Opening up hurts… Literally

Life is a balance of letting go and holding on

– Unknown

So this semester, I am taking a yoga class as part of my daily schedule.  I’ve never taken a yoga class, so I thought it was a great opportunity to finally have some professional guidance, and believe me, it’s a lot harder physically and mentally than it looks, but simultaneously incredibly rewarding.  It’s been 4 weeks, and I’ve been able to learn a lot about my body.  And have found ways to appreciate just how limitless it is, celebrating what it can do rather than what it can’t.  The benefit of an instructor also means that I am educated on the meaning of each position and how it helps the mind as well as my body.

Today, I want to focus on two lessons that really opened my eyes.

The first was the lesson on balance.  Personally, I’ve learned to physically balance; from training in tennis, learning to be balanced when you land on one leg, and the usual fundamentals of balance.  I have also learned as I was growing the importance of the term balance in daily life: balancing social life and school life, work life and personal life etc.  Balance is therefore clearly a word that is often used, and as a result, has many meanings.  Yet one thing that it definitely implies, is to make use of something when something else is missing.  Physical balance is important because it allows you to stand when you don’t have the function of both legs.  Emotional/psychological balance is important because it helps you keep calm or focused when something else is desperately trying to steer your focus away.  At least, for the last 20 years of my life, this is how I perceived balance to be.

Then my instructor defined balance, and it really struck a chord:

Balance is not stationary.  It is not about staying still, it’s about understanding the push and pull from the 4 axis (north, south, east, west) and to allow the constant movement, and about accepting and going with the movement.

What does this mean?! Well, this is my interpretation (and the wonderful thing about yoga is that every pose has a different meaning for each individual).  Balance is not about making the most of a situation when there is something missing.  It does not even necessarily mean that something is lacking.  Rather, balance is about harmonising the constant forces around you that are tugging at you for attention.  In order to stand straight with a good posture, you have to use the north and south axis (the forces that pull at your head and push from your feet), and combine the two.  You are using both the force of gravity but also the force that’s not gravity at your head, so that you do not fall over.  Balance, is therefore about constant movement.  Not necessarily visible movement, but to know that there is definite movement within that you are controlling.  Balance is not about being stationary because being stationary means resistance.  The body is naturally inclined to keep moving, and so being still is resisting its natural inclination.  And this point in particular is true not just physically, but also emotionally and psychologically.  We are naturally inclined to constantly have thoughts, and balance does not mean to suppress them.  It’s means to move with them, mould them, shape them into thoughts that are more positive and helpful.  Basically it was here I learned the meaning of “sound body, sound mind” in that the body and mind are similar because they need constant shaping, constant movement.  It’s hard but important not to resist and use the movement for positivity.

The second lesson was from the class where we did inversions.  My God.  Inversions are the scariest thing, because you have to bend your back and spine in ways that is not only painful (hence the title of this post) but also just seems so unnatural.  The first explanation of the meaning of inversions that our instructor gave was that inversions look towards the future.  Because you are bending your back, you are ultimately stretching out the front of your body, where the heart is then completely open.  The opening up movement allows for the front muscles to relax, and therefore also help you feel more positive and mindful at the end of the practice.  What was interesting was her point that the natural stance of humans is slightly rounded at the front, to protect our heart from harm.  In other words, instinctively we are closed.  A lot of muscle therefore builds up at the front, which can leave you a little more negative than usual.  By opening up, you not only let go of all inhibitions and the mental limits placed on you (which was definitely there because I didn’t think I could do backbends), and instead leaves you exposed to you and all the potential stored in your body.  It truly was such a inspirational lesson because (believe it or not) I did feel I broke a mental barrier in how I put limits on myself, and helped me gain a much more inspired and positive outlook.  It’s one of those things that because it really does hurt because you’re stretching really big muscles, and going against natural postures, you probably won’t do everyday, but on days you feel a bit negative, it’s great to restore positivity.

Anyway, the conclusion is that there is so much to be learned through yoga, and despite only being 4 weeks in, I am learning a lot.  It just goes to show how much there is to still learn about our body and our mind, but also helps one really appreciate the vast abilities of our tiny bodies.

 

Happy weekend to you all. x

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It’s Not About Nonconformism: Trying to Stay Analogue in a Digital Age.

