When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön [Book Review]

When Things Fall Apart is a non-fiction book all about Buddhist teachings. I am personally not religious myself, but it’s one of those books that is applicable to anyone, whatever life choices they have made.

It’s so hard to sum up this book because it has so much raw and honest wisdom within it. You kind of go on your own journey of reflective thoughts throughout it, finding yourself as you find your way through the book.

The overall message of the book is how, as humans, we often see pain as fundamentally bad. We hate it, we ignore it, we distract ourselves from it. We do everything we can to feel pleasure, thinking that feeling bad is a result of unfairness or failing in the world.

What if feeling pain is simply a sign of wisdom, of change, of stepping further down the path to the best life we can ever lead?

In this book, meditation is used as an example to practice feeling pain. Instead of running from it, we must let ourselves connect with those deepest parts of ourselves. Only then, can we accept our emotions, and learn to overcome the baggage they store inside of ourselves.

There are so many beautiful and inspiring quotes in the book that I would love to share with you all:

“Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.”

“The point is not to try to get rid of thoughts, but rather to see their true nature. Thoughts will run us around in circles if we buy into them, but really they are like dream images. They are like an illusion – not really all that solid. They are, as we say, just thinking.”

“… we have a lot of opinions, and we tend to take them as truth. But actually they aren’t the truth. They are just our opinions. We have a lot of emotional backup for these opinions. They are often judgemental or critical… Opinions are opinions, nothing more or less.”

“We don’t experience the world fully unless we are willing to give everything away. Samaya means not holding anything back, not preparing our escape route, not looking for alternatives, not thinking that there is ample time to do things later.”

“Sometimes we meet someone who seems to have a great sense of wellbeing, and we wonder how that person got that way. We would like to be that way. That wellbeing is often a result of having been brave enough to be fully alive and awake to every moment of life, including all the lack of cheer, all the dark times, all the times when the clouds cover the sun.”

Doesn’t Pema Chödrön just have a way with words?

The only reason why I was hesitant to give this book five stars is because, at times, it can get a little heavy. If you don’t know much about Buddhist teachings, it can be a little too overwhelming to learn, but I think if you are willing to sit down and think, rather than pace through, you will be fine. It can get a little repetitive, but stick with it. I think the overall message is something we can all learn from.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ out of 5

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Have you read When Things Fall Apart?

Let me know below!

 

You can find me on social media here:

Instagram: @mymindspeaksaloud

Twitter: @mindspeaksaloud

Goodreads: mymindspeaksaloud

Weekly Wellbeing Challenge: Week 10

The challenge for this week was… practice positive affirmations!

Here is a small overview of how I got on with the challenge.

[and don’t forget, it’s not too late to sign up if you haven’t already!]

If I’m being totally honest, I didn’t plan a proper routine for doing my positive affirmations this week, which means I didn’t do it as much as I would have liked! This proves that planning ahead and choosing the right day/time really does make a difference to the new habits you want to produce.

The positive affirmations I did try throughout this week:

  • “I will succeed.” (I’ve been writing the first draft of my novel, so I needed a bit of a confidence boost!)
  • “I can overcome anything that is in my way.” (This is a good, overall affirmation to practice, because life will always throw obstacles in your way).
  • “Today is going to be a great day.” (Setting up a positive start to the morning, even if I’m feeling a little groggy!)

 

When I do practice these, I find that it does give me a little energy boost for the next task I am about to complete. It is also a great way to psych yourself up for something, whether that is a job interview, or meeting new people, or doing an exam. If you are gesturing wildly, shouting positive affirmations at yourself, you are much more likely to go into the scenario with a positive attitude and infectious energy, even if you feel a little silly whilst doing it!

Have you ever tried positive affirmations?

How did they make you feel?

Let me know in the comments below.

 

5 Things I’m Grateful For This May (2020)

Here’s my monthly gratitude reflection!

My University Experience

This month, I sent off my final ever assignment towards my degree! Despite things feeling very uncertain at the moment, I feel so grateful for the last three years. It’s been a journey of many ups and many downs and I don’t think I could have grown this much as a person if I didn’t have the experiences that I did.

A week ago, I shared a post on how many words I’ve written in my entire degree (for a bit of fun!), so you can check that out here. I’m sure I will also share a larger post at some point reflecting on my university experience in a bit more depth!

