Wednesday’s blind wisdoms – Kieran’s blindfulllll moment!

At a local Dunedin Coaches Network meeting one Thursday night I was having a conversation about my upcoming trip to visit our 4th wonder of the world in India when the topic of diaries came up.

“I always keep a sensory diary” I explained to the group, “one thing that I smell, hear, taste and touch each day when I am traveling to other countries”

One of the members of the group Chris Le Breton then said “sensory gratitude, I love it!”

“So do I” I replied, “Sensory gratitude.”

Not only was I noticing those events, but by recording them I couldn’t help but be grateful for them too.

Chris then contacted me to ask if I would like to join him as part of a study group reading and working on a book aimed at healing the world called Active Hope.

In the book by Joanna Macy and Dr Chris Johnstone, they describe Gratitude as getting better at spotting what’s already there.

In their book they say more resources have been consumed in the last fifty years than in all preceding human history yet we’re not any happier, and depression has reached epidemic proportions. They claimed if a medication were invented with similar benefits, we’d probably see it described as a new wonder drug.

As part of the homework, we all began writing a gratitude list to each other. But I was already sending a gratitude list in the morning and I found sending another list in the evening repetitive. I wondered how I could do this differently so decided to apply my travel diary concept that Chris referred to as “sensory gratitude” to the process. Instead of writing general things I was grateful for, I would write 10 things I was grateful for smelling, hearing, tasting and touching.

This is what my first list looked like.

1 the smell of freshly cut flowers that Diane put on our hall table!

2 the sound of the voices on X factor last night! Incredible!

3 the taste of the strawberry jam on my toast this morning!

4 the feel of my walking rope that Jo holds one end of and I hold the other

5 the sound of Saturday mornings – I love that noise!

6 the feel of the rain that plopped on us when we were out walking!

7 the warmth and taste of my morning cuppa!

8 the feel of the blankets that keep me warm at night

9 the sound of a barking dog – they are so funny!

10 the sound in people’s voices when they start talking about what they’ve always dreamed of! I love that!

After I sent this first sensory gratitude list, the others in the group responded in kind. First Kieran, then Chris, then finally Robyn.

“The sound of birdsong when waking at Michelle’s”

“The hug with Woosh my horse when i got home”

“The sound of the rain smashing against the panes of the window this morning as I snuggled in bed”

“The kisses I blew at the man aggressively honking me as I cycled back from the pool”

“The crunchiness of the Organic apples from last Saturday’s farmers market”

“The taste of chilli con carne I cooked tonight for tea”

“Listening to the classical orchestral piece "Harold in Italy"

“The smell of the garlic ciabatta as i took it from the cabinet at new world supermarket”

“The smell of mum’s fire in the lounge last night”

“The warmth of the electric blanket when i woke up cold in the night”

“The feeling of sunshine on my face at the breakfast table this morning”

After Kieran had done his first list, he was about to go to sleep when he remembered the best experience of the day wasn’t on the list… Here’s what he wrote in a subsequent email:

“It happened whilst i was riding my bike.

I was coming home on my bike gliding downhill at a fast speed down the gravel road on the mountain. Wind on my bare face (I have shaved off the beard) the smell of pine needles in the air and my bum bumping on the soft bike seat and feeling the bumpy gravel under the tires with my feet on the pedals. All i can hear is the wind rushing past my bike helmet.

On either side of the gravel road is bush and scrub with a forest behind the scrub on the right hand side of the road.
I was literally gliding down the bumpy gravel road leaning low and forward to maintain speed enjoying the sensation of the wind on my face when suddenly 2 Rosella flew out of the bush on the left just in front of me and then they both swerved to straighten up heading in the same direction i was riding in right in front of me 1 chasing the other. The 1 that was chasing was just a few meters in front of me flying straight ahead of me and at the same speed as me so i got to see the stunning green feathers on its wings the bright red and white feathers on its neck and then it was like watching it in slow motion as it fluttered its beautifully green and blue coloured wings for more speed and swerved to keep straight then glided straight as an arrow.
It was an awesome and thrilling experience that seemed to have no timeframe… I was totally engulfed in the moments.
Like never before in my life I felt like i was a bird flying with them and time stood still…
Then suddenly they sharply turned right and flew up high in a pine tree in the forest.
I was close to tears of joy and wonder but too excited to cry!
Now that was an amazing sensory experience. Wind on my face bumpy bum from gravel road bike ride smell of pine needles and then the stunning Rosella arrived.

