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  1. Our new neighbourhood

    So here we are in Kyoto. Week 3 in our new home. I like to say it is ‘bijou’. I tend not to add that our entire apartment is about the same size as our kitchen at home… So it is small but we are loving it. We have a bakery next door, a tatami mat weaver down the road, a sweet pottery shop a couple of streets away and the famous Nishijin textile district just a stone’s throw away. I have so much to share from our first weeks here but I thought I would begin with a little tour of our new neighbourhood…

    Won’t you pop round for some green tea?

  2. *Shared stories* (59): Jackie Stewart and Sue Bulmer


    Today’s *shared stories* come from Jackie Stewart and Sue Bulmer


    Jackie Stewart

    It never occurred to me NOT to earn my living from doing what I love.  Well I suppose that’s not strictly true. When I was a student I worked in hotels and I’d wake to that sinking feeling of dread; wishing I didn’t have to go to work and knowing it was just a means to an end. When I left university I never wanted to feel that way again and now, almost 20 years later, I haven’t felt that dread since.

    Doing what I love for life means listening to my intuition and letting my heart guide me every step of the way.

    When I was a little girl growing up in the Scottish countryside I wanted to make books. I moved to London to join a temp agency that specialised in media and publishing jobs and got my first job with a mental health charity who published their research findings.

    I’ll never forget the moment the printers delivered the first book I ever edited and designed. Stroking its shiny cover, burying my nose in its fresh inkiness and flicking through its pristine pages.

    I worked at the charity for over 3 years before the joy began to fade. I tried to ignore the parts of the job I didn’t love because there were many parts I did love but in my heart I knew it just didn’t fit any more.

     I’d started reading books about complementary health, I was studying kinesiology at night school and I’d taken a weekend reiki course. I wanted to do something with holistic health but I wasn’t qualified in anything yet.

    Yet my body was telling me that something had to change. I was getting migraines that lasted for days.  When we don’t listen to our intuition, our bodies will usually shout loud enough for us to notice.

    So I listened to my body, took a leap of faith and left my job.  A couple of days later I picked up my favourite holistic magazine to see they were advertising for an editor. All the skills I’d learnt at the charity were exactly what I’d need for this job and the office was a short walk from my house.  Perfect synchronicity.

    Gentian is the Bach Flower Remedy for faith, a Soul quality that isessential for doing what you love

    I took the job and a 50% salary drop to do what I loved. I could barely afford to pay my bills but I was ecstatic. There were only 3 of us in the company so I was involved in everything. I created page layouts, wrote advertorial, typeset ads, wrote book chapters and unwittingly became a font snob! I met the most amazing teachers, healers and spiritual visionaries who came to talk at the festivals we organized.

    I discovered flower essences and it was love at first sight.

    After 2 years’ working for the holistic magazine it was time for another leap of faith; a prompting from my heart; a message from my Soul. I resigned.

    I’d made great contacts in the holistic world and had a vague notion that I would set up a holistic PR company with a friend, do some healing and spend weekends selling my silk paintings at a local craft market.

    It turns out you need more than vague notions to set up your own business!

    Within 6 weeks I’d run out of money and was looking for a job again.

    So I took a part time job and began a 2 year diploma course in vibrational medicine that would teach me all about flower essences.

    Within a few months my world turned upside down. I was pregnant, my mum had died, my relationship had fallen apart and I felt so vulnerable I knew I had to return to Scotland.  I was longing to be more creative and my sister had been successfully selling my artwork in Scotland, so I moved to the village where she lived and commuted to London once a month to finish my diploma.

    I enrolled on a local business start-up course 2 weeks before my son was born, so I now had a business plan and a business mentor who met with me monthly. I sold handmade cards and artwork to craft shops and galleries and began to build my healing practice from the spare bedroom. I was on my own with a baby so it was a huge juggle, working while he slept which wasn’t very often! I regularly worked late into the night and my social life was non-existent. Yet somehow I had enough passion and determination to keep going. Those first five years were hard work and it wasn’t until my son started school that the pressure began to ease.

    A new direction emerged when someone approached me at a craft fair asking if I’d like to teach adult education classes on creativity. I was terrified at the thought of standing up in front of a group of strangers trying to teach, but it never occurred to me not to do it. I knew it was good fear: the kind of fear that stretches you outside your comfort zone to open you up in new ways.

    I discovered that I had a knack for writing meditations that people loved. The soft voice that struggled with shouting ‘last orders at the bar please folks’ in my student days was just the right tone for guiding people in meditation! I began every creativity class by taking people through a guided meditation and I loved holding that space of quiet reflection.