 

My Blog

Something I’ve realised over the last few weeks, is that I rely a lot on my hobby of writing to keep myself feeling productive with a overall good sense of wellbeing. Without having blogs to write and social media posts to share, I think it would have been a lot more difficult to cope with ending university.

I’m so grateful to have a platform where I can speak my mind and connect with others. I’ve had a lot of really genuine and lovely comments on my blog this month, where I’ve inspired people to make changes to their everyday life, and convinced some to try out a new book! It feels good to be making that kind of difference, even if it small.

So thank you, so much, to all of you ❤

 

Books, Books, and More Books!

Since being in lockdown, books have essentially become my life. There are 3 ways I’ve been enjoying books and I’m super grateful to be able to do all of these:

  1. Reading books – the obvious answer!
  2. Cooking/Baking – I love finding new recipe books!
  3. Writing a book – yes, I’m actually in the process of writing the first draft of my novel! 😱

 

The Sunny Weather

Doesn’t everything just feel that little bit happier when it’s sunny? I’ve loved the rise in temperature and the fact that I’ve been able to sit outdoors in the sun to read, or go on a nice walk. It definitely helps with getting some fresh air in lockdown.

 

Learning to Make Do

I think what I’ve learnt the most during lockdown is to learn to make do with what I’ve got, to make an everyday life and routine out of about a tenth of my normal belongings. I’m sure it’s made a lot of people rethink the amount of stuff they buy because they think they need it, but, in reality, we don’t really need much at all.

I’m really grateful to have the things I do have – a house to live in, food on my plate, books to read, and a family to keep me company.

When I return back home, I’m determined to declutter my room and get rid of all the things that I honestly don’t need!

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What are you grateful for this month?

Let me know in the comments!

You can find me on social media here:

Instagram: @mymindspeaksaloud

Twitter: @mindspeaksaloud

Sign up to my Weekly Wellbeing Newsletter here.

The Nine-Chambered Heart by Janice Pariat [Book Review]

This was the chosen May read for the book club I recently joined! This is the first review I’ve done of a book I actually didn’t like all that much! But I think sometimes writing bad reviews are quite fun, because you get to rant about all the things you wish were better!

Going into this book, I was looking forward to seeing how the story would unravel. I absolutely loved the premise – that it focused around one women, with nine different perspectives from people who loved her during her life (or “loved”, should I say). I expected something deep and reflective, that would make me contemplate the way perspective really does change everything. But instead, it fell kind of flat.

 

Here are the three main reasons it didn’t work for me:

 

Each voice wasn’t distinctive enough

If you’re going to have nine different perspectives, they all need to have their own spin on life, and it’s not enough to just throw them into a different place and a different situation. A lot of the voices overlapped and merged and I didn’t feel like I inhabited their character at all. They all felt and acted along the same sorts of lines, which made me question their human capacity.

 

The writing itself was lacking

This might sound a little brutal, but the way it was written just wasn’t for me. It had all the things we are always told not to do in creative writing class, such as excessive adverbs and telling rather than showing. It felt like a book of statements, rather than a book of insight and understanding.

For example:

‘You say it’s delicious, but on your face I can see sadness.’ (how do you see sadness?? explain don’t just state it)

‘I decide to tell you the truth. // ‘No.’ // You don’t seem surprised.’ (again, show that they’re not surprised. A shrug of the shoulders, or a blank face.)

 

Lost potential of could-be brilliant ideas

There were so many elements of this book that I really felt could have been meaningful, but their potential just wasn’t reached. For example, the vagueness of the characters, the fact that they had no names. I think this would have worked really well, but only if the characters had distinct voices to make them memorable.

I loved the idea of ‘the city with a river’ versus the ‘city with no river’ but it was completely lost on me because I was so confused at where the woman was situated in half of the stories, and where each other person was situated in relation to that. There needed to be more locational reference points.

There were also some phrases that did dig a bit deeper and intrigued me. Such as: ‘they will grow up and plunge into vocations that do not call for beauty’ and ‘the ones we pretend to ignore are the ones we are most aware of’. But these were very sparse, which was a shame, because if the whole book had this kind of depth then it would have been magical.

