Loss, Suicide and the Ugly parts of life.

Over the past week, many people have discovered the passing of Anthony Bourdain. Whilst I haven’t done the typical “RIP” post to facebook that everyone tends to do in these sadly increasing circumstances, this particular death has hit me pretty hard. It’s odd when a celebrity dies – you don’t know them at all but their faces are so familiar to you, you’ve heard them talk, sing, you’ve read about their lives. They’ve told stories in your living room for years.

Personally, I feel he was different to most so called “celebrities” – so raw, unapologetically human and flawed – with such a deep zest for life, travel, people and food. So many people identified with him, admired him and connected with him in some way. His realness made him relatable, and his struggles resonated. He made it ok for a lot of people.

But I have to talk a little about the elephant in the room. About mental illness, depression and the struggles that people go through in their hearts and minds every day.

In this age of social media, we’re more connected than ever, and lonelier than ever. This is a world where we compare ourselves and our happiness to the “highlight reel” that people project to the world through their online personas.

Its a world where we’re so afraid to really show ourselves, to appear less than happy, less than perfect. A world where everyone harps on about mental illness and daily struggles, but people are still afraid to admit it’s happening to them.

One thing I observe is that the people who decide to take their own lives are often deemed “happier than ever” by their friends a family… we forget: its when people are alone, with their thoughts and their fears – that they are the most vulnerable. When the mask is off, and the mental boxing gloves come on, and the battle rages once more in hearts and in minds. People are afraid to be alone with their own thoughts. 

Depression, anxiety and mental illness in general – it never goes away. Not really. So even if a person seems fine – it doesn’t mean they are without struggle, or they are ‘cured’.

In an increasingly vapid society, where looks and personas and “personal brand’ reign supreme – its more important than ever to occasionally consciously disconnect from anti-social social media, and reconnect with self. To step away from mental self-talk and ego, and into the present moment.

Living in the present moment, in the now, is so damn powerful. It allows us to connect, experience, relish and squeeze joy from our lives and experiences.. the ego is only thinking about the past or the future and it sucks our joy with false worry and fear.

When someone who seems to have all this figured out, who seems to thrive in the present – succumbs to fear, anxiety, depression – and ultimately takes their own life – we often think “shit, if they can’t see past this – how am I to get past this?”.. and we are sucked back into that fear pattern.

But comparison is ego – it’s mind talk, it takes away your power and your ability to find joy. If you catch yourself doing this, and having these thoughts – you have the power to stop them in their tracks just by acknowledging the fear, and not following the thoughts. It takes a lot of practice – but it’s a powerful tool.

I think a lot, and I often ponder what my “legacy” will be for the world.. ultimately we all want to make some kind of impact. We want to make sense of  the world, and our place in it. When we look to a man like Anthony Bourdain, and observe and understand the impact that he made in so many peoples lives  – it can be both overwhelming (comparison) or inspiring – depending on our lens of the world.

Personally, if I can make people think, feel, give them tools to help them make sense of their lives, craft writing/ string together words that resonate, maybe a feeling of being less alone than they thought – and ultimately if I have been kind, then thats is a pretty sweet legacy.

In the meantime – check on your strong friend. Don’t wait – don’t think about it and not do it – drop them a “been thinking about you – hope you’re doing ok ?”  message… you just might find you get the same response… and we’ll all be a little less lonely.

Healing and joy, odd combo huh?

One of the most healing things you can do for yourself is to be still. Put your feet up, or leave them bare and put them on the grass.. and just. be. still. 

Feel the sun in your face. Notice the breeze. Listen. Acknowledge your thoughts but don’t follow them. Breathe. 

Healing and the modern world seem so at odds.. healing takes time, stillness, patience and connection – all the things that contemporary life abjures.

We all want to feel amazing but there’s this enforced ideal that we should be able to attain this without effort, quickly and conveniently. 

We’re disconnected, disenfranchised, dissatisfied and discombobulated by our modern lives. 

No wonder people feel lost.

When I was 11 I had this life theory… (surprisingly astute for someone who had barely reached double digits… but I was always a little deliciously weird) I decided that when we are born onto this earth, each of us has a piece missing. My eleven year old brain saw that everyone tried to fill this missing part of us with different things… 

Some people wrote music, some people surfed, some drank a lot, others turned to god. 

