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happiness

How important is the space you live in to your health & happiness?

We absolutely love our apartment. It’s our little haven from the outside world. To many it would not seem like much, it’s small, old, the floorboards creak, the bathroom is 1970’s pink, the kitchen is the size of a wardrobe & we can hear our neighbours’ conversations through the paper-thin walls. Lol!!

So how could we possibly love a place where there seem to be so many faults? Easy, we have made it our own, keep it tidy & have worked darn hard to get it. When we arrived in Vancouver 9 years ago, we had nothing, only the bags we brought on our backs. A true immigrant story. All the clothing we had was inappropriate for a Vancouver winter which was unusually cold that year, it took us between 8 weeks & 3 months to find work in our fields. We had very little money left by the time we got work. We lived on a shoestring budget for years. We quickly learned the value of our money & how hard we had to work to get the money we needed for rent, food, transport & life.

Going through the above experience was very difficult at times & extremely frustrating as we moved to Canada for a better standard of living than at home and we didn’t see it. Now 9 years later we are finally getting there. My Aunt Kathleen, who lives in California once told me that it takes 10 years at least to set established in a new country. At the time I thought she was mad but now I agree.

We went through career changes, we got married, we had a baby, we lost family members, we went back to school, we took on new courses…. all of these events affected us financially which meant we had to sacrifice in other areas. Where we saved money was rent on our home. We live in a one-bedroom apartment in Kitsilano, a seaside area in Vancouver, which has the feeling of a small town.

Location was an important factor when it came to deciding where we were going to live. We are 2 blocks from the most beautiful seaside with mountain views. We can walk to the beach every day for fresh air, this is what we wanted, nature & beauty on our doorstep.

We absolutely love the location of our home & truly believe it has a massive positive effect on our health. Last night was a restless night with the baby, a nice cold fresh walk down by the beach for an hour really helps with lack of sleep & puts everything in perspective very quickly.

Besides the location of our apartment, I believe the interior of the home can have a huge impact on your health & wellbeing. For us, a clean & tidy home is essential for clarity and relaxation. Recently we have sold furniture we simply didn’t need so we could create more space. We love our less cluttered apartment now. We also have cleared out everything we don’t need or want; we are surrounded by the things we love & need. There are no “junk” drawers or cupboards. Honestly having organised cupboards, wardrobes, closets, drawers & files is so rewarding. In addition, everything remains tidy because we have a place for everything & at the end of the day things are placed where they should be, nothing can get lost this way which avoids time spent looking for things!

We find our home to have a calming effect when we walk in the front door. We have decorated it to our taste & style which works for us. Knowing how hard we had to work to get our apartment & have the luxury to live where we do, its easy to focus on all the positives of our place and ignore the items listed in the first paragraph.

Nowhere will ever be perfect but by keeping your home clean & tidy and surrounding yourself with what you love will definitely have a positive effect on your mental health.

Take a look around each room and see what you love and don’t love. Take your time to remove/replace the unloved items to create space, we need space for creativity & a focused, calm mind.

Create your own little oasis which doesn’t have to cost much, maybe a good clean & purge is all you need to do……it worked for us;-) Oh and brilliant white walls did wonders for our small space. So bright & uplifting.

In Summary, the space where you live doesn’t have to be a mansion or penthouse suite, it can be a 1970’s one-bedroom apartment which you adore by having only what you need & love. Surrounding yourself with love, space & the essentials creates clarity, calmness and relaxation. Therefore, I truly believe your space has a massive effect on your mental health & happiness.

Wishing you all the best.

Chat soon,

Theresa xxx

Reactivity – Don’t Let Your Automatic Actions Control You

In this world of over-stimulation, my nature is reactive. It always has been, even before we had so much visual input and interruptions in our lives my first instinct was always to lash out before I stopped to consider. It begins inside, like a spark which triggers an instant movement, thought or feeling which is usually, immediately followed by an action with no thought. There is no space between the trigger and the reaction.

This space is important. There is great power in this space. Imagine the great tragedies which could have been prevented if people stopped to think instead of reacting immediately?

Quick action does indeed have a place in the world but so does thought and deliberateness.

How do we go from trigger-feeling-reaction to trigger-feeling-pause / think-reaction? We need to create and cultivate space to allow it to expand, grow and develop.

