May has been and gone in the blink of an eye, but boy, what a month it has been! I write this from the patio of my new home, freshly returned from a spot of frolicking in the wilderness of Colorado and the Pacific Northwest. It’s a hard life, isn’t it?

It’s a weird thing coming back from your vacation to the unfamiliarity of a new home. Jetlagged and in desperate need of both a shower and the use of a washing machine, I knew not how to work the shower and scalded myself in my delirious state and my washing machine hasn’t yet arrived. It feels a bit like I’m still traveling; still on the journey. And I suppose I will be until I’ve settled in and made this bombsite feel like home. But in the meantime, I have a south-facing garden that is a heavenly oasis upon which to sip my morning brew. Life could be worse.

I digress! The subject of today’s post is an account of an important lesson I’ve learned. One I want to shout from the rooftops! Schooltime with Kennedy, if you will. It’s nothing revolutionary, but it absolutely has a tendency to lurk in plain sight; fooling us all. It’s the key to happiness; to fulfillment; to contentment. You’re dying to know, aren’t you?

I was stateside this past month visiting friends for the first time in a long time. It was much-needed after a very stressful couple years. So, we packed the trip full to the brim and explored far and wide, leaving little time for twiddling our thumbs. That suited me just fine.

If you’re fortunate enough to have done your fair share of traveling, you’ll likely understand what I mean when I say that some places call to the soul more than others. It’s never logical, either. It’s entirely emotional and mysterious and magical and shouldn’t be stared at too closely. A bit like the sun. These feelings guide us; in tune with our gut instinct and our sense of spirit that drives us from our very foundations, these sensations are to be respected. If you simply don’t like a place – even if you can’t quite articulate why – trust that that’s enough. You don’t need to psychoanalyse all of the sensations. The beauty of our incredible internal guidance system is that it can handle the wheel remarkably well, if only we let it. The struggle comes when we try to slip into manual override as though we know what’s best for ourselves (we don’t).

It’s impossibly difficult to follow your gut instinct 100% of the time, though I believe that it is in these moments that we faulter that most of our mistakes can be linked to. How many times can you recall saying to yourself, “I knew I shouldn’t have trusted him!” or “I knew I had a bad feeling about that car,” etc? If it’s anything like me, your response is “countless”.

If we all learned to follow our guts a little more and our brains a little less, we’d be well on the way to living happier, more fulfilling lives. The whole point of life; all we ever try to do (whether we’re consciously aware of it or not) is to follow our joy. These is no feeling remotely comparable to the immense satisfaction of feeling like you’re in the right place. Where you’re meant to be. It stimulates this sense of home or belonging that could never be matched by bricks and cement alone (no matter how physically beautiful the structure). Akin to the “flow state”, following your joy is the practice of choosing to pursue what feels good, because, well, it feels good.

It sounds easy right? It sounds So. Damn. Easy. But it isn’t. Especially if you’re not in the practice of doing this already. In fact, for most of us it is the complete opposite: a challenge that must be chipped away at, like Michelangelo’s David. Our brains tell us no, but our body is telling us yeeesss (#sorrynotsorry for that). If you’ve been raised to believe you’re a smart girl (or guy) who has always done the logical thing, you’re essentially on a par with a newborn baby in terms of life experience following your gut. Scary thought, huh? Although actually, the baby has an advantage, somewhat. At least they are starting with a clean slate. You might well have to undo years of terrible decision-making and face things like ending your relationship, changing careers or moving halfway across the world to get back on track with your soul’s desires.

But before I scare you off, let me emphasise that any trade-offs end up with you better off every single time. One hundred percent success rate, people! Suddenly it doesn’t seem so bad right? Any uncomfortable, intermediate stages of stress/anger/sadness/frustration are only fleeting, soon to be replaced by better-than-your-wildest dreams kinds of things. Alluring, huh?

The process for following your gut is incredibly simple really; you make all of your decisions based off of feeling rather than logic. It can certainly take some practice though, so here’s a good place to start if you really feel like you have no idea and are, like, totally overwhelmed by this potential lifestyle change.

