Positively Primal

A reader in lockdown sent me this image (while she was getting her Vitamin D in a nearby meadow). This was her caption on Twitter: It’s a beautiful afternoon… Bathing in the sun, with a gin and tonic and a good read! It’s so peaceful, can hear all the birds chirping around. Last week she ordered a complete set of my 8 books – I actually loved signing them all, packing them up and dispatching them to glorious Whitstable! Also, ‘Positively Primal’ is one of my favourites of the books I’ve written… it expresses much of what I believe (and strive for) in terms of simplicity and honesty, the way we live on this earth, the way we treat ourselves and others. Less buying and consumerism, more fresh air and human connection? Definitely more time for walking barefoot in the grass…

Anyway, I found this image both appropriate and very beautiful.

Wellbeing: out soon!

Folks, just a heads-up about my new book coming to you early in 2019: Wellbeing, Body Confidence, Health and Happiness (Sheldon Press).
It’s always a thrill to get advance copies… and extra thrilling to see this glowing endorsement from the one and only Lily Collins!
You can find out more and pre-order your copy on Amazon here https://www.amazon.co.uk/Well-Being-confidence-happiness-health/dp/1847094775

Mindfulness & Healing: A Guest Post from Catherine Lucas

Mindfulness on Your Healing Journey: Six Secrets to Get You Started
by Catherine G. Lucas

Mindfulness will soon be widely acknowledged as being as essential for our emotional and psychological wellbeing as exercise is for our physical wellbeing. In the meantime, allow me to let you in on the Six Secrets, secrets which deserve to be widely shared, secrets which will help you begin to integrate mindfulness into your journey towards ever greater health and wellbeing.

1. Mindfulness is really simple.

They’re teaching it to small children in school now, it’s that easy. We basically come into the present moment through our senses: sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. Have a go right now – if you’re sitting down, notice what the surface you’re sat on feels like, notice the contact between that surface and your ‘sitting bones’. You’re not feeling that an hour ago (in the past) or in an hour’s time (in the future). You’re feeling it right now. That’s the immediacy of our senses – anything we see, hear, taste, smell or touch is in this moment.

2. You can incorporate mindfulness into any and every aspect of your day, any activity.

Whether you’re having a shower, eating your breakfast or cleaning your teeth you can bring your attention to one or more of the senses, noticing what is present for you. If the mind wanders off, which it naturally will want to, we simply, gently bring it back. Notice the fragrance of your shower gel, the flavour of your toothpaste, always bringing yourself into the present, enjoying the sheer simplicity of the moment.

3. Mindfulness doesn’t need to take any extra time.

If your days are already pretty full, pretty busy, practising doesn’t need to take any extra time. As we’ve just seen, you can incorporate it into what you’re already doing. If you want to make extra time to practice, however, that would be great. It would mean you’re giving yourself some space and attention, taking time to nurture yourself. There’s a teaching from an old Zen master: meditate for half an hour a day, unless you’re really busy, in which case meditate for an hour a day!

4. Self-compassion, self-care is a crucial aspect of mindfulness.

On our healing journey it’s all about learning to look after ourselves, to take good care of ourselves. Some of the practices are more explicitly self-caring, such as my Breeze Bathing which you can listen to for free (the link is below).

That means giving ourselves the time and space we need to catch up with ourselves when life is full-on and intense. It means taking time out regularly, half an hour, half a day here and there, to just look at a flower or sit down with our favourite hot drink. To make sure we don’t miss our down time, the mind wandering off to compose our next ‘to do’ list, we focus on the senses, noticing the colours and contours of the flower, feeling the warmth of the mug in our hands…

5. Stress can derail us if we don’t catch it early.

Mindfulness helps us catch stress early. It’s the ultimate stress-buster. By being more mindful, more aware, it helps us spot the early warning signs when stress is starting to build up. We can notice it in time to make choices, to take action to stop things escalating and getting out of hand. The Body Scan is a wonderful practice for that. Essentially a body awareness practice, it has the added benefit of being very relaxing. It can take 20-40 minutes. Like the Zen master says, the busier you are, the more stressed you are, the longer the body scan needs to be!

An alternative would be a practice like Mindful Walking which you can build into your day any time you walk somewhere, even if it’s just out to the car. Listen to the link below to get the idea.

6. Mindfulness comes with a health warning.

Beware! If you really embrace mindfulness it will transform your life as it did mine. If you have a sense that mindfulness can help you on your healing journey, look around locally for an 8-week class you can join or come on one of my retreats, suitable for beginners and more experienced practitioners alike.

Here are two of my practices for you to have a go: Breeze Bathing http://www.catherine-g-lucas.com/free-mindfulness.html and Mindful Walking https://insighttimer.com/catherinelucas Enjoy!

Author: Catherine G Lucas is the author of four books on the holistic approach to mental health. Her latest in the Sheldon Press Mindful Way series is out now: Life Crisis: the Mindful Way. She also published The Rainbow Journal, for young people who self-harm, whilst working for the national charity Self-Injury Support. In her writing Catherine draws on both her personal and professional experience as a mindfulness trainer see www.catherine-g-lucas.com

‘Memoir of the Year 2018’ (An Apple a Day)

“I had no preconceptions about this book. I knew nothing about it, had no idea that the author was the great niece of Virginia Woolf and in fact, I cannot even remember where I purchased it. I simply remember picking it up somewhere earlier in the year and thinking that the blurb sounded interesting and it would be a good fit for my mental illness category of book bingo. Thank goodness I did, it took my breath away, left me crying several times and made me wish I lived in England so I could track Emma down, give her a big hug and tell her “you’ve got this” (in a non stalker kind of way).

