No man is an island: why Affirmation is important

 

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Trout dams at Dullstroom in Mpumalanga, South Africa. I spent a beautiful few days there earlier this month.

We all need to feel appreciated and recognized for our efforts from time to time. We need feedback from others to know that our endeavours count for something, especially when we feel that the wheels are turning too slowly and that the things we want to achieve seem out of reach. Our family members, friends and those we consider our peers are often the mirrors which reflect back to us our place in this world, and while we should never let other’s opinions make or break us, there is no doubt that people matter, in the sense that we sometimes simply need to know that what we are trying to do is not going unnoticed. At TheFreeDictionary.com, ‘AFFIRMATION’ is described as ‘a statement intended to provide encouragement, emotional support, or motivation…‘ 

Our need for recognition and support is echoed in ‘No Man is an Island’, a well known proverbial expression coined by John Donne in the 17th Century. The phrase expresses the idea that human beings do badly when isolated from others and that we have a need to be part of a community in order to thrive.

 

All this was brought home to me whilst reading through the readers comments one of my recent posts and enjoying and appreciating the the positive feedback I received. One of the comments in particular, from hilaryhunterwriter, stood out for me. It ended with the simple statement: “Keep up the good work” and somehow this short sentence inspired me to just that. Suddenly I felt a unexpected pride at my efforts and in that moment it felt like what I had written was elevated to something more special than before. And perhaps that’s the critical issue: that it sometimes takes someone other than ourselves to recognize what we are doing and the impact that we have, because we often fail to see it at those times when we just can’t see the wood for the trees.

 

A few weeks ago I visited a close, slightly younger family member who has in a short space of time been through several operations including reconstruction surgery and has been on cancer treatment since. Despite having to deal with devastating emotional shock and invasive treatment, she has continued on her way towards physical and emotional recovery with astonishing energy, positivity and determination while the rest of us look on in awe. I decided to tell her once and for all that I think she has been amazing and that I admire her hugely for the way that she dealt with everything. This resulted in a long and rather tearful hug on both sides, as more words of love and appreciation tumbled out. I left with a feeling of lightness of spirit and somehow relieved that I had spoken from the heart in this way, even at the risk of becoming emotional. I think that this lightness and sense of relief came from knowing that what I had expressed had been ‘sitting’ with me, needing to be said, and that there is no time like the present, especially as Tomorrow is Promised to Nobody. But maybe that’s a subject for another post….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be inspired: 5 beautiful reflections for the later months of 2018

 

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In my garden: Purple Iris

 

 

I originally posted this in January of this year, my first post of 2018, and I thought it was a nice way to get started: something positive and grounding, a bit of gentle, uplifting ‘kickstart’, something to ease us into whatever the new year might bring. A new year promises many things and of course we always wish for the best: we look forward with a sense of hope and excitement, and sometimes there is fear and trepidation, especially if we are anticipating difficult times ahead.  Nevertheless we look to embrace the possibilities ahead, the promise of a fresh start and the urge to move forward to dream bigger, do better and be better. Fast forward to the last week of August of the same year and we find that a lot has happened since that fresh first month of January. Ironically it is at this later stage  we may well be needing a dose of that positivity that we started the year with.  Even if we have done well with our New Year’s resolutions (if we set any) and other goals we may have created for the year, life presents us with ongoing challenges and we find our coping mechanisms being stretched more and more and we may feel those frustrations and disappointments piling up. And that’s when we need to step back, take a breathe (in AND out) 🙂 and take a moment to get some perspective and perhaps, some inspiration. I have reblogged This Post because I think it is worth revisiting. It helps me on a bad day and it reminds me of our bond with nature: that we are part of nature, and also that we have choices about how we deal with things when it all gets a bit much. Please enjoy:

 

 

1.“The One you are looking for is the One who is looking.” (St Francis of Assisi). Beautifully explained in this post.

