Category Archives: Experiencing Life

Tiny Beauties

#tinybeauties

It’s easy to see that the world is full of beauty when we stand on the ocean shore or gaze at the mountain peaks. It’s easy to recognise the wonders of life when we hear the cry of a newborn or see tears in the eyes of the groom as the bride walks towards him.

But when we’re in the trenches of the daily grind? When we’re elbow-deep in laundry? Driving to work? Doing the groceries? Ferrying our kids to and from sports practice or dance class? In those times we often miss the beauty.

I’ve been in a funk lately, and while part of that is the bi-annual rut I find myself in around mid-winter and mid-summer, it’s also tied up in the fact that I feel empty. I’ve stopped my regular practice of gratitude and I’m failing to pay attention to the plentiful good that’s around.

So I want to start something new. Something that might help me realise that, actually, beauty is almost everywhere. We just need to look for it a little harder sometimes.

#tinybeauties

I want to document the tiny beauties that we so often walk by, never noticing. I want to stop, even just once a day, and pay attention to the little miracles.

The dew on the front lawn. The graffiti in the alley. The flower about to bloom. The way my son reaches up to hold my hand when crossing the road. The seedling pushing up through the dirt. The glittering shine of the road after a downpour.

#tinybeauties

These things may or may not be natural. They may or may not be traditionally beautiful. They may or may not be tied to a story. But they are worth noticing.

When I spend time every day noticing these little joys, I feel fuller. My downs don’t feel so low. I’m more easily able to see everything I have to be grateful for.

So I’m going to be posting my #tinybeauties to Instagram, and I’d love for you to join in by posting yours too. (You can follow me here.)

I don’t have any plans for these posts, other than to share these tiny beauties with whoever is open to seeing them. There’s no grand plan or product idea here. Just a need to see more of the beauty the world has to offer, beyond mountains and beaches.

#tinybeauties

#tinybeauties

 

The world doesn’t owe you a room with a view.

The world doesn't owe you a room with a view

Reading the travel section of the Sunday paper is one of my favourite little pleasures. It’s relaxing and inspiring and the perfect amount of fuel for my wanderlust fire.

Not last week though.

Last Sunday I came across a brief interview with a high-profile Australian fashion designer, where she was asked for her best travel tips, experiences and recommendations. And, frankly, it pissed me off.

Having travelled a bit during my 32 years, I understand we all have different ideas on what makes a good holiday (camping, resort, tropics or adventure?), how best to travel (car, bus, plane or boat?) and what constitutes a necessity (hair straightener, running water, French champagne or a comfortable hammock?)

We’re all different, I get that. But in this interview, the respondent gave an answer that irked me beyond a mere difference of opinions. In fact, it made me despair.

She was asked: “What’s your best tip for getting the most out of a holiday?”

Immediately I could think of a hundred ways to answer:

  • Be open to new experiences
  • Stay in the one place for a while and live like locals
  • Pack your sense of humour, sunglasses and a good book
  • Eat local foods
  • Avoid souvenir shops
  • Wander
  • Get off the tourist trail occasionally
  • Stay in locally owned/operated accommodation
  • Turn off your phone
  • Put the camera down

But her response? (Paraphrased, as the paper got recycled and I can’t find the interview online):

“Act like a first-class person. Walk in to the hotel and make them believe that you are, in fact, worthy of special treatment. Even if the accommodation you are given is perfectly acceptable, act a little disappointed. Suggest that the room you saw online was a little bigger, or had a balcony, or enjoyed a better view. More often than not you will be upgraded or moved to a better room.”

This entitled point of view is one of the things I believe to be wrong with the world.

This person is privileged enough to be travelling to far-off, beautiful places, but that is not enough. She has decided that, as a “first-class person” (what does that even mean?!) she deserves more. The hotel room is not enough. She deserves a bigger one. The plane seat is not enough. She deserves a first-class one. The experience of travel or relaxation or pampering or adventure is not enough. She deserves BETTER. Merely because she is there and she is important, dammit.

