Mental Health Monday – Soul Space

It’s been a while since I wrote a Mental Health Monday post! I’ve had a lot on recently – school holidays, design team work, bespoke card-making, spring fayre preparations, overwhelming tiredness – so something had to give, and that something was my blog. Things are a little quieter and more routine now, so I should have the time to write more frequently. That’s the plan anyway …

Today I want to talk about the nitty-gritty of my morning mindfulness, meditation, prayer and reflection habit. It goes something like this:

  • 08:00 wave the kids off to school.
  • 08:05 meditate using the Headspace app.
  • 08:15 pray using the Pray as You Go app.
  • 08:30 reflect using the Simple Abundance book and my journal
  • 08:45 stretches
  • 08:50 shower …

The first thing I want to say is that I don’t really draw a line between mindfulness, mediation, prayer or reflection. It’s all one and the same to me – perhaps different facets of the same jewel. I often start my morning habits with a simple breath prayer such as, ‘Here I am, Lord (in breath) I am here (out breath)’ or ‘You are in me (in breath) I am in you (out breath).’ These prayers not only acknowledge God and invite him into this special time, but they also anchor me in the present moment – my mind is fully engaged in the here and now. It’s not rushing away into my day or ruminating over yesterday. Which brings me to the main aspect, benefit and challenge of mindfulness – being fully present.

When people talk to me about my mindfulness practice, they often ask: do you have to empty your mind? My answer is no; the clue’s in the name … it’s mindFULLness. Mindfulness is about being fully present in the moment, letting our thoughts go and simply being. I know … easier said than done, right? Our brains are programmed to think; they’re programmed to figure out how to overcome challenges and threats – perceived and real. It’s our survival instinct. And our thinking brains do not shut off just because we live in a relatively safe environment. In fact, our brains will take any challenge and try to figure out how to deal with it, no matter how minor. Maybe your co-worker has commandeered your desk while you’ve been on annual leave. Maybe one of the kids in your child’s class has headlice. Maybe your local supermarket has run out of bread. Our brains see all these things as threats and try to think of solutions in the same way they would if you’d just spotted a sabre-toothed tiger lurking in the bushes. OK, your reaction might not be as extreme, but if you’re suffering from anxiety or stress it might well be. Your brain might not be able to tell the difference between a sabre-toothed tiger and a co-worker, and you’ll experience your Flight or Fight response as if they presented the same level of danger. At the height of my anxiety, my brain was like a game of Whack-A-Mole. Threatening thoughts would pop up in my head, and I’d try to bash them back down, but as soon as I got rid of one, another would pop up … over and over and over again. I just couldn’t stop them, and they grew and grew and grew until they were all-consuming. But it wasn’t just in my mind. Thanks to adrenaline and cortisol, it was in my body too. Imagine the stress and the strain and the wear and tear of living in code-red-high-alert 24 hours a day, seven days a week for months on end. Anyhoo …

Now, however, when threatening thoughts pop into my head, my response is much calmer. I acknowledge them for what they are – just thoughts – and let them go, like leaves floating away on a stream, or clouds floating across the sky. As my husband says: you can’t stop the birds from flying over your head, but you can stop them from nesting in your hair. (He’s very wise!) As well as letting thoughts go, I also turn my attention toward whatever it is I am doing: cooking, painting, walking, breathing. I feel, taste, smell, hear, see. I fill my senses, and therefore my mind, with the present moment. And all this I do without judgment. I don’t label the thoughts as good or bad, and I don’t criticise myself for having them. My mind wanders. That’s what minds do – forever on the lookout for danger and opportunity. It has taken months of practice to be able to be mindful in this way. Thanks to the Headspace app, just ten minutes of practice a day for over a year now has started to hone my mind. Like any exercise, the more you do it, the better you get.

I almost always do my Headspace meditation before using the Pray as You Go app because it prepares me, settles and opens me for a focused time with God, just listening to his music, his story, dwelling in his love. As my mind inevitably wanders during this time, I remember to gently, and without judgment, return to prayer, to allow my mind to be filled by what I hear – not thinking, wrestling, studying, rationalising, struggling or striving, just being still and knowing and not rushing away in thought or in action.

I’m reminded of a verse from the Bible: Acts 17:28.

For in him we live and move and have our being.

After the day’s PaYG prayer, when I’m ready, I move on to the daily reading from Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Joy and Comfort. This is a kind of doorway into the rest of my day, a time to read, reflect, re-engage my thinking brain. I’m very much enjoying the challenge of this book. Some days, I find myself nodding in agreement. Some days, I find myself holding the polar opposite view. Some days, I find myself amazed at how the author seems to be writing my life! Everyday, I find something to chew on, to mull over, to note down in my morning journal and take with me into the day.

