Guest Post: Understanding Death in order to live with it

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Recently, my mum was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Now, she is of a proud generation, and even though none of you know me (or her, for that matter), she would not appreciate me discussing the particulars of the situation. So I won’t. But suffice it to say, death has been on the mind of my family lately, and that has me thinking about societal views of death in general.

 

I think most of us can agree that death is not a pleasant thought. Even aging is often seen as a demise, rather than a privilege – we do everything we can to fight it. Anti-aging creams, surgical procedures, and other facets of the cosmetic industry rely solely on the human dread of growing old. And it can be argued that we dislike the idea of growing old because it brings the prospect of death ever-closer.

 

Your personal view on death may depend on your spiritual beliefs, but I find that even those who sincerely believe in an afterlife have problems accepting death. Why? Because it is unknown. I have no clue what will happen to me after I die. No one does. We have stories and folklore and other attempts at guessing, but there’s no way to know which are true, if any.

 

But I got to thinking, life isn’t all that full of certainty either. I could lose my job tomorrow, and then where would I be? I have been coming to terms with the fact my mum won’t always be around. Is death really scarier than that concept?

 

Yes. Because as far as we know, there might be NO familiarity whatsoever in the hereafter. Maybe there is no hereafter. Maybe we cease to exist. But we don’t know. At least, even if I were to lose everything I own, and be parted from everyone I knew, I would be familiar with an earthly environment. Even if I lost my memory, I would still probably know what a tree is, still know how to react to an ice cream cone being offered my way (pounce, obviously).

 

These are all just my initial ramblings to the idea of death and the fear of it. Because I honestly believe it’s silly to be afraid. After all, just because something is unknown doesn’t make it bad. But I also will still do everything I can to extend my life, because most of the time, life is pretty good. And even when it isn’t, it’s familiar.

 

So, in order to put some direction to my ramblings, I’ve been doing some reading about our perception of death. As one who writes, my first place to look was poetry. The Australian Poetry Library has a whole category of “death poems”. I clicked on some randomly, and found a wide selection. Most of them though, had a peaceful attitude of acceptance, or a “might as well die,” perspective, like in “My coffin is a deckchair”. Perhaps this is because the end of life is often full of suffering, and you can only take so much before you want whatever is next, even if it’s horrible – even if it’s nothing.

 

I realized as I read poems about other people dying that the narrator was often sad, but happy for the end of persons pain. So I think a lot of the sadness we associate with death is actually on the living end. After all, we have to go on without someone who has been a part of our lives. People get sad when friends move to far away places, so it only makes sense to be sadder when the move is permanent and inaccessible.

 

That got me thinking. I believe I am more fearful of my mum’s death than I am my own. This makes some obvious sense because hers is on my mind; it is likely closer, and therefore more immediately relevant. But it’s also because I know that I’ll be living in a different world, a world without her, and I’m a bit afraid of that.

 

In general, it also makes sense to be more afraid of the afterlife for others. Because we want what is best for those we love. If I were to have to deal with suffering in the afterlife, I would probably hate it, but I’d do my best to get through (if there was somewhere to get through to..). But I don’t want to think about my mum having to traverse the worlds laid out in literature by Dante or Milton. She doesn’t deserve that. Most of my fear of my own death comes from worrying about those I’ll be leaving behind. And there’s a whole industry dedicated to sating those fears, with life and funeral insurance like this.

 

But then I realized that looking at death from a poetic or artistic point of view is just looking at what other people have thought, felt, and written. I decided I’d better look at science. Of course, science can’t tell us anything about what happens to our personality, essence, soul, (whatever you’d like to call it) after death, but it can put the physical portion into perspective.

 

The Australian Museum has a whole department related to the study of death, and a lot of resources on their website. They emphasize death as a process, not an event, which is the most scientifically true statement I’ve come across. It may seem morbid to see life as a process leading up to death, but in a lot of ways, death is an undeniable part of life. I think that trying to ignore that leads to unnecessary stress and worry. Yes we will die. Yes it will cause our loved ones sadness. No we don’t know what will happen after. But as J.M Barrie said through Peter Pan, “To die would be an awfully great adventure.” Who’s to say he’s wrong?

 

Chris Jensen is a freelance writer who works with GIO.com.au, which provides life insurance products for families.

 

*Thank you Chris for your heart-felt contribution. Much love to you and your family.

Guest Post: 7 Reasons to Wake Up Early Especially During Mondays

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I’m not much of a morning person, how about you? Maybe my guest poster can convince us!

7 Reasons to Wake Up Early Especially During Mondays
 
 
Everything has a reason.
 
 
Every single day, we have our own reasons to wake up. But often, those reasons are just not sufficient to get us out of bed early enough especially during Lazy Sundays. What we don’t realize is that there are actually a lot of reasons to wake up early every single day and most importantly during Mondays.
 
 
We all know that it’s really hard to do this especially if it’s a Monday and you still have a hangover from the weekend parties or still clinging onto your couch with your movies or video games. That’s basically understandable. However, life must go on. Anticipating and basically reminding yourself always that Monday is right after Sunday may help as well. Here’s some reasons to wake up early:
 
 
The Splendid Sunrise
 
A sunrise is one of the world’s most beautiful wonders. You don’t need to go too far or out of the city just to take a look at it even in your daily routine. You just need to wake up early. Nothing is more wonderful than starting your day beating the sun to wake up and then marveling at its “out of this world” splendor. I guess you will never get tired of watching its beauty every single waking day.
 
 
Your Morning Jog
 
Aside from marveling and reflecting the beauty of sunrise, you can also start your jogging routine early in the morning. Fight off your sleepy head and completely wake yourself up with a morning walk and run. Besides the fact that it will energize you throughout the day, it is also a way to keep you healthy and strong. This is indeed the best way to beat your Monday blues.
 
 
More Time to Prepare Means More Time for Yourself
 
One of the perks of getting up early during weekdays is having the time to pamper yourself every day. Being able to do your morning routines and have some more extra time for other house chores or homework would definitely make your day better. Write your tasks for the morning before you go to sleep and make those your motivations to wake up with your early alarm the next day.
 
 
Skipping the Cram Part
 
More time to prepare means skipping the cramming part of the day. It’s usually during mornings that people, whether you are a student, a mom, or a professional, cram a lot. For you to avoid that part of your daily life, wake up early and find that time to accomplish all your preparations without racing with time. It is always better and lighter if you don’t cram your way out of the door, with some wet hair and an unprepared spirit.
 
 
Accomplishing More Tasks
 
Isn’t is great to feel like you have accomplished tons of activities while the day is still young? More so if you could make it a daily habit and motivation. Especially during Monday mornings, it is always good to start your day with a list of accomplished goals already. Aside from the fact that it feels really rewarding, you can also do other tasks after completing work or school related stuff. You can even rest earlier than usual.
 
 
Avoiding the Rush Hour
 
Traffic jams are everywhere during rush hours. But you can avoid and beat them both if you would simply get up early, prepare early, and leave earlier than anyone else would. The thought of driving freely without much traffic stops and pressures is one of the best motivations you could ever get to wake up early, especially during Mondays. Even better, you can make it a daily habit.
 
 
Starting the Day and (Especially) the Week Right
 
By simply waking up early, most importantly during Mondays, you are starting your day and your week right. So if you want your day and even your whole week to flow as smoothly as possible, wake up and get up early.
 
 
Now that you have some reasons to get up early, make sure that you go to bed early as well. These reasons are just some of the most common ones. If you can figure out your own reasons for getting up and prepping up early in the morning, don’t hesitate to comment below and share them with others as well.
 
 
 
About the author:
Kimberly Walker is a writer and a fresh contributor in the blogging realm. Trying to make a name in this industry through edugeeksclub.com, she pushes her way to becoming a well-known, credible and responsible blogger someday.
*Thanks Kimberly for your contribution. Happy Monday everyone!
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War, war and more bloody wars … When will the killing end?

