learn them easier!
I have taken a very difficult decision, after months of pushing on, to stop work and not work in December. The last couple of months, everything not work, the things that sustain me, have gone by the wayside as I have been poorly so seen clients and rested that’s it.
I couldn’t go dog walking, swimming, get to singing or yoga or meditation groups, I wasn’t seeing friends and missed family occasions and in the final couple of weeks when I started skipping even more basic and essential self care and was also unable to drive anymore I realised I had to stop work and put myself first.
I am doing an intensive look after yourself December – for myself and sharing it with you. My plan being that I will go into hospital as well as possible to give myself the best chance of a quick recovery. So I will rest and also feed myself better and do some gentle exercise and rest some more. I’ve been addicted to being superwoman in the past and I have to break this habit and walk the talk – I can’t talk self care to clients and run my self into the ground in front of them!
This blog is likely to have grammar and spelling mistakes because I decided to keep the main thing the main thing and share and connect with you, and not to sweat the small stuff – ha ha ha!
Look after yourselves please and have a wonderful December! There are daily tips, support and encouragement on Facebook which will be posted every day this month (yes there is a thing that does it all for me!) to keep you on track with the tips.

Hi-jacked by Fear

Do you ever find yourself saying or behaving in a way that takes you right off track from who you believe you are and want to be? As if you got in your car one morning to go somewhere beautiful and someone held a gun to your head and said, “No, drive straight to hell and no U turns!”?

You get up, you connect with yourself and centre, you know your purpose, you feel inspired and you’re on it. Twenty minutes later you are sabotaging your relationship, doubting your business opportunity, breaking your healthy diet, shouting at your children, procrastinating on living your dream.

What happened? Who is this person?


Our ‘Self’ has been hi-jacked by a sub-personality within us. Think of yourself as a whole cast of different personalities, The Joker, The Cook, The Grumpy Goblin, The Lost Kid, The Mischief Maker, The Entrepreneur, The Lover, The Dreamer, The Troubled Teenager. You know yourself, you know you have different aspects of yourself, and whether you like them or not, these are your sub-personalities. Parts that make up the whole. (Just to clarify this is a metaphor not a description of Multiple Personality Disorder or DID!)

I have what I call a “Cast List” of mine, I know their names and their behaviours. More importantly I have learned what their motives and qualities are, what they want and what they really need. Why is this important?

When hijacked it is important to begin negotiations with the hijacker. To find out what they want. What they want and what they need, in the case of internal hi-jack, is often different. We need to know our cast if we want to be the Director.

Why do our sub personalities hi-jack us like this? Because we have ignored them, don’t know them, don’t see their perspective, their views, their needs. We think we are better than them and haven’t time for them, then they threaten mutiny! Each time this happens and I explore, I discover that the real rabble rouser is a little gremlin in there called Fear, he starts small and he winds the sub personalities up! Fear, for example, that we will be overlooked, rejected, attacked, humiliated, is always behind a hi-jack.

I give you one example of my own, not too personal, just a bit! One of my personalities is a cheerleader, complete with pom poms and American accent. She’s so positive and chatty and loud and full of herself. I really did not like her, as she wasn’t very British, wasn’t restrained and was generally irritating and disturbed the peace. If I ignored her long enough, she would have moments of breaking out and talking and talking about herself and afterwards I would retreat into embarrassment, “Why did I say THAT?”, “Why didn’t I just shut up?”. So I had a meeting and a long dialogue with this irritating part of myself to find out her qualities and her needs. She is my wonderful publicist now, after I discovered that she had a fear I would not be heard, that she had a need to get my voice and my inner thoughts out there. She helps me with my blog and adverts and Facebook page. I love her enthusiasm and energy. By giving her space and a job she is able to meet her needs and I’m still the one in control.

It’s important that I am at the steering wheel, not my sub personalities, because I am the one who holds the whole picture of where we are going and why – this is my deep inner voice, the central ‘I‘ the one one that experiences what I call soul urge and inspiration, the part some call their ‘higher self’. Yet I am driving my destiny with a mini-bus load of sub personalities who all need various things (control, justice, order, love, freedom, fun, security, admiration and so on). We are in this together.

In order for me to remain the driver and not to be taken over in a mutinous hi-jack, I have to learn to listen to their needs. I have to respect them rather than hide them. Integrating and working with all our personalities is about becoming our true, unique self. Following on from other posts, we can only embrace and become who we are, and this may mean making friends with parts of us we don’t like too much and finding out more about them. Perhaps we can’t ever, “Live without fear”, but maybe we can befriend it.