 

2. ““There exists a deep ecological tradition in Vedic culture by which human settlement, forests and water resources are carefully balanced. To achieve that balance, nature’s welfare and human welfare cannot be separated each other.”  Chris Terry explains the Vedic ecology at the core of the Small Farm Training Centre, in an article from the Huffington Post.

 

3. “Really, to have a life of doing you need to not do.” (Will Rosenzweig talking about the Tao). Read about the four levels of non-doing, and how it may sometimes be necessary to be detached from things that you care deeply about.

 

4. “Animals move; people can learn about movement from animals. House pets stretch all day long, creating space in their joints. Animals sit in different kinds of positions. Monkeys and apes do things with their hands. Perhaps as humans we need to reclaim our four- leggedness. Getting down on all fours stimulates the pranic flow. Sitting in chairs tightens the hamstrings and the lower back. Animals don’t sit on furniture; they have not built things contrary to their nature.”  (Denise Kaufman). From the Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature (London & New York: Continuum, 2005) Edited by Bron Taylor

 

 

5.”Whats in your cup? ….When life gets tough, what spills over for you?” from  “The journey of a 1000 miles begins with a single step”

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Power of the To-Do list

 

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Winter in my garden: Origanum gone frosty

 

I find there is something immensely satisfying about crossing off completed tasks on a to-do list. Whether it’s something big like finally completing a passport renewal, or making that difficult call to someone I’ve been avoiding, or else a small matter like clearing out a shelf in the garden shed, that sense of personal satisfaction is always there. My feeling on completion can vary from a simple pat on the back to one of immense relief and even of validation and accomplishment, especially for one of those really frustrating, painful or time-consuming tasks that we sometimes have to face.

 

 

I have learnt to acknowledge that allowing myself to fall behind on my task lists is just not good for me. I end up dealing with some level of discomfort, whether its mild irritation at myself or (on a bad day) questioning my ability to deal with even simple things decisively and without procrastination. The Free Dictionary.com defines procrastination as “to postpone or delay needlessly” and more specifically “To put off doing something, especially out of habitual carelessness or laziness”. (Obviously not a good thing… 😦 )

 

Completing my listed tasks and ticking them off allows me to clear the way forward, from where I can (guilt-free) move on and give my attention to things that I would rather be doing. My task lists can be a great way for me to feel that I have structure in my daily life, but on the flip side they can also become a kind of mental and emotional clutter if I fail to give them attention (aka procrastinate)

 

I have learnt to not underestimate the importance to complete the tasks on my to-do lists. I have realised that they may symbolise something more significant than simple ‘tasks’. I know that I end up feeling anxious and disorganised if I have too many ‘things on my plate’ no matter how small and simple these might seem at a glance. Completing my listed tasks and ticking them off feels like a way for me to clear a way forward for myself, from where I can (guilt-free) move on and give my attention to things that I would rather be doing. My task lists can be a great way for me to feel that I have clarity and definition in my daily life, but on the flip side they can also become a kind of mental and emotional clutter if I fail to give them attention (aka procrastinate)

 

Something as simple as completing tasks on a list can represent something powerful, such as the acknowledging and respecting of the commitments you set for yourself,  respecting your time and respecting yourself in general. Respecting the fact that your preferred way to spend your precious time and energy is on the things that you really  value and probably include quality time with the people that you care about.

 

If you’re an avid list-maker like me, here are a few points that I try to abide by:

  • Remember that you don’t have to write down Every Single Little Thing. Try and get into the habit of doing things as they cross your mind. Example: dialing my dentist takes about the same time it takes me to write down “make dental appointment” for the umpteenth time! Sometimes it really is simpler and better to Just Do It.
  • If you are looking for inspiration for something like a home decorating task, you might find yourself week after week writing out “choose paint colours for kitchen wall”. Commit yourself now to starting a Pinterest board, and then go online and start pinning those pretty pictures Right Now as we speak, to get the ball rolling. Or if you prefer a hard copy, make sure that your next weekly shop includes stopping at the hardware store or the paint wholesaler where you can pick up a few paint swatches to bring home.
  • Are you including things on your list that you end up regretting later? Are you taking on someone else’s task, so that every time you see it pop up on your list you find yourself wondering why you agreed on in the first place? Remember to be careful of over-commitment, especially if it’s a favour for someone that you’re about to agree to.
  • Love your Lists♥! Or if not, at least do your best to honour them. Just take that first step.
  • Important to remember: 1-Its YOUR list, and 2-Your time is precious, and so is your Peace of Mind.