Reading this back, it sounds a bit as if I think I’ve found the secret to never being depressed or anxious again. I haven’t, and I know I haven’t. I’m still a Work In Progress as much as the next person. I think what I’ve found, though, is both a tool, and more than a tool. My time in the morning, is my Soul Space. As an artist primes her canvas for the paint to come, I prime my soul for the day to come. This ordinary, sacred time is to my life, what primer is to paint – the same but different. My Soul Space trains me and hones me and reminds me that everything in my life and every moment of my life is spiritual and sacred. My Soul Space is a reminder that God is always with us, and it is God with me. My Soul Space is a time of alignment and refinement as well as stillness and silence. It is both preparation for and part of my walk with God.

To finish, I’d like to leave you with this thought from Brother Lawrence (1614 – 1691):

I have abandoned all particular forms of devotion, all prayer techniques. My only prayer practice is attention. I carry on a habitual, silent, and secret conversation with God that fills me with overwhelming joy.

There is nothing new under the sun …

Thanks for reading! Back soon. xxx

You can read more of my Mental Health Monday posts here.

Planning Out Loud: W/B 30 April 2018

Hello! Welcome to my weekly Plan With Me video in which I get the coming week all decorated and set-up and my appointments, events and tasks planned out in my bullet journal. This video is part of a collaboration with Katie Teage – we’re both using EllieBeth Designs UK’s Unicorns sticker kit this week to show the different ways it can be used.

***If you’d like to financially support this channel please visit my online shop, StonetableDesignsUK, and buy one of my unique, handmade cards, bookmarks or sticker sets. Thank you!

Design Team News: Mama Makes on TV Latest Update

On Wednesday, with just two weeks to go until Mama Makes’ appearance on Hochanda, I packaged up my samples and posted them off to Loti at the production desk.

As well as the three makes I shared last Friday, I managed to rustle up three more: a piece of wrapping paper with matching gift tag (right), a simple watercolour card and a mixed media bookmark (below).

To make the wrapping paper, I used archival ink to stamp the images (from the Woodland Friends and Hello Spring sets) onto a piece of plain white tissue paper. Once the ink was dry, I sprayed the tissue with green, blue and yellow diluted India inks and then dried it carefully with a hairdryer. To add shimmer, I splattered it with Prima Metallic Accents and a Lindy’s Moon Shadow Mist spray. For the gift tag, I stamped the image with archival ink and then layered puddles of green and blue ink on both sides. To finish it off, I punched a hole using my sun craft punch and threaded through some thin black string.

For this last card, I folded a piece of Bockingford hot-pressed watercolour paper in half and masked its edges with masking tape to create a window to paint in. I stamped the creatures using archival ink and then coloured the whole image with professional watercolours. After removing the masking tape, I used a black fine liner to draw the window frame and stamped the sentiment, which is from the Hello Spring set. It seemed to go really well with the animals taking up all the room in the window!

Last, I included a mixed media bookmark that I made a week or two ago using words from the Hello Spring Set.

Creating these samples has been quite a challenge because I’ve wanted to do my best for Loti by producing quality products that show how fab the Mama Makes stamps are. The rest of the design team have produced stunning work, and I’m really excited to see how it will all come together on the day.

Speaking of which … don’t forget to tune in for Let Leonie Loose on Wednesday 9 May at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. You can find the show via Sky 673, Freeview 85, Freesat 817 or on the HOCHANDA website.

Thanks for reading! Catch you soon. xxx

Crafting Out Loud: Blue Orchid Birthday Card

Hello, lovely friends! Welcome to this video in which I create a bespoke blue orchid birthday card destined for a lady who loves blue, orchids and her holiday home by the sea. Thanks for watching!

***If you’d like to financially support this channel please visit my online shop, StonetableDesignsUK, and buy one of my unique, handmade cards, bookmarks or sticker sets. Thank you!

Planning Out Loud: May 2018

Hi! Welcome to my May 2018 Bullet Journal Plan With Me video in which I set up and talk you through all my monthly trackers for May. Thanks for watching! xxx

If you’d like to financially support my channel please visit my online shop, StonetableDesignsUK, and buy one (or more!) of my unique, handmade cards, bookmarks or sticker sets. Thank you!

