Posted by: barbaraneill | March 12, 2017

Bob Neill, Hypnotherapist, and an anniversary

Portrait of Bob NeillIn a couple of days’ time, it’ll be the eleventh anniversary of when my father, Bob Neill, passed away. It doesn’t seem as long as that, frankly, because his legacy is very much alive and well in the form of the flourishing profession of hypnotherapy.

Dad wasn’t always a hypnotherapist but that was mainly because he was several steps ahead of the general public, who weren’t ready to accept hypnotherapy and its benefits until the late nineteen sixties, when Dad was practising on a part-time basis before becoming a full-time hypnotherapist in the seventies.

In fact, the first time he hypnotised someone was way back in 1943, when he was still at school. He had seen a hypnotist in a stage show and decided to have a go, himself. Unfortunately, his successful attempt landed him in trouble because he had practised on one of his classmates and disrupted the class as a result.

Seven years later, in 1950, he was called up for National Service and, as a Royal Engineer, entertained his fellow servicemen in stage shows using hypnosis, as well as developing his hypnotherapy technique and helping some of them to stop smoking.

Throughout his hypnotherapy career, Dad developed his own technique that ensured that the vast majority of his clients could achieve complete success in only one session, with only the occasional client needing a second session to achieve their goal, and I am privileged to say that I, too, have followed in my father’s footsteps in this respect, in my own hypnotherapy practice.

Times have certainly changed, as far as hypnotherapy is concerned. In his early years as a hypnotherapist, Dad gave many talks and demonstrations and I remember an attendee at one of his talks expressing her surprise when she discovered that he looked like an “ordinary person” rather than a mysterious entity in a long, black cloak! Nowadays, of course, there are so many hypnotherapists and, as far as I’m aware most, if not all, of us look like ordinary people.

Having seen hypnotherapy in the UK develop from a minor, little known therapy into the widely accepted and flourishing profession that it is today, I am incredibly proud of the part that my father played in enabling that to happen, thanks to his pioneering spirit and vision for the future.

Thank you, Dad. We, hypnotherapists, owe you so much.

Barbara Neill has written a book, “Working with Dad” about her life with this remarkable man as her father. The book also includes part of a manuscript, written by Bob, about his journey as a hypnotherapy pioneer. Details here.

Posted by: barbaraneill | February 27, 2017

A Day in the Life of a Dyspraxic Person

I couldn’t help it. It was something I was born with after all and I had, apparently, had no choice in the faculties I had been furnished with at that moment; the moment of birth, or the nine months or so preceding it for that matter. Dyspraxia still doesn’t have a suitable definition, which makes it a very slippery customer. Many have tried so it’s certainly not for the want of trying. Even my partner in crime, (the other 50% of The Two Dyspraxics), Matthew, and I have tried to come up with a definition that describes as closely as possible the difficulties, stresses and strains as well as the positive aspects of the condition we have both had since birth, (or before, if you want to be pedantic). Eventually, we settled for something that was close enough without being entirely satisfactory.

Don’t get me wrong, if there were such a thing as a pill that I could take to get rid of ‘my’ dyspraxia once and for all, I wouldn’t take it. Quite apart from the likelihood that I’d be freaked out by a totally new way of experiencing the world around me, I have learned to embrace dyspraxia, together with its positive and negative aspects, as the only way of being that I’ve ever known. There are times, though, when it rears its ugly head and makes the more irritating aspects of its personality only too obvious.

Take this morning, for instance. I was due to meet up with some friends who all share a common bond; a love of writing. The plan was to spend a day together, in a room, with a supply of tea and coffee, just writing and nothing else. Well, I suppose that’s a slight exaggeration. There’s always a lively discussion or two when we get together and I welcome that, if I’m really honest with myself, in spite of the fact that I tend to get more writing done when I’m alone than when I’m in a group. Anyway, I digress. Because dyspraxia affects my co-ordination, organising ability, fine and gross motor skills, short-term memory and countless associated tasks, I have to plan an outing like this as though it were a military operation and would normally do so at least a day in advance.

Just to give you an idea of how dyspraxia affects my daily life, I’ll ask you to think about your thought processes when you want to walk across a room, eat a meal or brush your teeth and I’ll bet you couldn’t tell me, (unless you’ve studied such things in an academic context, but that’s another matter). The fact is, most people are able to carry out these common everyday tasks, as well as many others, without having to think about them at all. It just comes naturally. To someone who has dyspraxia, however, it doesn’t come naturally. I’m reluctant to generalise so I’ll tell you how it affects me, personally. I have to think about how to walk across a room, particularly if there are ‘obstacles’ such as tables and chairs that I have to navigate around, though just the act of walking, itself, is a complex task that I have to give some attention to. This becomes obvious to others at times, when I’m walking and chatting, for example, as that’s when I’m most likely to bump into my companion or inadvertently ‘jostle’ anyone who might get in my way and become an obstacle.

