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Your story. How did you become interested in slow living? Was there something specific that provoked your interest?

When our second baby was born in 2010, I was living a hectic, fast-paced, stressful life. I was desperately trying to keep up with the Joneses, trying to maintain the facade of having it all together, trying to cope with the pace of modern life when I was diagnosed with severe post natal depression. I was anxious and overwhelmed and exhausted, and as a result of the depression I started to see a psychiatrist. She asked me one day if I’d ever considered slowing down or simplifying my life a little bit, and while I initially was offended - I thought she was saying I was deficient in some way because I couldn’t cope with the pace of modern life - the idea stuck with me. I started by Googling “How do I simplify my life?” and discovered the minimalism movement. That was the beginning of it for me, and over time things have shifted from minimalism to slow living. 

Tell us how you would define 'slow living'… what does it actually mean?

It’s about figuring out what is important in our lives and working to put those things at the centre of our life every day. It’s about quality over quantity, depth over breadth and finding contentment over endlessly wanting more. It’s about finding time to slow down and pay attention, and it’s about opting out of the busy-ness that we so often fall in to. 

What have been the biggest outcomes you have been able to achieve now that you live a slower paced lifestyle?

Literally everything has changed in my life since we started to adopt a slower pace of life. My husband and I now both work for ourselves, and we work from home the majority of the time too, which has had a massively positive impact on our relationship and the time we spend together as a family. My mental health is better than it’s ever been and the anxiety and depression that used to be part of my life has gone. I’m a more engaged parent both physically and emotionally, and I laugh more, play more, explore more and adventure more. I used to wish I had time for all of those things, and over the past few years, small step by small step, we’ve been able to make them a reality by figuring out what to care more about and what to let go of.

We know you (and your family) love to practice yoga. How has the practice of yoga benefited you and your family?

The physical benefits of yoga have been enormous for me, particularly in terms of reducing tension and creating ease in my body, but the emotional benefits have probably been even greater, which I didn’t expect! Learning to turn up on the mat and let go of thoughts or ideas that aren’t serving me in any way has been a game-changer. Plus I love the grounding feeling that comes with starting my day with yoga. Sometimes it’s only a few sun salutations while I wait for the jug to boil early in the morning, but even that is enough to draw me in to the moment and pay attention to how I’m feeling. 

What are the 3 biggest misconceptions and do you have any regrets?

I think people have a slightly simplified view of what slow living is, often believing it to be all about country living and baking our own bread and growing our own veggies. And it absolutely can look like that, but it also doesn’t have to. I know lots of people who’ve adopted a slower pace while living in the city, using public transport, shopping at farmer’s markets, living waste-free…It can look a multitude of different ways and I hope that as the conversation about slow living continues to grow we start to see different ideas emerging about what it means to live slowly. 

In terms of regrets, I don’t really have any. I see all the forwards and backwards steps as valuable lessons and I’m glad of them! I guess sometimes I wish I had’ve discovered my why a little earlier as knowing what I’m working towards in life makes the tough decisions simpler to make. But I think even that needed time to percolate in the back of my mind. Things take the time they need to, generally. 

It's well publicised that a few years ago you de-cluttered 25,000 items from your life. Tell me more about this, it just blows my mind!!

It sounds like a lot doesn’t it?! And I guess at the time it felt like a lot, as these were individual things I had to choose to keep or let go of. It was tough in the beginning, before my decision-making muscles had a chance to grow, but as I got better at letting go of things and as I realised I didn’t miss anything I’d decluttered, it became easier. I started by clearing out really tiny areas of my home (my purse, handbag, the car, medicine cabinet, toiletries, utensils drawer, junk drawer etc) and over time worked up to bigger projects like my wardrobe and the kids toys. I didn’t set out to declutter that many things, it was just the (unexpected) result of small steps every day. 

We have many readers who have children which I’m sure are a little sceptical that the concept of slow living could even possible. How have you achieved this with kids?

I totally understand the working parent juggle, but interestingly it was my kids who taught me how to slow down and be in the moment. I noticed that they would always be in the present - whether that was stopping every 10 metres on a walk, checking out the ants and the flowers, or the sheer joy with which they’d play with each other - and I knew there was a lesson there for me too. I spent so much of my time trying to do everything for everyone, be everything to everyone, that I wasn’t doing any of it very well at all. Once I started to slow down and pay attention to what was right in front of me, I began to experience everything differently. 

Can you give me your top 5 tips for getting started in this way of life, I am sure there are many reading this who love the idea but just don't know what steps to take or things to put in place to kick-start their own journey.

