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gratitude and grace list: happy 2017 edition featuring: hygge tips, healing painting, kind meditation, sacred stars and special gifts

Inspired by my dear friend Gala Darling, I’m taking my love lists out of my (gold, sparkly) journal and sharing them with you.

Little Things I Love:

Frosty grass * The frozen canal * Still finding beautiful leaves and feathers on the ground, even in winter * The heritage kale growing through the ice in the garden * My riding boots * Sweet warm hay breath from the horses * Raw chocolate with ginger and hazelnuts * Dried orange slices (still) * Making altars * Celebrating advent and epiphany * Recording trailblazer interviews * The amazing work of my friends and teachers, (see below) * Sharing Healing Boxes hygge on Instagram * Sending boxes worldwide and seeing them brighten lives * Being back at school * Reading books with gingerbread rooibos tea in hand * Getting to grips with my clinical placements * Painting * Playing all the scales on the harp, over and over * Listening to BBC Radio 4 * My new Llewellyn Herbal Almanac * Snuggling up by the fire listening to Sounds True audio books – my favourite. Also have you seen Theresa Reed’s gorgeous colouring book from Sounds True? It’s awesome, look!  * This gorgeous and delicious podcast *

Happy 2017 Gratitude & Grace List:

Having cafe time via video in the Trailblazers’ Cafe and beginning our day with connection and intention.

Gala Darling’s 2017 Self-Love Almanac which I am so excited to be contributing in. One of my favourite things I’ve done so far.

Christy‘s amazing workshop next week: Making Meditation Kind

Danielle La Porte’s super Desire Map distillation into a new year check in practice: The Desire Map: Goals with Soul 2017 …if you do the new year now, I recommend this highly.

Unravel Your Year 2017 and Find Your Word for 2017 – everything Susannah Conway makes just gets more and more beautiful.

Briana‘s utterly artistic and magical Sacred Arts Book of Hours.

Calendaring Happiness from my friend and fellow wellness trailblazer Elissa Ashwood – this is powerful, folks. Get your happiness on the calendar and into your life!

Using Dyana Valentine‘s Superconditions Game to make important decisions – and to learn more about myself.

Following Kayla’s adventures on her wonderful Instagram.

Trailblazer Christina Rasmussen‘s new site, Star Letters – and do come join me in the supernova Facebook group.

Shiloh Sophia McCloud‘s new year long offerings – I mean, wow and Power Creative’s TV.

Flora Bowley’s new book and course, they are on my wish list, check them out.

Pretty much everything Mara is writing at the moment, I am loving and taking in so deeply.

I love the current Curated Collections from Pretty by Post. As Pretty by Post is one of our super sponsors, we have a gift for you: Visit Pretty By Post and use the coupon code GRACE, it gives you FREE shipping for the entirety of a subscription or for any purchase!

Kris Carr’s green drink challenge. I love making winter smoothies and juices in my Vitamix.

P.S Gift for Trailblazers: (GET FREE STANDARD SHIPPING ($25US/$35CN) USE CODE 06-0099311-800-848-2649)

Flora Bowley ~ Brave Intuitive Painting from Zipporah on Vimeo.


What are you grateful for? Let me know in the comments!

P.S Want more gratitude prompts and opportunities? Check out all my gratitude and grace lists here.

Photo of trees overlooking a snowy lake. Green rectangle over, text: presence over perfection: practice as a sanctuary gracequantock.com

I love a good morning routine.

I adore the structure, the simplicity of it.

I love to promise myself that I will be able to get up every morning and do the same, often strenuous, energetic things and that I’ll be well enough to do those same things every day. When truly, living with chronic illness, that’s not the case.

I love the idea of doing ALL THE THINGS and then starting ‘work’. But healing is work too, as every wellness warrior well knows.

But that’s the challenge, isn’t it?

As much as a part of past-me would like to be using January as the ‘fresh start‘ to ‘get sorted’, to steamroll the messy, painful, scary and shadow parts of life into place with a huge, strict and spartan routine… that’s not what’s going to happen.

(It doesn’t work anyway, at least not for me. Because I’m human and not a robot, which saddens my type A tendencies, because my ‘perfectionist’ thinks being a productive robot who works all the time and just gets fixed by the mechanic when a part of me is out of order would be awesome. No emotions you see, no fear, no grey areas, just perpetual forward motion. But I am not a robot).

No, that’s not what’s going to happen, because it’s so unkind.

Instead of being your saviour (and on the shadow side, your jailer), a practice can be your sanctuary.

