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15 seconds

20 December, 2016

I’m way too early for New Years Resolutions, but I am sharing one of mine now as I believe it might be handy over the coming few days.

We’ve experienced some huge changes over the last few years. My husband and I handed in our notice, we sold our house in London, and most of the stuff in it, and we packed ourselves into a campervan and travelled around Europe with our kids. We ended up in New Zealand.  Not only in New Zealand, but off grid, in a yurt, in a forest, in New Zealand.

And one of the things I have learnt over this time is… don’t laugh… happiness comes from the inside out.

A campervan can’t bring you happiness. A yurt can’t bring you happiness. A forest can’t bring you happiness.

(A caveat: I speak about happiness here from a very privileged position, as a white, wealthy, healthy, person. I recognise that what I have to say does not apply to everyone and that other people will have vastly different experiences of happiness to me. And I’d love for you to be a part of this conversation. Another caveat: whilst I think working on our own happiness framework is a good thing, I think this goes alongside activism, kindness in action; supporting our neighbours, raising kids with empathy, sending funds to good people who can help Aleppo, campaigning for socially just policies and more.)

Now, don’t get me wrong. Campervans and yurts gave us great adventure. Buying a farm with others brings us community. Living amongst nature means we can do things like new moon women’s circles and family forest play; dreams of mine come true.  All of these things were like little bricks for my Happy House. Everyone’s bricks are different.But the house can’t stand, the bricks mean nothing lasting AT ALL, without the mortar. You just got a pile of bricks. They meant something once, but now they are just dusty and have bugs crawling in and out of them.

What I’m trying to say is that we did all these exciting things, but the single biggest factor in my happiness came only this year, when I figured out that the mortar is, and I decided to do the internal work towards happiness.

And I want to share one of these processes as I think there is a huge opportunity for mixing up our happiness mortar over this coming holiday period…

15 seconds to happiness

The concept

So, in normal life, happiness touches us fleetingly. We eat a delicious burger with friends and we get a bubble of joy and a second later it’s gone. What we need to do, what we need to work on, is savouring the moment, in order for it to add to our overall happiness.

Happiness isn’t how many happy moments you have in your life, but how deeply you allow happy moments to penetrate your life. 

I first became aware of this concept during my Endorphin Experiment  (still ongoing! See Endorphin Experiment Week 1, Endorphin Experiment Week 2, Endorphin Experiment Week 6) which I began as a result of reading William Bloom’s Endorphin Effect.

And then, as if to really strike home how much I needed to do it this Christmas, I was listening to a podcast this week that mentioned it again. (My new favourite thing! Doing dishes or jobs or anything, as long as the kids are occupied, I just listen away and it is so nice! Tell me your favourites.)

A neuro psychologist was talking about the human brain’s negativity bias. How bad thoughts act like velcro in the mind – clinging to one another and building up – whereas good thoughts are more like teflon, very slippery and harder to make stick, long term.

One of the secrets to happiness is the ability to make those positive thoughts stickier.

15 seconds to happiness

To make positive thoughts stickier we need to hold on to them longer. You know those nice little warm fuzzies you sometimes get, say, when your children are playing together (together!! and not fighting!) and you think “oh, my goodness, lovely children!” or if you get the chance to see a glorious sun setting over a majestic mountain, or when you are sitting with your ancient Nana, and she is holding your hand and you are singing a carol together.

Don’t let that warmth of happiness touch you for a second and move on. Hold on to it, let the warmth move through your body, close your eyes and savour the experience of your harmonious children, the majestic mountain, sweet joy of being with your Nana. Hang on to it for fifteen seconds! It shows your brain you want to keep this moment, and it then weaves that good thought into an overall picture of well being. Slowly, slowly we rewire our brains for happiness.

In the podcast the Neuroscience of Happiness, neuro psychologist, Rick Hanson, says

“The first step is to turn positive events into positive experiences. All kinds of good things happen in our daily life that we hardly notice at all, and if we do, we don’t feel it. Someone pays us a compliment, we hardly pay attention to it, or we deflect it. So instead of that, you turn positive events into positive experiences.

Second, really savor it. In other words, the way to remember something is to make it intense, felt in the body, and lasting. That’s how we give those neurons lots and lots time to fire together so they start wiring together. So rather than noticing it and feeling good for a couple of seconds, stay with it. Relish it, enjoy it, for 10, 20, or 30 seconds, so it really starts developing neural structure.