“We try many ways to be awake, but out society still keeps us forgetful.  Meditation is to help us remember”

-Thich Nhat Hanh

A few days ago, I made the decision to delete all of my social media applications off my phone at least for this month.  This means no Instagram, no Facebook nor Facebook messenger for the rest of September.  There’s a couple reasons why I did this, which I will go into more detail later on, but as you read this, I would like you to continuously ask yourself “Would my life be so different if I lived in analogue?”.

The simple answer, in other words, the answer that automatically comes up without any thought is “yes”.  Yes, it would be different, and no, in this day and age it’s impossible to live without some kind of digital source.  But this is where the thought exercise comes in; this automated thought, is it because you genuinely believe this to be true, or is it because the environment we live in now has moulded your values to believe this to be true?  It’s complex, uncomfortable and arguably controversial, but also necessary, and interesting to think of such things.  Or maybe its because I like to play the devils advocate sometimes that I find this interesting.

Anyhow.  The thought to delete these apps came about simply because 1) it was taking up whole chunks out of my day 2) I was starting to become obsessed and 3) because I wanted a new challenge and also something to write about here (I am being honest here!).  Yet to sum it up as one big picture, I started to feel that I was becoming distant with myself, and seeing others be distant with themselves, and I started to question the relevance and validity of social media.

I understand that social media can be argued to be a good thing.  I think (thought?) the same thing.  It widens your scope of knowledge, it helps you keep in touch with friends from other countries, and simultaneously allows for a much easier access of news, contact and what not.  The whole point of the new digital era was so that society could keep up with the growing globalised world, and with that, we would be able to communicate faster and lessen the gap between each human being.  Yet ironically, with the number of people on their phones during their meal, in the cinema, on a date, what was initially meant for communication, has become one of the main barriers of, well, communication.  What was initially meant to encourage the spread of words and knowledge, has led to less discourse, and a reluctance towards human to human contact.

Social media, like any invention (including democracy) can be utilised but also abused.  It has been a source of inspiration, but also a root of plenty of evil.  Social media has achieved in many ways what it sought to achieve on a global scale helping NGOs spread their word, raising awareness to certain issues and allowing the minorities a voice.  On a banal, daily life scale, it allows people to search for new recipes online, for ordinary people to share their own lifestyle hacks, and spread the word for a charity run they may be taking part in.  Similarly, on a global scale it has led to government hacking, activities by ISIS and close government monitoring that borderlines (if not is) a violation of human rights.  Likewise, on a local scale, it leads to unhealthy habits of comparison, eating disorders, mental disorders and lack of empathy and sympathy within young adults today.  Looking at this, it really is difficult, if not impossible to say whether its a good thing or a bad thing.  It’s really not that black and white.

Setting global issues aside, a personal issue I began to have with social media was the unhealthy habits, unhealthy psychological habits I began for form.  In all honesty, my Instagram usage hadn’t changed for many years, but maybe because of meditation or because I am more present with myself now than before, I began to realise how many times a day, I am almost automatically clicking the Instagram app and staying on it for quite a while.  It became so time consuming, and also something that made me more conscious of not how many “likes” I got, but who “liked” my posts.  While I was fortunate enough to realise my unhealthy habits, rather, realise that my habits were unhealthy, there are plenty of young kids who aren’t aware of this.  Those of us, who didn’t grow up in a digital age, might be more resilient, but kids who grew up with Instagram are more susceptible to this constant comparison with others.

Something else I realised was how little I was talking to people.  I talk to people, I message people.  I shop online and someone delivers the parcel to my door and say thank you.  But when I go to a store, I don’t really like it when a staff comes up  to me and starts talking about whatever item I was looking at.  I used to always put headphones in so people didn’t speak to me when I didn’t want to be spoken to.  I realised how I was living in a world where I avoided awkward conversations and unwanted meetings.  But if life is lived constantly avoiding things you don’t want to happen to you, how on earth will things improve?!  The fact that people are spending less face time with each other, means that the quality of communication is depreciating.  We are so used to one worded answers, that some people actually talk like how they would text in real life.  It really made me wonder, whether this life of social media, of knowing someone based on what they express through the screen was something I could live without…

My challenge has only started, and although I have plenty more opinions I want to share on this subject, I feel that it would be better to sum it all up once I complete my challenge, so in a months time, because well who knows, maybe I’ll come back and say social media is something we desperately need.

For the time being though, see how much time you spend on your phone, on Instagram, on Facebook, and think “is the time I’m spending now scrolling through all these posts really the best way to spend my time right now?”.  And I would love to hear your comments and opinions too!