Eating can be another tricky act to negotiate and, certainly in my case, has caused much discomfort and varying levels of anxiety throughout my life. Because of the complex range of movements needed to get food from a plate into my mouth, particularly when cutlery is involved, I have to consciously slow down the act of getting manageable sized morsels of food onto my fork, (or spoon), and guide it, consciously, towards and into my mouth. If I didn’t think about how to do this, while I’m eating, I would miss my mouth and make a mess which, of course, would be acutely embarrassing, especially if I happened to be eating in public. In fact, when I was a teenager, I was so aware of the potential for making a mess that I would often say I wasn’t hungry and go without food rather than risk embarrassing myself. Over the years I have had to develop the skills necessary to cope with the anxiety that this, alone, can cause and, fortunately, slowing everything down into ‘bite-sized’ (sorry!) tasks is how it works for me.

Brushing my teeth is another process that I have to really consciously focus on and, again, I have found a coping strategy for this. I use an electric toothbrush which is pressure sensitive because knowing how to apply the correct amount of pressure is something I struggle with. The same is true for climbing or descending stairs, closing cupboard doors and just walking, which I’ve already touched on.

Finding my way around is also a challenge, as it is for many people who have dyspraxia. In fact, it’s a commonly held belief that it’s impossible for a dyspraxic person to learn to drive but it’s actually perfectly possible. As with most skills and tasks, it can be more difficult and take longer for a dyspraxic person to learn but, provided the motivation is there, it’s definitely achievable. I passed my driving test on the third attempt in 1980 and, nearly forty years later, I have never had any points or endorsements on my licence, in spite of the fact that I drive regularly, and have also driven extensively in France. As far as finding my way around is concerned, for unfamiliar journeys I use a satnav and can’t imagine life without one now. I also use Google Earth, in advance obviously, so I can see my destination, and at least part of the route, to give myself a fighting chance of finding the location without too much trouble. However, I’m in danger of digressing again. I’m not sure if that’s due to the dyspraxia or whether it’s just a characteristic of mine. I don’t want to blame dyspraxia for everything!

So, as you can imagine, in order for an outing to take place, it really has to be planned in advance. I marvel at how some people (most people, or at least most neuro-typical people?) seem to be able to just decide to go somewhere, get in their cars and drive, arriving at their destination by something that looks like magic to me.

Anyway, back to this morning’s shenanigans; bearing in mind that, under normal circumstances, I would have planned everything down to the last detail in advance. I would have already decided what I was going to wear and have the clothes ready to wear the following morning. I would have decided exactly what to prepare for my packed lunch and ensured that all necessary ingredients were available. I would have known exactly what time I would need to leave and have allowed an extra fifteen minutes or so for unforseen circumstances, working back to establish the time I would need my alarm to go off, and have it set accordingly, though I normally wake early and would have no problem getting up in time anyway. Because today’s event was based on writing, I would probably have some idea of what I would be writing as well as making sure my notebook was fully charged and in its case, together with the charging cable (just in case), and mouse. In other words, under normal circumstances, in order to make the outing at all, I would be prepared.

However, partly thanks to the fact that I had chosen to add a complication to the mix, all usual preparation was sadly lacking, and that’s an understatement. To be honest, all usual preparation was non-existent. The complication I had added came in the form of arranging another outing immediately following the writers’ retreat day. I have become very fond of a man I met recently. I really enjoy his company and because I was keen to meet up with him again and the next opportunity when we were both free was this evening, I was more than happy to arrange to meet him then. When he asked if I would prefer to meet him straight from the writers’ retreat or go home first, I chose the former. I was keen to spend as much time with him as I could. We were never short of things to discuss and, anyway, I enjoy his company; I know I’ve already said that once, but I really, really do enjoy his company. There; I’ve said it three times now!

With the benefit of hindsight, I realised it would have made much more sense to go home first. I would have been in a better position to prepare for the evening then. But, I didn’t and, thanks to a series of events, I had what could only be seen as a fairly disastrous morning. The first in this series of events happened a couple of days ago, when a particularly violent storm caused the middle section of roofing felt to fly off the roof of our shed, exposing the contents to the elements, thanks to a gap between the two sections of the pitch roof. Obviously, that situation had to be dealt with as a matter of urgency. Attempts to attach a piece of plastic to the roof of the shed with the wrong kind of nails proved to be a complete failure when the piece of plastic suddenly blew away. We still haven’t located its final resting place, so it could be anywhere by now. Anyway, thankfully, the following day; yesterday, was dry and sunny so perfect for effecting repairs to the roof of the shed. I had to use ‘Google’ to determine that the kind of nails we’d need are called “Clout nails” and, by the time I had located some and taken the necessary shopping trip to get some, helped my son to re-attach the roofing felt, then prepared to see a client, who was due to visit me in the afternoon, and then made the grocery shopping trip that had originally been scheduled for the morning, arriving home, eventually, thanks to the inevitable traffic jams at that time of day, prepared and cooked dinner and eaten it, frankly I was knackered! This is a very roundabout way of saying that I had no time to carry out the usual preparations needed for the two outings I had planned for today.

