Thresholds & The Space Between Us

Thresholds & The Space Between Us

If you’re holding big emotions for the world with climate change at the moment, come along to the workshop this Wednesday on Eco-Anxiety. We’ll be using a mix of somatics & storytelling practices to help you make sense of this time, and find your most meaningful response.  You can still join here

This week I want to share an excerpt from John O’Donohue’s. book, To Bless the Space Between Us.  He writes, “At any time you can ask yourself: At which threshold am I now standing? At this time in my life, what am I leaving? Where am I about to enter? What is preventing me from crossing my next threshold? What gift would enable me to do it?

A threshold is not a simple boundary; it is a frontier that divides two different territories, rhythms, and atmospheres. Indeed, it is a lovely testimony to the fullness and integrity of an experience or a stage of life that it intensifies toward the end into a real frontier that cannot be crossed without the heart being passionately engaged and woken up.

At this threshold a great complexity of emotion comes alive: confusion, fear, excitement, sadness, hope. This is one of the reasons such vital crossings were always clothed in ritual. It is wise in your own life to be able to recognise and acknowledge the key thresholds: to take your time; to feel all the varieties of presence that accrue there; to listen inward with complete attention until you hear the inner voice calling you forward. The time has come to cross.”

We collectively stand on a threshold.  What lies on the other side, I believe is still up to our choosing.  Our collective response to this time, our desires, our values, our decisions and how we find meaning are all part of this choice.  Whatever this threshold holds though, I know I am not alone in hearing the call that the time has come to cross. 

This crossing requires – at least in our imagination – rejecting the boundaries, limitations, binaries & impossibilities that lay within our current world.  It asks that we allow “our heart to be passionately engaged & woken up”.  

So I want to ask, where does your heart lie right now? Can you feel what it asks of you in this time? 

if you’re wanting to explore our thresholds more deeply, join me on Wednesday for the eco-anxiety & climate grief workshop, and let’s see what threshold we can collectively cross together. 

The Art of Restorative Rest

The Art of Restorative Rest

This blog was first posted in 2016.  Interested in deeper work about burnout, internalised capitalism and getting free? Check out our group program, Internal Revolution, or coaching with Laura Hartley. 

Restoration (noun): the action of returning something to a former owner, place or condition, eg the restoration of peace.

The concept of rest has been calling my attention in recent months, as I’ve listened to an inner need to slow down. By nature I am a doer, and prone to all the highs and lows that that entails – a sense of striving, of completion, of getting things done; and sometimes a sense of burnout, exhaustion, and feeling pulled in a thousand directions.

I considered myself relaxed and rested by having nights in with Netflix or a sneaky doze during savasana, yet I still found myself plagued by a sense of deep tiredness, of needing a break no matter how many times I skipped a night out or lost myself in the world of my phone.

A Sunday sleep in is considered the epitome of rest, and yet so many of us still live with a sense of chronic exhaustion.  I credit this partly to the fact we live in a culture that glorifies busy and burnout.

Of capitalism and its endless quest for growth. 

Our realities are often consumed by our to-do lists, outstanding tasks and projects become plot points in the narrative of our lives. How little time we have and how full our calendars are often seen as the traditional markers of success, while little importance is placed on time connecting with ourselves and nature.

That experience of ‘time scarcity’ – that there’s just never enough time – creeps everywhere.  “There’s not enough hours in the day”, “I don’t know how she fits it all in”, “There’s a lot to cover in this meeting, let’s just power through lunch”, “You can rest when your dead”, “After this week things should slow down…”. 

Pick your favourite. 

A week or month spent doing nothing is seen of little value, and yet having taken time to do this whether through travelling or simply in my ordinary life, I know that this is not true.

Without time away from our to-do lists, without learning to listen to our body, we miss the beauty that comes with being fully alive.

Burnout and exhaustion are tricky spaces. We so often think if we just ‘relax more’ (cue glass of wine), or take a weekend off (cue vacation), we’ll feel better.  That we just need a little help switching off.

