The real inner circle

The real inner circle |
I always know I’ve been spending too much time online when the chatter in my head is not my own. I’ve been umbilically attached to my computer since I discovered blogging back in 2006, and while having access to this extraordinary global connectivity has been truly life changing, as an introvert with hermit-like tendencies, it’s far too easy to feel like I’m interacting with the world when in fact I’m hiding out behind the screen “researching”.

The internet is a noisy place. On days when I feel vulnerable and porous, this is what being online feels like:

Outside noise |
As the highly scientific diagram from my journal shows, it’s like being boxed into a tiny square while  ricocheting in all directions. It’s disempowering and draining and makes me doubt myself unnecessarily — a self-perpetuating cycle of crapness. I’m well aware that no one is to blame for any of this other than myself. It’s not so much what I’m consuming online — it’s more about choosing to do it when I’m not in the right headspace. That’s when it becomes toxic.

On the days when I feel centred and on top of my game, being online can be incredibly inspiring and motivating. On those days I feel less inclined to see what everyone else is doing and just get on with my own creative work. I look after my heart emotionally and digitally. In fact, I don’t have to wait until I feel centred to do this — I can centre myself by remembering (and practicing) the things that connect me back to me:

The real inner circle | SusannahConway.comI drew this diagram as the antidote to the first (mad drawing skillz, I know). Once I’d identified the unhelpful things outside of myself I jotted down everything that truly fed my insides — the stuff I DID want to consume savour. The circle represents my inner world and I get to choose what’s inside there.

Some days I forget to tap into the circle but lately I’ve been paying closer attention to the pattern of centred days and porous days. In her book, The Optimised Woman, Miranda Gray shares the four different phases of our monthly cycles and how we can use them to our advantage. I knew there was more to my month than just PMS days and non-PMS days but it’s so helpful to get really specific. Like knowing that Day Five of my cycle is the day I get REALLY down. It happens every. single. month. and knowing this means I can prepare for the dip and plan accordingly. Ditto that block of five days when I’m on creative FIYAH!

Being self-employed helps, of course, but even just knowing what’s going on helps me navigate the difficult days. Awareness is the first step towards making meaningful adjustments — and frankly checking out the moon’s cycles helps too. I’ve never been much for astrological things, but I can’t deny how synched I am to the big white ball in the sky.

This year I’m making a conscious effort to get out the house more. To be around actual living human beings more. To seek out nourishing community. To experience the world through ALL my senses, not just my eyes. And part of this nourishing mission is knowing when to reach out and when to retreat. Working WITH the rhythm of my cycle, not against it.

Comments (21)

Introducing April LOVE, 2015!

the April Love photo challenge |
After the fun we had with December Reflections last year I knew I wanted to do another photo challenge before our annual August Break (I love that we have an annual tradition) so it is with much anticipation and excitement I present to you April LOVE!

The theme of the challenge, as you’ve probably guessed, is love — love for ourselves, our lives, the world around us. LOVE expressed in gratitude and kindness. February might have Valentine but we’ve got April LOVE :)

If you’re ready to infuse a little more love into your life there are two ways you can play:

April Love photo prompts |
PART ONE: the Photo Challenge

Just like the August Break the first part of April LOVE is the photo challenge. I’ve put together a list of photo prompts we can explore together during the month — this is not compulsory, obviously, but sometimes it’s nice to have a focus for each day’s shooting.

As always we’ll have a Flickr group, a blog roll and an Instagram hashtag — #aprillove2015 — so we can gather as a community and share our photos…

April LOVE contributors |

PART TWO: the Daily Emails

I also have a extra special treat for you! I invited 28 luminous women and one luminous man to share their tales of what self love/self care means to them personally and how they practice it in their own lives. There’s no perfect path to self love and all of us are walking it the best way we know how — I wanted to know how others are doing it (and how they navigate the inevitable potholes!)

When you sign up to the April LOVE emails you’ll get a daily note containing personal stories (and confessions!), videos, tips and easy suggestions you can try yourself — the first email goes out Wednesday April 1st.

These emails are a bit of extra inspiration for us to enjoy and ponder alongside the photo-taking. We’ll also have a private (and completely optional) Facebook group where we can share our thoughts and stories with each other.