I’m sure I knew better, really, when I decided that I would be able to organise everything in the morning before leaving for the writers’ retreat. However, in spite of that, I set my alarm for 7.30, convinced that I’d probably be awake by 6.00 am at the latest, as per usual. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that this morning was an exception and I was rudely awakened by my alarm, as I was yelling expletives at another driver in a particularly weird dream. After the usual round of checking emails, messages and wishing people a Happy Birthday on Facebook, via my phone, in the warmth and comfort of my duvet, I was inevitably side-tracked and had spent more time than I could afford, chasing ‘relevant’ information that I could add to conversations, on the internet.

When I finally realised that I had to start moving and had to do so without all the planning that would normally go into a day like today, I shifted into panic mode. I shot out of bed, and decided to sort out some clothes to wear. I couldn’t find the jeans I wanted to wear. They could’ve been in the laundry bin, or anywhere else for that matter. How could anyone possibly know where they had got to? I grabbed the rainbow-coloured top I had decided to wear, that was conveniently nestling on the back of the sofa. It was wrinkled. I muttered yet another expletive, under my breath this time. I decided that the top would gradually become wrinkle free while I was wearing it and would magically assume a pristine appearance by the afternoon. You never know; it might work, I reassured myself. I also needed a tee shirt to wear under the top which, on its own, was definitely not suitable for what could turn out to be a fairly chilly day. To access the chest of drawers that housed my tee shirts, I had to first remove the obstacles in front of the cupboard door. Did I mention that the chest of drawers is actually inside a cupboard? No? Don’t ask. I don’t really know why either.

The obstacles are there out of necessity, mainly because my dyspraxia means that I struggle to know where to put things that don’t have an obvious ‘home’. It’s a filing nightmare, as I could be absolutely convinced that a particular item belongs in a particular place one day and then, on a different day, be equally convinced that it belongs somewhere else, resulting in being unable to find said item. This probably wouldn’t make any sense to a non-dyspraxic or neuro-typical person but to a dyspraxic person, unfortunately, it’s a way of life. So, the empty boxes, (I can’t part with them yet in case the items they originally contained go wrong and have to be returned for replacement or refund), the potentially re-useable padded envelopes, and the couple of items of clothing that I just couldn’t be asked to put away in the drawer inside the cupboard because it would have meant moving all the other obstacles; all of these things were in the way. I moved them all out of the way, including the clothes that hadn’t made it into the drawer because they were in the way. I’m quite sure that a non-dyspraxic person would have taken the opportunity to actually put them into the drawer but there was no chance of such a thought occurring to a dyspraxic in a hurry.

I found a tee shirt, some socks and a different pair of jeans, closed the drawer and the cupboard door and replaced the obstacles, (including the clothes that hadn’t made it into the drawer), one by one. At least I had some clothes to wear so that was a step in the right direction. It was then that I realised I hadn’t sorted out any underwear. Dagnabbit! I had to go through the whole process of moving the obstacles and rifling through the drawers all over again! It was then that disaster struck. I couldn’t find any underwear. I really wasn’t keen on the idea of ‘going commando’ but I had no option but to close the drawer and the cupboard door and replace all of the obstacles yet again, on discovering that there was no sign of any underwear in the drawer. Had I been organised, I would have made sure that all necessary laundry had been done, but I’m not organised and it hadn’t.

I decided to prioritise having a shower and getting dressed over everything else I had to do so, grabbing my bathrobe, I went into the bathroom, hoping that, by chance, I might locate some clean underwear in a strange place. It wouldn’t be the first time, after all. I had my shower but, realising I was now way behind schedule, I didn’t have time to wash my hair, which is quite long and needs a good amount of time to be spent on washing, rinsing and conditioning it. I hoped it wouldn’t look as manky as it felt!

After my shower, I put the bathrobe on and immediately noticed that there was a bulge in one of the pockets. Eureka! It turned out to be a pair of clean knickers I had deposited there previously, when I’d had the opposite problem, of having two pairs but no inclination to go through the trauma of replacing one pair in the drawer inside the cupboard.

Thankfully, wearing a bathrobe meant that I didn’t have to spend extra precious time getting dry, but I could prepare my lunch and maybe even grab a quick cup of coffee while the drying process just happened as a matter of course. Preparing lunch was the next major hurdle I had to contend with. I’m vegan and that doesn’t normally present me with a problem if I’m preparing my own food but, for a number of reasons, today was different.

