HNYTYAY – 3 words for 2019

“Words are pale shadows of forgotten names. As names have power, words have power. Words can light fires in the minds of men. Words can wring tears from the hardest hearts.” ― Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind

If you haven’t worked out what the acronym is, it is “Happy New Year to You and Yours”. At this time of year, with the holiday period over and many people returning to work, it is a kind way, plus an interesting way, to wish someone a good year to come.

At this time of year, many people think of New Year’s resolutions:- losing weight; giving up smoking; stopping drinking; giving up meat; starting an exercise regime; learning a new language; starting a sport; travelling to new places; getting a new job; getting a new qualification; you name it. There are even lists of the more extreme and unusual resolutions, just try googling “unusual new year’s resolutions” to see some strange ones.

If you look at the list above, every activity is something physical. Now, take a moment and check out what was on your own New Year’s resolution list (if you have one that is)? I bet everything you have thought of or are putting in place are physical activities. Now, there is nothing wrong with physical activity, as you can track, measure and often see the results.  

How about something more thought-provoking? Something within yourself?

What I have been practising for a number of years, was something that I was introduced to by a blogger and marketer, Chris Brogan. If you would like to check out Chris’s 3 words for 2019, check out his latest blog:-

I have been following him since 2008 and have been trying, sometimes successfully, and sometimes not, practice the “3-word model” as a way to focus my activities, thoughts and outcomes for a year. As Chris calls it, these are “… lighthouses. Should I say yes to this project? Well, does this align with my three words?”

Too often we get caught up in the complexity of life, rather than the simplicity that a word or a series of words can bring to your daily activities and world in general. These words are memory triggers, something that you will be able to remember quickly once you have chosen them. Some of the guidelines that I have followed include:

  • Use a single word. Don’t make it a phrase. You won’t remember it and a single word is far more powerful.
  • Stick with the 3 words all year. Consistency is key to making this memory trigger work. I write them in front of the new notebook that I start at the beginning of the year. Yes, a new notebook for the start of the year. It gives me a fresh start feeling.
  • The word should be something that is actionable, rather than just trite (hackneyed and meaning nothing).
  • The words should have meaning to you personally and not something you think other people would expect from you.

So what are my 3 words for this year?

They are, in no particular order:- Zoom, Pausing, Touch

For me, “Zoom” means zooming in to focus on a particular task, something that mindfulness gives you the ability to do. It also gives you the ability to zoom out and gain a broader perspective.

Secondly, “Pausing” means taking the time to pause, to reflect, not to jump into conversations, arguments or issues quickly. I have a phrase that I try to follow “Pause, Reflect, Act” and this lends itself to this. It is a doing word, so continues the theme of movement from zoom.

Finally, “Touch”. Take the time to touch the world and not just gloss over it, rushing from one moment to the next. Take the time to connect to nature and the world around me.

Before the world picks up speed as we return to non-holidays, why not take a moment to sit and think about the 3 words that hold meaning for you this year. Why not share them?

I leave you with the following quote which made me smile.  

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” ― Leo Buscaglia

Using socks to meditate

“Sadly, my socks are like snowflakes, no two are exactly alike.” ― Graham Parke

I bet the title of this blog post made you stop and do a double take for a moment.

“Using socks to meditate? How”, you ask.

There is a large discussion that goes on as to whether you wear certain items of clothing when you meditate. Loose clothes; whether you sit on the floor, or on a cushion; whether you lie down and last but by no means least, whether you wear shoes and socks. I’m not going to get into that discussion here, rather, how I used socks to help some young people.

Outside of work, I help with a local scouting group. Imagine a hall with 24 teenage children, boys and girls, that are all trying to talk at the same time, engage and get involved in an activity. The noise level can be extraordinary. Last Monday evening, I helped out and halfway through the evening, felt as if my ears were shutting down, due to the excessive noise level. There are many different techniques to support managing such a situation; including using whistles or raising your hand. However, I had heard of one that really stood out for me.

Raising my hand to indicate silence; the room eventually quieted down. I asked the scouts to remove their shoes, take off their socks and make them up into balls. Strange looks and sniggers followed, but they did as asked.

Next, I asked for them to lie down on the floor, away from each other and place the sock on their stomach. Next, I asked them to close their eyes and imagine the socks going up and down as they breathed in and out.

For approximately ten minutes there was complete and total silence. Not a noise at all. Can you imagine 24 teenagers being quiet for more than a minute? I was amazed.