The truely unhappy people, as I saw it, tried to fill themselves up with just one thing, thinking that this ONE THING would make them whole again. 

But whether you fill yourself up with Jesus, with booze or with buying things it won’t work – because this ONE BIG THING can’t fill all the little spaces in ourselves. 

The secret to life, I believed, was to find all the little things that make your heart sing, to keep searching for the joy – even in the dark places…. because that is what makes us whole.

11-year-old-me was onto something I believe. 

So as I heal… slowing down and reconnecting with stillness, breath and all the messages I’ve been too busy to hear.. I’m rediscovering all the little parts of life that bring me joy. 

And there’s so much to discover. 

The Art & Science of True Happiness

Sometimes I wonder if true happiness is the real ‘holy grail’.

It seems like the whole of our existence is spent defining, refining, chasing, striving, comparing, ruminating and generally being fixated on happiness.

Whole industries have been created to tell us what it means to be happy:

  • Buy this car!
  • Get a bigger house!
  • Go on this holiday!
  • Lose that weight!
  • Buy those shoes!

We have advertising companies crafting these wonderful ideal people, living a seemingly perfect life, bombarding us with the idea that everyone else is having a better time than us, and we’re sucked into this cycle of buy, consume, strive, compare and buy again… and when we buy that coveted ‘key to happiness’ we wonder why we are not suddenly, deliciously, deliriously happy.

And and it’s not just about consumerism. We are trapped in this cycle of constantly comparing our unique selves to the rest of the world.

It could be the desire to climb the corporate ladder… ‘better’ job, fancier title, more responsibility, more money to spend on more things so that people can definitely tell you are successful and happy.

It could be based around your looks… constantly dieting, primping, preening, spending hours to get ready with the perfect hair, makeup, dress, shoes…. taking a million selfies to post to social media and prove to the world that you are an effortlessly beautiful human specimen who really knows how to have a good time (…’I woke up like this’)

 

Since when when did happiness come from things?

What will it take before we realise that the only true yardstick for lasting, genuine joy is within ourselves?

True Happiness – the genuine, lasting, deep joy that fills you up – comes from within.

  • It starts with mindfulness, stillness.
  • Taking time out to breathe.
  • Learning to be still in your own body.
  • Learning to enjoy the way your body moves, it’s strength, its gracefulness.
  • It comes from enjoying lifes pleasures with intent.
  • It comes from being present in your own mind and realising you have the power to direct your thoughts.
  • It comes from knowing that thoughts become things – and yes patterns take time to change but it’s worth it.
  • It comes from knowing that what you focus on becomes bigger, that you grow your intent and you shape your world.

 

When you slow down and smell the roses you realise all the other things that you’ve been missing..

The interesting thing about the pursuit of happiness is that it actually doesn’t cost anything. We’ve been duped into thinking that happiness is a commodity – to be bought and sold to the privileged few lucky enough to be able to afford it.

Yes, nice things are nice. But what you are looking for is that feeling of connection and contentedness with your world, and it doesn’t come in a bottle, on a plate or in an expensive shopping bag.

It comes from being able to appreciate how utterly amazing this world is.

  • It’s a good nights sleep, and waking up with the birds and the sun feeling rested and ready to take on the day.
  • It’s smiling at a stranger and having them smile in return.
  • It’s spending time walking – using your feet on the earth and paying attention to your surroundings.
  • It’s talking to random people you meet and asking if you can pet their dog.
  • Its seeing gangs of overexcited kids chasing each other around a park, screaming and laughing.
  • Its a good book, a favourite song, a board game with friends.
  • Its making a healthy nourishing meal and taking the time to enjoy your mad culinary skills.

But most of all, it’s realising that you don’t have to play into the hamster wheel of corporate life, or conscious consumerism – and that you are infinitely powerful in creating your own joy.

And the best thing about it, is that you can start right now.

 

should

Beauty: a delicious and wild tangent….

I saw this picture today and as ever, it set my mind off on wild delicious tangents… (Every mind should experience the joy of a wild delicious tangent!)