1. Figure out what is most important to you in life. I started by writing my eulogy, but even if you spent some time asking yourself what you want life to look like, what you want your legacy to be, it will bring in to perspective those things that really are important to you. 

2. Once you know what those things are, it becomes a little simpler to work out what’s worth caring more about and what’s worth caring less about. Then it’s a matter of putting the important things at the centre of your life and letting go of the others. 

3. Take time every day (just a minute or two is OK if that’s all you can spare) to simply sit and notice. Take a moment to scan through each of your senses and ask - what can I see, hear, taste, smell and feel right now? By taking time to do this very simple mindfulness exercise you’re practicing the art of paying attention to the present, and simultaneously getting out of your head for a minute too. It’s in these tiny moments that we give ourselves space, as insignificant as it seems. 

4. Let go of physical clutter. It’s a cliche I know, but creating a bit of physical space has such a positive impact on our headspace.  So if you’re struggling to let go of sentimental items or things you’re keeping “just in case” then start somewhere else. Start somewhere easy. Clear out your handbag or remove the empty bottles from your shower. See if there’s anything on the fridge that you no longer need. Go through your pens and toss any that no longer work. These small steps really do add up over time, and if a task feels too big to tackle, see if you can instead find a really tiny task that you can do instead. 

5. Set an alarm for one hour before your bedtime and use it as a reminder to turn off all screens. Keep your bedroom a screen-free space and spend the last hour of the evening reading, taking a bath, drinking a cup of tea or journaling. This simple change can have a massive impact on your ability to go to, and stay, asleep and is a simple habit change. 

So for the readers who do want to make a change, what is your message for them today?

Take it slowly, and understand that it is a process we need to work through. There is no right or wrong either, only what works for you. 

And to finish off can you tell us what 'to live a heart-led life" means to you. 

To live a heart-led life is to act with love. It’s to put love and intention and our personal values at the centre of everything we do, and to go to bed at the end of the day feeling weary and satisfied that we tried our best. 


You can find Brooke at Slow Your Home.

Her new book SLOW is also now available...

Dear Mr & Mrs Jones, I am writing to inform you of my withdrawal from the race to keep up with you…’

Part memoir, part practical companion, SLOW provides a fascinating insight into the benefits of slowing down. It will inspire you to forget about the Joneses and create a life filled with the things that really matter to you . . . slowly, of course.

AUSTRALIA & NZ:   Booktopia   |   Amazon.com.au (Kindle only)


CHRISTINA CAVACO

Founder + Director of Cork Leaf. Introvert who loves to practice yin yoga and is chocolate obsessed. Lives life with her heart, strives to live a more sustainable life and dreams of moving to the countryside with her family.

 

Here at Cork Leaf we're passionate about intuitive living, minimalism and sustainability. We hope to inspire, educate and hold space for people to reconnect and live a wholehearted life....check out our other blogs to help you live the life you really love.

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After watching nearly every video featuring Brené Brown and reading her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, I was disappointed to find out that I wasn't being as authentic as I originally thought... and you may be surprised too.

When we are being authentic we have the ability to truly connect.

The ability to reconnect with ourselves gives us the opportunity create something new and unique the no one ever seen. We all have different gifts, skills and life experiences and if we only dare to tap into that we can create a life that is truly amazing and successful (on whatever your definition of what success is). The ability to truly connect with those in our lives will bring more meaning, love and purpose to our lives.  

Most of us strive or already think we are being our true selves however there are two things you need to know about being truly authentic.

1. reconnect

As young kids we were great at being ourselves... it's only once we started getting influenced by those around us and experiences in our lives that we slowly start to build up a wall to protect ourselves. By the time we grow up and get in the motion of living our lives we don't realise how big our wall is until you start to feel that unwelcome niggling feeling that something is still missing and you may be asking yourself questions like this:

"What am I doing with my life?"
"Is this it? Is there nothing more?"
"I have a good life but why aren't I happy?"
"What is my purpose?"
"Surely there is more for me... but what?"
"Am I just being ungrateful and selfish?"

So we need to reconnect ourselves (bringing down our walls)... and how to do it? Spend quality time with yourself. Think about it. You meet someone new who could potentially be your future partner, best friend or even mentor... but before you even get to that stage you need to get to know them. How do you do it? You spend time with them. And the more often and quality time you spend with them the better you get to know them. This is the same for us. We don't need a lot of time for ourselves each day but we do need to do it consistently. Here are some ideas on how you can spend time with yourself:

  1. Yoga
  2. Meditation
  3. Journaling/Writing
  4. Walk/run outside
  5. Go for a swim
  6. Take a bath
  7. Read a couple pages of that book you haven't started
  8. Drawing/Painting
  9. Put a song on you love and sing/dance your heart out
  10. Get a massage

Find things you enjoy but make sure it's your alone time and you are all there by taking notice how you feel in your body (and try not consume all 'your time' thinking about what needs to be done for the rest of the day!). It's suppose to be fun and not seen as another thing to add to your to do list. It may take a little while to get into the swing of things... either finding things you enjoy doing, juggling it with your life, and being consistent with it. Be patient with yourselves - you don't have to go from 0 to 100 in a day. Take is slow, build it up and you'll start to enjoying it.

