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Letting go of the old and inviting in the new

This is truly my favourite time of the year, as the current year is slowly winding down, the new year awaits, just around the corner, so it is truly the perfect time to look back and review how the year has gone; to look what went well, what didn’t, what to carry on to the next and what to leave behind.

For quite a while now I tend to spend new years eve introspectively reflecting on all the different areas of my life and writing down how I felt I did in each. If you are an organised german like me then you may do a little pie chart, charting down each area you deem important and colour in how much of your time you feel you spend in each to then see how much of each field occupied your life during the year- this always gives me a good indication on how balanced or not my life has been, what I might want to look out for in the next year and what to continue to work and elaborate on.
Then, if you like writing and are a fan of reviewing your year in a bit more detail, you may want to write a bit on how you feel you did on each slice of your little life-pie. For me, it tends to help me remember what it is that I did during the year, of what I achieved, and how much happened during the year. Often it is only then that I realise how much actually happened, that the little things matter as much as the bigger ones.

By revisiting all the different areas of my life that are important to me and reminding myself of what I did in each helps me position myself in where I am, where I have been and where I would like to be. That way I find it easier to formulate on how and what I wish to achieve and work through the following year.

And when I have done all of that I tend to get a big broad smile out of looking at what clever (and often numerous) intentions I had for the year at the end of the last and see which one of those I managed to incorporate into my life, whether they still fit or if they perhaps suited the 2013 version of me rather then the upgraded 2014 Dani- not to mention the absolutely improved version I intend for the next year.

Of course there is no need to restrict oneself to doing these things just because it is the end of the calendar year, life plans like this can and perhaps should be made continuously or at any point that feels significant, it is just that it suits me and who am I to break socially accepted conventions?!

So perhaps you, too would like to look back and reflect on the year you have had- you might want to ask yourself what you created this year, what made you happy, made you grow, what are you grateful for, what are you ready to let go off and what do you want to hold on to and- how would you like your next year to be, who do you want to be?

I would love to hear from you if you want to share, but know that I wish you all the very best for the new coming year, may you travel and explore further on your quest for a life well lived and what it means to be you.

Love and good wishes
Dani

The secret ingredient to riding waves

Lately, I found myself thinking about the concept of motivation when faced with another hurdle at the job front and I started wondering- what is it that motivates people and what is it that makes me jump into action?

Do I get moving in order to show that the faith some other has put in me was all worth it or does it spur me into action to be wanting to prove to someone who doesn’t seem to believe I am up for the task at hand that in fact I am perfectly capable?

In other words, is it faith or doubt that move me? Then I realised, in either case it seems to be an Other that I am allowing to influence the way I think about myself- the perception someone has of me, how another sees me and makes sense of me and consequently judges me; the faith and belief another puts in myself appears to have the ability to greatly affect how I see and perceive myself in turn. And both faith and doubt seem to be two sides of the same coin:
the desire to show that I can live up to the expectations someone has put into me. This desire may then work as a positive reinforcement, a nice, encouraging motivational force for me to work hard and show that the faith shown in me was put into good use and that, indeed they were right to believe in my abilities. It is certainly the more positive way than feeling the necessity to prove to haters who seem to say- you are not worth it, you can’t do xyz, that yes- I can, and I will and here, I will show you and prove you wrong.
But in both cases it feels that there is a dependency going on, a need to show who we are in the eyes of others- and exactly who are we then? How do we define ourselves when we just look at ourselves, irrespective of someone else’s opinion?

Is it possible to find motivation independent of someone else’s perception or judgment and irrespective of worldly goods that beckon at the end of a completed task?
Can we find motivation from within, or is the desire to achieve, to accumulate or to accomplish something, still reactive, a comparison to someone else? Then again, maybe we can use this comparison and shift it toward another version of ourselves- can we motivate ourselves to become a better version of who we are right now?

