Commitment and devotion

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:
Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it!”

William Hutchison Murray

This has been my favourite quote since 2011.

That’s 5 years of devotion, which, for a quote addict such as myself, is something of a marvel. The funny thing about it that I didn’t even really understand why it held me in thrall every time I read it – I only knew that the underlying message of the mystery behind intention gave me goosebumps.

And then, over the course of the last year, I became increasingly obsessed with commitment. What is it, what quality does it have, what are the implications of it, how does it work?

And the quote began to reveal the core of its message, the foundation upon which the rest is based; the internal shift that makes the magic happen.

Commitment, it turns out, is a mystical force.

Commitment vs. decision

A decision is defined as “a conclusion or resolution reached after consideration.” Commitment is defined as “the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, etc.”

In other words, a decision is merely a thought, the conclusion of a cognitive process. A commitment is a state of being – a state, no less, of dedication (which, to continue our exploration of the English language, is defined as being “devoted to a task or purpose; having single-minded loyalty or integrity”).

Dedication, devotion, loyalty, integrity.

Pretty powerful concepts. Concepts that connect us to the root of who we are, what we believe in, what we stand for. Commitment therefore, is an intoxicating shortcut to some of the most profound states we can experience.

Commitment vs. discipline

Discipline, “a way of behaving that shows a willingness to obey rules or orders,” has long been touted as a desirable and commendable quality; something to be rigorously pursued in the name of self-betterment. The things about discipline is that unless the thing we’re using it for brings us consistent joy, we will at some point tire of the battle to engage our will on a consistent basis.

Willpower is an outward moving force (3rd chakra based, for those of you who are curious), a pushing force. It’s great for short periods of action but using it every day without rest is eventually going to become draining. Commitment on the other hand, is a pulling force.

Commitment draws us forward through our love of that which we have chosen to devote ourselves to – it is love that beckons us to take one step, another step.

Commitment and discipline may sometimes achieve the same results but the quality of each is intrinsically different, and in my experience, being pulled forwards is infinitely more pleasant than pushing.

Commitment and devotion

Here’s where it gets really interesting. Devotion (“love, loyalty, or enthusiasm for a person, activity, or cause”) is an incredibly potent state.

It is to give oneself entirely, with every fiber of one’s being, to the object of our focus.

It is a humbling sensation, to act from devotion; it opens us even more fully to love, to life – to the beauty in our endeavors, to the honour and worthiness of that which we attempt to create.

That kind of attention is powerful. Like, really powerful. It’s the kind of attention, which, when harnessed and skillfully directed, can be used to complete seemingly impossible tasks; the kind of attention that finds solutions where there are none, that invites game-changing insights, that creates miracles.

It is uncompromising dedication.

And with uncompromising dedication comes something else – unwavering trust.

Because when we give ourselves up completely to devotion, there is no space for fear. There is only the clear path of what must be done.

Clarity, simplicity, focus.

These are some of the inevitable side-effects of commitment. And devotion itself is what brings us the feeling of fulfillment that we are all searching for – it is not what you do, but how you do it.

Living in this quality of devoted surrender, whether or not it is a cause of our choosing, is the most transformational practice there is.

Priorities and focus

And because commitment is so full on, we cannot commit ourselves to very many things at the same time. We have to choose. Knowing what our priorities are is always a good thing (at this point in time; clearly this is something which is constantly evolving),  but in order to commit, it is crucial.

What are you willing to devote yourself to?

What one thing would make all others obsolete?

Who do you want to become and what activity/cause will mould you into that person?



Are you feeling turned on, embodied and delicious?

Yes? Awesome.

I’m a wholehearted believer that being alive is a great opportunity to feel turned on, embodied and delicious (and I secretly think we women have a head start with this). After all, this whole crazy trip of being in a skin bag for a little while is just one big adventure – we might as well feel a good as we can while we’re on it.

Most of the time, I’m feeling it. But sometimes – when I’m ill for example, as I was last week – I can slip into feeling crappy. It feels gratifyingly justified when I’m sick because hey, my body is under attack; people should feel sorry for me and take care of me dammit (note: feeling (and looking) pathetic really helps convey this message).

There are however a few large flaws in this approach.

