Saturday, 27 March 2010

...Talks Motivation, Inspiration, Perspiration And Carrot Cake!

I've noticed my clothes getting a bit tighter recently and I know it's not because they're shrinking in the wash so I decided to take action and join the gym. Along I went, handed over my bank details to allow them to reach in and take my money every month. It didn't matter though because I was going to get fit! Happy days.

For the first few weeks I loved it - the restaurant was fantastic mainly due to their yummy carrot cake. The sauna and steam rooms were working wonders for my skin. I should have joined the gym years ago!

I must point out that I was vaguely aware of some big shiny equipment in other parts of the gym but it all seemed too ugly, heavy and loud for my liking. Anyway, the people using this equipment looked decidedly dishevelled and I just knew that wasn't a look that would suit me. I joined the gym to get fit, not to get ugly.

So I decided in my infinite wisdom it was best to stick to my established routine of steam room, sauna and finish off in the restaurant. It was incredibly relaxing. I don't know why people moan about the gym - I was loving it!

After a few weeks of this and much mocking from my nearest and dearest (mental note: there will be no further sharing details of my life with anybody who has any power of influence over me. Also I must get mentally fit in order to achieve this, but that's another blog for another day...) I decided to extend my repertoire at the gym and *drum roll please* join an exercise class.

This decision was taken after initially trying my hand at the cross trainer. Looks harmless enough I thought to myself. After a full 58 seconds, I had to get off. Well actually I fell off, because both legs had turned to jelly and my arms were just hanging limp by my sides.

What new form of torture is this please?

Never again. I have teenage children. That responsibility alone is torture, hence rendering the addition of extra torture completely unnecessary. Anyway, a nice gentle exercise class sounded like it was just the thing, and it was bound to be easier than using any of that awful equipment.

Susan* the instructor was far too toned for her own good, and a bit of a show-off truth be told. So were the 8 pensioners I was taking the class with. But I didn't let that put me off. Legs, bums and tums here I come! I must say I did fabulously well and completed not one but two classes that day. I'm particularly grateful to the two sprightly 65 year old ladies who helped me back to my car after the class. Well, actually they carried me but I'll gloss over that detail.

The next day upon waking, I opened my eyes & smiled. Another new day had dawned and I was seeing everything in a whole different light - I was getting fit again! Bring it on!

Getting out of bed presented me with my first new challenge. Have you ever tried to pull back a 14 tog duvet with just your eyelids? They were the only part of my body that didn't hurt. That soon wiped the smile off my face, although I wasn't too concerned about that because smiling was far too painful by now.

I was not going to be defeated, so I signed up for another class with Satan, sorry I meant Susan. Anyway, the cafe still served carrot cake and that alone made the trip worthwhile. Although driving there did give me a whole new outlook on life. Car journeys were actually ok provided I didn't have to change gear, accelerate, brake or use my mirrors. I have a manual car (a stick shift) but then I like a challenge. It didn't really concern me that other drivers were swearing and beeping at me furiously, mainly because I couldn't turn my head to look at them gesticulating at me. I carried on regardless and blissfully unaware. I was on a mission and the trail of destruction and near-misses I left behind me wasn't going to stop me.

So here we are, 6 months down the line and guess what? I've done what I set out to achieve. I have single handedly kept the gym's cafe in business and the attendants at the steam room and sauna are my best friends. As is Susan, the toned instructor, and now it's me carrying new members back to their cars after their first class. As for the cross trainer, I've now doubled my tolerance. Can I get a woohoo!

Was it worth joining the gym? Yes it was!

Disclaimer: I joined the gym because I had spare cash which I wanted to donate to the gym. If you don't have spare cash, don't join. Also, before starting any exercise programme please consult your health practitioner.

*Names have been changed to protect me from getting beaten up by the gym instructor.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

...Asks What's In Your Bag?

We all have a carefully constructed public persona, the mask that we all hide behind when we’re out in public. What’s behind your mask?

Would you be happy for your friends and work colleagues and business associates to see the unmasked you?

Whilst we all strive to be the best we possibly can be, sometimes it’s just not that easy and that’s why we tend to have a side that we show and one that we don’t. But what if that mask slipped? Would we still recognise you? My own mask has slipped on occasions and it was quite ugly. This was not good considering I don't do ugly.

One fun way to check what’s lurking behind our masks is to imagine carrying an invisible bag containing all those qualities that are normally tucked safely away hidden from view. That bag’s always with us whether chatting with siblings, other family, a friend or a loved one or conducting a meeting with a business associate. Sounds a little wacky doesn’t it, but work with me on this one because I think you’ll like it.