More than that, when I asked the children to open their eyes and put their shoes and socks back on, there was a noticeable calmness amongst the children.

Now would I suggest doing this in a work environment? It Depends?

For many people in a work environment; the thought of lying on the floor, the idea of taking their shoes off, let alone their socks, elicits looks of horror. You can imagine the thoughts going through their minds; ‘Lie on the floor near a work colleague? Do I have holes in my socks? Are my socks clean? I’m wearing tights, what do I do? Etc. Etc.’

It is rare to see work colleagues lying on the floor, and most practices I have been involved in have taken place sitting on chairs. However, I have seen practices in the workplace with people on the floor, using hand small hand sized bean bags or even a book. The weight is more than a pair of socks; alleviates the embarrassment of “sock removal” and for adults seems to work better.

The simple focus on the breath coming in and out for a short period of time does help – for scouts, as well as adults.

Go on, give it a go? What have you got to lose? Nothing.

By the way, apologies that I have not posted since August. I decided to take the summer off from writing blog posts, which then got extended into September and October due to work and personal commitments. ‘Normality’ has returned, so I will be posting on a regular basis.

Finally, the picture is of my socks! I do like to wear loud socks at work. Perhaps that was another thought going through someone’s mind.

I leave you with the following quote which made me smile. I love the works of Terry Pratchett.

“There should be a word for that brief period just after waking when the mind is full of warm pink nothing. You lie there entirely empty of thought, except for a growing suspicion that heading towards you, like a sockful of damp sand in a nocturnal alleyway, are all the recollections you’d really rather do without, and which amount to the fact that the only mitigating factor in your horrible future is the certainty that it will be quite short. ”

Terry Pratchett, Mort

Meditating when you paint

“Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.” ― Leonardo da Vinci

No, I am not an artist, nor even a painter. My craft is the more mundane, that of an experienced DIY’er. The house I currently live in is an old house and needs to be regularly painted on the outside, both the walls, as well as the windows, which are made of wood.

The walls are white and the windows were matt black. The last time the outside of the house was painted was approximately five years ago. A number of the houses in the village have recently been painted and look fresh and new. Our house was looking drab and needed to be painted. Rather than just repaint the windows black, we decided to paint them a “forest green” colour, to both brighten them up and also bring the house more up to date.

After purchasing the paint, and other preparation materials including brushes, masking tape, and sanding paper, I could not put off any longer the task of painting the windows any longer. With fourteen windows, a set of patio doors, a back door and a front door, this was a task that was going to take days. For each window, the preparation is key. Sanding down and making good the wood. Masking taping the glass to prevent the paint running. Then, as they were previously black, having to undercoat and prime, before the final top coat of weatherproof gloss.

I don’t know if it was Zen, but the focus needed to perform these tasks meant I was completely focused on the moment by moment activities. For a number of days, I have painted numerous windows.

Have I finished? Nope, not quite.

I have the front door and two windows to go. Have I found the task odorous? No, I have not. I have enjoyed every moment by moment focus on the task. That is what mindfulness gives you. We all have the native ability within us to be mindful, through training and practice helps. The next time you find yourself focusing on a task and for a moment find yourself “in the moment”, that is mindfulness practice.


I realise that there are mindfulness colouring books and painting books that are available. I just happened to do it on a much larger scale. I was given a mindfulness colouring book and will give it a try to see if I get the same result. There is a raft of colouring books available, some are here:

The picture I’ve used on this blog post is a stock image of the colour of paint I used just so you can see what it looks like.

I leave you with the following quote which made me smile. I love the works of Terry Pratchett.

“Some humans would do anything to see if it was possible to do it. If you put a large switch in some cave somewhere, with a sign on it saying ‘End-of-the-World Switch. PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH’, the paint wouldn’t even have time to dry.” Terry Pratchett, Thief of Time

A walk in the woods, time for peace

“Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people. ” ― Franklin D. Roosevelt


Outside of work and the family, one of my hobbies is helping out in the scouting movement. I remember when I was a youngster, being a cub scout and going to camps. There was fun, games, adventures and all along you were being taught life skills that many of my generations did not learn at school. For instance, how to light a fire with a flint and some cotton wool; how to map read (smartphones don’t always have a signal); how to cook on an open fire (how many BBQs have you been to where the food is incinerated); how to put up a tent; and so on. You get the idea.

As an adult, I have always wanted to contribute to the local community and support worthy causes. Scouting for me is one of those, so I am proud the be an active part of scouting. Scouting is growing and developing all the time. There are over 462,000 young people aged 6-18 (including 102,000 girls) in scouting across the UK. The flip side of being so popular is that there is a waiting list for youngsters to join.

