Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Overcoming Anxiety Webcast

I took part in my first ever webcast yesterday evening, joining Anxiety Social Net founders Talha and Saloman for their Overcoming Anxiety series, to talk about my experiences with depression and how I overcame it with the use of present awareness/mindfulness.

It was a daunting prospect and, as I joked with the guys, caused me quite a bit of anxiety in the run up to going live, but I had a really good time. They’re both great hosts and helped put me at ease before and during the recording – also saving me a few times when my mind when completely blank mid-sentence.

I hope, if you didn’t get the chance to see it last night, you can have a view on YouTube, here:

(I’m looking rather tubby in that video, but considering I had major chest surgery four months ago and have barely moved in three of those months, it’s cool with me, and also fits neatly in with the refreshed impetus to get super-fit and manfoxly by the Summer – something I’ll be blogging about in the next few days.)

You can follow Anxiety Social Net at: @AnxietySocial

Their website is:

And please check out the other videos in the series:


James & Misty:

Kevin Patton:



Friday, 15 February 2013

Rebirthday & Forgiveness

Three years ago today, in the early hours of the morning, while pinned down under the opening salvos of what I resigned myself to believe would be another long attack of deep depression, I experienced the spiritual Awakening that changed my life, for good.

It took about an hour of spontaneous enlightenment to wash away the associated detritus of more than twenty years of mental suffering; the guilt, anxiety, fear and a whole host of other negative emotions that had ensnared my being were finally gone, leaving me free to start again and live my life with a peaceful mind and open heart.

Literally even just a day before I experienced this shift of consciousness, I wouldn’t have dreamt it was possible that such a dramatic change could come about… especially not to me.

It still feels like a miracle, of sorts. I didn’t pray or hope for it. It just happened, out of the blue, without me setting down an intention or attempting to will myself into being happy, at long last. My mind was clouded with self-loathing and gnawing sadness, and, lost in the fog of ego, the urge to destroy myself would have been much higher on the ‘things to do’ list than seeking salvation from the torture I was going through.

Although I’m still not quite sure what happened, it felt as though some supernatural force had decided that enough was enough and since I couldn’t find my own way to achieving inner peace, they’d give me a boost. That hour of revelation and the waves of energy I felt pulsate from my crown, down to my chest, made me feel as though I was downloading a secret rulebook on being a happy human.

Without the events of that day, it would be impossible that I’d be writing this now. At best, I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the extraordinary journey I’ve been on over the past three years, and at worst, I may well have ended up killing myself.

Hindsight’s speculation doesn’t matter, now, though. Whatever happened happened, and here I am, firmly planted in the now.

I believe that this same enlightenment is open to just about everyone in the world, and – without meaning to sound like I’m full of myself – I know that, through my writing, I’ve helped an awful lot of people towards discovering their own space of inner-tranquillity.

There have been ups and downs over the past three years, but the downtimes are simply not comparable to the severe plunges I experienced before the Awakening. I have the occasional bad day – like any other, normal human being has – but I don’t let psychological debris collect in my mind. If unpleasant or negative thoughts enters my head, I have the awareness to shoo them away and think of something useful and positive, instead.

The greatest lesson I learnt was the gift of forgiveness; the ability to forgive not just those who we consider have done us harm, but also – and, arguably, more importantly – to forgive ourselves.

Forgiveness of oneself  is an exquisitely liberating process. It allows you to unchain your spirit from egoic, mental suffering and begin afresh.

Forgiving others does not even mean you have to tell them that they’re forgiven. If you consider someone has hurt you deeply, in the past, letting go of that pain is a gift, first and foremost, to you. Once you learn to jettison the thoughts that hurt you – which are only ever negative and needless – you clear extra space for good and positive energy to enter your world.

When you forgive, do it whole-hearted. Don’t just say it or think it; feel it in your being and know it in your soul. Anchor yourself in the present moment and reject the inane and incessant babbling of the egoic mind. It is generally an idiot.

The same peace within me is waiting for you to discover it within yourself. It’s available right now, if you’ll only see it.