Bless you all for your gratitude’s which are enriching the way i experience life too.”

Kieran made the comment that to shut off from the visual world was a blessing, not a curse and in doing so it heightened his awareness of his other senses and made him look at the world in a brand new way. A way that wasn’t dominated by sight.

Thanks for seeing the beauty in being blindful Kieran!

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Wednesday’s blind wisdoms – say why not to blindfulness!

You’ve heard of mindfulness, well now the Blind Wisdom blog brings you blindfulness! What is it?

Blindfulness is moment to moment awareness of the four non visual senses; smell, hear, taste and touch!

So many of us llive our lives thinking of all the things that might go wrong tomorrow, or of what went wrong yesterday, that they don’t value the life they have today.

One thing I’ve noticed since going blind is that using my other senses to receive information that isn’t my eyes, helps me focus away from my thoughts and towards what I am smelling, hearing, tasting and touching. But even by doing that it doesn’t make you blindful.

Blind people have limiting thoughts and beliefs just like sighted people do. We’re no different and it’s those limiting beliefs and constant chatter in your mind that distracts you from enjoying the here and now! How many of you had a shower this morning without thinking of the warm water that touched your body, or the clean towel that you grabbed to dry you off. It’s only a short moment in time ago that we wouldn’t have had these modern conveniences to call on, and what do we do while we are standing in the shower? Not be grateful for the warm water or the nearby towel, instead we worry about how are day is going to play out, giving little regard for what is happening right here and now.

When your blindful you start to notice what your ears and nose, fingers and toes begin to tell you.

So make a start right now by turning your mind off and turning your senses on and see what you notice!

Have fun saying why not to blindfulness!

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I’m blind and I made these hot cross buns!

I don’t mean to show you sighted people up, but……….

These hot cross buns were so easy I made them with my eyes shut!

All you need is a breadmaker, an oven and the right Easter attitude!

Since I went blind I’ve always tried to focus on what I could do and not what I couldn’t. This usually results in things being done in the simplest way possible. For me, making hot cross buns is a bit like going blind. I simply adapted the way I used to make bread to a new way of doing bread, adding some spice and fruit and putting them in muffin pans!

My basic bread recipe is –

1.5 cups warm water

1 tablespoon butter

3 cups flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon dried milk powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon yeast

I put this all in the breadmaker and add 2 teaspoons cinnamon to get the spice in.

I then turned the breadmaker onto the dough setting (by pressing the setting button four times) and waited.

When the dough had finished doing it’s thing, I added 1 cup cake fruit mix into the dough, mixed it in with my hands and then clump by clump I pulled the dough out and placed it in 12 muffin tins. I like using the tins because it helps shape the buns and is nice and easy to handle once the buns are cooked.

I then place a little nob of butter on each one before baking them in the oven at 180 degrees Celcius for 25 minutes.

Nom nom nom! They were so good!

Happy Easter everyone!

I may not see

But I can smell

And taste and touch and listen

And when I do this every day,

I find my optimism!

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Today I’ve been blind for 20 years!

Today I’ve been blind for 20 years! Who would have thought?

When I spoke at Oamaru Intermediate a few years ago, one of the female students wrote to me afterwards and said “when I grow up I hope to be as lucky as you!”

And boy have I been lucky.

Or has it been luck?

Today is the day when I think about what I’ve learned in my first 20 years as a blind person. It didn’t take me long to work out what the stand out message of my life up until this moment has been. After turning down the opportunity to go cross country skiing when I was newly blind, I changed my response from no to why not whenever I was asked to do something out of my comfort zone.

To commemorate the day I Have collated my top 20 questions I’ve said why not to since I went blind in 1997 and come up with the following platinum list.