 

 

 

 

 

Inspired by Nature: “Be as Water”.

 

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Winter in my garden: Succulents, rocks and fallen leaves

 

“Nothing in the world is more yielding and softer than water; yet it penetrates the hardest. Insubstantial, it enters where no room is. It is so fine that it is impossible to grasp a handful of it; strike it, yet it does not suffer hurt; stab it, and it is not wounded.” Bruce Lee (November 27, 1940–July 20, 1973)

 

Bruce Lee understood the power of nature. His “Be Water”quote (on YouTube) from the TV series Longstreet, is one of those perennials that remain relevant and powerful, and continues to attract seekers of peace looking for meaningful sustainable ways to meet life’s challenges. Even as a young man (he was only 32 when he so sadly passed away) he was committed to do so much more than be the physical powerhouse and world renowned actor that he became.  He was a family man and a seeker of truth. To quote his daughter Shannon Lee, he was a “teacher, family man, martial artist, philosopher, and innovator who became a cultural icon because he actively lived his philosophy of self-actualization.”

 

Read more Here on the moments of clarity and conviction that led up to him becoming spiritually inspired and moved by the qualities of water in all its potential, from the power of its gentleness and yielding to the power of its force and magnitude.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Connected to nature: Its part of our Humanity

 

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In my garden: Pelargonium Angel-eyes

 

British naturalist and environmental writer Michael McCarthy explores the powerful feelings nature can stir in us in our day to day lives: “They are surely very old, these feelings. They are lodged deep in our tissues and emerge to surprise us. For we forget our origins; in our towns and cities, staring into our screens, we need constantly reminding that we have been operators of computers for a single generation and workers in neon-lit offices for three or four, but we were farmers for five hundred generations, and before that hunter-gatherers for perhaps fifty thousand or more, living with the natural world as part of it as we evolved, and the legacy cannot be done away with.”

 

In his book The Moth Snowstorm: Nature and Joy,  Michael Mcarthy writes about his passion for nature beginning in his difficult early childhood and continuing into adulthood, and he presents us with some hard facts about our dwindling natural resources. He expresses his deep concern for the future of our natural world and his insistence that as a “resource” nature is far more than an exploitable asset but a true source of joy and connectedness.

 

“Our origins are of the earth. And so there is in us a deeply seated response to the natural universe, which is part of our humanity,” Rachel Carson, a 20th century marine biologist who was truly in love with nature, and unselfconscious in her “preoccupation with the wonder and beauty of the earth.”

Both of these wonderful, devoted pioneers believed that despite everything we are still essentially nature’s children, and that the natural world is not separate from us, it is part of us. They believed that if we truly look out with our hearts and our minds to the beauty and realities of our precious world, we will connect more and more with our own ‘loving nature’ and become less tolerant of the neglect and destruction that is so commonly part of what we call progress.

Read more about their research and writings on Maria Popova‘s wonderful website: Brainpickings- an inventory of the meaningful life.

 

Living plastic-free: How to settle for good, not perfect.