Thanks to the difficulties with eating that I’ve already explained, I would normally prepare avocado and hummus wraps, as they’re relatively easy to manage, and rarely make a mess, or rather, I rarely make a mess when I eat them. However, the man I have arranged to meet would not appreciate me having garlic breath and, of course, hummus normally has its fair share of garlic. Because of this I decided, instead, to make avocado wraps with salad and a little salad dressing to prevent them from being too dry. Unfortunately, it seemed that every one of the salad dressings I had available contained garlic! I eventually settled for ‘dry’ avocado and salad wraps, a couple of fruit and nut bars and a banana. In fairness to the man I was meeting, he asked if I would need to eat if we were to meet straight from the writers’ retreat and I had, for all sorts of reasons, declined, convinced that I would have enough ‘packed lunch’ to see me through. Finally, I had food prepared and clothes to wear though I wasn’t actually dressed at that point.

I decided to check my phone and saw that I had a message, wishing me ‘Good morning’ from the lovely man I was due to meet. We exchanged a few messages, which was a very welcome relief from the chaos that had ensued since I had got up. Then I quickly got dressed and combed my manky hair.

The chaos continued. I decided that I would need to be able to brush my teeth after the writers’ retreat and before my date. I flung my toothbrush, toothpaste and mouthwash into a bag and placed it with my packed lunch. Remembering I hadn’t charged my notebook, I searched for, and found without too much drama, (thankfully), the charging cable and managed to cram it into the little bag that housed the notebook and mouse. Surveying all the stuff I would have to take with me, I realised I would need a bag large enough to take it all. I knew there were bags in the cupboard; yes, the same cupboard that contained the chest of drawers so, once again, I removed the obstacles and opened the cupboard. After some degree of rummaging I found a shopping bag and a more presentable shoulder bag. I decided on the latter because I thought it would look weird if I turned up with a shopping bag! I closed the cupboard door and replaced all the obstacles yet again before discovering that the shoulder bag was too small to fit everything I needed into it! Dagnabbit! To be honest, the words that left my mouth at that point were a little bit stronger than “Dagnabbit”!

After, once again, moving the obstacles out of the way and replacing the shoulder bag in the cupboard, I grabbed the shopping bag and shoved everything into it that I thought I’d need for the day. Suddenly, the whole thing started to vibrate noisily. It was my electric toothbrush. It had switched itself on! It had done that once before, when I had been travelling on a tube train, aware of the noise but being blissfully unaware that it was coming from my rucksack until I discovered I could still hear it clearly after I’d got off the train and walked some way down the platform. On that occasion, it had run the batteries right down and rendered itself virtually useless. I knew I could do without that sort of complication today, so I removed the toothbrush and toothpaste from the shopping bag and decided that a rinse with the mouthwash would have to be adequate to sweeten my (non-garlic) breath before my date.

It wasn’t particularly warm, so I decided to wear a very warm jacket that was, you’ve probably guessed, in the cupboard that was guarded admirably by the obstacles that I had already moved and replaced countless times. I moved them again and opened the cupboard door. Fortunately, the jacket was easy to find. I took it out and closed the cupboard door, and then replaced every single one of those wretched obstacles. They’re going to have to go. They really, seriously are!

“I’ll need some tissues”, I thought to myself, so I took a handful out of the box in the kitchen and put them into the pocket of my jacket. I made sure I had everything I needed. I wouldn’t need the satnav because, fortunately, I had suggested meeting at a place I knew well, after the writers’ retreat, so that was one potential agony I had spared myself.

It didn’t feel quite so chilly, probably due to all the rushing around I had been doing, so I decided against the very warm jacket and plumped instead, for the poncho that was, thankfully, already in my car. I had forgotten about the tissues in the pocket.

Finally, I got into the car, complete with shopping bag and set off. I arrived at my destination; the British Legion Village, in Aylesford, parked my car and proceeded to look for ‘Base Camp’, which was where we were due to spend the day. I strolled into the building at the end of the car park and approached the reception desk but, to my dismay, there was no sign of a receptionist. When someone eventually arrived, I was told I was in the wrong building and was directed to where I was supposed to be; a building with a huge sign marked, “Base Camp”! At last, I arrived, frazzled, but in one piece and that, dear writer friends, is why I was half an hour late.

Posted by: barbaraneill | January 3, 2017

Veganism; busting myths and facing facts


CEMMI’ve already written an article about why I decided to adopt a vegan lifestyle; you can read it here:, but this is by way of a postscript, dealing more specifically with some of the myths around veganism for the benefit of those wanting to take part in Veganuary (trying out veganism for the month of January and, hopefully, deciding to stick with it after that), and offering some information to anyone who wants to make the transition.