 

Overall, I found that, even by the ending, I didn’t feel like I knew the woman all that well. The stories that stuck with me the most were the art teacher and the musician, but I suspect that’s only because they were touched on more than once throughout the book. I really wanted to like this book, but it didn’t work out.

 

⭐️ ⭐️ out of 5

 

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Have you read The Nine-Chambered Heart?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

(even if you loved it, I won’t judge!)

You can find me on social media here:

Instagram: @mymindspeaksaloud

Twitter: @mindspeaksaloud

Goodreads: mymindspeaksaloud

Weekly Wellbeing Challenge: Week 9

The challenge for this week was… 5 minutes of fresh air! (as soon as you wake up)

Here is a small overview of how I got on with the challenge.

[and don’t forget, it’s not too late to sign up if you haven’t already!]

This week has been super sunny (or at least it has in the South of England), so it’s been the perfect week to make the most of fresh air. I have a slanted window in my bedroom so this has been my favourite way to gain some extra fresh air this week.

I changed my schedule this week, switching my alarm from 8am to 7:30am so that I have extra time to open my window and get some fresh air, whilst doing a short restorative (slow) yoga video, normally lasting around 15-30 mins. I’ve been trying out various Yoga with Adriene videos on YouTube and I really love them!

I’ve found that by having an activity to do as soon as I wake up, I am less tempted to switch on my phone and waste half an hour or more just sitting in bed doing nothing. By using my phone, I am giving my brain the wrong signals about how I want to set up my day, so I have been trying to use it less and less, sometimes leaving it on airplane mode until after I’ve done one or two hours of writing/blogging.

Overall, I’ve really enjoyed breathing in fresh air as soon as I wake up. There’s something very calming and happy about it, and I feel like it definitely reduces any grogginess in the morning, as well as making the room feel less stuffy.

How do you feel about fresh air in the mornings?

Let me know in the comments below!

 

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom [Book Review]

This book absolutely broke me, in the best way possible. I started it unsure, questioning whether its simplicity could really have much impact on me, but ended it with so much love and tears for what is such a brave and beautiful story. It is one of the greatest books of all time, I’m sure of it.

Summary

Tuesdays with Morrie, as the cover says, is a story about: an old man, a young man, and life’s greatest lesson.

It is a non fiction memoir, where Mitch recounts his friendship with his old college professor Morrie. They lose contact in the middle of their lives, before reconnecting twenty years later, after Morrie is diagnosed with the disease ALS. Mitch visits him every Tuesday, soaking up the last moments of courage and insight Morrie has: his lessons on how to live.

Tuesdays with Morrie has such a simple premise, but the people and the dialogue behind its pages are simply beyond words. Morrie is such a likeable character – he gives people the time of day, with his whole nature, his whole attention. He is a deep-thinker, always living in a growth mindset, and he is constantly encouraging others to look at their lives from a different perspective.

What I loved about this book was that there was so much content that made me just want to stop, soak it all in, and reread. Morrie has so much useful insight into the meaning of life, and how we should go about living it, that I think there is something everyone can learn from this book, regardless of who you are.

It’s one of those books where I know Morrie will be gone soon – he is withering as time moves on – but I just couldn’t believe how positive he was in his final few moments. It really makes you think about how the way you view the world and the way you live your every day changes everything. If someone who can barely walk, eat their own food, move their own head, can see the ultimate good in the world, why can’t all of we?

I found myself nodding furiously along to all of Morrie’s convictions, a lot of his findings matching up with what I’ve learnt myself over the last year, and it was quite emotional, connecting with a book so much in this way. I wish more books were this honest, this raw, this open to dive into things we don’t often speak about.

This is one of my favourite scenes from the book:

If ageing were so valuable, why do people always say, ‘Oh, if I were young again.’ You never hear people say, ‘Oh, I wish I were sixty-five.’

He smiled. ‘You know what that reflects? Unsatisfied lives. Unfulfilled lives. Lives that haven’t found meaning. Because if you’ve found meaning in your life, you don’t want to go back. You want to go forward. You want to see more, do more. You can’t wait until you’re sixty-five.

‘How can I be envious of where you are – when I’ve been there myself?’

 

Tuesdays with Morrie will make you smile, laugh, cry, and think differently. I wanted to reread it as soon as I’d put it down and recommend it to everyone I know – that’s how I know a book deserves 5 stars.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ out of 5

 

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Have you read Tuesdays with Morrie?