That way the true self or soul steers us, rather than the rabble.

Miriam Granthier

UKCP Registered Psychotherapist / Senior Accred. BACP Counsellor and Supervisor

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Miriam’s Wednesday Breakfast Blog with Julie Creffield & The Fat Girls Guide to Running

This morning I’m chatting to Julie Creffield the founder of The Fat Girls Guide to Running. I met Julie last month in London on a Hay House Writers Event and we swapped business cards. I was immediately taken with what Julie is doing, and I have NO INTENTION of running, I might add. There is a spirit in her project that really appeals to me and I thought a breakfast interview would be a good place for me to find out more!


Julie in 2012 having just finished a 5mile run in the Olympic Stadium….ahead of Usain Bolt

Good Morning Julie! How are you and what are you having for breakfast today?

The fridge is empty so it’s a slice of toast with marmite and a cup of tea today. Breakfast is a really important meal, one I never skip. I try not to eat after 9pm in the evening so by morning I am starving. But I must go shopping this afternoon because I am out of milk and cereal is my normal breakfast of choice.

I’d love to know a bit more about your personality and how your discovery of yourself led you into your current projects. So how, and why, did all this start?

I have always had a zest for life, and I get bored easily. As a child I did dancing, football, judo, weighlifting, chess, stamp collecting, knitting, cross-stitch, brownies…you name it I did it. I loved to read too and spent hours and hours escaping into fantastical worlds and the lives of others. It’s no different for me as an adult, but now I’m frustrated at not having the time to explore everything the world has to offer. Its a shame we have to work really cos that seems to take up so much time.

Oh yes, I agree, Julie. There’s so much out there that we could engage in. We have lots of ways of stopping ourselves, but I don’t think you have stopped yourself engaging. I suppose you could have let weight be a reason for not engaging?

It was after having a full-time job for a while that my issues with my weight really started to become apparent, there were other factors too, but sitting at a desk didn’t help…I was working on the London 2012 Olympics and trying to inspire people to take up sport, so I had to start taking my own advice. I embarked on a weightloss and fitness journey which seems to be never ending, I started writing a blog a few years back when I was training for the London Marathon and it didn’t take long for me to realize that what I had to say was of use to others. I am a FAT girl that runs, and there are hundreds of other Fat runners, or Fat women that would love to run that just don’t have the confidence or the know how. My weight has been up and down, my running is on and off and just to throw a spanner in the works I am now a mum too. But the one thing that I try to communicate to my followers (and remember myself) is that it’s not your body that is letting you down, it’s your mind. Its is your mind that runs a marathon, your trainers come along for the ride, and your body pays the price in the aftermath.


Julie’s changing shape

That’s so true, but I really value that you got on with doing what you wanted without letting yourself get over involved in your weight!

What do you do and do you have a ‘typical day’?

I am currently a full time mum and I am also using this time to focus on my writing and my fitness but I don’t really have a typical day as such, and I like that. Much to my Fiancés annoyance I start checking messages sometimes as early as 5am, I have lots of readers from the USA so a lot happens while I sleep and I love nothing better than seeing who has joined in the debate overnight.

My daughter Rose is 8 months old and at that stage where she is in to everything. She is full of beans just like me and loves having my full attention, so I do bits of work whilst she is napping or playing, but its never enough time to do all the things I would like to.

I am currently training for a Spring marathon and am struggling to get out the 3 times a week I need to, so sometimes I set up a circuit in my front room, and Rosie joins in the fun too!!

It’s really interesting to see the person behind the project and I always find it easier to relate to a real, rather than perfect, person. Do you see a connection between what you do and what I do at blue skies?

I think the connecting theme is that of hope. When you struggle with your weight it can seem hopeless at times, hopeless and lonely. The topics I talk about and the debates I start help me to reach out to individuals who often say they have nobody else to talk to about these issues. But I also show them through changing your mindset and making small lifestyle changes that anything is possible.  “Oh I could never run a marathon” is something I hear nearly everyday and I always respond in the same way “Says who?” I don’t for a minute suggest I have all the answers and I am not by any means at goal weight myself, but I am an advocate for running as an expression of my zest for life, I may not be the most speedy or elegant of runners but I get out there and I run.

