And then celebration showed up

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This post was meant for the 31st of March. That day was my birthday. But a lot happened on the day that these words found themselves bruised and bleeding on a page. They found their way to the bottom of the pile, the dusty and grungy bit of neglect. I picked them up last night and felt a sense of sorrow at lost moments and opportunities. How do we redeem the time? How do I redeem the time?

Here goes… Read More

Writing blogposts at 37 000 feet in the air

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This plane has got to land. It has got to make it to Los Angeles so I get off and thank God that it was all alright.

But right now, it is the safest place in this 11, 279 metres of space above ground and sea. Suspended and gliding through the air. I over heard the lady in the row in front of me marvel at how this whole thing works. Read More

When the universe breathes with you

Universe breathing

We talked about storms.

And the fact that we both love them. Despite being restless sleepers we sleep better when chaos rages in nature. Rainy nights with violent wind as music are soothing to us.

I marvelled at this the other day.

For the first time I became conscious of my idiosyncrasies; like feeling naked leaving the house without a book in my handbag or that every day in winter I go to bed with a beautiful scarf wound around my neck or that I want to be proposed to on a construction site with ramble everywhere.

As I thought about these things, I noticed myself and I became mesmerised by the things that make me, me. The perfect bits and the not-so perfect bits.

I became a wonder to myself.

It reminded of Donald Miller’s book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. He writes about an autistic boy who sits and stares at his hands, flicking his fingers in front of his face watching them like flames. And because Donald Miller didn’t know much about autism, he figured the boy was more or less mesmerised by his existence.

I couldn’t have put it more eloquently myself.

How often do we do that? Really watch ourselves with fascination, appreciating what we are and can do?

How often do we take a moment to take it all in – the marvellous fact that we are HERE, NOW, ALIVE?

How often are we mesmerised by our individual and collective existence?

It’s so easy to get used to life…to the point where it loses its brilliance and we are no longer impressed with its beauty. A sunset becomes just another sunset and so does a birth, wedding, funeral, relationship…

Life becomes mundane.

Donald Miller feels that perhaps one of the reasons we fail to acknowledge the brilliance of life is because we don’t want the responsibility that comes with that acknowledgement.

I agree.

If life is mundane then we don’t have to do anything really. We can just fold our arms and go with the flow as unwilling victims of life’s machinations.

Because if life is truly this extraordinary, remarkable thing then we will feel compelled to live it well as it deserves. We will have to breathe and face challenges with courage. We will have be amazing characters in our own stories.

I don’t know how many people are willing to do that these days. It’s much easier to see life as meaningless because then you don’t have to be accountable for anything or to anyone. You can just do whatever you want.

I am so relieved that I am being broken away; that something is happening to me…

It’s that thing that happens when you start listening and responding to your inner wooing; when you let your passion guide you to your purpose. It drowns out all the mediocrity and negativity of the world and allows you to see life the way it really is; an unashamed and un-apologetic incredible, incredible gift. And so you pack away your fears, put on your grateful glasses and you go for the stars.

It’s beautiful. The realisation.

That life is romancing you. And that the universe breathes with you.

You are not alone.

Your life is not meaningless.

You can do this. You’ve got this.

Life is in love with you.

And it begs you for a chance to unfold for you. Trust It.

You are not alone.

I am here.

You are not alone.

The universe breathes with you.

 

 

“I want your life”

About three weeks ago I was going through a friend’s profile on Facebook and I was struck by how well she seemed to be doing. The more I explored her ins and outs through her posts and statuses, the more a strange desire grew in me. I sat with this uncomfortable feeling until it became obvious that I was envious of this friend. In that moment I wished I had her life.

As embarrassing as it was for me to admit, it was also a moment of clarity. 

I know that most of us have at some point looked at another person’s life and thought, “I wish I had that life.” And I suppose that is normal in as far as human weaknesses go. But have you ever seriously considered why we sometimes feel like that? Why we would want somebody else’s life instead of our own?

These are the questions I have been wrestling with since my Facebook moment.

Of course the simplest answer is that somebody else’s life always appears easier, more glamorous and fulfilling than our own. Perhaps they have that perfect job we have been working hard for or they have access to opportunities we have been dreaming of, and maybe they have the financial security we would do anything to acquire.  I guess these are all legitimate reasons to feel envious especially when we consider that life isn’t really fair. Some people are born into privilege and thus are often set up for life while others have to start from scratch.

Yes, I do feel the pinch of life’s unfairness sometimes, and it would be easy to become resentful.