 

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In My Garden: Cycad (Broodboom)

 

” It’s the action, not the fruit of the action, that’s important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there’ll be any fruit. But that doesn’t mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result..” _(Mahatma Gandhi)

 

 

In 2007 a woman called Beth Terry wrote a letter to her city council member in Oakland, California, opting for the banning of plastic bags from grocery stores and other retail outlets in her area. Since then she has to date turned out a total of 746 blog posts, all centered around ways to reduce the devastating effects of plastic pollution on our environment, with a strong emphasis on reducing our own individual plastic footprints. And her blog is just one aspect of her site myplasticfreelife.com, which is a comprehensive resource for plastic-free living. She makes the point that our actions matter. Our efforts count. Allowing ourselves to be overwhelmed into inaction does not help. Don’t be paralyzed by perfectionism; you will end up feeling discouraged and frustrated, believing that your efforts towards creating positive change are pointless. Read below to where she discusses this very issue:

 

The reality is that there is a lot of hidden plastic that we inadvertently consume every day simply by being alive in this modern age.  If you ever eat in a restaurant, you consume plastic.  If you buy anything from a store, you consume plastic… even if you buy it from a bulk bin.  Because often, the foods in the bulk bins come shipped in great big plastic bags.  And even if they weren’t, there was probably some plastic involved in growing the food in the first place.  Organic farmers may have used plastic sheeting to keep out the weeds.

The idea of living a plastic-free life is not to become so perfect at avoiding plastic that you feel smug about yourself.  Realizing just how unavoidable plastic is when you really trace back the life cycle of a product can wipe that smug grin off your face and provide a humbling perspective.  Our personal actions DO make a difference, though.  I know it can be tempting to say, “Oh, the problem is so big, I might as well give up.”  Don’t.

Read the full post here, and take a moment to remind yourself that it’s perfectionism that is pointless, and it’s the action, the effort, that is important.

 

 

Finding WuWei: The path of least resistance

 

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In My Garden

 

Our actions should never involve unnecessary strain, force or intervention. Keep your actions natural and spontaneous in order to find your own balance and momentum. Stay relaxed so as not to impede the process of ‘non-doing’. Our actions are more authentic, more true, if we can allow nature, rather than force, to guide us.

 

These are some of the central ideas in Wuwei, a key aspect of the Chinese philosophy of Taoism, and it encourages us to  practice ‘going with the flow’, allowing our actions to be relaxed, spontaneous and natural, thus avoiding tension and unnecessary effort.

 

Seeking simplicity is for me not only about making eco-wise and efficient choices regarding the environment, my health and my home. Our thinking guides our actions,  and if we find ourselves feeling under constant pressure to get things done and to get them done just right, we may want to step back a bit to a simpler, kinder way of relating to ourselves. It is all too easy to get caught up in over-thinking, which leads to tension and anxiety and can take the joy out life. We start to fear change: new opportunities are instead perceived as unwanted challenges and we start anticipating difficulties rather than possibilities ahead. I am speaking from direct experience here! And even mundane, repetitive action (housework, anyone?) can feel like less of a chore if we can relax into it  rather than approaching it with a sense of dread and a feeling of tension. There is always room for improvement in the way we think about ourselves in relation to the tasks that we set ourselves and to the tasks that life itself sometimes unexpectedly presents to us.

Read Soon Teo’s fascinating posts about the power of Tao Here.

 

 

Be inspired: 5 beautiful reflections for a brand new year.

 

Taking us forward into 2018……

 

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In my garden: Potato Bush

 

 

1.“The One you are looking for is the One who is looking.” (St Francis of Assisi). Beautifully explained in this post.

 

2. ““There exists a deep ecological tradition in Vedic culture by which human settlement, forests and water resources are carefully balanced. To achieve that balance, nature’s welfare and human welfare cannot be separated each other.”  Chris Terry explains the Vedic ecology at the core of the Small Farm Training Centre, in an article from the Huffington Post.

 

3. “Really, to have a life of doing you need to not do.” (Will Rosenzweig talking about the Tao). Read about the four levels of non-doing, and how it may sometimes be necessary to be detached from things that you care deeply about.

