Interviews

Calm Soul Journal: An interview with Greta Solomon

Greta Solomon Hello there! I'm totally chuffed to be welcoming back the Calm Soul Journal interviews. If ever there was a time to glean some wonderful wisdom from these soulful lasses it is now. Calmness and self care is at the top of my list as I continue to navigate the murky waters of grief. So it's with great joy that I introduce you to Greta Solomon, a writer, journalist and so much more. And she has the most amazing smile...enjoy : )

Tell me a bit about yourself?

I’m a writer, author, journalist, PR, mum and expat wife (a Londoner living in Oslo with my Norwegian husband and our daughter). Since 2012, I have run a communications business with a small ‘b’. For me, it’s more about living my mission than becoming the next Richard Branson. I’m also a former vegetarian who would love to be vegan, but eats far too much chicken for that to happen any time soon! 1. What does having a calm soul mean to you?  

1. What does having a calm soul mean to you? 

Well, one thing I’m working on right now is improving my daughter’s digestion through the use of a healthier diet and probiotics. One day I drew her a picture of a stick figure with a nice round tummy and a smiley face on it. I told her that’s what we want for her – to have a happy tummy.

And I guess that having a calm soul is like that. Feeling in the pit of your stomach that you are happy. You know when you’re not. You know when your gut is telling you that you’re frazzled, burned out, angry or upset. Having a calm soul is a quiet knowing that everything is going to be OK in the end, and if it’s not OK, then it’s not the end.

2. How do you find calm in your everyday life? 

They get such a bad press, but I love reading gossip magazines. In fact, I love reading pretty much all women’s magazines. In a typical month, I’ll get through four copies of OK! and New! Plus, Red, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan and Psychologies.

Reading a magazine gives me a pocket of time for myself where I can really relax and switch off. And at the same time I can get inspired by new ideas, read the work of talented journalists and see what’s new in the shops.

As a writer, I need time at my desk writing in complete silence, but I also need to be out in the world. So one of my favourite calming things to do is to go to a café to read a magazine and / or write in my journal. Aside from my paid writing work, and the writing I do for my business – being able to write freely and just get all my thoughts out is so important.

I still drink tea, but I cut out coffee last October, and that was one of the best things I’ve done. In hindsight I see just how much coffee made me feel tense and wired. Other than all that, I love listening to Tracy Chapman, especially All That You Have Is Your Soul and The Promise.

3. What happens when you lose your sense of calm? 

Physically, I find that my whole body tenses up, and I feel teary – and sometimes like I can’t think straight. I’m a bit of an empath, so if I’m in places where people are super stressed, it’s easy for me to pick up on their turmoil. In that case, I’m also likely to feel drained, or like I want to run to the cupboard to grab something to munch on.

When I married a Norwegian and moved to Oslo, I faced upheaval after upheaval after upheaval, which definitely affected my sense of calm. Within a year, we had met and married and I left London, and a great PR job. I got pregnant less than a year later and started my business at the same time. Four months after my daughter was born, my book Just Write It! was published, but there were lots of things to do before the publication date. I was even doing edits from my hospital bed.

Since becoming an expat, I found the following quote by Anatole France very helpful: “All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves.”

It’s made me realise that despite being happy, and thankful, to have found the love of my life, and to have the child I longed for, it’s OK to feel sad about the people and things I’ve left behind. Luckily, I have a very supportive husband and lovely friends (in Oslo and London) and I make regular trips home.

4. Please can you share any particular calming ritual or process that you have? 

If I’m feeling less than calm, then I find that moving my body helps a lot. My favourite thing to do is to walk for at least half an hour. I love to walk through the city – through the life that is happening all around. I need the buzz of the city to swallow up any anguish, as I find the countryside just magnifies it. I’m the kind of person who wants to walk through a busy street, grab a takeaway chai tea and purposefully pound the pavements.

I also like making Spaghetti Bolognese from scratch. Chopping all those vegetables is very therapeutic, as you’re forced to be mindful.

5. What one thing/bit of advice would you recommend to others to create calm in their everyday life? 

I recommend carving out a little space to write, and doing journaling, free-writing, object writing – or a mix of all three.

Object writing is a technique I learned nine years ago while studying lyric writing. It was originally invented by Berklee College of Music professor Pat Pattison in order to help songwriters write better lyrics. I love it as it frees you up creatively, which helps you to feel great.

