the everyday alchemy of … GoodGym!

I wrote this article last month for the Bristol Post (see below) after being super inspired by GoodGym! Here’s the full version, followed by the version that recently appeared in Bristol Post ‘Weekend’.

 

Happiness Matters.

Local Happiness Champion Natalie Fee tries out Good Gym and finds there’s more to exercise than ever before …

What makes a gym ‘good’? The quality of the equipment? The proximity to your house? Low monthly fees? Or can it measured by how good you feel when you’ve been? Strictly speaking, Good Gym isn’t actually a gym. It’s a very clever way of getting people to do things for the good of their community.

I first heard about Good Gym around six months ago at the Green Mingle at Bordeaux Quay, a monthly networking event run by the Green Capital Partnership. Chris Bennett, the local organiser, had moved down from London, where Good Gym has been running (excuse the pun) since 2010 as a not-for-profit organisation. Set up by a group of runners who believe gyms to be a waste of energy and human potential, Good Gym aims to redirect that energy towards the neglected tasks and people in our communities who would benefit from it. To be honest, it’s taken me six months to get with the programme. I helped promote the launch of Good Gym Bristol on Twitter as it seemed like such a marvellous idea – get fit, do good, meet people. In actual fact, it ticks all five boxes from the ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’ research that Cameron’s Happiness Index is based upon. More on those later.

As one of Bristol’s Happiness Champions, I felt Good Gym was well worth championing and promoting it online was a pleasure. But as is often the case when I hear of a good idea, it stayed in the realm of good ideas while my busy life raced on. That was until a few weeks ago, when I spotted a flock of lycra-clad gardeners, grazing on the weeds of Brandon Hill. Or at least that’s how it looked. I called out them to in good humour, ‘Is this the latest sport, extreme gardening?’ To which a familiar face looked up and replied, ‘Natalie, I was wondering if you were going to join us!’ Which is how I ended up at the Good Gym meeting place last night, outside Bristol’s newest cycle cafe, Roll for the Soul. I reluctantly chained up my bicycle; despite running my son to school most days I don’t consider myself a runner – I’d much rather be on two wheels than two feet. But I was glad to see the group of Good Gymmers gathering and I was looking forward to a new experience. I love exercise, I enjoy meeting people and I’d been meaning to do some voluntary, community action since moving to Bristol last year. Tonight the stars were aligned with my shoes and it all came together in one sweaty, sociable session.

We headed out from the fountains of central Bristol up Christmas Steps towards Redland, stopping for a much needed warm-up stretch en route. The pace was steady and the stitch in my side kept it that way, but nobody seemed to mind. The run was fun, people were chatting, getting to know each other and remarking on new sights – never before noticed trees, buildings … and a lot of quaint-looking pubs! About 3-4k later we arrived at the Metford Road allotments for our evening’s task: to clear an overgrown plot and dig over some new ones. A volunteer from the allotment met us with tools, along with food for the local foxes. Last week’s group had been happily distracted from the task in hand by the proximity of the local wildlife – two young vixens dropping by for some dog biscuits! We split up into two groups and for 45 minutes enjoyed some extreme pruning, hacking and digging. It’s down to the individual which task they take on, usually depending on how many calories they want to burn or simply which thing they like to do the most. I opted for the saw and spent my time rescuing an old apple tree from the grips of a feisty young damson. I think he’d of thanked me for it if he could.

The run home was, thankfully, mainly downhill, as by this point my legs were well aware that they’d run further than my usual distances. But that’s just one of the great things about doing things in groups, you spur each other on, distract each other, inspire each other to go that little bit further. I don’t think I’d ever run 6k before last night. The other benefits were becoming obvious too – by the time we got back to Roll for the Soul our spirits were high, bodies energised and the endorphins were positively dripping off us. Which brings me back to the Five Ways to Wellbeing. Good Gym really does meet all the criteria for ‘what makes us happy’. You connect with people, be active, take notice of new routes, wildlife and changing seasons, keep learning from each other, be that gardening skills, running techniques or wild food and give, by doing something nice for someone, just because you can. And all in under 90 minutes, with the added option of a refreshing local beer at the end if you choose! Good Gym is a brilliant model, getting people off the treadmills and into their communities, harnessing the desire to look and feel good with the genuine need for more connection with our communities. I for one will definitely be doing it again, from now on my Wednesday evenings are dedicated to the cause. Not because I should, or ought to, but simply because it was good, clean fun. And because happiness matters.