I don’t have an issue with asking politely for a change – particularly if it’s warranted.  But pretending that what you’re offered is not good enough (even if it’s perfectly amazing) simply to see if you can get better? Yeah, I have a problem with that.

So let’s say this person is granted their Special Snowflake Status and upgraded to the Presidential Suite (nothing less than the best, naturally)… what then? Suddenly they believe they really are a First Class Person. After that, they want more. They want better. They believe that simply because an upgrade was granted this time, they’re entitled to the same treatment always and forever.

Suddenly, things that used to be perfectly acceptable become less-than. And the merry-go-round of better and more and new and shiny spins ever faster. Perhaps the experiences stop mattering as much as the status. Because really, when you’re looking for more or better or nicer or shinier, how can you really appreciate anything at all? You’re obsessed with bettering your situation. And for what? The status of saying you did?

Gee. Sounds like fun.

Now let’s say this person is not granted their Special Snowflake Status and cannot be accommodated in the Presidential Suite (on account of the President in situ). The mere fact that they believe themselves worthy of special treatment means they will likely be offended at the rejection. So now, not only do they not get the First Class Person treatment, but they are also dissatisfied with the original accommodation. Nothing is good enough now, because they’ve been jilted.

How is this relaxing? How is this getting the most out of your travel experiences?

And what’s more, how is this attitude of entitlement allowing any of us to experience the most of life? The most of what is happening right in front of us?

If we’re constantly comparing lives with others, how can we feel content with our own?

If we’re relentlessly pursuing more, better, shinier, newer, how can we be grateful for what we do have?

If we make the mistake of believing our needs are more important than those of others, how can we live with compassion and generosity and equality?

If we believe we should be treated as First Class People, how can we explain to our children that we are no better than someone else?

We can’t.

The world doesn’t owe you a room with a view.

Be grateful. Enjoy what you have. Soak up the experiences. And if you see someone else swanning about, believing the universe owes them a room with a bigger bathroom and newer sheets? Let them have at it. A worldview of entitlement is its own reward.

Instead, allow your world to become an altogether more beautiful, generous, rewarding place by simply being grateful, present and conscious. I believe that to be its own reward too.

 

Delight

True delight is in the finding out rather than the knowing.

Bushwalks are one of our favourite activities on the weekend.

We pack bags full of the essentials - water, snacks and suncream, dinosaurs, hand-drawn maps and chocolate – and head out to the national park.

What I love most about these excursions – even more than the exercise and the appreciation of nature we’re getting – is the tiny moments of delight they afford us.

We notice the bugs skimming across the lagoon surface, the pink algae and the birdsong. We spot flowers and rock formations and animal tracks. Things that are always there but rarely seen simply because we’re moving too fast.

Finding delight

When we go on a bushwalk we try to make it leisurely. We stop (a lot). And while sometimes I miss the feeling of getting my blood up and hiking fast up the inclines, it seems that we’ve become pioneers of the Slow (Walking) Movement.

And really? It’s a delightful way to view the world. You don’t need to be bushwalking or exploring or doing anything out of the ordinary at all, because delightful moments surround us everywhere, if we’re willing to slow down for a moment and look for them.

  • a water droplet on the bus window
  • street art
  • a flower growing through a crack in the footpath
  • the swoop of a bird high in the sky
  • clouds
  • a young couple holding hands
  • a reflection of sunset in an office building’s windows
  • a brief sniff of the ocean air
  • a snowflake
  • a cat curled up in your lap
  • the first leaves of a seedling pushing through the soil
  • the smell of rain on the dirt
  • a sleeping child’s breath
  • fingerprints
  • a mushroom growing out of leaf litter

Some people think of delight in the same way they think of love. If you go actively looking for it, it will elude you. I disagree wholeheartedly.

If you are open to beauty, if you are open to the possibility of delight, if you go searching for it, you will discover that it actually surrounds us at every moment. It may not look like you’d expected. It may not feel the way you imagined. It may not be the cookie cutter version of delight or joy or beauty. But it will be there. Just allow yourself to be included and you will find it.

