Whenever I unblock a mental issue or remove a toxic element from my life, there are obvious symptoms that tell me my mind is at peace.
One is my reading mojo comes back with a vengeance – already this year I have read three times as many books as I read last year. It’s just something I can’t do when my mind is preoccupied with problems.
And so, I celebrated the return of reading yesterday with two physical book purchases – I read mostly on Kindle. I love Adam Nicolson’s writing about coastal life and I love stories of global adventures. I’ll probably give these away when I’m done because I’m trying not to collect books while I’m still a bit ‘nomadic’.
The other clear symptom of my detox is cleaning. I’ve gone crazy for it this weekend, cleaning everything in sight with a combination of gorgeous-smelling Method products and good old vinegar, bicarb and lemon juice. I realised I let things go a bit feral over lockdown and it didn’t make me feel good.
Today I feel cleansed and boosted by good chats with friends who’ve helped me through the past few months.
And of course I am cleansed by the yoga mat, which is the third symptom of my wellbeing. Ironically, I can’t seem to get onto it without having some mental peace, even though I know it would help me get there. I have found a practice that works for me, incorporating asana (poses), prayanama (breathwork) and meditation. I now know that all three need to work together to have the greatest effect.
How do you know your mind is at peace? Do you have obvious symptoms like mine?
On today’s hike I saw a young woman carrying her paddleboard out of the sea, barefooted, about to cross the road back to her home. I told her that it looked like she was living the dream, and she said it was only the second time she’d been out on the water. She pointed to a distant structure in the sea and told me she’d got out as far as that and it felt really far away and she got scared, but she made it back. She had that look of wild elation.
She asked me where I was going and I told her about my solo hike. I told her how I loved the freedom to choose where I was going and sometimes I felt scared but it made me feel alive. I told her how good it was to see a solo woman coming out of the sea with her board tucked under her arm, the ultimate freedom.
I’m about to complete my final refresher driving lesson before my road trip in a campervan in September. I know I’ll feel scared, not having driven for over ten years, but I know I’ll feel free and alive. I’ll be announcing more details in my next newsletter (link on page).
I’ve had something in my mind for a while now, helping me navigate each day.
It was something Brené Brown said in her Power of Vulnerability audiobook, and it was basically this: “Are you trying to make the world better or worse? There is no in between – it’s binary.”
Sometimes the simplest of lines hits home hardest. It’s made me reassess every action or word since I heard it. Perhaps in my previous life I would’ve been sharp with someone on the end of a phone who is trying to sort out a problem for me. Now I think, “Perhaps they get angry people all the time and would appreciate a kind word.” Perhaps before I might’ve stood steadfastly in a queue for the checkout because it was ‘my turn’, but now I check behind me to see if the person there is only carrying a carton of milk. I let them go first.
It’s all those small actions that add up to a whole day of making things better or worse.
On yesterday’s solo hike, I sat outside a café in a small village and watched a woman in her eighties helping people. She appeared to be a community volunteer wearing hi-vis armbands.
If someone looked lost or confused, she got up out of her deck chair in the shade, put her hand on their arm and asked, “Can I help you?” Even if she couldn’t, I noticed that each person she approached looked so happy after the encounter.
One of the best things about solo hiking for me is not knowing who I’m going to meet along the way. I often end up chatting to someone, briefly, and there is something special about meeting them on the open road, away from any distractions.
Last weekend I met a woman with a dog called Bonnie (sadly I’d didn’t get a picture of her but I feel awkward asking someone for a pic in the moment).
Bonnie was a sheepdog – a border collie. Normally these dogs are too intent on herding some unseen sheep to pay attention to humans but Bonnie came up and pressed her head against my leg.
I got chatting to her owner who said Bonnie has a gift for seeking out people who need a dog hug. In the woods near where they live, she told me, Bonnie has twice tracked down people who are crying and feeling lost and stayed with them. Perhaps she is using her herding instinct to look for humans who need contact with other beings to feel good about themselves. That certainly applies to me.
I love to walk alone but I love the people and dogs I meet even more.
Dark Horses Ride is a story of midlife reinvention, of friendships, relationships and a working life all put to the test by the seismic effects of menopause.
But it is also a story of love and homecoming. It is about the healing power of walking and meditation, the therapeutic process of writing and one woman’s determination to redefine what success and happiness look like.
Living the dream isn’t all she hoped it would be when Lisa swaps a high-flying job in London for a freelance life as a writer, editor and yoga teacher by the sea in India. She struggles to control the tide of emotions that hit her as the red mists of menopause descend and she begins to question whether her new life – and her relationship with a much younger man – are all she hoped they would be.
When the pandemic hits, Lisa decides that the universe has made the decision for her and back in England, she falls for the charms of a man her own age. However, he is not who he appears to be. Neither are the friends she’d hoped would support her when she publishes her first book and releases her ‘dark horses’ for all the world to see.
After travelling back to her homeland in Wales and reconnecting with ‘The Most Handsome Man in Goa’ in India, Lisa is forced to confront her dark horses alone when her health and hormones threaten to derail the happiness she’s learned to live for.
ORDER HERE and don’t forget to rate and review – it’s so important to authors. Thank you for all the support for my writing on this blog – my books wouldn’t be here without it.
With thanks to @lovebookstours and @Redwoods1 for a place on the tour and the opportunity to read and review this book.