So maybe the question is not: can we motivate in isolation, but rather how do we use what motivates us to our advantage?
Let’s say it is our environment that motivates us, we then need to find out whether it is encouragement or criticism that makes us react, words of kindness or harshness that spur us on.
And what if it is neither but rather the promise of recognition, wealth or respect that makes us go the extra mile and work hard.
In either case though, it is utilising the drive that spurs us on to our advantage- finding out how we define ourselves and using what motivates us to move towards internal growth and fulfilment and in the end we can put the faith someone puts in us and utilise someone else’s doubts and turn it into a force of motivational power that helps us to propel us into better versions of ourselves, find fulfilment that started growing from without but filled up from within, with the knowledge that we gained about ourselves with the help from others.

So, use whatever energy you receive from others and ride the motivational wave to fulfilment- find out what motivates you, don’t judge or try to work against it, accept it and see what comes your way as an opportunity for growth.

How will you make the most of what is given to you in order to live well?
I have faith in you, so you should too!

Of connecting and unplugging from the world

The other day I watched the trailer for the film “Tracks”, an amazing, true story based on the journey of Robyn Davidson who decided to trek the Western Australian desert on her own, accompanied just by her dog and four camels. I nearly packed my little four legged girlfriend right then and there: just watching a few minutes of this incredible story made my heart ache with longing; for the stillness of the desert, the dry heat, the experience of pushing myself to my limits, not only physically but also mentally, most of all though what seemed to me both incredibly tempting and scary at the same time was the concept of the utter solitude and stillness that I imagined, the complete disconnectedness from the world Robyn must have experienced during her travels.

I think that part of what made my stomach churn at the thought of it was the longing to do something that seems to be so utterly contrary to how I find myself in today’s world. Living in the hub of a cosmopolitan city, surrounded by people most of the time, only a click away from friends, acquaintances, news and gossip, it seems almost impossible to block out the constant noise and chitter chatter that appears to be all around, for most of the time.

I have this desire, no- I think it is actually a need, deep within my mind and soul, to disconnect at times, to completely withdraw within myself, and I feel I need stillness in order to be able to come back to me. But even though this desire is almost visceral in nature, it often feels a bit scary too, to be in stillness, without distraction on the outside and to listen within rather than concentrating on without. And I can’t even pinpoint what it is that makes my heart race just a tiny bit faster thinking about unplugging and tuning out, but despite the necessity to come back to myself, there is a certain hesitation- is it the fact that the lack of distraction will reduce me just to myself and the fact that I am alone, just with me and my thoughts and feelings?

It often appears as if being alone is something that is not aspired to anymore, it seems that it has become synonymous with loneliness, but actually, being able to be alone, on your own and being content in the company of your own wonderful self is such a gift, because only when we are truly comfortable in our own company will we be able to truly connect with others for the sake of the other, rather than because of the need to avoid being alone.

But this possibility of unplugging from the world seems to have gotten increasingly harder in the last few years- so what does that mean for our possibility to connect with others, if we are having to navigate our way out of the constant accessibility back to the basis of ourselves?

Sadly, we cannot all pack up our stuff and trek out into the desert, mind, it is very likely not everyone’s dream either, but how can we create a space where we can come back to ourselves, to allow us the possibility to slow down, recharge and fill up on some much deserved self-care in order to then be able to mindfully connect with others in a meaningful way?

So, go on and treat yourself over this bank holiday weekend to a healthy dose of you- go on, you are worth it!

With love!

The art of cracking eggs and grabbing life by the balls

It’s Easter Monday, a tranquil, sunny bank holiday, the sun is stroking my skin and as I sit here there is a sense of peace and calmness around me.

To be honest, I don’t know all there is to know about Easter (or indeed Passover, as it happens to fall nearly in the same time frame) but I know it to be about life, death and rebirth on the spiritual side of things, as well as hunting for and eating lots of fun coloured eggs and the wonderful sense of indulgence of being able to eat something that was given up for Lent.

But what is it about eggs, these little symbols of life, that inspire the saying that goes something like “you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs”?

It feels like eggs with their tough shell and precious insides manage to resemble life and the conflict we may experience when we need to come out of our shell, push ourselves forward and step out of our comfort zone; it seems to say that in order to reap the benefits of a life lived fully, we have to take some risks, weigh up our options and finally crack open our protective shell in order to be able to experience the delicious vastness that life has to offer.