Have a lovely weekend everyone, read a good book and drink some hot tea. x

Oh the Joys of Being Human: What meditating everyday for a month has taught me.

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Lets get straight to the point.  Meditating, yoga and the journey to de-stressed lifestyles and “finding oneself” are practices that have been present for centuries, but one that has only recently become a real “trend”.  In other words, recently, meditation and yoga have been much more accessible, and has allowed ordinary citizens (people who are not Monks) to also be able to experience similar practices, albeit not to the same extent.

So like the thousands of others out there now trying to live the life of a spiritual guru, I too, tried to test it out.  Personally, I’ve been meditating pretty regularly for about 3-4 months now, but in August, I committed myself to meditate every day, even if it was just for 5 minutes, to see what benefits it would bring me, and what amazing inspirations I might gain from it.

Long story short, it was full of contradictions.  Admittedly, one month is not enough to reap all the benefits, but it has taught me various, surprising things, which I will try and summarise as concisely as possible.

First is that if, like me, you went into meditation with the belief that you will soon be decluttering your life, will be disappointed.  Like I said, maybe if you do this in the long term, you might but I highly doubt it.  Why?  Because those of us who live in cities, who have jobs, go to school, or generally lead lives that does not involve working at a Monastery, do not have the benefit of living life focusing solely on meditation alone.  We have stuff to do!  We have to go to class, take orders from bosses, pick up children and cook dinner, clean the house, walk the dog, see your parents, see your friends, the list is endless.  Unfortunately, we just don’t have the life of not thinking about anything except for meditation, it’s just not part of our society.  So, no, even if you meditate everyday, you will not be free from stressors in life, and you will still have the occasional mess in the house, and the occasional breakdown.

Which leads to my second point, meditation does not make you immune to breakdowns.  In fact, I would say the complete opposite, and say that it makes you more vulnerable, and therefore more prone to feeling exposed.  You can take this as a good thing or a bad thing, but I was very, very appreciative of this, purely for the reason that it has made me that much more human.  What I found was that meditation helps you feel more grounded and secure… about your insecurities.  For that small amount of time you are sitting there breathing, and feeling your breath, you realise how small you are, and how big the world is.  With such a broadened perspective, you understand your insecurities and the problems you are currently facing, but simultaneously are also more in tune with other problems; poverty, conflict, displacement, and how compared to those, your own problems are so minute, and much more solvable it humbles you.  You realise that being vulnerable, does not mean being weak, but instead it means human.  And being human (which we all are) means we are being our true selves, which, is all we can hope to be really.

And finally, lets talk about time.  In the first couple days of my practice, I would find that during my meditation my mind would drift off to thinking about what I needed to do that day (I tended to meditate in the morning), and sometimes when I was especially stressed, I would even question why I am wasting my time meditating.  A few more days in and I had a sort of eureka moment.  These thoughts that popped up during my practices were a clear indication of the lack of concentration I had, which could easily be reflected on my other activities outside of meditation.  I started to question the fact that the mere 10 minutes I spent meditating, was probably whittled down to only 4-5 minutes of real meditation, and the rest was spent wasting my time, thinking I was wasting my time.  Once I realised this I became much more aware also on how little I would be concentrating on my school work, or my daily chores, and easily distracted by my phone, by talking to someone, or just anything other than what I was supposed to do.  The realisation of that 10 minutes being solely for meditation, and not worrying about time, or anything else, has really been the most beneficial teaching I gained from this month.  It’s not perfect, but I have become much, much more time-efficient in the things I do, and also, much more efficient in general.  To focus only on what you are doing at that present moment, is such a obvious thing, but something that it very difficult to do.  There are distractions left, right and centre.  Even when you are talking to someone, you might get distracted, but honestly, this concentration practice has helped me listen better, understand people’s opinions better, and no exaggeration, I feel I learned so much in this past month just through this practice.

In conclusion, I meditated for a whole month, and it was full of surprises.  It didn’t bring me peace, it brought me contradiction.  It didn’t bring me immunity, it brought me vulnerability.  It didn’t bring me zen, it brought me concentration.  It didn’t bring me superficial, it brought me human.  The most important lesson that I learned, was that human traits that we often see as disadvantageous, are in fact, the very thing that makes us human.  And what meditation has taught me was that these human characteristics of vulnerability, inner contradictions and lack of concentration are okay and what’s more, the more you embrace them, the stronger you become because you are more in tune with yourself.  In other words, meditation teaches you that it’s okay with not being okay sometimes, and in some ways, it’s also almost irrelevant how you deal with them.  It’s about focusing on what you have at the present moment, what you are doing, and whether you are doing that to the best of your ability.  It allows you to be grateful for what you have now, and know that life is not constant.  It allows you to embrace being human, and being alive.

