Mind | Letting Go Of The Unnecessary

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In the last few weeks I have been packing away items I no longer use, fit in or desire. I had dresses I last wore 8-9 years ago when I was younger and my hemlines were scandalously shorter, presents people kindly gave me but I never used and bottles of unused toiletries.  All packed away and off to the charity shop. I like this concept of being possession-light and free of unnecessary material goods. I unfollowed dozens of social media accounts, unsubscribed from various newsletters and had a bit of a frenzied delete/throw-out moment. Those pesky remnants of my younger, superficial life when I cared (yikes) about labels, society pages and other forms of ridiculousness.

After years of heavy suitcases filled to the brim with items I would never wear on holiday, I try to travel with hand luggage now. I still remember the look on the bell man’s face when I checked out of my Istanbul hotel: I had 1 over-the-shoulder carry-on bag for 5 days. We both laughed about it. I don’t buy souvenirs or very much when I travel so, if anything, my case gets lighter. I am trying to apply this to future trips too.

Recently I’ve been listening to The Minimalists via their podcast (Technology and Education are particularly pertinent to my life) and I realise they constantly articulate what I have been struggling to accept: sometimes we need to declutter our relationships just as we do our wardrobes.  I know someone who only contacts me to talk about herself, often not even asking about how I am. I mean, basic etiquette. If you ask her a question, she will never respond without “my boyfriend says” interjected into her answer, she complains constantly yet does nothing to address her issues and, most importantly, I feel really low after I’ve interacted with her. Some people just drag you down. Look, we’re grown ups; our relationships are an important facet of who we are but I struggle with people who speak through the opinions of others. I try to be empathetic towards other people. I know (and love) that we’re all different, I just struggle with people who complain yet do nothing. We all have down moments but, come on, let’s stay positive, focused and move on to better, happier times. I’m more of a let’s-encourage-and-soar-together rather than let’s-be-miserable-forever kind of person. My life has had some lows, and there were times when I didn’t think I would make it. I did. I have nothing to complain about, just gratitude for where I am and the possibility of going further. Not everybody is the same, and that is okay. One of my favourite quotations from The Minimalists essay entitled Goodbye Fake Friends (not sure where it originates from) is

“You can’t change the people around you, but you can change the people around you.”

I guess it wasn’t until last weekend when my friend Amber was in town that I realised how bad this actually is. We met for coffee and discussed everything: university, our relationships, the brilliance of Timberyard, future goals, politics, living abroad, the perfect lip moisturiser and that as long as cake exists, we will keep eating it for breakfast. I felt happy, light and motivated as I headed off to my Japanese class, and sad that my dear friend wasn’t staying (but excited about her life abroad). It really made me think about my interactions with other people, and how I spend my time. As an introvert I do not choose or like to spend much of my time around others so, in those limited interactions, why would I choose to be be around negativity? I am doing this to myself.

Change is challenging but necessary. I’m learning that things and people should bring value to your life, not weigh you down or clutter your shelves. As one of my favourite yoga teachers – Andrew McGonigle – always says in class

“Let go of what is no longer serving you.”

Mind | Letting Go Of The Unnecessary

IMG_4474

In the last few weeks I have been packing away items I no longer use, fit in or desire. I had dresses I last wore 8-9 years ago when I was younger and my hemlines were scandalously shorter, presents people kindly gave me but I never used and bottles of unused toiletries.  All packed away and off to the charity shop. I like this concept of being possession-light and free of unnecessary material goods. I unfollowed dozens of social media accounts, unsubscribed from various newsletters and had a bit of a frenzied delete/throw-out moment. Those pesky remnants of my younger, superficial life when I cared (yikes) about labels, society pages and other forms of ridiculousness.

After years of heavy suitcases filled to the brim with items I would never wear on holiday, I try to travel with hand luggage now. I still remember the look on the bell man’s face when I checked out of my Istanbul hotel: I had 1 over-the-shoulder carry-on bag for 5 days. We both laughed about it. I don’t buy souvenirs or very much when I travel so, if anything, my case gets lighter. I am trying to apply this to future trips too.