For more info about Good Gym visit goodgym.org

 

Natalie Fee is is one of Bristol’s Happiness Champions, a presenter and author of ‘The Everyday Alchemist’s Happiness Handbook’ (Findhorn Press). Find her at nataliefee.com or twitter.com/nataliefee. For more info about Good Gym visit goodgym.org


living generously : from getting to giving

 

I was raised to be a go-getter. Born in the late seventies, to a family who were in the process of working themselves out of the lower class and into the middle, I was geared up for success. Get good grades, get a good job, get married. Ideally in that order. The sense of striving was all around me, as was the notion that the harder I worked the more I’d get – more money, more recognition, more opportunities. Nobody told me that of course, the ultimate reason we were doing all this was to get more love. Actually I think we’d all forgotten the reason why we were striving so hard. We had a sense that if we got more of X, Y and Z, we’d be happier people, so that was that. Somewhere, some time in the future, increasing quantities of happiness awaited us each time we added to our pile of treasure. The thought of questioning the rationale behind this movement didn’t occur to me until I was in my late twenties, and for some of us never does. What exactly was this happiness that I was working so hard to accumulate? It had to be love. But it seemed that the harder I tried to get more love – through family, friends, lovers and work, the more elusive it became. I just couldn’t get enough! I was trapped in the fallacy that love was something outside of myself that I needed to ‘get’ – which is quite possibly the greatest illusion of our time.

giving-backI’d been had. The truth had been well and truly twisted and I, along with most of the people I’d ever met, were caught in a trap. We were the go-getters. And we were for-getting. Forgetting that love is for-giving.* Which is the way it will stay until one by one, we slowly come to realise that love cannot be gotten. We need to remember to give love. Not so we can get something in return, but so we can learn to stop taking it. To stop stealing kisses and start giving them.

For me, this is a major turnaround. Monumental. Given my thirty or so years of conditioning and grooming to get what I want out of life, it may well take me thirty years or so to learn to give what I want to life. I ask for your patience as I practice being patient with myself. I’m new to this. As a beginner, I notice myself questioning whether I’ll ‘run out’ of energy to give, whether my relationships will become one-sided, but I know these thoughts are simply the go-getter fearing for its future – after all, it’s in danger of no longer being needed!

For whatever reasons, I’m selfish. And not in a self-loving kind of way. Not yet anyway. Nope, it’s still very much about me getting what I want. I’ve known intellectually for many years that we are all one, we are all connected, and that the getting/taking mentality is, like, totally old paradigm, duuude. But to embody that knowledge is a whole other matter entirely – it’s what you might call ungrounded information (believing something to be true, but not living it through my actions). Happily I’m noticing my behaviour – that’s a fine and important step – and I am challenging my usual way of thinking and doing and stretching myself to think and do differently. At a recent workshop with Jonathan Kay, a master ‘Fool’ with whom I’m currently training, I began to see that everything in my ‘play’ – improvised performance – is actually me. Whether I’m playing my mother, son, a banana, a princess or a daffodil. This may sound obvious, as I’m the one creating it, but in the moment, when faced with one’s nemesis in a play, it’s very easy to forget that I made them and they are me! After ten workshops (half way through my first year), the light is very slowly beginning to penetrate the cracks. Ever so softly, an awareness is beginning to trickle out of the workshops and into my other plays – my parenting, my job, my relationships – that they are all me too. I can’t stress how tender this awareness is – green and fragile as a seedling as it unfurls. In time, if I tend to it carefully, I may just be able to watch it grow. To become selfish in a self-loving way – truly experiencing everything and everyone that comes into my awareness, my play, as myself. I can only imagine how loving I would be, if I lived from moment to moment treating all I encounter as I wish to be treated.