So would I recommend it? Yes, highly.  It won’t make you a spiritual guru, it won’t destress you as much as you might think, but it will make you stronger in ways you didn’t know would be considered strong.  Also, meditation (I think) brings different realisations to each individual, which is what makes it special.  You, will have different experiences to me, and to the next person etc, and by sharing it with your friends and family, our knowledge of being human expands.

 

Happy meditating everyone. x

I thought I couldn’t. But I tried, and I did.

I thought I never could.

But I tried (and tried… and failed… and tried),

And eventually, I did.

– Me

Okay, so I won’t take the whole credit for this quote, because there are so many on this topic, as are so many lectures and self-help books for you to indulge in should you want some inspiration… but hey, here’s another one!

Sometimes, I look back on the things I’ve done so far in my life, and feel extremely proud of myself for what I have been able to achieve on the way, and how hard I worked for it.

We all have that moment don’t we, no matter how big or small the achievement.  Graduating high school, getting into university, graduating university, getting a job, fighting a disease, running a marathon.  The list is endless regarding how you as an individual can feel proud of yourself.

With that in mind, think now, how many of those things you initially though are things that you wold never be able to do?

Go back to that time, when you looked at where you were, and then you looked at the goal you’ve set yourself for the future, and think “how am I going to achieve this?”.  But time passed, and you found yourself working day in and day out to achieve it and in the end, you completed it.  It became on of your many accomplishments.

Naturally, writing this down on paper is so much easier than the actual process.  it’s difficult not because the task you set yourself is too big ( I don’t think any task is too big if your heart and soul is in it), but because most of the time, you can’t actually see the progress you’re making, and worse, sometimes you feel like you’re regressing.  It’s hard because you have to motivate yourself on days you feel de-motivated, and because sometimes you have to sacrifice having a good time to what’s best for you.  But a goal is something you set for yourself because it means something to you, and that alone has a lot of strength to keep you at it.  The occasional reminder you get from your diary, or friends and family as to why you started this journey in the first place is the very energy that pushes you on.  So you stick to your plan, schedule, timeline and continue (however grudgingly) until one day, out of the blue, you realise that you’ve reached it.

All of a sudden, it’s results day and you realise that you’ve graduated and been accepted at a university or at a job, or its race day and you ran your miles and crossed the finish line.  Perhaps you’ve been battling and illness, and after the long hard battle, you’re told that you’re in remission.  All of a sudden it dawns on you in that one tiny moment that this was all possible because you tried, you fought, even though you thought it was never going to happen.  And because of that, that one tiny moment becomes one unforgettable achievement in life.

Like I said, today I was doing some self-reflection and this very thought popped in my mind.  There are many things that I have managed to do, which I thought I couldn’t.  I tried, and failed, I cried, and tried, fell many times (sometimes literally) but got back up and kept going.  All of which has allowed me to become the person I am right now.  So I am extremely grateful.

But I was also simultaneously motivated (as I hope you will be too).  There are still many things that I want to pursue, many things that I feel are just “dreams”.  But these “dreams” will hopefully turn into realistic goals, and if I take things one step at a time, will also hopefully turn into things that were dreams but then became reality.

In the end, it’s never too late to start something, and if you find what you are passionate about, it’s important not to let it go.  Know how much it means for you to achieve it, and that will make it ten times easier to keep going when the going gets tough.

Also, always, always celebrate each and every achievement you have accomplished because they are evidence to the hard work you put in.  And also, keep in mind, that goals and achievements are personal.  You don’t have to be a CEO or a multi-millionaire to consider yourself successful, because every day you lead where you wake up and did what you planned to do to take that one step forward, is in itself successful.  You make the goals, you defy your own expectation and you progress.  Own that life!

So here’s to us, everyone all around the world, working hard towards our goals. x

Letters to my Past and Future Self

“It does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop”

– Confucius

Dear past self,

Yesterday was my birthday, and as your parents always said, to be another year older means also to be another year wiser.  From the mere 23 years I have lived, this old saying is so far proving to be true.  2 decades have passed, and I am entering into my third one, and although my life experience is still insignificant, here are some lessons I’ve learned along the way.

