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.
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.
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!