After the crazy social interaction of last summer, I welcome the Fall with its changing colours and cool evenings when one can curl up on a sofa and read.
I picked up several books on my recent trip to New York at my favorite bookstore, the McNally. I got a book by Elena Ferrante, and when I went to a cousin's house for dinner, she gave me another Ferrante book that she got from the stack of books that neighbors leave in the laundry after they have finished reading them. I was so delighted that I spent days reading, not even watching a single show on television which used to be my practice in the evenings.
No, for a week, I spent time reading. One morning amid a story, I felt strongly my desire to write coming back that I immediately went to my computer and wrote an article that I plan to publish on a platform I regularly use. Such love for writing lingered that I spent a portion of my days following that experience to writing whatever comes to mind.
Somehow, the writing flowed. I have embraced the identity of being a writer. I haven't done this before, even if I have written so many articles for some years now. I felt I was not good enough even to call myself a writer.
A story from the past came to me, and another one made me think I was not good enough to be a writer. My eldest sister, who is only a year older, is an excellent writer. Teachers praised her writing and asked her to be editor in chief, whereas I was only offered the features editor position in our school paper. My sister refused the offer to become editor in chief as she didn't want to spend time writing. She was busy learning new songs and dances. She only wrote when I offered to do her homework in exchange for an article, and it used to make me angry to see her do the writing in twenty minutes while I slaved over her homework for hours.
The other story was when we had an essay competition on a topic I had long ago forgotten. When the judges delivered the results, I placed only second to another classmate. That was the nail that clinched for me my belief that I was not a very good writer. Since then, I never bothered to write except for homework and exams until my husband and I decided to work as consultants in other countries. I chose only to accept contracts that I could do wherever we were so we could spend time together. I found myself with so much time in my hands, so I decided to write online. Slowly, I wrote articles but always asked my husband to go over them to assure me it was worth publishing. I needed someone to affirm it was good enough. This review went on for years until he passed on, and I lost that word of authority.
I, then, got a mentor, but I had no one to discuss ideas with, that somehow I lost interest in writing. I gave away one of my blogs to someone keen to take it over, and I was happy with the transition. I thought of giving up writing and being comfortable with retirement, not doing anything, just enjoying life.
Months of this did not bring me the enjoyment I thought I would gain from the decision. It made me even more restless, feeling useless about not doing something substantial. I kept assuring myself I was retired now, so I should be content in enjoying life.
Life, however, was not as enjoyable as I wanted it to be, so I kept searching. What was it that would make me happy? Little did I know that the flow came back in the simple recognition of being a writer, and I enjoyed sitting down to write. The fear of not being good enough was gone what was left was the enjoyment of giving words to memories, events, observations, and experiences. It was weaving a story about people and life as it happens.
I now look forward to waking up, having my coffee, and sitting to write. Sometimes, in the middle of reading, the urge to write intervenes, and I sit in front of my computer. It's very liberating to be free of that limiting belief that I was not a good writer. It doesn't matter now whether I am good or not. I write and keep doing it, enjoying the process.
2021 is here. I am not going to make any new year resolution this year though I have to admit, I have had a good track record of fulfilling my resolutions. However, I want to make this year special. I want to focus on one thing: Oneness.
I am not only referring to the Oneness that is needed in our society today as the divisiveness continues to stretch even further. I am highlighting an oneness that we can do something about, taking place in our selves.
This January, I focused on myself and how I can make myself a better person. I started by giving myself more attention and care. From my physical appearance to the food I feed it, I made some changes. They are not changes requiring much effort but tiny ones towards improving my health. By health, I included not only my physical health but also mental and spiritual.
I started to eat healthily. First, I only bought food that's healthy after gorging on fat and sugar last Christmas. I bought nuts, seeds, dried berries, fresh berries, avocados and salmon. I read from the book of Jim Kwik, Limitless, the food that feeds the brain and I focus on this.
I also did regular exercise. I chose the joint exercise I learned before, and I didn't mind doing it. The key is I do it regularly in the morning. So, here is my morning regimen. I wake up and immediately make my bed. This act of making my bed gives me one success to start the day. Then, I do meditation: just a short one, about 20 minutes.
After my meditation, I eat something fresh like an avocado or a bowl of blueberries, so my stomach doesn't get the surprise of the coffee that follows. Yes, I enjoy my morning coffee despite many health buffs' suggestion that I should give it up. Other studies have shown that a cup or two of coffee in the morning is right for you so, I keep enjoying my cup or two. I don't think being hard with yourself is a good idea, at least not for me.
Once I have had my coffee, I feed my mind by reading a book or listening to podcasts to help myself become a better person. This activity can take 30 minutes. I think it is important to feed one's self with useful information regularly. Our thoughts are critical to our growth, so providing it with the right information makes it much better.