First of all, life is messy.  It’s an obvious fact, but something that can be overlooked.  Everyday we plan what we want our day to be like, and yet it will never go as planned.  That is because there are things that you can control, and things you cannot control.  And while we do our best to plan and perfect the former, the latter will always come as a surprise and break the flow of our plans.  Life is messy and unpredictable, but learn to love the unpredictability and learn to love the spontaneity.  Learn that life isn’t beautiful because it is perfect, but rather, see the beauty in the imperfectness of things.  Learn that life is not about the where you are at the end, but rather about how you got there.  The process is what makes life fun, and what makes for a good story, and the process is where you have the chance to develop as a human, and improve yourself.

Second, know that there will be times when others see potential in you that you don’t see.  And when this happens, trust them.  Similarly there will be times when you see potential that others don’t see in you, in which case trust yourself.  As you grow up, you will find it harder to trust other people because you experience hurt and betrayal, but it’s so important to trust others when they support you.  Life is all about inclusion, and whatever you do, it’s always good to have support, so when you are hired for a job you never thought you’d get, or when someone you never thought would, offers you help, trust that they see something that you do not yet see in yourself.  Trust that they will help you, so long as you work hard and keep at it.  Yet more importantly, always trust yourself.  While other people may betray you, you will always be the one person who continues to support you no matter what.  Don’t lose that.  There will, quite opposite to the former situation, be times when others do not see what you see in you.  When this happens, know that only you know what you want, what you are capable of and what you are prepared to do, and so trust that belief and keep moving forward.

Always ask for help if you need it.  As scary as it might be to ask, there will always be someone who will be willing to help you out.  As the saying goes “if you don’t ask, you will never get”.

Follow your instincts.  They don’t call it a “gut feeling” for nothing.  When something feels right or wrong, follow that feeling.  Your head might be saying otherwise, but your head says a lot of unnecessary things too.  Society might say otherwise too, but really, who are you living for, them or yourself?  Most of the time, if you are drawn to something, compelled to take action, then whatever it is, probably is the right thing to do.  Even if it means jumping into the unknown, be fearless and go for it.

Which leads me to my next point; get out of your comfort zone and learn from the experience.  Know that the comfort zone is a stationary zone.  While it doesn’t make you regress, it doesn’t help you progress either.  Getting out of it, means challenging yourself, and that is when you really see what your limits are.  You’ll be surprised because more often than not, we place our limits a lot lower than it actually is.  Being out of your comfort zone will help you realise your own potential and gain confidence, because you’d be proud of yourself for getting out in the first place.  Initial impressions of things are not always the lasting ones.

And finally, keep moving forward.  Do all the above, and if things still doesn’t seem to be looking up, don’t beat yourself up about it.  Know that sometimes you can put a load of effort into something and it goes to pieces.  Life will not always be a cup half full, but it’s about how you handle the obstacles that are put in your way.  If you can get up one more time than you are knocked down, that in itself is showing strength, and life will naturally find a way to give you something you deserve as a result of it.  Don’t regret the past, learn   from it, and just keep moving forward, one step at a time.

You still have a lot to learn, a lot to improve and the whole world is your oyster.  Make the most of it because you just don’t know when things might turn around, for better or for worse.  Keep your head high and take on each challenge as it comes.  Don’t fear life, live it.

 

***

Dear future self

Now to my future self, I hope you are still sticking to your values.  I hope that you are spending quality time with friends and family, and telling them how much they mean to you regularly.  I hope you are taking the time everyday to be grateful for all that you have, and all the opportunities that have come your way.

I hope you are working hard, and prioritising things well.  Hopefully you’re not putting too much strain.  Work hard, but don’t over work.  Have a break, and sleep in sometimes even though it’s what you hate the most.

I hope you are still being active and playing tennis, and reading books.  I hope you are still educating yourself because education is priceless.  I hope you are learning new skills be it languages, hobbies or what not.

Most importantly, I hope you are doing something that helps others.  I hope you give more than you are taking.  I hope you are going out in the fields and seeing the world, and still maintaining the positive faith you have in the good of the human heart.  I hope that you still have the courage to stand back up after falling, and that you are looking forward not back.  For you, the future me, is what motivates the current me, and inspires me to do the things I do.  You, the future me, is my role model and the person I look up to, so I hope you are enjoying your life, and making the most of it too.

