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.”

Explore | Imperial City, Huế, Vietnam

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The Imperial Palace complex, a designated UNESCO site since 1993, designed with the principles of Chinese geomancy (yes, finally my Asian Art background makes sense!) was home to the Nguyễn family, is surrounded by mountains, lush greenery and locals selling delicious rambutan.  Surrounded by a moat, the main buildings are set within 2.5km-long walls, which make for difficult navigation but, trust me, it is worth it.

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Rooms filled with original blue & white porcelain, mother-of-pearl adorned tables and artefacts the royal family themselves used. Weaving between buildings, I came across countless gardeners happily tending the sumptuous flora as I sought refuge from the humidity in ornately decorated rooms. They’re all wearing 3-4 layers and are working away: I had 1 layer on and almost melted.  To enter some rooms, you must cover your shoulders, remove your shoes and refrain from photography as a sign of respect to the ancestors

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The complex was devastated during the French and American bombing of Vietnam, with only 20 buildings surviving. However, in 2012, the government approved a US$61 million restoration proposal. By the time I visited, the majority of the complex had been restored to its intended glory. Hue, which until the mid-20th century served as the capital of Vietnam, was my favourite city in the country, and I would happily return.

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Eat | Afternoon tea at The Connaught, London

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DSC09547-edited One rainy London afternoon, we found ourselves back at The Connaught with a glass of rose champagne in our hands and plenty to catch up on. And where better?

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Fresh, hearty yet elegant sandwiches, particularly the Coronation chicken and the smoked salmon, raised the expectations (and there may have been a second serving…). My vegetarian, gluten-free friend was well-catered for – none of that goats cheese and spinach nonsense.

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Warm scones, topped with lashings of clotted cream and a choice of jams: orange and ginger, wild strawberry and fig. The crowning glory was the orange and ginger jam. I could feel a delicate heat from the ginger whilst the orange tantalized my taste buds.

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Dessert was typically French: exquisitely-presented, delicious, a touch of sugar and, as always, had me thinking that I really need to start dating a pâtissier!

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Listening to a talented harpist, we relaxed in the sumptuous surroundings of the Espelette restaurant discussing how these moments of friendship are so important, and particularly enjoyable in such plush surroundings and with finest service possible. Yet another moment of gratitude for this sweet life of mine.

Espelette at The Connaught
Carlos Place
London
W1K 2AL
+44 (0)20 7499 707

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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Coffee Break | Càfê RuNam, Hanoi, Vietnam

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Located between a Buddhist Temple and the enormous St Joseph’s Cathedral, RuNam, afforded me my first experience of Vietnamese coffee. Have read about the role of the humble coffee bean in transforming the Vietnamese economy, I was eager to try some for myself.

With an extensive menu including matcha lattes, iced coffee and a variety of loose tea, I opted for the traditional Vietnamese style coffee. Served with condensed milk on the side, the coffee had a very unique taste and smell – almost smoked, if you like.  I do not care for sweetened hot drinks but with the intensity of the coffee, the addition of condensed milk was delicious (and necessary).  The staff members were very friendly, happy to speak to me in English about the cafe and just really welcoming. Given my jet-lagged, I’ve-only-been-here-for-14-hours look, I really appreciated when the one of the employees came over to me with the newspaper written in English without being asked. These little moments of kindness and inclusive weave through my Vietnamese adventure. Although I only happened upon the café because I had been at the temple, it seemed clear to me that RuNam is firmly on coffee lovers radar.

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The cafe was filled with a cultural mix of tourists and locals and, just to put it in context, the cost of my coffee and biscuits was the same price as I paid the previous night for dinner of a bowl of chicken pho and a beer. By the time but convert to pounds it’s very inexpensive but pretty prices by local standards.

The company have another branch in Ho Chi Minh City, roast their own beans and they have a lovely selection of “high-end glassware coffee and tea available for purchase. I thought that this kind of café – offerings and décor – wouldn’t have been out of place in London. If you’re in Hanoi, stop by!

Càfê RuNam
13 Nhà Thờ, Hà Nội
+84 (4) 39 286697