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less stress

Ssssssshhhhh……The Power of Silence

“Seldom do those who are silent make mistakes.”

It was by accident that I ended up writing this blog in O Five Tea Bar on Fourth Ave. It is a fitting setting as the other customers are either silently working or silently reading. The staff too, go about their business with the quiet diligence of monks.

Silence can come in many forms, it can be deep and oppressive, it can be heavy like a thick, dark blanket, it can be thin and unwholesome like the silence of a lie or the silence of inaction. It can also be strong and true, like it is in here right now, like it is after a strong Om or like a winter forest when the snow settles on the world to give it the perfect finishing touch.

Some things are best enjoyed in silence, like the tea I am drinking. You almost need the quiet to fully understand it, to fully appreciate it, as if the flavour whispers and it will disappear into the background unless you listen carefully.

I read a blog recently about a lady who managed to get a private audience with the successor to the Dalai Lama. He asked her if she had specific questions. She did not and so they remained in each others company and enjoyed the silence. It was a silence which required nothing else. There was no need to break it with mindless chatter. They shared the silence.

Silence encourages stillness. I am almost afraid to pour my tea too quickly for fear of adding an unwanted flavour to the quiet of the room. As if a movement too vigorous will create a ripple which will disturb the stillness.

Some of us are afraid of silence. We step into an elevator with somebody and take out our phone rather than share the silence. We plug in to the screen, the earphones, the podcast, the music, whatever it is, we use it as an exit system to flee the quiet stillness and rush out into the lights and sound, embracing it with open arms, wishing to be swallowed up by sound and colour.

It distracts us from our discomfort but there is no strength without discomfort. We put on a soundtrack that drowns out the whisper that tells us “something is wrong.” We don’t listen to the small voice inside us. We don’t get to know ourselves, like the parent who tells the small child to be quiet and behave, but the child is scared. The parent does not know because the soundtrack is too loud.

How many times when you were in school did your teacher tell you to “pay attention”? How can we pay attention when we do not know how too? We have never been thought these skills yet we are expected to have them, even though these abilities are being pushed further and further away from us every day.

A friend of mine once said, that if he had the opportunity to do anything in the world without the chance of failure, he would change the world. As Leo Tolstoy says “Everyone thinks of changing the world but no one thinks of changing themselves.” “Change yourself”, according to Nick Seaver’s TedTALK, “and you will change the world.” We are our own environment. Change ourselves and we change our environment.

Become still and let the mind settle, like the white powder flying about a snow globe.

Falling leaves in autumn, finding stillness.

That is where we learn to pay attention. There is power in silence, the power to learn, the power to forgive, the power to change the world. Change yourself and you will change the world.

How many earth shattering decisions were made on a whim, thrust out from a blinding flash of anger rather than forged with patience from a still mind.

Viktor Frankl‘s life was ruined in Nazi Germany, his family killed, his dignity stripped. He felt the emotions but he did not fall into them. “Between stimulus and response,” he said, “there is a space. In that space is our power to chose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” What Frankl describes is the power to change the world. This power lies in the pause, the silence. The power lies in the gap before stepping forward. The bridge in the road, before continuing the journey.

This is the power of silence. The power to change yourself and in turn the power to create a change greater than any of us have known.

This will open our minds to let us hear the undercurrent that tells us where we need to be. The candle light in Time Square is drowned out by flashing neon lights but it is still there. We just need to find it.

Through silence we can chip away at the surface and find our true selves. The reactive self is not the real self. The true self or the soul, as I like to think of it, is underneath and cannot be seen because the reactive self has encompassed it. Take the time, take the pause. Step away and listen.

John Francis spoke about his 17 years of silence in his TedTalk and it was on the Ted radio hour where I heard him say it was only after months of not speaking, that his mind began to settle. The waves took many months to settle after the storm.

It is ok to stop. We do not always need to move. We do not always need to fill the space. The sound of om consists of four parts, the final part being the silence.

In conclusion, I would like to encourage you all to sit in silence. Start small but be consistent. Invite the silence into your life like an old friend and see what stories it will tell you.

“Don’t just do something, sit there.”

I hope you enjoyed reading this one. If you did, please share it.

Peace,

George

Having Less: Why & How It Has Changed Us

The decision to live our lives with less gradually occurred over years. Realising that buying things only lead to buying more got exhausting, expensive and stressful. The constant need to keep up with friends & family, comparing what we had with others would make anyone feel inadequate.

Constantly going around the same loop of needing-wanting-getting-feeling bad, I came to a realisation that buying things was not making me happy but creating stress, worry, sadness and loneliness. I hate shopping malls and really didn’t like spending time in them. So why was I going there to buy stuff, it didn’t make sense.

Wakening up to the fact that buying things did not make me happy or having lots of clutter in our home did not make me happy. I decided to make a change. This decision came about from certain events but I think the one real eye opener was being around people who had so much money and things. Soon I realised they were no happier than we were. In fact, all their stuff caused them so much stress. People were even hired to take care of their stuff; houses, cars, animals, bags, jewelry. Stuff needs taking care of, maintenance, up keep, constant surveillance. Owing more than one home creates so much stress, especially when they are not lived in all the time leaks, electrical issues, surveillance, security alarms, all of these extra stresses which start to control the lives of the people.

I saw first-hand how people who seem to have it all, were controlled by it all. Spending months working on their houses, renovating, painting, adding on thinking it would all end in a few months but then the upkeep of the homes began to take over weekends. The time spent having to clean the house, do jobs around the house, or paying people to do all that just didn’t appeal to me.

Living in a rented 1-bedroom apartment might not seem like a lot to most people but what it is freedom. Freedom from upkeeping a massive house, freedom from huge mortgage bills, freedom from having to hire staff to clean, freedom to live more simply. Is this going to be reality for the rest of our lives, no, we want to live in our own small place on our own land someday but for now this is perfect.

