All posts by howarddebbie

Extreme Soul Restoration…

IMG_5083If you follow my Instagram, or belong to one of the various art journaling Facebook groups in which I participate regularly, you will know that I have not had an easy year. In fact it’s been over 5 years now since my world got turned upside down and I began the long hard process of restoring my soul.
IMG_5090It began with a huge loss, followed by an enormous amount of sadness and then loneliness. I hadn’t realised until this happened that my soul was in such a state of disrepair. I wasn’t deliriously happy, but I was bumbling along and life was ok, good in most parts actually. I had no inclination that it should have been any different, that I should have been different? Only when I was plunged into a place so dark did I realise how dimmed my inner light had become.

I spent many months lost in that place and feeling pretty hopeless about ever being happy again. That was until I heard Melody Ross describing her own personal Soul Restoration journey, and I instantly knew this was what I needed to do.
For those of you that are not familiar with Soul Restoration, it is the most amazing course created by Melody, co founder of Brave Living. It is designed to help reignite lost sparkle and get you shining once again on full beam! You learn how to dissect the parts of your life that are not working properly and begin to understand why you feel suffocated, see where you gave up control of your life and learn how to take your power back. There are tools at your disposal that you can use to co-create with the universe the bright and positive future your soul desires and deserves.
My personal Soul Restoration journey has been quite radical in many ways. Firstly, I carefully unpicked my life up to this point. I learned so much about the things that have shaped me into the fearful, resentful, isolated adult who was lurking beneath the cardboard cutout self she showed to the world. I was no longer the real me, the authentic beautiful soul that had arrived on planet earth over 45 years ago. I was no longer joyful. I needed to restore back to that happy, fearless, adventurous and loving soul.
IMG_5093The hardest part of this journey back to me was to make the sad and difficult decision to divorce my husband of 23 years. We have two wonderful sons, both young adults now, and I was trying desperately to find a way to keep our family together. But for many reasons which I would come to discover and understand, our relationship had become toxic and I no longer had the energy and fortitude required to hold us together.
This decision brought with it a wide range of new feelings, worries and challenges. For a start, I now had to be financially responsible. I had to learn how to plan, and budget, and save and think twice about things instead of being my naturally impulsive self. This felt both scary and exciting at the same time. Armed with my best Brave Girl attitude, and feeling free and empowered, I set forth on my new adventure with gusto!

I had a lot to learn, and the lessons started coming thick and fast. Reigning in my impulsiveness was proving more difficult than anticipated, and in my rush to shed the skin that had previously constricted my growth, I began looking for my next home before our family home was on the market. It took a few months of endless viewings searching for that ‘perfect’ home in which to start over. Feeling tired, I was on the verge of taking a break from my thus far fruitless house hunting when I found ‘the one’. The funny thing was that it hardly ticked any of my boxes, yet I immediately felt a connection with it. A Victorian property almost 130 years old it was in need of serious updating and remodelling to become a suitable home. But while friends and family looked puzzled as I described my ideas, I was already inhabiting my future space through my vivid imagination. I enlisted a builder who seemed to ‘get’ my vision and instructed him to get on without delay so that my new home might be ready before I had to move out of my current one. Practical and financial considerations were not as interesting as choosing window styles and other design details, but six months later very little had been achieved and the budget was spiralling out of control. I felt let down and betrayed, as well a hugely disappointed in myself. I had literally created my very own dilapidated and uninhabitable ruin…a physical manifestation of my souls state of disrepair! My ‘crack’ house.
IMG_5097I threw myself a huge pity party and the worrying resulted in sleepless nights and the inability to focus on anything much besides my impending doom. This was when I realised that I had lost control of this project and there was no one else to fix it but me. My ‘go to’ rescuer (my now ex husband) was no longer at my disposal but I knew I needed to ask for help.