Firstly, I want to dispel some myths around veganism. I’ve seen and heard claims that you can, “go vegan and lose weight” as well as “how a vegan diet cured my acne” and while I’m not disputing those claims for a moment, I think it’s important to point out that you won’t automatically lose weight by following a vegan diet, as it’s just as easy to eat ‘junk food’ on a vegan diet as it is on an omnivorous one. Lots of processed foods are what can be termed ‘accidentally vegan’ and can still contain little or no nutritional value while still aiding unwanted weight gain. So the truth is that simply adopting a vegan diet is not enough to guarantee weight loss. You still have to make sure you eat healthily. The same thing applies to claims that a vegan diet will cure your acne. The fact that it’s a vegan diet alone isn’t necessarily enough.

I’ve also seen an article in which the writer claimed that he had lost weight and started running marathons since adopting a vegan diet and, to be honest, although I’ve been vegan for a year and a half now, I don’t see myself running marathons any time soon. As far as I was concerned, that particular article was simply making the point that a vegan diet is not unhealthy, as some people seem to believe.

Veganism, as well as vegetarianism, is certainly on the rise and while the word ‘diet’ isn’t necessarily just associated with weight loss, generally speaking people are continuing to become more health conscious to combat the high levels of obesity and associated issues such as heart disease, which is one of the biggest killers in the Western World, as well as showing concern for animal welfare and environmental issues in the production of our food, and a rise in the number of vegetarian and vegan diets is being seen as a result. According to the Daily Telegraph, the number of vegans in Britain, alone, has risen by 360% in ten years! It is believed that vegans typically have lower levels of cholesterol, lower blood pressure, a lower body mass index, and reduced risk of death from heart disease and cancer. More than 1% of the population; 542,000 people aged 15 or over, has adopted a plant-based diet which is an increase from 150,000 in 2006, according to the Vegan Society. (

In the U.S. an estimated 16 million people; 5% of the population, are now either vegan or vegetarian, with many turning to a raw food diet. (

Of course, for some, making the transition from a carnivorous diet to either a vegetarian or vegan diet will be a straightforward process but there are many who will struggle with it, regardless of how keen they may be to try.

As a professional hypnotherapist, I am seeing a steady increase in the number of people who want to make the transition to a plant-based lifestyle. In support of Veganuary, I am offering a £10 discount to anyone who makes an appointment in January 2017, for either a face to face visit or an appointment via Skype. I’d be delighted to hear from you.

Posted by: barbaraneill | October 19, 2016

Why I went vegan

In 1978, just before Christmas, I decided to become a vegetarian. I didn’t like the idea of animals being killed for food, especially as it is unnecessary. Vegetarians have been surviving, quite happily, on a meat-free diet for long enough to make the point. To be honest, that Christmas was something of a challenge for me, food-wise, because it was all very new to me and at that time vegetarians were still quite rare. I soon got into the swing of my change in diet, though, and continued to witness a growing trend in vegetarianism over the years. 

Fast forward to the summer of 2015. My youngest son, Richard, who was seventeen at the time had been vegan for a year and was giving me a hard time because I was ‘only’ a vegetarian. He asked me if I was aware of the cruelty within the dairy industry. Of course, I knew that calves were snatched away from their mothers in order for the cows to provide milk, and killed for veal in the process, but I allowed myself the luxury of a fairly clear conscience on that score, thanks to the fact that I don’t actually like milk and never drink it. The problem I had was with cheese. I loved cheese and couldn’t imagine going through life without Stilton or Applewood smoked cheddar. This is where my conscience certainly wasn’t clear. For too long I had regarded the idea of giving up cheese as ‘me making a sacrifice’. It wasn’t until I finally faced the fact that any ‘sacrifice’ I would be making by giving up cheese was nothing compared with the sacrifice the animals were making. They didn’t have any choice in the matter, either.


My decision to adopt a vegan lifestyle eventually came about when our beloved (adopted) cat, Ashcroft, passed away on 10th July 2015. He’d been with us for fifteen years and, as he was an adult cat when we adopted him, we had no way of knowing the exact ‘ripe old age’ that he had lived to. What we did know, was that we loved him and missed him, terribly. I couldn’t see any logical reason why all those cows, pigs, sheep, chickens etc. shouldn’t be loved as much as Ashcroft was. They are all sentient beings with feelings and characters, just as he was. What I find incredible, is how some members of our culture can be horrified at the thought of eating dogs or cats, but will happily sit down to a steak meal, or a pork chop! It makes no sense to me whatsoever.


As far as I’m concerned, we simply don’t have the right to regard animals as commodities. They are not commodities. They are thinking, feeling beings and they deserve as much right to life as any of us. I can’t begin to imagine how frightened animals on their way to be slaughtered must feel. I know how I feel about it; sick to my stomach that we, as human beings, have taken it upon ourselves to treat innocent, defenceless animals in such an appalling way. There is no such thing as ‘humane’ slaughter and even before they get that far some of the ‘living’ conditions that these animals have to contend with are like something out of a dystopian novel. Far too many of them are treated as commodities throughout their lives which are, incidentally, all too often cut far shorter than their natural lifespan ought to be. Conditions that are too cramped for some of them to even be able to move, being pumped full of drugs to make them grow in a way that’s unnatural to them, but satisfying to the disgusting greed of human beings who would seek ‘efficiency’ in the production of meat.


