Catalystonline by AnnA

 I was going to ask you to fill in the blank, but as I do have an agenda here I will offer you alternatives instead. You may have seen that popular bumper sticker exhorting you to commit random acts of kindness and it is certainly something I would endorse as it helps your psychological wellbeing and benefits another at the same time. Indeed I do what I can on a regular basis and, not surprisingly if you believe in karma and good intention, I get back lots of random kindness in return. I always notice, and am grateful, so if it isn’t something that you automatically do then try building it into your daily schedule and notice the result.

The key word here is notice, because the pace of life for many of means we simply do not see where such a small act would be appreciated. As simple as picking up a toy dropped from a pram or helping lift a heavy shopping bag into a car for someone – and never, ever, parking in a disabled space unless you are entitled to – are all good places to start.

It is all about what Swiss philosopher Eckhart Tolle calls ‘The Power of Now’ and living only in the moment as it presents itself, not in the future projecting what ‘might’ be or reflecting back on the past and what ‘could have been different. It is what the Buddhists refer to as mindfulness, just paying attention and really allowing yourself to be fully present wherever you are and whoever you are with. When you do that you will see many opportunities to practice those random acts, and just allow yourself to do what you can.

But I told you I had an alternative, and this is something I came across on one of the many discussion boards I visit when looking for news on health and personal development. This suggested that you perform not random acts of kindness, but random acts of kick arse – pardon the language. My initial reaction was amused shock, but on reflection I wondered if it was not such a bad idea. Not a physical kick, but a mental one to shake up a situation or get yourself moving.

In the belief that all change starts with ourselves, can I suggest you look at where in your life you need to give yourself that mental or emotional prod – kick might be a bit too violent, but you will know what’s needed! It is something I use with coaching clients, particularly when dealing with procrastination, as it borrows from the principle of tough love.

I studied many years ago with the shamanic dance guru Gabrielle Roth who was an expert in doling this out. Once after a particularly gruelling emotional session I collapsed into tears and she came and crouched next to me. She didn’t ask what was wrong but fixed me with a deep dark stare and asked what I needed. I hiccupped through my tears that it was too hard and I wanted some kindness and compassion to get me through.

I have never forgotten her response which was to smile at me and say ‘you don’t always get what you want, but you do get what you need’. Paraphrasing of the Rolling Stones didn’t impress me and I wailed louder and took myself of to sulk, which I was international level champion at the time.

And yet, she was right and was echoed years later when I studied with Chris James, a great bear of a man who is an amazing natural voice teacher. In a group with him one woman was struggling as he gently urged her to use her voice so we could hear her. She too started to cry and as is the way in all new age groups gentle hands reached out to pat and comfort her when they were startled back by his firm but clear admonition of ‘no damned hugging’.

Indignant at this forceful Australian and his manner, most looked shocked but he added ‘she needs to find her voice and use it, not have it smothered in kindness so she yet again doesn’t have to face why she isn’t doing it’.

Wow, point taken. So no more indulging of that ‘thing’ you are avoiding. Give it a kick in the arse and see what happens – or if you really can’t do that ask a really good friend for an honest opinion on what they would give you a prod about – it might surprise you.

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 Being anxious about creating anything is very natural because anxiety is an emotional condition and producing something from your inner self, the most deep and private part of you is both highly emotional, and often challenging.

But just what brings up that anxiety? One theory was that was caused by a chemical imbalance or distorted thinking, but new evidence seems to show it is caused by having a creative intellect.

In general this means having the mental facility to generate, both consciously and subconsciously, complex scenarios in the creative area of the brain. It seems that every anxiety sufferer has this mental resource which can be utilized consciously to produce creative ability or subconsciously by the autonomic nervous system to identify potential risks and initiates the flight or fight response if needed.

This means that under stress anxiety levels rise the anxiety response releases a series of thought processes which provide a ‘risk assessment’ asking ‘what if?’ and uses the sensory organs to collect data and respond with the appropriate course of action. When we are anxious we have physical signs such as breathlessness, or ‘butterflies’ for actors it manifests as stage fright, for writers it can be seen in writer’s block or displacement activity.

My suggestion is you embrace the anxiety and see it as a validation of how creative you are and choose to use that energy in a productive way. When I talk about stress I use the example of fear and excitement having the same physical responses in the body. You are going to experience the same symptoms, so choose to be excited and use it to inspire you to create.