One of the most valuable things I learned taking Soul Restoration the first time was that I don’t have to do everything myself and I can reach out to others who are stronger in areas where I am lacking. So I tentatively reached out to friends and family in the hope of redeeming some goodwill vouchers I wasn’t even sure I had earned. To my great surprise, as well as relief, everyone was very supportive and encouraging. It seemed that although the shame of this first solo failure had heightened my sense of unworthiness, I must have somehow earned some kindness credits. Perhaps I was after all a valuable human being. So with my friends and family, and to my surprise my ex husband, at my back, I regrouped and started again. I stopped my building project and have set about finding somewhere to rent while I pack up my old life and rethink my vision. I still love the old house I have bought and remain excited about the wonderful potential it possesses.

IMG_5081As I traverse the voids that the lifted floorboards have exposed and look up through the gaps in the ceilings I do wonder at the irony of the situation. Obviously my healing journey was not as complete as I thought it was. I had not done enough excavating, unearthing and revealing in order to fully restore. Well now I can literally see the dirt beneath the foundations and there is no other choice than to start rebuilding from the ground up. And I will be an active participant and guardian of this restoration and I will show myself and my life the respect it deserves. Bring it on!

 

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Reflections on 2017…

2125E352-194A-4F46-91D3-0A705F3BD25C2017 has been a big year! In fact if I had to look at it objectively some time down the line I would probably say it would rank among the most significant years of my life. I got divorced, saying goodbye to a marriage of 23 years, and I bought a house, the first I’ve owned by myself. And of course, being me, it’s a fixer upper, and I’m now in the early stages of a huge renovation project! New me, new house, big renovation projects both inside and out?
At the beginning of this year I completed the Brave Girls Club course Soul Restoration, which signified the start of an inward journey to clean out and restore my Soul House – ‘me’. It’s not been easy to go through my life with a fine tooth comb and sort through all the stuff that has caused blockages to happiness, wellbeing and authenticity. I have had to own some painful stuff and admit a lot of things about myself that it’s been easier to cover up over the years and just keep going. But I understand now that if something is not real then it’s fake, and there is no satisfaction in living a fake life. So here I am moving into 2018 with a new agenda…to live authentically and accept everything about myself and others, looking for the good, and accepting the not so great. It’s a constant daily challenge to take notice of repeated behaviour patterns I get stuck in, to be mindful of the emotions that trigger them and channel my energies in more positive directions. As this year ends I can say for sure that I am tired. It’s been an emotionally draining twelve months.
4EB03DFA-57B5-4F7E-A57F-4AD1C7955B02But despite this, the year has been punctuated by really positive things too. I attended a wonderful retreat in Italy with a very special friend, creating a travel journal with Lisa Sonora, a teacher I’ve been following for a few years now and wanting very much to meet in person. Of course the journal turned out to be as much about my own inner journey as much as the lovely town or Orvieto, but hey – ‘wherever you go…there you are?’. It was intense, but cleansing and healing too. Art journaling is now my ‘go to’ therapy of choice when it comes to working though difficult stuff.
I was also finally accepted to train as an Instructor with Brave Girls Club and am now officially certified to teach Soul Restoration to others. I went to Star, Idaho, and spent an incredible 5 days in The Art Barn under the tuition of the wonderful and inspirational Melody Ross. This has been exciting and terrifying in equal measure! Initially I doubted I had the capability to teach this work. I have no qualifications in this area, just my own life experience. But the calling to share all that I had learned and experienced was too strong and I kept going forward regardless. I had much encouragement from both new and old friends for which I am most grateful. And so a couple of weeks ago I held my first 4 day retreat, and it seems from the responses I received that it was a worthwhile success. It felt wonderful to share with other women some tools they can use to help them live their best lives too.

B717C3FC-2DA8-411C-8C9D-DCE5E622900BHelping others is definitely the best antidote to a spot of the blues or a dose of self pity. My weekly sessions volunteering at the mental health recovery centre have been testament to that for me. I have witnessed real transformation in struggling souls though inspirational creative projects. It takes a chunk out of my week to put the time aside but it feels good. The same goes for the evening journaling classes I held during the second half of this year. The energy required to stay alert until 9.30pm was a challenge, but the reward was to see people come alive doing creative soul work and leave the sessions glowing.
So I think I can say that the negatives were at least matched by the positives this year. There was a lot that was difficult but I stayed brave and survived it. I have so much to be grateful for, my gorgeous sons, family and friends who have been supportive and encouraging, my adoring pugs and even the vocal and somewhat annoying Siamese cat! I have good health and a lovely home. My ex husband and I are still trying to be apart in the best way possible. I feel very blessed for my beautiful messy life!
Happy New Year and wishing you a perfectly imperfect 2018!
Debbie x