But by the time we’ve reached exhaustion, the heaviness in our shoulders and jaw, it’s not as simple as just relaxing.  We need to start looking within, and exploring what restorative rest and might actually look like. 

Restorative rest is about taking ourselves away from the need to do, fix and complete.  It’s what happens after we let ourselves deeply feel and experience the truth of our emotions and bodies.  It’s space and seed of renewal. 

Restorative rest though requires us to take radical steps. To move beyond the (beautiful, amazing) space of massages and wellness, and into the messy, uncomfortable space of feeling what our body has to say to us.

Because until we stop running, truly pausing and listening to what is arising within us, then restorative rest will remain distant. 

Interested in some examples of rest you can take?


In my journey of rest, there were days I worked from bed, and nights I tucked myself into books and stories and epically great TV shows (ahem, *homeland*). The guide was my body, sleeping when it needed sleep, waking when it wanted to wake, and allowing it to recalibrate its rhythm. 

I’ll be real: this meant at the time I was often late to work, and not everyone has that luxury.  And many of us have more agency than we think to sleep earlier and schedule our weekends to match our bodies needs than we allow.

Body rest is about letting our body guide our movement. It meant skipping the gym when I thought I ‘should’ go, but instead was bone deep tired.  

Body rest is about letting the soft animal of our body guide our way, and not our thoughts about what we should do, or are supposed to do. 


As an activist, a media fast at first seemed outrageous.  I felt a moral responsibility to stay informed, and for current events to guide my activism. I still feel this way to an extent.


We were not designed to process the amount of news and speed of information we are currently experiencing.  The pings on our phone telling us of the latest crisis or scandal are creating real, physiological reactions in our nervous system. Our brains and bodies don’t always know the difference between danger that’s imagined or distant and danger that screams RUN or FREEZE. 

Media fasts are necessary for a period of time to recalibrate and restore.  Delete the apps, turn them off your phone, delete your social apps for just seven days.  See how you feel. 


This isn’t ‘rest’ per se, but if we’re looking at this idea of restorative rest or restoration, we must look here. Giving ourselves permission to stop saying yes to shit we don’t want to do. To rest from the endless shoulds we subject ourselves to.  

To do what you feel called to, and to set a boundary where you don’t.  (Prentis Hemphill says it best when they write, “Boundaries are the distance at which I can love you and me simultaneously”).  

Ask yourself, why are you doing what you’re doing? Because you felt you should? Because it’s what a ‘good’ person would do? Because people expect it? 

Or because you truly desire it?

Give youself some rest from yours and others artificial expectations, and rest into what feels true, whole and yours. 

Learning a path of balance has not come easily to me, and it still requires much practice. Restorative rest, however, has become a place to return to, a staple in the toolbox of practices.

In the words of John Lubbock, “Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time”.

Where can you bring some restorative rest to your life?

Feeling burnt-out trying to change the world? Check out Changemaker Coaching here. 

Living from the Heart… & Other Lessons from Bhutan

Living from the Heart… & Other Lessons from Bhutan

I was slowly settling into a new life in Amsterdam when I saw the advertisement for the Slow Change program in Bhutan.  Despite being a world away, I instantly knew I needed to join.  2016 had been a challenging year for me – I moved countries twice, ended a meaningful relationship, and despite having the intention to ‘lay foundations’, spent most of my time country hopping on over 30 flights between 14 countries, searching for something I felt I had lost.  Bhutan, it seems, was it.

Bhutan is a small, mountainous country nestled between the giants of China and India. No paved roads until the 1960’s, no TV or internet until 1999, no GMO’s and almost entirely organic farming. A country that is not just carbon neutral, but carbon negative, and a land with no foreign tourists until the 1970’s. With an entire series of kings that prioritised the wellbeing and happiness of their people, Bhutan is a country like no other.

Landing after a mildly harrowing flight from Bangkok to Paro, the crisp mountain air and startling warm sunshine provided me with an early appreciation for the small mountain kingdom, and marked the beginning of what I knew would be a transformative journey.

The Slow Change program was a two-week workshop run jointly by the Gross National Happiness Centre and Humankind Enterprises, bringing together 20 young changemakers to learn about the intersection of Gross National Happiness (GNH) and Slow Change – a deep inner transformation in the way we live and work. We travelled across the country exploring the country’s cultural vibrancy, strong sense of spirituality and the nations governing principle – Gross National Happiness.

I first heard about Gross National Happiness, or GNH, about five years ago, and although I was fascinated with the concept, I remember thinking that it sounded a little like a puff piece, a nice idea with no real substance. What could a country so small, so isolated, and so radically different have to teach the world? As it turns out, a lot.

While I won’t go into the history, pillars or domains of Gross National Happiness (you can read more about these here), the deep complexity and versatility of GNH became clear as we visited local schools, attended daily lectures and were given opportunities to question local spiritual leaders.

Being a Buddhist country, mindfulness quickly became a daily practice, and we were privileged to visit sacred meditation sites, some as old as 800 years. The stillness embedded in the land  was palpable, and although we were encouraged to ponder the meaning of Gross National Happiness and Slow Change, another topic – living from the heart – was begging for my attention.

It’s not news that the world faces challenges never encountered by earlier generations, whether it is climate change and sustainability, plastics pollution, increasing refugee numbers, fear, xenophobia or terrorism. We see over 350 million people worldwide suffering from depression, soaring rates of anxiety and a culture that glorifies burnout, exhaustion and chronic over-working. We are more digitally connected than ever before, but rarely know the names of our own neighbours.

These problems will not be solved by a quick fix or magic bullet, but are representative of the need for a fundamental shift in the way we live and work, a large reason I was drawn to Bhutan. As Albert Einstein once said, no problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.

In the pursuit of happiness, western culture encourages us to pursue extrinsic goals such as financial success, an ever-growing economy, popularity, networking and looking attractive, as ways to be successful.  It’s these same values, however, that have us pursuing endless growth or ‘more’ at the expense of our communities, our environment and our connection to nature and each other. 

If you ask the average person, however, what is most important to them, they tend to list intrinsic motivations such as family, friends & community (connection), health (physical wellbeing) & feeling good (self-love & acceptance), which research backs up as ultimately being more fulfilling.

Intrinsic goals like the above, along with values such as compassion, mercy, wisdom and love, have long been associated with the idea of heart, and as I travelled through Bhutan I began to answer my own question of what a heart-based society would look like. Gross National Happiness is an example of one such way of life, which is why it is so radically unique. Its guiding principle is not the endless pursuit of ‘more’, of searching for fulfilment outside of itself, but rather the wellbeing of its people, its environment and its culture.

Bhutan is not a perfect country. It is not without problems, and it too is facing unprecedented challenges as it moves further into connection with the rest of the world. For me, however, it is best described as a heart opening land. Its stillness allowed me to stop chasing the extrinsic goals I had been pursuing all year. It reminded me that I am exactly where I am supposed to be, and that the first step to creating a more heart-centred society is to tune in and listen to my own heart.

Bhutan provided me with a deep sense of connection to my values of compassion, connection and grace, and it showed me that not only must we live by heart-based values as individuals, but as communities and nations too.

Concepts like Gross National Happiness, and even happiness in general, don’t fascinate us because they are a pretty term or a fancy band-aid for the world’s problems. They connect with the part of us that recognises our current model of living is not working, and our endless desire for endless growth is no longer fulfilling.  As individuals, communities and nations, we crave something more – something embodied by Bhutan and its philosophy of Gross National Happiness.  Perhaps the small Himalayan kingdom, with its radically big idea, can show us the way.

I’ll write more on my Bhutan experience and the lessons I have learnt from Gross National Happiness and Slow Change over time, but if you’re interested in learning more, you can check out the blogs of some other participants, Sophie Benbow, Samantha BennettMike Davis & Christiane Schicker

Have questions about Bhutan, GNH or happiness? Send me an email at laura@appleseedcoaching.com