  1. Start small. Rome wasn’t built in a day and all that jazz. Start with decisions as simple as which brand of lotion to buy, or which hot drink to order in the coffee shop. Practice the art of making choices that are totally in line with where you’re at on any given day.
  2. Get familiar with “the feeling”. If you’re totally out of touch with your gut instinct, a really easy practice to follow is taking some time out in a quiet seat or lying flat on your back. Place your hands to your solar plexus and then, allow your thoughts to drift over the following, paying attention to the sensations that arise in your body:
    1. Your pet
    2. Your partner
    3. Your child
    4. Your favourite vacation
    5. Someone who has let you down
    6. Something unjust going on in the world right now
    7. A time that you hurt someone

You’ll notice that there is a feeling signature assigned to each of the above. You can choose to articulate the emotions either aloud to yourself or written in a journal if this helps. The point is, notice the physical sensations that arise as you think through all of these different things. When faced with a new decision, our gut will echo these sensations. It’s important that we take note and pick the one that is uplifting rather than the one that causes that heavy, knotted sensation at our core.

Life is indeed much like Forest’s box of chocolates. You really don’t know what you’re gonna get. But making decisions that are aligned with our gut instinct will either generate more of the good stuff, or more of the bad. I know which one I’d rather. I encourage you to follow suit.

I’ve come to realise something that’s really thrown me. And if you know me well, you’ll know that I live for this kind of stuff. I’m game for anything that turns my thinking on its head and forces me to reassess my perspective and where I stand. Because after all, what is life if not one big, long, lesson? Some parts more comfortable than others.

Let’s backtrack for a minute to last September when this all started. I took a month off social media and boy, was that a good call. You can read about it here, if you like. It allowed me to gain some all important perspective on why it was causing me so much stress; why I was oscillating between trying to convince myself I could handle it one minute and then wanting to run in the other direction the next. The lesson learned was simple, really. I was struggling because I’m a human. An imperfect, emotional human. And last I checked, everyone else using social media is human too (alien conspiracy theories aside), which must mean that the things I was feeling were being felt by everyone else too. More on that later.

The entire point of life is to experience joy and make connections. No, not the superficial kind consisting of follows and likes, but the kind where communication takes the form of body language and expression. The kind where ideas are encouraged and something beautiful churned out because two heads are better than one. Meaningful relationships where we see the bad alongside the good in a person and accept it; supporting them and understanding why they are who they are by really seeing them through walking a mile in his or her shoes.

But we’ve walked a dangerously sharp knife edge as we’ve let social media rule our lives in recent years, without really understanding that it cannot ever be a substitute for genuine, human interaction. It isn’t a supplement; It’s just another way that we can spend our time.

As soon as I realised this, I was freed. It was really that simple. I had wriggled free of its tight grip that had suffocated me for so long. That, and realising that it was a tool that I could use to start conversations and implement social change; a way of sharing my lifestyle and beliefs in the hope that I could encourage others to make different choices; choices that I believed were kinder to our environment. But don’t get me wrong; I don’t know all the answers and I openly welcome a discussion around anything that I post about. It’s how I learn. I’m self-assured, but at the same time I understand that I don’t know all the solutions and sometimes I am wrong.

When I came back from my month off social media last year, I also made a pretty huge life choice; I came off hormonal birth control that I had been taking for near on a decade. That’s a whole other topic (that you can read about here), but one that also fits into the puzzle. It allowed me to get to know my true self for the first time in years. Kind of a big deal. And in the process of transitioning from numb human to sprightly self, I realised that something else had been bumming me out as I’d been trying to “do” social media; I wasn’t really following those who inspired me. So, I switched my focus from brands and individuals who didn’t seem to have values that aligned with my own and I tell ya, it made all the difference.

These days, I relish the fact that I’ve been able to cultivate some really special connections with actual humans who are passionate about the same things that I am interested in. We encourage each other, educate each other and shine as bright little beacons in a world that often feels very dark and cold. It’s a world that feels like it can break you and beat you down and, well, win. And that’s why social media isn’t the problem. It’s the scapegoat.

The various avenues of social media have never been the cause of our anxiety, misery and loneliness as I’ve seen them portrayed to be and as I, too, believed. They’ve never been deleterious to our health. What we have been and continue to struggle with is our own shadows; the work that we need to put in for ourselves to be better, to heal and to succeed. We are a broken people raised by parents who never knew any better and brought up in an education system that does us no good. We are square pegs meticulously forced into round holes and we’re deeply unhappy because we have this yearning to be more creative than society is set up for us to live and thrive in.