 

New Years ‘Revelations’ through Visual Journaling…

For the past couple of years I have taken part in the #30dayjournal projects offered by Lisa Sonora. They are a wonderful free gift that Lisa gives to the online community and she puts a lot of effort into providing the daily inspirational quotes and writing prompts that land in my inbox for 30 days in a row. I have found them to be a great kick-start to the New Year, or a way of unblocking when I feel stuck.

Each time I participate the journey gets easier and flows more freely, and this time I have really been feeling on ‘fire’ with ideas and creativity. ‘Fire’, coincidentally, also happens to be the title of this 30-day project. My writing around the prompts and the pages I have produced has been posted on the group Facebook page, but I thought it would be good to document some of the more thought provoking pieces here in my blog. So this is a selection of pages and the accompanying writing that went along with them…

Day 6 – I suffer terribly from shyness and when meeting new people or attending workshops I am the classic wallflower, keeping to myself and keeping my head down. But I know I miss a lot of opportunities to connect with like-minded folks this way. I have started to mention that a I am shy in scary circumstances and it definitely helps release some of the tension and opens the door for kind people to give me the opportunity to participate more?

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Days 11 and 12 – Wow, I was definitely feeling the FIRE this morning! I got up bright and early and dived headfirst into the journal, where I stayed for 2 hours, and drank 3 cups of tea! I found the prompts for Days 11 and 12 very powerful, and especially loved the quotes from May Sarton’s ‘Journal of Solitude’. Whilst thinking about daring to be myself I felt compelled to seek out the pile of old childhood photos my mother gifted to me some time ago. They sit in a plastic bag in my dining room – ‘waiting’? I love how serendipity just presents us with the perfect thing when we need it.

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And when Day 12’s prompt mentioned a lantern, I knew there was a reason I had felt the need to order a rubber stamp of an old street lamp some time ago, but had yet to find a use for it!! I am really pleased with my pages today, but the trouble is I now feel completely exhausted from all the ‘soul work’ and now have to motivate myself to do some (real) money earning activities :). Also I feel very bad about the fact that it is 9.40am and I am still in my dressing gown – but hey ho, I have to listen to my whispers and they said ‘do your journal, girl’! Have a great day x

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Day 13 – I was intrigued by the idea of today’s quote and wanted to see if I could express with paint how it would be to have the light of the moon glowing through my skin. It was a really powerful exercise actually and as I was slowly moving the paint around on the page, trying to capture the essence of the idea, I could absolutely feel the creative energy coursing through me, but with a serene vitality if that makes sense?

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Day 14 – ‘I love these ordinary things…’ The thing I love about participating in these 30 day journal projects is that 30 days is not too long a time to commit to doing something daily, but yet the pace and intensity of having to show up in the journal each day and produce (or write) something can be truly revealing. Because there is no time to ponder and worry and pontificate, I just hand over the task to my higher self and trust the guidance I am given as to what should go on my page. Sometimes I sift through my collection of ready cutout images, or go to the computer and print an image that comes to mind, or feel the need to move paint around on the page. This morning I just started typing a list of all the simple things I treasure during my day. I probably could have kept on going but decided to stop at the things that came straight to mind with ease. I set them against a backdrop of pots on a shelf because I had this idea of how pottery is an ordinary everyday item that most of us have in our homes, and yet in the form of a vase it becomes somehow precious, often a container for sacred items.  Pottery also offers us a timeline though history, particularly to date civilizations. And yet thousands of years later we still have the humble clay pot in common with those ancient people, who probably enjoyed the same simple daily pleasures that I do – I love that!

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Strange Light?