It’s the place you come back to, the place that “always heals over“, it’s what accepts you, no matter where you are, no matter what it looks like.

Because it’s called a practice – it’s all a process, you aren’t expected to be perfect.

We all get illnesses, injuries, appointments that feel like they interfere or throw us off track. But here’s the thing – humanity, to me, isn’t about perfection, it’s about presence. A practice is something you can always come home to, like a sanctuary.

Your practice is what you hang on to when things get tough. Because when everything is bleak, we often can’t see a way out or just can’t find a reason to get out of bed in the morning. But if every day you get up and say your prayers over a cup or tea, or get on the yoga mat (no matter how few asanas you can actually manage), if you always write in your journal before you sleep, or call your best friend on a Thursday evening, then that’s what you get up and do. Not because you need to, or you should, or you feel like it. But because that’s what you always do. Your practice can be a sanctuary, it’s where you come home.

I’ve done my yoga practice everywhere from waiting rooms, car parks, bathrooms, in bed, in libraries, beaches and train stations. I’ve done it in hospital, while evacuated in terrifying situations and even in yoga studios on occasion.

My practice is always there for me to return to, no matter how long it’s been, no matter how achy and alienated I may be feeling.

If you want to think about starting a practice, I encourage you to look at what practices you have now… do you always get up when the alarm goes, or do you luxuriate in bed 5 more minutes? Do you take meds in the morning, always have lunch at midday or like a glass of wine at the end of the day? These are rituals and practices already in your day. What would happen if they became more conscious? Opportunities for self-care and compassion?

If you want to start a yoga or meditation practice, please check in if this is the best time for you to do that, and why you might be motivated to do it? Plans made out of self-disdain often fall, leaving us with more ammunition against ourselves because ‘we can’t even get that right’.

You don’t have to change just because a calendar has turned over – you can heal at your pace.

(However, if January is giving you a welcome support and a meditation or yoga or self-care practice do feel truly right for you, you can check out my posts on those here.)

But really, truly, I want you to know that I value you and the process of stepping away from everything that tears you down and moves you closer to coming home to yourself.

Do you have a daily practice? What’s your biggest challenge to using it as a sanctuary? Let me know in the comments.

new years' resolution struggles? new year, your way
As we enter 2017 and I see the beginnings of peoples’ new year’s resolutions, I considered what I’d really like to say and, in truth, I keep coming back to something I said this time last year. So rather than try and reinvent the wheel, simply because a calendar has changed, I’d like to bring up last year’s [edited and updated] post as a reminder to anyone who’s struggling making new year’s resolutions, or feeling pressured to change when they’re really not ready to do so.
 It’s a new year and everyone is making huge plans. There’s a new start, clean slate and another chance to get it right. What pressure!

Social pressure encourages us to make big plans, live your biggest life, change the world, lean in, make it count.

It can seem like everyone is planning amazing goals, but what if that’s not possible for you?

I believe that we need kindness more than admonishment and pressure.

Lasting, healing change happens organically to the schedule of your body, not when an artificially constructed calendar turns over.

I’m refusing to pressure myself just because of a calendar invented hundreds of years ago, by a Pope who obviously never met me, and probably would have branded me a witch if he had.

I don’t believe that in one year, if we work hard enough, are good enough, if we cleanse, detox, manifest, and work on ourselves enough, we will have a perfect life. Maybe this is the perfect life, the one with pains and dropped stitches and jumping CDs and wonky photos.

Personally, I feel best making new plans in the spring, when the land is waking up and energy is quickening, not in the cold, dark, hibernation time of winter. Now is the time for me to rest, to build my energy, to dive deep, feel my roots and incubate dreams for spring.

I think there’s often a deep, hidden fear that if we don’t plan, push and pressure ourselves then we will get left behind. That we will simply slump, do nothing, eat bon bons all day. As though our nature is inertia and the only way to guard against that is to keep our noses to the grindstone through our insistent internal dialogue.

I invite you to put down the mental lash. Take a breath. Does it feel true in your core that your deepest nature is sluggish stagnation? I don’t believe that’s true. I believe in Roger’s organismic self, that given the right conditions, humans are always growing towards their best selves. Naturally, like plants towards the light. That you don’t have to do anything for this to happen, just “let the soft animal of your body want what it wants” and it will want good things.

I believe in moving organically with my body and life. That it’s my job to be kind to myself, and when I am, things like tenacity, energy, daring and creativity can thrive. I’d rather listen to myself than push myself and trust that I’ll get where I need to be without a mental lashing every time a calendar flips over.

