Practice what you love with love, working IN the moment and not FOR a moment. The world does not stop for defeat or for victory and neither should you.
I have known victory and I am no stranger to defeat. Despite my personal challenges I still wake each day with the intention to practice what I love and this has served me well.
I am an England boxing coach and qualified personal trainer, working hard to help others practice what they love.
I woke up in the middle of the night with an urge to write. I couldn’t remember what I had been dreaming about, and I was still half asleep as I scribbled down a total of seven words.
The next morning I was excited to read what I had written. I couldn’t remember exactly what it was, but I knew that it had been important enough to wake me, and so I discovered, that with blurry vision and a mind that was still half asleep, I had written…
Greatness is natural. Apologising for it is not.
I still could not remember the dream I had had, but as soon as I read the words I had written, I was filled with a sense of knowingness and gratitude, because I knew what those words meant to me even though I had never put them together before.
When I say the word greatness, I am not talking about anything physical or anything that is associated with the ego. I am instead referring to our true nature and truth.
The greatness I am referring to is the spark of consciousness that exits at our core and connects us to all things, our natural life force.
Denying our true greatness, our true nature and truth is something I am sure we can all relate to. Holding ourselves back, both personally and professionally, out of fear, afraid perhaps that our truth will not be accepted or understood.
This is not natural behaviour.
These are unnatural habits, that have been passed onto us from outside sources that have nothing to do with greatness or truth.
Learn to recognise and tell the difference between what is your truth and what is not. Listen to the great wisdom that is at your core and let it guide you come what may.
As Carl Sagan famously said – we are made of star stuff. So let’s not deny or apologise for our greatness any longer!
Truly seeing a person is like witnessing a bunch of freshly fallen autumn leaves that are suddenly and unexpectedly lifted up from the earth and spun, swirling around each other, perfectly supported and perfectly timed, as if performing a well rehearsed dance, just for you.
Revealing such beauty, truth, and colour that it is enough to take your breath away, before all too soon being gently laid to rest back upon the earth, as if there had never existed such a thing.
Our lives are short, as short as a gust of wind that carries the autumn leaves. And like the autumn leaves, we don’t have much time to be or be seen.
So flow unbridled with the breath of life. Let it lift you and guide you as high as you are willing to go. Dance wildly, whilst you may, with and around all that you encounter, unyielding.
I am very much interested in learning as much as I possibly can about the practice of yoga. I have been familiar with the physical practice of yoga for a number of years, but my understanding of its principles and origin is limited.
During my first 1:1 I was introduced to the Ahimsa principle which means, do no harm.
The term ‘do no harm’ includes harm to yourself, others, animals and objects. As a boxer and boxing coach, I wondered; is the sport of boxing something that goes against this principle?
For me, boxing training has always been a way for me to connect with my spirituality. I wanted to explain this at my 1:1 but couldn’t find the words. I just know that it’s something I’ve always had a deep passion for. Something innate.
On my way home I wondered how to put into words my feelings about boxing and spirituality.
So here we go…
What does the word spirituality actually mean?
Spirituality: The quality of being concerned with the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.
When I was around nine or ten years old I was lucky enough to see a film called, Rocky. For those of you who don’t know, the film is about an underdog boxer who is given a chance at a world title.
The film made a deep and lasting impression on me. Here was a man who had no family to speak of, no friends and no money. He lacked in every area that our society deems so valuable, and yet, he was full of kindness and compassion. He was concerned only with doing what is right, both inside and outside of the ring.
This mans heart beat with love, with no trace of anger or bitterness and all he wanted to do was ‘go the distance’, which in boxing terms means reach the end of the bout. Despite his perceived lack, this man only ever wanted to give, and give his best.
I guess you could say he was a spiritual man, concerned with the human spirit as opposed to material and physical things.
At the age of nine or ten I could not have put this into words but the way he was and the way he chose to behave resonated with my core. I really felt like I could understand him and it made me determined in my own life to give my best despite my personal challenges, following my own moral compass in the absence of a caregivers.
When I put my gloves on as an adult, I am reminded always of these spiritual principles. When I step into the ring to spar or compete, it has always been with a willing participant of an equal ability.
So, does the sport of boxing go against the Ahimsa principle?