Ladies, we all love our cherished bags so this will be easy, and it’s only a game so if you want yours to be a fabulous Gucci/Chanel/Fendi bag then go ahead – it’s yours! Gentlemen, you’re not forgotten either and with the advent of the manbag, you’ll be excited to learn you’re included in this one too.

Here’s the disclaimer: ladies, this is a game, hence you don’t need a genuine Gucci/Chanel/Fendi. Gentlemen, this is a game but unless you want this to be the last game you ever play, please just buy her the Gucci/Chanel/Fendi. This will earn you countless brownie points. We're girls and we like presents.

Everyone happy? Let’s continue.

Now sit down at an imaginary table with either mum, best friend, business associate etc (well you’re already holding an imaginary bag so you may as well take your seat at the imaginary table).

It’s important to know a few fundamentals at this point; first, we ALL have a bag; second, the contents of our bags all vary from person to person, and relate directly to our personal life experiences; third (and this one is a bit scary) the person across the table from you will see the entire contents of your bag – make no mistake about that Ladies and Gentlemen, and fourth and finally the contents of your bag won’t necessarily reflect the contents of your public life. You might be the CEO of an insanely successful company or you might be a top model appearing on magazine covers around the world, but that’s the mask we wear for public consumption. The bag holds the private inner you. Did I hear an uh-oh?

Only you know what’s in your bag and only you decide what goes in and what stays out, but they will see it whether you like it or not. That is the Law of The Bag.

Do you know what’s in your bag? Allow me to just throw a few things into the mix here off the top of my head…how about Greed? Unreliability? Unpredictability? Disloyalty? How would you feel if that’s what your companion pulled out of their bag? Better yet, how would you feel about pulling those unsavoury qualities out of your bag? Not great I’m guessing.

Would you really want to sit opposite the person who’s bag contains an unlimited supply of negative qualities, against your positive qualities.

What if their response to the look of abject horror on your face was a wishy-washy “Yes, I know it looks bad but I was hoping your bag has the joy, the love, the enthusiasm, the passion, the tolerance, the patience and all that other good stuff. I really just don’t have it in mine.”

Would they be able to see you through the dust cloud as you make your supersonic exit at breakneck speed? I doubt it.

Take a few moments every day to consider the contents of your bag and be glad for the opportunity to clean it up and sort it out before you take your seat at the table of your life. Make a conscious decision today to fill your bag to the brim with a heady mixture of respectful, fabulous, amazing, breathtaking, romantic, schmaltzy attributes. Have some fun with this part of the process and bear in mind what you’d want someone to pull out of their bag and offer you.

Trust me – you’ll be glad you did it. Offering the best of ourselves comes with its own plentiful rewards. Like many noble pursuits it isn’t easy but I promise you, it will make you feel fabulous.

Just before I close please take a moment to tell me, if you dare, what’s in your bag right here, right now?

Tuesday, 23 March 2010


I was reflecting upon virtues today – you know what I mean here – those character traits that represent superb, five-star, gold-plated qualities of moral excellence. These are the things we all strive for such as modesty, probity, integrity, kindness…the list is quite long and full of elements that cannot help but make us feel good about ourselves. Until we reach one virtue that, practically without exception, makes us all groan...patience.

As virtues go, I think we can all agree that patience gets a really bad press. I mean, come on let’s face it, who looks forward to waiting? Isn’t this the age of instant gratification? If I want it, I’ll have it now please. Which one of you enjoys hearing that irksome phrase “...remember - patience is a virtue…”? I’m willing to bet the numbers are in single figures! Even as I write this I’m feeling somewhat irritated as I ponder upon the various experiences that are yet to manifest in my life, as I tell myself to be patient because it’ll all come together in the end (cue gnashing of gritted teeth).

Patience is one of those words that’s steeped in negativity. We end up being so aghast and distressed at the requirement to wait that we put masses of energy into being impatient. Its really quite odd when we think about it. In our instinctive determination to rebel against being patient we end up making the whole process quite unbearable.

This is the age of now – if we want pizza at 1am we can have it; if we want to check our bank balance at 3am we can do it; if we want to read tomorrow’s headlines at 4am we can read them.