Recently I’ve been listening to The Minimalists via their podcast (Technology and Education are particularly pertinent to my life) and I realise they constantly articulate what I have been struggling to accept: sometimes we need to declutter our relationships just as we do our wardrobes.  I know someone who only contacts me to talk about herself, often not even asking about how I am. I mean, basic etiquette. If you ask her a question, she will never respond without “my boyfriend says” interjected into her answer, she complains constantly yet does nothing to address her issues and, most importantly, I feel really low after I’ve interacted with her. Some people just drag you down. Look, we’re grown ups; our relationships are an important facet of who we are but I struggle with people who speak through the opinions of others. I try to be empathetic towards other people. I know (and love) that we’re all different, I just struggle with people who complain yet do nothing. We all have down moments but, come on, let’s stay positive, focused and move on to better, happier times. I’m more of a let’s-encourage-and-soar-together rather than let’s-be-miserable-forever kind of person. My life has had some lows, and there were times when I didn’t think I would make it. I did. I have nothing to complain about, just gratitude for where I am and the possibility of going further. Not everybody is the same, and that is okay. One of my favourite quotations from The Minimalists essay entitled Goodbye Fake Friends (not sure where it originates from) is

“You can’t change the people around you, but you can change the people around you.”

I guess it wasn’t until last weekend when my friend Amber was in town that I realised how bad this actually is. We met for coffee and discussed everything: university, our relationships, the brilliance of Timberyard, future goals, politics, living abroad, the perfect lip moisturiser and that as long as cake exists, we will keep eating it for breakfast. I felt happy, light and motivated as I headed off to my Japanese class, and sad that my dear friend wasn’t staying (but excited about her life abroad). It really made me think about my interactions with other people, and how I spend my time. As an introvert I do not choose or like to spend much of my time around others so, in those limited interactions, why would I choose to be be around negativity? I am doing this to myself.

Change is challenging but necessary. I’m learning that things and people should bring value to your life, not weigh you down or clutter your shelves. As one of my favourite yoga teachers – Andrew McGonigle – always says in class

“Let go of what is no longer serving you.”

2016 | In The Moment

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Embracing that 1st January feeling when everybody and their cousin is full of hope, determination and joy, and you jump on the bandwagon to wish everybody a Happy New Year. This is the feeling I want to take with me through the coming months.

For me, the 1st January (almost) marks the half way point of my year. My birthday is on 11th July and, with each additional year I am blessed with, I start anew. Last year, I spent my birthday strolling around a Buddhist temple, St. Joseph’s Cathedral (my fascination with religious architecture knows no bounds!) and the inspiring Temple of Literature in Hanoi. It was a life-changing moment: I had felt terrified that Vietnam would be unsafe (particularly as a solo female traveller) and people would be cold and angry. Instead, I discovered a people with hearts as warm as their climate, people who have suffered through recent and extreme atrocities yet somehow embraced the lessons of their past and resolved to share light, happiness and kindness to others.  It was a day I moved closer to the teachings of my yoga practice, of the true meaning of life and, most importantly, realising that my happiness is on me and my state of mind.

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So, in view of focusing on my happiness, I booked a trip to Istanbul.  I’m obsessed with religious architecture and ceramics and given the way our world currently works, I started to worry that a time may come when I wouldn’t be permitted/advised by the powers that be to go to Turkey.  With the exception of 1 person everybody advised me against going. And, thinking about it, the same people advised me against going to Vietnam and Cambodia in the summer too. A female friend who has travelled to the other side of the world by herself on numerous occasions told me “I’d never go somewhere like that by myself”. I sat there listening to her advising me to cancel my trip without being able to counter her point because, ashamedly, I too had doubts and worries.  I pretty much spent the fortnight leading up to my trip on the FCO website. In the end, I went, and now find myself wondering what a “country like that” is. Needless to say, I will enquire. I visited every church, mosque and synagogue that would let me in, I took over 900 photographs in 5 days, ate the best pickles in the land, met some interesting people and left with my heart full and my mind even more curious. The architectural beauty and diversity in Istanbul is unlike anything I have ever experienced and I would return in a heartbeat.

Recently I read an alleged proverb (it was on Pinterest so one never knows):

“Better to see something once than to hear about it a thousand times.”

how very true. My explorations of 2015 only made me want to travel more. My dreams of travelling to faraway lands such as China, Iran and India and, much closer to home, Scotland and Italy have been intensified. I want to see the world. I want this feeling of being alive, of understanding and of human interconnectedness to continue.