How to Have an Awesome Day

How to have an awesome day

There are good days and bad days. Some bad days are out of our control, and some good days happen in spite of themselves.

But I’m discovering there are many things I can do (even if sometimes I really don’t want to) that make an impact on the sort of day I’m going to have. Without sounding ridiculously self-righteous, this is how I have an awesome day:

Start it the night before

I need decent sleep in order to function well, so I make sure to get to bed early. I have been known to go to bed when the kids do, and am always in bed before 9:30pm during the week.

You can: work out how many hours sleep you need, what time you need to wake up in the morning, and work backwards until you find your ideal bed time.

Early rising

My alarm goes off at 4am every morning except Sunday. I am (obviously) an early bird, so this works for me. It lets me get 2 hours of writing or work done before the rest of the family wakes up, and it takes the pressure off during the day. I get the quiet time that I desperately need – which helps me stay calm and positive during the day, even when milk is spilled, arguments break out and appointments run late.

A good breakfast

When I eat a fast breakfast – something like toast or sugary cereal – my day often doesn’t go to plan. My energy is down, I crave sweet, fatty or carby foods and my mood is darker. So I make sure to eat a decent breakfast, something that includes vegetables and protein to keep my energy up and stop the 10am munchies.

Usually I’ll sautee vegetables (mushrooms, kale, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, corn – whatever is in the fridge) and serve it with either a poached egg or a dollop of natural yoghurt and jalapenos on top. If time is short, I’ll make a green smoothie of frozen banana, almond milk, spinach, chia seeds, coconut oil, honey and cacao and take it with me.

You can: get up 10 minutes earlier and try this yourself.

Move

Even 5 minutes of sun salutations while my coffee brews is enough to make my body feel energised. I also try to exercise a little more intensely a few days a week (either by running or doing a couple of rounds of the 7 Minute Workout) and find my general outlook much sunnier on the days I get physical. Combined with weekend bushwalks, taking the kids and dog for a neighbourhood stroll and the physical activity of gardening, cleaning and parenting – I’m moving more now than I have for a long time, and it reflects in my mood, energy and general worldview.

You can: try the 7 Minute Workout, take the dog for a walk around the block or try some simple stretches every morning or evening. Take advantage of incidental exercise by using the stairs, raking the backyard, getting off the bus one stop earlier or taking a walk during your lunchbreak.

Smile

During my 5-minute kitchen yoga sessions, each time I reach my hands above my head and stretch to the sky, I make myself smile. I push a big, stupid, cheesy grin across my face and I say thank you. Seriously. It used to feel silly, but now it really does lift my mood.

You can: smile at yourself in the mirror before heading off to work. Smile at a stranger. Smile for no reason other than to feel it lifting the corners of your mouth. See if it doesn’t make you feel even the tiniest bit happier.

Drink water

If I’m dehydrated, I get headaches, I feel cranky and my body is sluggish. So I try to drink 2-3 litres of water a day. I’ve found the best way to get close to this amount is to fill my 1.25L stainless steel drink bottle and leave it on the kitchen bench when I ‘m at home. Every time I walk past it, I take a drink. If I’m working I have the bottle on my desk, and if I’m out it goes in my handbag.

You can: take a reusable drink bottle with you to work, the gym, or keep it on the kitchen bench when you’re at home. Start with one full bottle a day and slowly increase your intake to two.

Be kind to myself

Work is hard. Parenting is hard. Marriage is hard. Home-keeping is hard. By showing myself a little compassion, not expecting myself to be all things to all people, and knowing that it’s impossible to do everything, I allow myself to feel good rather than bad. So the laundry didn’t get put away, but I did play hide and seek with my kids. I’m OK with that.

You can: show yourself some kindness. Accept that it’s not possible to do everything, and that’s OK.

 

Obviously, your awesome day will look different to mine. What works for me may not work for you, and that’s cool. Also keep in mind that these don’t all happen every day. I try to include most of these elements, most of the time, but sometimes life just gets in the way, you know?