I think ultimately, we are both about enabling people to become better versions of themselves. I am currently working with 15 overweight ladies from across the globe, preparing them for their first Spring Marathon, I get so much satisfaction from seeing them reach their goals, and believing in their own potential for the first time. Many of these ladies could not run for more than 1 minute when we started in May, some of them are now running 5K and 10K races, and last weekend I flew to Lisbon to run with one lady who was attempting her first half marathon. She was awesome, and finished over 15 minutes ahead of me. (It was 29 degrees with no shade so I think she had a home advantage).


Yes, I think we both offer hope and encouragement. I would also say we both adhere to the idea of working with what you have, being who you are and not striving to be someone else, so a self acceptance and a self care approach to happiness.


Julie mile 16 into the London Marathon

What do you see your purpose or message to be?

My message is simple. If you are overweight and would like to run, you should be able to run, without fear of abuse or ridicule or without the struggle to find fitness attire that…well fits. My purpose, well I feel like that is something which evolves daily, I have never thought too much about my next career move, things have always fallen in to place just when they need to.

Any message for our readers?

Embrace and work with the body you have now, don’t obsess about the body you want in the future because that’s when self loathing begins and the journey seems too difficult. Our body is the most amazing thing we have, its ability to heal itself and put right the mistakes of our youth astounds me. Run while you can, because you never know when you won’t be able to run anymore, and if you seriously can’t run yet then walk, get up, get out and get moving.

Hear hear! That’s fantastic, Julie, I hope this interview will spread that message even further – readers, please ‘share’.

What would you like to happen in your future, Julie, do you have any further ambitions?

I would love to be able to work on the Fat Girls Guide to Running concept fulltime, and not have to worry about finding a job to pay the bills. I would like to get my book of the same name published to take my message to a more mainstream audience. I have so many ideas for people and organizations to work with. I would love to lead an international campaign to force sports brands to ALL manufacture technical kit larger than a UK size 16…oh and I would love to run my next marathon in under 5 hours.

I feel very enthusiastic about your project, I think your enthusiasm is infectious. Your ambitions sound realisable and I look forward to seeing you interviewed on TV and coming to your book signing.

So what does today hold for you?

Today I have a meeting with a UK athletics run activator about setting up a running club for new mums. I already run a huge international running club, well it’s more of a running event really but the participants are very loyal and come back every month for more. The event is called onebigfatrun and it is a FREE virtual 5K designed especially for plus sized runners, we have people from all 5 continents take part the dream is to get 1 million plus sized runners take part.

This evening when my partner returns home I will try and get out for a quick run, the winter is on its way and I don’t like running in the dark, but there is no other way right now and I have to keep my eye on the prize.

A FREE virtual 5K? I look forward to hearing more about that. 

Thank you so much for having breakfast with me today, Julie, I’m feeling inspired and enthused and I am sure our readers have enjoyed our breakfast too. 

And finally, how can readers hear more from you or contact you? What are your contact details?

You can subscribe to my blog at

Follow me on twitter @fattymustrun

Like me on Facebook

Or email me at

I’s love to hear your views on the issues I raise, and don’t be afraid to share my blog with your networks…you don’t need to be fat to join in… you don’t have to like running either. But be warned the sneaky question of. “I wonder if I could?” has a habit of creeping up on you.


And Remember October is Blue Skies Self Esteem Boost Challenge over on Facebook!:

Simply pop over there on this link and click ‘like’ at the top of the page to receive tips, ideas and inspiration, in your daily newsfeed, for remembering you are perfectly imperfect!

You can also sign up to receive Miriam’s blog direct to your inbox on the right of this post.




The Way of Imperfection

“It is better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to live an imitation of somebody else’s life with perfection.”
― AnonymousThe Bhagavad Gita


Last week, I was reflecting on how empathy is a powerful re-iteration of the paradoxical theory of change. Instead of saying, “Don’t be like that”, to ourselves or others, we sit with compassion with what is. And I discussed how we change when we stop trying so hard.

I don’t wish to confuse effortlessness with irresponsibility or with inaction.

Responsibility and choice are exciting and challenging concepts in Gestalt therapy. It is one of the paradoxes of being adult that we are responsible for our choices and our behaviours, and yet we have to make choices and decisions all the time, without ever fully knowing the consequences. At best, our choices are educated guesses, often based on past experience. It’s not always easy to distinguish between the familiar old pattern and the intuitive gut instinct, for example.

We cannot move forward without making some mistakes. We will continue to make the same mistakes if we do not learn from them.

My personal belief is that we cannot help what we feel, but that we can choose what we do about it. I might feel angry, but I choose whether I gesticulate rudely at the driver who just cut me up. I may feel afraid, but I choose whether I wish to retreat or move forward, I may desire that chocolate bar, but I choose whether I eat it or not.