Incidentally, my vegan lifestyle is far more than just a diet, as it encompasses compassion for all sentient beings, with no place for the abuse of animals in any of its forms but, as far as the diet is concerned, I’m delighted to see that more and more vegan options are appearing on restaurant menus as well as a steady increase in vegan products in the shops. Among those products, I’ve discovered a vegan mayonnaise which is, by far, the best mayonnaise I’ve ever tasted, vegan or otherwise. I’ve also found a blue ‘cheese’ salad dressing that satisfies my cravings for the flavour of Stilton and I’ve found that smoked paprika can do the same thing for my (former) love of Applewood smoked cheddar. In addition, I find I’ve become more adventurous in my cooking and I’m also eating more healthily than ever before. What’s more, I really do have a clear conscience now that I’m no longer a party to the systematic abuse of animals.

I have developed Conscious Eating; Mindful Meals to help with adopting a healthier way of eating. There’s more information here:


Posted by: barbaraneill | October 12, 2016

How one small action saved thousands of lives.

Have you ever wished you could make a positive difference but felt overwhelmed by the situation you are facing?

You wouldn’t be the first and you certainly wouldn’t be the last. World peace, for example, is something many of us would love to see but there is so much that’s wrong with our world at the moment it seems virtually impossible to achieve. I believe it IS possible if we chip away at some of the difficulties faced by our fellow beings, (which includes other animals as well as humans, incidentally). Just to prove it’s possible to make a huge, positive difference with just one small action I’m going to tell you about something that happened when I was a teenager, back in the seventies.

I was working in an office at the time and it was the morning after I had seen a particularly harrowing news item about the famine in Ethiopia and the devastating effects it was having. Most of my friends and colleagues had seen it too and we were all talking about it. Of course, talking about it wasn’t going to change anything and I knew that. I wanted to make a difference; to help in some way that would alleviate the suffering of as many of those people in Ethiopia as possible, and I expressed this to one of my friends who also felt powerless. What we needed to do, we decided, was to contact someone who wasn’t powerless; someone who really would have enough clout to improve the quality of life for the people in Ethiopia. We decided to contact the editor of our local newspaper, The Kent Messenger, and ask for a meeting with the editor which, to our delight, we were granted. We had a very positive meeting and, as a result, a public meeting was set up in our local town centre, with special guest Gordon Honeycombe, a well-known newsreader. The public meeting was well attended and, as a consequence, the Kent Messenger Ethiopia Appeal Fund was launched.

The appeal fund ran as a regular feature in the Kent Messenger for about six months and local businesses, schools and other organisations were happy to get on board with various fund-raising initiatives. The proceeds were sent to Ethiopia via major humanitarian charities and, some years later when I enquired as to how many lives would have been saved thanks to the Kent Messenger Ethiopia Appeal Fund, I was told it was approximately three thousand!

Just to be clear, it cost my friend and me nothing to arrange that first meeting with the editor of The Kent Messenger. It was very fortunate that he was on board with our idea straight away but, believe me, if he hadn’t been receptive we wouldn’t have given up until we’d found someone who was.

We attended a couple of meetings and, once the ball had started rolling, the enthusiasm of other people was sparked and the appeal gathered pace quickly, so we really didn’t need to do any more. That’s all it took for us to make such a massive difference; a couple of meetings and just a few hours of our time.

Add to the three thousand people whose lives were saved, the number of people who would have benefited in some way as a consequence of those lives having been saved and the result is mind-blowing.

If you have an idea or the passion to make huge changes, don’t give in to being overwhelmed. Although whatever you’re facing may seem too much for you to cope with, there may be others who would willingly help. All it need take is one small action and the confidence to make it happen.

As a professional hypnotherapist, (and daughter of Bob Neill, one of the first hypnotherapists in the UK), I can help you to gain confidence and take the action you need to make those positive changes in YOUR life.

Posted by: barbaraneill | September 3, 2016

Food categories and how to simplify them

There are so many food categories and so much advice about what we should and shouldn’t eat that it can get quite confusing. There is, you’ll be pleased to know, a way of making it so much simpler.

To be fair, this method does require a very basic knowledge of what constitutes ‘food that is good for you’ as well as a healthy dose of common sense but, with those two things in place, the rest is easy!

As far as I’m concerned, there are only two categories of food; ‘necessary food’ and ‘unnecessary’ food. Necessary food is food that has good nutritional value, that you eat when you are hungry. Unnecessary food is everything else. In other words, food is unnecessary if it has little or no nutritional value, (you know the culprits, so I’m sure I don’t need to spell it out!); food that does have good nutritional value becomes unnecessary if you eat it when you are not hungry. This means that a single plateful of food could contain both necessary and unnecessary food. The important thing is to be aware of when the rest of the food on your plate becomes unnecessary, (which is where Conscious Eating; Mindful Meals can help).