Even with the advance of technology, there is still something magical about getting out and about in the woods, camping. And that is where I was this past Sunday. Supporting 14 teenage children helping them cook their breakfast on open altar fires. Followed by taking down and packing away their tents. Then a game of rounders.

For me, one of the most peaceful moments, was the walk into the woods first thing that Sunday morning. The silence. The calm and quiet. A time for reflection and a little bit of mindful walking. Being aware of the path. The tree roots and the stones. There was no one awake and the whole forest was at rest. There was no wind, so even the trees appeared to be silent.

Obviously, with lots of children about getting up (there were quite a number of groups camping); the noise level rose, but that feeling of peace was still there. Come lunchtime and it was time for me to head off home. My walk back along the forest path was as peaceful as the one first thing in the morning.

Whatever, you are up to this week, try to take some time out, to go for a walk. If not in a wood, perhaps along with a stream or river; perhaps around a local park; or even through some back streets of the place where you are. And as you walk, take the time to notice; really notice; the path that you are walking and the feeling of yourself as you move. The way your arms move, your feet as they are placed on the path. The warmth of the sun and maybe a breeze. Any smells or odors in the air.

Finally, if you are interested in supporting scouting and helping young people develop skills for life; why not go to the website to find out more.

There are many different ways you can help. If you have no idea where you can help, thee is a handy little tool to help ID where you
I leave you with the following quote.

“The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Doing verse Being

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” ― Bernard M. Baruch

Our lives are ordered by the things that we do. The activities that we undertake and the results or outcomes that are achieved.

We have developed our learning and development programs for children to reflect this. Kindergarten is a place of play and happiness, being in those moments of play and companionship. This changes as children start the education journey. Tasks, activities, and results start to appear from year one and by the time children enter secondary school education; they are completely focused on the doing tasks of goal achievement, SATs, exams, graduation, etc.

As adults, we are driven by the need to achieve; to get that result; or goal in front of us. Work-related; relationship related; lifestyle or even socially. Everything around us seems to be focused on “Doing” rather than on “Being”.

So what is the difference?

Doing – the act of making something happen through your own action. doings: things that someone does: things that happen

Being – the state or fact of existing or living; existence or life. fundamental or essential nature

There is nothing wrong with “Doing”, after all, we spend most of our lives in “Doing mode”.

However, take a few moments to read the following list and see what it does mean in the context of why it is important to be more aware of “Being mode”?

  • Do you find it difficult to stay focused on what is happening in the present moment? Does your mind wander off? Do you get distracted?
  • Do you tend to walk quickly to get to where you are going without paying attention to what you are experiencing along the way?
  • Do you get to the destination without realising or remembering how you got there? Often, it is when you drive a car and you get to your destination and do not remember the journey.
  • Does it seem as if you are “running on automatic”, without much awareness of what you are doing?
  • Does it seem as if the day has flown past and you can not remember what you have done?
  • Do you rush through activities without being really attentive to them?
  • Do you get so focused on the goal you want to achieve that you lose touch with what you are doing right not to get there?
  • Do you find yourself preoccupied with the future or the past?

So what is the “Being” mode?

The full richness of the mode of “being” is not easily conveyed in words—its is best appreciated directly, experientially and personally. In many ways, it is the opposite of the driven–doing mode and if often unique to each individual. The “Being” mode is not devoted to achieving particular goals. In this mode, there is no need to constantly to monitor and evaluate (“How am I doing in meeting my goals?”).

Instead, the focus of the “Being” mode is “Accepting” and “Allowing” what is, without any immediate pressure to change it.

Simply put, it is trying to live by the adage “living in the flow” or “live moment to moment”, whilst at the same time taking the time to recognise and observe that you are. Imagine as it were you are in an activity – say reading an e:mail. Instead of just reading the e:mail and responding to it; take a moment, just a moment; to reflect on the e:mail, the context of the message and the person who sent it. Chances are you will respond differently to the message than if you just read and responded. This is the “Accepting” element.

“Allowing” arises naturally when there is no goal to be reached, and no need to evaluate where you are in trying to achieve the goal. This also means that attention is no longer focused narrowly on only those aspects of the present that are directly related to goal achievement; in “Being” mode, the experience of the moment can be processed in its full depth, width, and richness.

What can help you develop a “Being” mode of thought?