The third step is to sense and intend that this positive experience is sinking into you and becoming a part of you. In other words, it’s becoming woven into the fabric of your brain and yourself.”

Whether you are celebrating Christmas or Solstice or nothing at all, these holidays often mean family gatherings and potential for these special moments. Remember the 15 second rule and harvest from these next few days a stack of good moments that will build up your overall happiness.

Halfway through this winter we began a forest play session for local home schoolers. It is a magical time, something we’ve dreamed of since visiting the Forest Kindergarten in Germany. We build huts, make soup, learn some primal skills. During our first session we sat around and talked about how to light a fire. “What can you start a fire with?” we asked the children. “Paper” “Twigs” “Cardboard” said some of them. “You can put a candle under the curtains” said another.

Indeed.

Happiness doesn’t come by doing something extreme like going off grid in New Zealand. It can very much come through the smaller stuff too.

Start with lighting your paper, before you set your curtains on fire.

Fifteen seconds to savour the goodness and spark your neurons for happiness.

~

So yeah, in an ideal setting Christmas is  a chance to build the framework for our happiness. And, also, sometimes with family gatherings, it’s, well, kind of the opposite! Tension can rise, particularly if you are parenting in a way that is different to others. My parents and my in laws are both respectful of the way we parent, even though they might not fully agree, but at different times over the last few years we have had people close to us make it clear that they don’t like what we are doing.

I have put some thought into how I can keep grounded, keep parenting the way I feel is right for us, all the way through the mayhem of Christmas. They ended up being 5 mantras which I share here. (YIKES I wish there was a better word than mantra! It just sounds so… so worthy. Ach. Who am I kidding? This whole post is worthy. Forgive me, I am obviously feeling very seriouspants today! I should at least call these Womantras.)

I would love to hear if you have any womantras (c’mon, let’s do it. Let’s literally just add WO to everything that starts with Man. Harhahahah.) Anyway, sorry, tell me what things help you stay strong and calm.

I just want to take a second too, to say THANK YOU HEAPS AND HEAPS for reading this year. I count it a complete privilege that I get to write and make videos and that people stick around to be a part of the conversation. Thank you x x x

yurt life

An off grid Christmas in a yurt in New Zealand

7 December, 2016

I’m sitting on the sofa with a redbush tea and a bar of chocolate, feeling completely shattered, creaky boned weary.

Do you ever feel like life just bites you on the bum sometimes? When decisions that you know are right end up being tough ones?

We aren’t busy with the normal festive stuff, the bustling about with shopping and Christmas prep, but we are overwhelmed by the rush of summer and new farm animals and building infrastructure and other elements of off grid life.

In fact, I’d say this month has been one of the hardest since going off grid. The work has just felt absolutely relentless. Our new animals have been escaping, and we’ve put in a new bit of driveway so people can more easily visit (Tim borrowed a digger), as well as trying to put together the fanciest AirBNB yurt ever.

I had also set myself the challenge of Nanowrimo – a first draft of a novel in one month. In a way writing my 50,000 words late at night and in stolen corners of the day meant I had something to look forward to each day, but it also put on a lot of unnecessary pressure! When I look back on this last stressful month I’m like – why in the blazes did I keep doing nanowrimo?!?!?!?!?! The truth is, it felt important to me, to prioritise something that I get a lot out of. Does that make sense? Sometimes self-care looks like going to bed at 10pm and getting enough sleep and sometimes it means googling “how to write fiction” at 1am.

One of the factors has been how we accidentally ended up with a million more farm animals this month. It is all exactly the right thing for our farm, and it has all worked out in a totally serendipitous way. But it has been SO FULL ON. Watch our new video to meet these mysterious, slightly scary, creatures. Also Ramona’s first bash at beekeeping:

(This video was filmed on our first day with the animals, I am used to them now and we are on far better terms…eeep!)

It’s always funny approaching Christmas being a Brit in NZ.

Last Christmas we stayed on the farm and had our own little meal. We had no oven so we built a campfire and cooked a roast chicken in a cauldron. It was nice. And smokey. Ha.

This year we are having all of Tim’s family over for Christmas. And we are also ovenless- that’s because our yurt oven is woodfired which we shut down over summer; if we were to stoke it up our yurt would become a sauna. So we will build a spit for a lamb. We will camp and swim and have barbecues and salads. Salads for Christmas lunch! I’m serious. Bringing you the hard truth, right here, my friends.