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I slept through my alarm this morning and it really threw me off balance! I woke in a room bathed in a glowing yellow light, well really a luminous chartreuse if I was to be specific, and it felt ‘other worldly’? All through the summer I have just about managed to keep up the practice of waking naturally at daybreak and getting up to witness the sunrise. I have watched the sky slowly change through a more or less routine set of colours until the sun was above the horizon, and it gave me a very satisfying feeling of rhythm and stability as well as inspiration. But this morning I missed that process and was catapulted into a world of warm green pea soup!

I got up and made my first cup of tea, the best one of the day, and went out into the garden as usual to smell the fresh morning air and observe the increments of seasonal change that happen daily if you have a mind to take notice. There was ‘greenness’ everywhere and heavy moisture in the air that almost felt tropical. As I was wandering through the vegetable patch, my love of which has also been a revelation to me this year, soft warm rain began to fall on me and it was beautiful. The cat meowed his objection and Sookie the pug looked up as if to say ‘can we go in now?’ – but I just stood for a while and felt my hair begin to curl into its natural state of wildness. It felt good.

Last year I remember feeling almost depressed about the end of summer, the speed of the slide from autumn to winter and the long dark nights. But I was determined this year to accept and embrace the changing seasons and really try to appreciate and engage with each stage as it happened. It feels easier because I threw myself into the challenge of enjoying every moment of summer, rising as early as 04.46 mid June and enjoying over 16 hours of daylight. Now I want to sync with the rhythm of nature as she slows everything down and harvests the produce of summers busy production. I want to enjoy my achievements and reflect on the lessons I have learned and the progress I have made. Mindful of my tendency towards frantic activity and burnout I want to rest and replenish both my energy and my creative well. First step = get back in my journal and let my mind gently unravel…

Strange lightIMG_8651  Strange lightIMG_8652

Strange lightIMG_8653  Strange lightIMG_8654

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Road Block

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Well here we are only half way through January and I’m already talking about ‘road blocks”! This doesn’t sound too optimistic I know? But read on and I hope I will put a         positive spin on it and you will come away feeling a little more upbeat…

I am desperately trying to keep up with the 30 day journaling project I signed up for with Lisa Sonora as a great way to kick start the creative year. The prompt I was working on this morning was titled ‘Got resistance’, and was about how water always finds its way around obstacles – an unfortunate quality if your ceiling ever collapses because you hadn’t         discovered that slowly leaking pipe!! Anyway it got me thinking about the small woodland not far from my home where I walk my dogs often. It’s a wonderful space where the dogs can run free and you might not meet another soul even if the car park is full. The woodland is very natural and unmanaged, so after a storm or strong winds you will often discover fallen trees blocking the way of the well worn criss cross of paths and trails. If they are too large to move you just have to go around the obstacle and start a new path. So the landscape of the woods is constantly changing whether we want it to or not and we just adapt if we want to keep going forward.

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It dawned on me that this was a great metaphor for life and a good answer to the question ‘Got resistance?’. We are happily going about our business the way we always have, the comfortable and easy way, and then suddenly there is a block in the road and we can’t continue. Something has changed and the road you know is no longer open to you. This could be a real physical block, like the loss of a loved one or a change in financial situation, or it could be a mental shift, a realisation that something is out of alignment and you are not being your authentic self. Whatever the root cause, you have been forced off the path and it’s time to come up with a new plan of action. This could be a strategy to move around the obstacle and reconnect you with your path further along, or it could be time for a radical change in direction and the chance to explore a new avenue you haven’t taken before. It’s scary and uncertain but also exciting and adventurous and full of possibility…

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So start this new year by checking your map for areas of your life that have served their purpose and are no longer helping you move forward. When you hit a stumbling block take a fresh approach and see where it leads you. And if you didn’t get it right the first time, don’t be afraid to back track and try again by a different route. There is a world of possibilities out there just waiting to be discovered.

Happy 2015!