connected

I’m happy to be untwisting my fate. I’m glad to have around me those who show me how it can be done. People like Jonathan Kay*. Or Mark Boyle.Or Stephen and Lynda Kane. Or Mother Meera. Or my cat. Yet ultimately it comes down to my own actions, small and grand. Whilst I’m actively doing more outwardly giving things – for example sponsoring an orphan, changing my electricity supplier to green energy, giving copies of my new book away and spending a LOT more creative time with my son – I also need to do more inwardly giving things too. As a friend says, to hold myself dear. But if what I am beginning to see continues to take root, then to give outwardly is also to give inwardly – as within, so without. Small steps. Feel free to share your own steps with me – hand holding whilst I’m wobbling my way across this new ground is always appreciated. xo

My book, The Everyday Alchemist’s Happiness Handbook (Findhorn Press) is out now. Read reviews and excerpts here

the everyday alchemist's happiness handbook : a welcome story!


Here it is folks! The big day. Or moment. My book is out in the shops! Actually it has already sold out of the shops here in Avalon (a real place, but you might know it better as Glastonbury!) and they’re waiting for more copies to arrive – YAY! Four years in the making and it’s now made its way into the world. There’s a big thank-you page in the book to all the stars and angels here on Earth as well as those in Heaven and Hell, who’ve helped me along the way – this book is for you! I hope you feel inspired to read it for yourself – you can read reviews and buy it here …  but first, an introduction!

 

I’m Natalie Fee, the author of my new book, The Everyday Alchemist’s Happiness Handbook. I’m pretty sure I’m the one in the photo on the back cover of my book, as well as the top of this website, but I can’t be certain, as I don’t feel like her anymore. You see, the thing with being on a journey of self-discovery, or so I’ve found, is that who I was last year is different from who I am today. And, given that I began writing the book four years ago, it seems strange, bemusing even, to claim that I am the author! Happily, who I am today loves the book. I’ve read it numerous times and each time it offers me fresh perspective, resolve and inspiration. I do not claim to have embodied all the wisdom, techniques and insight that are held in its pages either. Rather, I see myself as a writer who brought these ideas and inspiration into physical form, as they are precisely the words I need to read myself. No doubt at least once a year for the rest of my life!

When I started writing the book, four years ago, on a retreat at the Findhorn Foundation, I was developing a seemingly traditional career in the self-help world. I was writing articles, which led to people writing to me for advice, which led to me becoming a coach. My training in Energy Awareness provided the foundation, along with my feng shui knowledge and previous work as a yoga teacher. I enjoyed it. But two years later, one hot, sunny day in Australia, whilst driving past the Actors College for Theatre and Television, my heart did an extraordinary leap. It was one of those unmistakable, life-changing moments that would steer me in another direction – albeit one that, unbeknownst to me then, was deeply interwoven with my love of spiritual discovery.

Today, the crisp, white linens and pashminas of the self-help coach have made way for the glitter, make-up, wigs and high heels of the TV presenter and cabaret performer. I also work for an ethical film production company, Plastic Buddha, where I find joy in combining creativity with business, conscious story-telling with structure. And I’m also training as a Fool. Last night, my eight-year old son, ever the one to ask a penetrating question, said “What’s it like being an author as well as a presenter and everything else?” I stopped and thought about it, before replying … “It’s an adventure.”

And it’s in that spirit that the book was written. My seemingly unconventional life path is simply a reflection of me putting into practice what I write about in The Everyday Alchemist’s Happiness Handbook. I strive to follow my heart, to become increasingly aware of what I need to do from one moment to the next and practice techniques that enable me to do just that. I do my Energy Awareness exercises daily, and have done for the past seven years. They bring me the energy to go beyond my current levels of awareness and intent, and they open new pathways and opportunities to realise more of who I am, as well as who I’m not. It’s through my ongoing training with the School of Energy Awareness that I was able to discover the art of everyday alchemy, realising the extraordinary power that’s held in my stresses, struggles and shadows. I wanted to be a happier person, less weighed down by judgements, less stunted by fear, more able to give. Which is hopefully what The Everyday Alchemist’s Happiness Handbook offers – my experience of being on that journey towards a more joyful, more compassionate and more loving human being!