So, it really is a simple case of identifying whether your food is necessary or unnecessary. The decision you make from there is up to you!

The next Conscious Eating; Mindful Meals event will be on 8th September at Fortify Café, Maidstone. More details here

Or if you’d like to experience Conscious Eating; Mindful Meals in your own home, you can now buy the mp3 download here

Posted by: barbaraneill | August 19, 2016

Cutlery; help or hindrance?


When you’re eating a meal, using cutlery, how much attention do you give to the flavour of the food? It’s probably less than you think!

My guess is that your attention is divided while you’re eating your meals. Do you tend to eat your meals while you’re watching TV? Or, if you’re horrified by that thought, do you see mealtimes as an opportunity to chat with others at the table? Our culture is such that ‘going out for a meal’ is only fractionally about the food. The ambience of the restaurant, the company and the conversation are also important on those social occasions.

To avoid digressing too far, let’s focus on you, eating a meal alone with no other distractions. Would it surprise you to learn that it’s still unlikely you are giving the food, itself, your full attention? Would it surprise you, also, to discover that the way you use your cutlery is a likely culprit between you and your full enjoyment of your food?

Let me explain. When you load food onto your fork (or spoon), and put the into your mouth, unless you are different from most you will be preparing the next load of food; deciding which piece to eat next, cutting it, loading the fork or spoon, while you are still eating.

As an exercise, (and it’s a good idea to use cold food, such as a salad, for this), try putting your cutlery down between mouthfuls and see how much more attention you can give to the enjoyment of your meal. I’m not suggesting, for a moment, that it’s practical to do this all the time and, of course, it will take longer to eat a meal this way, which is why I suggested cold food! Why not give it a try? Notice the difference it makes.

So, while I’m not suggesting you should give up using cutlery altogether, giving it a rest is worth a try!

The next Conscious Eating; Mindful Meals event will be on 8th September at Fortify Café, Maidstone. More details here

Or if you’d like to experience Conscious Eating; Mindful Meals in your own home, you can now buy the mp3 download here

Posted by: barbaraneill | August 6, 2016

How to enjoy chocolate more by eating less!

Most of us like chocolate. I don’t think many would dispute that. When you decide to treat yourself to a bar of chocolate, do you tend to eat the whole bar in a short time? And does it go a bit like this?
First piece; mmm delicious!
Second piece; pretty good too.
Third piece; not as good as the first, but still nice.
Might as well have another piece, and another…
There’s only a little bit left. May as well finish the bar, so the wrapper can be thrown away.
If that sounds familiar, and I suspect it might, you are definitely not alone. But when you stop to think about it, how much of that bar of chocolate do you actually enjoy? I mean really enjoy. The first three pieces maybe? It seems likely that most of that bar of chocolate is eaten out of habit, especially if you happen to be doing something else at the same time; watching TV, reading, maybe.
What if you were to focus only on the chocolate you are eating? So, no distractions, just the enjoyment and appreciation of that chocolate. What if you were to give it your full attention? Then, as your enjoyment of that chocolate begins to diminish, stop eating it. Put the rest of the bar away for later. It’s not rocket science but it is very, very effective in helping you to enjoy chocolate more by eating less!
The next Conscious Eating; Mindful Meals event will be on 8th September at Fortify Café, Maidstone. More details here
Or if you’d like to experience Conscious Eating; Mindful Meals in your own home, you can now buy the mp3 download here
Posted by: barbaraneill | July 30, 2016

Dyspraxia, Mindfulness and Food


I was born with dyspraxia so I’ve never known anything different. Dyspraxia affects my co-ordination and balance, among other things, but I’m not going into all of that now. Instead, I’m going to describe how I developed my own coping strategies, particularly when it came to eating, and how those coping strategies have led me onto other things.

While I was growing up I had no idea I was dyspraxic. In fact, my eldest son reached the age of five and was, himself, recognised as dyspraxic (in a time in which Dyspraxia had finally been acknowledged, though it still had a long way to go before being properly understood), and it was only when working through a questionnaire with him, that I discovered the classic signs and symptoms of dyspraxia applied to me as well.

In spite of not realising I was dyspraxic while I was growing up, I still had the condition and was coping with the many difficulties that accompanied it, on a daily basis. Those difficulties included eating, without making a mess. Although getting food from a plate into the mouth is a perfectly natural process for most people, for those of us who have dyspraxia, it can be a very different story, in which every mealtime becomes a challenge. The strategy I developed for this, (as well as many other challenges I faced regularly), was to slow down the process. I would focus my attention on getting a manageable quantity of food onto my fork and ‘tidying’ it to minimise the risk of losing some of the food before it reached my mouth. Then, when it finally did reach my mouth, I would, and still do, savour it before repeating the process. I remember, many years ago, a work colleague of mine would sometimes make a point of watching me eat my lunch. I remember her comment vividly; “I love watching you eat. It’s all so slow and deliberate!” Of course I had no idea what she meant because I had developed the coping strategy quite naturally, without realising I was dealing with the effects of dyspraxia. In fact, at that point, I’d never even heard of dyspraxia.