But what happens when we want an omelette instead of scrambled eggs? Or when driving to Manchester from London in a traffic jam? In those instances, instantaneous it most certainly is not! There are many circumstances where instant gratification has not made its presence felt. Think of pregnancy and childbirth (how many months?) or gardening (how long does it take for the bulbs to appear?) or baking a cake, roasting a joint, growing an oak tree or becoming a Jedi Master. They all require varying degrees of patience. There’s just no getting round it.

So in a fit of revolutionary pique I have decided it’s time patience got a makeover! I’m on a one-woman mission to convert you into loving this virtue and embracing patience wholeheartedly. I’m hopeful that the benefits will bring immeasurable joy into our lives and give us back our peace of mind.

Reader, allow me to share my 6 year old son’s explanation of patience. He said that patience is when we really want something to happen but it won’t happen immediately and there’s nothing we can do about that, so while we wait for it to happen we do other things to help pass the time. His proviso (my word not his – he was only 6 remember) being that we must always keep a clear and certain image of the thing we want in our minds. From the mouths of babes!

When I have applied my son’s logic to the many times patience has been required, it has indeed worked like magic. If I’m stuck in traffic when I’m running late for a meeting, I’ll use the time to do something constructive like mentally review my agenda for the meeting. That way instead of arriving at the meeting frazzled and flustered, I’m even better prepared and the traffic jam is a distant memory that hasn’t blighted my day.

I also find that gratitude is a crucial way to help the process along. We can always find things to be grateful for, no matter what the circumstances, and I’d urge you to think of 5 things you’re grateful for right now. See how it lifts you, and distracts you from the process of waiting?

Some things will always only ever happen in their own time whether we like it or not. So the more we learn to let go of the process itself and the more we focus with certainty (not desperation) on the outcome, whilst simultaneously spending our time pursuing other tasks and preoccupations that we enjoy, the less we tend to notice that we are in fact waiting. The added bonus being the realisation that we’re actually very good at being patient. Admittedly it does take some practice, but surely that’s a win-win we all want to be a part of?

Thursday, 11 March 2010

...Shares Her Secret 4 Step Method For Letting Go Of Anger

So there you are, you’ve just had a row with your beloved/child/parent/flatmate and you’re sitting there absolutely fuming. You’ve got smoke coming out of your ears and you’re so livid that the vein in your forehead is pulsing so hard it literally might just pop out of your head. So you sit and plan their demise in the minutest of detail. Does this sound like you? Oh yes, we’ve all been there!

But hang on a minute…is this really how you want to feel? Burning up with all-consuming anger? You love this person, right? Well ok, maybe you don’t love them but you do at least like them don’t you? Well even if you don’t, you love yourself don’t you? More to the point you do know that letting go of this anger is healthy for you don’t you?

Ok so that’s our starting point. Letting go of the negativity. Here we go!

Firstly the all important disclaimer (and this one is really important)…if you are being abused in any way whether it’s mental or physical, or if the object of your anger is infringing your human rights in any way, or bullying you, then please contact the Authorities. They will help you.

So now let’s take a moment to review the situation before the letting-go process begins. Blazing row…hurt feelings…are we on the same page?

Step 1: The first secret is to take a few deep breaths. Sounds like an old cliché but it really does work. So go ahead and take a few deep breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth. You’re feeling better already aren’t you? Well read on because there’s more and it gets better you’ll be glad to know.

Step 2: The next thing I do is I tell myself over and over again those 3 little magic words “…this will pass…” Why do I do that? Well simply because I know it does – everything always passes. I remind myself of the many times in the past when I’ve felt anger and it’s passed. This will pass. This will pass. This will pass.

Eventually I can truly feel the tension in my shoulders releasing and my clenched fists have become loosened. I’m breathing calmly and as for that vein in my head? All gone.

I’m still upset but I’m out of the red zone. Most importantly, I can feel the anger leaving my body.

Step 3:The next secret is to build on the good feelings that are slowly emerging. This is a crucial step that has a snowball effect in the letting-go process.

How shall we do this? One good way is to find a memory about that person which makes you feel good and makes you smile. Is there a time when you both did something together that you really enjoyed? Did he/she surprise you pleasantly? What connects you together in a fun and happy way? Write them down if you want to – sometimes this speeds up the letting-go process.

Next I will take a few moments to assess how I’m feeling. Remember I’m still saying over and over “this will pass”. By this stage I’m always feeling less livid and more light. Then I smile to myself as more good memories suddenly pop into my head like corn popping in a hot pan, as my mental filing system kicks into gear to help me out of this sticky moment and letting it go becomes all the more sweeter. As my list of good memories grows and grows I quickly realise that this process of letting go is much more creative and productive than holding on to the anger. By this stage of the process I’m actually having fun!