Home away from home 😆

A photo posted by Lulastic & the Hippyshake (@lulasticblog) on

It is beautiful, having time together under the sun, swimming in the river and going on long evening walks. But, do you know what? Christmas is when I miss London the absolute most. I never feel properly festive here. I decorate the yurt like I think it’s the Christmas window display at Fortnum and Masons. (It would be really beautiful apart from that anything with a face – the nativity set, angels, Santa tree decorations etc- gets spirited away in carrier bags to different parts of the farm as playthings.)

I listen to ALL THE CHRISTMAS MUSIC. All day.

We do all the little advent rituals. (Some of them taken from Sacraparental’s epic list of advent ideas.)We are into our fourth year with our homemade pocket advent calendar, the girls are SO excited about seeing what is in every pocket. I have to do it each night otherwise they would have opened all 25 on the first day. I’ve only forgotten to put the thing in once… or twice. Ay ay ay, it is only the seventh of December!!! This morning they got little Santa candles in their advent pockets (stretching the concept of advent a bit, whatever) which they really enjoyed until Santa’s head melted completely away and Juno cried.

Despite all this I never really feel that buzz of December, that feeling that even though it is sludgy and dark and my nose and toes are constantly cold, there is this magical day coming up, this glimmer of shining hope to look forward to.Pocket Advent Calendar

It’s also when I miss my family the most. Christmas with my family is always so, so, so random. All the family and then several friends of friends, or neighbour’s cousins, or complete strangers. One year we met someone at the Christmas Ever service and she was going to be in London on her own the next day, so instead she came to us for Christmas. She went on to become a really cool friend. Hehe.

I try really hard to not get sentimental about being in NZ when all of my family is in London, but I really wish I could be with my folks and my sister and my nephews and niece at a cute little German market wearing wooly hats and eating churros that cost ten pounds.Off grid christmas in the summer

Luckily the swimming and the camping and the roadtrips balance out the homesickness a tiny bit.

What are you up to this Christmas? Are you feeling okay? Have you seen Mel’s 5 permissions, to help you look after yourself a bit? Have you seen my alternative, non-toy gift ideas for kids?

Hope that wherever you are and whatever you are doing, life isn’t biting you on the bum… x x

yurt life

We’ve been living off the grid for one year!

20 October, 2016

We’ve just passed our living off the grid first year anniversary and I thought it would be a good plan to reflect on it all a bit. We had been living off the grid for around 15 months prior to last September, but it was on someone’s elses farm, sort of tucking into their sunshine powered dream, apprenticed to them in the ways of self sufficiency.

One year ago we moved on to the land we bought with another family and began to set up a small solar powered home and farm. There was nothing on the farm apart from some fencing and a shed, and the natural environment- springs, trees, the river, meadows and native forest.

We popped up one little yurt and basically camped out for the summer. We hooked up a tap and had an outdoor kitchen. And slowly added bits and bobs. Four months in we stuck up a big yurt with the help of many friends and moved into that for a more long term home. We chose a yurt house as it was inexpensive, easy and quick to put up, and beautiful too. (Heres more on choosing to live in yurt homes.)

Here are a few thoughts….living off the grid for one year

Living off the grid is WELL EXPENSIVE to set up
One of the things that has been a bit of a shock is how much money everything has cost! Ultimately living off the grid ends up less expensive as our solar electricity is free and home grown food is cheaper. But to set it all up really does cost a lot. Things that you don’t really think about as costing actually money are REALLY expensive- things like timber and nails and pipes.

Living off the grid is a time stealer
Everything takes FOREVER. Working our bums off and we have only got two thirds through our To Do list. And that’s with crossing things off with the scribble “revisit 2018″…  We thought we would have an add on to our yurt built before the winter, a sort of porch/ wet room where we can keep wet coats and welly boots and store tools and things, but that hasn’t happened yet. We thought we’d have hydroelectricity set up so we could have endless electricity, but that got moved down the list. Mind you… the weather hasn’t exactly been a friend in all this. We’ve had to write off whole days, WEEKS, due to rain storms and stuff.

Living off the grid is hard and not so hard
Some of the things that might seem hard (like having an outhouse instead of an internal bathroom and a composting toilet that doesn’t flush) are not as hard as you might think. They just make SO much sense that we quite quickly got used to the idea of treating our waste differently. It’s something that is just part of life and only ever feels like a positive thing; isn’t it awesome that we don’t throw away something that is SO good for our trees?!