So that’s how I came to eat my food ‘slowly and deliberately’. This technique was also to enable me to develop a way of helping others to enjoy their food more, and to become aware not only of what they are eating but how they are eating it.

I’m fortunate enough to have been brought up by one of the first hypnotherapists in the UK. My dad was a pioneer in his field and I’m incredibly proud of him. Over the years, in spite of the fact that there were times when I wished my dad had had a ‘normal’ job, like other people’s dads, there is no doubt that I have learned a great deal from him and, thanks to my love of working ‘with people’, it was inevitable that I would follow in Dad’s footsteps and become a hypnotherapist in my own right. I’m actually honoured and privileged to be able to continue his work since he passed away in 2006.

In my capacity as a hypnotherapist, I have seen many people who have wanted to eat more healthily, whether it was to lose weight, to kick an addiction to unhealthy food or to overcome a dislike of vegetables and, during the course of those consultations, I discovered something interesting. I had been helping people to adopt the same technique, for eating, that I had adopted out of necessity, due to my Dyspraxia. During these consultations, with my clients, I would often describe the act of eating more slowly, putting down cutlery between mouthfuls to really focus on the food that was actually being eaten, rather than giving attention to the next mouthful. I’m sure, also, that the habit of eating while watching TV will be familiar to most of us but it goes without saying that we can’t be getting the most out of the food while our attention is focused elsewhere.

It was these revelations that inspired me to develop “Conscious Eating; Mindful Meals”, and I couldn’t help wondering how effective it would be if, instead of just describing the process of eating a meal to those who wanted to enjoy eating more healthily, I could do so while the recipients actually had a plateful of delicious, healthy food in front of them; in other words, to use real, healthy food, instead of a hypothetical meal, to demonstrate rather than explain the process.

In Maidstone, Kent, we are incredibly lucky to have a fabulous café which happened to be the first vegan café in the town, serving quality food prepared on the premises. I, personally, was a vegetarian for thirty seven years before becoming vegan in the summer of 2015 so, perhaps not surprisingly, Fortify Café is a favourite haunt of mine. In 2014 I contacted the proprietor, James Hooper, and asked if he would be prepared to accommodate the first Conscious Eating; Mindful Meals event and, being naturally progressive, he agreed. The first Conscious Eating Mindful Meals event was held in Fortify Café, Maidstone in August 2014. It was well-received and some of the attendees made some interesting discoveries along the way and, according to feedback I have received, have actually changed their eating habits, and enjoy their food more, as a result!

If you’d like to experience Conscious Eating; Mindful Meals, you can now buy the mp3 download here

Posted by: barbaraneill | June 23, 2016

UK EU Referendum and why I would give up my vote

As I write this, the citizens of the UK are going to the polls to decide whether or not the UK will remain in the European Union. I have voted, and I have voted to remain in, because that’s what I believe is the best option for our country. However, I would gladly have sacrificed my right to vote and I’m going to tell you why.

My youngest son is seventeen. He will be eighteen in just a few weeks’ time but, because he is not yet eighteen, he doesn’t have the option to vote in this referendum. In spite of that, he is very aware of current affairs and is a passionate campaigner to remain in the EU. As an active member of the Green Party, he has delivered hundreds of leaflets, produced by the Green Party, setting out the reasons for remaining in  the EU.He worked until he was exhausted, and covered a large area, in order to spread the message that he believes in so passionately.

In both my son’s experience and mine, it seems that the majority of young people around his age would like the UK to remain in the EU while those who are equally passionate about wanting to leave seem to be among the much older generation. This aside, repercussions of today’s referendum will be inflicted on young people of my son’s generation because they are the ones who are going to have to deal with the long-term effects of our decision. To put it bluntly, those of us who are much older will be dead while the younger generation will be picking up the pieces of what we have saddled them with, regardless of whether or not they would have chosen it for themselves.

So the reason I would gladly have sacrificed my right to vote? I believe that the sixteen and seventeen year olds, who will be most affected by the outcome of today’s vote, should have had a say in what the country decides. Those of us who are in the older generation and, therefore, only likely to be affected for a comparatively shorter time, arguably shouldn’t have the right to inflict our views on the younger generation. Wouldn’t it have been more fair to allow those sixteen and seventeen year olds the opportunity to vote on matters that will affect their future rather than leaving it to those who would rather hark back to rose-tinted memories of Great Britain’s ‘glorious’ past?

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