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Image: stopwar.org.uk

David Cameron tut tut’s at Russia, and yet he supports this latest wave of ethnic cleansing, genocide, apartheid, murders…call it what you like, it is happening right now in Gaza. The crooks (sorry, I meant to say politicians didn’t I?) and ‘biased government controlled’ western media are forever ready to wage another war. I read a quote yesterday it said, ‘War will never end as there is too much profit in war.’

Painful truth.

What does this mean for the future of our global community? More and more wars as we scramble over fewer resources? More wars when we seek to wipe out an entire population of people when their ideologies don’t match ours? Are you like me, do you struggle to find the truth behind the political propaganda sprayed at us daily? I know I do, I make a concentrated effort to cut through the crap and find the truth. I believe we owe it to the people caught up in the horrors of war. I’d love to know your thoughts.

*I’ll hand you over to Stop the War,

AS THE Palestinian death toll in Gaza passed 600, the UN children’s agency Unicef reported that a third of them were children.

Not included in that figure were the numerous unborn children that Israel has killed in the last three weeks.

Three pregnant mothers were among the 25 members of the Abu Jamaa family who were killed on 20 July, when Israeli forces struck a house near Khan Younis, without warning. The dead included 18 children and five women. The family was eating iftar, the meal that breaks the Ramadan fast.

Just as this family was being slaughtered, by an indisputable Israeli war crime, the US secretary of state John Kerry gave an interview in which he said, Israel’s attack on Gaza was an “appropriate and legitimate effort” to defend itself.

A little earlier in the day, Kerry’s boss, President Obama, repeated his “strong support for Israel’s right to defend itself”.

Obama gave this latest green light to Israel, “after speaking with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu earlier in the day”. Predictably, Netanyahu was soon all over the media crowing about US support for Israel’s indiscriminate bombardment of the most densely populated place on Earth, and announcing that Israel planned to intensify the carnage in Gaza over the coming days.

Britain’s prime minister David Cameron also spoke to Netanyahu a day earlier, to whom he repeated “our recognition of Israel’s right to take proportionate action to defend itself”, as he reported to Parliament on 21 July.

Cameron didn’t say whether it was ‘proportionate’ to kill 200 children, or four boys playing football on a beach, or 25 family members as they sat down for a meal. Was it ‘proportionate to litter the streets of the Shujai’iya dictrict in Gaza City with dozens of bodies of mainly women and children, after it had been effectively carpet-bombed? Was it ‘proportionate’ to bomb hospitals and a home for the disabled?

Cameron said he had asked Netanyahu “to do everything to avoid civilian casualties, to exercise restraint”.

This clearly did not include restraining from sending the world’s fourth most powerful military force to invade a tiny area, just 25 miles long and just a few miles wide, into which are crammed 1.8 million people, who have been held captive in a brutal siege for seven years, that has deprived the inhabitants of food, power, access to clean water, a functioning sewage system, medical supplies and other essential resources.

Israel’s justification for killing so many civilians is the claim that Hamas is using civilians as human shields for its rockets and fighters. These same accusations, were made in 2008 and 2009 during Israel’s Operation Cast Lead bombing of Gaza and were found to be without evidence by Amnesty International.

In fact, the human shields’ argument is a complete myth, which is why Israel has produced virtually no evidence to support it. It is the reason Israel gave for the missile attack on a home for the disabled in Beit Lahiya, killing two disabled residents and injuring four others. Jamilla Alaiwa, a 59 year old social worker who founded the home, said,. “If the Israelis have proof of this let them make it public. There was no one from Islamic Jihad or Hamas living there. We are not involved in politics.”

No Palestinian civilian has been found to corroborate Israel’s claim they are being forced by Hamas to become unwilling human shields. Why then, says Israel, do people stay in their homes when we drop leaflets telling them to evacuate because we are about to bomb? Abdullah al-Daweish, a relative of the family of five killed in Khan Younis, explains:

“Where do we go to? Some people moved from the outer edge of Khan Younis to Khan Younis centre after Israelis told them to, then the centre got bombed. People have moved from this area to Gaza City, and Gaza City has been bombed. It’s not Hamas who is ordering us in this, it’s the Israelis.”

The United Nations said on 22 July that 43% of the Gaza population had been affected by evacuation or no-go area warnings from Israel.

119,000 have fled to centres set up by the United Nations, but even here they were not always safe, with the UN relief agency reporting that one of its schools where 300 were sheltering was hit by Israeli shells on 22 July.

With the borders of Gaza sealed by the Israeli and Egyptian siege, no wonder the desperate response from its people — as Israel bombards the whole area by land, sea and air — is, where else is there for us to go?

Nowhere, is the reply for the two families — eleven people — killed overnight on 23 July. A distraught man told the BBC how his dead relatives there had been relocated twice, first from Beit Hanoun and then from Shujai’iya, areas that received Israeli evacuation orders.

Netanyahu says another reason for so many civilians being killed by Israel, is because Hamas wants to “pile up as many civilian dead as they can to make Israel look bad. They use telegenically dead Palestinians for their cause. They want the more dead, the better.”

Netanyahu was allowed to make this despicable accusation without challenge on the mainstream media news broadcasts. But “the more dead the better” is certainly the view of not a few Israelis, including the member of the Israeli parliament, Ayelet Shaked, who said recently,

“Behind every terrorist stand dozens of men and women, without whom he could not engage in terrorism. They are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads. Now this also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They should follow their sons, nothing would be more just. They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.”

Put a little less graphically, Israeli army major general Oren Shachor, explained: “If we kill their families, that will frighten them.”

So, is the reason pregnant women are being killed in Gaza because Israel believes they are acting as human shields for unborn ‘terrorists’?

Yet another died in an Israeli air strike in the early hours of 23 July. Gaza health officials told the BBC how they tried to rescue the baby from the dead mother, only for the child to die. No doubt two deaths welcomed by Ayelet Shaked and major general Shachor.

Article fromhttp://stopwar.org.uk/news

Are you ready to take action and make a difference? http://www.amnesty.org.uk/issues/Israel-and-Palestine

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The world in which we live?

Appreciating the present moment despite the craziness of daily life…

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I’m that person always seeking solace and inner peace. Yeah, good luck to me hey? I have three kids!

But I still long for it and look for it. I’m trying to not turn on the telly, the radio, the lap top. I don’t have a smart phone anymore – so that’s one less distraction. I’m trying to appreciate the silence. I want to appreciate the solitude.

Truth is – eating chicken noddle soup on my own, staring into space, with no radio chattering to me is a wee bit strange.

Reality check – It’s not easy! Life is buzz buzz buzz these days. It’s hard to actually enjoy the silence even if we know it’s probably good for our frazzled brains to just listen to the birds outside.

Appreciating the silence is hard enough, what about appreciating the present and truly living in the moment?

Ha!

I’m really trying.

My eldest son is soon to be 11. If that doesn’t slap me across the cheek nothing will. Time sure does fly by. Children have let me see, painfully, clearly, just how fast life passes on by.

One minute you’re trying to get them to eat some hideous mashed up food, worried they will definitely choke on the next mouthful…the next second they are mini-adults with many opinions about to jump head first into puberty. My boy is now sleeping until 11am most days now (it’s the school holidays), the hormones are ready for lift off. Brace!

Excuse me, I need some wine.

Time waits for no one, not for us or for our babies. We simply must try to breathe in the fresh air more, appreciate what is going well and remember how fast time ticks on.

What about you – do you try to appreciate this precious life, how do you switch off from all the noise and regroup…share your thoughts. Thank you! Enjoy your day beautiful people.

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The Rich get Richer, the Poor get Poorer – Inequality within the UK

Scotland sits on top of vast reserves of oil and gas. I’m sure you knew that right? In the last 30 years Scotland has produced more oil than Dubai and Abu Dhabi together. Most of the black gold is up north, offshore from Aberdeen. Contrary to the fear campaign, we still have a lot more oil to reach and the technology for obtaining the oil is advancing every year. There’s little doubt many people of Aberdeen have benefited. *Still, you’d be amazed how much poverty exist even within Aberdeen – the oil capital of Europe!