Step 4:The best step of all the steps is when it dawns on me that I’ve successfully let it go. The result I was aiming for all along has been achieved! I did it! That truth brings the biggest smile back to my face.

Be aware also that at any stage of the process you may feel like crying. This is really normal and it's important to let the tears flow. Crying is a release and it's always better out than in I say, so go ahead and grab a big box of tissues and let it out.

So there you have it, my simple plan for releasing anger. Oh I know I’ll revisit the argument, because let’s face it I’m a woman (relax ladies…men do it too!) but the success lies in the fact that I’ve taken the sting out of the situation. The argument may still need to be resolved, but the raw stinging emotion is gone. I’ve regained a sense of perspective and the disagreement has far less significance. I feel good about myself and ultimately this means that dealing with and resolving the issues that caused the row in the first place will be far less stressful.

And it’s all thanks to the fact that I used my 4 simple secrets to letting go of anger.

...Asks What Is Real Love?

If I asked you to describe love what picture does this conjure up in your mind? I wonder how many of you have difficulties with that question and how many of you would be able to describe it immediately.

When two people are in love the whole world sees it. When a parent loves their child the whole world sees it. When we love our pets the whole world sees it.

How would we describe this elusive feeling? For centuries great poets and authors have described love in a thousand different ways, from the mystical poet Rumi who wrote “...the minute I heard my first love story I started looking for you, not knowing how blind that was. Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere, they are in each other all along…” to modern day songwriter David Gray who says “…from the very first moment I saw you, that’s when I knew that all the dreams I held in my heart had suddenly come true…” , while Beyonce sings about being “Crazy in Love”.

Some view love as painful, others regard love as a playground of varying levels of giddy paroxysms of delight. Love to me has so many component parts: respect, grace, trust, loyalty, compassion, kindness, forgiveness, understanding to name but a few. Love is eternal, it does not conform to space and time. Love knows no earthly boundaries and love surpasses all obstacles. Isn’t that what they say? (whoever “they” are…)

To my mind when we are without love and we ask for it to come into our lives, whether we want a romantic partner or a new kitten we often attach yearning and longing to that desire. I believe that the yearning actually delays the love coming to us. That's because the yearning feeling creates a sense of not having the love right at that moment, and then we feel a sense of emptiness. Instead, it's far more powerful if we act with certainty and gratitude that it's already here. Act as if we are so certain that it’s already ours, and if it isn’t in our lives already, it’s on it’s way. That certainty is essential especially where you can’t picture what the feeling of having the love is like.

Let me give you an example of that type of certainty. Imagine you go into a store and buy an item for £5, pay for it with £10, you expect £5 change right? You don’t ponder and wonder and long for your £5 change do you? You just know its coming. You don’t say “Will I get the full £5 or will I just get £2 change?” That’s just silly! You just know it’s coming. Then when you get your change you don’t act overly shocked or confused to the point of questioning it do you?  No, you just say thanks and off you go. Because you just knew it was coming.

That’s what certainty feels like and that’s the feeling you want to cultivate. Doesn’t that feel good? Do you feel relieved that its so simple? Say yes and say it loud! YES! (Not if you’re at work of course. Inside voice.)

Now that you know what the certainty feels like, let’s explore how that translates to your physical appearance? Allow me to give you an idea of how it looks – the fabulous feeling of having love in your life transmutes into that sparkle in your eyes, the glow in your skin, the smile on your face, the spring in your step and the shine in your hair. It’s your strong posture and the clear words you speak. It’s the way you light up a room just by being in it. It’s the kindness and compassion you give so effortlessly. It’s your passion and enthusiasm that exudes from every pore.

How great is that making you feel? Hold on to that feeling.

Romantic love feels like you’re sharing your own private sunbeam. The warmth of your love is so potent it’s practically tangible. He’s so proud to have you in his life there’s nowhere he’d rather be than by your side and there’s nobody he’d place above you. He smiles in the certainty that it’s the same for you too. There’s an endless list of places you take each other, both real and imagined. “Isn’t she amazing?” he says to everyone and anyone, glowing with unabashed pride. He knows this beautiful woman really is something special. And his smile tells us all that he knows it’s the same for her too. Their love is truly requited.