But if you’re wanting to create better days for yourself, why not spend this week paying attention to which days are good and which days are not so good.  Then ask yourself why. What was different about the good days? What about the bad days didn’t work for you? Try to incorporate more of the good and less of the bad, and see how it impacts your days. After all:

“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you’re heading.”

– Lao Tzu

I’m a huge believer that we ultimately choose our own happiness, but I also believe we need to do the work in order to foster that happiness. No-one’s going to do it for us.

Here’s to a good week, friends.

Doing Nothing is Doing Something

The Undeniable Power of Doing Nothing

When two of my favourite things to do are sitting around a campfire and listening to the rain, it’s rare that I get to enjoy them at the same time. They tend to be mutually exclusive.

But on Saturday night, as a light rain fell on my umbrella, I sat in front of our small backyard campfire and did nothing at all.

No camera to document the moment.

No conversation.

No planning.

No phone to tweet or Instagram my evening.

No urgent need to rush off and be productive.

No anything.

I sat in front of that fire and listened to the rain drops hit the hot coals. I watched the smoke rise up and over our wooden fence. I felt the warm, heavy weight of our dog as he slept on my knee. I heard the distant rumble of thunder.

And it was beautiful.

But it was hard. At least to begin with.

It was hard to sit there and do nothing. More than once I thought, “I’ll just run inside and grab my phone. I can take a photo.” Unspoken were the additional tasks I would then do – check Twitter, maybe Facebook, definitely take a moment to Instagram the fire photo, possibly check a news website and see if any urgent emails had come through. (Urgent emails? Really? Who am I – the Prime Minister? Come on.)

But I did none of those things, and I was rewarded. After about 15 minutes, I noticed my brain doing two unexpected things.

First, I got really creative. Words and ideas and stories and pictures formed in my mind. I head-wrote a book chapter, I thought through two or three blog posts and I imagined a series of photographs I want to take.

My brain was unencumbered by constant input and was allowed to create output. The only stimulation was the flickering of the fire and the patter of the rain. My brain had room to be creative and I was amazed at how clear my mind felt.

The second thing that my brain did, was that it let go. I got sleepy. It was only 8:00pm and I felt properly and deliciously drowsy. My body relaxed and I felt comfortable enough to simply sit there and enjoy the feeling.

My eyes and brain are used to staring at a screen of some description in the evening. Be it the TV, while watching our current series of choice on Netflix, or my iPad, while reading a book, my brain is often exposed to the blue, flickering light of a screen at night.

Considering those blue, flickering screens actually promote wakefulness, it’s no surprise that I felt sleepy in their absence. My brain was just doing its job, after all.

So I sat by the fire for an hour or more. I soaked in the peace. I let my thoughts wander where they liked. I looked at the world around me. I noticed little things that so often go unnoticed. I ignored the need to do something, and instead, I did absolutely nothing.

In a world that values action, and results, and success, this felt like a counter-cultural thing to do.

How often, when asked what we did over the weekend, will we respond, “Oh, nothing much.” When the reality is that we cleaned the house, visited friends, took our kids to sport, grocery shopped, watched a movie, had a BBQ, bought a birthday present, cleaned out the garage, paid some bills and felt overwhelmed.

These things have to happen, they are everyday tasks – mundane, even – but they are not nothing.

Saying these tasks are nothing simultaneously makes them seem insignificant (they’re not, it’s called life) and makes you wonder why you’re so tired when you haven’t done anything (because you never actually stop).

We need to carve out a little more space in our lives for truly doing nothing.

  • Lay on the grass and stare at the sky
  • Sit on the lounge and close your eyes
  • Light a campfire and watch the flickering flames
  • Walk out the front door with no idea of where you will wander, then do it aimlessly
  • Turn off every single screen in your home and lie quietly on your bed

Let your thoughts go where they will, and resist the urge to get up and do something.

If we all embraced the need to do nothing at all, a little more every day, I wonder how different we would feel?

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