Friday, 8 February 2013

Going Back


A Guest Blog by Virs Rana

For a long while, I felt this was a story that could not be told, because I could make little sense of what really happened. To me, the experience was…and I hesitate here because I'm not sure how to use this word, ‘miraculous’, that is to say, outside the normal occurrence. But as we are frequently informed, there are inexplicable events every day in all areas of peoples’ lives.
Still, I found it difficult, as if I was protecting something special that would be diminished in the telling.  And then, there was my ego trying to convince me I had achieved a certain purity of heart, or mind, or spirit. But I had not. I was ignorant, self-serving, even dishonest in my behavior. So why me? Later, I found the answer to that question, and as the saying goes, 'It’s all in the timing', and the opportunity has now graciously been given to me…
It was a clear blue-sky day, mid-morning in the fall, the air still crisp from the cooling night. The jutting mountains, with their embowering pines and aspens, provided a comforting seclusion from the outside world. I had driven up the narrow dirt road near the building site, a plateau of trees and flora turning to reds and golds among the evergreens. I had to hike the last quarter of a mile on foot. I grabbed my daypack out of the bed of the pickup truck and began to scale the circuitous path.  I breathed deeply, as you can only do at the higher altitudes, and the infused fragrance carried by the morning dew filled my body and thoughts with promise. As I got about a third of the way up, I stopped…cold…
It was unusually silent. Birds were not fluttering from tree to tree. Their chirping had ceased. The chatter of chipmunks was absent. I looked up. There were no hawks circling overhead. Then I heard it, in the distance, the echoing crack of a high-powered rifle. Of course, hunting season had just begun. The pristine ether of the forest would frequently be shattered for the next few weeks.
It's interesting how, to some, that blustering 'civilized' sound is a clarion call, and, to others, like myself, it is a violent intrusion. The gun argument aside, I have no problem with humans hunting and foraging for their food. It's the sport aspect, the antler trophies, that bothers me. But I dismissed these thoughts, remembering that we come to our 'senses' in good time, or so I believed.
I continued up the path, which coiled around the plateau, and I remembered what the local *American Indian realtor who had sold me the site had said, "Listen to the land. It will tell you where to make your house." I had heard this before, but didn't put much value in it. But I tried, camped out on the land, became familiar with its wildlife, and finally picked the spot with the best view.
Reaching the top, I threaded my way through the pines and aspens to the southern edge that looked out over the lush meadow that skirted the plateau. I saw that the creek snaking across the property was being dammed by a family of beavers, and a large pond was beginning to form. New neighbors, why not, I thought.
Kaboom! Again, unfurling from another direction…I turned toward the sound and gazed into the foliage across the plateau. The red, orange, and green palette seemed to shudder…Or was it me…No, something had moved, something big. I slowly and quietly drifted through the trees and into the dense thicket, and froze. It could be a camper or a hunter passing through, I guessed. Then I saw them, the pointed tips of a large pair of antlers floating atop the burnished leaves of brush. Surely, he had caught my scent…
Thus it began, the deliberate and cautious strategy of human and wild animal 'feeling' each other across the great divide of noise and silence, cacophony and symphony…I moved…It moved…We moved in unison, a dance around the recognition of other life. Catching glimpses of colors, shapes, seeing more, and less, quickened by some revived connection… I lost all track of time, but it seemed like this play was inherently choreographed, an ancient ritual with roots in a new and vital earth.
Moving on pure instinct, I eventually found myself in a small clearing, I stopped, feverish, yet surprisingly calm. My thinking returned, and I thought, perhaps, this wild animal might finally show itself, a curiously improbable notion.
Suddenly I felt it, a presence I'd never experienced before, a strange energy pulsing, surrounding me, entering me…I breathed in a different world, comforting, sustaining, vibrant…Yet not different, familiar, like living the dream that set you free. I slowly turned to my right and saw it, a most magnificent elk arcing into the clearing, no more than thirty feet away. Part of me was stunned, and the other part said, 'This is the way'…I watched as this regal animal stepped definitively, purposefully, until it stood directly across from me in full profile. I could see the details of its tawny thick coat and the dark brown swath highlighting its broad chest. He turned his head toward me, and large elliptical eyes captured me, told me a story I could not put into words. Then he dipped his head slightly, like a bow, or greeting, and turned back so he could watch both his flanks.
The only thing that crossed my mind, at this point, was how to respond. Stand motionless, just observing? Try getting closer? Closer? No, he had defined the space. Just observe? No, it was my turn…so I spoke. "Hey, you're an awesome animal…I appreciate your trust and your greeting…I guess you know they're after you…" Not exactly profound or poetic, I know.
He exhaled a snort and stomped at the ground with his left front hoof, three times. I waited, struggling; what could it mean… About thirty seconds passed, no time, no thinking, just being together; my turn again. "Be careful when you go to water," I said, "Take care."
Then this mysterious, extraordinary animal casually stepped into the brush a few yards off the clearing, and was gone.  I didn't hear anything and raced toward his exit point to see if I could spot him running into the meadow toward the creek. Nothing…another gunshot echoed in the distance.
I started to come down, or back to reality, as I knew it. What just happened? Why didn't this hunted elk bolt when he first picked up my scent or heard me on the plateau? He did not appear to be wounded or disoriented in any way. As I said previously, I was, and still am not a man of the wild, or some enlightened being. The stories of Francis of Assisi come to mind. Yes, accidental and surprise confrontations in the wild happen every day, but this was more than accidental. This transcended every wild animal to human relationship I had ever heard of.
Finally, I dismissed it as something I had inflated beyond the coincidental. But it would not lie. It even came up in my dreams. So I told a good friend, as best I could, and she said it was a special gift.
"From whom or what?" I asked.
"That's for you to decide," she replied.
"You mean like God, or the Universe thing?"
"Have you ever heard of that happening before?"
She had me. I thought for a second, then said, "No."
"Maybe you need to listen to the elk," and she walked away.