Yoga can help. So too can meditation. For me, I use Mindfulness; being consciously aware and trying to be present. The various practices within Mindfulness are easily adaptable for everyone. Whether it is mindful walking; a body scan; befriending or the simple 3 minute breath exercise; there is a practice there that can help.

Go on give one a try and let me know how you get on. For reference to the various practices you can try, go to the following website for some free examples:

I leave you with the following quote.

“Do not let the memories of your past limit the potential of your future. There are no limits to what you can achieve on your journey through life, except in your mind.”

Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

In the Beginning there was….

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” ― Aristotle

In the beginning, there was…..

A raisin.

“A what? What on earth are you going on about?”

Let me explain and it will all become clear.

One of the first; possibly the most basic of all mindfulness practices, is called the Raisin Practice. It is the first practice in the eight-week mindfulness programme written by Doctor Mark Williams that I completed a few years ago (a link to the book and programme is at the end of this blog post if you want to find out more). You can use a raisin, or you can use some chocolate – though that tends to get very sticky and messy as you have to hold the chocolate for a while! It is a fantastic and simple way for people to be introduced to the world of mindfulness.

So what is the practice and how can you do it yourself or with others? The Raisin Practice is a mindfulness exercise that requires you to focus your mind on the present moment using all your senses – what you can see, hear, smell, taste, and touch. The idea is that by focusing all your attention on the raisin, you help to bring your mind into the moment and train it to notice the present.

A favorite of children’s lunch boxes, handing these out and using them with adults in a mindfulness practice can sometimes come as a bit of a surprise. The technique may sound simple, but being still and present can be hard, especially with such a small thing as a raisin.

I am going to be holding an introductory session on Mindfulness; being held via video skype; to a group of work colleagues. I will be using the Raisin practice as the basis for the session. So how on earth am I going to do the exercise?

I plan to have a colleague hand out the raisins and then follow the steps below:

How do you practice the Raisin meditation? Before you begin, find a quiet spot where you can sit down and relax. You might find taking a few deep breaths will help you loosen the body and bring your mind to the practise. Once you’re ready, pick up the raisin and hold it in your hand. The next steps follow your senses.

1. Look at the raisin. Really concentrate. Let your eyes roam over the raison and pick out all the details– the colour, areas of light and shade, any ridges or shine from the crystalised sugars of the fruit. Before moving onto the next step, close your eyes, as this can heighten your other senses and help you focus.

2. Touch the raisin. With your eyes closed, place the raison into the palm of your hand. With your fingers explore the raisin’s texture. Is the skin waxy? Are there any edges? Is it sharp? It is soft or hard? Does it feel bigger that what you saw? Sometimes it can feel bigger.

3. Smell the raisin. Bring it close to your nose (don’t stick it up there!) and breath deeply. Concentrate on any scents and fragrances you can detect. Does the raisin smell sweet? Or perhaps earthy? Has this triggered your taste buds, saliva in your mouth or made your tummy grumble? Do you notice any other smells?

4. Taste the raisin. With your eyes still closed, place the raisin into your mouth. Notice how your hand instinctively knows where to go. Don’t chew yet, just spend some time concentrating on how the raisin feels on your tongue. Turn it over in your mouth and feel it’s texture on the roof of your mouth.Take a single bite into the fruit. Don’t swallow it yet. Focus your mind on the sensations just released into your mouth. How does it taste? How does this develop as the moments pass? How has the raisin changed? Do the smaller pieces of fruit feel different? Can you taste sweetness? Caramel? Any bitterness?


5. Finally, hear the sounds you make as you chew the raisin. You might hear the crunch of sugars; the motions of your jaws; the movement of your tongue as it helps you to maneuver the chewed raison and finally swallow it. Do you feel the remains of the raisin as it starts to travel down your throat?

Now take a moment to notice how your whole body feels. The calmness. The stillness of the moment.

When you are ready, start to awaken your mind. You might want to move gently, slowly open your eyes and take a few deep breaths.

With the meditation exercise now complete, you can carry on with your day. You will notice though a deeper insight into the day.

As mentioned at the start of the post, the link to the Book, “Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world” is below. I have recommended this book to numerous people and they have found it of benefit, by following the audio guided eight week mindfulness programme. Check it out at:

Finally, as always, I leave you with the following quote.

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”  ― Ralph Waldo Emerson


…. Namaste ….