I realized that working towards Oneness requires consistency and constancy in one's effort. There's also another thing I now begin to value, and that is Focus. I used to multi-task all the time until I find it is making me tired. I started to focus on one thing at a time, and I find that I get better results, and I find that as I focus my energy, I don't get tired. Again, another aspect of Oneness. To be fully present to what one is doing makes better understanding and finishing the task in less time.
I have followed this morning regime for some time now, and I feel its positive effects. Such effects continue to encourage me to keep at it. My body feels lighter and better coordinated. I feel lighter, and my mood has improved tremendously. I have not felt bored or lonely or down.
Slowly, I feel that my mind and my body are one. I know that when I keep doing this, I make myself more whole. When I grow towards wholeness, I can contribute to the fullness, the Oneness in our world.
All these years, I have scattered my attention by multi-tasking. I have tried so many things to improve myself. I have read so many books and listened to many gurus about working on my inner self and becoming whole. I have had enough.
I leave these all to 2020. 2021 will be uniquely special. It will focus more on doing the simple steps consistently and constantly to bring myself to wholeness, becoming One inside, the first step to wholeness in our world.
What is your focus for 2021? I wish you all the success.
Some of us have only a very faint knowledge of what is inside of us. We are not in touch with what we truly feel inside. We often ignore this feeling that they tend to be hazy if not hidden altogether.
For others, we do not want people to know how we feel because it makes us vulnerable. We think people can take advantage of us when they know what is deep down inside of us. Cultures have frowned upon showing vulnerability, especially when you are male. We are not allowed to cry as that is a sign of weakness, so we learned how to put on a brave face from an early age. We carry it as we grow up until we have a well-developed public persona that the world associates with who we are.
We think people around us expect us to do this. This stance is alright when we need to encourage others to go on bravely amid crisis. Yet, have we ever tried showing the vulnerable self inside us, the true feelings we have even if this means crying, breaking down in front of others, and crumpling down when faced with an unfortunate event?
Vulnerability takes courage. It is opening the wound that is within us. It enables others to hurt us. The Oxford Dictionary gives this definition of vulnerability: the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally. Who wants to do this? This definition is contra what we know growing up, which is to be strong and ensure that others see our strengths. What if we change this framework? What if we look at vulnerability as power?
Here's a start to do that change. Below is Brene Brown on the power of vulnerability.
Brene Brown, in this video, tells us to move towards connection. She contends this is why we're here. But for her, this connection is the result of authenticity. It is the realization that what made us vulnerable is what makes us beautiful.
Yes, it is crucial to go into our inner selves and listen to how we feel. Slowly, we need to accept that it is so much a part of us. We don't numb it and go off shopping or binge eat. No, we face it. We ask ourselves, Where is this coming from? Whatever it is, digging further will only make us feel miserable. What helped me more is to accept the hurt, feel it and know it is part of me. I need to tend to it, not allow it to overwhelm me, but look into it and find out how to remedy it. Of course, the prerequisite is to accept and not deny it. Convincing ourselves that it is not something to be ashamed of, a part of us who has not grown with the rest of us is difficult but necessary.
You'll be surprised as I was that it no longer has power over me when I started sharing it with friends. I wrote about my experience, and when we were talking one time as a group, I shared that I write. My friends inquired further and asked if I could share some of my articles with them. I did, and I was surprised at their reaction. One friend told me she was on the two occasions I described there and never noticed how I felt. Since then, we became even closer as we shared our vulnerabilities and cared for each other more. There was greater authenticity in the caring.
It's time to open ourselves, be more faithful to how we feel and not be afraid or ashamed to share whoever we indeed are with our friends.
What could be more satisfying than spending a perfect day in a beautiful garden with well-groomed dogs playing freely and fun folks who appreciate the beauty of nature and fine things?
That was my experience the other day. Yes, lucky me. It was a sunny Monday morning, and our Monday travel club of two invited ourselves to a friend's sunflower patch. Little did I know that other than the sunflowers, there were many more surprises in store for me. The whole day, I was like a child in a candy factory.
A few days in our lives, with no planning on our part, everything around us converges to bring about utter joy and contentment. True, there are a few, but the impact of these like these remain etched forever.
As I said earlier, it was a sunny Monday in August. Our Monday travel club drove from Toronto towards the north of the city. We avoided the highway and instead took the road that took us to some tiny villages. For me, these are hidden gems revealing their beauty after an hour's drive from downtown Toronto. Caledon's rolling hills unfolded in its almost exhilarating majesty peppered with horses exercising in fields filled with hay rolls. It reminded me of the pastoral paintings of Costable.
When we reached our destination, frolicking white and brown poodles met us in the garden of sunflowers, herbs, garlic, zinnias, and gladioli in purple, red, and white. Our host is a tall, slim, stylish lady who grew up in Montreal and brought flair to this rural Ontario outpost.
When we entered the house, everything in it attracted me from the table ready for lunch fashionably arranged, almost like in a home and country magazine. The well-chosen antiques tastefully displayed gives a lover of what's old stare in appreciation. The paintings, all family heirlooms, decorated the walls. Everything in the house contributed to its overall beauty.