*Many 'American Indian' friends told me that's what they preferred to be called, rather than Native Americans, as anyone born in the U.S. can be 'native'.

Virs Rana 2013

Twitter: @VirsRana

Saturday, 2 February 2013

The Vision of Success

This week’s guest blogger is Emily Sandberg: an actress, businesswoman, blogger and genuine supermodel, having graced the covers of fashion magazines all over the world, including Vogue.

She is the founder and CEO of Super Model Central (www.supermodelcentral.com), contributes to The Huffington Post and a radio host for a show called,' Matters of Today", which airs on Blogtalk Radio every Wednesday at 1 PM EST.

You can follow Emily's adventures on Twitter at @Emmalish

Now Here's A Super Fun Tool To Make 2013 Your Best Year

By Emily Sandberg

2012 knocked the crap out of a lot of us. It's time for a fresh start and a new perspective towards reaching our goals. We all deserve a little spiritual magic this year. Who doesn't like a little magic? The very root of creation is spiritual in nature.  It begins with an intention and an image.

I wanted to write an article about one of my favourite tools I use for creating events and things I'd like to see happen in my life. I started at a very young age and trust me, I wouldn't continue doing it if it didn't work.

Anything that has materialized in my life has begun with a vision. Some people call it a dream. Others call it goals. I put them all into the same category – “Things I'd like to see happen”. The next step is to put these visions and goals on paper. Take them from the inside to the outside.

You can use pictures, magazines, glitter, objects or a simple pen and paper. The point it to get your ideas out of your head and onto something that feels similar to how you feel when you envision this particular thing or life or situation.

My first vision boards I drew myself. They were words and pictures.

How I saw myself: EMILY: Entertaining, Magnificent, Intelligent, Lively, Yellow Skippy (I liked to skip)

6 days later I created my first logo to represent me. Here I am as a clown.  Today I know that this represents me in so many ways I didn't even realize as an 8 year old.  You see, I've always been fun loving and entertaining and I have a very sensitive emotional pain detector, which I believe is why I am attracted to clowns. I also drew no hands and no feet.  That's another part of me that I instinctively knew but couldn't articulate. I'm trapped in a clown suit. And the clown is trapped in a world of straight brown lines.  A searing red streak goes right across my emotional centre. The red is encased in darkness.  However if I filter this red through the darkness and wash it out with my beautifully ruffled voice it appears on my face as a smile.  One year later I became a mime.  Ten years following that I became a model. Three years into modelling I began finding my voice. And twenty years after I drew this logo, I began to write. I think I may have been onto something as an eight-year-old.  I don't know how this logo will be materialized in another ten years, but I do know that it continues to resonate with me today.  It is basic and elementary, but I see parts of myself when I look at it.  I've been able to work through this puzzle of the clown slowly by the expression of my inner self.