This love is simple, pure, sweet, heartfelt, intense, passionate and enduring. Both lovers feel it’s warmth like a blanket they’ve woven together out of all the countless small & seemingly insignificant kindnesses & loving gestures they bestow upon each other every day.

Now that’s what real love looks like to me. What does it look like to you?

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

...Talks Babies, Bumps And Bellies Or How To Lose Baby Weight!

Recently many of my friends have had new babies and I’ve noticed one of the main things they all worry about is how will they lose their baby tummies! I have every sympathy for them because I know exactly how they feel and I also know a great way to lose baby weight.

So who am I? Well I’m Mumtaz, a proud mum of two and if its at all possible I’m even prouder of the fact that at 43 my body is the same if not better than it was at 27 when I had my first baby! But that’s the story for many women, I hear you say, but I’m guessing that’s not why you’re reading this…I bet you’re just like me and my friends wondering how to lose the mummy tummy? And so if I was to tell you that during my first pregnancy, at my heaviest I was 14 stone, does that make you want to read on? Great! Because I want you to know that you’re not alone! Also, there’s lots you can do to kiss that tummy bye bye! So get ready to lose your baby tummy.

First things first - the all important disclaimer: before you start any sort of exercise consult your health practitioner. This is crucial!

So, I assume you’re reading this a few weeks after your baby’s birth? You and your new family have settled into a new routine (of sorts, because truth be told, it soon dawns on us that life is just not ever going to be the same again!) and you have a chance to exhale…so…what’s the first thing you notice? Could it be that your belly resembles that of a woman who is 5 months pregnant? With a baby inside her tum? But how can that be fair, we all ask, because your baby’s outside now. Surely the belly should be gone too? So how do you lose baby weight?

Let me tell you I know exactly how it feels to long to wear jeans again…I must say I wasn’t bothered if they were skinny jeans, bootleg, straight leg or flares – I just know I wanted to get out of my elastic-waisted pants and back into my jeans. After my first baby was 2 or 3 months old, and we had all settled down into a bit of a routine, that was when I stared to gaze longingly at my jeans and then look at my belly and then back at my jeans and it was as if the two had become mortal enemies, never to be reunited. It was like fish and chips had fallen out and salt hated pepper.

But how was I going to get them back together? I needed a plan to lose my baby tummy.

A few short months after my precious baby was born I found myself with possibly the most unprecious figure imaginable! What was my plan to lose my baby belly and regain my lovely figure?

Going to the gym was out of the question. How many new mums and especially 2nd 3rd and 4th time mums have got time to go to the gym? What with all the laundry, ironing, cooking and cleaning, bedtime routines, wake-up routines.…shall I go on?? There’s really no need to say any more because I’m sure you know exactly what I’m talking about here. Even the list is exhausting and we simply don’t have time to include going to the gym into that crazy schedule!

So how did I do it? Basically I quickly realised (same as you have today and bravo to you all for doing so!) it was important for me to make time for me. So after the feeds and the changes I incorporated a simple but effective fitness schedule into my normal routine daily activities. I got into a pattern where I spent a few minutes every day focussed on me and my jeans.

So what did I do? Well one of my methods was to walk a lot! Once my bundle of joy was all fed and watered, cleaned and changed, I popped her into the buggy and off we went on a brisk walk. We discovered parts of our small town I never knew existed! And then when my second bundle came along a short 18 months later, I loaded them both up into the twin buggy and carried on with my routine. I did this daily in pretty much all weather conditions, for about 1 hour. The babies drifted straight off to sleep, so they got their naps, and plenty of fresh air. I was walking briskly so I got my exercise, plus a massive bonus was it got me out of the house and seeing real grown ups!

Another thing I did was lots of vacuuming! It really does help trim that tum! I did sit-ups whilst carrying my babies on my tummy and I ran up and down the stairs a lot too. I was determined I was going to lose baby weight no matter how hard it was!

Imagine how happy I felt when I started to notice my new trimmer tummy…and it was even better when other people started to comment on how good I looked. I was delighted, which meant baby was happy, my husband was happy…and to top it all, I fitted back into my skinny jeans. Yay!

Imagine how you’re going to feel when you get to that stage! And by the way you will get there – have a little faith in yourself!

So that’s how I lost my baby tummy and you can too! So give it a go…it wasn’t easy and it took a little while and a big dollop of determination and encouragement, but it was fantastic to know that I had spent some time and energy on myself and it benefitted my whole family AND I looked great!

Now that’s a win-win if ever there was one!