Here’s the thing. The wealth has not been spread around. Sure some people in Aberdeen have become very wealthy thanks to the oil, but most of the oil money has ended up in London. The oil wealth has not been spread around the UK fairly.

There’s a very good reason why Westminster in London doesn’t want to let Scotland become an independent country just yet…but that’s another blog post!

Apparently even more oil reserves have yet to be utilized offshore from Glasgow, the poorest city in the UK, and the UK government is aware. If only Scotland had the freedom to tap into its own resources.

Dig a little and you’ll discover that Westminster prevents oil exploration in this area due to the presence of expensive nuclear submarines. Nothing is concrete here, but potentially there could be more oil to the west of Scotland.

The UK owes the rest of the world almost 1.5 trillion pounds. Meanwhile, many of our fellow-citizens rely on charitable handouts to feed themselves. Did you know 13 million people live below the poverty line in the UK? It defies belief. With the vast resources, yet so much debt and poverty.

This is deliberate misgovernment by Westminster. The poor are kept down, with their spirits and confidence broken. If people are too busy surviving, they don’t have the time or luxury to consider and question the system that binds them to poverty.

People struggle by due to the Tory government’s tougher stance on people receiving benefits. Of course, there are people who abuse the system, but there are many more people who rely on the support just to eat.

Within the UK, we have an explosion of food banks, needed not just by those on benefits, but also on low wages. A new word has entered the lexicon of the welfare state – “sanctioned”. Be late for an appointment at the Jobcentre, and you will get no money.

Hey peasant, enjoy a weekend or longer of no food in your tummy! Enjoy your kids crying and begging for something to eat.

*Little known fact – many of the people needing food at food banks are actually the working poor.

The Tory government is hell bent on austerity measures to pay back the UK’s debt. Don’t think a Labour government or the Lib Dems will save people either – the governments of Westminster point the finger of blame at the poor.

Look at the disgusting poor who take and don’t pay their way, don’t worry about the privileged elites playing with your hard earned tax money…you can trust us! Och and don’t worry about us selling all your vital community services…meh, move along now, we know best.

Guess who is paying for their greed and spending spree? The poor and normal people like you and I. We are an easy target. It’s the every day people with little political weight who lose their vital community services and support. Tax the poor and make the rich even richer. Meanwhile, the MP’s give themselves a salary increase of 11 per cent.

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Why are our fellow citizens starving and relying on food banks? Perhaps it is because our government is wasting our money. Furthermore, if the government actually shared the wealth around more fairly and gave more back to the communities we wouldn’t have so many food banks around the UK.

Instead we have greedy bankers, self-serving politicians, bonuses for the rich, investment in nuclear missiles, illegal wars, and regular jaunts around the world interfering in other countries affairs, not to mention the ridiculous cost of running both Westminster and the House of Lords. Just last month, the government treated the House of Lords to a painting that cost $300,000. Then they plead poverty to the people of the UK.

The governments ideology is completely at odds, their agenda doesn’t typically seek to improve the quality of life of the very people they are supposed to serve – you and me. Their words and promises reveal how ludicrously out of touch they are.

The UK, if the wealth had been managed properly could have been wonderful, but instead normal every day people are held back and made to pay to fund the ruling elites lavish life style, who claim to ‘manage’ our money.

Westminster just isn’t working. It’s old fashioned and relies heavily on taking the money from the everyday people.

We can do so much better. Perhaps we need Robin Hood to save us? Or perhaps we need to wake up and realise that these governments only serve themselves, if you’re lucky they will throw the common man or woman a moldy crumb, but only after they have sorted out their own desires and lined their own pockets.

I foresee a revolution in the future. More and more people are waking up to the reality. The every-day people deserve a government that actually wants to make the country a better place. But instead, they care more about their bonuses and shares, and how they can squeeze more out of you and me.

Note: I’m voting yes for an Independent Scotland this September. I want my country to have more equality and a country that actually looks after its people. I’m tired of seeing people in my country struggling by whilst men in suits down in London get richer. I also hope Scotland can lead the way. I hope other countries can be inspired and see there is another way to ‘run’ a country. We can demand better. We are not helpless. We have a voice and we can say enough is enough. We just have to brave and take control of our own destiny. So come on people, let’s do this. Let’s be the generation that say yes to equality, fairness and justice for every man, woman and child. Let’s stop sitting on our bums and expecting a government to solve our problems. We have to shape our own destiny.

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Sums up what happens…not good enough!

 

Guest Post: Wattpad – Social Media For Writing

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Today my guest writer, Eliza Sullin shares a website recommendation. Eliza has found Wattpad to be a stimulating opportunity for people who love to read and write.

 

Discover a world of unlimited stories on Wattpad

 

The blurb that greets users on the front page of wattpad.com assures that there is a story for everyone. From suspense thrillers to young adult romances to vampire love stories, you’re sure to find a story on Wattpad that you might end up liking. Wattpad provides a rich user-friendly interaction between readers and writers. One can sign up, which gives you the opportunity to write and publish your own stories online. You get feedback through reader comments and votes, and that’s pretty encouraging for a person who loves to write stories, be it fan fiction or an original work.

The best part is, it’s all for free. Did the writing bug bite and tempt you to write your own story online?

Whether you’re a young and seasoned Internet writer or just a beginner dreaming of posting your stories online and getting some nods, here’s what you need to know about maximizing your Wattpad experience, in both terms of writing and social media. Here are some friendly tips and reminders in helping you navigate, write, and succeed in the crazy and beautiful world of Wattpad:

1. For starters, you have the shots as to what kind of stories you like reading and writing about. Wattpad offers all genres ranging from romance, chick lit, fan fiction, and even real-life anecdotes. There are also communities for every genre and you’re free to join them as you wish. Connecting with like-minded authors and readers is highly encouraged. Read the stories you like, vote on them, and leave constructive reviews.

 

2. Don’t expect that you will get instantly famous. There are some exceptions to that rule, of course, like those who wrote a story on the first try and got loads of page views and votes, but it doesn’t happen for others. Maybe it’s just a stroke of beginner’s luck, or the story happened to hit it off with the readers in the first month of publication.

Anyway, achieving “star status” in Wattpad won’t happen without hard work and turning in a high-quality piece every time you publish a chapter to your story. Don’t feel bad if your work doesn’t get much page views. Take time to really fix your writing, make your story appealing and interesting, and along with good grammar and a nice plot, you just might rein in the readers who will become your fans.

 

3. If you’re into a certain genre, it helps to follow the authors whose stories you like. They might end up liking and reviewing your story in return. Another thing, don’t get stuck in just one genre. Try to explore other genres of stories, because you’re sure to find something you might like, even if at first, you didn’t like stories from that particular genre. That’s also a secretly good way to get other readers to read and like your story.

 

4. Don’t try so hard for other people to like your story, like you keep on writing on author profiles to “Please read my story!”. Some authors do get irritated with it and that can make you feel bad if they reply rudely to you or ignore you completely. Let your work speak for itself. If it’s really good, people will be reading it and waiting for more.

 

5. Be open-minded to constructive criticism. Don’t retaliate angrily if one person doesn’t like your story. Read between the lines if ever you’ve got a negative review, and thank that person politely for actually taking time to read your work. Then, move on and continue writing.

Sometimes, you might also feel the need to leave a constructive criticism type of review. Choose your words wisely and be honest without sugar-coating your thoughts. The goal here is to help each other improve their writing and the last thing you want is a flame-fight with another author or reader.

 

6. Don’t worry so much whether your story is appealing, interesting, or boring. Taste in stories is subjective, and if you’ve got someone who stopped reading your story or didn’t liked it, pretty sure, someone else will come across it and like it a lot.

Just keep on writing, improving yourself, and enjoying the whole online writing experience.

The beauty of Wattpad is that it encourages everyone to write and read other writers’ story. Making the most out of this online experience can bring you joy while enhancing your writing and story telling skills.