    The adult education classes led to another project where I ran workshops and published workbooks for almost 3 years. I’ve worked on other similar freelance projects for charities and community groups since then and loved them all.

    Yet I wasn’t living the big dream of working full-time with flower essences. The big love that had been calling me ever since I took my first flower essence.

    I kept reaching out for the dream, taking tentative steps to bring it closer. I’d started by working with clients locally.  I began to organise workshops in my own home, and said yes every time someone asked me to run a workshop.I set up my first website and it’s been evolving ever since. Now I work with people all over the world by email and phone as well as seeing clients in person. Last year I set up a project growing the Bach Flower Remedy plants and teaching the local community how to use them.

    I offer Soul medicine in the form of flower+ crystal essences, emotional healing, spiritual counselling, guided meditation and an e-course for reconnecting with nature. I know that I couldn’t sit in a consultation room seeing clients back to back every day because I need variety; I need to be outside spending time with the plants that essences are made from and I need to use my creativity.

    My working life has been a series of leaps into the unknown, using my heart as a parachute. Sometimes I’ve landed on my feet, sometimes I’ve ended up in financial disaster and despair but there’s been Soul wisdom to discover every step of the way.  Every single job I’ve done has given me skills that I now use in my flower essence practice, like creating page layouts for the e-books I started writing last year or designing packaging for Soul blends. I love the way that life gives us what we need, even though it’s often only with thewisdom of hindsight that we realise everything was exactly how it needed to be.

    Doing what you love for life takes courage, passion and faith but nobody else can do your ‘thing’ but you. Every time another one of us commits to doing what we love for life we’re adding to the energy of love in the world. And that, I reckon, is the most important job we can ever do.

    [All images courtesy of Jackie Stewart/image credits Jason Smalley. Find out more about Jackie on her website or join her e-course Barefoot Breathing]


    Sue Bulmer

    I’ve always been creative from way back when I was young. I grew up on a farm in the North of England enjoying a stable and loving family life and upbringing, with my three sisters. From a young age I was always drawing and painting, writing and dreaming but at the time I had never even considered making a career out of being creative. However, I pursued a career in Pharmacy, after studying hard at school and college and I have worked in Pharmacy since 1994. I met my lovely husband to-be, we moved in together, got married, went travelling for a year for our honeymoon and then when we moved back we bought a house in the countryside where we planned to bring up our family.

    All sounds like the stuff of dreams doesn’t it, working hard, enjoying our lives, calling all the shots and planning how things were going to be. This was all fantastic until we realised that the one thing we wanted most of all was probably not going to happen. We had tried desperately to start a family for several years going through the trials and tribulations of invasive and stressful fertility treatment, watching with bittersweet envy as our friends all fell pregnant and had babies. It was a very difficult time for us both, one which I never thought I’d get through in one piece but I’m now stronger, more determined and happier, and live a more fulfilled, content life as a result of what I learned about myself.

    At one very low point when I didn’t know where my life was heading my sister suggested to me that I enrol on a Foundation Course in Art and Design, something we had talked about together, but had been forgotten about in the turmoil of the time. This gave me something to focus on and I rediscovered my creativity and love of drawing. I needed something to fill the gap that I felt in my life, something to make me feel creative again after feeling like such a failure and so inadequate. Luckily my husband was very supportive and he thought it was a great idea so off I went to college, finally taking some positive action to drag myself out of the doldrums!

    I threw myself into my course and feel that this was my saving grace. I knew then I felt so much enjoyment from being able to create something that I knew this is what I wanted to pursue. I’m a very practical person and I knew that the likelihood of being able to give up my day job immediately and actively pursue a career as an artist was financially a ‘no-go’. After all I had a relatively stable day job, which paid the bills and enabled us to have a comfortable standard of living. I was being realistic and I knew that I had to take ‘baby-steps’ and take my time to eventually reach my goal.

    So I had to think of a way I could still follow a creative path and earn a steady income at the same time. I cut down my ‘day job’ hours, had the old pigsty at the top of our garden converted into my gorgeous studio, and I now work up there two days a week, and evenings and weekends when I can. I slowly started to build up a small business selling my art work and the longer I spent doing this the more my confidence grew and I realised that I could have the freedom to be able to work for myself one day.

    I’m still not all the way there yet but I’m learning that these things take time. I’m more patient now, and realise that getting what you want out of life can take time, energy, dedication and patience. It’s not all about immediate gratification but it’s all about the journey and the process.