Living off the grid involves an entire mind revolution when it comes to electricity. There have been times when we have just had to shut everything down this winter. That can be incredibly frustrating. Slowly, mindful use of electricity just becomes the new normal.

And then, sometimes stuff is hard, with not much positive spin to be wrung out of it. Going without hot water for so long, months and months, was pants. Having to park our car 180 metres away and hike up with the girls and all our gear in the pouring rain has been a bit of a major mission.

Living off the grid gets the weather in your face
This one is the bridge between the bad and the good sides of living off grid. Because on one hand we feel so open to the elements, and lots of our activities are weather dependant, or go ahead despite the weather and are turned from a pleasant job to a freaking AWFUL one. And living in a yurt increases this too. We’ve done a winter in our yurt (read more by clicking that link) and it was warm as we had a fire. But when it hails, or when the wind howls around us, it is LOUD and full on! And as we lie in bed on our mezzanine floor, our faces half a foot from the fabric roof on which the rain is pounding we think who does this??!

But then, there is a good side to being this close to the elements. Those sunny days when we look out at the mountain and the meadows call to us and we fling our bodies down the hill and lie in the long grass and the ducks come quacking over ‘cos they think we have their grains and then a cloud comes and it rains. Ha. But really, I’ve never been so very conscious of the weather and the seasons and it is truly marvellous.


Living off the grid in community is so nice
So a year or so into living with another family on our farm and we are SO GRATEFUL to be living in community. It is SO NICE and SO RIGHT for this way of life. We would feel immensely isolated doing this without them. And it would be way too much work. This way the load is shared and if one family is sick or needs a break, the other can step in. If one family is going to be too late home to move the cows to the next field, the other family does it. They are kinda like the greatest neighbours ever, but more than that, like neighbours-with-benefits… but not those kinda benefits… other kinda more wholesome, agricultural benefits….argh

I don’t say this flippantly at all, and don’t even really recommend living this intensely in community unless you really think super hard about it, find the most very right people who you communicate really well with, and then do some serious work and living with them before hand. Buying land with people is a big deal. But we love, LOVE, our neighbours and we feel so lucky that we found each other. They bring a lot of joy and empathy into our lives.

Plus, together, we are able to give our dreams legs. We have begun fire/moon circles where adults gather to share stories around the fire, under the moon. We have begun a forest play group for little ones and home schoolers. Both of these groups add so, so, so much to my life.


Living off the grid… but with wifi
So we are off grid, no services or state provided infrastructure, except the internet. I guess that is someone’s grid. And I don’t know whose grid it is, I thank them for it, as I like it. Maybe it’s Gods grid? Would she let the whole xxx thing gets so outta hand on there? Doubt it.  Probably not God’s grid. I guess in a way it is sort of the world’s grid, right?  And I guess it’s less of a grid, and more like a flexible, evolving, sort of  interconnected structure… you know what, I’m gonna call it a WEB.  The World’s Web. I feel as if it needs another syllable in there somewhere. The World Wise Web? The World Whine Web?

Anyway. We are ON THAT. We thought it would help with my work, and it kind of has, like lots of cool things have happened, I turned up in all the charts, right up there in the British top parenting one and the NZ top blog one, and I made a meme and it got a virus and TWELVE MILLION PEOPLE SAW IT ON FACEBOOK! Like actually 12 million people, not kidspeak 12 million. OMG! Which is all quite amazing considering I feel like now that I work at home rather than the library I spend most of the time standing in front of my open fridge wondering why we don’t have more snacks.

And then, I feel like the wifi and the ease of working at home has come at a bit of a cost. It’s there all the time this WWW, asking you to click all the things. And I am having to work TRIPLEY hard at staying present and doing hobbies other than surfing the internet that I love to do. Pre wifi I used to read 3 books a WEEK I tell you! And I would sing 1990’s rap on my ukulele like the South London hipster I used to be. We are still figuring out how to get all the wonders of the wifi without the weird owning of your life that it can sometimes do.

Living off the grid… a year of loving nature (and nature loving me??)

YIKES THIS POST IS TURNING RIDICULOUSLY BIG. I probably need to write about all these things separately. Okay… so for me, this year has been less all about the living off the grid thing… and more about a life lived in touch with nature. I guess we chose off grid because it is so gentle on the earth’s resources… and, this might sound strange, this year I have felt the sense of being held by Papatuanuku – in Maori, this is the land, the mother of all living things.