But unfortunately or fortunately, the idea that our life would be better and easier if we had that other person’s life is merely an apparition. Because the truth is, even if we did have that person’s life, there would be somebody else’s life that would be more appealing and we would want that too! It is and would be an endless cycle. That’s why it is important to remember that our thinking that our life would be better if we had someone else’s is an illusion. And it only exists to distract us…if we let it.

I was giving my first paper at a symposium two weeks ago and the professor who gave the keynote speech said something very interesting – something I did not expect to hear in an academic paper. He said, “The reason why I am me is because I am not you.”

I was so struck by his words that for a moment my mind left the room and I was re-living those dark feelings I had experienced while scanning my friend’s Facebook profile a few days earlier. Only this time, I was giving them meaning, understanding them, and choosing to be bigger than them. Everything made sense…I am me for the simple reason that I am not my friend on Facebook who appears to be doing well. 

That realisation compelled me to see myself in a different light. I am the heroine of my life story but there I was wishing somebody else was standing in my place! How could I disrespect myself like that? 

I was compelled to do better; to embrace myself, to value myself, to know myself so intimately that I would willingly and lovingly respect myself. 

See, when we are wishing for somebody else’s life, we often tell ourselves that it’s only because we want what they have and has nothing to do with how we see ourselves. And this may be partly true but what is also true is that in that moment, we lose focus on who we are, our journey and our uniqueness, and in that way, whether we like it or not, it does become about how we see ourselves.

I am amazed at how everything I am learning as I grow older has a lot to do with how I perceive myself. Being a person who is very much about others I tend to neglect me. But as I am finding out, the better I’m doing, the better I’m able to be of service to others. 

So, what does this have to do with wanting somebody else’s life?
Everything.

The key to overcoming that proclivity to wish you were walking somebody else’s path is developing a profound relationship with yourself and your own life.  
You have to fall in love…with yourself.
You have to be mesmerised by the little and big things that make your life your own and nobody else’s.
This is where it all begins. 

Take time off every now and then to be quiet within yourself and listen to your spirit. Commune with your own soul and get to know its heights and depths.
I kid you not; the world takes on a totally different shade of colour when you are in tune with yourself.

So, the next time you find yourself in that dark place where you want somebody else’s life (and you will), stop, take a deep breath and say;
“No, I want my life.”  

The winds of courage

I’m standing on the edge of a cliff; surrounded by dry, deserted, rocky mountains whose substance are boulders of ancient rocks clinging desperately to each other. 

Aside from the giant eagles hovering way above, there is no one here but me.
I take a deep breath.

The wind is swift and forceful on my face digging into me, compelling me. I hold my ground as it effortlessly unties my hair and in one sweep sends it flowing behind me. 

Finally, I look down…down into the gorge below. 
My heart begins to pound.

The wind is fierce now – fighting with me, cutting into my skin. Tears are running down my cheeks as I close my eyes.

I’m not here to jump.
I’m here to face my darkest fears.
I’m here to face myself.

I’ve been on this cliff for the last three weeks. And for the first time I have the courage to acknowledge the bruises the wind has etched onto my skin. 

We often think of courage as doing huge, visibly heroic acts, but that is not all courage is. It is also, and even more so, in the quiet, private battles we fight when attempting to conquer our inner fears.

I have been fighting an inner battle that led me to this cliff. Sometimes there are parts of ourselves that we cannot see fully until we are standing on the edge. I’ve been struggling with that part of myself for the last few weeks – the part of me that feels insecure, especially in friendships. I know I’m a good friend but at the same time I doubt myself. But maybe everybody feels like that sometimes. 

After some honest evaluation I was able to name what has gone un-named and has always evaded me. I have come to see that when it comes to friendships, one of my major weaknesses is trust – I find it difficult to trust that I mean as much to the other person as they do to me. This is why sometimes I find myself comparing how I love with how I’m Ioved in return and often they do not tally and rightly so…since as individuals we all speak different love languages. By not being actively conscious of this fact I end up hurting myself and others. 

So, my lack of trust of what I mean to the people and friends I know has been the source of my insecurities and doubts. This has not been easy for me to admit to myself. I have wrestled with it and wrestled some more, and in the end, I had to choose between running away from it or having the courage to face it and conquer it.

I choose courage.

The word courage comes from the root of the of French word “Coeur” meaning heart. According to poet David Whytes, courage is simply the measure of your heartfelt participation in the world.
I don’t know about you but my heart is at the forefront of how I live my life, and because of this, it is right in the firing line. Remember I made the decision to be honest and vulnerable with myself and my life journey. This is why I am so open about my personal challenges…even when it means admitting that I am not so perfect after all.