    To me, doing what I love means having freedom in my life to do what I dream of, having time to be creative, time with my family, time to travel and explore new places, and time to just be. I think it’s really important to realise you can choose your own path in life, whatever that may be, realising that you can influence the way your life leads you, even if at times it feels the opposite, making the most of opportunities, and turning the bad things that happen in your life into positive things, constantly learning, trying out new ideas and celebrating and loving what you have in life and not grieving about what you do not. Doing what I love is living with a positive outlook and knowing that however bad things get, they will get better. Every cloud has a silver lining and without my cloud and its silver lining I wouldn’t be doing what I love now.

    [Images courtesy of Sue Bulmer. To find out more about Sue visit her website]


    See here for more inspiring *shared stories


    Want to get closer to doing what you love? Why not join the transformational Do What You Love e-course, to identify your passion and make it a greater part of your everyday life? Class begins on May 14. Find out more and register here.


  3. Now that’s what I call a football stadium

    Home of Yamagata Montedio J2 team

    I have been in a lot of football (soccer) stadiums in my time – from Argentina to England, Germany to Japan, including one for the FIFA World Cup Final. But I think thisis my favourite one – for the incredible mountain view, for the draft beer and fried noodles and for the Japanese fans who politely cheer the opposition team’s fans for honourably bothering to make the trip to see their team play away.

    To round off our trip to Yamagata we went to watch my old team Montedio play (although I must admit I spent much of the match staring at the mountains in the distance…)

  4. Gotenzeki

    It is really hard to put your finger on just what it is that Japanese people do that makes everything so beautiful, but there is definitely something. They have this aesthetic sense which I have never seen anywhere else in the world – simple, perfectly imperfect (see ‘wabi sabi’), treating space and shadows with as much respect as objects and light. Look at the photo above, taken in this lovely shop at Gotenzeki – a cluster of beautiful shops and cafes just of the main street in Yamagata City.. Someone has just put some berries on a stick next to a teapot, but somehow it is a work of art!

    And the buildings at Gotenzeki below – so serene yet cool at the same time. I know I will come back to this time and again while here, but this gorgeous little arcade of shops and cafes (designed by Yamagata-born sports car designer Ken Okuyama) really got me thinking…


     The coolest drainpipe I have ever seen


    I am currently on a big adventure in Japan. If you fancy an adventure of your own, why not join me for the Do What You Love e-course (Japan edition!) Class starts May 14. Find out more and register here.

  5. Learning to cook

    One of the best things to do on a cold day in the countryside is to cook up a feast with deliciously fresh mountain vegetables.

    Kyoko gave me a couple of quick cooking lessons on making tempura and shabu shabu - yum…


    Looking forward to learning how to cook lots of new things while here in Japan!

    What is your favourite Japanese food?

  6. Old friends

    Kyoko and Adachi in the jazz studio in their home – happy times!

    When travelling in rural northern Japan we stayed a few days with some very old friends of mine. I still can’t quite believe how I met them. Let me explain…

    Some fifteen years ago, when I arrived in this remote snowy place, I had temporary accommodation for a couple of weeks but no place to stay after that. I had a job working as an interpreter for the local government, and the colleague who sat next to me turned out to be something of a fascinating enigma. Staid government worker by day, semi-pro jazz drummer by night (and racing driver in his early years!), he had invited me to one of his live gigs after work one day, but I declined, having already made plans to meet the person whose floor I was temporarily sleeping on.

    After work I headed to the station to catch my train ‘home’ but missed it by a couple of minutes, and there was not another one for an hour. Hearing smooth jazz wafting over from a nearby café like steam off coffee on a cold day, I wandered over to wait it out in 1920s America. It was the cafe where my colleague was playing.

    I was stood at the bar soaking up the atmosphere when the lead singer of the jazz band took a break and came over to get a drink. Her name was Kyoko, and she was a tiny ball of energy, with crazy curly hair like no Japanese woman I had ever seen, with kind eyes and an infectious smile. We got talking and within ten minutes she said “why don’t you come and live with me and my husband (Adachi, the bass player)?” Well, I thought, why not?

    And so began an incredible adventure, living rent-free with this wonderful couple, in their house with a jazz studio and cocktail bar where we would host parties for all the foreigners within 50 miles, entertain jamming sessions twice a week and I would wake up on a Sunday to the sound of the grand piano. Some fifteen years later Kyoko and Adachi are still like family to me, they still play jazz, pass beers round and open their sliding doors to new friends with an openness which is quite astounding.