Because only when we grab life by the balls, no matter if we feel wobbly and shaken, but only then do we give ourselves the chance for a wonderful omelette at the end! So, take a chance, break out of your skin and lose the shell that may protect you from harm and see that it may also hinder you from living fully.

By letting go of the guard that shields our pounding hearts from hurt and pain and opening ourselves up to the risk of being exposed and vulnerable we also open up to the possibility of feeling fully, experiencing wholly and living well.

So, how will you crack your eggs today and life live well?

Sometimes all you need is a little love

Turns out the Beatles were right after all; sometimes- all you really need to help you through the day is a little love, and this love can come in all forms- virtual in the way of a nice email, or chat, via some kind words, with a heartfelt hug or a good conversation that helps you forget your worries for a little while. Sometimes it can be enough to just think of something or someone you care about that makes you feel better or perhaps you dream of an old love or friend who comes to see you and shares their care for you, but it can also be a complete stranger who exchanges a look, a friendly gestures or a smile with you.

I read a lot about gratitude journals and diaries where you are meant to write down all the good things that you experience throughout your day and that help you feel grateful and I feel there is a lot of truth in the concept of stepping back and looking at your life with gratitude, of really becoming aware and mindful of all the little things that enhance your life, every day, and that contribute to making your life just a tiny bit better, or easier, even if just for a few moments.

So, today why don’t you let the sun, carefully, kiss your skin and allow it to brighten and warm up your day, and let me give you a bucket load of virtual hugs and love and maybe you are able to brighten up somebody else’s day with a kind smile or a nice gesture, because- a worry shared is a worry halved..or however that saying goes.

So, what will you do today that helps you and perhaps someone else live life well?

The art of perseverance or, what was the deal with Sisyphus?

All those magic ‘P’ words.. Patience, persistence and perseverance. They all seem to convey the idea of sticking with something, of enduring and of continuing to strive, despite the absence of a sure promise of reward. But what a nuisance that is.

It seems like in todays’ time, rather than working really hard for a distant endgame, perseverance is being replaced with the concept of instant gratification. Everything is seemingly accessible by the click of a button, I can ‘like’ or pin something I find interesting, dating has become a game of swiping left or right and between Google and Siri I have two know-it-alls who will give me the answer to almost any question. So why would I want to persist and continue to fight despite the lack of an instant reward or even the guarantee of one?

Perseverance may not be the first thing that springs to mind when thinking of poor old Sisyphus, disgraced by the gods, punished to carry a heavy rock up the mountain, only for it to fall back down again, but for me I always wondered- what was his deal, why did he continue to schlep it back up, again and again? Surely he could have just revolted against his cruel punishment and just tried to walk away- but no, he persevered and, presumably by accepting its absurdity, found meaning in his actions. The most interesting thing for me, though, was his not giving up, the fact that he just kept on going and that got me thinking: maybe through the act of persevering he managed to create meaning in his actions, and by putting in so much effort he could then reap the benefit, despite doing something that on the surface appears not only meaningless but even slightly absurd.

But going back to our, less mythical times, I feel that I have recently been given the lesson that perseverance, while not being a whole lot of fun in the process, can however, lead to a great sense of accomplishment. Not that I have been tasked with heaving a giant rock up a hill. Thankfully what I am persisting in are all things I actively chose to do but actually persisting in fulfilling your very own dream can be even more daunting, but that’s a whole other subject.

What I found out about perseverance is this: by sticking with a goal and putting in the effort in order to make something that I really want actually happen, the reward is not necessarily something I receive only in the end, but rather a sense of achievement I feel from simply having stuck with something that didn’t always feel comfortable, and indeed often feels hard and challenging to do on many levels.

So, turns out, for me, a life well lived is less about instantly satisfying all my needs without putting any effort in, but more about the challenge of working and striving for things that require endurance. In the end, overcoming the challenge of sticking with something without giving up helps me grow, mentally and spiritually. It puts me in touch with my inner resistance, confronts my boundaries and enables me to expand.

Thankfully, I am not Sisyphus, but I like the idea of finding meaning, not only in the absurdity of doing something that may appear meaningless, but in the enduring nature of continuing to do something, despite it being difficult and challenging.

What are your thoughts on perseverance, is it part of living well or just a hassle?