I feel like we have said YES to the earth, and the earth is giving a million yeses back. I write about this in my book 30 Days of Rewilding…  the beautiful, mutual relationship that we can have with nature.
Living off the Grid for one year
The mountain invited us to live close by, and offers its protection from many of the roof ripping gales for which this region is named. We do what we can to stop the greedy pillaging that mining companies would like to do. It’s a relationship. Getting arrested on the mountain was kind of like the equivalent of getting a beloved’s name tatooed across my shoulder.

And then there’s the ruru, the native owl. We have this thing going on, I swear! Ah, sheesh. This is a story for another time….

Living off the grid and children

So, one of my children, Juno, is an off gridder.  She is a solar powered hippy from way back. She is three and gets involved with all the work around the place and heads off into the bush for solo adventures. Sometimes in the dark with a head torch!?! Like, for real, she did that.

The other was born and raised for her first 2.5 years in London and has taken longer to get used to it. She is far more fearless and ferocious than most in the wild. This is her catching eels in the creek.

But, you know what, she is still an urbanite in lots of ways. Just yesterday she found a matching pair of socks and went “MUM, QUICK WHERE ARE MY RUNNING SHOES?” “huh?” “MY RUNNING SHOES I NEED TO PUT THEM ON AND GO FOR A RUN!” “What, why, huh?” “LOOK I’VE GOT TWO WHITE SOCKS AND IT HAS ALWAYS BEEN MY DREAM TO WEAR TWO WHITE SOCKS AND GO FOR A RUN”

So we head in to town more often than we would to help her city slicker ways.

~

There is so much more to say but it is midnight and I have a book to read and a ukulele to strum. I might have to do a two parter on this whole year of living off the grid thing. In fact, if you have any questions, ask in the comments and maybe I could do a sort of Q and A thingy.

***new video*** Sometimes the reason all the important things, like getting our little yurt ready to go on Airbnb (oh there is it! Spread the word! If people want to try out an off grid farmstay, send them our Airbnb, kicking off in November!) it might be because we get distracted by doing something really fun like making earth bricks for our garden!

PS Want more nature loving stuff? My latest book is designed as 30 short readings you can do each day over your morning cup of tea to help you fall in love with nature. See more here!

PPS Here is our year of living off the grid in video form!
ONE MONTH ON OUR LAND

TWO MONTHS ON OUR LAND

FIVE MONTHS ON OUR LAND

EIGHT MONTHS ON OUR LAND

TEN MONTHS ON OUR LAND

yurt life

A Home of Two Halves – on tidyiness, motherhood and creativity

13 September, 2016

Our home is perched on a hill. We overlook meadows and a mountain range. The beauty mostly stops at our front door. Every step into our home leads you deeper into disarray. For the first three metres of our yurt you might think “Oh, this is a nice little lived-in sort of place with a few lovely things!” but by the time you reach our back room (we call this the Snug) you will wonder who lives here? A clan of cuddly toy collecting room smashing rock stars?

to which I can only say, weeeeelllll yeah. Sort of.

But the thing is, we aim to mostly entertain in the front half. So it’s all good!

This is the compromise we have got to, as people who are generally quite messy living in a world that fetishises minimalism.

I call this method the Home of Two Halves.

I beleive, like most new concepts, it has it’s roots in the old skool. It used to be called The Parlour.  It was a front room kept shut apart from when visitors came over. We laugh at The Parlour these days. Ha! A china tea set that was used 6 times a year! Sofas that you weren’t allowed to sit on! But the thing is, we have got rid of The Parlour but we haven’t got rid of the judgment of mothers who fail to have a tidy home when unexpected visitors pop in.

I have had someone stand in the doorway of my home, shake their head at the messy room they were staring at and tell me that I am a poor housekeeper.  Never mind that I had a baby and a toddler and was writing a book at the time.

I think The Parlour was a thing that women came up with as a way of juggling people’s unrealistic expectations along with childcare, self-care and home-care.  People are not meant to be able to keep an entire home spick and span – it is unhealthy!

Like, I mean it. A bit of dirt is good for us. Even messy beds keep us healthier.

But mentally too. Stay At Home Parents (most of whom are women at this point in time) labour under this burden of respectability when actually our primary job, a job that can impact the world for better or worse, is caring and nurturing our children. The truth is, if I am rushing around trying to get my home looking clean, I struggle to dig deep for the empathy and extra help my kids might need. I wish I was a better juggler than that but I am not. I’m freaking out about someone judging my messiness and I say “Wait a sec, I have to get under this minging cabinet” instead of meeting their need.