    Two of the most generous souls I know.  I wish you could meet them.

  7. *Shared stories* (58): Sheri Ponzi and Sasha Campbell


    Today’s *shared stories* come from artist Sheri Ponzi and raw food coach Sasha Campbell


    Sheri Ponzi

    I am doing what I love. No matter what. Finally.

    At 42 years old, I’m finally giving myself permission to do what I love. It took some pretty serious smacks from the universe to get me here, but here I am– doing what I love. And there ain’t no going back!

    It’s about time…

    The lifelong struggle to allow myself to do what I love came to a head beginning in the Summer of 2010. It was a painful breaking point for me. I can see from this vantage point that it was a “breaking-through” point, but back then it was just hell.

    Back then I was in a managerial position in human services. My program was constantly understaffed. We worked with a group of the most challenging clients in the agency. I was being physically assaulted by clients on a regular basis. I had co-workers actively fighting against the work I was trying to do almost daily. People would mutter under their breath about me when I walked down the hall (for the crime of creating a program where we treated adults with Autism with the respect and dignity they deserve). And I was trying to do the job of at least two people — they actually did make my job into two jobs once I left.

    Over the course of several months of this, I lost it. Completely. Lost it.

    Long story short, I left that job in August of 2010. Next, I spent over a year recovering from severe PTSD. Then I was diagnosed with Adrenal Exhaustion and spent the better part of several months mostly on the couch with very little energy to do much of anything else. It was the last straw for me. There was no way I could go back to work that didn’t feed my soul. It was just not possible.

    I had no choice but to pare down my life to only include those things that I truly loved. Everything else had to go. There was NO energy for anything that didn’t feed my soul.

    It was during this time of recovery that I was overtaken by an urge to explore my creative side. For some strange reason, I was led to investigate graduate programs in Expressive Arts Therapy, which led me to discovering a six-month long online painting course with Shiloh Sophia McCloud called Leading A Legendary Life.

    Oh. My. Goddess.

    I knew instantly that I HAD to take this course. No doubt whatsoever. I paid my deposit and waited impatiently for the course to start 2 months later.

    Fast forward to the night before the class started. I dreamt that Shiloh was with me and was showing me ways to manage the energy that was going to open for me as a result of the class. I sure wish I could remember what she told me because there was certainly a flood of energy that moved through me during our very first conference call.

    I spent the entire hour shaking and laughing and crying uncontrollably. Something very deep opened for me that night and the genie will not go back into the bottle.

    Fast forward to today. Just one year after Leading A Legendary Life began, my life has changed completely, become legendary even. I’ve had my art shown in two galleries and a local restaurant. I’m running an online course with 9 other art instructors called Angels In My Studio. I will be facilitating a retreat with artist Tracy Verdugo the November in Puerto Vallarta. I’m blogging about my journey and receiving fantastic feedback. I’m being commissioned for paintings. And most importantly –my days are filled with doing only what I love. I’m continuing to take exquisite care of my body, healing from the damage I did to body and soul during nearly 42 years of denying myself, being utterly cut off from what I truly love.

    My life is now my own. I am, in fact, Doing What I Love For Life. And all as a result of following where I was led.

    I don’t know what took me so long. I think I believed that if I did what I wanted to do that the world would fall apart. I think I believed that unless I was struggling on a daily basis and putting myself last, I was somehow less of a person.

    Besides that, for quite some time I had NO IDEA what I even wanted to do. I was so cut off from myself that I couldn’t even consciously allow those ideas into my head. (Though as I look back now I can see that my heart was still guiding me to doodle and play around with art materials for the last 10 years. I never took it seriously, because becoming an artist was a ridiculous idea. HA!)

    Now I see that as I do what I love, as I shine my light, as I paint and heal and share my experiences, as I take care of myself FIRST — I am NOT less of a person. In fact, I am more present to serve those around me than I have even been in my life.

    I wish the same for you.

    What is your life calling you to do? Listen. Honor life’s calling. Your heart knows the way.

    [All images courtesy of Sheri Ponzi. Find out more about Sheri on her website.]


    Sasha Campbell

    How do you find your calling? That is a key question that many people spend a lot of time trying to figure out.  Over the last five years life’s twists and turns have unexpectedly been leading me to the answer. The funny thing is that when you least expect it sometimes the ‘aha’ moment just appears.