Firstly, I live with a mostly-absent housemate so there’s no one to feel sorry for me and my snivvely sadness; Second, it makes me feel worse. Measurably.

So there I sat, head filled with snot, sneezing approximately every 5 seconds with a growing mountain of excessively limp tissues next to me, working on a retreat for women that’s all about feeling delicious, and through the fog of mucus-induced thickness, I had a thought.

What can I do to feel delicious right now?

And there, clear as day, was the response: I can CHOOSE to feel delicious.

I can choose to remember how delicious it is to be in this body, to be able to move sinuously, to feel my muscles flex and contract, to admire the grace with which I can move, cat-like with smugness at how gorgeous it feels when I tune into my own sensuality, into my body.

This body that wants so much to be lived. To be loved.

That wants so much to be used to dance and move and play and explore, that offers itself unhesitatingly for this adventure of life, that works so diligently to serve me without ever asking for appreciation.

When I remember to really BE WITH it, when we move as one, rather than a head directing a puppet (the way I moved for most of my formative years), then I am plunged, effortlessly, into my own deliciousness.

And here, in the sway of my hips, in the curve of my belly, in the soft motion of this perfect, breathing, living creature, is healing, happiness, home.


One of my favourite tracks for inducing a deep feeling of embodied deliciousness (with a touch of the mystical)


There is no fucking box

I just got back from co-hosting the Lifestyle Design Convention in Zürich, Switzerland.

If you’d told me even a year ago that I’d be on stage, facilitating for 80+ people and introducing incredible speakers 12 months later I wouldn’t have believed you. Or if I had, I would have spent the next year flitting in and out of anxiety about it.


Because for the last 15 years I lived in a box that did not include being the center of attention, and definitely not being on stage.

Which is funny because as a young adolescent I was part of a drama society and was regularly on stage and the center of attention…..and I loved it. LOVED it. I loved acting, but most of all I loved making people laugh, and most of the stuff we did was comedy. And the extrovert, exhibitionist, narcissist in me fucking loved being the center of attention.

And that is still a difficult sentence for me to write.

So what happened?

Full blown adolescence happened. The arrival of the idea that how I feel depends on how others perceive me. The intrinsic knowing that it’s safer to not stand out. A constriction, a making smaller, a holding back.

Buddhism – or rather an immature and unskilful immersion into Buddhist principles – happened. Acceptance babe. Let go of your anger and judgement and be fucking humble. You’re not actually more special than anyone else (no really, you’re not). Hold love in your heart and be like a silent benevolent force. Wanting to be seen is a clear indication of arrogance.

Dilution, suppression, repression.

More and more distance from some parts of myself that I’d deemed unacceptable and unworthy of a “spiritually aware” person (vomitsalittle).

There is no fucking box.

A giant part of my self-love journey has been gently letting the walls of that box come down. Opening up to the infinite possibilities of what I am and what I desire, with love and acceptance (no matter how bizarre).

Noticing that no matter how much healing I do, the unlived parts of myself will continue to cause me pain. So this is where I’m at on my journey; healing and spiritual deep-diving done (TBC obviously, but right now I’m pretty much up to date), radical self-expression being amped up.

And that box has gotta go.

An interesting thing I noticed is that most of us seem to have a propensity for creating boxes for ourselves; as though that somehow gave us some measure of stability, or continuation, of peace even. I notice that as soon as I do it with myself (labels of any kind), my energy drops. Most of us rebel against being labelled and put in boxes, but the somewhat appalling fact is that we do it to ourselves all the time.

Happily, there’s a simple solution.

  1. Notice the confines of the box
  2. Let down the walls like opening one of those paper boxes we made when we were kids. Gently and with love. Set yourself free.

You might find it feels a bit raw, vulnerable and scary letting go of something you’ve considered part of your identity. But it’s the first big step towards radical freedom. All you have to do is decide to see that the box isn’t real and realise that you can move in any direction.

The only difference between me now and who I was a few years ago is that I not only am aware that the box isn’t actually there, but I keep taking steps outside of it (the shadowy walls are still there in some cases). And of course when I’m tired or premenstrual or thinner-skinned for whatever reason I sometimes slip into habits that align with the box, and that’s fine. But even when that happens, as it’s happening, I know I have choice, and I know tomorrow I’ll step out of the box again.

“Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains”

I read that quote of Jean-Jacques Rousseau at school but I didn’t understand back then that it is OUR OWN THINKING that keeps us in chains – I thought is was the world, society, culture, men.


The only thing stopping you from living and doing exactly as you please is your own illusional thinking.

There is no box.

There is no box.

There is no box.


*Mostly bullshit. Obviously we’re very privileged in the West in the sense that we do have more freedom from limiting external factors than in many other places in the world (especially as women).


To the ones who want to be Mount Everest


Time for a real one.

Being your own boss and starting a business is an emotional rollercoaster. Everyone knows that (right?).

When I fall into shakiness – and occasionally it can be high intensity shakiness – as I did a few days ago, I marvel at how it’s still possible for me to experience such a dramatic disruption of the deep sense of grounded calm that is normally very present in me nowadays.

As I huddled on the carpet in child’s pose, snotty-nosed and surrounded by candles that felt like little guardian angels, I realized something.

What I realized was – it’s just an earthquake. It’s the tectonic plates of the soul shifting, creating tension for you to grow and evolve, pushing your true self out into life like a mountain rising from the valley floor.

And each time they move, the earth shakes, chaos and destruction abound, and it seems like the world is being pulled out from under your feet.

But it’s just the mountain of your life, of you, growing, pushing up into the sky.

And it doesn’t matter which buildings collapse, which roads disappear, which historic sites are turned to dust. What was is irrelevant. What is being born through the destruction is what’s important.

This is the alchemy of soul expression in human life.

And endless cycle of earthquake destruction and mountain growth. The revealing of the inner in the outer world. The transformation of base materials into an exquisitely unique form – a form that will change the landscape, that stands for the beauty of emergence, and as an example of strength, courage, surrender and perseverance.

Each crack, each crevice, each jagged edge the telling evidence of our inner battle – the scars of living a life that not only succumbs to the occasional earthquake but that welcomes them, even encourages them; as entrepreneurs in the personal development field we are constantly testing the stability of our inner structure, constantly delivering shocks to our system. And often they facilitate earthquakes that wouldn’t otherwise have occurred.

Sometimes the earth will shake but the mountain doesn’t seem to grow. This sucks. But it just means that the plates are now perfectly positioned for a giant growth spurt and the next time the earth shakes a huge shoulder of the mountain will shoot upwards and reign majestically as though it had been there all along.

And that’s the thing about mountains; if we analyze the geography of an area and the trend of the tectonic plate movement, we can project how a mountain is going to grow. But there are a million variables that mean it’s impossible to predict how fast it will grow, or what it will look like.

The same is true of our growth throughout our lifetimes; we start off with certain conditions, are exposed to particular variables, and experience the occasional earthquake.

However: we have free will (pretty much the biggest variable in this equation) as to how we respond to each earthquake. 

Some people are happy to grow a gentle hill, grateful if the earth doesn’t force greater changes upon them. Others face giant shakes during certain periods that create impressive terrain.

And some of us want to be Mount Everest.

Those of us for whom the deepest shakes are no deterrent, who are regarded as masochists by most people, who crave the views from the heights, who are not born to be valley people – this is our path; to provoke the earthquakes, to shake and tremble and surrender and wonder if this time there’ll just be a massive landslide and we’ll have to start all over again (it happens), to keep pushing up, and up, and up – because for us, there is no stopping. 

We will continue to grow our mountains as long as we are here – and we will continue to experience the terror of the quakes that move the mountain upwards.

But with time we learn that nothing can be completely destroyed; that there will always be enough to build on again; that eventually the earth stops shaking and there is calm; and that, like an iceberg, our mountain already has a strong enough base beneath the surface to survive even the most terrifying destruction.

The growth of the mountain comes at a price, sometimes a steep one, but one we gladly pay.

Because we are mountain people – determined to share the winds with the eagles, and the glory and the raging storms that we find at the summit of every peak.

We are mountain people; the only way is up.


*Stay tuned for a mountain adventure/rite of passage early summer 2016 (sign up to the newsletter to be the first to know more!)


