I’ve been thinking about needs today and how often we think about what it is that we actually need. Or perhaps I should say, how little. I’m specifically referring to material posessions here; not emotional needs. That latter list is lengthy and should be taken care of.

There was a great article published by Forbes a couple months back looking at why we should spend our money on experiences, rather than material things. I encourage you to give it a peruse. Essentially, when we look for happiness in things, we consistently end up disappointed. We soon realise that that thing didn’t bring us the joy we had initially hoped for and so set the bar higher and keep on accumulating. We keep on with our dissatisfaction and the vicious cycle continues.

The problem is that by looking for happiness in material things, we’re forgetting that our exponential evolutionary growth means that it’s never long before something better is available on the market. When this happens, naturally our dated object is less appealing. And when this happens, we’re convinced we need to get our skates on and keep up with the latest and greatest. Otherwise, we’re missing out.

But what if all these posessions are burdens? I mean, think about it. The more ‘stuff’ we acquire, the more space we require to store it all. That means we need a bigger apartment or a bigger car which carries the impact of greater cost. We might even get ourselves into debt, all in the perpetual mission to keep putting stuff in our treasure chests.

There are two reasons we might purchase a material posession. The first is because we need it. This usually isn’t something we get excited about. It’s a basic. It’s not something we think will necessarily bring us happiness, but rather something that we know innately to be essential in our day-to-day lives. The second reason is that we want it. We don’t consider it an essential, but rather a luxury. Those are the two categories you see: basic & luxury. The basics are those things that allow us to live comfortably. The luxuries are things we can definitely do without, but we enjoy the idea of having in our lives and so we long for them.

I always find it surprising how little I find myself missing from home when I go away camping. If I have the kit to keep me warm and can zip open the door to beautiful surroundings, that’s enough. I don’t need the plethora of things that I keep around my apartment; I’m out in nature and this beats any number of throw pillows and decorative candles.

So what is it that you actually need? This varies from person to person. But ask yourself the question – particularly when you’re longing for a material item. What is it that you think that item will bring you? Will it satisfy what it is that you’re truly longing for? Often times you’ll hesitate and realise that there’s an ulterior motive behind trying to acquire that thing. Is it so that you don’t feel left out? Because at the end of the day all you really want is to feel accepted and feel a part of something? Is it because you think that by having that thing you’ll become a tiny bit more like a particular person you admire? Maybe you’re unhappy with the person you are and you think that you can somehow shop your way to a new you?

Firstly, you must stop. Apart from the essentials that you know you need, consider what it is that you truly want in your life and ask yourself honestly if that material posession will bring you it. Then, get rid of the stagnant, unwanted stuff that is lying around, collecting dust, not bringing you any happiness and take a fresh look around.

Without all the stuff in the way, you are able to see a bit more clearly. You may not like what you see, but it’s what’s there regardless. And the only way to change what is unwanted is to look it in the eye and understand it.

 

Photo: Unsplash

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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hiraeth

Hiraeth: the hunger, the pining, the longing, the searching, the surge of sadness from the separation of what once was.

Hiraeth is a beautiful welsh word used to describe the longing for a time and place that hover somewhere in the red shift behind us. We all know this feeling, but some of us will choose to bask in its crippling aura for longer than others.

Hiraeth is longing for a time in your life that maybe felt easier. Maybe it was a time you had a person or thing that has since left your side. Maybe it was a time that your surroundings felt right. They may have felt home-like. Often we think that if we just try harder to get those things back that we’ll be content again, whole again even. But the truth is that whilst that lifestyle with all its embellishments worked for us at one time in our lives, in the past is where it must remain. If we were meant to be experiencing those circumstances we’re pining for in the present, we would be. We therefore would not feel the absence of them. But we do…

When we miss the past, we’re missing the comfort of what is known. It’s easy to look back and see the totality of your life – the entire perimeter and everything within it. That is a comfortable vision to behold. We’re looking back at an old version of ourselves. In the present is where the expansion is happening every moment. Any outcome goes and that can be what makes mindfulness so difficult to strive for. It’s tempting to let your mind reside where it feels comfortable: what is known in its entirety. Mystery can be unsettling.