Let me know in the comments below!

You can find me on social media here:

Instagram: @mymindspeaksaloud

Twitter: @mindspeaksaloud

Goodreads: mymindspeaksaloud

Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton [Book Review]

I don’t think I’ve ever been so conflicted by a book in my life! I felt like the second half was a completely different book to the first half.

When I started reading this, I had such high expectations, and the beginning of the book completely let me down. I really did not like it. But I stuck with it, knowing there had to be something good (why else would it have such a high rating?), and found that I really enjoyed the second half.

So, here is a copy of my rambles. It starts off bad and ends somewhere kind of good. Tag along for the ride.

 

Quick Summary

For those of you who don’t know this book, it is a memoir by journalist Dolly Alderton about her trials and tribulations with love. It starts with stories from her childhood and university days, leading into her twenties – moving out, dates, friends, the lot.

It touches on themes of: longing to be an adult, long-term friendships, dating, crazy nights-out, break-ups, feeling as though you’re falling behind, and ultimately growing up and realising what it is like to overcome all of those struggles, as well as learning to understand your own self.

 

 

Initial Thoughts

I’m just over 100 pages in and I really want to love this book but I am really not that bothered with it! I don’t know anything about the author, but her younger self I really don’t like – she’s self-absorbed, she takes no personal responsibility, and she drinks and takes drugs far too often. And, to be honest, it was easy to imagine her character, after having seen a lot of people like this during my own time at university, but it didn’t make it any more enjoyable.

The thing with drunk stories is: they’re funny, but only when you know the person who is telling them. And all I felt when I was reading the stories was: absolutely nothing. I wasn’t made to feel like I was talking to a dear friend, so I just didn’t really have any strong feelings towards anything that was happening. It felt like the stories that people tell you to show off, because they think they sound “cool”, but, if anything, I just felt kind of sorry for her.

The only part so far that I found interesting was when Dolly was talking about real emotions, about her struggle with food and how it made her feel. The rest seems a bit try-hard and I didn’t find it particularly funny either.

 

Middle-of-the-book Thoughts

Since the story of Dolly’s trip to New York, my feelings of the book drastically changed. She started to delve into a more mature reflection on her life and I found this a lot more interesting. The story about Florence was heart-breaking and beautiful, especially ending with Dolly’s closeness to her best friend Farly, and I found her reflections on her time with a therapist very interesting, and more relatable through her journey to self-development.

 

Final Thoughts

I finally understand why people like this book. It is all about the journey from self-hatred to self-love, from boy longing to the acceptance of being single. It is a reminder that friends matter, and in some ways even more so than any relationship. However, I feel like I got more out of it in the last 50 pages than in the entire thing. And that’s disappointing.

In the final moments of the book there were so many heart-warming moments. Moments I was nodding along furiously with because I agreed so much, and it is empowering to read about a woman who has gone through so much to reach such an enlightening epiphany. And, in some ways, the beginning of the book was necessary to make this transformation evident. I suppose me hating the beginning of the book parallels the way Dolly didn’t really like herself back then – in that way, it is clever.

 

I’ve honestly never read a book that threw me from one extreme to the other so quickly, and it’s something that makes rating a book impossible. But I will have to go with this, for the book itself was flawed, but I got something out of it:

 

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️  out of 5

I’d like to read this book again when I reach thirty, or even in a few years time. I think it’s one of those books that perhaps you relate with differently at different times in your life.

 

 

Have you read Everything I Know About Love?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

You can find me on social media here:

Instagram: @mymindspeaksaloud

Twitter: @mindspeaksaloud

Goodreads: mymindspeaksaloud

How many Words have I Written in my Entire University Degree?

A week ago, I sent off my final assignments towards my university degree in English Literature with Creative Writing at UEA. It was a very odd moment – and it still hasn’t quite sunk in yet – but I am so glad I don’t have to write another essay again! As much as I love books and discussing ideas and concepts, it definitely wears off after a few years! I am so ready to dive back into my own world of books and writing.

I thought it might be fun to work out how many words I’ve written throughout my time at university. I think it’s a nice way to end my three years because it’s a reflection on how much I’ve actually achieved. It’s easy to look back and feel like everything has been a blur, but these numbers prove that I’ve put in so much time and effort into getting the grade I want and every single one of those words counted.