Now, are you ready to become a Wattpad writer?

 

About the author: Eliza Sullin is a college student and likes to write stories during her free time. She is also a part-time freelance writer for a group of essay writers in australia. Meanwhile, she wants to start writing her own stories, and is now thinking of plots for it.

Eliza

Eliza

*Thanks Eliza, sounds like an interesting website! 

Guest Post: How to use Meditation to Improve Your Creative Writing

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I’m someone who has always been quite interested in meditation, it sounds like a lovely idea. To be able to focus my mind. To be able to enjoy and treasure the present moment. I have however, never found the time to practice the skill. I’ll need to make the time! Apparently, if you can find the time to breathe, write, wash, pee, pick your nose – you name it – you should in theory have time to meditate. If you’re keen to give it a go, check out Psychology Today for some tips. I’ll hand you over to my guest writer today…

***

How to use Meditation to Improve Your Creative Writing

Creative writing is not without its mental roadblocks. When creative efforts are stifled, many people grow desperate for a solution that can break them out of their funk and restore both focus and inspiration. If you’re facing such a crisis, there are remedies that have been proven effective. Meditation may have originated as a spiritual practice in the Far East, but it’s become a very tangible solution to a wide range of mental challenges in today’s society. In a world that is constantly busy and attention grabbing, meditation can help individuals re-train their minds to perform with better focus and productivity than ever before.

If you’re in need of such help to address your creative writing woes, meditation might be the answer — and it’s easy to get started. Here’s a quick rundown of meditation’s benefits to writers, as well as tips on seeking out proper education and guidance.

Meditate Now, Focus Better Later

One of the biggest misconceptions among the general public is that meditation and relaxation must go hand-in-hand. While this may be the goal of some who practice, it’s not the final word on the benefits of this ancient art. According to research conducted at the University of Washington, meditation among professionals for an eight-week period resulted in better concentration at work, improved memories, stabilized energy levels and fewer experiences with negative moods.

This meditation group was compared alongside a group of professionals going through relaxation techniques for an eight-week period. It found that the meditation group outperformed the relaxation group across the board — including in relaxation itself. Creative writers and other creative types can employ this simple meditation approach to become more focused and efficient when doing their work.

Encouraging Your Creative Side

While some creative types might look at meditation’s positive effects and assume that this practice serves to “unlock” the mind, this isn’t necessarily true. Meditation boutique Headspace notes that while western psychologists (and society at large) divide the mind into the conscious and subconscious, the practice of meditation doesn’t make such distinctions. Rather, the concepts behind meditation view subconscious and conscious thoughts as all deriving from the same place. Simply put, since our brain cannot focus on all of our thoughts at once, there are inevitably some that move to the forefront while others drift into the background.

Meditation, then, is a means of changing how the mind focuses on thoughts, and of diverting attention away from the negative and unnecessary thoughts that rise to the surface. In this way, individuals can enjoy greater exposure to a wider range of thoughts that are occurring in their mind at any one time. This encourages more creative ways of thinking, which can in turn inspire your writing.

Learning the Art of Meditation

The biggest challenge of meditation is not the practice itself, but learning how to engage in it correctly. Newcomers to meditation will always be better served if they are guided through instruction by experts in the practice, thus allowing them to practice the discipline correctly.

To accomplish this, you have several options available to you. One is to find a local Buddhist temple or other organization that offers classes on mindfulness and meditation. If you don’t want the practice to be attached to spirituality, you can also seek out a psychologist who has been trained in these practices — they can offer basic guidance and refer you to experts if you become a fan of meditation.

For full immersion into the practice, you might even consider a meditation retreat either to a meditation getaway. In India, where meditation has been practiced for thousands of years, you can engage experts that have had the teachings of the practice passed down from them from generation to generation. A trip to India or a similar destination also offers the chance to engage with another culture and see the world from a different perspective. There are hundreds of spiritual attractions you can visit that are extremely rewarding and play a large role in your mastery of meditation.

Becoming an expert practitioner of meditation will take some time, but the improvements in mental functioning should start to appear quickly. Within a short period of time, you might find meditation to become an indispensable component of your daily creative writing routine.

Author Bio:

Sandra Mills is a freelance health, career, and travel writer. She has recently started experimenting with eastern forms of traditional healing to help her live a healthier life.

https://twitter.com/SandraMills63

It’s time to get fit, but can I have some wine after?

I am now the owner of these bad boys…

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I’ve looked at them curiously for a few days now. Today, I finally put them on and…

Wait for it.

…went for a jog.

It wasn’t pretty!

I had to remember to breathe. I am not an exerciser. I’m not one of those motivated people who jump out of their warm bed at 5am to pound the pavements. I’d choose sleep every single time.

I sincerely wish I could catch the exercise bug. But instead, I remain pretty much addicted to robust red wine, chocolate and french cheese. I should have been french.

If you are someone who enjoys breaking into a sweat, can you let me know how this happened? What works for you? Please do share your tips! And, what types of exercise do you dislike? ImageImage: acertaincinema.com

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Why I’ll be voting Yes for Scottish Independence…

Meet Jim Sillars: former Labour MP and Deputy Leader of the SNP. Author of ‘In Place of Fear II’…

If you watch just ONE video to try and understand why Scotland should actually bother to tick the ‘yes’ box in September – this is the one to watch!

*I laughed when Jim says, ‘I came out of retirement for this campaign!’ Go Jim! I love, love, love your passion.

Guest Post: 5 Tips for Overcoming Writer’s Block

writers block

Zero inspiration? It happens to us all!

Writer’s block is an affliction that has affected just about everyone who has ever picked up a keyboard (or pen and paper!)

It’s inevitable, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be a learning opportunity used to improve the quality of your writing. If you want to move through the challenging times quickly and enhance your writing fluency, here are 5 tips that can help you overcome writer’s block.

 

  1. Write On A Deadline

Deadlines have a certain productive quality about them that inspires the mind and eliminate opportunities for writer’s block to develop. One well-established Sacramento SEO firm recommends that you assign every project a clear, realistic deadline, so you don’t have time to dawdle around. For shorter timeframes,  set up a timer next to your writing station and do your best to finish within a desired time limit.

 

  1. Take A Break

Take a break every once and while and give your brain the opportunity to rest. You might just be putting more pressure and expectations on yourself that your body can handle that has resulted in the buildup of stress.  By giving your mind the opportunity to cool down and take a break, you’ll be able to return to your project with a collection of new ideas that can help you to overcome your block.

 

  1. Overcome Your OCD

Take your hand away from the backspace button and, whatever you do, don’t stop to erase. Free-writing helps get words on paper without over thinking, so don’t even go back to fix spelling mistakes until you have completely finished a page or section.

 

Surprisingly, one of the biggest causes of writer’s block is frequent editing. There’s a reason that all publishing companies, newspapers, and journals have a writing staff and an editing staff. They are two distinct jobs that deserve their own piece of your time. Once you have finished writing, then go back through the work that you produced and edit what works and what doesn’t. You’ll not only write much faster, but you’ll end up with higher quality work as you are looking at the quality of your work as a big picture instead of performing line by line edits.

 

  1. Jump Around Between Projects

Writer’s block can sometimes be a result of boredom, and often shows up when you are tired of working on a repetitive task. Remember, your brain needs some variety. Start working on one project and as soon as you start to run out of ideas and develop writer’s block, save your work and go to a second project. This will require you to come up with an entirely new set of ideas, you won’t be wasting time staring at the screen, and your writing will be much more fluent.

 

  1. Stay Focused

Lastly, do what you can to stay focused on your project and not to get distracted. Close all other programs on your computer or put away any distracting items in arms reach. That means the cell phone, instant messengers, and your favorite distractions that live on your desk. Stay focused and force yourself to remain dedicated to the project at hand until its completion!

 

Marissa Li is a Copywriter for Wheel Media, a small business marketing company with offices in Charlotte, Sacramento, and across the USA. She loves words, helping others, and her terrier Tin Tin!