Dancing with ego, dancing with truth

Life is poetry.

No matter what the subject is, the poem flows, pulses, weaves its endless story.

Recently I had the experience (a familiar one), of being taken unawares by my willful ego and contracting into frustration whilst circling with a friend. As it was happening I believed myself to be voicing something completely valid, but afterwards (and prompted by his reflection), I became aware of the uncomfortable feeling that perhaps it hadn’t been as straightforward as I’d asserted.

In fact, it was messy; part of what was there was pure; a desire, a longing for something I was sensing into and that my soul was deliciously curious about exploring. But part of it was my ever-impatient egoic will, wanting to push towards being somewhere I wasn’t.

The process went something like this:

Soul gets excited about possibility ego sees opportunity to engage in drama ego uses soul’s impulse to voice its inherent dissatisfaction I get disconnected from the original impulse and am left with frustration.

Happily my friend was having none of my ego’s theatricals and batted the ball back across the net, refusing to engage and challenging it to come up with a solution (it was not appreciative).

This had the effect of flummoxing my ego to the extent that I sank back into stillness, at which point the soul desire was all that was present again.

The process left in its wake a wave of sadness (as usual) as I felt the pain of cutting myself off in contraction; the more aware I become, the more painful it is when I experience how I create suffering for myself.

It was a beautiful example of how, when we contract (buying into the ego’s ideas always and inevitably results in contraction) we distance ourselves from our souls – and how easy it can be for the ego to ‘steal’ a soul impulse and warp it into something that is a mere shadow of the original impulse (probably the best example of this is romantic love, which rarely remains ‘pure’ in the soul sense for very long).

Contracting stops the flow of the poem of our lives, without which we are suddenly stuck, surrounded by words, confused and stifled and isolated from the meaning that the stream of coherence provides.

It is what creates the illusion of separation in us; the most painful thing we can experience.

Noticing then, whenever we are starting to contract, and taking that (unconditionally) as a sign that we are buying into egoic reality and thereby rejecting Truth, is the key to reducing our suffering.

Ken Wilber speaks about absolute and relative truth, a distinction which I appreciate greatly. Absolute truth being the unmanifest plane (objective Truth if you will, at the highest level of awareness), where relative truth is the personal, individualized experience of reality in each bodymind.

I spent much of my twenties pursuing absolute truth as an escape – from suffering, from ignorance, but also from life. From the reality of what it is to be human, not just a soul, but a flesh and blood human, with all the messiness that comes along with that.

And whenever I fall into ego again I have to forgive myself and remind myself that being here, being human, is not about existing in absolute truth. That’s not the deal.

As an embodied, egoic being, the point of the game is to engage in the dance of absolute and relative truth; opening to and loving both. Dancing now with one, then with the other, swapping partners in a never-ending tango, and occasionally, increasingly, dancing with both simultaneously.

Embracing it all.

Loving it all.

Inherent in that challenge is the possibility of transcendence – transcendence individually and collectively from suffering, to a reality where all of life is once more a coherent poem, one in which the human race plays a leading role perhaps, but is not dominating or stifling the story.



This Body of Mine

I sit in the twilight, the warm breeze caressing my neck.

Soft warm heavy breath flows out, inhaling I smell the summer rain and delicate blossoms that make me reluctant to go inside and say goodbye to this day.

My belly fills and falls, an ever-present rhythm that is infinitely reassuring in its steady pulse.

An extra deep breath and then nothing – I stop, holding the air inside me.

Pressure in my lungs. A slow dying.

How long can I wait in that infinite moment?

I am curious about it, this space between breaths. It holds a strange allure, as though I can touch eternity if only I can figure out how to stay there.


Once more a soft, relaxed body. And here I am, in it.

It breathes, this body. It lives.

Pulsing streams of life tingle through me, a million nerve-endings remind me that it’s alive, that it feels, that it needs, that it wants.

It wants to live. And here I am, living in it.

We’re old friends now, this body and I. We struggle sometimes, but mostly we get on just fine.

Mutual respect, that’s what feeds this relationship.

And spending time together. Quality time. She wants me to feel her, this body. Her aching, her longing, her fury, her desire, her frustration, her passion, her joy.

Listen to my opinions, she requests. Nobly.