This is a tell-all, warts and all exposure of Emma’s battle with anorexia. She wrote the book after writing about her battle in The Times newspaper and it’s raw. It opened my eyes to anorexia and why it is so misunderstood. Healing herself must have been hard enough, but to do it in such a public fashion must have taken courage beyond belief. I take my hat off to you Emma for sharing your journey in such a well written, humble, helpful and non judging manner.

You don’t need to be suffering from a food obsession, or have a loved one who is, to understand or enjoy this book. You just simply need to read it. In fact, I’m declaring it my memoir of the year for 2018 🍏🍫” (Katie)

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‘One day I was faced with a choice – to die or to live – and I am glad I made the right one…’

Sometimes I forget about ‘An Apple a Day’ and then I get a message like this from a reader. It plunges me back into all that, and some days it can be painful as well as uplifting… Anyway, it means so much if one’s books have made a difference. Thought I’d share her beautiful words:

Hi @emmawoolf I read your book An Apple A Day and I just want to say thank you!❤ I’ve spent years battling depression and anorexia, and even now, when I am much better, I still have an eating disorder mindset. Unfortunately it’s not easy to get over. Your book is amazing, thank you for speaking up, saying all the things no one is saying, acknowledging that this is a life-threatening disorder. For all the times when I felt alone and utterly misunderstood, your words made me feel less alone. I never thought I will get better and live a life without fear of food. But one day I was faced with a choice – to die or to live, and I am glad I made the right one. Thank you so much, you are extremely talented, your words are beautiful! I wish you to always be this strong, to be healthy and never give up! Life is beautiful, if we would only let it be ❤ Lyuba Stoeva

A book of deep emotion and introspection, gets straight to the heart of what makes us human, of how we are frequently selfish, self-deceptive and inward looking…

Review of England’s Lane: Linda Hill (Award-wining book reviewer and blogger) @Lindahill50Hill

Lily’s affair with Harry will have an impact far wider than she could have imagined.

England’s Lane is a book of such deep emotion and introspection for its three main characters that I felt it was a bit like reading a literary Venn diagram as their lives are affected by one another’s behaviours. Love, grief and obsession are so incisively observed that I almost felt quite voyeuristic at times. I had to read England’s Lane in short bursts as it is incredibly claustrophobic and intense and I needed to give myself time to reflect as I read.

Indeed, the structure of England’s Lane lends itself to episodic reading as it is slightly fragmented. This means that the reader experiences similar information, obfuscation and half-truths in the same way as do the main characters; Pippa in particular. I thought it was inspired to give Pippa a first person account as she could so easily have been less significant than Harry and Lily.

In England’s Lane Emma Woolf has got straight to the heart of what makes us human, of how we are frequently selfish, self-deceptive and inward looking. She illustrates with unerring accuracy the ways in which one person’s actions reverberate across the lives of others in subsequent weeks, months and years. I felt that the way the similarities between the initially seemingly disparate characters were brought together was so well attuned and although I didn’t much warm to Lily, Pippa or, especially, Harry I still found myself caring about what happened to them, understanding them and empathising with them completely.

England’s Lane is a brilliant title because, although this is the road where Lily lives, it could be any road in England where characters like these could, and probably do, live, making the reader sometimes uncomfortably aware of just how similar our own lives could so easily become. Whilst there is a clear plot to England’s Lane and I enjoyed the narrative as both as a love story and a microcosmic portrait of modern society, it was the exploration of the themes that appealed most to me. Grief, love, mental health, family relationships, guilt, jealousy and despair, passion and hope thrum through the pages of England’s Lane. I’d defy anyone to read it and not find there is something they can relate to.

I think England’s Lane may polarise readers as it feels quite oppressive at times, but I found it affecting, intense, incredibly interesting and, which surprised me, very uplifting. It’s a book to savour and reflect upon.

Latest review: England’s Lane

A can’t-put-it-down novel that has it all: Beautiful writing, interesting plot, nuanced characters
August 5, 2018
‘Emma Woolf’s new novel was a page-turner. Once I started it, I could not put it down. And when I absolutely had to close the book to tend to my everyday life, I couldn’t wait to get back to it. The story line, which initially seemed as though it would be predictable, was not. The plot had twists and turns I never expected. The shifting point of view — from that of mistress Lily to her boss and lover Harry to his suspicious wife Pippa — also kept things interesting. But perhaps what I liked most about the novel was how believable — and likable — the characters were. Each was carefully drawn and each grew and developed throughout the novel, even though one suffers a tragic end. I fell in love with this novel and its lead character Lily, a flawed but sympathetic character who learns so much about life by the novel’s end. “England’s Lane” offers no pat or easy answers to the intricacies of love and loss, but its complexity is what makes it such a great read…’

Amazon.com: Customer reviews: England’s Lane

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