As human beings we are constantly trying to do courageous things and take courageous paths but even then, we hope there is a way to take that courageous step without having one’s heart broken. Unfortunately, it does not work like that. In all our relationships – friendships, marriage, families, we will at some point get hurt or do the hurting. This does not mean we cower away in fear. 

Again, like David Whytes, I believe that if we are sincere about examining our own integrity, we should, if we are really serious, at times be disappointed with ourselves – this is not cause to be ashamed but rather to improve. This sincerity is what my blog is about. It is what I am about.

Attempts to develop courage and self-confidence are daily journeys that everyone makes – a life process from which no one is exempt. It is how we handle the things that rattle our everyday tranquillity or our willingness to or not to step out of our comfort zone.

As I stand by the cliff and the wind continues to cut into me, it brings along with it a sense of hope…that even though the process is painful, it is worthwhile for my now and for my future. 

I set sail on the winds of courage and I’m reminded that courage is not the absence of fear but the awareness that something else is more important. And my being a better person and friend is definitely more important.

As you journey through life, may you have the courage to face everyday with honesty, openness and integrity.

The 2nd law of fabulous living

Three Thursdays ago, my house-mate and I drove to Daylesford, a breathtakingly beautiful country-town north-west of Melbourne.

This was a day after I had sat in my supervisor’s office discussing my PhD research. I had told him about all the emotions, inadequacies and insecurities I was going through. It had been five months since I started my research and even though I had an idea what I was doing it still felt like I was meandering through uncharted waters.

And especially that day, I felt like I wasn’t making any progress. I felt lost.

While my supervisor was kind and offered his support, he also said something that I wasn’t expecting, something that made me stop in my tracks;
“Sunshine, you have to be committed”.

I found his words chilling and sparks went off in my head – that’s what tends to happen to me when I am at a cross-road and I am being offered a life-line.

At the start of this year, I came to a realisation that changed the way that I look at my goals and dreams. And I must point out here that changing the way you look at your goals and dreams is essentially changing the way you look at your life.

In the past I would get frazzled at the thought of how long it’s taking me to achieve some of my dreams. Even though I felt committed to my life’s journey and making my dreams come true, it dawned on me that I had to do much more than that.

See, as a principle, commitment governs itself. You cannot be committed if you are not committed. Put another way, the first thing you need to learn about commitment is that you have to be committed to it.

So at the start of this year when I understood this, I made a pact with commitment itself that is helping me to keep moving forward even when it seems as though I’m not making any progress.

Because it is very important, it fully qualifies as the 2nd law of fabulous living:
“Be committed to being committed”

This law will protect you from getting weary in times when you have done all you can and the only thing left is to breathe and wait. It will also aid you with discipline because you will realise that the only way to get results is to stay committed.

The beauty about commitment is that it never disappoints. Yes, sometimes it may take many years to get to where you want to go but you will get there if you stay on the path and remain steadfast.

Commitment is showing up over and over and over again. And this is one of the hardest things you and I will ever do in this life.
Personally, I tend to forget that it’s an everyday thing.

Finishing my PhD is important to me but with all the other things I’m working on I somehow let that fact slip away from my mind. Sitting in my supervisor’s office, I was reminded that if I want Dr. to replace Miss as a prefix to my name, I have to recommit myself.

The trip to Daylesford helped clear my head. I felt connected to God and to all other things at one and the same time. And for me, that is where commitment begins.
There has to be a connection somewhere if commitment is going to work.

We are done!
We have established the 3 laws that will help us live a fabulous life. I don’t know about you but I am very excited about this!

So, while I do my happy dance, you guys can go on ahead and meditate on the 2nd law of fabulous living 🙂

The 1st law of fabulous living

I am at that point in my life where, in the larger scheme of things, my existence is beginning to make sense – like a bright speck of light on the horizon growing bigger and bigger. It’s illuminating.

I can trace my life journey to this point and in my mind I can connect and engage with life principles that always seemed mysterious before.
I guess I am becoming defined.

But then they do say the twenties are a time of discovery and definition – the time when you find yourself. I suppose there is some truth in that.

I’ve always had an appetite for growth, change, spontaneous combustion and passion. In fact, I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t reaching out for some lofty goal. Hence, I’ve always believed that I was born with this overwhelming desire to be the master at being me – to do me brilliantly.

Now, this in no way suggests that I do me perfectly…far from it. But I am one hundred percent committed.

My journey with words, motivation and inspiration began way before I was born. You see, my father was a visionary and my mother gave and still gives voice to passion. So to me it seemed natural that I should walk this path.