Crafting Out Loud: A 50th Birthday Balloons Card

Hello, lovely friends! Welcome to this video in which I create a bespoke balloon birthday card destined for a lady who loves blue, using some backgrounds I had leftover from another project. Thanks for watching!

***If you’d like to financially support this channel please visit my online shop, StonetableDesignsUK, and buy one of my unique, handmade cards, bookmarks or sticker sets. Thank you!

Planning Out Loud: W/B 23 April 2018

Hello! Welcome to my weekly Plan With Me video in which I get the coming week all decorated and set-up and my appointments, events and tasks planned out in my bullet journal. Thanks for watching! xxx

If you’d like to financially support this channel please visit my online shop, StonetableDesignsUK, and buy one (or more!) of my unique, handmade cards, bookmarks or sticker sets. Thank you!

Design Team News: Mama Makes on TV Update

The 9th of May, the day that Mama Makes’ stamps are going to be featured on Hochanda, is rapidly approaching. When Loti asked the design team to make some samples for the Let Leonie Loose show she said ‘the more out of the box the better’ and that she wanted ‘quality not quantity’ – wow projects that would come across well on screen.

I do love a challenge!

I’ve tried not to rush into my makes because I’m always happier with my work when I let ideas percolate away in my mind before I get going. The first piece I made was this ‘dream big little one’ nursery plaque. Loti said she didn’t just want cards, so I decided to use a piece of old packaging from my scraps box to build a nighttime scene using a background I’d previously created using liquid water colours and alcohol. First, I painted the packaging with black gesso then covered it with the Mixed Media A7 Map Background stamp image in silver ink. On black card, I heat embossed the sleepy fox from the Woodland Friends stamp set using copper embossing powder then fussy-cut him out. I stamped the sentiment on a strip of mixed media paper too, once in black ink to make it stand out, then several times in purple ink. I really love the way it turned out. Imagine being a young child and looking up at this as you fall asleep at night …

The second sample I made was a card inspired by the sentiment ‘when we’re together it feels like home’ from the Woodland Friends stamp set. I wanted to create a sweet scene with another fox from this set and the rabbit from the Hello Spring set, so I used Distress Inks to make a sunset background and drew the outline of a house in the distance. I also stamped on the flowers and mushrooms from the Hello Spring set as black outlines only, so the characters stood out the most. I coloured the critters using distress inks and water to create a watercolour effect. To give the rabbit and fox something to stand on, I used the Mixed Media A7 Crackle stamp to create a path. I think this would be a sweet card to give to a loved one.

The sample I made today is another card, but this one is long and thin – a bit different from most cards. The ‘well done clever fox’ sentiment, again from the Woodland Friends set, inspired this make. I thought it would be nice to have something you could give to a young child who has achieved something, perhaps at school. From ‘school’, my mind leapt to ‘writing’, which led me to use the Mixed Media Large Script stamp in the background. I repeatedly heat embossed the stamp with clear embossing powder, and then watercoloured over it in a variety of blues. This reminded me of the sky, so I printed the sentiment on white card and cut it into a cloud shape. After that, it seemed natural to stand the clever fox on a little hill. I stamped her onto mixed media paper and coloured her and the hill with watercolour paint. I think this might be my favourite of the three …

I need to get the samples in the post early next week, but I’d like to make at least one more before then … perhaps a journal or scrapbook layout. I’ll be back next Friday with an update!

In the meantime, my second tutorial for Mama Makes is up on their blog today, so head on over there to find out how to make this mixed media nursery plaque.

And don’t forget to set your alarms for HOCHANDA’s Let Leonie Loose show on Wednesday 9 May at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.! You can tune in via Sky 673, Freeview 85, Freesat 817 or via the HOCHANDA website.

Thanks for reading! Catch you later. xxx

Plan With Me: A New(ish) Journey

Hello and welcome to this video. Today, I decorate and set up my planner in preparation for a new(ish) journey I’m embarking on. Thanks for watching!

If you’d like to financially support my video-making, please visit my online shop, StonetableDesignsUK, and buy one of my unique, handmade cards, bookmarks or sticker sets. As they say, every little helps. Thank you!

#the100dayproject: a Catch-Up and a Card

Hello, lovely friends, and welcome to this video in which I fill you in on how I’m participating in the100dayproject. I also make my Day 15 card using a stamp set from Mama Makes. Thanks for watching!

If you’d like to financially support my video-making, please visit my online shop, StonetableDesignsUK, and buy one of my unique, handmade cards, bookmarks or sticker sets. As they say, every little helps. Thank you!