A few years ago we were all about asking that question “so if you had to lose one or the other, would you choose to lose your sight, or your hearing?” (Heck of a conversation changer, if you want to skip small talk and get on a wild delicious tangent, that’s an interesting place to start)

Of course no one ‘wants’ to lose any of their senses, and those that live that truth lead challenging lives indeed – the purpose of the question is to get people to think outside their day to day known experiences and to challenge their assumptions so they can perceive things that are important to them.

On one side: retain your hearing, lose your sight. These people were naturally very kinaesthetic (although not necessarily aware of this) they spoke not only of their love of music, birdsong, hearing the ocean, babies laughing etc… But that they could still feel the sun on their face – and imagine a clear blue sky. They could dip their fingers in cold clear river water, and feel the flow of the current – hearing the movement and seeing in their mind the water dancing over the rocks.

On the other side, retain your sight, lose your hearing. These were the artists, the writers, the painters. The people who felt an image did paint a thousand words, and that they would hear music when they looked at something beautiful.

But what is beauty?

This image is the kind of thing I love to share… In a world where we seem to be driven by a certain aesthetic, where a woman’s ‘worth’ still seems to hinge so deeply on her visual appeal, we need to ask ourself these kinds of questions.

We need to challenge the visual propaganda, ask ourselves often and loud what really matters to us, and let our minds wander off on delicious and wild tangents, so we can find what’s within the soul of us all.

 

BUSY

#stop #breathe #be ….sometimes we’re so busy BEING BUSY we don’t even realise how completely out of touch we’ve become.

  • When was the last time you did something for yourself, just because?

On my change journey, one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned was that I was so caught up in the DOING, I’d forgotten how to simply BE. There is a delicious sense of calm when you finally realise that you don’t have to be stuck in the pattern of being constantly busy.

When you learn to let things go, living and experiencing your life as it is occurring – rather than worrying about the past or trying to pre-empt the future – you get so much joy. Only when we STOP can we finally appreciate how lucky we are in the present moment.

 

Nonconformity and the Creative Life

Great youtube video exploring non conformity and the creative life… talking about the tensions between resisting the ‘tug of conformity’ and asking the question: “how do we avoiding succumbing to the zombified state of blindly following others in a herd?”

Some gems in there along with some beautify imagery – check the vid here.

 

Same same but different…

I was sitting around with the girls from work the other day, enjoying a Friday afternoon beverage after a long week, and the subject of the ‘free pass’ came up.. Now I didn’t know this even existed, let alone the supposed rule that you get up to 5 “free passes” (honestly, perhaps I should hand in my girl card?) and what this means is a list of 5 supposedly “unobtainable” famous people you’d be allowed to hook up with should this situation arise, and your partner would be all like “you go girl” or something to that effect. (??)

And as we all sat there comparing notes (at first I couldn’t even think of anyone as this was a new thing for me) this weird feeling came over me.. I got into the conversation a wee bit (a generous pinot noir lubricating not only my conversation but jogging my memory, apparently) and threw out some names… now, when they didn’t ‘get’ these choices, or recognise the names of these chaps we would all furiously google their names for images representing their worthy hotness… and we’d smile knowingly at each other when we saw/agreed what the other one saw in this person….

I didn’t think much of it at the time, but in retrospect: who the hell cares?

We were comparing whether or not we found images of some random person attractive, and it seemed to matter that others agreed… why? Something like human attraction (and this was purely physical too, so not even real world attractiveness which encompasses such valuable things as humour, warmth and not being a complete douchebag etc) is completely subjective… It’s one of those gloriously unique facets of ourselves, coloured by our filters and experiences… it’s not meant to be one of those things with which we connect and identify with our peer group.

But as human beings, there is this never-ending cycle of balancing being “same same but different” …. so we look for traits of those we admire, emulating their physical characteristics, clothing choices, behavioural nuances etc – all in the quest to appear likeable, to be a part of the tribe and to fit in…. while at the same time trying desperately to be noticed… (Which is where “but different” pops into the equation)

I posted one of my favourite Marianne Williamson quotes the other day, which ties into this, in particular “it is our light, not our darkness, which frightens us the most. We ask ourselves: who am I to be brilliant, talented, fabulous – actually, who are you not to be?”

  • So what matters most to you?
  • What are you passionate about, truly, in your heart?
  • What makes you unique that you might be afraid of showing?
  • What makes you feel sparkly? If you didn’t spend so much time trying to fit in, how would that feel?