There have been moments when I’ve considered not seeing the book through to completion. The editing process was long, sometimes it was like reading a bookwritten by another person! Yet I persevered, knowing in my heart the book isn’t really about ‘me’, my career, or my current state of awareness. It’s from me but it has it’s own time, it’s own energy, it’s own message – and my task is to bring it into the world. I’m thrilled that Findhorn Press decided to take a risk with me – having such a wonderful publisher whose core message is one of spiritual awakening, is an immense gift that I feel privileged to receive. So here it is. The Everyday Alchemist’s Happiness Handbook. With lots of love. xo

Read reviews, read excerpts and buy the book here …

Want to get to know me a little better first? Watch this short film by James Light … 

 

 

 

 

 

the everyday alchemist’s happiness handbook : a welcome story!


Here it is folks! The big day. Or moment. My book is out in the shops! Actually it has already sold out of the shops here in Avalon (a real place, but you might know it better as Glastonbury!) and they’re waiting for more copies to arrive – YAY! Four years in the making and it’s now made its way into the world. There’s a big thank-you page in the book to all the stars and angels here on Earth as well as those in Heaven and Hell, who’ve helped me along the way – this book is for you! I hope you feel inspired to read it for yourself – you can read reviews and buy it here …  but first, an introduction!

 

I’m Natalie Fee, the author of my new book, The Everyday Alchemist’s Happiness Handbook. I’m pretty sure I’m the one in the photo on the back cover of my book, as well as the top of this website, but I can’t be certain, as I don’t feel like her anymore. You see, the thing with being on a journey of self-discovery, or so I’ve found, is that who I was last year is different from who I am today. And, given that I began writing the book four years ago, it seems strange, bemusing even, to claim that I am the author! Happily, who I am today loves the book. I’ve read it numerous times and each time it offers me fresh perspective, resolve and inspiration. I do not claim to have embodied all the wisdom, techniques and insight that are held in its pages either. Rather, I see myself as a writer who brought these ideas and inspiration into physical form, as they are precisely the words I need to read myself. No doubt at least once a year for the rest of my life!

When I started writing the book, four years ago, on a retreat at the Findhorn Foundation, I was developing a seemingly traditional career in the self-help world. I was writing articles, which led to people writing to me for advice, which led to me becoming a coach. My training in Energy Awareness provided the foundation, along with my feng shui knowledge and previous work as a yoga teacher. I enjoyed it. But two years later, one hot, sunny day in Australia, whilst driving past the Actors College for Theatre and Television, my heart did an extraordinary leap. It was one of those unmistakable, life-changing moments that would steer me in another direction – albeit one that, unbeknownst to me then, was deeply interwoven with my love of spiritual discovery.

Today, the crisp, white linens and pashminas of the self-help coach have made way for the glitter, make-up, wigs and high heels of the TV presenter and cabaret performer. I also work for an ethical film production company, Plastic Buddha, where I find joy in combining creativity with business, conscious story-telling with structure. And I’m also training as a Fool. Last night, my eight-year old son, ever the one to ask a penetrating question, said “What’s it like being an author as well as a presenter and everything else?” I stopped and thought about it, before replying … “It’s an adventure.”

And it’s in that spirit that the book was written. My seemingly unconventional life path is simply a reflection of me putting into practice what I write about in The Everyday Alchemist’s Happiness Handbook. I strive to follow my heart, to become increasingly aware of what I need to do from one moment to the next and practice techniques that enable me to do just that. I do my Energy Awareness exercises daily, and have done for the past seven years. They bring me the energy to go beyond my current levels of awareness and intent, and they open new pathways and opportunities to realise more of who I am, as well as who I’m not. It’s through my ongoing training with the School of Energy Awareness that I was able to discover the art of everyday alchemy, realising the extraordinary power that’s held in my stresses, struggles and shadows. I wanted to be a happier person, less weighed down by judgements, less stunted by fear, more able to give. Which is hopefully what The Everyday Alchemist’s Happiness Handbook offers – my experience of being on that journey towards a more joyful, more compassionate and more loving human being!