 

Her name was Lola..

“..she was a showgirl”…for weeks I was singing this song in my head when I first got my little puppy, flown all the way from Cyprus over to me. Not even four months old, my mediterranean rescue and fellow lover of the sun, was found with her mom and siblings in a cave near a busy road, Lola might not have had the ideal start to life, but boy did she make up for lost time- for the year she has been with me, Lola has a knack of stealing the hearts of almost (there is always one) everyone she meets. Cool, calm and collected (unless there are squirrels around) she explores the world around her in the safe knowledge that she is loved in a massive way.

See, this little, wonderful furry creature has already taught me so many lessons of what it means to live well- even though in my heart (and slightly deluded head) I think she is the cleverest creature there is, I do know that her thinking processes may not be a complex as say, mine, but- when I watch her approach a new or old feline buddy for example, I am always impressed at her behaviour: she will never shy away from showing her enthusiasm over seeing someone she likes, likewise, if she is not really up for someone she will make that pretty damn clear, fast and will never be bothered over what anyone may or may not think of her..well, probably because, let’s be honest, her and her buds chase sticks and squeaky balls and think that’s the best thing ever.

What I learned from her is that it is perfectly okay to follow my heart and just be real, if I like someone, they will know about it and if I don’t, well, I won’t scoff at them, but I have learned to stand up for my own space and stand my ground when I feel my boundaries are being pushed. And the greatest thing about that- the more I started being firm about the things I like, want and feel I need, the more of exactly what I asked for I did actually receive in return and that, for me, has made my life a lot easier. By stopping to try and please everyone around me and looking at what it is that I need, I have taken the time to both address my own needs and caved a way to fulfil them myself rather than having to hope (and often dream) about others fulfilling them.

So, in my search for a life well lived I sometimes look to my sidekick and wonder- what would Lola do?

Where do you turn to find out what makes you feel good?

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Rain drenched sun lover on a personal quest for insight

A lover of sun, sand, the ocean and a salty breeze I always thought that if I ever settled it would be somewhere that included all of the above. I would imagine myself blissfully happy walking around barefoot, sand between my toes, permanently sun kissed, but not leathery of course, and surrounded by like minded reluctant grown ups who value the sense of freedom and independence and, might I say, a slight sense of non-conformity, as much as I do.

Turns out, instead of living the dream of no worries, for the past decade I am finding myself in the big city of opportunity, and rain, where the only water I get to splash around in seem to be puddles.

Instead of sand and sea, the only salt my toes get to experience is the lick of my beautiful dogs’ tongue, while the sound of soothing waves is replaced with a myriad of sounds typical for a big city. But, turns out my decision to move to London after having seen “Love Actually” has not been as mad as one would maybe anticipate. I want to add, while the prime minister has not fallen in love with my chocolate biscuits, or me, I did however see Hugh Grant at my workplace- twice, so I do feel things are starting to come full circle, or something like that anyway.

So, turns out despite my borderline fanatic love of the sun and life that I associate with it, for the most part I am actually happy to fight and conquer my way through the urban jungle that is London.

See, what I like is a good challenge- I feel that one of the many ingredients that make a life well lived is facing a situation that might not come entirely natural to me.

While I did get to experience what it is like to live the, at least for me, perfect life by the sea, surrounded by things I love- the beach, good, healthy food, fantastic friends and the freedom to explore the world around me and to live life simply, after a few years there was a sense of “is this it?” that started to creep up on me. Somehow I felt that my life was starting to become too easy, wonderfully pleasant yes and not always just sunshine and happy days either, but..there was a growing and slightly nagging ‘but’. I was in my comfort zone and I didn’t feel like I was challenging myself, and so while a big part of my life was going really well, my mind, head and heart itched to do something more, something different, and something new.

What I am hoping to explore here together with your help are the many facets that make up a life well lived.

From having lived in my little paradise I have learned that, while one of the aspects of living well is to surround myself with ‘things’ that feel good to me, another fundamental part is to face and explore something that I might experience as challenging, because doing that allows me the opportunity to grow and to learn something- about others but inadvertently always about myself.

So, what makes a life well lived for you?