The reason hiraeth is so crippling is that it is not merely a place you can move back to, a partner you can reconcile your relationship with or whatever other aspect of your life you long for. It was a combination of who you were at the time and how all the people and places in your life fit into it. As we evolve on our own life paths, so do our surroundings, our peers and our circumstances. We can only go forward. As the clock continues to tick and we fly through space, we are ever-evolving.

To feel hiraeth is to resist what is happening in your life because to you the past seems more appealing. Let yourself feel it briefly and intermittently and it can cause a surge of happiness at those wonderful experiences you have had. This is the beauty of memory. Let yourself live there full-time and you will be miserable. This is because you are a) rejecting the possibility of something better happening because your eyes are closed to the present and b) unappreciative of the now.

We all know somebody stuck in the past. I’ve certainly been that person myself. But rose-tinted glasses are a dangerous accessory, masking the trials and tribulations of the past with the warmth of the ‘ups’ only. It’s easy to forget about the struggles and focus only on the good. But in reality you had your hardships back then just like you do now.

To dissipate the lingering of hiraeth, you must first accept that everything happening in your life right now is happening because it is meant to. It is all that there is. That is not to say this is the way things must always be; you can certainly pull back in elements of a time in your past that are preferable. But the only way to do so is to accept what is present in its entirety.

Photo: Flickr

 

 

Fantasy Garden
What is it that makes a film great? I think we can all agree that all aspects of the production must be on-point in order to bring a great all-rounder to the big screen. I also think that some aspects appeal more than others to particular people. For some it’s the CGI, for others it could be the period make-up or costume, but for me it’s the message I can take away from the film or the alternative perspective that I have my eyes opened to which sticks with me forever.

On a rainy day this week I went to watch Alice Through the Looking Glass. I thoroughly enjoyed the first Alice in Wonderland for its epic acting, costumes, lucid cinematography and special effects so I had high hopes for this one. I wasn’t disappointed. In addition to a creative plot, talented acting and beautiful visuals, the story’s focus on time really struck a chord with me. It looked at our negative opinion of it being a ‘thief’, as well as the delicacy of it and I loved how it became personified in this production.

The story follows Alice as she tries to help her friend the Mad Hatter by going back in time and changing the course of history. She steals time from time himself despite the dangers involved. Along her journey she realises that we can’t take everything at face value and despite our brightest minds, we don’t know everything. We especially do not know the greater picture of all our interconnectedness and the various events that take place in our lives. The cutesy theme of family and friendship above all else is one we’ve seen before, but one that is put into a wiser, more grounded theme of time and how it is a gift.

Time is given to us at the start of our lives, for us to do with as we please. As I hit my mid-twenties and lost my Grandad, time suddenly became this tangible, frightening thing. Before that point, I had never been so acutely aware of my mortality. And why should I? If I’ve been brought up to believe that humans in my part of the world live well into their eighties and nineties, what good is it worrying about time at twenty-four? But then I realised that time was rushing by me; I was growing up and stepping into adulthood and losing people. Time was flying by and I couldn’t stop it; I couldn’t hold on to anything because eventually everything in this three-dimensional world around me dies.

I, of course, jumped into a place of fear. I felt regret and this hurrying feeling in the base of my belly that guilt-tripped me into believing that I wasn’t doing enough; that I was disappointing my future self and making mistake after mistake. I was thinking thoughts like, ‘I’m not where I thought I’d be by 24!’ and ‘How am I ever going to get out of this rut and get my life started?!’

I was wishing away the days then weeks then months as winter came. I wanted the time to pass by so it would be spring already. I felt that there was nothing worth doing, nothing good within my grasp and that time was a cruel burden I had to endure. This harsh vacuum of time and space can be the death of you if you’re not careful. Something I’ve learned is that having a negative relationship with time will never serve you. Seeing your life and your time on this earth as a burden is rejecting the universe and rejecting your very own soul who incarnated here to experience this physical manifestation of yourself and interact with the world around you.