2. show up

This is where Brené Brown disappointed me and highlighted why I wasn't truly being authentic. To 'show up' is to reveal yourself; your feelings, ideas, concerns, etc. Let me give you some examples:

  • You're upset with your partner and they ask you if you are okay... do you show up?
  • You've just started a new job and you're in a business executive meeting and you have an idea to share... do you show up?
  • You've finished your course and want (and qualified) to pursue it but still don't feel ready... do you show up?
  • You're with a group of girlfriends and one tells a joke, you don't get it... do you show up?
  • You've finished writing a blog/e-book and it's ready to publish but now your doubting your work... do you show up?

Usually a lot of us, including myself, use ways to protect ourselves instead of showing up to avoid the threat of not being accepted or understood for who we really are. These are 3 common ways we protect ourselves:

  1. "Nothing bothers me", "I'm cool" attitude
    • Situation: You're upset with your partner and they ask you if you are okay.
    • A common response: "No, everything is fine."
  2. Perfectionism, people pleasing
    • Situation: You've finished writing a blog/e-book and it's ready to publish but now your doubting your work.
    • A common response: "I'm not 100% happy with it, I'll keep working on it until it's really ready."
  3. Blaming, insulting (attacking) others
    • Situation: You're with a group of girlfriends and one tells a joke, you don't get it.
    • A common response: "You were mumbling, I couldn't hear you properly,"

So the question here is how often do you 'show up'? How often do you take the courage to put yourself out there and reveal your true self and own it even though it may not be liked/accepted? It's tough and uncomfortable but remember when you do start to show up it's so liberating.


CHRISTINA CAVACO

Founder + Director of Cork Leaf. Introvert who loves to practice yin yoga and is chocolate obsessed. Lives life with her heart, strives to live a more sustainable life and dreams of moving to the countryside with her family.

 

Here at Cork Leaf we're passionate about intuitive living, minimalism and sustainability. We hope to inspire, educate and hold space for people to reconnect and live a wholehearted life....check out our other blogs to help you live the life you really love.

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We've all heard the term 'hold space' and I think most of understand the concept... but when it comes down to it most of us just suck at it... including myself. In light of Liptember and R U OK? Day, mental awareness campaigns this September, I felt it was so important to understand how to hold space for someone properly. 

When someone comes to us with a problem or situation that they are struggling with we feel it's our responsibility to fix their problem or to make them feel better. No one likes to see someone they love or care about struggle... it's only natural for us to want to help them but that's where we're all going wrong. Holding space isn't about fixing their problem or making them feel better. It's simply about being there for someone. 

Around this time last year I remember speaking with my mum, who is one of few I go to to hold space for me, about something I was struggling with. And usually parents are the worst offenders for not holding space properly as fear takes over they just want to help you by telling you what to do to fix the problem or that 'you'll be fine'. However on this occasion my mum helped me more than she knew... she said to me 'it's okay that your struggling'. That comment meant so much more to me than any wise advice could ever have. This is why...

When someone comes to you with a problem or issue that they aren't coping with all they are seeking are two things:

1. To feel that they're not alone and/or that someone understands and 'gets' them.

2. Permission that it is okay to feel the way they do. 

What we need to understand is that we all know what is best for ourselves. The person simply needs a safe environment (aka space held for them) with someone they know has their back and know that they aren't being judged for feeling the way they do. Once they have this space they can then start to be curious about the way they feel and come to their own clarity about how to best move forward. 

The hard truth about holding space we need to know is that firstly it's uncomfortable and awkward and secondly if you hold space properly you'll feel like you are doing nothing, you'll feel helpless! Unfortunately for most of us when we have the opportunity to hold space for someone we panic. We opt in to these three most common panic go-to responses that (even though we think we're helping) makes the person feel alienated and judged:

Sympathy:

  • Responses like: "You poor thing...", "I'm so sorry, sounds terrible., "I could never be as strong as you". 
  • What it translates to: "Wow, what you are going through is really terrible and I'm glad I'm not you. Good luck with getting out of this."