I prefer not to label feelings as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, simply comfortable or uncomfortable.

Some believe that simply the anger or the desire are in themselves wrong and immoral – I do hope this is not the case or I am certainly doomed, as I have a wide range of feelings, urges, responses to life! I also think that  if we find it easy to resist the chocolate or the bad behaviour it’s hardly a great feat or success to have taken the appropriate action, if it was so easy in the first place! Where is the virtue if we don’t have to struggle a bit?

So do I label behaviours as ‘good’ or ‘bad’? This is usually over simplistic, maybe behaviours are ‘wise’ or ‘unwise’, ‘helpful’ or ‘less helpful’, with positive consequences and negative consequences? So while I like to withhold judgement regarding my feelings or other people’s feelings (I certainly never think – “Oh he shouldn’t feel that!”) I find it important to judge my behaviours, or to evaluate the consequences of my behaviours and to use my judgement to modify or change my behaviours in accordance with feedback or results.

How easy it can be to be, oh so righteous  - “I would never do that”!

I am cautious of judging others’ behaviours in this self righteous, self protective way (how do we know what we would do in certain situations until we are in them?). It’s usually an avoidance of facing our own shadow when we do this. They say ‘pride comes before a fall’, or as I prefer to see it, humility saves humiliation. 

When it comes to difficulties in life, and we all have to experience the results of our unwise choices and decisions and to learn from them, we usually beat up on ourselves and compassion for ourselves may be very hard to find. It is interesting that as I judge others so much less I find I have more compassion for myself.


Given my own capacity for beating up on myself, I believe that others who feel they have messed up are unlikely to need my judgment as much as my compassion.


Remember October is Blue Skies Self Esteem Boost Challenge over on Facebook!:

Simply pop over there on this link and click ‘like’ at the top of the page to receive tips, ideas and inspiration, in your daily newsfeed, for remembering you are perfectly imperfect!

You can also sign up to receive my blog to your inbox on the right of this post.



The Paradoxical Theory of Change


..change occurs when one becomes what he is, not when he tries to become what he is not. Change does not take place through a coercive attempt by the individual or by another person to change him, but it does take place if one takes the time and effort to be what he is — to be fully invested in his current positions.     Arnold Beisser, M.D.


The paradoxical theory of change found in Beisser’s article is one of my favourite Gestalt concepts. I’m reposting an old blog today, to start off October’s Self Esteem Booster at Blue Skies. You can join in 31 days of self acceptance by ‘liking’ my Facebook page. Tips will be posted each day.

It struck me again today how the person centred values of empathy and being non-judgemental are not just ways of creating a nice, fluffy therapeutic environment but that they are radical and political and turn the world on its head. They assume what the paradoxical theory of change assumes, that we do not need to change others or ourselves.

The Gestalt therapist rejects the role of “changer,” for his strategy is to encourage, even insist, that the patient be where and what he is. He believes change does not take place by “trying,” coercion, or persuasion, or by insight, interpretation, or any other such means. Rather, change can occur when the patient abandons, at least for the moment, what he would like to become and attempts to be what he is. The premise is that one must stand in one place in order to have firm footing to move and that it is difficult or impossible to move without that footing. (Ibid)

So often we say, “I’m trying”. Trying to lose weight, to finish our essay, to relax, to stop crying, to get it right. Trying doesn’t work half as well as being. Stopping trying is radical. Compassion, non-judgement and empathy for ourselves and others, support this radical step. Imogen said to me as I tried to relax my shoulders, that she often teaches her students, “if you are trying, you are not doing it”.

When we try to be who we are not, we stay more and more stuck in a cycle of attempting the impossible and of failure to become someone else’s version of us. When we are compassionate and accept ‘what is’, who we are, then profound change happens, we move by standing still in acceptance. Less effort can be more productive. At a physical level this is what I experienced from my experience with Alexander Technique last week and psychologically, I know my brain function improves when my physiology is relaxed.

Sometimes we seem to need to justify our expression of feelings, “It’s because I’m tired  / hormonal / it happened before / I had a bad week”.  Why do we feel we have to build a court case to simply be? I sometimes explain to my clients that when we sneeze, blink or hiccough we don’t go into long justifications, we know we are blinking because we need to blink, we don’t feel a need to explain this. So is a weep or a shout or and excited jumping up and down really so unacceptable we have to apply for permission, quoting extenuating circumstances, before we can experience and express it?

What would it be like to just BE, to stop trying and and justifying and explaining? Effortless, I imagine.