October

I don’t always start my day listening to radio 4 but sometimes I feel the need to ‘check in’ and see what’s happening in the world! As I was dressing, guest poet Christine De Luca read out a poem by Edwin Morgan about October, and although I’m not a great reader of poetry this one really caught my attention. I had given the word ‘October’ to my meditation group last week as the starting point for a ‘Stream of consciousness’ or ‘Free writing’ exercise. It was interesting how most of us shared some negativity towards October, particularly as a signal that something good was ending and something not so good was coming – dark evenings, long nights, cold wet weather etc. For me October is ‘leafy’ and windy and wet and mushy – dampness, mould and mildew come to mind too! But this poem really showed October is a positive light, a really ‘glass nearly full’ outlook…

October Sun by Edwin Morgan –

Get the sun out, get it shining!  It’s only
October, and only a tenth of the leaves
are yellowing.
Prod a few white clouds out of their beds and
get them billowing!
We can sit a while and not batten down the
hatches for a gale following.
We can clink a glass and swirl the wine and
still not rush the swallowing.
We can smoke in a moveless dear afternoon
till the late light spreads its hallowing
Over everything
And then we must bring
The day to rest with good ease, recollections,
far thoughts, love and dallying.

After hearing the poem I decided to venture out with the dogs for a nice Autumnal walk at Cothill Quarry. It was clear but windy, the tail end of hurricane Gonzalo, so we headed off towards the woods for a little shelter. I was thinking about an Instagram post I’d seen while having my morning cuppa tagged ‘thistimelastyear’ and felt sure it was around this time last year I had discovered the amazing red and white spotted mushrooms next to one of the paths. I headed in that direction determined that I would find them again. Once on the path I walked slowly, staring hard into the undergrowth. It wasn’t long until I caught a glimpse of red and backtracked to investigate. Sure enough it was Alice’s Magic Mushroom!

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I looked around to see if there were more and discovered mushrooms everywhere…

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I was so excited and tried to get the pugs to share my wonder but they just seemed bemused as to why we weren’t moving on! It felt so unreal I wondered if it was possible that I had manifested these mushrooms to be here because I wanted so badly to find them? The wind was beginning to pick up and the noise of the dancing trees and their rustling leaves was riotous. Just for a few minutes I was in my own private wonderland. So thank you Maz Hawes, Radio 4 and Christine De Luca for inspiring me to get out this morning and appreciate how amazing autumn can be. 🙂

Remember who you are?

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Today’s prompt for the 30 day journal project got me thinking, ‘Well…who am I?” I’ve been doing a lot of soul work lately, nourishing my spirit, quietening my mind and searching for inner peace. Thinking about life purpose and setting goals for personal growth and development. But the question ‘who am I?’ stumped me a little at first. It’s a really basic question but I didn’t have a simple answer.

I decided to go and dig out some old photographs my Mum had given me a while ago which I have been meaning to sort but hadn’t gotten around to it. They were mostly of me as a child or a young girl – at home, with family, on holiday, with school friends etc. The quality of the pictures isn’t great but what struck me as I looked through them was how happy I seemed. In just about all of the photos I was looking straight at the camera, bright eyed with a big smile. I am pictured in all kinds of poses, apparently enjoying parties, vacations, animals, adventures and escapades. Also experimenting a lot with fashion! And I appear to be really enjoying myself.

It’s been a long time since I’ve considered myself as truly ‘happy’. I always thought of my Dad as ‘Mr Joie-De-Vivre’ and that I just enjoyed being along for the ride. And when I lost him a couple of years ago I thought that was the end of abundant happiness in my life and I would just have to settle for ‘normal’. Through the misery of grief I had persuaded myself that my childhood had been quite difficult and traumatic. At age 8 my parents split up and an ugly divorce followed. This was a pretty scary and lonely time and certainly left me with a damaged self esteem. But unless I was doing a really good job at faking it, these photographs show another side of my life that I had blanked out. A plentiful supply of happy memories and good times that had been overshadowed by loss and fear.

In these pictures, and many more, I am happy, adventurous, daring, creative, energetic and playful. Is this what I need to remember? Is this who I really am? Perhaps it’s time for a search and rescue mission for a lost girl…

Life Purpose

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I am currently participating in a 30 day journaling project for the month of August organised by Lisa Sonora. Yesterdays prompt required more input than I could fit onto a journal page so here is the full version of my response…

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When I opened today’s journal prompt I thought – Oh my, how can I tackle this subject in half an hour and on one page!!! I’m sure it’s a lifetime’s work and I think I will only find out if I’ve succeeded once it’s all over and I get to debrief with my spirit guide! So I’m settling today for a traditional journal entry which I’m typing as it’s easier to re-jiggle ones thoughts as you go along….