The numbers below are only a reflection of my summative assignments, so those that counted towards my final grade (as I’m sure I wrote a lot more words for practice essays and note-taking, but it would be very difficult to include everything!)

I hope I can look back on this and feel proud at everything I’ve done.

 

1st year:

= 13,608 words

(Modules = Literature in History 1, Reading Texts Tutorial Class, Creative Writing Autumn Semester, Literature in History 2, Reading Texts 2, Creative Writing Spring Semester)

 

2nd year:

= 20,317 words

(Modules = Literature and Philosophy, Film Theory, Eighteenth Century Writing, Publishing, Contemporary Fiction, Creative Writing Prose Fiction)

 

3rd year (no dissertation):

= 20, 572 words

(Modules = Lyric, Nervous Narratives, Children’s Literature, Creative Writing Prose)

 

Total: 54,497 words

Overall Grade: *TBC once released

 

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The Lake at UEA Campus

 

Who else has graduated this year? Or is studying a similar course?

Drop me a comment below – let’s share each other’s experiences and achievements!

 

You can find me on social media here:

Instagram: @mymindspeaksaloud

Twitter: @mindspeaksaloud

Goodreads: mymindspeaksaloud

Weekly Wellbeing Challenge: Week 8

The challenge for this week was… reach out to a friend!

I chose this challenge because I think now is an important time to be checking up on people, making sure that the people you haven’t spoken to in a while are doing okay and that they’re not isolating themselves even further.

Sometimes it can be difficult to reach out – especially if it’s someone you’re not used to talking to in a more vulnerable way. It can also feel intimidating, but it’s one of those things that reaps the best rewards, because at the end of the day, you form a tighter bond with anyone who you are willing to open up with, and they are likely to do the same back.

I tried to put a bit more effort into asking people how they are this week, making sure that after I’ve messaged friends about trivial things, I check in and ask how they’re doing in general as well. I saw a few posts on twitter of people feeling a bit down, or needing some advice, so I tried extra hard to reply and help people where I can.

I think it’s difficult to check in with everyone all of the time, especially if you have friends that are dotted about the place – that you’ve met and built a bond with separately, rather than as a big friendship group, which is definitely the case with me.

All we can do is reach out where we can, based on our own energy levels too. Give some love, but make sure you have energy to look after yourself too.

Have you been reaching out to friends/family lately?

Let me know in the comments!

The Possession of Mr Cave by Matt Haig [Book Review]

A few weeks ago, I asked you all to vote for what book I read in May, and The Possession of Mr Cave won! So, here is the review that some of you have been waiting for…

There was something so undeniably disturbing about this book – the fact that a man so seemingly “normal” can completely lose himself to madness in the depths of trauma. The story follows a father who, in the past, has lost his mother and wife, and has recently lost his son. The only person left that really matters to him is his daughter, and he decides he will do anything to protect her.

It was an intriguing read, subtlety possessing my attention as Mr Cave continued to dive further into his obsessions. I was shocked at some of the decisions he made, including putting a baby monitor in his fourteen year old daughter’s room to listen into her conversations, but mostly because he didn’t go about them all in a secretive way – he would tell Cynthia, his daughter’s grandmother. He tried to justify his actions with words and I think, in his head, he believed everything he was doing really was acceptable. And, for me, that was what was disturbing most of all. 

Of course, I love the way that Haig writes, with so much human intricacy and feeling, even in the perspective of a character so terrifying. There is no doubting he has a great writing style – I’ve explored this many times before in my reviews of his other books: The Humans, Reasons to Stay Alive, Notes on a Nervous Planet, How to Stop Time and Echo Boy.

For some reason, I don’t have many words for The Possession of Mr Cave, not in the same way that I did with his other books, but I guess that’s because I have no idea how to sum up such a uniquely worrying, terrifyingly real study of the life of someone who just loses control. And there is no way to be shocked by the ending without revealing everything that occurs. Instead, it’s one of those books that, I’m afraid, you will have to read to figure out!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ out of 5

 

 

Have you read The Possession of Mr Cave?

Or any other books by Matt Haig?

Let me know in the comments!

You can find me on social media here:

Instagram: @mymindspeaksaloud

Twitter: @mindspeaksaloud

Goodreads: mymindspeaksaloud