1 Do you want to go for a walk?

2 Do you want to learn how to use some new technology?

3 Do you want to bring truffles for morning tea?

4 Do you want to come and speak to our club?

5 Do you want to learn braille?

6 Do you want to do a half marathon?

7 Do you want to throw a party?

8 Have you thought about writing a book?

9 Do you want to go up in a hot air balloon?

10 Do you want to do the Polar Plunge?

11 Do you want to go to the Great Wall of China?

12 Do you want to have your own radio show?

13 Do you want to do an event in the Fringe Festival?

14 Do you want to dress up?

15 Do you want to ride an elephant in India?

16 Do you want to touch the Great Pyramids in Egypt?

17 Do you want to cycle the Otago Rail Trail?

18 Do you want to go on the Shotover jet?

19 Do you want to go to Samoa?

20 Do you want to referee a game of nude touch rugby?

When I went blind in 1997, I thought my life had ended. Little did I realise it had only just begun. Since going blind I’ve said why not to walking 9 half marathons and 10 Papatowai Challenges, to going up in a hot air balloon and to cycling the Otago Rail Trail, to hosting my own award winning radio show and to writing my own book, to learning how to read with my fingers and to referee three games of nude touch rugby. And if that wasn’t enough, I also said why not to travelling to 50 countries by the time I was 50, including visiting the Seven Wonders of the World.

I discovered life really does begin at the end of my comfort zone. At times I was really uncomfortable learning to do things in different ways but little did I realise that saying why not to doing these things was getting me off the couch and moving me towards a new life.

I’d like to take the opportunity to thank all those people who have helped me in my first 20 years as a blind person. From the Blind Foundation to the blind people who have inspired me, from my family to my friends, from total strangers to the people I love. Thank you for helping me be the best blind person I can be!

But most of all I’d like to say thank you to those two small words: WHY NOT!

You have changed my life.

That Blind Woman – Why Not logo.pdf

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10 years ago today you died Phillipa Rae Hinds

Dear Phillipa,

I remember when you moved into the house next door to ours in Netherby Street in Dunedin in 1976; I was ten and you were eight. I remember when we used to dance to Grease in your lounge, you were Olivia Newton John and I was John Travolta. I remember climbing up to the enchanted cubbyhole, a cupboard at the top of my wardrobe where we lit candles and ate lollies. I remember going to the Saturday morning movie club with you and playing with plastic farm animals in your bedroom. I remember sitting on the heater in your living room after school, eating Vita wheat with butter and honey and then dancing to ABBA! I remember us going to girl guides at the Mornington School Hall and at Christmas time one year you dressing up as an angel and I dressed as a Christmas pudding! I remember us walking to the Elgin dairy to buy lollies and then me teaching you to ride a bike. I remember feeling sad the day our family watched your family drive off when you left for Australia. I remember coming to see you in Brisbane and visiting the big Pineapple and their big shopping malls. I remember the outdoor water slides and going camping with you on Stradbroke Island. I remember coming to be your bridesmaid when you had your commitment ceremony with Christine in the rain forest. I remember visiting chiropractors, osteopaths and clairvoyants when you got cancer. I remember the no plastic bottles and no meat or dairy rules and the visits to the organic food stores. I remember hearing your voice on the phone just before you died telling me what a terrible mother you had been. I remember reminding you the exact opposite before I hung up from you on the telephone for the very last time. I remember being in that hotel room in Auckland three days later when your mother rang to tell me that you had died. I remember speaking at your funeral and I remember scattering your ashes at the steps leading up to Netherby Street.

And now, 10 years since your death I still see you all around. I ask you for parks when I am driving out and about with Ron and my friends, I remember you when I walk into organic food stores and shopping malls, when I drink soy lattes and eat Pinky bars, when I hear Kermit the frog and Miss Piggy, when I listen to ABBA, Kasey Chambers and Village People. I remember you when I light incense and candles, go to the movies, ride on roller coasters or hop on a bike. You are everywhere Phillipa Rae Hinds and although it’s been 10 years since you left us in the physical world; you are still with me in the unseen. Your life continues to live on in mine, in every moment of every day and despite not being able to see in the physical world, I am able to see you all around me.

From your forever playmate,

See you in the unseen.

Ju the Poo

Xoxoxoxo

This has been written to remember the 10th anniversary of the death of my childhood friend, Phillipa Rae Hinds, who died on March 13, 2007. If you would like to recall your memories of Phillipa and share them on social media then please do. Today, as we all remember her with love, Simply start your writing with “Dear Phillipa, I remember when….” And share away!

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10 things I’m grateful for this International Women’s Day!

Happy International Women’s Day blind wisdom seekers!