Declutter by 50% mentally as well as physically

“Keep only those things that speak to your heart. Then take the plunge and discard all the rest. By doing this, you can reset your life and embark on a new lifestyle.” ― Marie Kondō, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

With Spring in the air and the Easter break upon us; many people take the time to do what is known as a Spring Clean. Spring cleaning is the practice of thoroughly cleaning a house in the springtime. The practice of spring cleaning is especially common in climates with a cold winter and with this winter past us; it seems as if the spring clean bug has hit hard here in the UK.

Where does the term, Spring Clean possibly come from?

A possibility has been suggested that the origins of spring cleaning date back to the ancient Jewish practice of thoroughly cleansing the home in anticipation of the springtime festival of Passover; which they continue to do every year. Another idea is that it comes from the Iranian Nowruz, the Persian new year, which falls on the first day of spring. Iranians continue the practice of “khooneh tekouni” which literally means “shaking the house” just before the Persian new year. However, no one really knows.

What it does seem to be though, is a deep seated desire basic to de-clutter and clear up after the depths of the cold, dark winter, where we seem to spend a lot of time indoors.

I noticed over the Easter weekend that many people were out in their gardens, clearing leaves and dead items away; cutting the grass and planting new additions for the garden.

Others were cleaning windows; driveways and paths; or painting the outside of their properties.

Others were out running; cycling or in a couple of cases speed walking.

It seemed as if the mild weather, nature’s life bursting out and the holiday time, all coincided to give people the “Spring Clean & Declutter” bug.

Even in our house, we were tidying up; clearing the bathroom cabinet; taking unwanted items to the recycling centre and clearing the winter detritus from the garden. I also took the opportunity to clear up my laptop. After a recent rebuild onto Windows 10; I had not sorted out my filing; my browsing history or even the bookmarks that I had stored for up to two years, since getting the laptop new. This decluttering took an hour or so and in the process, I noticed, that I was clearing up about 50% of my files, my old history and past work.

It made me reflect that we also need to declutter ourselves as well; our minds as well as what those people were doing, exercising and running about.

So how do you declutter your minds?

There are many articles, even books written on the subject, but here are a list of tips I have found useful and continue to use:

Breathe: Slowly take a deep breath – counting up to six. Pause for a count of four. Exhale slowly for a count of up to six. Repeat. How does it feel? Great, right? Deep breathing is a simple yet effective technique to clear your mind, induce tranquility and improve your mood instantly. It lowers the heart rate, your blood pressure and helps your body relax. It is also one of the central practices of Mindfulness, which I practice and follow.

Learn To Let Go: It is important to let go of negative thoughts and emotions that make you feel bogged down. Eliminating negative thoughts, fears and concerns help reduce stress, boost self-esteem and frees up mental space. Monitor your thoughts regularly and try to replace your negative thoughts with positive ones. To help with this, try the next tip.

Keep A Journal: Journaling is a great way to relax your mind by crystallizing, analyzing and organizing your thoughts. Writing down what you are thinking can help eliminate intrusive thoughts about negative events and improve your memory. Think of the typical task list we all have written. Writing in a daily journal can also help manage anxiety and cope with depression, as it’s a healthy outlet to release bottled emotions, which you can not often express or share with others. It is your virtual counselor. You don’t have to be a writer to start a journal. For beginners, bullet journaling is one of the easiest techniques to use. As mentioned here, the next tip is….

Avoid Multitasking: Single-task as much as possible. Make a list of things you need to accomplish that day, that week and possibly even that month. Keep the to-do list simple and realistic. Start with what’s most important and make your way down the list, completing one task at a time. Don’t worry if you do not accomplish everything on the list. After all, for every set of tasks, you may only achieve 50%, and that is still an achievement!

Do a physical declutter: Go on have a go at a physical declutter. Is it a kitchen cupboard? Under the sink? Your clothes cupboard? The boot of your car? Part of the garden?  Whatever you choose, choose something where you can see clutter and possibly mess. Take it out, sort it out, choose what you want to keep and what you want to discard/give away / pass to charity. Put those items on one site and return the 50% (yes, it will be that amount). You will feel accomplished at the end of the exercise.

Finally, Take Some Time To Unwind: Last but not the least, take a break! Your brain needs to rest and recharge in order to perform smoothly. So switch off your TV’s, phones and laptops and do something that makes you feel happy. Whether it’s a long nap or a walk in the park. Do something that takes you away from the rush of your daily life.

If you have a tip or technique to declutter; I’d love to hear what you have tried. What has worked and what has not.

I leave you with the following quote.

“Accept yourself, love yourself, and keep moving forward. If you want to fly, you have to give up what weighs you down,” writes author Roy T. Bennett in his book The Light in the Heart.