We’re expected to be happy and have our shit together at all times. Because God forbid we openly admit that we’re not doing so great. God forbid that we ask for the world to cut us some slack and give us some breathing room. There’s money to be made and mouths to stay locked and emotions never allowed to see the light of day.

Only, time’s up, isn’t it?

Ah, yes. We’re at tipping point. In all aspects, from all angles, a paradigm long overdue a shift in a different direction. Because the world will keep on turning and technology keep on churning and there’s only one way to keep up: to wake up.

I look at social media now and I see it for what it is: a marvelous, beautiful, expansive tool that can be used to change the world for better. And I’m already seeing it: exponential growth in encouragement and cultivation of ideas and momentum continues to build each day. If you’re struggling, know that you too can learn to see things from a more positive place, but only if you put the work in first. We need to stop blaming social media for all of our problems and instead look in the mirror. All that social media does is highlight our shadows; those parts within us that need care and attention. It’s hard work and perfectly natural to want to turn the other way rather than put the effort in, but use those uncomfortable truths as focal points for where change needs to be made within yourself. I cannot encourage you enough. Only when you’re all right shining a light on yourself because you’re proud of who you are and truly want to encourage others to be their best selves and the world a better place will you feel comfortable using social media. 

Take the time off, do the work and come back stronger. You can change the world, but first you have to change yourself.

Urban sprawl is seen around the world as a by-product of our growing populations and corporate-run, capitalist economies. We have more cities than every before and the cities themselves are expanding to keep up with our growth at huge cost to the environment.

If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve lived in an urban environment at least once in your life. You might be sat at a computer next to a window plagued by pigeons while sirens scream by in the distance as you digest this very sentence. But if, like me, you found it all just a bit too much and decided to retire somewhere less dirty and crowded, you now read this from the quiet confines of the countryside where you can hear the trees sway and the birds sing.

It’s a shame really, because cities really do have so much potential. So much excitement and opportunity. But often there’s a dark side in the form of smog, noise, light pollution and quite a lot of loneliness.

We’re faced with an interesting challenge as we cruise on through the 21st century. In the western world, old folks are living longer than ever before. We’re also seeing a decrease in infant mortality and overall a better quality of life than we saw in the 1900’s. That’s not to say that we don’t now face a different set of problems (cue: climate change, air pollution, loneliness, depression, obesity etc.), but in terms of years spent alive and roaming the planet, there has been a definite increase.

And that’s great. And inevitable. We humans are thrilled with a project; a conundrum; a challenge. If there’s a way we can find a cure for something and make our lives better in some way, we’ll damn well persist until we’ve achieved it. It’s a beautiful thing, really. The forever quest to utopia.

But the problem is that we’re not improving our habitats as quickly as we need to, in order to support an increasing and ageing population. By habitat I’m referring to that which we – humans – live in. Our neighbourhoods. Our communities. We’re running on old-school logic in a modern world that needs more and better. And what does it come down to, at its most basic level? The economy. That’s the crux. That’s the awkward thing that no one wants to talk about, so of course I’m going to touch upon it here. It’s what I do.

A capitalist economy worked for a while. It got us to where we are today and in many ways I’m incredibly grateful for that. But it’s also limiting in so many ways. At its core, a capitalist economy is based on the owning of resources. Every business is created and run with a profit motive, offering goods or services in exchange for monetary gain. The problems come when the distribution of important resources required by the masses are controlled by only a select few. Sometimes we refer to this collective as “the 1%”. We might be dealing with a free market, but wealth distribution is anything but even throughout society. This, of course, is what results in a class system. And I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of a single good thing that comes from a class system.

In this current, capitalist regime, the emphasis is on jobs. Everyone’s got to have a job they can work at so they can make an income to spend on those things that they need, along with (wait for it) those things that corporations convince us that we need (cue: advertising). The more we spend, the more debt we find ourselves in, the more money we need, the harder we work, the more we spend to comfort ourselves. It’s an almighty viscious cycle.

The rich get richer and the poor die trying.