Every day I write two gratitude lists. The morning list contains 10 things I am grateful for, usually things that have happened in my life over the previous 24 hours, like the ultra friendly checkout operator at Gardens New World or the new crocheted sock box I bought yesterday at Bed Bath and Beyond! At night I write a sensory diary noting one thing I have smelt, heard, tasted and touched throughout that day, say smelling the line up of soaps on the counter at Bed Bath and Beyond or the taste of the sweet juicy plum! In both cases I then email my list to a group of mainly women, who respond in kind by emailing the things they were grateful for that day too!

Given that today is International Women’s Day, I thought I’d write this morning’s gratitude list from the perspective of being a woman, so let’s see how I go!

1 I am grateful for my mother and sister for being such a big positive influence in my life. I love them both dearly!

2 I am grateful for my walking and coffee buddies who are women! They just seem to like to talk and do whatever else they can!

3 I am grateful for my female coaching friends who like my mother and sister, are a positive influence in my life!

4 I am grateful for my Mastermind group who offer their feminine energy to support, challenge and inspire me!

5 I am grateful for Margaret Jackson who does creative girly things with me every Tuesday afternoon!

6 I am grateful for the two wonderful women my boys have picked to share their lives with!

7 I am grateful for my two grandmothers who were such a huge influence in my life! One was full of energy and the other was a storyteller – and they were both fun with a capital F!

8 I am grateful for all the other mothers who offered me an ear when I was bringing up my two sons.

9 I am grateful to the Deaf woman Beth, who we sat next to at Auckland airport on Monday, who turned to me and asked for a lick of my ice cream! She was fun!

10 Finally, and by no means leastly, I give thanks to all the blind women in my life who have inspired me to do the things I thought I couldn’t! From baking a cake to using a chain saw, you have all played a huge part in helping me redefine what being a blind woman is all about! I salute you all!

As a result of writing this list I’m reminded of the quotation that I often use, it’s from Anonymous so let’s today make it from Ms Anonymous – “You become like the five people you spend the most time with, so choose carefully!” I know surrounding myself with other empowering women lifts me up and has helped me to become the best blind woman I can be! Happy International Womens Day to you all and have fun surrounding yourself with positive woman all day! This balloon bouquet is for you!

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Wednesday’s blind wisdoms – I am 51 and read Disney’s Frozen!

Greetings all blind wisdom seekers!

I didn’t imagine that when I turned 51 that I would still be reading Disney stories but now that I am 51, and I can read Disney stories I am beginning to see life differently.

You see, thanks to many things,

· going blind,

· becoming a single blind parent,

· learning braille,

· reading a page of braille a day,

· getting children’s books in braille through the post from the Blind Foundation,

· reading aloud Hairy McLarey to the kids as part of the 7 day challenge in Blind Week 2016,

· and joining the Children’s braille book club at the National Braille Press in the USA,

all steered me towards Disney’s Frozen. I had decided when I was struggling with things to read in braille from the Blind Foundation’s adult library, that I would try the Youth Library instead. I needed to feel motivated to read and the adult books were simply to long and laborious for my braille reading fingers. I decided I would have a go at reading children’s books instead. I phoned the Youth Library at the Blind Foundation and they sent me a variety of children’s titles. Flick the Fire engine, The Very Hungry Caterpillar and that classic favourite Hairy McLarey all arrived through the post. I began reading each one with my fingers, and to my surprise, I was finishing them too. It was so exciting to be able to read a book in one night!

So, when an email came through from the National Braille Press in the USA containing details of their Children’s book club, I wanted to join. Once a month they would send a children’s title in braille and this month’s book was Disney’s Frozen!

I know at 51 it seems a bit silly to be still reading fairy tales but I really loved it! Reading about Princess Elsa with her magic powers of turning everything to ice, and her lovely sister Anna, with the dastardly Hans who pretended to love Anna, but only to get hold of the sister’s kingdom! Anna had accidentally turned her sister to ice and the one single thing that would defrost her was an act of true love!

I won’t spoil the ending in case you want to read it too, but to Walt Disney, Louis Braille, the Blind Foundation and the National Braille Press, thank you for making this 51 year old blind woman very happy!

P.S. the photo is of me and my two boys taken at Disneyland Hong Kong when I was 45 years of age! When will I be too old for Disney? 45, 51, 61, 71, 81, 91 – I hope not!

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