Solutions:

  • Responses like: "You should try this...", "Last time I told you do to x, how is that going?". 
  • What it translates to: "If you just did X, Y and Z you wouldn't be feeling this way. It's your fault because your not taking the necessary action"

Positivity:

  • Responses like: "At least you have X, Y & Z", "Don't worry, you have so many other things to be grateful for". 
  • What it translates to: "Why are you be being so negative and ungrateful? There are so many other people that are worse off than you and you're just being selfish". 

You may have resonated with one or a couple of these or perhaps you've discovered your own panic go-to response. I know I've used all of them but as we can see each response makes the person feel even worse about their situation, pressure to 'get over it as soon as possible' and also shame for simple feeling the way they do.

When we respond like this they simply lose trust. Firstly they lose trust in you and feel like "if they don't understand by now then who ever will" and secondly they lose trust in the process. This is a very dangerous combination. Why? Next time this person has a problem or the same feeling comes up again (and probably worse than last time) they will think to themselves "last time I shared my feelings with that person and it actually made me feel a lot worse... maybe I'm just overreacting or being overly sensitive... I'll just keep it to myself and it will probably go away". They internalise the feeling and let it fester inside themselves. They beat themselves up for not only because they are struggling but also because they can't 'get over it' (vicious mental cycle). The feeling will come up again and again, worse each time and over time it can start manifesting in to their lives; skin outbreaks, moodiness, anger outbursts, overeating, under eating, sickness, depression, etc. The scary thing is when we get symptoms like this we usually put a bandaid solution to get rid of it but it will only gets worse until the core problem is taken care of... that feeling that is festering inside.

I can't tell you the 'best' way to hold space as it varies for each person and for each situation but here are some helpful hints so you don't feel completely helpless when you trying holding space...

It's okay to admit that you don't know what to say

... but let them know you will be there to help them every step of the way through their struggle.

give them a heartfelt hug

... this depends on your relationship with that person but a hug can do wonders. I say 'heartfelt' because I don't mean that 'pat, pat' little hug you give to someone you've met a couple of times... but that hug where you hold someone and when they start to pull away because they're feeling uncomfortable... hold them a little longer until they relax in your arms. It's an amazing gesture to make them feel that they are not alone and you'll be there with them.

empathise with them

... again, this is dependant on the situation but if you can empathise with someone it allows you be able to share your struggle and make them feel that 'there is a way out'.

don't listen WITH THE INTENTION TO respond

... remember it's not your responsibility to fix their problem by offering advice or solutions. You are there to just be there, (simply) listen and make them feel like they don't need to go through it alone.

holding space feelS uncomfortable

.... the sooner you realise this the better you able to sit with it. And remember it's uncomfortable for both sides. Not only do you feel helpless but the person coming to you has built up the courage to admit they are struggling - and as we all know that is really hard to admit.

It's okay to mess up

... if we do go to panic mode and respond with our 'go-to' unhelpful responses, that is okay. We can only practice awareness so over time we can start to catch ourselves in the moment. 

Holding space is one of the greatest gifts we can give someone. But remember to share that gift... don't be afraid to seek help when you are struggling. We all need space held for us from time to time. It's okay to struggle. Just don't do it alone. Reach out to someone and give someone the opportunity to hold space for you.


tell us...

Do you have any helpful hints on how to hold space? Perhaps when you've held space or when someone has held space for you? Please share in the comments below.


CHRISTINA CAVACO

Founder + Director of Cork Leaf. Introvert who loves to practice yin yoga and is chocolate obsessed. Lives life with her heart, strives to live a more sustainable life and dreams of moving to the countryside with her family.

 

Here at Cork Leaf we're passionate about intuitive living, minimalism and sustainability. We hope to inspire, educate and hold space for people to reconnect and live a wholehearted life....check out our other blogs to help you live the life you really love.

Simplify Your Day For More Things You Love

These days “I’m so busy” is worn as a badge of honour. There seems to be an illusion that if you are busy you are successful, being productive, or making the most of life. However this has nothing to do with being busy. Haven't you ever felt after a long busy day like you have achieved nothing? You can be busy doing a whole lot of nothing that can make you feel not only exhausted but frustrated too.  Start living your days instead of filling your days.

Keep Your Cool with Yoga

It’s been one of the hottest January’s on record with days (and days!) of humidity and
oven­like temps. The worst part about this is the disrupted sleep; we all wake cranky and
unsettled and getting a good start to the day is difficult.

Granted, some people are more effected than others (raises hand!). But regardless of your
heat tolerance, there are a few things you can do to stay cool, calm and collected, even
when you’re in a bit of a fluster.