We toured the property with the two dogs in tow. I almost did not leave the big barns as inside are treasures to connoisseurs of antique cars. Jags and MGs, beautifully restored in its elegant hues, are on display, reminding me of old TV programs like Inspector Morse.
We returned to the house for a treat: bacon and tomato sandwiches with a salad of greens made from the garden produce. What a refreshing lunch with flavors often lost to taste used to supermarket produce.
After lunch, we wandered through the garden, and our host gathered bouquets and fresh tomatoes for us, a real treat for city dwellers. We then had coffee to end our visit and drove back to the city, enjoying another route on Caledon's rolling hills.
Reflecting on this experience, I thought of the many days we spent uneventfully when adventure and beauty are waiting for our exploration. I vowed to get in my car and explore the area further in the future. There were some places I took notice of and researched when I came home to visit on some sunny days.
Life is a fantastic voyage: adventure, excitement, love, learning, travel, surprise.
WOW! This trip has everything. Everything! Hey, and we know the destination, right! So we don't want the fastest means of travel. We want a long slow trip with time to savor, rest a bit, take time in the right places, and move on quickly when another stop disappoints. So this is all about the trip.
Of course, some in your office call life a struggle! They live by the famous bumper stickers, "Life is hard, and then you die." "The best thing about each day is that it ends." It's up to you: Misery or adventure? What will your voyage be?
Here are some simple things to remember, something we often take for granted in our pursuit of better travel tools, navigation aids, tips, new courses, new transport, exotic places.
The market is so full of products and services to help us out in our journey, that often these things are just put aside for more colorful and attractive options.
1. Make a Travel Map
With a map, you have the best chance of passing through the places that will interest you. You can't buy the plan.
No one has ever had your journey before, so you have to draw your own. It will end up as a reverse diary, looking at what will happen tomorrow, not what happened today.
There is nothing you can do about the history and everything you can do about what lies ahead.
2. Get a Primary Navigation System
Nothing too complicated. First, get a notebook, so you don't lose this. Forget the jargon, the intricate frameworks, and programs. Just sit down and make your own.
You know how to create lines and shapes and write. Let your imagination go. What you can imagine, you can do. Go to the start point for this new voyage.
Now, think for a minute. This journey is not a powerboat trip. You are in a sailboat, winds change, and you have to go with them. Tides, currents, and rogue waves. You have to adjust for them all, but if you know very generally the experiences you want to have and the people and places you want to see, you will accommodate the rudder to keep you moving in the direction you want.
What are these experiences you want?
What environments do you want to experience?
What adventures seem interesting?
Write them all down. See the links. Are there clusters?
3. Adjust the Rudder
Is your flopping around now going to give you these things? If not, how can you adjust the rudder, given the wind, the waves, and your navigation aids? Hey, talk to the other passengers. Speak to your family. They might be amazed!
4. Give Yourself a Break
Often, we forget the essential part of living is doing the map for ourselves and our families. Stop. Look up. Look around. Where are you? In what country (real or imaginary) are you?
Enjoy the moment. Sit down and be aware and conscious of what is going on within you and in the world. In our hurry, we miss so much. We get into such a frenzy that we can't even enjoy the very people we want to make happy.
We don't listen to the sound of silence. Instead, we fill our lives with noise.
5. Welcome the New and the Unexpected
Often, we protect ourselves from any of these. We want our lives undisturbed.
We insulate ourselves from what is unique because it threatens us. So the break gives us some time to prepare ourselves to encounter the new, conquer our fears, and provide space for the new experience.
6. Pack Light!
Many times, we take a new route, but we bring all the luggage. Just in case something happens. Something will happen now that you are ready and open, and your baggage in your mind will get in the way.
Keep your experience, but abandon most baggage.
7. Listen to Your Restlessness
It is another word for awareness and readiness for change. Look in the paper for short seminars or courses on things that interest you.
Get a book that talks to you about change and moving in life. Look at stages.
Read about others that have thrived on life as a travel experience.
8. Enjoy the Scenery
Some people spend so much time planning the next trip that they never do see the joy of the one they are taking now.
Suddenly, the journey is over, and they never visited anything. They just got to the destination.
As you journey,
9. Share the Road
Help those who need your help on the way.
Respect the things you see around you.
The more you give away, the more will come back to you. I am not a flower child -- this works.
10. Enjoy the Company
Share and celebrate life with the people you meet on the road. You might never see them again as they are on a journey, too.
Connect with those you meet on the way. More and more, you will see how interconnected we all are.
And remember, there is a world of difference between being alone and being lonely.
Don't ever let the movement of the mob be confused as part of your life's journey.
Start now! Get the notebook. Live the adventure. You get one go around!
For those who love travel, here are some of my top recommendations of places to visit.
Click on the picture to know more of these places: