A letter to parents of children starting school

We have two really good schools nearby. Before my son started his schooling, we went to visit them both. The first school boasted with great educational achievements; the second, much smaller one, promised creative engagement and play. Needless to say, we went along with the second option. I strongly believe that so long as you love learning, you can grasp any content. After all, I studied at a Soviet school in a small rural town in Azerbaijan. If anything, I had to un-learn a lot of things they taught me at school, leaning heavily into my passion for learning.

So today I have a special guest on my blog, who has an important message to parents and educators of young children. Please, give a warm welcome to Norah Colvin, who has got a wealth of experience and resources to support early childhood learning through play and creativity. I love giving back to my community, and Norah has been a huge support and inspiration throughout my blogging journey.  (Not a member of my community yet? Please, join here.) Enjoy!

Dear Parents,
Congratulations on teaching your child to speak!
Easy wasn’t it?
Did you know that parents are their children’s first and most important teachers?
Parents are first and foremost teachers

By the time children start school some of their most important learning has already been accomplished.
• They have learned to walk and talk, to interact with others, and to recognise and name family members and friends.
• They know their way around their home and other places they frequent.
• They recognise features of their neighbourhood.
• They have acquired a great deal of knowledge about their environment and the world.

All this they have learned without formal instruction.
Now that they are starting school, with your continued support, teachers will guide your children through the next stages of their learning journey.
In their years before school you encouraged your children’s learning by:
• talking to them
• playing with them
• reading stories to them
• giving them time and space to grow and develop at their own pace.

Encourage your children to ask questions

Parents, as your child’s first teachers, you are to be congratulated for laying these foundations for learning.

Starting school is not a time to stop doing all these wonderful things. Rather it’s a time to work together with the teachers to help the learning continue by showing interest in what your children are doing and learning, forging a strong partnership between the school and home.

It is also important to foster positive attitudes to school. The attitudes children have already formed about themselves as learners and to school will have an enormous impact on how well they adjust to the school situation and to learning.

Attitudes that will be of great benefit to your children’s learning and progress include:
Confidence–an “I can” attitude with a willingness to have a go, to try something new, and to not give up if not successful on a first attempt.

Curiosity–a willingness to investigate and explore, and to ask and answer questions.
Friendliness–kind and empathetic, aware of the effect of their actions on the feelings of others.
Persistence–prepared to see difficult or unpleasant tasks through to the end.
Organised–the ability to look after, and recognise their name on, their belongings.
Resilience–an understanding that they can choose their feelings and do not have to be influenced by hurtful words or actions of others.
Mindfulness–able to quiet their mind and be calm in the present moment.
Every child is unique

Realise that every child is unique. Celebrate who your children are, what has been already achieved and the learning journey about to begin. Have a firm belief and expectation that your children will learn; but be patient with their learning and don’t expect it all to happen at once.

Schooling is a great adventure, one you should all enjoy.

These notes are taken from the Help your child read newsletters 1 – 10, that can be printed and distributed to parents–available from readilearn.

Norah Colvin is an educator and writer. Having taught in early childhood and primary classrooms for many years, she now shares her passion for early childhood education through readilearn, a website of teaching resources for use with children in their first three years of school.

You can find out more about Norah from:
Connect with her on social media:
Twitter: @readilearn
Norah Colvin


A Birthday Gift

It’s my birthday today and I’ve got a present for you.



With my mum in Baku 10 days ago


In the past, I used to struggle with birthdays. For a few days before the ‘big day’, I felt a sweet anticipation building up in my chest. Deep down I hoped that the day would be magical. I didn’t quite know how a ‘magical’ birthday would look from the outside; it was mostly a feeling. Then the day would arrive, and I’d end up crying for one reason or another. It was because no matter what happened on the day, it never measured up to the longing inside of me. So, even when people celebrated me, I still felt disappointed.

The first time I felt content and at peace was when I turned 40. I was with my family and beloved children, and instead of anticipating magic, I started counting my blessings. My gratitude for what I had in life was so powerful, I felt like I was gifted the whole world. For a few hours that day, I walked in love.

So today, I’m counting my blessings again, and your presence here is one of them. Thank you for all your love and support.

My gift to you is in the link below. It’s an exercise on overcoming procrastination from my forthcoming online mini-course. I’d love to hear what you think and how you get on. If you choose to take it, please give yourself 20-30 min to complete it.



And if you prefer working with me in person, I have three forthcoming live events (details below). I’d love to see you on the day, but if you can’t come, would you consider sharing this information with people who could benefit from my work? If you are not local, then I can offer 1:1 sessions over Skype, WhatsApp, FaceTime, or Zoom. Details are here https://gularavincent.com/work-with-me/ and I’m happy to have an exploratory call to see if we are a right fit.

That’s all from me for today.
Many blessings,
Gulara x


Friday 23rd March, 10:30-12:30
Bournville, Birmingham, B30 (venue TBC)
Early bird £35 (until 16 March); full price £40.
To book: email Gulara at gularav@gmail.com

Do you feel disheartened by rejections and struggle to get your work out to the right places? Yes, sure, the industry is tough and to find the right competition, agent or publisher may take some time. But what if you are accidentally blocking yourself by sending your work out to places which are not the ‘right match’? Or maybe, just maybe, you are too scared of success, so deep down you’d rather they didn’t notice you? Come to this workshop to heal your inner saboteurs. You may not be able to control the external circumstances. You can, however, learn how to get out of your own way.

Saturday 14 April, 15:30-16:00
Tree of Life Festival, Bournville, Birmingham
Tickets £10 (£15 on the day). https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/spring-tree-of-life-festival-2018-tickets-40073135828

I’ve designed a three-step process to help you unleash your creativity.

Thursday 3rd May 11am-3pm
Isbourne College, Cheltenham
Early bird £40 (until 30th April); full price £55

What gets in the way of your writing or sharing your work with the world. Procrastination? Perfectionism? Low self-confidence? So-called ‘writer’s block’ can have many different causes. But what if you could set yourself and your writing free with ease and grace? In this self-enquiry workshop, you can experience this first-hand. Through a unique set of exercises, you will have a chance to learn how to heal your creativity blocks by using simple and powerful techniques.


How to Live fully


For a year now, I’ve been feeling an intense desire to live more fully.

But how do you go from feeling in survival mode to living fully? The analogy my mind conjured up was of a large swimming pool. You are in a survival state when you dip your toes or maybe even stay out of the water. Living fully is the deep end. For someone who’s never even been in water diving in at a deep end may feel a shock to the system, I thought. Isn’t it better to take one step at a time, adjust to the temperature before taking the next one and the next one?

As I said that to someone recently, it didn’t feel quite true, but it sounded convincing enough in my head.

Well, I was wrong. On reflection, living fully is not about highs or lows. It’s not about full immersion into the waters of life. Nor is it feeling high and being always happy and positive with a big smile plastered on your face.

Yes, we can feel fully alive in a peak moment. But that’s because we are out of our depth and comfort zone and we ‘feel’.

Living fully is simple (not easy).

It’s your capacity to feel whatever is going in your life – the highs and the lows. If you shut down to grief, you shut down to joy too. If you avoid anger, your passion can slip away as well.

Living fully gives you freedom to be you and to speak your truth. You are not constantly self-editing to avoid an unwanted response from others, because that might trigger a certain emotion in you. Nothing is permanent, especially your emotions, if you let yourself feel them in the moment (by the way, feeling your emotions is different from acting on them; for example, you can feel your anger without shouting at someone). If you welcome it all, you get to have a much richer life. It’s moment to moment. No easy fix in one big go, like plunging in at the deep end of a pool.

I remember attending my grandmother’s funeral last February. It was a sad occasion and I cried buckets. And somehow letting myself feel the intensity of my loss opened me up to joy I had not experienced in a long time. I laughed so hard that the muscles of my face were scrunched up and at some point I was even rolling on the floor with my sister. It was the most alive I had felt in years.

Living fully is about being authentic and relating to your experiences. It’s allowing life’s beautiful messiness, connections and flow.

What’s your take on living fully, dear reader?

P.S. I’m sending a brand-new post on ‘Why Does Love (and Writing) Hurt?’ to my mailing list next week. If you’d like to read it, please sign up here.
P.P.S. I’m still working on my academic publications, so likely to be quiet on my blog for a bit longer.
P.P.P.S. I’m attending my grandmother’s memorial service in about ten days’ time.
P.P.P.P.S. I’m also celebrating a lot of good things this month – like my husband, sister, son and daughter all have their birthdays in February.

How well can you handle positive energy?


When things go really well in your life, can you handle it? Of course I would, you’d say. Who wouldn’t want everything to go well all of the time?

In reality, though, you often unconsciously sabotage yourself. Say, you are having a breakthrough in your job. Do you go and have an argument with your partner? Or get ill? Start worrying and leaking energy?

The way Gay Hendricks explains this phenomena in his ‘The Big Leap’ book is that all of us have an inner thermostat for feeling good. The moment we exceed that upper limit of the thermostat, something ‘negative’ happens and brings our positive energy down. It seems that human race has been suffering for so long, it knows well how to handle hardship. Give it lots of positive energy and it flips out.