You’ll be hearing from: Abby Kerr, Amy Palko, Andrea Schroeder, Anna Guest-Jelley, Christie Inge, Danielle Dowling, Elizabeth Duvivier, Hannah Marcotti, Jamie Ridler, Jo Hanlon-Moores, Julie Daley, Kylie Bellard, Lianne Raymond, Lisa Lister, Liv Lane, Mara Glatzel, Margarita Tartakovsky, Michelle Marie McGrath, Mindy Tsonas, Pixie Lighthorse, Rachel Cole, Rachel MacDonald, Ronna Detrick, Sandi Amorim, Satya Colombo, Stephanie Levy, Tanya Geisler, Tiffany Han and Vivienne McMaster!

An epic line-up, yes? :)

Read more and sign up over HERE — I can’t wait to get started! xx

Something for the weekend

the pink door |
Can’t wait to receive my new notebooks

These paintings | this board | this magazine

Zandra Rhodes in her studio

Honoured to be contributing to this inspiring class next month!

8 crucial thoughts to ponder as you keep your altar

Sweet & sour green juice | flourless chocolate date cake | fritatta muffins!

The final obstacle is us

Really enjoyed chatting about photography, creativity & healing for the Pure Green Podcast

Madonna, Annie Lennox and “acting your age”

And finally, 23 things only people who love spending time alone will understand

Happy weekend, loves! xo

How I learned to live in my body

How I learned to live in my body |
“It saddens me to think that trip was the last time I truly felt connected to my body. In the in-between years there was a love that set me alight, his eyes, his touch accepting, loving every part of me, a gift I have never fully understood until now. I look in the mirror and wonder who could love me like that again. And that’s when I hear it, the call to be my own lover, with my own appreciative eyes and touch, to see my body as whole and perfect exactly as it is. It was easy to bask in his gaze, to feel at ease in my skin because he adored me so, but it didn’t come from within me. It was not of my own making. I mourned for his touch as much as I mourned for him, but all these years later it’s my own acceptance I crave now. Relying on another to make us feel good only works as long as they are here: better to find it in yourself.”

— From This I Know, page 105

The words above were written sometime in early 2011, no doubt while I was munching on a bar of chocolate. After a couple of years of creating my business and not wanting to leave my desk — so much to do! — I’d put on a considerable amount of weight. At the time I chalked it up to aging. I was conscious of how I was eating more to “give myself energy” but didn’t cotton on to the fact that it wasn’t possible to burn off those extra calories just by thinking non-stop.

The chapter in my book that deals with the body is the one that feels most incomplete to me because I was still at the beginning of that healing saga. I was at my heaviest, I was exhausted and I thought I had to just put up with it as I slid, inelegantly, into my 40s.

Now I know this wasn’t the case at all.

My path back into my body makes sense to me as I reflect on what’s happened since then, but it’s still a pleasant surprise to discover I really do live in my body now. After a lifetime of disembodied living, I now inhabit every square inch of myself. The bits I like, the bits I like less — all of it. It’s all me. It’s all I have, in this lifetime, anyway.

How to get back into your body? I don’t have the definitive answers and anyone who says they do needs to be regarded with suspicion, quite frankly, because it’s different for each of us. All I have is what feels true TO ME so I’m going to share the following timeline with the understanding that you are capable of finding what feels true FOR YOU. Of course, breadcrumbs and signposts help in the quest, so maybe there’s something here that sparks a line of enquiry for you…

— 1973 – 2005. Lived quite unconsciously in my body. Wished parts of it were were thicker/narrower/flatter. Had a slew of digestion issues but never worked out how to fix them. Outward appearance was very important; inward appearance was largely ignored. My preferred form of exercise was sex with someone I adored. Bereavement put a stop to that.

— 2005 – 2008.
Drank all the wine. Smoked all the cigarettes. Slowly began putting life back together. Connecting with my body was last on the list — had to find all the pieces of my heart first.

— 2009 – 2011. Created a business without meaning to and had to learn how to run it with integrity and love. Basically didn’t leave the house for two years and got my groceries delivered. Ate all the food. Wrote a book.

— Spring 2012. Started dating and had heart trampled on. Lost appetite for a while. Started smoking again (definite low point).