What would you do? Say? Wear? Listen to? Read? If you stopped and thought about it, how would you articulate the unique and special way that you are “same same, but different“…?

 

Change: and the important business of being AUTHENTIC

‘Death & Taxes are the only constant in life’ – or so the saying goes.. I’d disagree a little and say that change is the true constant.

Even though I haven’t felt like I have grown/been challenged in a professional sense for some time, theres certainly been a evolution of my spirit and my outlook on life.

I remember back to when I first undertook Coach training, born out of an incredibly deep-seated desire to help people – yet I was so afraid that people wouldn’t take me seriously, or value what I had to offer, that I became so focussed on people perceiving me as professional, and that overtook my real aspects of value:

The ability to empathise

My intuition

My spirituality 

Genuine desire to connect and to help

My (very) cheeky sense of humour

This spilled into my ‘day job’ too, and for so long I was focussed on proving myself, being ‘outcome focussed’ – ‘committed to delivery’ and all those typical phrases we throw around in HR. I wasn’t true to myself and being so utterly focussed on one aspect of your personality is stifling.

A couple of years ago, I got a new boss.. this woman was everything that had been lacking up till that point, she was warm, honest, genuinely looked out for my team and I, had my back, and not to mention had a wicked sense of humour to boot! So for the first time in a long time, I felt as though I could in turn be myself.. and my sense of humour and enjoyment of my job increased exponentially as a result.

When people are genuine and authentic – it encourages others to be authentic in return.

Women in the workplace can feel threatened by other women, they often feel like they need to overcompensate, or even put others down and bully them to make themselves look better.. and it’s damaging. A lot of the behaviour is false, two-faced and downright mean.

We are not robots. We have emotions, feelings – and more often than not, when we are in tune with these aspects of ourselves, and being our full, true, authentic selves – we thrive.

I’ve realised that I have very little energy, time or interest in collaborating with people who insist on playing this game. And through that realisation, and my ongoing desire to be authentic in what I do, I’ve bought authentic people into my life – we can’t avoid the bullies all the time at work, but we can decide how much energy and thought we spend on them.

So as I continue to move towards my passions with greater velocity, I look back with an increasingly clear head about where I am in my life – professionally, personally, mentally, emotionally and spirituality – and I’m proud to say that its been my hard work and determination, combined with an attitude of gratitude for some pretty special people in my life, that has allowed this change… 10 years ago I would have never shared my thoughts and emotions in such a public way, but if by sharing myself and being authentic allows others the grace to do this to, then that will be the most rewarding part of all.

 

Sound-bites from Mr Brand

Love this clip – Russell Brand has been speaking publicly about meditation and spirituality in the past couple of months, and I really like what he has to say.. it resonates with my Reiki Journey. He still manages to have the humour in there but he’s saying some pretty powerful stuff.

‘We are by our nature, spiritual people, if we don’t have access to spirituality, we suffer as individuals, and society suffers… within ourselves there’s an infinite capacity for connection with all things”

Interested to hear more, and I’m loving how much those around me are sharing these types of clips and talking about this.

Link to clip here.

 

http://www.bodyimagemovement.com

#ihaveembraced

So this morning, through the wonders of social media, I was introduced to a project called ‘the body image movement’ – an inspiring and challenging look at the way women really feel about their bodies.

This is a topic that is dear to my heart, and resonates LOUDLY for me. Whilst I am a pretty well adjusted functioning human being… it’s been a journey to get to this place. And I had to do it for myself, and largely by myself.

There is a HUGE stigma associated with body image, conflicting messages, and an advertising/ marketing industry that plays on these insecurities because the body industry is BIG BUCKS.

I want to see more people being honest. See people waking up to the realities of a manufactured ‘standard of beauty’ that is NOT BEAUTIFUL. To realise that the things that allow us to TRUELY see our own beauty are the actions we take, how we give of ourselves, the decisions we make, and the kind of person that we strive to be.

If you’re interested in contributing to the kickstarter fund to make this doco a reality, please click here to find out more.

Finishing this with a quote from one of my favourite movies (Pulp Fiction) “It’s unfortunate what we find pleasing to the touch and pleasing to the eye is seldom the same..”