It's become my first stamp of self-approval.

Another way to create a new reality is to use the tool of goal setting. I like to envision a life beyond my wildest dreams and then I work backwards.  Right before I left for New York, I wrote down 5 wildest dream goals for myself as a model. If I remember them correctly they were:

1. Walk on a runway.

2. Be on David Letterman.

3. Be in a fashion magazine.

4. Be in an advertisement.

5. Make enough money for college.

I then took each goal and broke it down into more manageable steps.  For instance, I wrote:

1. Work out 5 days/week (I joined a gym and started jogging or walking every day)

2. Find out what size I need to be (I used the internet at my college to find out)

3. Buy a fashion magazine to study (I chose Vogue.  It was a big thrilling deal carrying it home. A whole new world to explore!)

4. Study models in magazines once a week (I cut out the photos of ones I liked and made collages)

5. Eat less food every day (I wrote down everything I ate and tried to make healthy choices)

6. Pray and meditate to make sure I'm doing the right thing every day (this one always ends up on my goal lists)

A few years later I had accomplished all of these goals.  Not only had I been in a magazine, I'd been on the cover of numerous magazines.  I'd been to David Letterman with a musician I'd been dating who performed on the show. I had enough money in my bank account to pay for college (I ended up not going).  I'd walked not on one runway but every major runway in the world. And not only was I in one advertisement, my face was plastered on bill boards, bus stops, phone booths, busses, on top of cabs and in store windows. I could literally not escape myself.  The entire time I modelled I did my best to stay in conscience contact with a higher power. About five years in I got the message clearly that it was time to back away from working full time and start developing new skills.

I pulled out my pens and markers and magazines and started cutting pasting and writing. I had no idea what I wanted to do next but I knew that if I could capture the feeling visually, it would help me get focused on the next chapter of my life.  Indeed, it did work.  I've used vision boards to create a marriage, a family, a baby, a home, new mentors, new friends, freedom in my body... the list goes on and on.  The point is, whatever you want in your life, you have the ability to create it. It starts with you.  And you can start just like my 8 year old did by writing down your name and make an anagram of yourself describing your most magnificent qualities. Try it! It's super fun!

The point of a vision board is to give yourself a visual reminder and focus of what it is you'd like to create. Vision boards help give us an image to manifest. Much like dreams at night, vision boards don't have to be literal. For instance, planes and watches and jewellery tend to end up on every board I create. I don't know what exactly they're meant to represent but they feel right so I include them.  One day, it'll make sense.

The past 5-6 years my goals have been mainly internally focused on emotional clarity and spiritual growth.  But this year my goals have gone from internal growth to external growth so I thought it'd be fun to share with you my goals and then revisit them in a year to see how far I've come.

Here's the vision boards I'm working on for 2013 (click to enlarge):

Here's one I did with my girlfriends. There are some images that mean literal goals for myself and others that are more symbolic and I included them because they "felt right".

My friend Dean came over to visit one afternoon.  We hadn't seen each other in quite some time so I thought it'd be fun to create vision boards while we sat in my office and caught up with each other.  After we were both finished, we shared our visions with each other.  I told him what I saw in his board and he told me what he saw in mine.  That really opened my perspective and shed light on things I hadn't seen but he saw in me. Super fun.

I'll be adding to both of these boards throughout the year and next January I'll take a look at how my life has evolved to mirror my vision.

So, today, I challenge you to go out and create a vision for yourself. Here's an easy way to get started: 

1. Start by keeping a journal on your desk. 

2. Every day write down one thing that happened that was unexpected but for which you are grateful.

3. Begin to create images that represent a feeling or an event or change you'd like to see in your life.

4. Put it in a place that you can see it.

5. Watch you world change and keep track of it in your gratitude journal!

Have fun!

By Emily Sandberg

Twitter: @Emmalish