    After losing both of my parents in 2010, I was devastated.  I was literally numb.  This was just after my life started to become somewhat ‘stable’.  I was just getting through a couple of years of daily appointments with various doctors in three different cities and an open heart surgery on my second child.  I sat on the coach and watched every minute of the Olympics that was playing.  It allowed me to just sit there and get lost in the events on television. After a couple of weeks of feeling lifeless, I knew that I had to move forward.  So I did what I always do when my spirits are down, I read and intensively researched certain topics of interest. I thought I could find some guidance by reading stories written by others about life and loss. I took out a large stack of books on grief from the library. After reading all of those books I went back and took out another stack of books. However this time on the way out of the library, I found this large blue book, or maybe it found me, called The Sunfood Diet Success System by David Wolfe, and decided to take it out as well.

    Little did I know that picking up this particular book at this particular time in my life would be the impetus for a transformation. In my grief and despair I found this book very inviting, uplifting and inspiring. The beautiful pictures of nature, raw food and soulful quotes was just what I needed. I consumed the book rapidly and started to incorporate some of the advice and recipes into my life. Although I already considered myself a “foodie”, and had started a nutrition program along with working at a health store, this time in my life was very different. I benefited from incorporating raw food throughout the day for rejuvenation and renewal. Raw food, or food in its most natural form is rich in vitamins, nutrients and enzymes which are often called the “spark of life”.  Week after week, month after month I started to feel energy, vitality and hope.

    It was at this time that I knew that raw food and wellness would be a significant part of my life. I enrolled myself in a raw food course and began the transformation. The very thing that provided me with strength and energy has now become the foundation of my business.  In less than a year after my special trip to the library I started Blyssful Health, a business focused on empowering others to improve their well being. Often we take for granted how the simple act of eating everyday can have such a dramatic effect on our lives. The famous quote “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” by Hippocrates has become my new motto and words that I will always live by.

    Today I do my best to live my life to the fullest. I have come through the fire and have found my passion, calling, and a voice to speak to others about their health and wellness.  By cherishing my health, I can’t help but have an interest in the health of others and can’t imagine doing anything other than offering Raw Food classes to my local community and health coaching for women entrepreneurs, moms, and professionals.  As Ralph Waldo Emerson so beautifully quoted “Our first wealth is our health”.

    [Images courtesy of Sasha Campbell. To find out more about Sasha visit her website]


    See here for more inspiring *shared stories


    Want to get closer to doing what you love? Why not join the transformational Do What You Love e-course, to identify your passion and make it a greater part of your everyday life? Class begins on May 14. Find out more and register here.


  8. Pattern course contributor spotlight: Helen Stevens

    Just look at this work – isn’t it beautiful? British designer Helen Stevens is the talented surface pattern designer & illustrator behind the Surface Philia brand.

    Helen works through layering of illustration, collage and paintings with a unusual combination of geometrics and natural forms. We are thrilled that SurfacePhilia is one of our fantastic contributors for the Surface Pattern Design E-course.

    SurfacePhilia has recently launched a new wallpaper collection and will be selling in Liberty’s of London.  Helen’s designs have an uber cool edge with a level of beautiful detailed sophistication.

    You can find Surfacephilia on Facebook and follow on Twitter@surfacephilia.

  9. Love this bag!


    Just received an image of the gorgeous bag designed by Katy Clemmans, the winner of a contest set by The Makerie retreat in Module 1 of ‘The Art and Business of Surface Pattern Design’.

    It is a beautifully simple, two-tone floral design and we couldn’t be more proud! You can find more of Katy’s work on her website.

    Module 1 starts again on Monday April 23. Why not join us and start your own journey towards becoming a pattern design professional? Find out more and register here!

  10. P&P scholarship winners announced

    Simi Gauba 

    We are absolutely thrilled to announce that we have two winners for the Print & Pattern Scholarship for The Art and Business of Surface Pattern Design! Emily Truong (USA) and Simi Gauba (Sweden) were selected by Marie Perkins of Print & Pattern as the winners.

    Emily and Simi receive full places on all three modules of the course (worth GBP459). You can read about why Marie loved their work so much here. By catching Marie’s eye with their patterns Simi and Emily are already off to a fantastic start. We cannot wait to see where the course takes them!

    Emily Truong 

    Thank you so much to everyone who applied for the scholarship, and to Print & Pattern for sponsoring it. We received more than 150 entries from a staggering 27 countries all across the world – from Brazil to Madagascar, New Zealand to Estonia. We are thrilled that so many people are in love with colour and pattern, and keen to make it as professional designers. If you want to join us, Module 1 starts on Monday. You can still squeeze in – find out more and register here!