‘Haruki Murakami’– #AtoZ Challenge

th-3.jpegHaruki Murakami is one of my favourite writers and someone who has influenced me a great deal. I’d like to think he’s had an effect on my writing, but I wouldn’t be so bold; however, he has encouraged me to experiment with magic realism a little, as he does in much of his work. In fact, I think it’s due to the magic realism in his books, that I’ve ended up seeing the world slightly differently. He is such a clever writer that he is able to slip in certain details, which although quite odd, for some reason don’t feel out of place.

I used to live in Japan and reading Murakami’s novels enabled me to better understand the people I met there. The Japanese have a tendency to be closed, introverted people but Murakami brings out their quirks – he makes us realise how interesting everyone can be, not just those who broadcast their attractions to the world. I also feel I have quite a bit in common with him; we both love jazz, cats and long distance running, and I can’t help feeling that these seemingly disparate elements are all quite conducive to writing.

Murakami used to run a jazz bar in Tokyo called ‘Peter Cat.’ It’s been said that he’d come home in the early hours then sit at his kitchen table all night writing and this went on until he felt successful enough to leave his job. Murakami compares writing to jazz – the rhythms and sounds seem somehow to be comparable and this is discussed in Murakami and the Music of Words

Cats make regular appearances in his books, and many of them talk, while Murakami differentiates between stripy ones and black ones. Of course you get the feeling that it’s all a bit tongue in cheek, but it’s still pretty heart warming stuff that can make any cat owner feel even closer to their furry pet.

Murakami is also an obsessive marathon runner and runs almost every day. Indeed he wrote a great book about it – What I talk about when I talk about running. Running has always been a form of meditation in that it enables me to clear my head in order to create, and I guess it’s the same for Murakami.

If you haven’t read anything by this great writer, I’d recommend that you start with Norwegian Wood which was also made into a film, and 1Q84 (Q sounds like ‘kyu,’ which in Japanese means ‘9’ – i.e. 1984, only it’s every so slightly different – read it and see!)


SoCS -‘Be’– #AtoZ Challenge

Your Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is: “be.” Use it as is or at the beginning of the word you decide to base your post on. Enjoy!

Being rather than Doing


To be or not to be? In the past it was ‘not to be’ as when I was younger, life was all about doing. I travelled constantly, ran hard every day, enrolled on course after course, dated obsessively and generally tried to cram my life with as many activities as possible. I felt that if I wasn’t doing something then I wasn’t truly living. Now, however things have changed a little. Although prone to the odd bout of apathy (see previous post!) when I have a tendency to beat myself up for not accomplishing anything of note, I’m more able to recognise the value of simply being, without feeling the need to ‘do’ anything. Take today for example. I had plans, lots of them. I was going to go for a long bike ride, I was going to work on my novel, I was planning to tidy my flat etc. etc. but that was before I went out last night.

Last night was relatively unplanned but I ended up having a beautiful evening with one of my best friends and her boyfriend. We went to a lovely little cafe around the corner, where we ate tapas, drank wine and danced to Spanish music. I hadn’t planned to drink much but .. today I woke up with a hangover and a feeling of general laziness.

It’s a gorgeous day here so all I feel like doing is chilling out and enjoying the sunshine – my plans have changed, but I feel fine with that. Being present to the moment is all about focusing on what is happening right now, without worrying about what you feel you ‘should’ be doing. I might try a little meditation later and luxuriate in the fact that I don’t have to do anything today if I don’t want to.

This was my post for SoCSB.jpg


The Mindful Art of Being Sick


A couple of weeks ago I succumbed to the flu and I must admit I was pretty down. For anyone living alone, getting sick is truly horrible – there’s nobody there to make you chicken soup or give you a hot water bottle, and when you’re used to constant ‘busyness’ as I am, it’s really tough to change this default setting.