Put simply, it involves taking an object and writing about it using only your seven senses. So, you look at – or imagine – the object and focus on what you can see, hear, touch, taste and smell, the movement of the object and how you feel about it. You then do this in short bursts of 90 seconds, five minutes or 10 minutes.

You have to intensely concentrate while doing object writing which gives a busy mind a rest. Plus, freeing up your creativity in this way can help pave the way for finding solutions to the things that trouble you.

A huge thank you to Greta for this inspiring interview and sharing her wisdom. Greta also writes on her creative personal blog which I can highly recommend, full of poetry, insights and soul. 

About Greta

Greta Solomon is a Journalist turned Public Relations Consultant who lives a curiosity-driven life. She has a psychology degree and has studied life coaching, teaching, lyric writing and acting. Check out her personal, creative blog at www.gretasolomon.com

Calm Soul Journal: An interview with Claireylove

claireylove

This week I am delighted to be joined by Claireylove, a lifelong poet and teacher in training who shares her own insights of how she brings more calm in to her everyday life for the Calm Soul Journal Interview series. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself...

Above all, I’m a poet who’s fascinated by our ongoing journeys of becoming who we are, and the moments of grace which bless and guide us along the way.

I live in Birmingham, UK, with my husband and our youngest son, who’s fourteen and our three scrappy tabby cats. Our eldest son started university in Scotland in September, so this autumn has been a time of adjustment to this new era in our home life. I call it my wild woman phase.

Like many gentle souls, I’ve written poetry since I was a teenager. But for me, it’s a practice that’s never gone away. I’ve had some success in publishing in small literary magazines, but there have been times in my life that I have found the whole process of submission and the rejection that comes with it, too distracting.

Poetry is about connections and their ambiguity: how meaning, sounds and images create associations and how these associations are interpreted. Writing poetry can help us to make connections about the events and patterns in our lives. It strengthens our intuition and satisfies our souls’ deep need for spiritual meaning

I’ve shed previous roles of daydreaming school girl, riot girl literature student, stay at home mom and dependable but depressive administrator, and now I’m embracing my next step along the journey: training to teach and creating a poetry shaped life.

What does having a calm soul mean to you?  

A calm soul means first of all accepting myself ~ my strengths and my weaknesses, my hopes and disappointments. It’s part of a bigger picture. It’s hard to have that moment of peace if you know that you’re in a job that deadens you or your finances are a mess. A calm soul moment is a moment in a life that has clear values and clear direction. You don’t necessarily need to know where you are going, but you need to know your direction of travel.

What does a calm soul feel like? It’s like the gentle, rippling water of a duck pond ~ sunlight dappling the surface, ducks and geese gliding along together all carrying the potential for flight at any moment. When I’m fully present like this it means I am ready to write a poem and learn a lesson.

How do you find calm in your everyday life?

I am learning to go easy on the expectations I have of myself.

As a lifelong, card carrying introvert, I just recently I noticed the weirdest thing: I had become calmer during my ‘outside’ work life, more so than when I was working from home (my work life is split pretty evenly between the two.) This is disastrous, as without these calm soul moments the poetry doesn’t rise to the surface. Anxiety blocks the flow of my creativity.

Unpicking this, I realised that how calm I am depends on how much pressure I put on myself. So, in working outside of the home, my work is fully pre-prepared (on a good day!), and I know that there is nothing else I can do other than deliver well and be positive. However, I’d got into a rut at home that meant daily to do lists were really the size of weekly to do lists and I was putting pressure on myself to be ridiculously productive.

So this is my current practice of calm. I try to have a sense of realism when creating my to do list. I keep in mind the bigger picture of the direction of my travel, rather than scattering myself with lots of little tasks. In those moments when I slip and I realise I am expecting too much of myself, I pull back and remember to above all be gentle with myself. Without the gentlest of expectations of myself, it’s like I chase the poetry away. And there is no poetry shaped life without poetry at its heart.

What happens when you lose your sense of calm? 

The hissing snakes of my to do list rise and spit in my mind. I get a sense that I am super human and expect more from myself than I’d ever dare to expect in others. Because I am naturally empathetic, sometimes I find myself trying to be all things to everybody. When my offers of help to other people affect my own work schedule I know I have a problem. It’s not pretty. Especially when I shame myself by thinking of the people I imagine I am letting down.