Life is Short – Enjoy Yourself…

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It’s beautiful to watch people kicking back and having fun. I think in Northern Scotland the people seem to know how to have fun. Well, we can certainly drink whisky!

Recently I was out in a bar, in Inverness, enjoying some live music. It was a fabulous scene, lots of people laughing, smiling and showing each other their best dance moves. Tourists from all over the world swayed and chatted with the friendly locals. Before too long, my husband and I were up dancing too.

We met a man who was out with his brother and friends. They were good company and as we laughed along with them, the brother of the man turns to me and quietly says, ‘My brother, he’s not got long…he has cancer…’ His voice trailed off.

‘Oh, I’m so sorry…’ I didn’t really know what else to say. This was a stranger after all.

‘Don’t worry, he’s determined to go out with a bang. He’s gonna have fun!’

‘Quite right. Good for him.’ I smiled, trying to hide my heavy heart.

Most people are going through their own struggles. We can look at a group of people and not realise that some of those people may be going through a painful time. Here was a man facing his own mortality. It was a sobering thought. And yet, he danced on and bantered with the good humour of a man with the world at his feet.

It was a strange meeting as just that same night, an hour earlier, I had said to my husband, ‘Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think!’ And he had agreed.

For some people, they don’t have long at all left with us. Other people may have longer. One thing is for sure, none of us will have forever.

The meeting confirmed two things:

1.Cherish those who truly matter to you, as you probably don’t know how long you have with these special people. Try not to take these people for granted, as one day they will be gone.

2. Enjoy yourself – it really is a short life. Let the good times roll and make some good memories. Dance, sing, do what makes you happy a lot more. Nobody ever wished they had sent more emails to their line manager.

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What would you do more of?

Guest Post: Walking to ease anxiety, stress and depression…

I’ve been walking a lot more these last few weeks. It can feel like a hassle to leave the house, but once I am outside, breathing in the fresh Scottish air, waving at the cows, picking some flowers and feeding the ducks – I feel instantly happier. My mind quietens down and I can just enjoy being. Just getting outside can be a powerful antidote to the stresses of modern life don’t you think? Here’s a guest post from a lovely young woman, Audrey Clark.

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Walk walk…lost in your own thoughts…

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What if walking could help to ease your anxiety and depression? Studies indicate that doing just that, getting some exercise, can help many people feel better emotionally as well as physically. According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise helps to prevent and improve high blood pressure, arthritis, and diabetes, but it also helps with psychological areas, too. In short, it can improve your mood. It does this by releasing “feel good” chemicals into the brain. It also helps to reduce immune system chemicals that tend to worsen depression. And, it works to increase your body’s temperature, which has an overall calming effect.

But, if you are struggling with depression, the last thing you want to do is to exercise. How can you get yourself on the path to feeling good again? Here are some tips to get you back out there and walking.

#1: Start Slowly

No one wants you to head out and run a marathon. Rather, just get started slowly. Spend some time walking for a few minutes after work one day. Take the longer path to the car. Just spend more time up and walking around your home to get started. If you are not in good health or you have not exercised recently, this slow start will make all of the difference.

#2: Find a Friend

Walking alone is boring and it may even trigger the wrong types of thoughts. To avoid this, find someone to walk with each day. It could be a friend or another person that’s interested in working out with you. You are more likely to actually head out to work out if you are doing it with someone else rather than trying to do it on your own.

#3: You Can Walk Indoors or Outdoors

Finding places to walk is important. A good place to start is with a local park. When it comes to walking, don’t go to the same location every time. Choose different parks. When it is wet outside, head to the local rec center or even to the mall. You’ll want to get as many different locations to visit as you can so you can maintain interest and momentum in the process.

#4: Track Yourself

Tracking your activity is an outstanding opportunity to see the difference you are making. For example, if you use a pedometer, a type of tool for tracking your daily step-count, you’ll be able to see how much you’ve accomplished. You can then push yourself a bit harder each day so you walk further or at a more intense rate. By doing this, you’ll be able to feel great about what you are accomplishing.

#5: Keep Yourself Motivated

You are walking to help improve your mental clarity and to accomplish your physical goals. It is always a good idea to focus on what you are accomplishing so you don’t give up. But, when your motivation starts to fall, consider a few tips. For example, go to a new location. Find someone new to invite with you on your walk. You may even want to reward yourself for doing a good job, perhaps with a special treat or to sleep in on any given day.

As you keep yourself on track you will see improvements in your overall health, self-esteem, and your depression symptoms. Go ahead! Challenge that depression with some simple walking.
Audrey Clark is a writer who loves to travel and stay fit. She’s always looking for her next adventure. You can find Audrey on Google+.

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Audrey

 

Why are some people evil?

I’m sitting in my garden, listening to the birds tweeting. I can hear kids laughing in the park, the pleasurable sound of freedom and easiness of life for many children in our little village in Scotland. My heart swells as I understand how fortunate these children truly are. They will, with any luck, continue to escape a dangerous existence.

But lately, well actually, for quite a few years now … I’ve watched horrified at what goes on in our shared world. I’ve tried to make sense of the bloodsheed, the wars, the terrorism, the cruelty. It is hard to compute how evil and messed up in the head some people can be.

I started reading a book (see cover below), beware it is not for the faint of heart, but it is a fascinating and important read for anyone trying to comprehend how/why some people in our world can behave so cruelly. I’ve always wondered how come some people are kind souls who wouldn’t kill a fly, whilst other people take pleasure from causing pain to another human being? The book explores the different gradients of empathy. Clearly a person who bullies, tortures or kills another human being lacks the ability to consider the victims feelings.

Zero

This is a brilliant read

In today’s world, every time you switch on the news – 100 people have been murdered by a bomb. 100 more people who now cease to exist in this world. They got on a bus to go to work, and now they are dead. Pointless killings designed to fill our hearts and minds with terror.

The latest unrest in Iraq is littered with torture, murder and brutality. It seems wherever we look, people are killing people due to economic, political and/or religious differences.

It doesn’t help that trust is lost in our governments. Do you believe the politicians will only help if their is economic gain? I’d have to agree, resources appear to play a role in any decision making.

Of-course, like anything, it is not black and white. It’s hard to know who to trust, who to listen to. I don’t tend to believe much of what any politician says on a matter. Their agenda’s can be concealed behind fake concern.

It’s interesting, we have so much information available to us, and yet it can be hard to make any sense and discover the truth.

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What’s happened to our world? I guess it was always like this. There has always been cruelty, wars, terror. Some people have always been evil, and most people have been decent sorts who want to help out their neighbour. What makes it worse now, in 2014, is the full range of technology available to people who wish to harm other souls. It’s just too easy.

I was thoroughly disgusted and ashamed to be a human being, when ISIS tweeted joyfully the other day from Iraq. They had beheaded some young man and was using his head as a football. The said ‘this is our world cup’. I didn’t know whether to scream or cry.

It’s the world we share, this planet is shared with people who have no empathy.

How on earth do we live each day and smile, and believe that plenty good people exist, when we know so much cruelty is going on? Why do you think some people are evil? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

What REALLY sells books in the modern marketplace?

Recently I was contacted by Suzan St Maur of HowToWriteBetter.net. If you haven’t seen this site, be sure to check it out. It’s brilliant. Full of useful information and support.

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Suze is a lady who likes to offer support

Suze asked me to write an article for her popular website. Here’s what I came up with. I hope you find it useful.

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In this guest article, Scottish author Alana Munro shares her advice on how to market your book successfully in today’s marketplace…

Most weeks I receive similar emails from authors with this urgent question, ‘Alana, I see your own book was a success, can you make my book a bestseller too?’

This is a tricky question to answer. Successful book marketing depends on so many factors. I try to absorb the book information presented to me and ask myself some fundamental questions:

  • Is the book actually a good read?
  • Is the book properly edited?
  • Is the cover eye-catching and professional?
  • How’s the blurb?
  • How many reviews does the book have and what are the reviews actually saying?
  • How’s the author’s blog looking?
  • Does the author know who their market is?
  • Does the author have a clear understanding of what their market demands?
  • What’s the author’s social presence?
  • Is the author able to handle my recommendations and advice?
  • Will the author want to hear my input?

