Tag Archives: Soul

Lessons Learnt During Lent

24 Apr

Fourty days of Lent have gone by, which for me means the end of a fourty day vegan and alcohol-free diet. Whilst my normal diet includes regular meals with meat, dairy products and wine, lent in the Christian Orthodox tradition involves giving up animal products, alcohol, cigarettes and all other ‘unhealthy’ products (and habits) for fourty days. This is intended to be a detox for the body that creates a detox for the soul. Although I have not felt any major spiritual changes by limiting what I eat, there are several things that I learnt thanks to my fast that will no doubt have a positive effect in the long-term…

No Exceptions: by the second week of lent I was already thinking “And what if I was to have just a small glass of wine tonight? It won’t do any harm; I won’t really break the fast because I won’t do it often”. Luckily, I didn’t take action on this thought, because it passed through my mind at least twice a week. Had I listened to it the first few times, I would have ended up not fasting at all! If we

There are few things that we truly need

set out to do something, we cannot allow ourselves to make exceptions (except for reasons such as health, of course), because these will prevent us achieving our goal.

Making an extra effort is worth it: seeing as I couldn’t eat anything that is a ‘quick-fix’, such as sandwiches, pizzas or ready-meals, which all contain meat or dairy products, I always had to make an effort to prepare my meals. Even in the hungriest of states, when I wanted to devour everything in sight, I made real meals; this took more time, but my food was healthier and tastier.

It’s easier than it seems: once past the starting period, new habits become second nature. Fear tells us that what we want to do is hard or even impossible. Yet once we get started, we realise that we are more than capable of doing this.

The right to say ‘no’: it is easy to say “Oh, go on then”, when someone offers us a cake when we’re dieting, a cigarette when we’re giving up smoking or a drink when we’re cutting out alcohol. In most cases, we say ‘yes’ because we’re scared that the other person will judge us negatively or consider us ‘boring’. By saying ‘no’ in such situations, we are being honest and respectful to ourselves. Fearing other people’s judgment will cause us to live life by other people’s rules.

Fun Without Alcohol: yes, we can have fun without alcohol. Yes, we can enjoy an evening out without alcohol. Yes, we can relax without alcohol. Yes, we can enjoy a meal without wine. Yes, we can chat, laugh, joke and dance without alcohol. For some, this is obvious; for others, this is ridiculous. Either way, it is true.

We CAN have fun without alcohol...

Do you need what you want?: most of our consumption is for pleasure, not for necessity. There are few things that we truly need, all the rest are things we want.

Limitation Increases Appreciation: today, in Western society, the majority of people live in abundance, where they can have almost everything they want at any time. There is a huge choice of food, clothes, entertainment etc., and we rarely have to restrict ourselves in our consumption. By limiting myself in my range of food, I was able to appreciate the special meals more: a dinner in a restaurant (which made a difference to the classic meals I was making at home), a non-alcoholic cocktail (with more taste than the water I was drinking all week) and, of course, the Easter meal which included delicious meats, wine and creamy deserts. When we constantly spoil ourselves, we no longer get any pleasure from pleasure. Living more simply makes special occasions all the more special.

~

I wish you all a Happy Easter and a beautiful spring!

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!

Begin

17 Feb

This is now. Now is. Don’t postpone
till then. Spend the spark of iron

on stone. Sit at the head of the table.
Dip your spoon in the bowl. Seat yourself

next your joy and have your awakened soul
pour wine. Branches in the spring wind,

easy dance of jasmine and cypress. Cloth
for green robes has been cut from pure

absence. You are the tailor, settled
among his shop goods, quietly sewing.

~Rumi
The Book of Love

Translation: Coleman Barks

Think Locally

18 Jan

We don’t necessarily need to move to a different city or different country in order to change our lifestyle: sometimes, all we need to do is change our current habits and a whole new world will open itself up. For those of us living in the city, one thing that could have a colossal effect on our lifestyle is simply choosing ‘to go local’.

In a cosmopolitan capital like London, we are constantly taught to think globally. We are encouraged to expand our vision of the world so widely that we are always aware of what is going on across the globe. Yet despite having such a good knowledge of the larger picture, Londoners  often don’t have a clue about what is happening in their own neighbourhood. We put so much importance on the big things, that the small things seem insignificant.

As a student, all of my activities took place in central London. I would go into town for lessons, for coffee with friends, for shopping, for a walk, for dance class, for language class, for bars and clubs and all evening events. The only time I spent in my area was to come back home to sleep! It seemed like central London contained the world, and I yearned to discover bigger things than my calm residential area could ever offer. Or so it seemed.