What can I say so far about my LIFE PURPOSE. I am definitely on ‘the path’, that much I’m sure of.  I have taken notice of myself growing as a person over the last 15 years and have documented many of the changes I have been aware of. I have shared those experiences and the wisdom that accompanies them with kindred spirits. I wake up each day excited about what’s in store, what will I experience, what lessons will I learn? I am using my gifts, although not yet to their full potential, and deep in my belly basement I know I’m heading in the right direction. I wear the hats of daughter, mother, wife, homemaker, friend, designer-maker, teacher and assistant, and try to tackle them all with a sense of purpose. My guiding mantra at the moment is to BE MY BEST SELF POSSIBLE.

My most significant gift is that I’m good at making stuff. I have been making things since my earliest memories. An avid watcher of Blue Peter and Take Hart, I couldn’t wait to open the craft drawer in our kitchen and recreate whatever had been demonstrated during the program. I would spend hours on my bedroom floor making ‘stuff’. Later on at school I became quite the entrepreneur making and selling jewellery and other crafty items to my friends.

When life started to get serious and I had to think about earning a proper living I took a diversion and studied economics. But it wasn’t long before I found my way back to art by prioritising the most creative aspects of my job in marketing and then getting into interior design. I love the scene in the film Dirty Dancing where Baby’s dad is explaining to his friend that Baby is going to save the world, and she responds that her sister Lisa is going to decorate it. Well I am definitely a Lisa. I’m not to going to save the world but I’ll certainly try and make it as pretty as possible while I’m here.

Thinking more deeply about life purpose I was struck by something Grayson Perry said during his series of Reith Lectures earlier this year. He was talking about a young girl who was asked what an artist did, and she said ‘They notice things’. Well I am on a mission to notice things too. I watch the sun rise and set whenever I get the chance and I try and get out in nature every day and really take notice of the changing seasons. I pay attention to my senses and soak up the sights, sounds, smells and tactile sensations of the world around me. I take photos and make notes and hope that I can share these experiences through my creative work

I am also more intent these days on questioning things. What should I be doing, what should I believe in, who can I trust, how do I make sense of the world? I share my spiritual quest with a few special kindred spirits, currently all soul sisters – but that’s just how its happened for now. I’ve been on the look out for a Guru of sorts and came across the Venerable Thubten Chodron and her insightful study of the Lamrim (a Tibetan Buddhist textual form for presenting the stages in the complete path to enlightenment as taught by Buddha). I listen to her teachings often for inspiration and guidance.

I have also been seeking a more specific direction for my artistic endeavours, and in my search have come across some wonderful mentors like Kelly Rae Roberts, Sally Jean Alexander, DJ Pettitt and now Lisa Sonora. I still love making ‘nice’ things and creating a lovely environment but I have a deep desire to make some meaningful things too and I feel this is starting to take shape gradually. I want people to be inspired as well as delighted by what I make. I am happy to trust in the process and let things unfold in their own time. Alongside my personal exploration I have been lucky enough to get a great part time job as a potters assistant which takes care of my making urge. I am learning some wonderful skills while earning a small income too. I believe all these things are slotting into place for a reason.

With my youngest son hoping to head off to university after the summer there are a lot of changes taking place for me at the moment. At the beginning of the year I reflected on some loss and sadness I’ve experienced in the last couple of years and then looked to the future and set myself some goals. Reading those intentions again they pretty much reflect what I see as my ‘life purpose’ for now:

– Notice things and share experiences

– Be brave and when something is scary take a leap of faith

– Trust in divine guidance, look and listen for signs

– Express gratitude – be truly thankful for all experiences

– Continue personal growth and nourish the soul

– Help and encourage others to find their way. Be a good friend.

– Work hard at all aspects of life but find time for stillness, reflection and healing

– Cherish this life and be present in all moments 

Namaste

Debbie Howard