— Got sick and tired of feeling sick and tired all the time. Hated that I couldn’t walk up a hill (Bath is very hilly) without getting out of breath. Went to Morocco with friends and discovered the discomfort of inner thighs chaffing against each other in the heat. This had never happened before.

— Decided to start going for long sweaty walks in the park. Dreaded them but something forced me out the door every time. Exhausting but occasionally enjoyable, especially when the sun was out.

— Bought some girlie dumbbells off Amazon and started lifting them when I got home from the sweaty walks. Began to see a bit of improvement in my arms. This was encouraging.

— Summer 2012. Went to North America for 3 weeks on my book tour. Was so out of my usual routine when I got home I finally felt ready to move back to London. It was time.

— Autumn 2012. Travelled to Italy and then back to the USA and despite all the glaring signs I did not realise I was sliding down into depression. I did far too much that year. My poor under-loved body was not able to keep me afloat.

— October 2012. Moved back to London and sank into the depression. Took me three months to realise what was happening and look for help. Went back on antidepressants and fought my way back to the surface.

— January 2013. Started making some big changes, albeit slowly and quietly. Found a therapist I liked and began working out with a personal trainer. On a whim I cut out gluten and discovered this is what had been fucking me up all my life. Within days my body felt less like my enemy and more like a cohort. This was definitely a turning point.

— Started noticing that when my therapist asked me where I felt something in my body — an emotion, a feeling, a reaction — I wouldn’t be able to give her a definite answer. Got curious about this.

— June 2013. Wrote a post called The exercise-hater’s guide to loving the gym. Started to enjoy feeling strong and having more stamina. Bought new exercise clothes and felt confident enough to walk to the gym in leggings and a vest.

— Autumn 2013. More dating. More vulnerability. More disappointment. Decided to get braces and go to the doctor to discuss why I was experiencing so much pain in my abdomen. These two things, seemingly unrelated, were sure signs I was listening to, and looking after, my body. It’s around that time my meditation practice began in earnest.

— January 2014. Turned out the fibroids I’d had diagnosed many years ago had grown and were now a problem. Got referred to a specialist and awaited my appointment (god bless the NHS and it’s insane waiting times *ahem*)

— May 2014. MRI scan showed my fibroids had taken over half my body. Slight exaggeration but that’s how it felt. They’d been growing for all those years but it was only now that I could hear what my body had been telling me.

— Summer 2014. I read something about how we are embodied souls and a lightbulb went off in my (no longer disembodied) head. I finally understood that my soul does not exist outside of me, somewhere “out there” but is embedded into every single cell of my body. My body is temporary, yes, but it is wholly me while I’m here. It became clear how every gym session has been grounding me back into my body, how meditation was helping me sink deeper inside my own flesh. When my therapist asks me where I feel something in my body I’m able to give her answers — she notices the change in me, too.

— Summer/autumn 2014. Spent five months photographing London for my next book. It was utterly exhausting but there’s something about all the steps I took that mirrors the path back to myself. There’s no way I’d have been physically able to take on the project two years ago.

— November 4th 2014. Smoked my last cigarette. I’d only been smoking one or two a week but my body had had enough. Haven’t had one since. Feel suitably virtuous.

— January 2015. After a lot of waiting, but oh so perfectly timed, I have open surgery to remove 14 fibroids weighting one pound in total. Despite the pain and discomfort — or maybe because of it — I have never loved my body more. I marvel at how it can heal itself. I swear I will never take it for granted again. For better or for worse, this is the only body I have. We are a team.

— February/March 2015. Healing slowly, listening carefully. It’s impossible to overeat when I’m so full of stitches and scars so my eating habits have been shifting. I realise that lightly cooked vegetables suit me better than raw. Suddenly I’m noticing how dairy makes me feel like shit (and completely bloats me out). I’m enjoying eating simply and my body responds by letting me know what it prefers. And yes, I still call my body “it” but that’s okay. I trust the wisdom of my body, wisdom far beyond anything my narrow mind could conjure on its own. NOURISH is indeed the perfect word for this year.

— The future. A yoga immersion. Reiki I. More enquiry, more listening. More kindness, more compassion. More giving myself a break when I need it. Less expectation. More love.


If meditation feels like a line of enquiry for you, come explore The Sacred Alone with me xo