So far, my blog has been viewed in 59 countries since the publication of my book in March of this year. I never imagined that my story and messages of hope and love would travel so far around the globe. So I decided to buy myself a scratch map of the world, so I could see for myself just how far my story has travelled.
Every time I look at that map now, I can not help but be reminded of myself as a girl of 13, sat alone upon the roof top of Denver House, gazing at the stars and hoping for change. The memory is a sad one but also a powerful one, that serves me as a reminder of the power of hope and faith.
At 13 I learned that it is quite possible to find yourself in a situation where you are completely alone, without anybody to care for you. My family had told me that I was not wanted and that they were better off without me. The staff at the children’s home, my social worker and even some of the police officers I encountered, did nothing to protect me from being sold and used. And yet, in my darkest moments I was still able to hope, even at the age of 13.
I am so very thankful to the universe for all of the ways it has inspired hope in my life.
Hope is life saving and life changing. Hope inspires faith, and with faith you can summon the courage needed to keep moving forward, even when everything else around you is trying to hold you back.
I have taken a picture of a Christmas cactus that I believe sums up beautifully the power of hope. For those of you who don’t know, the Christmas cactus is a small genus of cacti found in the coastal mountains of south eastern Brazil.
There are around 6-9 species and the Christmas cactus gets its name from a legend about a young girl called Pepita from Mexico who was too poor to buy a present for Jesus’ birthday. Instead she gathered what greenery she could find in the mountains and placed it on the church alter. Then, when what was thought of as weeds by the local villagers suddenly burst into bloom, the legend of the Christmas cactus was born.
The Christmas cactus in the picture below was in need of watering. It was dying and it knew it. I know this because it had started to send out roots, in the HOPE of preserving its life. It had been trying to move to a new place that would better fulfil its needs so that it could live and bloom.
The Christmas cactus can not see, but still it sends out roots and reaches out when it is in need. Like the Christmas cactus, we too must reach out whenever we are in need or blinded by dark situations. We must hope and have faith in the universe that created us.
Since the publication of my story in March I can not believe how far I have been able to reach, and all of this has stemmed from a 13 year old girl who never gave up HOPE!
Effort – A vigorous or determined attempt (Oxford dictionary)
Giving 100% of your effort is something that will mean different things to different people. For example, what I can give in effort towards a particular goal or task may not be the same as what you could give, and that may be different again for the next person you meet etc.
Although we share many similarities, there is no denying that we are all different too. We are different physically; we are different psychologically and spiritually, and we each have different and unique life experiences, all of which can influence our capabilities at any given time. So when I say that giving 100% effort will mean different things to different people, it is a perfectly plausible comment to make… right?
Of course it is.
However, over the years I have had great difficulty accepting my 100% as ‘good enough’.
Since my last blog post I have been in training for my first fight as an amateur boxer and I have been unhappy with my 100%. I had hoped that by writing to you and putting my intentions out into the open, I would be able to muster the motivation I need to get to where I want to be, within the time frame I had set myself.
Unfortunately this has been easier said than done.
I haven’t written anything for a while because I had wanted to wait until I was able to write a glowing report about how my training is going and give you all some positive news. I have decided not to wait for that ‘perfect time’ and instead share with you from where I am right now, on this journey towards my goal of becoming a boxer.
I am still having nightmares that make me physically sick. The nightmares leave me feeling exhausted and sometimes I find it physically difficult to speak as my face and mouth feel numb. It’s frustrating and disheartening. On days like those I manage to get to the gym and train my clients, but then have nothing left in the tank to train myself.
That being said I am seeing improvements when I do spar. I am running faster and my footwork is improving. I have realised that I need to take a step back from my worries and self judgements and take a look at the bigger picture.
Those of you who have read my book will know that I have fought very hard already to be where I am today. One year ago I was about to start an alcohol detox programme and found it very difficult to leave the house for any other reason than to buy alcohol. Today I am in preparation for a boxing match!
Whilst I have not been happy with my 100% I know that it is good enough.
It is good enough because it isMY 100% and that is all that need concern me.
Accepting my 100% as it is now is an act of self-love and kindness. It creates space for self-improvement and removes any negative self judgement that can hold you back indefinitely.