She’s not begging.

She knows how to make me listen when I won’t. If I get stuck in my head and forget her for too long.

When I make shitty decisions – she’s always there reminding me when I fail myself. She fucking loves me big time.

Which is remarkable given the way I’ve treated her in the past.

But we’ve worked through all that. Done the time. Wept, laughed, loved each other again in all our scarred, bumpy realness.

Sometimes I think we’ve nailed it; got the lines of communication so wide open that she’ll never need to yell again.

And then I make a mistake and don’t listen, and boy can she fucking yell.

So much pain.

She’s got a strong character but I love her for it. I’m happy to have her on my side on this crazy ride in time and space.

She’s a good friend. She serves me well.

And I like to think, in some ways, on some days, that I serve her as well.

In breath, out breath.

Sometimes that’s all. And it’s a sweet, sweet being together.

Yes, we get along just fine, me and this body of mine.



Grief as a Portal to Spirit and Joy

On Monday the 27th of April 2015, the single greatest source of joy in my life for the last 16 and a half years, left this world.

As with most things, she rebelled against death, refusing it right up until the last minute, when I had to make one of the hardest decisions of my life. It seems wrong to me to decide when another should die – very wrong – and yet the alternative was to let her die slowly by asphyxiation.

It was a beautiful day. The vet gave her the anaesthetic and I picked her up and went outside with her in my arms, with her front paws resting on my shoulder, the way we always did. I was walking and speaking to her as she slipped away, birdsong and spring scents in the air. I couldn’t have asked for it to be different, better…and I’m very grateful for that.

Tig (officially Tiger, but too cute to be called that)

Tig was my teacher, my playmate, my companion, my bundle of endlessly mischievous and curious cat-joy. I have a thousand stories of hilarious escapades, a thousand different games we invented over the years, a thousand memories of tender, quiet moments of complicity, of her falling asleep in my arms, of shared naps, of mutual delight whenever we were reunited, be it after a day or a month.

In many ways, she was more of a dog than a cat; she used to play fetch with anything you threw, would dribble balls across the living room parquet like a miniature feline footballer on speed, would race you round (and round, and round…) the house (the human always lost), would search for you, meowing, if you tried to play hide&seek with her or pretend to disappear behind an item of furniture…and (when all other tricks had failed) would sit next to my head and lick my face to wake me up.

And she didn’t stop playing until a few months before she died. Even though she had a heart problem, she’d still play (less voraciously but nonetheless). She’d be the happiest little creature ever known when she got a treat. She could purr so loudly her entire body would vibrate with the force of it, just from a kiss on her head.

She taught me curiosity and playfulness, above all, and determination, resilience, defiance (didn’t really need that one but anyway), acceptance and grace. From the moment she adopted me as her human (when she was about 6 months old), until the day she left, 16 years later, we had an intense, beautiful connection.

Losing her is one of the most painful things I’ve experienced.


I read somewhere recently that grief is love inverted – and that’s why it hurts so much; because the strength of it is the inverted strength of your love.

And this ache feels like redundant love; it’s so strong but now she’s not here for me to give it to anymore.

On the third day after she was gone I became angry. Angry at a culture that has no (or few) elders, that passes on no wisdom about how to deal with grief, how to process and heal, and continue – for how to make grief a healthy part of life (as it is, and as I believe it is possible to experience it). Presumably this is different for those who are religious, but nowadays that still leaves a lot of us with nowhere to turn to.

Another completely natural aspect of life that most of us are entirely unprepared for how to deal with. Fuck maths, teach that in schools.


After a few days, when the initial shock had worn off a little and I was able to finally be quiet inside when I sat to meditate, I became aware of a clear strong presence. And no, I wasn’t under the influence of any drugs, and I am not one to fancifully (or – let’s be fair – intuitively) “tune in” to spirits on a regular basis. But I did.

And this presence was clearly Tig, but not Tig.

As in, it felt like the spirit of Tig (the willful, powerful, determined, wise part), minus the cat-properties. An immense presence, that seemed far too big to possibly be contained in a tiny cat – an actual tiger or lion would feel like a more appropriate animal for this presence to inhabit. But the quality of it felt exactly like the quality I found in Tig’s eyes in those quiet moments of being, when she was calm and still and present.

