Tag Archives: Positive

The Art of the Essential, Part II

12 Apr

For the past two months, I have been living with only a suitcase-worth of possessions. Three pairs of shoes, three pairs of trousers, a dozen tops, two jackets, three novels, two poetry books, a make-up bag, a laptop and a couple of notebooks. For the past two months I have been experiencing the art of the essential.

Living with fewer possessions has had some amazing effects on my life:

I have saved time: having a limited amount of clothes to choose from, I did not spend hours trying out different outfits for one outing.

I have been tidier: fewer things means less mess.

I have had more space: seeing as my possessions fit in one wardrobe and one cupboard, the rest of the space is free, for movement, for dance, for yoga…

I have had a lot of light in the apartment: fewer things means more open space, which means more light.

I have been calmer: in my previous home, I had around forty unread books and a wardrobe of unworn clothes. I would feel guilty about not reading the books and not wearing the clothes on which I had spent money. Now, seeing as I make use of everything in my possession, I do not experience a feeling of waste, greed or stress. Instead, I have a feeling of comfort and simplicity.

I have had more time to do the things I love: I spend less time tidying up and no time at all sorting my things out, which gives me more time to do things that I enjoy.

I have had more opportunities to be creative: rather than obsessing over the world inside my apartment, my thoughts open up to the world beyond my walls.

I have focused on the things I do, rather than on the things I own: in modern society, it is most often our possessions and not our actions that define us. Having little possessions, I have been able to concentrate more on defining myself through what I do, rather than through what I own.

I have seen others differently: now that I define myself through what I do, I also define other people by their actions, instead of their clothes, gadgets, cars, or accessories. This has given me a whole new vision of the world.

Living with fewer possessions has many positive effects on our lives. It does not mean that we should deprive ourselves, but that we should simply reduce our possessions to the essentials: what we need and what we love. Everything else has no place in our home, our mind and our body; everything else brings us negative energy.

April is a perfect time to do a spring clean, so why not take this opportunity to clear that clutter that blocks your energy?

A great book on this subject is Clear Your Clutter, which explains the negative energetic and psychological effects of hoarding and the positive ones of clearing.

First Solo Yoga Practice

28 Feb

I attended my first yoga class ten years ago, yet had never, during all these years, practised yoga alone, without a teacher. Until today. Inspired by John Archer’s post Thoughts On Yoga, I had my first solo yoga practice at home this evening. The experience was truly amazing.

I fell into the practice very naturally; my body told me exactly what it wanted me to do. I flowed from posture to posture, without thinking about what should come next, letting myself be guided by what my body was drawn towards. It was great to have the possibility to stay in postures for as long as my body needed it, rather than following the rhythm of a class, which we do not always coincide with. Being able to listen to my body and do postures in my own rhythm and my own order made me get exactly what I wanted/needed from the practice. Not having any external guidance in a teacher made me tune in and pay more attention to what was going on inside me.

After the practice, I felt rejuvenated; I regained energy and was in a positive mood. I felt healthier and my mind was very calm. I am extremely grateful to have discovered this new way of practising yoga, and I look forward to continuing this profound ‘solo’ journey.

Start the Day by Doing Something You Love

18 Feb

When we start the day by doing something we love, the rest of our day is utterly transformed. By doing something we love first thing in the morning, we set our mind and soul into a positive mode. We dedicate a moment of pleasure to ourselves, before dedicating the rest of the day to less enjoyable activities. This leaves us more relaxed, as we are not constantly worried about “getting some free time” to do what we want later on.

Setting aside even ten minutes for yourself in the morning will have positive results. This week, before starting work, I have been reading poetry or an article in my favourite magazine, I have been updating my blog, and I have been taking some extra time to pamper myself.  Any of these activities take as long or as little as I choose, but it is not their duration that makes a difference, so much as their simply taking place.

When we start the day by doing something we love, we are more likely to approach our daily tasks with calm and concentration. At work, we stop watching the clock to check how long we have left until we will be free to go; we stop worrying about the fact that we never have the time to do what we love; and we stop being frustrated when, in the evening, we are too tired to do something for ourselves.

By doing one small thing that we love at the start of the day, we are giving ourselves permission to enjoy life, to regain our sense of self and to see the rest of the day in a more positive light. There’s nothing better than waking up and knowing that we have something interesting to do!

Read What You Enjoy

9 Feb

“My time is precious; I don’t want to waste it reading books that I don’t enjoy”, said one lady at a book group recently. There was a mixed response from the group: some nodded their heads, others exclaimed that once they’ve started reading a book, they have to finish it, even if they’re not enjoying it. I had always been taught to plough through books until their end, because we’d always learn something from them, even if we don’t enjoy them. However, looking back on my literary past, it seems like enjoyment plays a huge part in a successful learning process.