So much research points towards this idea that meeting our kids needs empathetically will nurture a generation of empathetic, kind people. The world should be making a big deal about parents that choose to be attentive to their kids over being attentive to tidiness. I mean sometimes, just occasionally, they are not mutually exclusive. Sometimes my kids will bounce on the trampoline for 1.5 hours straight and I will have a fun time straightening things up. But sometimes I do choose to just be with my kids whilst our home is in squalor, and that is a good thing for the world’s future! Do I want an award? Yeah, okay. I’ll take an award.

Creatively too. Holy smokes if there is one thing many mothers need it is permission to be themselves and give voice to the creativity inside of them. I can’t speak for all mothers. Some mothers have a more basic need than that and my heart goes out to them. But there is a crowd of mothers with this wild urge for making who are quietly wilting because they are waiting for permission to let go of some other stuff that feels important.

What does the world need from you? Not a tidy home, that’s for sure. Do we need dreamers to dream? Yep. Do we need singers to sing and artists to paint and writers to capture that illusive string of words that will illuminate something really deeply meaningful for us? Hell yes.

“I’ve seen women insist on cleaning everything in the house before they could sit down to write… and you know it’s a funny thing about housecleaning… it never comes to an end. Perfect way to stop a woman. A woman must be careful to not allow over-responsibility (or over-respectabilty) to steal her necessary creative rests, riffs, and raptures. She simply must put her foot down and say no to half of what she believes she “should” be doing. Art is not meant to be created in stolen moments only.”
Clarissa Pinkola Estés,

There’s probably loads of answers to this problem. Making sure everyone checks in with reality is part of it. Which is why I have done a big reveal of the shockingly messy half of our house in this video. Sink full of dishes? Normal. Teddies everywhere? Normal. More clothes out of the drawer than in? For some families this is reality. Instagram feeds with their clean white surfaces are not everyone’s reality. Ugh.

The benefit of having our yurt on the hill is that I get a good warning of an advancing party. I spy them pulling in and have chance to get the front half looking its best.

And sometimes, like yesterday, I’m busy and don’t get the advance warning and the new neighbours have arrived and our entire place looks like a volcano filled with grubby white teddy bears and dishes has exploded in the middle of everything. I sang a hallelujah for the sunshine under my breath and I shut the doors on the yurt and we had tea outside.

Pfft.

Let’s do it, my friends. Dismantle those ridiculous expectations, do what you can, ignore what you can’t, prioritise your children and follow up your creative urges. Life is to be lived, not to be sanitised.A Home of Two Halves - on tidying, motherhood, creativity

Parenting, yurt life

The Endorphin Experiment (Week 6)

11 August, 2016

Two weeks ago we hiked through a pine forest and burst out at this long, empty beach. The sun was shining for the first time in about 83 days and, thinking about how I’d been grieving summer for weeks, and acting so quickly that I couldn’t talk myself out of it, I shucked off my welly boots, peeled off my socks, pushed off my puffa jacket and wriggled out of my jeans and jumper. I careered into the sea, pale wintery limbs and boobs awaving, and dove under a wave. I sprang to my feet as Tim and Ramona ran in, both butt naked too.

I don’t know what they were doing, for, in hindsight, I can see that for me it was all a very clear and measured part of my Endorphin Experiment! Doing what I love, living well in my body, following urges. And what an endorphin buzz! And the glee stayed for hours! Endorphin Experiment

***

Yikes! Week Six of the Endorphin Experiment  – skipped a few weeks there! I have still been doing my experiment though, so I’ve lots to catch you up on.

(Please Read Endorphin Experiment Week 1 and Endorphin Experiment Week 2 to get up to scratch.)

Firstly, this has been a costly experiment… I went overdue TWO TIMES with The Endorphin Effect and now owe $4.30 to the library.

But, guess what, I didn’t stress out about those four buckeroonies!! Nope, no worries, I just tapped into my endorphins and felt good immediately.

Really?

Okay, I can’t tap into my endorphins immediately, instantly, on demand just yet. Not every time. But there have been at least 8 experiences over the last 4 weeks that would have unleashed a wave of cortisol or other stress hormones over me that I was able to prevent using the techniques.

Key Techniques:
I am going to try to get across concepts that are written about in The Endorphin Effect in exhaustive detail, including ancient Eastern spirituality and medicine, as well as biochemical research… so be gracious as I go ahead and cover them in five paragraphs! ha.