Here’s my example of upper-limiting last week. I started the week full of anxiety. In the next 6 weeks I’ve got to write 2 articles from a scratch. Then, as soon as it’s all done, I need to revise another article, write a policy brief, and this is without other tasks at work and I’m not even considering any of my own interests at this stage. Needless to say, I felt overwhelmed. I know well by now that pushing through overwhelm causes more overwhelm.

So, I stopped… and had a 1:1 session instead.

Immediately, I felt the fog lifting. I calmed down enough to make a commitment to working on these articles for at least 2 hours a day. Instead of fretting about the enormity of the tasks, I decided to concentrate on having focused attention and getting work done every day. My energy has lifted and I felt positive: I’ve got this. With that attitude, it’ll all be done in no time. I diligently put in my 2 hours of work and I was surprised how much I got done that day.

That very night my throat started hurting. I woke up in the morning with flu, but carried on with my plan. The next day my son woke up with croup. He was off school, didn’t sleep very well, keeping us both awake. So on top of my flu symptoms, I had several nights of sleep deprivation.

What does this have to do with upper-limiting, you may say? Perhaps it was just coincidence?

After all, people get ill, it’s that season, etc. The timing was uncanny though, plus I practically never get colds. I had one last January which seemed out of ordinary. The one before was probably 10 years ago. I’m pretty sure this is a symptom of an upper limit.

How to overcome it?

‘Just noticing how you limit love and positive energy solves much of the problem. Do you bring yourself down with food? Do you drink too much? Do you deflect compliments? Do you get sick the day of an opportunity for intimacy in the relationship? Do you hold back on communicating instead of reaching out to people?’ Gay Hendricks, ‘The Big Leap’.

Start with noticing when you bring your positive energy down. Then you can have an opportunity to transform it.

Here’s what happened for me: I wondered (and this is important – bring curiosity to the process and don’t use it as another opportunity to beat yourself up) – is this flu some form of self-sabotage?

Awareness is power.

‘Understanding why we’ve limited ourselves liberates a new energy in us, which we can draw on to propel us to new heights of abundance, love, and creativity.’ Gay Hendricks

The next morning I woke up and decided to stick with my commitment of putting in 2 productive hours of work. I ended up working from 8am till 5pm catching up on a lot of backlog. I still had flu and poorly off-school 5 year old in the house. By the end of the day, despite my symptoms I felt great.

So the next time things go really well for you, notice whether you can handle a surge of positive energy.

Suffering from self-sabotage? Join my newsletter and let me support you.

If you live locally, why not come to my workshop at Wolverhampton Literature Festival on Saturday 27 January (3:30-5:00pm) and set yourself up for a creative year ahead?



Wrapping 2017 Up


2017 has been a big year for me.

  • I’ve had 14 trips to seven different countries. Honestly, it felt like I’ve hardly been in Birmingham this year.
  • I reconnected with dear friends I haven’t seen for over a decade.
  • I gained 18 kilos (40 lbs) of lightness.
  • My book got longlisted (top 10) for the TLC Pen Factor competition for the second consecutive year.

2017 had its own challenges too.

  • My grandma, who brought me up, took her last breath in my arms.
  • My husband had a heart attack in the midst of my travels and somehow managed to care for our kids for two weeks (we didn’t know until after I got back from my travels).
  • And I found it difficult to juggle work, family and my passions. So, blogging took a back seat for much of the summer, and my book has been on the backburner pretty much for most of this year.
  • Oh, and we got snowed in…. For a country with so much weather, it’s remarkable how badly we cope with any weather variations.

Beyond the struggles and achievements, it’s been a year of self-discovery. I’ve kept stripping back all the layers which held me back. This new depth of healing is not always easy. You start seeing things in a different light, and changes don’t always feel comfortable, although I appreciate how they can serve me in a long-run. Perhaps my biggest frustration this year was knowing that often I’m still playing small and there’s so much more I can offer to the world. A part of the problem is not having time for things which matter to me personally. My day job can take up as much time as I give it. So can my kids. I’m learning to prioritise important things over urgent ones and I hope to put this into practice in the coming year.

My big dream for 2018 is to feel spacious. I want time and space to create and live in full alignment with my soul’s purpose. My prayer is to feel fully expressed, seen and heard in 2018. I strive to write from a connected place within, the highest self, and to vibrate at a frequency that strikes a cord with people’s hearts. My intention is to be a conduit of transformation whether through my words or through the healing space I hold for other writers. Amen.

What is your big dream, dear reader? Is there something that your heart longs for but which seems beyond your reach? Come and join my community here and let me support you in achieving your dreams.

Wishing you a wonderful festive season!

With much love,

Gulara xx

P.S. I’m signing off for a much needed rest till mid-January.

Do You Shine?