There have been moments when I’ve considered not seeing the book through to completion. The editing process was long, sometimes it was like reading a bookwritten by another person! Yet I persevered, knowing in my heart the book isn’t really about ‘me’, my career, or my current state of awareness. It’s from me but it has it’s own time, it’s own energy, it’s own message – and my task is to bring it into the world. I’m thrilled that Findhorn Press decided to take a risk with me – having such a wonderful publisher whose core message is one of spiritual awakening, is an immense gift that I feel privileged to receive. So here it is. The Everyday Alchemist’s Happiness Handbook. With lots of love. xo

Read reviews, read excerpts and buy the book here …

Want to get to know me a little better first? Watch this short film by James Light … 

 

 

 

 

 

how byron katie helped get me off the thought train

I’ve been getting carried away on the thought train. Which is different to a train of thought. A train of thought implies, to me, a sense of consciously following something to a specific destination; a way of working something out. But recently my thoughts have been more like high-speed, careering locomotives, sucking me off the ‘witness’ platform as they pass and dragging me down a track I’m not sure I want to be going down. By witness platform, I mean that part of my consciousness that when connected to, allows me to witness my thoughts as just that; thoughts.

There are many factors contributing to how firmly my feet stay planted on the witness platform. What I ate or drank a few hours earlier (or the night before if I happen to get whisked away on a thought train before I even get out of bed) is one of them. Sugar is notorious for playing havoc with our moods; for me refined or high GI foods (carbohydrates that rapidly convert into sugars) can often be the reason I get hooked by a passing, usually unhelpful, thought. Another factor affecting how peacefully a thought can pass me by is my environment; depending on my sensitivity I may be influenced by the people I’m engaged with or by the energetics of the room or place. Have you ever noticed how in some rooms, or around certain people, you don’t feel clear or you notice yourself feeling down? It doesn’t mean that the person or place is bad for you, but shows you that certain aspects of that person or room are challenging your ability to stay connected, present and relaxed. It could be the umpteen wifi signals, the fact that the person you’re talking to is always moaning, or a hundred other things. But what matters in the moment, perhaps more than the reason behind it, is your ability to notice your thoughts and how they’re being affected. Another factor that determines how affected by a thought we are is whether or not it’s pressing one of our buttons. Our buttons, or karmas, are those inner hotspots that get triggered by outside events. And they’re unique to us. We may share similar karmas (take over-eating as an example) but our karmas are particular to us; they point out the parts of us in need of strengthening in order to hold more energy — to be who we are capable of being. Which is why one thought might pass swiftly through one person’s station without so much as a ripple whilst another gets completely knocked off of their feet by it. So it’s a combination of our energy levels at the time (right food, enough sleep, harmonious environment) along with the nature of our karmas that define our capacity to stay rooted in the magic of the present moment — regardless of what thoughts we’re witnessing.

My food, environment and sleep are something I’m pretty good at working to my advantage. Yet recently, despite eating well, being in the right place and having had enough sleep I still found myself getting hooked in and dragged down by certain thoughts. So I turned to the experts. A friend recommended I check out Byron Katie, a modern master of separating the suffering out of our thoughts. And I must say how brilliantly helpful I found it. Katie introduces four questions that trigger a process which can’t help but diffuse the ‘power’ that we sometimes assign to our thoughts. The first question being, is it true? I was surprised to discover just how often I answer ‘no’ to that question. But whilst ‘The Work‘ takes some time, energy and commitment, something about the way Katie writes brings me a sense of relief, lightness and humour. As I read her book, Loving What Is, I found myself smiling, sighing (with relief) and at times even crying as the powerful simplicity of her insights poured off the page and into my awareness. Where, hopefully, these insights now sit, working their way into my everyday life.

As it was such a help for me over the past couple of weeks I thought I’d pass it on. I’m finding myself less wobbled by the thought trains as they come and go, and perhaps more importantly, I’m less inclined to keep adding carriages of meaning and attachment to them. Which is a good thing. Instead, when I notice myself getting dragged away from the present moment, I ask myself, is it true? Often, just the act of initiating the four questions is enough to prevent me getting swept away. (And if I’m honest, I’m busy. The thought of spending time working out the four questions is enough motivation to stop me in my tracks and choose to put my energy into something else instead!) If your thoughts are having their way with you and distracting you from having your own, higher-energy way with yourself, then I hope it helps. It did me.

p.s. Unfortunately I’m unable to make it, but if you want to go deeper with ‘the work’ Byron Katie’s giving a 1-day workshop in London on the 16th July!