 

4. “Animals move; people can learn about movement from animals. House pets stretch all day long, creating space in their joints. Animals sit in different kinds of positions. Monkeys and apes do things with their hands. Perhaps as humans we need to reclaim our four- leggedness. Getting down on all fours stimulates the pranic flow. Sitting in chairs tightens the hamstrings and the lower back. Animals don’t sit on furniture; they have not built things contrary to their nature.”  (Denise Kaufman). From the Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature (London & New York: Continuum, 2005) Edited by Bron Taylor

 

 

5.”Whats in your cup? ….When life gets tough, what spills over for you?” from  “The journey of a 1000 miles begins with a single step”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Simple meditation: no yoga mat required

 

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In my garden: Granadilla fruit and flower

Many people today are interested in meditation in a more ‘functional’ way, perhaps as a means to help us to manage stress or health issues and to help us to cope with our busy, demanding lives. Meditation therefore is something we might look to simply as a tool to help us to manage our daily demands.

In his book YOGA (6th Edition_ 1983), Swami Venkatesananda describes meditation as “..the art of realising the universal self, beyond the ego-sense” and as a state of being and awareness where “..the ‘I’ has disappeared and only consciousness remains”  

 

Swami Venkatesananda spent many years as a recluse and ascetic disciple. His yoga practice extended to serving humanity and he believed in teaching through his word and example the ideal of an enlightened life. He believed that there is a way for us all to benefit from a meditation practice and believed in a ‘common sense’ view of our seemingly complex problems.

So how CAN we use meditation in a ‘common sense’ way, in a way that helps us to feel calmer, happier, healthier and more in control of our lives?

I have used my own morning meditation routine as an example of a light meditation practice before starting the day. The practice can take as short a time or as long as you like, even five minutes if that is all you have. I sit for fifteen minutes on average. The important thing is to make it part of your daily routine so that it becomes a habit.

First, I make sure I have a hot cup of tea in my hands and I sit comfortably in bed with my back supported by pillows. The routine is more or less as follows: Continue reading

Eco options: start with what you already know

 

In my garden: Apple Blossoms

Don’t get complicated.

I imagine that most people reading my blog share some of my interests and concerns about the health of the planet, and individual personal health as well. Just as I care about my own health and well being, I care about the health and well being of the environment that nurtures and supports me. Enjoying life and remaining optimistic is a priority too, otherwise what’s the point of it all! We know that as consumers our choices have impact, and if we care about the environment, we will want our choices not to add to current problems.

 

Yet we can’t always have exactly what we want. In a perfect world I would have nutritious, wholesome foods and healthy non-toxic self care and household products, all responsibly produced and packaged, and locally made to reduce the problem of travel distances and the accompanying carbon footprint. Everything I use and eat would be from natural origin, from sustainable resources, incur no harm to animals, and be created in an environment where fair labour practice is upheld.

Even your bulk buy, unpackaged purchases might raise some questions for you, depending on your key issues: “What carbon footprint did it leave to get to the bulk bins? Is it a natural product? Is it cruelty free? What are the working conditions of the farmers/workers who helped bring it to the store? Is it locally sourced/ packaged?” And realistically, let’s not forget “What is the cost of this and can I even afford it?” The list can go on and it gets overwhelming (speaking from experience!) when you are looking for a seamless, perfect scenario and if you expect yourself to have all the answers.

I can recall occasions, even very recently, where I have stood in the shopping aisle staring at huge, catering sized jars of pickles thinking “yes, I know it’s less packaging in the long run, but how long is THAT going to sit opened and partially eaten in the fridge at home?” and “these retail priced boxes of Epsom Salts are packaged in cardboard, whereas my usual cheaper wholesaler sells hers in single use plastic, so which is the better choice?”

And that’s just at the supermarket!

At home you notice (again) that your kitchen cupboards are rife with tired looking plastic food containers, many with lids long lost at some birthday picnic or office canteen, and you wonder if you should just replace the whole lot. But you’re not sure because you don’t know if recycling an item in order to replace it is the Green thing to do. This link tells you about using plastic for food from a personal health point of view.

 

So to get back to the title of this post: what things do you already know and have at your disposal? What exists in your home, in your cupboards and closets and in your fridge, that is already working for you and/ or you could make better use of ? I have found that by starting with what you already have and know, you are more likely to want to continue. Here are some suggestions: Continue reading