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Yesterday I ended my year with a Vinyasa yoga class led by one of my favourite teachers – Rachel Okimo. Her classes make you think, work every muscle in your body and keep your mind calm. Yesterday Rachel spoke of letting go of the past, pausing our plans and just, for 75 minutes, being in the moment. An important reminder. Today, my 1st January treat to myself was attending Leila Sadeghee‘s “A year of divine enchantment” workshop. As I mentioned on Instagram, the woman is a light, an absolute light. My heart is heavy with joy, I feel focused and just so blissed out. There is definitely something to this yogi life. People come into your life for all sorts of reasons. Both ladies appear to be very different but this thread of radiance, humour, possibility and calmness weaves between them. What a pleasure and honour to mark the half way point of my year in their classes.

And so, 2016, will be a year of living in the moment, of being in touch with my actions and feelings and being kind to myself as they happen and focusing on giving my all to the moment.  Often we are concerned with caring for others, of being charitable, offering kindness and, of course, these are important qualities and actions but, at least in my case, I sometimes do so to my own detriment. I need to care for myself otherwise I cannot care for others. This is something to work on on a daily basis.  Naturally, I do have some plans: discard most of my material items I no longer use and head towards a possession light home, increase my yoga practice frequency and try different classes, volunteer at Pride again, spend more time with my nieces who will both turn 1 year old this year, travel to distant lands and, most importantly, be a better person for myself and our universe. The last 6 months have been pretty spectacular, and I feel certain it will only get better. Sending positive vibes to your and your loved ones. Happy 2016!

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Explore | A day (and therapy) with Daibutsu, Japan

Daibutsu - one of Kamakura's main attractions

So peaceful Japanese photo pose!

Whilst in Japan last summer, I had the most unexpected experience which led to me failing off the grid for two and a half months. With the help of copious pots of sencha, sleep and yoga, somehow I survived. Slightly dramatic but sometimes life is like that. It’s weird how extreme emotions, at least for me, draw you back to your childhood. All I wanted to do was to go to church; to be surrounded by ornate emblems of religious expression, centuries old stonework, exquisite stainless glass windows, the cool feeling of the wooden benches and the gentle glow of dozens of candles in the distance. But alas, that was not to be. So I did the next best thing: I hopped on a train in 33 °C and went to Kamakura.

Giant Buddha Kamakura Incense

I’d been before and remember the sense of calm, inner peace and somehow, a collective connection to those around me. It was very early in the morning, I was a bit of a mess and hadn’t eaten in days but somehow, as soon as I arrived in front of Daibutsu (Giant Buddha), I felt stronger and positive. Childhood grounding done good!

Entrance Daibutsu's shoes Details

Surrounded by temples, shrines and the most exquisite Hydrangea gardens (further blog posts in the making…), the Great Buddha of Kamakura dates back to 1252 and I have no doubt it will long remain a jewel of Japan’s. If you’re planning a trip to Tokyo, this is a must see. The sheer size will amaze you and trust me, the inner peace is evident to all, not just those in crisis! It’s funny how seemingly negative experiences can lead to wonderful memories.

Into the wild

Tea

Into the wild Pretty scone... Scones, clotted cream and strawberry jam Scones, clotted cream and blueberry jam Clotted cream as it should be presented Lemon curd Rosé champagne Oh the sandwiches... Into the wild Dessert, French-style Oh delicious Tea Tea Afternoon tea with MichelleWith my emotions gradually returning to the semblance of normality, ending my self-imposed hiatus from everything and everybody except the Royal Mail delivery man seems timely. It’s been an intense few months – Japan was unique; full of wonder, endless discoveries, blissful moments and complete and utter heartbreak, hence the hiatus. It’s weird; I feel as though the last three years can be summarised as a relentless period of loss in some shape or form and worse still, always when one least expects it. But onwards we go.

And where better to start one’s recovery than Fortnum & Mason. This is my go-to place for presents (and marshmallows). The products are lovely but it is the packaging which steals the show. The ornate biscuit tins and tea canisters are particular favourites. However, on this occasion, I wasn’t there to shop. Being one of the first people I engaged with in the land of social media three years ago and having travelled all the way from New Zealand, there was no way I could miss the opportunity to meet Michelle. So my tears were wiped away, the blusher came out and off I went to Mayfair to indulge in a spot of afternoon tea.

A couple of sandwich servings later, we found ourselves fawning over the presentation of the clotted cream. Details are so important and as I age my affinity for all things (I deem) British increases – the vintage style dish oozes old-school glamour. The lushness of the cream as it covered my scones and welcomed the strawberry jam had me dreaming of daily Fortnum & Mason reservations. Although Michelle spoke of committing the cardinal scone sin – putting the jam before the clotted cream, to which I threatened to have her deported – we spent just over four hours talking, laughing and eating far too much. A little champagne, single-estate Oolong tea and desserts exquisite enough to have us dreaming of Parisian patisseries, afternoon tea at Fortnum & Mason was everything I had hoped it would be and more. Not too shabby for my first outing since August.

Although I’m not quite myself yet and am certainly not ready to fully jump back into everything, dipping my red-painted toe into the water felt good. Although endings are sad and surprisingly traumatic, I realised that beginnings, such as new friendships, are worth every moment particularly when accompanied by warm scones and tea.

Yoga, chocolate and sencha

Wednesday morning sorted

Yoga, sencha and chocolate. Wednesday morning sorted

The knowledge that my alarm doesn’t work if I switch my mobile off is best not discovered at 05:58 AKA two minutes before your exercise routine starts. I usually wake up at 05:30 naturally but I had an awful night’s sleep of tossing and turning. Each morning I’ve been getting up to join Manyan – my Japanese aunt – to do Raijo Taiso, the Japanese exercise done from school up until you cannot physically move any more. It’s so much fun and gives a much-needed energy boost at an ungodly hour. Next week, here in Nakano-ku, the community will exercise in the local park. Needless to say, I will join them and try to get some photographs of me doing the routinely (very badly).

Getting older has given me more focus and energy to find a place of peace. I’ve been reflecting more on what I want from life. If there’s only one thing I ‘discovered’ last year it’s that life is not endless. There I was, just going about my business, having fun, enjoying the moment and dreaming of this, that and the other when it suddenly occurred to me that these dreams need to be more than dreams. I have always subscribed to the notion that for people like me (those born and living in free and democratic countries) life is what you make it. You make mistakes but you learn from them. I certainly have. I’m pretty good at cutting negativity out of my world and not partaking in/interacting with anything/anybody I feel brings a darkness into my life but I’m not very good at focusing on what makes me happy on a day-to-day basis. I have to take control of my life. I was recently sent this quotation from L.P. Jacks:

The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labour and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he is always doing both.

So inspirational and meaningful. I’ve been reading it daily hoping that one day, I too will find myself in this position. I’ve been so tired and stressed which makes me unproductive and frustrated. Recently I met someone who is all about making the right decisions to suit their needs, their priorities and most importantly, their happiness. Being away from London has given me an opportunity to finish two projects I’ve been working on for about four months, to listen to my body and stop when I need a break, to read and just be. Upon the shared interest with someone special, I started yoga again. I’ve only done it twice in the last week but I feel as though my existence has somehow been enriched. I think it’s less about yoga and more about making time to do something I very much enjoy, though I feel a sadness that I lost so many years of doing something for myself. Making myself, my needs and my happiness a priority needs to become a daily thing rather than giving myself a couple of hours a week.

What I know for certain is that something will have give from October. There are some people fully capable (and happy) to manage work, study, relationships, family and a buzzing social life. I am not one of them. Between my ongoing academic pursuits, blogging, relationships and work, I’m struggling. I don’t want to fail or give up anything but I barely have a moment for myself to read a magazine. I needed an eleven hour flight to get through nine back issues of The Economist and three copies of the FT from March! I have no idea how this is going to work but for now, I am in Tokyo and all is right with the world.

This morning’s activities include a little yoga (so happy to find my favourite yoga magazine in Japanese), a pot of sencha and a lovely present from London: chocolate from Artisan du chocolat (British brand with a French name). Some favourites to start my Wednesday.