So if you too have been, or are unhappy with what your 100% looks like right now, don’t let it stop you from giving it. Know that whatever your 100% looks like on any given day, it is good enough, and that your best can get better with patience, time, and a little self-love and kindness.
It is one thing to say that you are willing to die in the ring. That is a necessary must.
But are you willing to train for it?
Are you willing to eat for it and breathe for it?
Are you willing to LIVE for it?
If you can answer yes to these questions, then you my friend are a champion, win, lose or draw!
I wrote the above a few years ago.
At the time I was in a dark place, and was trying to motivate myself, but I didn’t believe I would ever again have the opportunity to box.
I am happy to say this is no longer the case and I will be boxing competitively in October, all being well.
I still have some weight to lose and I am concerned about the effect my nightmares have on me physically and mentally, but I am determined to try and give my all to my training over the next few months.
I have decided to share my worries here as a way of motivating myself.
I am doing this for myself and for all of us survivors out there who are fighting daily battles that no one sees or knows about. A victory for one of us is a victory for all of us.
I will have been victorious if I can make it to that first bell and say without doubt, that I have given my all to be there. No excuses.
To be honest, I don’t know if I will be capable of achieving my boxing dream and it scares me.
I don’t know if I have enough left in the tank.
But I am now ready and willing to find out, win, lose or draw!
Listen to your heart and ignore its requests, and you will experience unbearable suffering.
Listen to your heart and comply with its requests, and you will suffer, but you will not suffer unbearably.
Last night I had awful nightmares about the men who trafficked me when I was a child living in Denver house. The nightmares were so bad that I wasn’t quite sure where I was when I woke up, or even how old I was. I was physically sick and felt exhausted and emotionally drained. My body felt so heavy, and my heart so full of pain that I could barely walk.
As a result, I cancelled my morning training session with my coach and went back to bed. The last place I wanted to be was in my bed, but I just didn’t have the energy to do anything else. A few hours later, I managed to get myself up and dressed and went for a walk with the dog.
On the walk, I recognised that I was being unkind to myself in the way that I was talking to myself mentally. I was judging myself harshly for the way I was feeling. I was telling myself that I was a complete failure because I was not feeling happy.
And then I thought to myself, really? How ridiculous is that way of thinking in the grand scheme of things?
I had to remind myself that although I was feeling ‘bad’, I was actually doing really well.
Feeling bad is not the same as, ‘doing badly’.
I am so very grateful that I have been able to make this distinction today, on a day when I have been really struggling to function.
Over the past week or so I have ‘felt bad’ on a few occasions. My second yoga class left me wondering about suffering and my relationship with it. The nightmares I had last night made think about it again.
In one of the nightmares, I was trapped in a house, trying to find a way to escape from the men who had come to hurt me. I could hear the men slamming doors and up turning furniture, and I knew that it was only a matter of time before they found me.
I was in an upstairs bedroom wondering if I could escape through the window when I noticed a newborn baby, swaddled in blankets. She had been abandoned and I knew that if I abandoned her too, she would suffer the way I had done. I couldn’t let that happen so I took the baby in my arms and hid her amongst some cushions I had noticed.
I then took a deep breath, and went out to face the men, hoping that my actions would save the baby girl from being found. As the men hurt me as I knew they would, I prayed silently that the baby girl would keep quiet and not alert the men to her presence.
I have thought about that baby girl a lot today.
She was only a few days old and had absolutely no idea of the danger she was in, but I knew, that if that child started to feel hungry, anxious or even lonely, she would cry. Suffering is a natural part of life. What is not natural is the way we learn to attach ourselves to it.
I have endured such a lot of unnecessary suffering in my life because somewhere along the way, I ended up believing that my pain was who I was. It became my identity. But the truth is, I am so much more than what I feel.
Emotions pass and change all of the time but who I am, what resides at the core of me, is solid and unchanging.
When I think of myself, and recognise the unchanging part of me, any emotions I experience are just that, experiences. They do not define me. The same is true for physical experiences.
Do not let your emotions or physical experiences define you.
We are not our anxieties or fears. We are not our pain and suffering, we are not even our happiness and joy. We are an unchanging part of the universe.