In a capitalist economy, the ulimate goal is to maximise profits – at whatever the cost. This may have worked for a while. But the thing is, it’s now 2018 and we’re at crisis point with our environment (you know, that thing that GIVES US LIFE?!) We’ve supported economic growth without considering the repurcussions. It’d be easy to put it down to a lack of education which, sure, was indeed the problem 100 years ago. But we have a whole host of incredibly bright and competent scientists around the globe throwing the figures at governments to no avail.

By this point you might be like, “OK, yadda yadda yadda Kat, what alternative is there?”

To which I respond, “Well, DUH, a resource-based economy!” (Cue: The Venus Project)

In a resource-based economy, the highest levels of technology are fully utilised and the resources we need distributed to all. At present, the very best technology to increase efficiency of transport, housing, crop growth, education, healthcare and all other areas of society only have one barrier between being put to use and remaining in a research facility: capital.

I’m not saying it’s an easy feat. It sure as hell isn’t. To breakdown everything that we’ve come to identify as normal and replace with something that isn’t such a struggle is bound to induce messy transition period. But it’s an absolute necessity worth striving for if we are to have any hope of a happy and healthy future.

The result is a city lifestyle that isn’t bathed in toxic air or filled with money-driven crime. It doesn’t have sky-high rent rates or inefficient public transport and endless traffic jams. The result is cities that are actually, well, pleasant, because there’s no pressure to own anything and have status because the concept is redundant. They boast all the perks of living in such a high concentration of people: the culture, the cuisine, the opportunities and amenities, but none of the cons.

I don’t know about you, but that’s an environment worth striving for, I think.

If this sounds like something you want to work towards too, I suggest starting here. And when you’re done with that, consider focusing your time and effort on living as sustainably as you can while operating in our current economy. Reduce your waste. Support businesses striving for circular economies. Work towards financial freedom so that you can make better decisions. And above all else, talk about it! Share this information with others and educate yourself. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

 

We’re consistently told that standing up for what we believe in is the most honourable path to choose. Even if we stand alone, we must do what’s right by our internal guidance system. Live by our values. But is there a limit to this? Is there any point at which it’s no longer worth it? Would you stand up for your beliefs even if it meant risking your life?

The Guardian has been keeping pretty solid tabs on those individuals who have been killed for doing exactly this: standing up for a healthy environment. The figure stands at 197 courageous men and women in the year 2017 alone, with the rate expected to continue at 4 individuals per week for the forseeable future. These are sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers whose voices have been silenced by those who put capitalist interests before environmental preservation and it disgusts me.

On almost every continent there have been people standing up against logging, land degradation, water pollution and poaching, with Brazil the most dangerous place to be at present. It’s nothing new – since the dawn of time there has existed conflict over land and its many uses. Only, it’s 2018 and there is clear evidence that the planet’s on its last legs. Bar terraforming a new one (and quick!) unless we want to suffer a slow and painful demise, we’ve got to start getting our shit into gear.

From my safe little house in my safe little town on the (relatively) safe little English isle, I go about my days trying to lead by example. I eat a vegan diet, I only consume cruelty-free cosmetics, I recycle, I try wherever possible to avoid plastic consumption and especially the single-use kind, I promote self-care and mindfulness and I make time to help others with making more environmentally-friendly choices whenever they express an interest in learning more. But above all this (because really, none of those things are superpowers), I educate myself as frequently as I’m able to. I absorb every story and statistic I can get my mitts on.

That yearning to know more can be insatiable – is, insatiable. How can I possibly do better if I’m not learning the facts? Blame it on the scientist in me. Once you learn the truth about how devestating our consumption habits are on the planet and how problematic the animal agriculture industry is (yes, I’m a big Monbiot fan) to name just a couple, you see that you have no choice but to alter your lifestyle. It’s either that or live a miserable life. Rejigging everything is a smaller burden than living in conflict with what you know has to be done.

I am incredibly fortunate that I don’t live my life on the firing line. And you are too, if you’re in a similar situation to me. But we have an absolute responsibility to share the truths that the deceased no longer can because we owe it to them for their strength and undeniable bravery for standing up for what they knew to be right.

Indigenous people in sacred places across the globe are having their ancestral lands being destroyed quicker than they’re having time to process the trauma. From the Sioux at Standing Rock to the Ka’apor in Brazil to the mighty women of the Zambezi, the planet is littered with people trying to protect their homes however they can, even if it means their inevitable demise. If home is all you know, how can life go on without it? Home is, after all, more than a physical place. It is the history that goes along with it, the memory, the culture, the family and the soul.