It’s just like decluttering your desk or tidying your home. It can be achieved in different ways but the end goal is to give your mind space to sit down and think about what to do next.

And just like decluttering your home or your desk, take the time to notice the work that needs to be done. Where is the clutter?

Let everything settle and listen to yourself. You will soon see where the issues are, where the cleanup work needs to start. It is like taking all the obsolete information off your computer’s hard drive. What burdens do you need to carry and what can you put to one side or drop completely?

I sometimes find it useful to just sit with my thoughts, almost like the opposite of meditation, I set a timer and sit. I do not allow myself to move or interact with anything but let my mind wander. I let it go where it goes and interact with the thoughts as much as I wish. It helps me see where my worries are and where the internal housekeeping is needed. This can show up in the form of unfinished tasks, worries which have been weighing on my mind or someone I need to contact. The best way to clear them away is to act on them, immediately. If that’s not possible, then schedule a time. This will help create the space.

I will not go into meditation on this blog as we have both written on it before but I cannot recommend it enough. It has changed my life and helped create the space I need for calm, consideration and right action. Have a look at the bottom of the post for some blogs we have written on meditation.

Just like the unfinished tasks I mentioned, unhealthy habits will fill space also. Too much screen time, too much artificial stimulation, bad diet. When I talk about filling the space, I do not mean taking up your time, your time is important but what I mean is bad habits taking up space in your mind. Filling your quiet space with additional unimportant information or data which cannot be cleared out without deliberate action.

It is when we reach a point of no capacity that we no longer have the objectivity to stop and analyze.

We all have bad thoughts (at least I hope I’m not the only one) whether it be anger towards a stranger, judgement towards someone we know nothing about based on their appearance, impatience, selfishness or whatever arises at the time.

These thoughts do not define who we are. It is what we do with these thoughts that defines us. It is how we react and act on our thoughts and impulses that shows who we are as people. We can only be judged by our actions. Someone cuts me off in traffic and I have an urge to honk and pull up alongside them to extend the all useful middle finger and wave it in their direction.

The impulse is there, but so is the choice. I have the choice of whether to act on that impulse or not. If I do not have that space or use that space, I will not make that choice, I will simply keep going and do what automatically happens. I will become a slave to my automatic self.

I am still a victim of my own reactivity, I recently tore one of my favourite hoodies apart just because I did not pause and consider. Incidents like this happen much, much less now but what this shows me is that I still have to work on creating, maintaining, seeing and using that space. You can read my blog on my anger issues if you are interested.

Working on creating this space allows me to take the time and pause before I react. The reaction can be intentional rather than automatic. The feeling, impulse or thought will pass quickly, within a couple of minutes then it will be forgotten but if I act on it I will carry it with me.

Here are a few simple tips to cultivate, maintain and use that space. I hope it helps.

  • Spend time with your thoughts. Search for what needs to be cleared out.
  • Meditate daily to cultivate and maintain the space.
  • Use the space: Stop and examine the feeling or impulse. Think.

Let me know if you have any feedback or if you find yourself in a similar situation to me.

Peace,

George

 

Links:

How can we put down the burdens we carry?

meditation-challenge-40-day-sadhana-your-habits-define-you

a-daily-meditation-practice-make-it-work-for-you

meditation-it-takes-two-minutes

how-i-overcame-my-anger-issues

 

 

 

 

Cover photo by Javardh on Unsplash

Photo by Jez Timms on Unsplash

Photo by Samantha Gades on Unsplash

Photo by Simon Migaj on Unsplash

Photo by Keegan Houser on Unsplash

New Parents: The Unexpected Feeling

No words can describe the elated feeling we have experienced in the past 3 months. We knew having a child was going to change our lives forever but we didn’t realise how much emotionally it would affect us. We still cannot believe our little girl is here. During my pregnancy we would chat about what we would look forward to most; like seeing how small her baby toenails were going to be or feeling her wrap her tiny hands around our index finger. When we saw her for the first time, we both cried with relief but also at how perfect she was, even if she was covered in gooey stuff & crying her heart out! Lol. She had the cutest little ear which was folded over like a taco and little red birthmarks on her eyelids & back of her neck. These were all extra little bonuses of cuteness. She looked so healthy & perfect.