I read my first motivational book at around 14. It was Maximising Your Potential by Myles Munroe. I was spellbound and thus began my love affair with uplifting books.
I have read countless similar books over the years and I should kick myself for not keeping a proper record of every one of those books.

Every time I would read these books I would be invigorated but, unfortunately, I somehow didn’t seem to have it in me to sustain that vigour. It just never added up or came together for me in a way that I could translate it practically in my own life.

At some point, I gave up on those annoying books because I knew they didn’t work. Little did I know that I was entirely missing the point.

It’s taken me a long time to understand. Here is what I have learned about growth, change and inspirational books, and I give it to you as the all-important 1st law of fabulous living:

People do not change because of what they hear – they change because of what they decide to do with what they hear.

If you want to grow, change and live fabulously, this is the first thing you need to understand. It is absolutely paramount.

Anybody can have knowledge and ultimately, there is nothing special about that. What sets great people apart from the crowd is what they do with the knowledge they have. These people understand that life operates according to laws and principles and they make it a point to stay within the bounds of those guidelines.

This 1st law defines your relationship with life’s principles. When you grasp it, you will maximise your potential, grow, expand and become the change you want to see in your own life.

But, don’t just take my word for it; put it to the test. I am and I can tell you now that it works.

So, I guess now you can ask me what the 1st law of fabulous living is! 🙂

The 3rd law of fabulous living

Yes, I suppose I’m making laws now 🙂

For some reason I am absolutely certain about the 3rd law of living fabulously. Don’t ask me what the 1st or 2nd law is…not just yet anyway.

So, what is this 3rd law?
“Thou shalt not be desperate.”

By nature, I’m a very calm person. I don’t tend to wave my hands in the air, scream or speak real loud. My supervisor at work has many a time said, “Sunshine, you’re like a quiet, little mouse!” I smile because I like it. Truth is I believe more in being seen than being heard. Of course on the surface, this side of me appears to be in conflict with my emotionally, passionate side or the fact that I want to be a writer and speaker (both of which require me to be heard). But surprisingly, it doesn’t. I’m knitted together quite beautifully, if I may be allowed to say so myself 🙂

What does this have to do with desperation?

Well, despite my calm, inner composure, desperation has been my live-in foe, always on hand to test me.And as you might know it is a very cunning foe.

And when I speak of desperation, I hope you’re not only thinking of it in terms of visible, reckless despair. It is also that emotional constant nagging of “I wish…I wish…oh I wish!” And that is mostly the kind of desperation I’m talking about.

For example, I would love to meet the man who was made for me and I have noticed that I go looking for him in every attractive guy I see or meet. I may not always be doing it consciously but I’m still doing it. I am desperate. I want my book to get published. I wish…I wish…oh I wish! I’m desperate.

My list could go on.

So recently, I sat myself down and I read, thought listened, meditated and decided I had had enough. Desperation and I are going to respect each other’s spaces and part ways. I’ve put myself on an interesting challenge which I’ll be happy to share sometime in the future. In the meantime, hear me out.

Desperation (the kind I’m talking about here) is a result of principles working behind the scenes. We often don’t think that everything works according to invisible laws and principles but they most certainly do. And awareness of this saves a lot of heartache.

Back to desperation – I’m calling this principle the principle of pursuit. We know we should follow and pursue our dreams and passions, right? And we grow up hearing this over and over. Of course, this is great! But what they don’t tell us is that there are so many great things in life that absolutely should not be pursued directly. They come as a result. They are fruits of certain ways of thinking, doing and living.

For instance, I’m sure we all know that you can’t go looking for happiness because happiness is not a bus stop somewhere on which you arrive or something you can take hold of in your hands. But you might experience it as you take a walk along the seaside and stumble upon a stunning sunset.

So often when we directly pursue things that shouldn’t be directly pursued we become desperate.

In a book I was reading a few weeks ago, the author was talking about how whenever we are desperate for anything, we create an energy that pushes it away. Is it any wonder that we often don’t get what we are most desperate for? That is the principle actively at work.

Take nature for example, it doesn’t understand desperation. It always seeks balance and you cannot be desperate and balanced at one and the same time.

The question then is, how can you avoid being desperate when you are desperate?

It’s all about attitude, and this is what I’m learning and proving. That attitude of saying, I need X to be happy is very, very tricky. Sure, in some cases it is true but in most, it always leads to disaster.

If you’re interested in living a fabulous life, you must pay attention to the 3rd law. Do everything you can to make whatever you’re trying to achieve work and then let things flow. This is not being indifferent, it’s just not forcing things. And it is extremely difficult to do but more often than not, the results will come.

So, as always, be fabulous! And remember, thou shalt not be desperate.