This is part of my transition from dependable but depressive administrator to wild woman creatrix.

  

Please can you share any particular calming ritual or process that you have?  

A calm soul starts with a calm mind, and for me this means meditative prayer. It’s a recent practice (I started this summer and used Morton T. Kelsey’s ‘The Other Side of Silence’ as a guide). At first, during these moments of meditation, my mind was a writhing pit ~ full of fragments of my to do list rising with a sense of pressing urgency.

I’ve learnt that noticing this mithering, worried part of mind is part of the process of meditation! So, in those first few minutes, what has been dominating my thinking will rise to the surface. I’ll know then what has to be dealt with or challenged and let go of throughout the rest of the day. For the rest of the meditation I ask the Holy Spirit to fill me and guide me throughout the rest of the day. Writing and becoming is a deeply spiritual process

At the end of my ten minutes I will intercede with any prayers for others that are on my heart. I find the best time to journal is just after meditating. It gives me a clear sense of what I need to focus my mind on to move forward.

What one thing/bit of advice would you recommend to others?

If you are struggling with high expectations of yourself and the anxieties that come with this ~ try meditation.

I have a Christian meditation practice but there are so many to choose from which relate to different spiritual practices, or none at all. Do a little bit of internet research and you’ll find guidance for trying a type of meditation that will suit you.

Be prepared to be surprised at what the conscious stilling of your mind will bring up. If you feel that something has been holding you back, then practising meditation is almost certainly going to bring up that mysterious holding force and help you to get a clearer look at it.

I benefit from meditation because it has helped me to see how rotten some aspects of my thinking about myself had become. For some time I worked a job role that expected me to put other employees and the needs of the organisation above any of my own needs. It affected my self-confidence at a deep level of thinking about myself. Improving this thinking through meditation has given me some clarity and is improving my intuition, helping me to own my new path of writer and teacher. It is hard to be intuitive when you have low self-esteem because it is impossible to see yourself clearly. Use meditation as an opportunity to learn about yourself and get a clearer idea of the calling upon your life

Finally though, don’t have too high expectations of what your mediation practice will actually look like!

Even on a good day, meditation might go something like this:

clairepoem

©claireylove (2015)

A massive thank you to Claire for sharing so much about her approach to calm living in this interview. I highly recommend her poetry, it's the best soul balm this side of Brum. I especially love Will not accept gravity ~ my favourite poem of last year. 

 

claireyloveClaireylove is a teacher and poet charting a journey of becoming and moments of grace along the way. She shares her poetry shaped life daily on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/claireylove/ and weekly on the blog www.claireylove.wordpress.com. 

 

 

Calm Soul Journal: An Interview with Nichola Veitch

nicolaveitch

Welcome to the first of the Calm Soul Journal interview series.

As part of my efforts to bring more calm in to my life and soul over the last few months, I started to get curious about how some of my fellow blogging sisters find that often elusive sense of calm in their everyday lives and if there was anything we could learn from them? There is!

This week we meet the wonderful Nichola Veitch, a big hearted Yoga Teacher based in Edinburgh.  I love her blog and her desire to help people find their own inner wellness through yoga, healing, nutrition and self care.

Nichola, tell us a wee bit about yourself...

I'm a tea drinking, nature loving bookworm. Officially, I'm a yoga teacher, reiki practitioner and health coach in training. I'm passionate about working with people to explore ways they can live a more healthy, happy life. I spend my days practicing and sharing the magic of yoga with others by teaching classes and private sessions. I'm always studying because the more you learn the more you discover there is to learn.

When I don't have my nose in a book, I'm walking my dogs in the Scottish hills, discovering delicious healthy recipes in the kitchen, and writing - sharing my musings on my blog.Calmsoul journal questions:

What does having a calm soul mean to you? 

A calm soul brings about a feeling of contentedness, a quiet inner smile and a feeling that all is well, regardless of how life appears. It’s an inner state. I can flow with life through each change that comes my way. A calm soul brings me to a state of inner peace and acceptance, no resistance to what is, no analysis of how, when or what if. The struggle has gone. Dare I say it is blissful. To feel anchored in my inner being, feeling I can ride any wave and not get swept away by the ever-changing tide. How do you find calm in your everyday life?

Meditation and yoga are at the heart of my practice. Bringing these into my morning routine helps me to feel more calm throughout my day by creating more space between my thoughts and reactions.