Last week, I went out with my husband to see a Queen tribute band at my university. The departure was fraught: the babysitter was late and the kids were reluctant to let us go. Luckily, when we arrived, our seats were still available; not so luckily, we were very close to the stage. I don’t know quite what I’d expected, but somehow watching the lead singer trying so hard to look and act like Freddie made me cringe. I suppose if he didn’t, I might have been equally disappointed.

‘Just pretend it’s the real thing’, my husband said when I announced that I hate it, within a minute of our arrival.

‘He looks like Hitler,’ he added a moment later.

I laughed so hard, I cried. Or perhaps I was crying because I’d made it to the ‘fake’ Queen instead of the sold-out real Queen with the amazing Adam Lambert as lead singer?

To be honest, it wasn’t so bad when I closed my eyes. The singer might have even made Freddie proud. It’s amazing how evocative music is; I was transported back into my childhood home, sneaking into my step-dad’s garage to listen to Freddie on reel-to-reel tapes.

We have a saying in Azerbaijan: ‘You can wear someone else’s shoes, but you can’t walk their walk.’ I guess it wasn’t even him trying to walk Freddie’s walk that bothered me. It was the fact that someone would want to wear someone else’s metaphorical ‘shoes’. Would I like this guy better if he chose to be himself? He definitely was very talented. Perhaps he wouldn’t be as popular? I don’t know. There’s a market out there for what he does. The audience was going berserk and the first row was acting like teenagers again, some mere four+ decades later. And despite my resistance, I got into it when he sang ‘I want to break free’ and ‘We will rock you’; I even danced with the rest of the audience towards the end of the concert. Nonetheless, this experience made me realise that

You carry a light no one else can embody no matter how hard they try.

On the way home I burst in tears. I remembered a documentary about Freddie towards the end of his life when he’d been diagnosed with AIDS. What touched me most was the fact that he worked harder than ever. He knew he had so much more to give to the world. That’s how I feel. No, I haven’t got any life-threatening diagnosis. But why wait? It frustrates me no end that some of my potential remains untapped even though I know how much more I can offer to the world.

Don’t wait for that ‘wake-up’ call. Act now. Offer everything you’ve got to life.

And if you want another dose of inspiration, listen to one of my favourite songs here. Sadly people start valuing things in hindsight. Life is precious.

Let your light shine. Let it shine now.

Do you have an untapped potential too? Join my community here and let’s grow together.

P.S. No post from me next week, as I’m at a conference in Berlin for a couple of days.

What Do You Resist?


On 28 November 2011, I got into my instructor’s car and started it with a shaking hand. My examiner, a man in his late fifties, sat rigidly next to me and waited while I buckled my seatbelt.

‘Whenever you are ready…,’ he said.

Heart-pounding, I drove the car and watched him ticking boxes on a form as I clocked my own mistakes.

When he said I’d passed my test, I couldn’t believe my ears. I did? Only minor mistakes? Surely I climbed a pavement, at least twice. I wasn’t planning to argue with him though. My ego was pleased that I ‘d passed on the first attempt.

The truth is I wasn’t ready to pass the test. With hindsight I wish he’d failed me because it’d have forced me to practice more. My attempts to practice with my husband in a passenger seat were short lived. He’s a much better driver than a passenger. So, very quickly my newly acquired skill got rusty and my confidence plummeted with the every passing year.

For the next few years I always had an excuse why not now: I’m pregnant; I have a baby; I’m pregnant again; I now have two babies…. It was never the right time. Until my husband had a heart attack this summer and I was forced to taxi around dropping kids off at two separate nurseries, shopping and doing all the other tasks that my husband does on a daily basis.

In other words, I got my wake-up call.

Getting an instructor was not difficult, and having had nine hours of driving lessons so far, I can drive around the block with a reasonable amount of confidence (my favourite time is Sunday morning – I excel at driving on empty roads!). And every time I do it, I get more relaxed.

You can excel at pretty much anything you want.

That’s what I teach my son. I tell him that when he does it for the first time, he probably won’t be very good at it, but with time and practice, he can shine. It applies to anything, including writing.

Another point of my driving story is that we do things in our own time.

Sometimes you can have masses of resistance to doing a task. Resistance happens for a good reason though. Perhaps you are not ready. Can you be gentle with yourself?

Stop fighting your resistance.

Resistance itself isn’t a problem; it’s when you resist your own resistance you get blocked. Say you don’t want to write today. You could  give yourself a hard time for not writing, being too lazy, falling behind, etc. and before you know it you feel stuck. The longer you feel stuck the more entrenched is the feeling.

But what if you could soften around your resistance and accept  it. You’d be amazed how quickly you can move through the feeling and transform a seemingly impossible situation.

Join my community here and let me show how you can do it.