So you can see, there is no clear answer to this popular yet difficult question.

Book success first relies on the author achieving the basics. You’d be amazed at how many authors don’t spend time on the basics or lack awareness of my above queries and considerations.

Too many authors write a book and think their job is done

But, in a modern market place, the author has much more to consider.

What I’ve noted is that many authors are good at writing books but some are pretty average at book marketing. To sell your book, you need to treat it as a business.

You need to use your creative talents to market your work. If you can write a book (huge achievement!), you have the ability to come up with practical and resourceful strategies to target your potential readers. It just takes a bit of imagination, time and research. If you have written a book – you have all these ingenious skills already. Yes, really. OK, deep breath.

Are you ready to tell the world about your book?

Here goes. Let’s do this!

1. Start your book marketing early

If possible build up interest in your work before your book is published. Identify who your potential readers are and be aware of what interests these people. Follow these people. Connect with them now.

Then on your blog and social media – post content that will engage your followers and interest them. Focus on growing your followers and maintaining their loyalty early on. You’ll be on the right track to building your potential readers.

2. Obtain quality book reviews

Send book bloggers and book reviewers a free copy of your book in exchange for a fair and balanced book review. A favourable and professional book review is persuasive and powerful.

You may need to send out about 300 emails (maybe more) and most will ignore you or be too busy. But don’t be upset, focus on achieving at least ten quality, fair and unbiased reviews.

3. Commit to the challenge of book marketing

Marketing your book is not dropping the odd link about your book on Facebook. The biggest challenge many authors find is the realisation that book marketing takes a huge amount of time and effort. It can be mind-boggling, time-consuming, annoying and exhausting. Try not to let it overwhelm you. Take it day by day. A little bit every day.

Commit to spending at least 30 minutes a day sharing your blog content, supporting other bloggers/authors, sharing interesting links, following interesting people and replying to messages. Write it in your diary, or stick it on your fridge. Just as you have a book writing schedule, you need to have a book marketing schedule and stick to it.

4. Grow your online community

Join online support groups, mingle with other authors, and share your experiences. Help other authors by sharing their blog content on your own social media, and leave comments on their blog.

Do what you can to support other people who are chasing the same dream. Writing can be very isolating so it is vital to reach out to other creative people – if only for your own sanity and theirs!

5. Stop trying to sell – focus on connections and content

Too many authors spam their social media with, ‘buy my book!’ This strategy very rarely works. People just turn off. You need to ‘gently guide’ people to your work, via your interesting blog content and engaging social media shares. People will like to ‘discover’ your work on their own terms.

Create an interesting blog with easy links to your book. Good book marketing practice is about targeting the right people and intriguing them by offering them something worthwhile. Give your followers something tasty to bite into: don’t just throw them the odd crumb.

Many authors are pretty obsessive about their sales on Amazon. I try to gently remind authors that their first book and maybe the first few books are very likely to have poor sales. I know – the reality of this HUGE market place sucks! I have first time authors emailing me and they are annoyed that they can’t quit their day job. I find these expectations a little bit crazy. Sure, some authors do get lucky, but most of us have to keep working at it, and most of us will need to be content with writing books as a means to express ourselves outside our boring day jobs. It’s fabulous to have dreams (I’m all for dreaming big!) but I think it is wise to not place huge pressure on yourself to achieve a best-selling book that results in a multimillion dollar movie deal. Always remember, just writing a book is a huge achievement.

6. Remember: book marketing can only achieve so much

Authors have to ensure books are polished, the book is actually a good read, there’s a market for the book and the most important factor – authors need to keep developing their marketing skills as much as their writing skills.

In today’s competitive book market, authors need to be creative in both their writing talent and their marketing strategies.

Good luck!

book marketing,book,marketing,writing,reviews,blogging,Alana Munro

Alana Munro, is the bestselling author of Women Behaving Badly – Exposing the Truth about Female Friendship. She also runs her own book marketing company helping authors to create interest in their books.  You can find out more about Alana by visiting her popular blog which brims with inspirational posts, life advice and support for creative people – http://alanamunroauthor.com/

The Australian Government’s cruel treatment of asylum seekers

Manus child 2

Art by a child who is currently in the Manus Island camp – the Australian government  place children and adults seeking askylum into offshore camps. The Australian government have no plans or visa’s to resettle these asylum seekers. The asylum seekers will need to return home and risk being killed or remain behind camp bars indefinitely.  What would you choose for your family? The detention camps act as a cruel deterrent and offer no positive solutions to these desperate people. There is currently 6,401 desperate people in detention, and over 1,000 are kids.

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Where’s the Compassion?

In many parts of the world asylum seeker has become a dirty word, a threat to be avoided. All over the world people are running for their life from ruthless and lawless homelands, and yet we are fearful of them. It’s easy to turn a blind eye and switch the news off, but we mustn’t. We must pay attention. Just this week alone, 500,000 people are running from their homes in Iraq. There is much cruelty and unrest in our world, and it is often normal every day people who get caught up in the latest, horrific mess.

What disturbs me is how politicians (particularly Tony Abbott in Australia) use these vulnerable people as political footballs to win votes. This is a constant game that plays on and on to ensure the general public is fearful of these unknown brown faces.

It’s vital not to fall for this fear propaganda and look at the facts. A huge majority of people pleading for help are genuine refugees. It’s heart breaking how things are going down in Australia. It’s sickening how the government seeks to punish people for having the cheek to ‘skip the queue.’

Today, I’d like to share with you a few insights on what the government is doing to people right now. Ask yourself, is this humane? Is this how a rich Western nation should be treating refugees? How can the government send these people to camps with no intention of releasing them, no education for their kids, very basic to no health care. They are prisoners and doing time behind bars, with no future, freedom and no hope. They are stuck, marooned on an island off the mainland of Australia. Many wish they had died. Many more will die behind bars as life confined in a prison with their babies takes it’s toil.

But there is some hope. A growing minority of people in Australia are speaking out and demanding answers. They care about justice and want the cruelty to stop. Compassion does exist, but they must fight to be heard over the governments fear campaign…

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The Australian Government have lost their moral compass

”Manus Island is an experiment in the ultimate logic of deterrence, designed to frustrate the hell out of people and terrify them so that they go home. Your two options are indefinite detention or to return to the country where you fear persecution.”

Liz Thompson, who was helping asylum seekers lodge their refugee applications on Manus Island when the alleged riot broke out, told Fairfax Media that the asylum seekers launched their protests when a Papua New Guinean official went ”off script” and acknowledged there were no plans in place for their resettlement.

She said asylum seekers had demanded answers from a senior PNG immigration official at a tense meeting on the Sunday afternoon before the Monday night violence. He had been ”honest with the guys about the fact that there is no process on PNG for their resettlement”.

The deadly clashes on Manus Island early in 2014, flared up after asylum seekers realised the Australian government was ”lying to them” about plans to resettle them in Papua New Guinea. One young man was killed, and at least 70 people were injured.

Ms Thompson accused the Immigration Department of deceiving the detainees and said the system – which she branded ”a farce” – was designed to force them to give up and return to their home countries.

”We were taking them through a process that goes nowhere,” she said. ”There is no visa for them to get. There’s no legislation governing their resettlement.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/riot-flared-as-manus-island-refugees-realised-lies-were-told-20140225-33ft3.html

children in Manus
Essential viewing:

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The Australian public stand up to the governments cruel treatment of asylum seekers – not in our bloody name!
Sam of GetUp sent me an email, here’s what it said:

On Sunday 23rd February 2013, we were a sight to behold. GetUp members stood with 20,000 Australians, across the country and around the world, to spread light during a dark time in Australian history. We gave hope and radiated compassion to asylum seekers under our government’s cruel and punishing policies.

https://www.getup.org.au/candlelit-vigil

I saw a community of people unified in hope that we can do better for asylum seekers. People who are determined to break through the secrecy and end our national shame. What I saw was a community of people that made me proud to be Australian. What’s incredible is that this same moment happened at hundreds of events, large and small – including a one-man vigil at a cattle station in central Queensland, and crowds in seven other countries around the world.