When my mind is spinning and I find myself in overwhelm, I journal. Writing out my thoughts helps me to understand what I really think and feel. Then I know what’s actually going on and how I can help myself. When I need some time out, that’s when going out for a walk can really soothe me. I find nature to be a powerful calming influence on my heart and soul. I can ask myself questions and allow space for answers to arise naturally. I always return feeling clearer, a little lighter in my being and with a plan of action for the rest of my day (I like a plan ☺).

What happens to you when you lose your sense of calm? 

I feel rattled, irritable, with an overriding sense of unease and restlessness. It’s not pleasant for me or anyone else around me. I find negative thoughts creeping in, I become lazy and avoid practising yoga or making the fresh juice or healthy meal I bought all the ingredients for and I generally do not feel good.

I think sometimes we have to allow these feelings to have their way with us. But I put a time limit on it, no weeping and wallowing Bridget Jones style! Some days are for drinking tea and reading a book, watching your favourite show on Netflix, or talking it over with friends. I find by allowing some time out, when I come back to my work or healthy routine it tends to flow effortlessly again and my sense of inner calm returns.

Please can you share any particular calming ritual or process that you have? 

To come back to my breath. Using the breath to release tension and stress or to calm an anxious mind works wonders for me.

One of my favourite breathing practices at the moment is to inhale deeply through the nose, drawing the breath down into the tummy, inhale some more and fill yourself up completely. Hold the breath – feel the space inside increase and then exhale sighing out through the mouth, feel the tension flowing out of you.

This is great to practise lying down, feeling your body growing heavier and heavier as you release and let go with each exhalation. Repeat this 3 – 5 times, or as many as needed.

I’ve shared more about breathing practices here.

Practising yoga helps thoughts and feelings to move through my body, leaving me feeling lighter and happier. And writing out my thoughts through journaling helps to let go of spiralling thoughts that are clogging up my mind, then I can find peace in meditation.

These practices work for me every time, whether it takes a day or a week, they eventually help me to move through tension and worry and bring me back to myself, to a feeling of calm, inner knowing and trust.

What advice do you have for others who are wanting to create more calm in their lives? 

Find your own self-care practice that brings you to a place of inner calm. Find that thing that while your doing it, nothing else gets in, thoughts drift into the background and you’re fully present in the moment while practising that activity. Those are the things that are very nurturing and healing for you. They will bring you to a place of inner stillness and calm.

Find what works for you. There is no right or wrong. No analysis. Tune in to what feels good for you. Perhaps you enjoy writing, reading books or poetry, drawing or painting, horse riding, yoga, meditation, walks in nature, jogging, cooking, whatever it is for you.

You may need to create space in your day to reflect on what you enjoy doing and how you can bring those activities into your life.

When life gets crazy, and you feel like you’re drowning, these activities become your lifeboats back to the shores of sanity, back to a happy, healthy life. For me it’s yoga, meditation, walks in nature and journaling, find the ones that work for you.

Finally, this bookworm cannot turn down an opportunity to recommend a book. I recently read and loved Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and loved her message; to commit to your creative self and give yourself permission to just do it, not for recognition, or any other reason than it makes you feel good. Give yourself permission to play. Let your creativity run free, without judgment. Allow yourself to express your creativity in your own beautiful way and notice the positive changes it brings into your life.

A Huge thank you to Nichola for sharing some truly thoughtful wisdom and experience with us. I especially love the combination of yoga, breathing and journalling. You can find Nichola's beautiful and inspirational website at www.nicholaveitch.com.

 

img_4083-1.jpegNichola is a book-loving, tea-drinking, heart-centred yoga teacher, Reiki practitioner and health coach-in-training. She is trained in various yoga traditions including Sivananda, Ashtanga, Vinyasa Flow (all forms of Hatha yoga), and Kundalini yoga as well as training in Yoga Therapy, Yoga for Children with Radiant Child, and Perinatal Yoga with Birthlight.  Her training continues with Shiva Rea in Prana Flow yoga, which forms the heart of her teachings.Her soul purpose is working with people who are ready to make a change to their life.

She is passionate about sharing the magic of yoga and a healthy lifestyle to support a happy, balanced life. Her aim is to guide you to slow down, let go, and reconnect to yourself, paving the way for a life you love. One that loves you back!