Lisa is looking for love, freedom and absolution on the beaches of the world. Grieving for the loss of her parents, married to the wrong man and stuck in a toxic work situation, she has become increasingly dependent on alcohol to numb her pain. After using a dating site for married people, she decides to leave her husband, believing that the grass is greener on the other side. But no one is waiting in the wings to claim her – only younger men looking for an older-woman experience.
Lisa roams the beaches of the world looking for love but in Goa, she discovers yoga, a sober life and a tribe of inspirational women who show her a new path to self-love and independence, breaking the lock on the secret…
This past week I have been listening to Brene Brown talking about the Power of Vulnerability. She is a researcher who has found that people who live ‘wholehearted’ happy lives have several things in common, many of which relate back to the yoga lifestyle. Her data shows that these people are spiritual in one way or another, that they believe that we are all connected by something bigger than ourselves. It also shows that wholehearted people engage in creative pursuits and practice gratitude.
Santosha is a 5,000 year old Sanskrit word for ‘contentment’ – being happy with whatever you have. As a yoga practice, it’s being grateful for specific things in your life. On my morning walks I find it improves my emotional state so much if I list these things in my mind. They can be as simple as finding a new path to walk on or having a chat as I buy a coffee.
Today I met Valerie, a lady who told me she’d been evacuated during the war to Shropshire, near the Welsh border. We talked about how much we liked wildflowers and the tamarisk bushes by the sea, even though they’re overgrown. Each person who walked past us said, “Ooh they need to be cut back, don’t they?” but we grinned at each other and said the bushes were lovely, filled with bees on the tiny flowers.
Thank you, Valerie, for reminding me that the obstacles in our path are sometimes worthy of the space they take up in our lives – we can simply walk around them, gazing in awe at the sight, rather than raze them to the ground.
I tackled a mountain horseshoe hike this week on my own and I’m so proud of myself. I hike solo a lot but there’s a big difference between the South Downs or a coastal path and the big Lakeland fells. There are steep drops, which I’m really afraid of, and some scrambling (meaning you have to use your hands). Scrambling at the top of a fell with a steep drop to one side had me chanting mantras and practicing my yoga breathing.
The thing is, you’re never alone up there. I met and chatted to lots of people and there is an exchange of information that really helps you make the right decisions for your walk. It’s all too easy to find yourself in difficulty on the side of a fell if you pick the wrong path.
I completely forgot about everything that’s been plaguing me recently – I focused on my map and how to place my feet on the rocks and I feel like my brain has been replaced with a new one.
I use an app to navigate – Outdoor Adventure – and today I had a paper map as back up, which I had to use. But it was the human input that really helped me that day – people here really know these fells and they’re keen to help other people enjoy them too.
I met two Yorkshire women who were doing the same route and we compared maps to check we were on the right path. I met them at the end in a sunny pub garden for a pot of tea and they gave me a lift back to my B&B.
Yesterday I had pain in my knee going downhill – after the strenuous horseshoe hike – and was really struggling to get down a fairly easy descent. Two men who were putting out flags for a fell race immediately said, “IT band. Get a roller on it when you can.”
I’ve had this issue before – when the side of your thigh tightens up and pulls on your hip and knee and knew exactly what I needed to do. It used to happen when I ran a lot and pushed myself too hard.
“Extend your poles going downhill – it’ll give you more to lean into.”
“We can give you a lift back into Keswick if we see you at the bottom,” they said. But I declined – there was a tearoom waiting for me and a regular bus schedule.
Think you can’t hike on your own? Wondering what the point is? I’ll say this – you’ll talk to more people when you’re on your own than you would with a sidekick.
One of the things I’ve been learning on my Indian philosophy course with Sudhir Rishi is the idea that whatever we take in through our senses is ‘food’. Whatever we taste, smell, see, touch or hear feeds not only our physical body but becomes associated with our thoughts and moods, our memories of joy and sadness. You might say, ‘we are what we sense’.
My hike yesterday was filled with the smell of wild garlic, the sight of yellow dandelions, the sound of birdsong and lambs, the taste of lemon drizzle cake and the feel of warm wood under my hands as I passed through gates.
While walking, I thought about how I feed my body and mind, not always with the things that make it happy, whether that’s scrolling on my phone, watching trash TV, eating processed food, drinking alcohol or listening to an argumentative political radio show.
Once you start thinking of all these things as food, it’s easier to cut some of them out. In Indian philosophy, everything in existence is ‘god’ including your own body, so why would you offer it something bad? I’m not saying I’ll be able to change all my bad habits overnight but it’ll make me stop and ask myself some questions before I let them in again.
I love hiking on my own. It makes my soul happy. When I wandered the hills around my home in Wales as a girl I felt like I was looking for something – or someone – to complete me. It felt circumstantial that I was on my own and not my fault, but now I realise that I’ve chosen to be on my own for most of my life. I need it to recharge, especially in nature.
I think this is the definition of introversion and for so many years I pretended to be an extravert. I had to, to get somewhere in my career, but she ultimately was not me. Now, I sit alone in silence, working in my flat and listen gratefully to the silence. I love it – no noise to fill the space. I don’t need it. The sound of birdsong is my music. There’s so much of it, when you tune in.
I remember someone asking me what I listen to on my long-distance hikes. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. The sound of the universe, maybe, the Om. I always used to wonder what the thrum of the earth underneath my feet was and now I know.