 

Identity and Being Human.

“Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no ones definition of your life, but define yourself”

– Harvey Fierstein

I actually had a couple topics I wanted to write about before I posted this, but with everything going on in the news right now, it’s become a topic that I can’t sit still and watch happen.  I needed to get some things off my chest.

Identity.  It’s a mysterious word.  We know what it means, but when we have to define it, it becomes difficult, and when we look at ourselves and how we, as each individuals, identify ourselves, we realise that each individual is so unique and different to the next individual.  This is not new, and more recently, there have been specific classes in school that look into religion and identity for example.  But here, I want to look at human and identity.

I touched upon it in one of the early posts when I gave my own understanding of what it means to be human and what it means to be a person, and how the latter had a lot to do with the concept of identity.  I didn’t go into much detail on identity then, but I do want to delve deeper into it now.  Identity is something that even scholars cannot all agree completely on, where some argue that it’s inherent, and comes from within, while others argue that it is a social construct.  It is in many ways how we, as one human, distinguishes ourself from the next, and allows us to be part of a group, or part of a category where one can relate to.  Identity is sharing a thought, belief, race, sexuality, experience, so really it has a lot to do with a shared something.  Yet, while identity means sharing and inclusion, it can also lead to division and exclusion.

Social stigma, and social exclusion is not new, and while some of us may have been fortunate enough to have never experienced feeling left out or excluded, many of us have been victim to this.  Whether you’re treated differently because of your race, gender, sexuality or religion, one way or another, we, the brilliantly intellectual human beings, have found ways to create conflict in times of peace and division in times of unity.  And this is exactly what got me questioning, whether being human means taking a step back and disassociating oneself from one’s identity.

I was first exposed to this new thought, when I was reading HH the Dalai Lama’s book on “Happiness” followed by his other book written alongside Archbishop Desmond Tutu called “The Book of Joy”.  Both are advocates of peace, love and compassion and truly respected religious leaders, be it completely different religions.  It was there, that it was mentioned how it is important when talking to people, to talk to the human.  The walking, talking, thinking organism created by bones and muscle.  The very animal that all share the capacity to love, laugh and cry.  Because it is at this level that we are all equal.

Please, just take a moment to think about this.

If we strip ourselves from our most recent experiences, if we strip ourselves from what we categorise ourselves to be, we strip ourselves down to the very basic nature that is, being human (which, is precisely what this blog is about).  Your Muslim friend might share different religious views to your Christian friend.  Your straight friend might have different opinions than your gay friend.  Your multicultural, multilingual friend might have different ways of doing things than your straight up local friend.  We are all different, in so many ways, and each of what makes us different, the experiences, have led to these differences.  But strip that away, and your friend is still your friend, your friend is very much human just like you.  Strip that away and you realise that when you are insulting, or excluding another person, you are ultimately insulting and excluding yourself.  Strip the identity away, and soon you realise that a religion, race, sexuality, gender never mattered.  It’s times when you see your own stereotypes being wrong like a skinhead helping an old woman cross the road (as a most generic and hopefully least controversial example) that it becomes so apparent how irrelevant identity can be.

It’s difficult.  There’s no doubt about it.  It’s hard to disassociate yourself from identities that have defined you for your whole life, or how your surroundings have defined you.  It’s also hard to imagine, to lose your identity.  It’s seen as a negative thing.  But keeping in mind I’m not talking literally, and rather metaphorically and in an abstract way, it is possible to rid yourself of identity.  It simply means putting your differences aside, and seeing everyone as human.  Because low and behold, as animals, we protect our species, and when we realise that we are all human, we get the urge to protect us, each other.

Please also bear in mind, that I’m not condemning identity.  Identity is necessary because that is what creates societies.  Yet when identity can be misunderstood and abused.  When certain perceptions of an identity is used to label a whole category of people, or used as a reason to deny people’s rights, that is when I believe that identity can be dangerous, and it becomes even more important to get in touch with the inner human.  Identity is important, yes, but it does is not the complete definition of us.  Being human is.

Have a think over a nice cup of tea or coffee, and the next time you talk to someone, talk to them as a human, and see how far that might take you.

Have a great rest of the week! x.

PS. I HIGHLY recommend the books “The Book of Happiness” and “The Book of Joy” that have been mentioned above.  The message is universal, and it doesn’t matter who you are, it’s very important.  Take a look when you have the time.

 

How Simple is Living Simply?

Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated”

– Confucius

This is a question I ask myself often.  In the chaos of living in a city, and just living in this modern world, you hear the word “simple” being tossed around without really knowing what it means, and you tell other people you want to live a “simple life” without really knowing how to live that way.

A while back, I was talking to a friend, and we both agreed that those who commit their whole lives to “living simply” such as Monks, perhaps find it easier to do so primarily because it is their responsibility to do so.  This is not to undermine the strength and sacrifice that these Monks have gone through in order to achieve such a feat, but there is a truth to the thought that if it is your job to live a certain way, it makes it that much easier.  On the contrast, if you were a business man/woman living in New York, London, Tokyo or any bustling city, and ask them to try and live a simple life where one meditates every morning, has time for tea and further meditation in the afternoon, and living only with the bare necessities of life, it becomes a different story.  The business man/woman will find that he/she can’t always fit in meditation in the morning, might not always have time to have tea by himself/herself and might often find themselves being called up to a meeting at a last minute notice, and also find themselves unconsciously spending money for things they know they don’t really need, but need it at the time because they forgot to pack it in their suitcase.  This latter story is something that if you live in the modern world, you will be able to relate to.

Recently you see it more and more on social media with videos on how to live a minimalist life and living simply.  It’s become a dream that everyone strives towards, and yet there is one huge barrier that is in the way, which I think is why it’s so hard to achieve this “simple life”.  One word. Money.

I honestly believe that materialism and the simple life (minimalism) cannot go hand in hand.  So long as you are looking at money as something you need to buy things that you presume you need, the concept of simple living is not being fully understood.  Naturally, we no longer live in a hunter-gatherer world, we no longer go to the forrest to forage fruit and vegetables, and instead most of us (bar a lucky few who might own farms or have vegetable patches) have to go to supermarkets to buy food.  So yes, money is necessary to buy food.  So in that sense it does become a necessity.  I would also agree that money is necessary to live as part of the society for we all need to pay taxes and bills.  But then I’ll raise this question.  Setting aside the things that you definitely do need to pay for in order not to starve, or be sent to jail or to have a basic functional life, is this all you spend your money on?  The answer, probably, if you live in the modern world, is no.  At some point in time, you would have spent it on clothing, furniture, stationary, makeup, shoes, travel, kitchen good, honestly the list goes on.  And yet, while we spend our days in stores looking for something that we think we need  when in actual fact they are only things we want, we go around telling people about the dream to live a simple life.  Starting to understand this conundrum?

Living simply is not necessarily about living in a white walled terraced house, with plants and kitchen tiles made of marble.  It’s not necessarily about living in a wooden cottage that is surrounded by windows and has a “simple but homely feel”.  In other words, the concept of living simply has, much like everything else, been distorted.  Living simply, in actuality, may seem dirty, may seem extreme and it most certainly takes a lot more effort than setting up the furniture in the most picturesque way, because I believe that living simply is not just about how it looks, but more importantly, it is about a state of mind.

De-cluttering your room can help you feel a little more refreshed and clear-headed, but its also possible to be stressed and under pressure when living in an open space.  Why? Because your state of mind hasn’t been trained to think simply.  For this, it takes practice, because like the quote above, the mind likes to complicate things, when much of the problems we face have simple solutions.  Practicing the mind seems like such an odd concept, but it has really simple consequences.  It means that you no longer have to isolate yourself or move houses to try and live a simple life, you don’t need to completely refurbish your apartment, you don’t have to seclude yourself.  What you do need to do however, is to make time (even if its only 10 minutes of the day) to get in touch with yourself, and see the state you are in.  What you do need to be, is to be disciplined about it.  For those of us who are working in cities, it’s unrealistic to try and lead the quiet yoga-filled lifestyle of the Buddhist monks, and it’s just as unrealistic to try and lead the amazingly photogenic yogi lifestyle of some instagram accounts, just purely based on the fact that we have shit to do.

Yet despite this, I think this is the very beauty of life, that no matter how complicated the matter may seem, the answer is always very simple; you do or you don’t.  I’m trying my best to have a different perspective on money and material goods, and trying to de-clutter my mind before I de-clutter my space.  That way, the goals is not only arguably more achievable, but also more (hopefully) more sustainable.

Take some time, and jot down things you need, and things you want.  And think how you can help yourself think simply, and how you can then start to realistically change your lifestyle to be a little more simple.

 

Have a good weekend everyone x.