The first impulse that came from it was that she (it?) has not finished teaching me – that our paths continue together in some form.

At first I questioned it, but it was there constantly, and so strong that it started to seem ridiculous to question it. So, shoving my rational mind aside and leaning into trusting my intuition, I began to accept what I sensed.

And this presence is clearly and completely at peace with where it is. And also, very clearly, not Tig. When I connect with it therefore, it feels like connecting with Spirit; not with Tig.

And so there is a dual process; Steph mourns Tig, and Steph’s spirit (forgive the third person usage, it just makes sense to me this way) recognises (what seems like) Tig’s spirit and is completely peaceful in communion with it. Which in turn creates so much gratitude that my heart feels like it will burst from the combination of intense grief and intense gratitude.

Being human is weird.

I’ve never had an experience like this before, and have hesitated sharing it, but it’s what is true for me, and also a hugely important part of this process. To reject it would feel like renouncing not only a huge gift, but an invitation – to connect more with essence, with Spirit.

And it feels like something has shifted; like I’m opening further to the intangible. Something old and very known is awakening in my belly…something which is completely unsurprised by this experience.


Another gift to arise out of my state of the last two weeks has been what feels like a massive, engulfing wave of self-compassion. It is strong, it is fierce; it will brook no exceptions.

It insists that I give myself the space I need. That I am infinitely gentle with myself. That I watch with eagle eyes to make sure my boundaries are healthy in every moment, that I’m getting what I need. It’s a depth of vigilance I’ve never known before that is continuously checking to monitor what is coming in, and if that is ok for me in that moment.

A kind of fine-tuning into myself.

I’ve written a lot in my fledgling book (which may or may not one day be released into the world) about the importance of recognising and cultivating our relationship with our inner healer (or higher self), and this experience feels like it’s bringing that awareness to a whole new level.

And it’s a huge comfort, because I know that I can allow the hurting part of me let go, and that I’ll be taken care of by that wise, loving part of myself.


Grief is humbling.

It breaks you down and breaks you open until you are grateful just to be able to breathe again. And it is relentless in its demand for you to feel.

Every time another wave comes, you have to choose; either to surrender to it, ride it and wash out again, exhausted, or to fight it, to say ‘No’, to contract and block it. But saying ‘No’ to emotion is saying no to life – it’s saying “I refuse to be here, in what is.” And the problem with that is that it just gets you stuck where you are, with trapped emotion inside you, and it also means that joy and light don’t reach you because you’re in a closed-down, contracted “No”-space.

I’m not suggesting that we give in to each emotional impulse we experience – the lesson is to learn to tune in when emotion comes up and feel out where it’s coming from; is it a healthy, real-feeling place, or is it a tired or hysterical place? What does it really want?

If the emotion is “pure” and just wants to be expressed, then this is what is true for us in that moment – this is life, coursing through us.

To say ‘No’ then, is to refuse life.

There’s that wonderful quote from Robert Frost, “The only way out is through.” Which seems to me, particularly with inner emotional processes to be at once incredibly true, and impossibly hard.

And yet it feels like the only choice if we want to go on living, fully alive.


It blew my mind last time, and it did it again this time – the fact that it’s possible to experience intense joy at the same time as intense grief. To be able to feel the two simultaneously in your heart seems like the most bizarre paradox.

And it struck me again that we aways have two choices, whatever we are faced with in life: to contract or to expand. I even made a little video as I walked in rapture in the misty forest a few days afterwards.

“Life, is both loss and renewal, death and resurrection, chaos and healing at the same time; life seems to be a collision of opposites.” – Richard Rohr

In addition, in the two days after Tig died I received 4 invitations from people reaching out to connect with lovely proposals. I’ve since met up with two of these people and insanely synergistic conversations ensued, totally lighting my soul on fire and fanning the creative flames, and opening new doorways for collaboration.

Is it a coincidence that a little windfall of awesomeness and connection came at that time?

I don’t know. I do know that I am immensely grateful for it, and for all the love and compassion and kindness that so many have extended to me. And for spring, which has finally arrived. And for life.

And maybe one day soon, even for death.

But not yet.