For the past four months I have, voluntarily but subconsciously, been keeping my movements very local. And I was amazed to recognise the effects of this choice. I am calmer and more sure of myself; I have discovered my natural routine, in which I have more free time than before; I have saved money and drastically reduced my consumption. Simply spending more time in a more peaceful area of the city has remarkably slowed down my pace of life, and this in turn has given my body time to rest, my mind silence to quieten and my soul space to breathe. I feel more stable, more comfortable, more together. Empty streets, calm movements and disengagement from time have helped me rediscover my individuality.

Regaining a sense of individuality is probably one of the best things that being actively present in the local community has given me. I no longer feel like just another face in a mass of people on the tube, just another employee on the way to work, just another consumer being carried in a crowd. I am an individual who makes a noticeable contribution to the things around her. Working in the bookshop I give honest recommendations, I can put a smile on someone’s face or engage in an interesting conversation. I have got to know the sales girls at the local food store by face, and our exchange is the warmer for our small acquaintance. I always share a joke and have a chat with the guys in the local wine shop. I often recognise the people who pass me on the street, from having met or known them at some point during my time in the neighbourhood.

In the capital we are always being encouraged to make a difference, to do something good for the world, to ‘think big’. But in order to have any grasp at all of the bigger picture, we must understand the small pieces that hold it together. It is by making a constant positive contribution to the things that are closest to us that we will be able to move on to bigger things. As the proverb goes: charity begins at home. If we learn to live lovingly and peacefully with the people and things in our vicinity, then the rest of the world won’t seem like such a big challenge. If we take notice and make a contribution to what is available locally, we will not only make positive changes to our own lives but touch the lives of many others far more deeply than if we were trying to save the entire world. Our most precious things are at our fingertips.

Love Whomever You Want

11 Jan


“Paint who you love, Love whomever you want”, these song lyrics of a Russian pop/rock band Khaki* run through my head. The first time I heard this song, I was filled with an unexpected yet overwhelming happiness. The simplicity of love suddenly became clear to me: we can love whomever we want! I was astonished at the beauty of this idea; just imagining loving whomever I wanted made me want to run out onto the street and kiss passing strangers out of sheer joy.

Yet why should a simple thought like this have caused such an extreme reaction in me? Simple: I had never heard of such a thing being possible. If I were to tell Western Society about my new discovery on love, She would laugh and say something along the lines of:

“We can’t just love whomever we want! Firstly, love is uncontrollable – you just fall in love, whether you want to or not. You could fall in love with anyone and not have the least say in it. Secondly, everyone has rules on love, whether it’s believing that you should only love someone who is good looking, or wealthy, or intelligent, or from a good family. And then think of all the people in the world who aren’t allowed to love who they want, because of religion or race or class or any other such issue. And even if we don’t take any of these things into account, and we do start loving whomever we want, most of us would be pretty screwed pretty soon, because the other person isn’t guaranteed to love us back! My darling, believing that we can love whomever we want is just being naive…life isn’t a fairytale, you know!”

That’s the message we have been hearing our whole lives from left, right and centre. In books, films, adverts, songs, television dramas and magazines we hear about unhappy love, or forbidden love…or, worst of all, unrequited love. We have been made to believe that we can only be happy if we’re receiving love; otherwise, our own one-way love will only cause us misery, pain, sleepless nights, agonising days and loss of faith. In this light, loving whomever we want seems like a joke, because we expect the other person’s feelings to make our own love whole.

But what if we were to take no account of external factors? What would we get if we wiped away our family’s expectations, the rules of our class and race, the laws our gender and religion, and the existence or non-existence of the other person’s love? We would get a child’s pure love.

Children do not know who they ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ love. They don’t even mind if you don’t ‘love them back’. We’ve all seen a child love a stranger. If a child loves you he will approach you, play with you, draw pictures for you (or about you), give you presents, hold your hand and want to spend as much time as possible in your company. Children don’t expect anything back from you, they simply enjoy that moment of happiness that they have with you.

Being able to love whomever you want, doesn’t mean: “Loving whomever you want and being loved back by them”, or “Loving whomever you want and being able to share the rest of your life with them”, or “Loving whomever you want and being forever happy with them”. Loving whomever you want simply means that you are free to love whomever you want in you own heart. Even if circumstances do not allow you to give or show your love to the person or people you love, you are still free to love them inside yourself. Even if your love for someone isn’t openly spoken about, if it is silenced by tradition or religion, customs or laws, your love still exists inside your own heart. And that is the beauty of it.

We can love whomever we want because our soul is capable of loving anyone and everyone on this earth.

Being able to love whomever we want is considered as one of the greatest freedoms. Yet we don’t realise that we already have this freedom; we have always had it and always will have it. We could and can and always will be able to love whomever we want, because the true love inside us is infinite and unconditional. It is a child’s pure love.

*Sorry, no English version of their site is available.