At night when she is sleeping, we both stand over her crib to look at her before going to bed, her crib is beside our bed. We love all her little sounds and gestures. It’s like our hearts are going to burst with love. This is the feeling that we didn’t think about prior to baby. No matter how hard a day we may have had, seeing her smile or hearing her gabble to herself washes all the other stuff away. Of course, we knew we were going to love our child however the massive feeling of love that swells inside is nothing like we felt before. I love George with all my heart, I thought the love for our baby would feel the same but for me, it is very different. I feel like I’m going to burst someday just looking at her.

During feeding, I love the little satisfied sounds she makes & how she snuggles in and gets really cosy. She plays with her hands during feeding in such a gentle way & likes to touch my neck. It’s so cool to see someone so happy & content. When George gets back from work, she gets super excited and gives a huge grin & snuggles her hands to her face with excitement. We are beaming when she does this, it’s one of our favourites.

My experience so far has been amazing. It helps our baby has the same priorities as her parents, she loves food & sleep. I don’t think I have smiled so much in my life; she is a little character & cracks me up every day. The love I feel for our baby feels like a warm feeling in my heart that radiates when I think of her or look at her. Seeing George in his role as a father fills me with joy. He is so patient & kind to our little girl. She adores her Daddy & loves spending time with him.

We are learning about each other every day. Sometimes we get everything so wrong. We think she is hungry when she is bored,we think she has wind when she is hungry…..slowly but surely, we are learning how our girl is communicating. I feel we are getting there and at month 3 everything has kind of settled.

Having a child was a huge decision for us, we knew, either way, we would be happy with or without. Now that she is here, we could not imagine life without her. We are enjoying every day with her & trying not to wish our lives away to when she can talk, walk, eat food etc. She is definitely teaching us to live in the moment & be present. Our little girl is our best friend & we hope to be the best parents for her as we can. For sure we will get so many things wrong along the way but we hope that for the most part, we will provide a safe & supportive space for our child to become who & whatever she wishes to become. So excited about parenting & the development of our child. Love truly does conquer all.

Thanks for reading,

Chat soon.

Theresa xxx

 

Humility Can Be The Path To A Meaningful Life

As a yoga teacher, humility is one of my core values, indeed it is a value that can guide us through life.

A lack of humility can lead to a wanting and yearning for more, more money, more power, more style, more cars, more food. This craving comes from our survival instinct, the desire for self preservation and the need to protect and provide for those we love. There does however, come a time when we have enough and any yearning is for more than we need (see here for recent gratitude blog on having enough).

It is ok to want more, to want to be comfortable and to indulge ourselves, I am not speaking of abstinence or a life of stoicism but we must understand why we want something. Is it for the right reasons? Are we seeking treasures to adorn ourselves with from a standpoint of competitive behaviour, to take someone else down a level?

This is where we need to check ourselves and get in touch with humility.

“Work for a cause, not for applause.”

Think on the violent history of our race, the most recent wars in history. Where did they stem from? Did Hitler invade Europe for the betterment of his people? Yes, but from a self serving point of view.

Compare leaders of the world and famous figures – Donald Trump, Barack Obama, Mahatma Ghandi, Conor McGregor. What are their qualities and how do they serve themselves, and in turn serve the world? Do you see humility in them?

Who do you root for? The underdog or the one who talks himself up all the time?

A lack of humility leads to violence. Take the caste system in India, the civil rights movement in the US, slavery, the expansion of the British Empire. All of the above has lead to strife, pain and hardship in the name of one group being perceived as being better than the other. Perception is the key word here and that is where humility comes into play. The most humble of us will not, by definition, think herself greater than others nor will she strive to be greater.

“Never look down on somebody unless you’re helping him up.”

Putting ourselves first is important, indeed I have written about it before (link here) but when we put ourselves first and surpass others by wanting what is beyond our needs, that is where the ego and greed come into play. Humility can teach us the value of both having enough and being enough. There is plenty to go around, we do not need all of the accessories to place ourselves above others in the pecking order.

That does not mean a humble person will not strive for greatness, do not mistake humility for a lack of ambition. It means that the humble person will not look down on others, will not seek to oppress others and will not seek to take from others for their own betterment.