After such a powerful display of our collective desire to do better, we must ensure that the campaign continues in earnest. We can’t be complacent while our government tarnishes our human rights reputation, mistreats vulnerable people and does all of this in our name.

Although we still don’t know exactly what is being done in our name and what our government will do to act, there is no doubt that our actions on Sunday were noticed and mattered. We showed compassion to a grieving family in Iran. We lit beacons of hope for asylum seekers being unconscionably detained in our name. We fired up tens of thousands of Australians who united to peacefully demand better from our government – and GetUp members made sure that message was heard by hundreds of thousands in media coverage around the country, and around the world.

To everyone who attended Sunday’s vigils, to those who lit a candle in their own home, to those who took a minute from their day to pay respects – thank you for being a part of it. A brother of an asylum seeker who was injured on Manus asked us to pass on this message:

“He will be happy.
He will tell all people of Manus Island.
You will give them hope
I would like to say thank you from my heart.”

Thanks for lighting up the darkness,

Sam, for the GetUp team.

PS – As the photos and stories continue to pour in, we now know there were far more than 750 events and far more than 15,000 attendees, as originally estimated. Together, we made sure light shone brightly upon the hope for a better way.

Although the asylum seekers currently detained on Manus have been denied access to phone and internet for 8 days now, we will continue to pressure the government to break its silence. One thing is certain: as soon as access is restored, one of the first things those currently detained on Manus will see are the amazing photos from around the country – and the world – that show just how many people care. They will know that their suffering is not in our name.

Click here to see some of the most powerful moments from the vigil: https://www.getup.org.au/candlelit-vigil

For more information on this matter please contact The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.

ASRCWant to know the facts and figures?, please head to: http://www.humanrights.gov.au/immigration-detention-statistics

To understand the obligations that Australia has to protect people seeking asylum please go to: http://www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/asylum-seekers-and-refugees

Embracing Change in Life

Change

I used to dislike change. I was the little girl who felt sick and anxious when pushed into unknown situations. I think a lot of kids are the same, they’d rather have security and familiarity.

Then I discovered that change wasn’t so scary after all. I discovered that new things, new people, new places, new opportunities, new locations, new shoes – were not to be feared. Instead of tentatively dipping my toe into the pool of life, I dived in head first.

The thing about change is the more you embrace it and just go with the change the better you get. I noticed that my once feeble change ‘reflex’ muscle got stronger and I stopped fearing change.

Fast forward about twenty years and I am someone who actively seeks change in my life. I enjoy the challenges, the new options and new faces it always brings.

Of course not all change is welcome, some is devastating. The most harrowing of changes can leave us broken but after we start to pick up the pieces and put ourselves back together we will discover that we survived and we can be reassured that if we can survive this, we can endure anything.

Change teaches us much about who we are, how we handle change reveals who we are to become. Change is not to be feared, it can be used to empower.

Embrace the change in your life. We can’t resist the inevitable. Life is ever-changing.

How do you cope with changes in your own life?

Disconnecting from technology – are you addicted to your smartphone?

Like many people, I am concerned with our growing reliance on technology such as smart phones. Hands up if you have ever been in the company of someone and they have spent more time looking down at their mobile phone screen than at your face. Gee that screen must be more interesting than any human being hey. They are sitting beside you but they are not with you.

It’s not cool people, so not cool. I’ve considered just getting up and walking away. But then I stop myself as I know that’s pretty rude. Ha! I’m worried about being rude to a person who is staring down at a screen and basically zoning out in my company. How messed up is that?

I think people have become somewhat addicted or very reliant to these devices. Statistics from http://www.iqmetrix.com/ reveal that people would give up washing themselves and give up having sex with a person they love just to keep their phone. Wow!

Hands up who checks their Facebook, Twitter or Google plus most days? What exactly are we checking for?

Hands up who takes their mobile phone everywhere? Even into the bathroom…gulp!

Hands up who feels anxious and little sweaty if they can’t get wifi?

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I’d love to know what technology you can’t live without?

Me? I get quite edgy if I can’t check my emails or comments on this blog. What on earth is awaiting my attention in my inbox? Anything or anyone could be waiting on my reply.

However, part of me longs for telegrams and beautiful hand written letters. People had much more patience when correspondence took weeks, instead of hours. I do think this ‘speedy we want a response now world’ is less appealing and pleasurable. But that’s just me, most people would shriek and shudder, preferring the ‘easiness’ of technology.

But is technology giving us an easier life? Or does technology, such as smart phones, demand we are available 24/7? When do we get to truly rest? When do people, like you and me, get to switch off?

I loved reading this recent article from http://zenhabits.net/ as it sums up the battle to break free from this technology. 

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In February, I went (almost) completely without my iPhone. I thought it would be hard, and it was at first, but it turned out to be one of the best changes I’ve made in my Year of Living Without.

I highly recommend periods of no cellphone: for disconnectedness, quietness, and full attention to people you’re with and your thoughts and your surroundings.

It wasn’t easy at first. Having a smartphone everywhere you go (which I purposely didn’t have until last summer) creates mental habits — checking things constantly, sending messages, looking things up immediately when a thought pops into your mind, doing something. I suffered withdrawal for a few days, when I would want to reach for my phone constantly every time I was out of the house, and sometimes even in the house.

I was missing out on emails from colleagues and Snapchats from my kids. I couldn’t book something immediately, make a reservation, look up a need-to-know-now fact. I couldn’t read on the train. I couldn’t tell what time it was — this was a big one, as I don’t have a watch and use my phone to tell time, and I realized I’m always worried I’m late!

I watched these urges, and found them interesting. The best thing to do with urges is to be curious. So on trains, on walks, in a tea shop, I’d just watch my urges with curiosity. How did I get like this?

But then I accepted my new reality, after about 4-5 days. I just knew that I wasn’t going to be checking things, reading, looking things up, doing tasks, when I was out of the house. I knew that this was going to be disconnected, quiet, mindful time. This was my reality, and it wasn’t bad at all. In fact, I grew to like it.

My world didn’t fall apart because I wasn’t productive every second of the day, and wasn’t on top of every message instantly. I actually survived not immediately knowing exactly where Crimea was or who won the Oscars last year. Shocking, I know.

I meditated as I walked outside, and sat on a train, or waited in line. I was actually aware of the present moment, much more often than usual.

When our lives are always connected, being disconnected can be a relief. This was my experience in February. For the first few days of March, I continued the habit. Yesterday, for what seemed like a good reason, I brought my phone on an errand … and all of a sudden my old habits came back.

I think I’ll leave my phone at home most of the time now.

What’s next? This month I’m doing no alcohol. What that means is no glass of red wine with Eva every night. I thought it wouldn’t be too hard, because I did more than a month without alcohol last year. But the first few days have shown me a few surprisingly strong urges to have a few sips of wine. I’m OK with the urges — I see them as a part of myself I’m learning about, with curiosity.

Featured Book – Jaded by Kristy Feltenberger Gillespie

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Hello and welcome to the blog…today, I’m interviewing the author of Jaded. First up, let’s pick Kirsty’s brain on publishing her book,
The professional questions…
  • Tell us about your book?   Here’s the synopsis: Jade has spent her entire life within the confines of the eye-color-obsessed Nirvana commune. She dreams of experiencing freedom but travel to the Outside is forbidden. Besides, she’s a dutiful daughter who never breaks the rules. As her seventeenth birthday approaches, however, she realizes just how little she wants to follow the commune rules. She doesn’t want to undergo another eye color surgery, or immediately choose a life partner, or follow her parents’ life paths of teaching or wine making. In fact, her green eyes suit her just fine, she’s never even been on a date, and she’s passionate about photography. And yet she’s resigned to do as she’s told because it’s easier for her to close her eyes and follow orders.Her Grandmother Ruby’s murder is the catalyst that causes Jade to open her eyes wide for the first time in her life. She’s devastated yet determined to find the killer and their motive. With help from her mysterious friend Tyrian, and Peaches, the commune leader’s sweet daughter, Jade unearths dark secrets which include her mother’s illicit affair, her maternal grandparents’ escape from Nirvana, and a plethora of murders. To make matters worse, someone is hell bent on ending Jade’s mission for the truth, and that someone is most likely the killer. Jade can’t continue conforming to an evil society and yet she fears the Outside is just as corrupt. If she resolves to flee and is caught, the punishment is banishment to the slave cabins…and blinding. Although Jaded is considered a young adult dystopian novel, adults will be able to relate to Jade’s plight. 