Let me know if this works for you and what you created out of it.

It’s Valentines Day in less than a month, so how about thinking of a creative way to express your feelings rather than the traditional card, flowers, chocolate scenario?  This is an exercise about listening, rather than writing, and was inspired by something as mundane as a meal.


I was invited to my good friends Joy and Lorraine for lunch last week and on the menu was roast pork with crackling – wonderful food, but what was special was the fact that last time we met I had said how much I missed good crackling and that being single I rarely cooked a joint for myself.  They had remembered, and acted on it, which made me feel valued and special.
It’s truly the thought that counts, so what does your valentine talk about that you could make happen?  Still stuck, or no love to celebrate on Valentine’s Day?  Try this quote from Jalal ad-Din Rumi, the Sufi mystic and poet to inspire you:

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

There is also a very nice tea, appropriately called Love from organic tea company Pukka.  It contains rose, chamomile, limeflower, elderflower, marigold, liquorice and lavender so you could brew a pot of that while you are thinking – more information at http://www.pukkaherbs.com

 I read a wonderful interview this week with Daniel Barenboim.  His life is an example of using creativity to overcome adversity; first losing his wife Jacqueline du Pre to MS and the devastation he felt over that, and secondly his anger and frustration over Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.  The latter led him to found the Divan Orchestra which united musicians from both the Arab and Israeli side of the divide.  They have brought great pleasure to audiences worldwide and a comment he made in the interview really struck a chord with me, and I wanted to share it with you.

He said “When I was younger I was more concerned with hope.  Now I think it’s a waste of time and energy. You have to do what you can do.  Hope is not something you can aspire to.  It’s something you have to create.” 

At the age of 67, Barenboim has a different view on hope from when he was younger.  I absolutely believe in hope; it’s the light at the end of the tunnel that draws us forward, but he’s right about creating it.  If you sit in the dark and despair you will not see the light.  If you look forward in hope your intention will create a beacon to light the way, but what ignites it is you stepping forward and taking action.

At the risk of sounding like my old English teacher, discuss – and let me know what you think!

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I am afraid I don’t know the origin of this and if you do I would love you to tell me.  It came into my inbox and it’s a good thought and hope to hold over the festive period!

“May today there be peace within.

May you trust that you are exactly where
you are meant to be.

May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are
born of faith in yourself and others.

May you use the gifts that you have
received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.

May you be content with yourself just the way you are. Let this knowledge settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.

It is there for each and every one of us.”

 Sadly I have been unable to find the author of the following poem. It has resided in my ‘useful thoughts’ file for a while but a diligent search has failed to turn up who wrote it. I offer it here as reflection for this time of year and to pose the question what is your life too short for?

“Life is too short to wake up with regrets.

So love the people who treat you right.

Love the ones who don’t just because you can.

Believe everything happens for a reason.

If you get a second chance, grab it with both hands.

If it changes your life, let it.

Kiss slowly. Forgive quickly.

God never said life would be easy.

S/He just promised it would be worth it.

If you know who originally wrote this, please let me know.

If you are a short story writer, then any opportunity to get your work out there is to be welcomed as it is one of the hardest areas in which to get published.

 Short Story Radio was founded in 2006 by Ian Skillicorn as an online showcase for writers and to broadcast quality recordings of short stories to an international audience via the website.  Since its launch Short Story Radio has had close to 200,000 visitors and has showcased the work of best selling novelists and acclaimed television scriptwriters, as well as previously unpublished writers. 

They also have links with many literary organisations and writers, including the New Writing Partnership, and have collaborated with award winning short story writer Sue Moorcroft  to produce a series of short stories specifically for over 20 hospital radio stations around the UK. 

This year they were awarded a grant from the Arts Council to record twenty new short stories for the website and podcast.  Five of these stories are already online, with more becoming available in the coming months. 

To listen to short stories go to www.shortstoryradio.com  and if you are planning on submitting to them, remember that not all short stories work well as spoken pieces.

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  • babs: interesting thought. I feel that this can be because of childhood where a child is made to feel inferior and of little worth. As somebody who spent m
  • babs: I agreed that music can stir memories in a big way. when I ventured on a life history course music was very much to the fore and triggered so many mem
  • catalystonline: Thanks Marc - as I spend a lot of time speaking about and coaching people to write their life story I thoroughly recommend music for massaging the mem