Nor am I saying that competition is not good. It is part of our nature and without it we would roll over and die, never defending ourselves and never standing up for what is right. We can keep our competitive streak and remain humble, the two are not exclusive.

Humility can cure the wanting and craving in our hearts and in turn quash the over indulgence that is suffocating our planet and tame the aggressive nature of the beast that resides within us as we mature as a race.

Let us look inside our selves and search for that humility. Can we give everybody a chance and not judge. Question our motives. Why do we want something, is it for the right reasons? When we strive to better ourselves, is it at the expense of others and to what end? Do we push to get ahead or to contribute to a greater good? What path are we on?

If we stop and think and really consider our motives and our state of mind we can start looking at things from a more humble perspective.

“Be like the bamboo, the higher you grow, the deeper you bow.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gratitude Turns What We Have Into Enough

As I sit to breakfast every morning, Theresa asks me “what are you grateful for?” We each list three things, whether superficial or deep, we start our day with gratitude. Gratitude can be a way of life. It is more than saying thank you, though this is part of it. It is really soaking up what we have in our lives that we are thankful for.

Gratitude is feeling the air fill our lungs and being thankful for it. Gratitude is reaching our hand out to open the door and being thankful for the power of movement.

We can bring gratitude into our lives by becoming aware of everything we have. We can begin to notice these things by listing them every morning, but list them mindfully. Let it sink in even if it is as simple as being thankful for the food in front of you. Let that fact sink in before you taste it. Sit with the words.

It is true that life presents challenges, life gives and life takes away. Through these challenges it is still possible to be grateful. We cannot experience the highs of happiness without the lows of pain and sadness. It is part of life and part of what makes us who we are.

But wherever we are in life, whether it be the the troughs or the peaks, we can still find time to be grateful. Even the worst things that happen, Brother David Steindl Rast tells us in Oprah Winfreys podcast turn out to be life giving.

The hardest part of my life to date was the death of my mother. Having left Ireland for Canada (9 years ago now) I missed out on the last 5 years of her life. I saw her in that time but it was painfully short. I still found gratitude in her death. Acceptance and gratitude that I had a week with her at the end. There is light in everything. We just have to find it.

“Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.”

Buddha

Happy people are grateful. Or are they? Yes, I imagine they are but Brother David counters in his TEDtalk that is grateful people who are happy.

Gratitude is the gateway to happiness. Brother David recommends that we stop, look and go – just like crossing the road.

How often in life do we really stop and look? Ask yourself, when was the last time you stopped to take in your situation and surroundings? If it was recently, I applaud you and encourage you to do it again right now. When we stop and look, we can use this as an opportunity to find something to be grateful for. We can, according to Brother David, use this as an opportunity to take action towards something we can be grateful for.

“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.”

Epictetus

We can appreciate what we have. Grateful living is so accessible. Today is not just another day. Stop reading for a second and look out the window. You will never, ever see that same cloud formation again. You will never see that sky again. You will never see the light hit the leaves or the concrete outside in that exact pattern ever again. Each moment and each day is something we can be grateful for and it can so easily sneak past us unnoticed.

I have written before about looking up. Too often our eyes are downcast and we cannot see what we really have.

“Gratitude is riches. Complaint is poverty.”

Doris Day

When we live a life of gratitude, we are rich. We often fear not having enough. This fear can create a longing, a craving, which ultimately leads to violence.

It takes time, effort and practise and it takes a lot more than listing three things every morning which we are grateful, but…..it’s a great place to start.

I still struggle with anger and negativity and may do so for the rest of my life but just like yoga, meditation and exercise, gratitude is a practise and a journey. A journey where we must stay on the path for the rest of our lives.

Each one of us may be just a drop, but together we make an ocean and together we can make an ocean of gratitude. Imagine what that would be like.

Gratitude can be our future. Brother David imagines a future, not with a top down pyramid power structure but as a flat network where we are willing to share. The grateful person will act out of a sense of enough.

“Gratitude for the present moment and the fullness of life now is the true prosperity.”

Eckhart Tolle

Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed this blog it would help us so much if you shared it,

Peace,

George

 

Links:

Gratitude | Louie Schwartzberg | TEDxSF

Want to be happy? Be grateful | David Steindl-Rast

Oprah – Super Soul