Birthday thoughts

Today is the day I was born.

It’s no big deal really. Personally, I feel mothers should get all the glory and honour on days like these. They are the ones who nurtured us, carried us and gave birth to us.

But…this is not to say I do not appreciate all the warm, fuzzy thoughts loved ones are sending my way, the lovely messages, the beautiful wishes and the love evident in these gestures – I do. And I thank you.

What do you often think about on your birthday?

Are you one of those people who go, “woe is me, I’m getting old!” I sure hope not because that is a sad perspective to have.

There is a beauty in getting older that I feel is greatly overlooked. Society has become obsessed with youth and being young. Wisdom and true beauty only come with age and experience. These are the things that last. Youth is only temporary.

As I write this I’m seated out in the garden reflecting on days gone by and the ones that lie ahead. The sun is generously pouring its magnificent light and warmth right into my face. There is this harmony in the garden that is truly astounding. It’s like every living thing in here, every sight and sound is perfect in its existence.

Nothing is out of place – the birds with their unrehearsed but flawless chirping, the bees with their fat little bottoms scurrying around in pure busyness, the rustling grass. Even the tiny lemon tree with its delectable fruit. Everything is where it should be. Nature is just brilliant at co-existing. This is what I wish my years ahead – a way to exist and function with everything that surrounds me. To be fully there.

On our drive home from the Physiotherapist this morning, I saw a Chestnut tree. I believe it was my first. There it stood gracefully on a quiet, lonely street. Its fruit scattered beneath it in a surprisingly artistic way. It was as though somebody actually took the time to arrange those spiny but strikingly coloured fruits. There was something about that sight of the Chestnut tree that stirred this soft soul of mine.

I thought what a beautiful image to be blessed with on one’s birthday! That is my gift and I will store it up for a rainy day.

Speaking of gifts, my Dad had this thing of giving something on his birthday instead of receiving. I’m going to continue that legacy of his.

So today I want to give you a gift.

It’s a commitment to be true to my purpose as a way of encouraging you to be true to yours. A commitment to be faithful, honest and vulnerable with life so I can share with you what I learn. My hope is that you will be inspired to step out with a spring in your step as you learn to conquer your fears and LIVE.

Think happy thoughts today. And remember what lasts.

Unconventional

I have a favourite spot to sit on every bus. On the one that shuttles between the Monash Caulfield and Clayton campuses, it’s the fifth row seat, right next to the window, where I can see the whole world unfold before me. I can watch the cars go past, people walking on the pavements, the clouds shift and change shape and the birds glide the skies as though mechanical engines pose no contest whatsoever.

I was sitting in my special spot this morning as we waited for the bus to fill up, and I was doing my usual watching when I caught sight of the most unconventional thing. Up on the roof of the bus platform shelter, three little plants stood, strong and majestic in their bearing. I was astonished and so I asked them, “hey little things, how did you get up there?” They just danced in the cold breeze as though they expected me to know the answer to my own question. Even as the bus drove off, I could not take my eyes off them. How did three little plants, healthy and sound end up on top of a bus shelter? There was obviously something nourishing them in the little soil that was up on that roof. I felt as though life was speaking to me.

Just 10 minutes before, I was seated in my honours course coordinator’s office and he had been telling me how difficult it is to go straight into doing a PhD without doing a masters’ degree; how difficult it is to be a writer; how expensive postgraduate programs are; how I had no choice but to finish my thesis draft by the 24th of September. The air was saturated with negativity. And even though there was some truth to his words, his talk had dampened my spirit, made me feel like I was gulping air instead of enjoying my breaths.

And so as I watched through the window I realised that those little plants growing in the most unlikely place was life’s way of rescuing me. They were doing something unconventional, beating the odds. They found a way to survive, to flourish in difficult and foreign terrain…so can I. I am not going to walk a path just because everybody else is walking it, nor will I speak a speech just because everybody else is speaking it.

The world seems to function in a way that tends to protect its own systems and barriers, so those for instance, who are at the bottom stay at the bottom and those at the top stay at the top and the gap between is made to seem insurmountable, and the journey for those who dare venture to go up is made arduous. As Alice Walker so eloquently put it, the common attitude in the world is that the only way I can bloom is if I step on your flower, and the only way I can shine is if I put out your light. And quite frankly that is the most exhausting and saddest way of looking at life.

But as those three little plants said to me today, you don’t have to worry so much about the world’s conventions. What you need is to find soil, nourishing soil and then you too, can grow and strive in the most unlikely place. I know the road I take and the ground I stand on might not make conventional sense to most people but that is only because I choose to be unconventional.