As a human, you have a responsibility to do no harm to another. That’s just how it is. Many don’t live this way, of course and that’s a terrible sadness, but we know how things ought to be. And if it pains you to know that there is all this suffering going on around the world and you feel helpless and incapable of making a difference, know that that couldn’t be further from the truth. Like ripples in a mill pond, your actions can inspire others in ways that you’ve likely never considered. All you need to do is plant the seed.

What changes do you want to see? An end to logging? Buy reclaimed timber furniture. Better air quality? Support renewable resources. The end of climate change? Stop supporting animal agriculture and eat plant-based. Clean seas with healthy marine populations? Cut down on your plastic consumption. Lead by example and others will follow. Your voice is louder than you know.

Photos: Sphynx & MeltingPotSoul via Instagram

 

Happy New Year!

Whether you rang in 2018 with vodka shots and an all-night bender, a glass of bubbly next to the fire or slept the midnight chime, might I suggest taking some moments during this first week to meditate on the year that’s passed and plan for the year ahead.

Trust me, I am not about to be all resolution-preaching. In fact, 2017 was a year of monthly challenges for me instead which culminated in something pretty big. Take a read over here to see what I mean. Over the years, I’ve seen resolution after resolution dissipate into nothingness; sometimes before January has even come to a close. We have these really powerful intentions and know the ways in which we want to better ourselves, but there’s just something so completely impossible to adhere to. General resolutions are vague. We humans need a little more structure, I’ve come to realise.

So, if you want something a little different, here are some ideas for things you can do in 2018. See if one resonates with you. All offer the opportunity for self-growth and actualisation. Plus, the challenge likely will appeal to the competitive amongst you. So, without further ado.

1. Read 52 books. 52 weeks in a year, 52 books you can get through. This is a pretty hefty goal and it really might not be possible for the busiest of folks. However, if you have the luxury of time, put it to use by doing something you’ll be incredibly proud of come this time next year. Select a mixture of fiction and non-fiction. Some could be classics, others instructional, others historical. Learn about our world, bask in creative genius and study something new.

2. Daily Journal. Even if it’s only a few lines while you’re sipping your morning coffee, buy yourself a journal and record your thoughts every day for the next year. These are always immensely satisfying to look back over and see how you’ve grown, what’s bothered you and what you’ve enjoyed. Time has this way of slipping through our fingers and with it goes those beautiful little daily moments that we soon forget if they aren’t recorded. In 10 years time, you’ll treasure this creation.

3. Learn something new. Sign up to a class in that one thing that you’ve always wanted to learn and dive in. No one likes feeling like a newbie, but you must remember that we all have to start somewhere. In a year from now, you’ll thank yourself a million times over that you took the plunge.

4. Volunteer your time. One of the best things I did for my mental health in 2017 was volunteer my time for one day a week. Learn some skills, meet people you wouldn’t otherwise and experience the joy of hard work that you’re doing for free. There’s something really beautiful about putting your all into something simply because you want to. If only we could do that full time, eh?

5. Cuisine a month. One of the best parts of travelling around the world is the food IMO. Having your tastebuds tantalised by something foreign and interesting is truly enriching. But even if you can’t make it to India, Italy or Indonesia to try out the local culinary delights, there’s no reason you can’t bring the flavours to you. Focus on a cuisine you have little experience with for each month of 2018. Perhaps seek out an appropriate restaurant to head to at the start of the month for inspiration, then take to Google and get creative, trying out new spices, sauces and cooking techniques that you’ve never used before. Creativity at its best. Wow friends and family by hosting a dinner at the end of the month to share what you’ve learned and convert others.

6. Buy only secondhand. We’ve got far too much of everything accumulating on our planet, so why not commit to a year of purchasing only secondhand. Whether it be clothing, furniture, a car, appliances or whatever else, spend a little more time researching and swipe a good deal in the process. Know that by doing this you’re living completely waste-free and preventing yet another item end up in landfill.

So whether you try a year of monthly challenges, one of the above or something else entirely, know that you have the power to absolutely kick this year in the booty and become the person that you want to be. All it takes is hard work and dedication; nothing you can’t do with a little focus.