Of course I naturally assumed that I’d be right as rain the next day – I was super fit after all – I worked out most days and took the best multi-vitamins and supplements, and admittedly I did feel slightly better but not well enough to do anything too demanding so when I woke up I wandered despondently into the kitchen. However, instead of grabbing a coffee and toast as I usually would, I sat down and thought about what I really wanted and chose fruit and muesli which I ate slowly in silence at the kitchen table.
After that I took a shower, and instead of using my usual leftover Body shop gel, I remembered some beautiful organic body wash I’d been given for Christmas, and as I breathed in the gorgeous aromas of lavender, geranium and neroli, my spirits began to lift (and I chucked the old stuff in the bin afterwards!).

As an exercise addict, whenever I’m not working I’ll shoot off to the gym for 90 minutes, whether I feel like it or not, but as this wasn’t an option today I decided to get a manicure, something I’d never do on a Monday morning. I didn’t choose red as usual either, but opted for dark blue, a colour I’d never had before. I normally find manicures a bit of a drag, but today was different as I chatted to the nail technician about her country, Vietnam and her impressions of London, whereas generally I’d just sit there with my hands out, fixating on what I had to do afterwards.
After my nails, I went shopping. Usually I’d race around the supermarket buying the same things each time, but today as I wandered slowly down the aisles, I spotted products that I’d never normally notice in my default mode, and afterwards I came home and made a sweet potato and chorizo soup – something I’d never done before.
What I’m basically saying is that in my sick state I couldn’t do things quickly as I simply didn’t have the energy. Consequently I was thinking more about what I truly wanted from each moment and focusing on one thing at a time which was infinitely more rewarding. Of course it’s awful to be sick, but the biggest thing it’s taught me are the benefits of slowing down and you don’t have to be sick to remember them.

Slowing down

1/ Makes you unitask rather than multitask. It’s human nature to try to multitask but by focusing on one thing at a time, you do that thing more thoroughly and feel more satisfied and less stressed as a result. A simple thing such as sitting down to have breakfast can make it feel like a special event, as it continues to do for me.

2/ Makes you truly consider your choices and gets you out of your default mode of always doing the same things in the same way. Trying something different (blue nail polish and sweet potato and chorizo soup for me!), can cultivate a sense of curiosity in your life and make you feel as if you’re truly living it.

Unless you consciously seize control of your auto-pilot, life will continue slipping through your fingers
̴ Dr Danny Penman

3/ Helps your mind become quieter as you focus more on the present. By slowing down your body, your mind adapts accordingly and you feel calmer and less worried about the future. I’ve come to realise that the only time that matters is now!
4/ Improves your personal interactions as you completely focus on the other person and give your attention to that conversation (as was the case for me at the nail salon).
In a guided meditation I did recently, the speaker discussed the importance of personal interactions and really listening to what the other person had to say. In so doing,

the power of our connections become infinitely more intimate and meaningful
̴ Joseph Goldstein.

January is said to be the most depressing month of the year and it’s obvious why. It’s cold, there’s little to look forward to and nobody has any money. It’s also the time when many people get sick, but there’s much we can learn from this experience, and as I approached the end of the day I talked about above, I found myself wishing that all my days were like this, with each activity segueing seamlessly into the next. Despite being sick, I felt calm, stress-free and happy and I’m sure this had a lot to do with having slowed down.

January Blues

Jan-blues.jpgHalfway through yesterday my energy levels dropped to the extent that all I wanted to do was go to bed. I couldn’t though as I had a plan; a list of things that I needed to achieve by the end of the day in order to feel it had been worthwhile. I managed a couple – my daily 750 words  and a meditation, but then I gave up and lay down. Despite the fact I was feeling horrendous and had clearly succumbed  to the flu, I really felt as if I’d failed.

Why do we do this to ourselves? As a freelance university teacher, I haven’t worked much in the last month and I intended that this time should be devoted to writing (or writing related projects). However, now that my return to work is imminent, I’m focusing on all the things I haven’t managed to do, rather than those I have.

It was reassuring this morning to read Mairi’s post,


as she seems to share the same anxieties. She says,

I seem to have spent my time fretting over not achieving what I’d hoped

I feel exactly the same way. I guess one of my new year’s resolutions could be to feel happy, regardless of how little I think I’ve achieved, (in any case, it’ll certainly be more than I had at the beginning of the day!) I can’t help feeling that life is as much about being as doing, as my little kitten, Polly continually teaches me.