Live as if you were to die tomorrow…

Me - living and loving life African Style!

Mahatma Ghandi said “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” Last week I read a great blog post titled Regrets of the Dying at http://www.inspirationandchai.com. The author was a palliative care nurse who found some common themes amongst the regrets of her patients. Apart from the obvious such as wishing they didn’t work so hard, there was one regret that really resonated with me, “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” This week I also happened to watch the Bucket List. For those unfamiliar, it’s a movie about two men with terminal illnesses who write a list of all the things they had always dreamed of doing and they go off together and do them.  Let me say here, this post is not about death and dying. I’m not trying to depress you, quite the opposite.

A couple of years ago I made some decisions that resulted in major changes in my life and circumstances. I decided to be true to myself and follow my own dreams. So far I am doing pretty well with that. Lately however I find I am wanting more, or maybe it’s that I’m wanting less. The subtitle of my blog is creating space, inviting change, realising dreams. I was inspired to write this blog as a process to create some space and clarity for myself, by my good friend and fellow blogger Bronwyn Clee I have just returned from living in Africa for twelve months, where I found many of my long held beliefs and values challenged, and mostly for the better. I was very fortunate to have an opportunity to be rather than do for a whole year and I have learnt a whole lot about life and myself. This learning has put everything into a completely different perspective for me. I have returned questioning everything and wanting to create change, and sometimes I have so much that I want to do, I don’t know where to begin.

So I’m home again now, back at work and ready to make more changes, and creating my own bucket list. Every day is so precious and I plan to continue enjoying every second of it. The interesting thing is when I talk to people about this yearning within me to do something different and follow my passions, and not necessarily the usual and expected pattern of a five day working week with a two day weekend, I find so many are experiencing this same sense of restlessness. People are ready for change, they sometimes just don’t know where to start and are nervous about breaking away from the expectations placed on them by family, society and those that they impose on themselves. There is much written and said about work/life balance, but I think we have it all backwards, I believe it should be life/work balance. How can we achieve this? This will look different for everybody. I will share some of my learnings and experiences with you as I work towards achieving this sense of balance and what it looks like for me.

So….If we really were to live as though we were to die tomorrow, would we make different choices? What would you do differently?

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Freedom

Freedom to fly

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Mindfulness for the non meditator

Yesterday I tried out a new place to get some waxing done. It’s a lovely place, beautifully decorated very much like a Balinese day spa. When I entered the treatment room it was set up as if I was about to experience a deluxe spa treatment. Candles were lit, the bed had a towel rolled up with a frangipani on top and there was a sarong for me to change into. The therapist then asked me to sit so she could scrub my feet. As I plunged my feet into the gorgeous bowl and she began washing them with the peppermint scrub, my first thought was “all this pampering just for waxing?” But then again why not?

One of the things I love about travel and the places I choose to go is the way everything is presented. Every meal is a work of art, as are drinks, resort rooms, even the beds and especially the day spas. A lot of thought, care and attention goes into making every experience beautiful and memorable. I always promise myself that when my holiday is over I will try and maintain some of the lovely rituals that I treat myself to while I am away. Unfortunately the busyness of everyday life takes over and these are soon pushed aside in favour of other priorities. Yesterday afternoon after answering why not, I vowed to myself that I would bring daily rituals and add beauty to the regular activities of my life.

What does any of this have to do with mindfulness? While many people think mindfulness means meditation, this is not the case. Mindfulness is a mental state of openness, awareness and focus, and meditation is just one way amongst hundreds of learning to cultivate this state. Mindfulness is about waking up, connecting with ourselves, and appreciating the fullness of each moment of life. Jon Kabat-Zinn calls it, “The art of conscious living.” It is a profound way to enhance psychological and emotional resilience, and increase life satisfaction. While a regular meditation practice is a great thing for all of the reasons that are well documented, the reality is that not everybody can manage to do it. I believe that we can cultivate mindfulness in very simple ways every day. One way to bring us into the present moment is by creating special rituals and bringing beauty to our lives.

Here are some simple suggestions to begin with:

1. Food: No matter what the meal, and what is consists of; present it on your nicest plates and eat with the best cutlery that you have. How many of us save the “good” dinner set and the “silverware” for special occasions? Make every meal a special occasion.Set the table as if you were expecting an very important guest – you are! Use lovely linen if you have it or buy nice napkins, there are many cheap paper ones that are just gorgeous. Turn off the TV, ignore the phone, shut down the computer, light a candle or two if it’s evening or even just because you feel like it, put on some nice music and enjoy. Focus on every bite, savour every mouthful. It will taste better and you may even find you eat less.

2. Drinks: Use your nicest glasses, add a slice of lemon or another garnish. I like to buy the best mineral water I can find and drink it like a fine wine from a gorgeous glass. Sip slowly and enjoy. When my waxing was finished at the spa mentioned above, they brought me a glass of water with lemon and a straw on a bamboo tray with a beautiful napkin and a flower, I swear that water tasted better than usual!

3. One thing at a time: In this frenetic world, multitasking has become a skill we must master. Last week I found myself Tweeting, Facebooking, talking on the phone and to my colleagues, doing my work and checking work and personal emails all at the same time. The trouble was I wasn’t really doing any of them effectively. I wasn’t present to anybody, least of all to myself. Now I know it’s not always possible to do just one thing at at time, but let’s try doing it for an hour, and see how it feels, and take it from there.

4. Patience: I have recently returned from living in Africa where time really has no meaning. After the initial adjustment I found myself enjoying the luxury of living this way and really learnt how to be rather than do. Now I am back in the “real world” I find I am constantly trying to fit so much in and don’t want to waste a minute. The other night while waiting for my husband to finish work I found myself getting impatient because he was 7 minutes late! Just imagine! I was so busy thinking of all the other things I should be doing. If I was present, I would not have become impatient because I would have remembered that this moment is all that we have. From now I am going to take these minutes as a bonus. Why not do a short meditation, practice a bit of reiki on myself, or just relax and be?

So, this week I will try these and see how I go. Why don’t you give it a try too?

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Life – let’s live and love every minute of it!

There isn’t anything I need to add to this….

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Welcome

Welcome to blooming lotus, where I will blog about anything and everything that interests me and hopefully you. My interests are many and varied and include yoga, reiki, reading, travel, dancing, coaching, African culture and making jewellery from my enormous collection of  beautiful African beads. I am incredibly curious about everything in this wonderful world of ours, and I am especially fascinated by people and understanding what makes them tick.

Why blooming lotus? The lotus flower is used in many traditions such as Buddhism, Hinduism and Yoga to symbolise transformation, purification and enlightenment. In the Buddhist tradition, the lotus flower is a symbol of the spiritual path a person takes through life. The growing lotus symbolises purification of the mind, body and speech. The lotus grows in muddy water to the clean surface and blooms into something of beauty. I believe we are all on a path of transformation of some kind, and every person we meet and every experience we have along the way teach us something (though sometimes we don’t know what that something is until much later) and enrich our lives. I love the reiki precept that sums it up beautifully with the words “awake with joy in your heart and give thanks for ALL that comes your way”.

I plan to share my own stories, insights and experiences along my path and look forward to meeting you, walking with you and sharing yours.

Namaste

Rae-Anne

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