I have recently had to compile a list of my favourite thirty books of all time. Considering the fact that almost all of the books that I have read in the past four years were compulsory university reading, only one or two of them made it onto the list. I was in disbelief when I could hardly even remember what, apart from those two favourites, we had read over the course of my degree. I realised that I had spent four years reading things that I didn’t particularly enjoy, simply because they were considered educational, or classics, or ‘what every intelligent person should have read’.

There’s no doubt about it – those four years did bring me a lot of knowledge…but my knowledge came through sweat, persistence and obligation. Unfortunately, it did not come from curiosity, interest and, most importantly, enjoyment. I thought about the amazing books that I read in the months after my graduation: those books that make you stay up into the night; those that make you late because you can’t bear to put them down; those that you can’t wait to finish, but at the same time don’t want to end; those into whose world you wish you could be transported. I realised how different my university education would have been had I been reading things that I enjoyed. Studying would have been a pleasure, not a chore. Lectures would have been enlightening, rather than tiring. Essay-writing would have been inspiring, rather than depressing. Had I enjoyed what I was doing, I would have naturally put in all my effort to do it brilliantly. Had I enjoyed what I was doing, I would have appreciated and made the most of every single moment, rather than simply seeing it as a means to an end and pushing myself on with the thought that ‘it will be worth it in the end’.

Although I realise that I have gained a lot from my education, I strongly believe that I could have gained even more had I actually enjoyed the literature that we were made to read. True, had I not been ‘forced’, I would never have got through the classics on my own. But on the other hand, out of all the classics that I have studied, there are only a few that I truly enjoyed and would consider rereading. On the other hand, most of the books that I have read for pleasure are books that have had the most impact on me, whether philosophically, creatively or emotionally.

Today I abandoned a book that is considered a modern classic, because my complete impartiality to what I was reading wasn’t bringing anything positive into my life. No matter what we’re doing, we’re more likely to get something positive out of it if we’re enjoying ourselves. So let’s make a bit of time each day to read something that we enjoy!

Help Another to Heal Yourself

26 Jan

“The best way to heal emotional turmoil is to do something for someone else,” my grandma always tells me. In recent years, it has become fashionable to be egocentric. Phrases such as “Spoil yourself”, “Give yourself a treat”, “Go on, you deserve it” and “Me, me, me” have become extremely widespread in the world of advertising. And worst thing is: we buy it.

Doing things for other people is now viewed in a negative light. Family life is seen as a sacrifice, rather than the greatest gift; doing chores for friends and relatives is seen as a favour, rather than a pleasure; helping out a stranger is seen as a burden, rather than a natural act of compassion.

The most common cure for emotional turmoil has become ‘taking some me time’: going shopping, treating ourselves to a nice dinner, taking a week-end away to cool off. However, in doing something for ourselves in order to get a worry off our minds, we are channelling energy into ourselves. And because this energy is fuelled by a negative primary thought, the energy inside us gets clogged up, never blossoming into something positive. It creates the opposite effect to what we desire: we become more obsessed with our problems and even more frustrated because our ‘cures’ haven’t worked.

If we do something for another person at a time when we’re in emotional angst, the result is completely different. Firstly, our thoughts move from ourselves to another person. We not only stop thinking about our troubles, but we realise that everyone around us has problems of their own…and that ours are often ridiculous in comparison. Secondly, when we do something positive for another person, we do it out of genuine good will. Our blocked negative energy transforms into positive energy. Thirdly, we return to a loving way of perceiving the things around us: we see the wonderful effects of our positive actions on the lives of others and we realise that love is more important than anything else.

Doing something for someone else can be as big or as small as you want it to be: doing the housework for your parents, cooking dinner for your partner, helping your younger sibling with their homework, doing the shopping for your elderly neighbour, doing the dishes for a flatmate who’s late for a date, completing work for a colleague who has fallen ill, replying to the long-forgotten e-mail that your friend sent you. When we do even the smallest things for someone else, a weight is lifted off our chest: we see that there is more to life than our internal world and there is more to life than the problems running through our heads.

When we feel frustrated, anxious or confused what we need the most is to put things into perspective. And the best way to do that is to remind ourselves of the bigger picture: we are surrounded by people who love us and who also need our love. Unfortunately, just reminding ourselves of this is often not enough to dispel the agitation that our minds get into. But actively doing something positive for someone else is not only a sure cure for our own emotional turmoil, but quite possibly a cure for someone else’s too. After all, doesn’t it make our day when someone does something nice for us?