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The Skyros Blog

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The Dalai Lama was doing a road trip round America and a young waitress asked him if she could ask him a question. “Of course” he said and she asked “What is the meaning of life?”. His answer was “Joy is the meaning of life but the difficult part is you have to discover what joy means to you- as in what is it that gives you joy.” 

Stephen Porges (of Polyvagel theory) says that playfulness or joy is a state of true aliveness and that that balances our nervous system. We have two sides to our autonomic nervous system the sympathetic and parasympathetic. The parasympathetic rules things like calming down, digestion and sexual arousal so when we are too stressed these areas can shut down. The sympathetic rules things like getting energised and orgasm. When we are stressed or depleted it can affect our ability to relax or to get going in life as this can shut down parts of our nervous system. 

But joy or play, on the other hand, can rebalance the nervous system through relaxation, surprise and breath and that allows people to feel like they are really living or really present.

But how can you discover what play or joy is for you? It can take some self compassion and some planning to experiment and try out new things and discover what makes your heart come alive. It can be important to resource yourself so that you feel safe to take yourself on a journey of recovery. The safety could be anything to do with building up tools, people and things that you do to feel calm and collected. If you connect with anything sensual like moving dancing, swimming, being with a kind person, being in nature this can help to build the hippocampus which in turn can calm down your own fire alarm system the amygdala and once you feel calmer you can begin to explore what fun or joy is to you.

To start with set some boundaries around your time so that you allocate time just for you to even contemplate these issues. Take yourself to a cafe or place you like and buy a lovely notebook that helps you explore what fun means to you. Be compassionate with yourself as this may take some time to achieve and to work with.

In therapy we talk about planning for your good, in other words if you plan it Tuesday it’s more likely to happen Saturday. So it is important that you keep writing lists of ideas of things you might like to try and then you can begin to build these into your life one step at a time.

It is helpful to think of this as building small baby steps because if you think of having to build a joy foundation in your life in one day you may get overwhelmed and give up. 

This is about starting to honour yourself for the lovely being that you are and beginning to feel that you deserve to be loved enough to have fun. This is also about forgiving yourself for all the things you think you have done wrong or should have done and to let yourself be as you are right now with all the foibles and beauty of that. This is also about committing to you as the most important person in your life and beginning to date and woo yourself and give yourself the life you may have dreamed of.

It is not always easy to say No to people but if you can commit to saying Yes to you then you may find that you cannot do so much for others because you are busy with your commitments to yourself. This is about making you life a very important project and giving yourself love.

This is a gentle process but it can have incredible effects like revitalising your spirit or bringing new people into your life or transforming your partnership.

Case study

Mary was very stuck in her busy life and her relationship and she did not seem to know how to make a shift in her life. She knew when she had gaps in her diary that she “should” do some exercise or take a walk in nature but she would find that there was housework or emails to do and time was moving on and her relationship also felt dull. Over time she began to get unwell and went through a serious illness and was faced with the prospect of looking at death and/or living a very small life because of it. She had never really given to herself in a big way but suddenly she needed help and she needed other people to look out for her. She had never been that interested in psychology but she began to realise that if she looked forward to things it helped how she felt about her health. She also realised that she had feelings from the past that needed to be looked at and she also longed to find her creative self again. Little by little she found groups to go and express herself and read articles on making wishes and visions and putting them on the wall. She slept a lot and she also started to clear old resentments by writing them down and began to get slowly into crafts. She started to embroider cards for friends and paint watercolours of nature and she noticed how much this helped her feeling of becoming better and also her relationship with her partner was growing. As she started to find herself he realised he needed to do the same and he needed to discover what resources and joy he needed. Her illness took on a new meaning as she began to feel that it was a turning point and not an end. It was the illness that took her to joy and without it she might not have made such a big transition.


I feel that life can possibly guide us to find ourselves and what joy means to us, sometimes it may push us (with illness and difficulty) and sometimes we can volunteer without that and say that we want to find that in ourselves. My course in July at Skyros will be an opportunity for you to go within and discover a deeper part of yourself. We will explore creativity with dance and writing and we will also have a opportunities to go deeper with a beautiful communication method called bridging developed by Hedy Schleiffer where you can listen to your heart’s wisdom.

Cate Mackenzie is a Psychosexual Therapist, Love Coach and Couples Counsellor based in Chelsea, London. She does a monthly facebook live for Psychologies Magazine on relationships and gives talks and workshops on love and joy. She is passionate about helping people to have the tools to help themselves.


Intrigued by Cate's course and want to know more? 

To find out more about Cate's course, see her page here

Holidays at the Skyros Centre on Skyros island in Greece are inclusive of twin shared, half board accommodation. Single upgrades are available. The programme of courses available include health & wellbeing courses, creative writing with established authors and art and painting. In addition, join morning and afternoon yoga plus singing and sound healing.

See the full programme of 2019 Skyros holidays here.



Mon 4th Mar 2019 19:05 M.C. Legaylt said…
I am so taken with the print above... the wonderfully whimsical heart in blues and reds as perfectly captured by Cate. Is such a print available for purchase? If so, please provide purchase instructions. Thank you..
P.S. Am very tempted by your website highlights :)
Tue 7th May 2019 12:14 Cate Mackenzie said…
Dear M.C. yes I sell cards and will be selling prints which you can buy by writing to me on my web site many thanks.

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