Strawberries
Strawberries is the shortcut William Bloom uses to talk about those things that fill us with delight – it’s based on a parable he tells in the book. It might be memories of amazing days, thoughts of people, works of art, the smell of the ocean. I wrote a list of my strawberries in Week One and my ongoing job is to be able to recall the feeling my strawberries bring me at the clicks of a finger, and also, to build more strawberries into my life.

I have put pictures and poems up around our home and, genuinely, as I walk about the home my eyes catch these things and I tiny glimpse of feelgood begins – these days I stop, breathe and let that feel good wash over me, rather than stopping.

Inner Smile
That thing I described in that last sentence is essentially the “Inner Smile” – it is taking a moment to stop, breathe, think about my strawberries, and imagine a smile beginning in my centre and unfolding to swallow my whole body.

I know. It sounds crackers but it works a treat. And if you are put off by the “Inner Smile” please don’t read further…lol of lols…

Curled Deer
The Curled Deer is getting into a state of restfulness where all your body energy can flow. It is the other half of the Inner Smile, but perhaps more for those times when you feel unenergetic and in need of peace rather than glee.

Big New Concept and Task:

Unboundaried Dreaming

Bloom makes the case for doing big, colourful, intuitive dreaming when you are riding a wave of feelgoods. Doesn’t that make sense? We so often plan in a panic. The shit hits the fan and we go “ARGH RIGHT WHAT ARE WE GONNA DO” and we end up locked in a cycle of limited scope. Like, our baby has 3 bad nights in a row and we decide to stop night breastfeeding.

Nooooooo!

The alternative is to tap into our endorphins and then take some time to imagine the future as we want to see it.

I can *really* see this as being an important parenting tool.

I decided to give it a go with my relationship with my children.

I did strawberries and inner smile, waited till i could actually feel the bubble of delight begin in my stomach and fizz out over my body, and then began imagining my life with Ramona and Juno.

I imagined our mornings as peaceful and our interactions as respectful. I imagined some of the normal points of tension in our day, but envisioned them as easy and joyous. I imagined in detail, full colour, followed where my mind wanted to go.

This kind of dreaming can be applied to any area of work or home or relationships.

It is natural to move on from the dream and take some practical steps towards the fulfillment of the dream, say, speaking to someone to be a mentor or getting a relevant book out. For my one, I decided I would wake up every morning and give my children a loved up smile. So basic, but it is a big deal for me because my body’s natural wake up time is about 9am (harhahahahaha) and digging deep to find an Actual Face Smile each morning has been pretty transformative.

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So I’ve been really tucking into my strawberries and have given myself permission for full, visceral joy, and I’ve been inner smiling and unboundaried dreaming left, right and centre for several weeks now and I can’t tell you which one of those things is paying off, but I have certainly had some of the most peaceful and contended weeks of my life.

(We also got wifi at home during this time so it *could* be that. I jest, I jest!!)

Now, it would be easy to say all this inner smile and unboundaried stuff is free (well, apart form library fines) so therefore accessible to anyone… but I think that would be a naively privileged perspective. For, if you are crushed under bills and only a hairbreadth away from trouble, where do you find the headspace for this stuff? I would love to examine this more, and would love to hear your perspectives.

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I’ve got a final installment of big picture endorphin/ parenting thoughts coming so keep your eyes peeled next week!

I have heard from some of you that you have gone out and bought The Endorphin Effect -I would LOVE to hear your thoughts on it.

Also – here is my latest Youtube, vaguely related through the concept of Mum Guilt! This is about Stay At Home Vs Go To Work Mamas….

yurt life

Yurt Homes – five reasons to live in one

21 July, 2016

A yurt? Who lives in a YURT?!

I remember the moment it transpired that we were going to live in a yurt for a few months. We were absolutely in love with the strangeness of yurt homes in non-Mongolian settings. My first blog post about it was entitled “We Live In a Mongolian Tent Now” – incredulous, glad, incredulous.

18 months later and we not only still live in one, but we own two! A little NZ made one, 6 metres, by Jaia Yurts and one a third larger, by Pacific Yurts, imported from the States.

And we think yurt-living is the business.The Ultimate Guide to Living in Yurt Homes
This is me in our yurt, writing a post about living in yurts. 2016 aye?

What are these yurt homes you speak of?

People all over the world are making themselves at home in a modern take on the traditional Mongolian structure used for their housing. Translated “yurt” means “home.”

People have called our yurt a spaceship, a giant mushroom, a giant’s diaphragm. Indeed, it looks like all of these.