Living in a small space doesn’t mean that we are living simply, you can over complicate life very easily with extreme shopping habits. This is what we wanted to change. We wanted to eradicate the need to want things, we wanted to sit and relax in our home and not want or need. Be happy with what we had because everything we had was chosen with care & love and thought.

We want to live in a home with less noise, more space and beauty. That meant going through every room, drawer, cupboard, box, shelf, basket and storage area to get rid of all the things that did not spark joy or happiness. Marie Kondo book “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying” was the road map we used to help declutter our home. For me this process of getting rid of stuff is fun, I have no issue with giving unused, unwanted and no longer needed items away. In fact, when they find a great home it makes me feel so happy! We gave away and sold lots of stuff, no dumping required except we recycled a lot of bank statements, notes from courses we took, old notebooks and lots of other paper that was stored throughout the years. Now we just have 1 folder for our important paperwork and avoid bringing paperwork back to our home.

I like to look through each area of our place on a monthly basis to see if there are any other items we could donate or give away. We have come very close to a place now that we truly have just what we use & need.

I cannot explain how relaxing this is and how happy I am when I walk through our home door every evening after work and look around to a place where I want to relax, destress and be comfortable in. Not having a need to clean, improve or change anything. Its home. I swear I smile everything I come home, maybe because we worked so hard for it and spent a lot of time deciding how we want our place to look & feel. The constant need to buy is no longer there. We would rather spend time working on projects we want to complete, be out in nature & socializing with friends.

Having less is not easy in fact it is so much easier to have more, more stuff, more debt, more stress, more money, more drink, more credit cards, more cars, shoes……. it’s harder to limit, to say no and to realise that having more does not make you happy. Having been around people who have lots of money……. but still want more money & more stuff….it made me realise that the wanting never stops even when you become hugely successful.

Spending life taking care of your stuff is a horrid waste of time when you could be doing things that spark joy & happiness…don’t waste life accumulating things instead accumulate memoires, experiences, friends, love & relationships. Focus on what really matters, connection, community, health, wellbeing, friendships, family…. stuff will never make you happy…. It may make life easier sometimes but never happier.

Having less is the best decision we ever made. We Know having less is better for our environment, relationships, health and bank accounts. We choose having less clutter and more time to enjoy life. Yes, this lifestyle will not make sense to a lot of people but we are free to life exactly how we choose…. we choose less. Our possessions do not control our lives.

As always, we would love to hear your feedback and comments.

Have a great week,

Chat soon,

Theresa xx

How To Be Productive In The Evenings During The Work Week: A More Relaxed Approach

Before we get into our evening routine & how we stay productive, let’s start from the beginning.

Each year we create our annual goals just before New Year’s Day. We record our goals under categories; Personal, Health & Wellness, Fitness, Financial, Future Business, Work, Home & Travel. All goals are written in our journals so we can review them daily/weekly/monthly. An important step which we love to do is to review the goals from the previous year and mark off what was achieved & what we have to work on, if it’s still a goal for the New Year.

Once all our goals are listed, we work towards them every day.

Creating the bigger picture of how & where you want your life to go over the next year will determine what you want to achieve in your day.

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For example, under the heading of Health & Wellness, we have a goal to have less stress in our life. How do we work towards less stress in our life, every morning we meditate, we wake up early to sit together to have our breakfast, we give ourselves lots of time in the mornings to get ready before work. All of this creates a calmer more chill morning for us so we can arrive at work rested & energised for a new day. We plan time into each part of our day to relax, chill & enjoy life.

Under the heading of Fitness, we have the goal to exercise daily. Our goal each day is to move for a minimum of 60 min. This can come in the form of 2 half hour walks on our breaks, or workouts in the evenings.

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We have figured out through trial & error the activities & goals we like to work towards in the morning and what we like to tackle in the evenings. The evenings are a mixture of relaxation & energy. We like to plan a week in advance for our evening activities. In our journals we list 3 tasks that we would like to achieve each night. Each task should be no longer than an hour. Therefore, we spend about 3 hours each evening working on specific goals.

These goals can range from:

1. Prepare dinner for next 3 nights

2. Read 25 pages of book

3. Go for 40 min walk

1. Iron clothes

2. Write Blog

3. Read 25 pages of book

1. Eco night

2. Go for walk /Yoga class

3. Write Letter to niece

We only assign 3 goals per evening. This more relaxed approach to the evenings takes the pressure off having to get a whole pile of stuff done & feeling really bad when we don’t achieve all 10 items we had on our list.

Usually we get home between 5pm & 6pm, we eat dinner, read, write or do jobs and exercise. All of these things align with our bigger picture goals.

TV is avoided in the evenings from Monday to Thursday in our home so we can use our time wisely during the week.

By the time we finish our evening tasks it usually about 8:30-9:00pm. We use this last hour to really wind down, take a bath, read more, play a board game, read some of our favourite blogs, listen to podcasts or audiobooks or just have a chat.

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Bedtime for us is between 9:30pm and 10:00pm. Lights are out at either 9:45pm or 10:00pm (George likes to read a little later…..I usually fall asleep with book in hand or mid-sentence!…No issues with sleep here..lol)

That’s essentially our evenings and how we make use of our time to work on goals that are important to us one hour at a time. Goals can be daunting but broken down into hours they really are achievable. We aim for slow & steady change overtime. We are definitely the turtle in the race. We joke about my Father that he is the man who is walking while all the others are running……. that’s how we want to approach life too. Slow & steady wins the race, apply it to your goals.

We hope this was helpful.

As always, we would love to hear your comments & feedback.

Have a great week,

Chat soon,

Theresa