What if we “played until we wanted to rest, and rest until we wanted to play”? With enough rest, could work feel like play?

Often resolutions are used a way of pursuing perfectionism and escaping what is. We try to escape the very human aspects of life – pain, sorrow, grief, hurt and anger through intellectualising, spiritual by-passing and self-help-overdrive.

Instead, can we see life as a spiral, where we take turns at challenges again and again, learning more each time? We move not upwards but deeper and wider.

I invite you to do this new year, YOUR way:

– Celebrate at a time that works for you, not necessarily January

– Notice the pressure to conform and fix yourself, unpick that tangle before you make a commitment.

– Value your achievements, however large or small.

– Take the new year as an opportunity to celebrate rather than critique.

Wishing you a sensational 2016, my dear. I know it will be sensational because you are.


Rising Festive Pressure? Antidotes and Alternatives on top of photo of snowy evergreen branch

Festive times can be full of joy but also full of challenges.

I can’t speak to the larger issue behind that here as the time for prevention is not, I believe, during the stressful time. This is a time for action, for an alternative option. I have a suggestion – Let’s opt out as much as possible.

Want to join me? Here’s my plan:

No Present Pressures

The fact is, even if I were to get lots of things this season, I can only play with one thing at one time. I can only read one book, listen to one piece of music, enjoy one space at a time. So maybe there’s no need for lots of things. If you want something, maybe you can have the thing you want and enjoy it now.

The thing is, there’s a part of me, a young, joyous, magpie part of me that LOVES presents. I love shiny, pretty, glittering, exciting, surprising new things. And I want to honour that part. So if you’ve bought me a gift, thank you, and I’m sure I’ll love it.

If gift giving works for you – go for it. I utterly love gifts, after all, I do own a bespoke gift box company.

So how are we opting out of the festive pressure? What are we focussing in instead this festive season? Well, experiences. Enjoying what we have.

– We will spend time curled up by the fire, enjoying time with the books and audios we already have but haven’t had a chance to use yet.

– We plan to play board games (we already have quite a stack) and listen to carols on the radio.

–  I want to continue working on my paintings-in-progress and playing my instruments.

– We can go and get a Yule branch, bring it home, decorate it and enjoy the twinkling lights and all our favourite ornaments

– We’ll go for a walk with the dogs, all wrapped up and go and see the horses, give them festive hugs and attention and then come home to a warm house and light a big fire.

– We can make a special lunch, have fun planning it, making it and eating food that feels good in our bodies.

– We can celebrate the season, the shortest day, by hibernating and resting, by being gentle with our beautiful bodies and resting in the restorative darkness.

– We can end the day by candle light, computer free, and peaceful. We can think of the light returning and give thanks.

If you aren’t feeling festive, if your tree isn’t up (mine isn’t), if you haven’t got all your gifts sorted and cards sent (not me), if the pressure to ‘Have Fun’ and make it, manifest it, master it into the ‘Best Christmas Ever’™ is making you feel sick (oh yes) then feel free to join me over here in the land of ‘That’s OK’.

We are human. The idea that we need to squeeze all of our joy, community, togetherness, family time, gifting, receiving, generosity, visiting, volunteering and new year planning and manifesting into one month feels to me like a form of violence. No, thank you.

I often look to animals for wisdom, to my dogs and horses, to my own animal body. What do they do?

In the winter, they curl up more, sleep more, enjoy being warm. They don’t try to walk or trek further than they ever have before. They don’t set meridia. They follow the seasons with their bodies. I am following that example.

In the spring, when the world starts to wake up, the greening and the quickening time comes, they’ll be excited to try new adventures, but for now, we all need to store our energy and nurture ourselves to get through the winter. Without the fallow period, new plans won’t grow.

What’s pressuring you this festive season? And what could your antidote be?

self-care sunday

[Self-Care Sunday Series: wellness experts worldwide are sharing their self-care expertise, practices, routines and personal stories.Today’s guest post is by self-care revolutionary Christy Tennery-Spalding]

This piece is a continuation of a series on the Brahma Viharas, the 4 Heavenly Abodes, and how they can support us in finding greater joy and freedom during and through our meditation practice.

Meditation is not something we only do on our cushion — nor is it a stodgy or stoic practice. When we breathe life into it, our meditation practice can permeate our everyday lives, offering us blessings and lessons around every corner. My best practice doesn’t happen on my cushion. It happens in my everyday life.

Continue Reading Self-Care Sunday: Sympathetic Joy in a Time of Comparison Traps