But mostly these days it is just our home and we love it.

Why are people choosing yurt homes?

We enjoyed living in someone elses yurt for a few months. But when we bought our new land we had the opportunity to get the home we have always wanted.

We were looking at moving on a beautiful old wooden cottage, or building from scratch- something like a cob house or an earthship. But the more we did costings, looked at our situation and sat and thunked, we realized that we wanted to keep living in yurts.5 reasons we have chosen to live in yurt homes

Yurt Homes are Affordable

We found our big yurt online, already imported from the States, never erected or even unpacked, but quite discounted because, hello, who wants a tent this big?!

We got it for $35000 (£17000) but full price it would have been $45k NZD. This includes almost everything you need, including double glazed glass windows, French doors and a back door and extra wind support and insulation. The floor comes at extra cost – another 6k.

Still, for a home with almost the same footprint as our little South London Victorian terrace, this is a real steal. A whole $500,000 less!!

(That figure isn’t actually accurate because our London home came with the land it sat on, and a little teeny weeny garden too.)

But you can buy a bare patch of land and stick a yurt on it for probably about a quarter of what it might cost to buy a house and a garden.

Of course, it isn’t a bargain if it feels like you are just living in a big tent, is it? And this is where the second reason we decided on a yurt comes in.

Yurt Homes are Beautiful

Yurts are beautiful! They feel almost sacred with their circular ways. The sun pours in through the canvas and the dome in the roof. They feel so perfectly nestled amongst the natural environment and they are easy to keep bright and airy.

Our big yurt comes with a 15 year guarantee, but they’ve been in production for 25 years and no one has ever claimed on one. They really are built to be strong and beautiful for a good long time!Yurt homes- why we love it

Yurt Homes are Mobile

Yeah, yeah, in NZ, most homes are counted as mobile. No jokes, at least a few times a year you will be driving down the motorway and you will see a WHOLE HOUSE on the back of a trailer. We’ve also seen a whole house in bits on the side of a road where it slipped off the trailer, which was a bummer for someone.

But anyway, in most parts of the world homes aren’t made for moving. Which is why yurts are so great because they can come and go with you.

So if you are not ready to buy land, you can put a yurt up on someone elses. You could even do it formally, by asking permission. I jest, you should pretty much always ask permission to put a yurt up on someone’s land to live there. Exceptions for if the land is owned by a conglomerate (I always want to call them clongoberates) and they are leaving it derelict until land prices rise. SQUAT THAT BUGGER! In seven years it is yours and you can share it with all the people that need a place to put their yurt!

(Yikes, how quickly I descend into anarchic housing strategies these days.)

Yeah, so yurts are a great option if you are looking at homesteading or self sufficient living but aren’t going to be owning the land you are doing it on.

We did it for 15 months – a sort of WOOFING arrangement, swapping garden labour etc for a patch of land with our yurt on it- while we were looking for the land we ended up buying.

Yurt Homes are low impact

Compared to traditional housing yurt homes are immensely low impact with the materials used. They are often built using 100% natural materials – tough cotton, wool for insulation and wooden lattice or beams. Our big yurt does used human made materials – a polyester cover instead of cotton canvas and a space agey tin foil instead of wool for insulation. But even with shipping it to NZ from the US, compared to the intense labour and complex production modern housing involves, yurts are super low impact.

Yurt Homes are Quick

And our last reason is to do with how quickly we can get up our yurt compared to building something ourselves. Our little yurt goes up in about an hour – once you have the floor down, and with a nice bunch of buddies. See my brand new video of us putting up our little yurt last weekend:

And even our big, far more house-like yurt, goes up in a day. If you missed that here is a slideshow of that one going up. Double glazed windows and all.

This is compared to about a minimum 6 months for a self build home, with a lot of help, and busting a gut each day.

We didn’t give up our jobs in order to slave away on a self build. These are the moments we want to free up time to spend with our girls, whilst they are so young, whilst we see their childhood running through our fingers like sand. It would be crazy to have sacked in our seriouspants careers in London and replace it with building a seriouspants house on the other side of the world.
5 reasons to live in yurt homes
What do you reckon? Could your family live in one of these yurt homes?

Pssst – have you downloaded my most recent bestselling book? It’s designed to help you and your family fall in love with nature. Find it on Amazon or my own estore.

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More from me on yurts:
Living in a Yurt – in the winter
Building a yurt
Inside our yurt house
Yurt living – winning and losing