 

  • What/who inspired you to write this book? I took a six-week writing course and the professor asked us to write a six-word memoir. For some reason, I thought of colors and what they symbolize. Then I thought about my parents and how I’m obviously a combination of them.  My mother is “sunshiny yellow” and my father is “somber blue” and I fall somewhere in between. I wrote Blue Father, Yellow Mother, Green Daughter. After that I started writing Jaded.
  • Describe the route to your first book being published? After Jaded was finished, I sent query letters to about 25 agents who represent YA literature. I received some positive feedback but no “Yes’s.” I also attended several writing conferences where several agents mentioned the dystopian genre is “dead” and Jaded falls into the dystopian/thriller genre, therefore self-publishing was looking more like a viable option. Next I submitted Jaded in a competition run by Macmillan publishing. I was ranked #5 out of 180 novels when they chose their first few novels for publication. At that point, I decided to self-publish because I felt it was time. 
  • Did you enjoy the writing process? I do enjoy the writing process, it’s the marketing process that is killing me!
  • What’s the hardest part of writing a book? Hands down, finding the time. I tend to take on too much I work full time as a middle school counselor, part time as a SAT and ACT proctor, attend graduate school for a degree in school library media, have a blog that keeps me incredibly busy, am a book reviewer, and I’m a writer!
  • What advice would you give to people trying to write a book? The writing business is tough so it’s incredibly important to reach out to other writers for support and vice versa. Offer to read and honestly review another writer’s novel in exchange for their honest review of yours, start a blog and spotlight authors, seek out bloggers who will offer a spotlight to you, join Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and any other social media outlets that you can handle. And read as much as you write.
  • Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? Yes. I suffer from anxiety and tend to put everything in front of writing. Suddenly the laundry has to be washed right this second. 
  • With regards to writer’s block, can you offer some methods you have used to get back to writing? Block out time on your calendar to write, just like you would any other appointment. For example, as soon as I finish this interview, I plan to write for the rest of the day. 
  • What one book has changed your mind or your life, or simply amazed you? There are so many but some of the major ones are Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Charles Dicken’s Great Expectations…
  • Would you recommend indie book publishing and why do you believe the traditional route is still preferred by many?  I think it’s worthwhile to try the traditional publishing route and to self-publish when you want to- don’t just do it because you’re frustrated at traditional publishing, self-publish because you’re ready for readers to fall in love with your novel, regardless of the publishing route. I believe the traditional route is still preferred by many because self-publishing is hard work- unless you have a team of people helping you, you’re on your own. Besides the final edit and cover art, (and some support from friends) I’ve done absolutely everything on my own.  
  • How did you feel when you published your first book? And, how did you celebrate your achievement? I felt relieved, proud, scared…a mix of emotions, really. I’ve celebrated on several occasions with friends and wine- a winning combination! 
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Congratulations! Okay let’s get to know you…the person behind the book!
  • Describe yourself in five words? Intense, Creative, Attentionally-Challenged, Sarcastic, Logophile
  • Describe your perfect day? Strong coffee with cream, alternating between swimming in the ocean and reading, a few glasses of Pinot Grigio, and a surf and turf dinner.
  • If you could invite five people to dinner who would they be? If I could travel back in time to the 1920’s, I’d invite Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Robert Frost, and Gertrude Stein.
  • And what would you serve at the meal? I don’t cook so we’d have to go out & my fave restaurant is the Melting Pot. I’d order Cabernet Sauvignon, cheese fondue, salads, surf and turf, chocolate fondue and coffee.
  • What is your favourite topics of conversation with your friends? Literature, celebrity gossip, wine, movies, travel…
  • How do you like to relax after a busy day? I think the only time I truly relax is when I’m asleep! Hot baths and books help, too. And exercise which I hardly ever do!
  • What were you like as a child? According to my mom I was shy and sweet…and then I entered middle school. I remember being a typical 80’s/90’s child- playing Nintendo, carrying around a pink boom box, listening to everything from New Kids on the Block to Guns and Roses to eventually Pearl Jam, roller skating through the neighborhood, wearing bright clothing and jelly shoes…
  • What’s your mantra in life? I have two- Nike’s Just Do It and my grandma’s – Build a Bridge and Get Over It!
  • Your favourite quote ever? “My thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations.” John Green
  • What drives you crazy about modern life? I have a love and hate relationship with the Internet. As much as I’m addicted to my computer & Smartphone, sometimes I miss the 90’s when I could just pull my hot pink phone cord out of the wall!
  • If you had the power to change anything in this world what would you change? I’m a Libertarian, and a strong supporter of freedom for all. I think people should be able to do what they want to do as long as they aren’t intentionally hurting other people, animals, or our world. Therefore, I would grant everyone freedom, eliminating totalitarianism.
  • If you had a super power what would it be? I think time traveling and teleportation is fascinating.
  • What three dreams are on your bucket list – and have you achieved any yet? Traveling to all 50 states is at the top of my bucket list. So far I’ve traveled to 39 and plan on checking 9 more off my list this summer. My favorites include Washington, Oregon, California, Maine, and Florida. As much as I love living in Northern Virginia, living near the ocean would be paradise! Another item on my bucket list is publishing a novel which I achieved in February of this year. My number one dream is to work full-time as a writer (while living near the beach of course!) but like I tell my students “Dreams aren’t something you wish for, they’re something you work for. ” (And no, I can’t take credit for that quote!)

The Courage To Create

Alana Munro - The Author Who Supports:

It does take courage to create and share the inner workings of our mind. I thought this summed up the fear factor of ‘exposing’ ourself with the world…thoughts? How did you work through your own doubts and share your work with the world?

Originally posted on The Chatter Blog:

You don’t know the courage it takes.   To put thoughts and ideas and creations in to words.  In to paint.  In to sculpture. In to drawings.  In to music.   Then offer them up.  To be exposed.  Lay bare the ideas.  Lay bare the  visions.   Expose  perceptions.   Offer them up to anyone.

Anyone.

For anyone to love.

For anyone to hate.

For anyone to destroy.

For anyone to ignore.

There is courage to have a desire to create.  To take the action to create.  To take the step to share.

You don’t know the courage it takes.  Unless you have the desire and passion to create.  And a stronger desire to share.

What courage have you?

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NoiseTrade: Build Audience While Boosting Your Mailing List

Alana Munro - The Author Who Supports:

Hi guys, thought this was a cool idea for creatives trying to get downloads…could be worth a go to spark interest in your book and build your readership. Let me know if you give it a go, I’d love to hear your experience…thanks!

Originally posted on David Gaughran:

noisetradeWhat if I told you there was a cool new way to share your work with the world that could help you build audience, boost your mailing list, and make money at the same time?

Welcome to NoiseTrade.

The idea is simple. Authors can upload ebooks (and audiobooks) and NoiseTrade’s community of readers can download them for free – for as long as the author wants. There is a tip-jar, and you can suggest a figure, but it’s not compulsory.

So it’s pay what you want, but with a killer twist. In exchange for the download, the reader provides their email address to the author (in full knowledge they will be contacted in future).

In other words, it’s a smart way to boost your mailing list, with the possibility of making a little money on the side too.

NoiseTrade is quite well established in the indie music scene

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