In Alice Through the Looking Glass, we see how she comes to realise that before time is taken from us and our loved ones, it is first given. It cannot be taken if we don’t have it to begin with and this was the powerful message I took away. It sounds so obvious when I think it aloud as I write this, but to think of time as a gift rather than an entitlement changes everything for me. We all think we’re so entitled to this time on earth – to life – but how is that true? Two people had to come together and create you in order for you to be here. That is a gift. And one life of how ever many days on this earth to do with as you please is a gift. And your ability to express yourself in whichever way you want and pursue whatever path you want is a gift. Freedom is a gift.

So I came home from the movie and pondered this thought. I felt uplifted instantly. I felt appreciative and hyper-aware of all aspects of my surroundings: the smell of home as I walked in the door, the sound of my cat’s purr, the whistling of the trees outside my window, the smell of garlic frying in the pan, the taste of the shiraz as I sipped it, the refreshing cool of the wooden floor as I took my shoes off and let myself wander from room to room. It’s all of these things that composed my life that day; all these expressions of my world and I felt alive. Slinking guilt tried to coil itself up my ankles and grip on tight, telling me I could just as easily have not noticed these things and teased me with the fact that there will be times in my future that I won’t, but I told it to vanish and let myself be immersed in home and appreciate it for the short time it would envelope me.

I don’t know if it’s like this for everyone, but I’m guessing if you’ve read up until this point you know what I’m talking about. You are familiar – as I am – with the claustrophobia that a bad relationship with time can trigger. At the end of the day, we are all subject to time and how it ticks on by. I’m still not sure if time is linear and I think that I’ll continue to have my eyes opened to how it bends, slows and speeds up depending on what I’m doing, but if you take something away from this, let it be this: see your life as a gift and know that as the seconds continue ticking you are faced with the choice to use them or lose them. Make each one count.

Photos: Flickr

clock
It’s a bizarre feeling when you first realise that life is short; when you first conceptualise time. It usually takes a health scare, near-death experience or loss of a loved one to shake you into a ‘MUST DO EVERYTHING NOW!’ mentality, but it could also be a gentle nudge from the universe reminding you that this is it; there’s no dress rehearsal through which you can have a practice run and get everything right.

Now that I’m 25, I have an understanding of what I remember adult family and friends always harping on about when I was a kid; that life goes so much more quickly when you’re all grown up. My wise little brother was explaining this concept to me yesterday, because I couldn’t quite pin point what it was that was causing this. When you’re 10 years old, each year is a whole 10% of your life up until that point, therefore if those past 10 years are all you have to go on in terms of the memories you’ve made and experiences you’ve had, you will remember each year in much more detail and thus each one will feel much longer. By the time you’re 20, each year only makes up 5% of your life and so you’ve got so much more to cram into your memory when you look back over your time on Earth. You can’t possibly have a real grip on the same level of detail as you did regarding each individual year when you were 10. This goes on and on through the decades.

In addition to this, we tend to live from break to break, weekend to weekend or holiday to holiday, without as much attention to the specific happenings of each day. Weeks blur into one and before you know it the season has changed. It’s brutal and unpleasant to hear it and I for one am so guilty of always whipping out next month’s calendar before I’ve said goodbye to the current one; always planning ahead and wanting to get a greater perspective on where my year is headed. But this lack of attention to detail is essentially a futuristic mind-set. It’s a constant lack of being present.

I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but you will never be younger than this very moment, so take a look at yourself and your family and friends and spend a quiet moment appreciating everything exactly as it is, because it won’t always be that way. I had to grow up with temporary friends, moving from place to place and knowing that I would only spend a few years with the people I met before being transported to a place an ocean away. I vividly remember being in a perpetual state of focussing on the positives of the next place and being OK with letting go, because it was simply too painful to fully immerse myself in whatever present state I was in only to have it ripped away from me.

This definitely shaped me into the person I am now, never fully committed to any one person or place for fear of the pain of detaching from it when the time comes. But that mind-set only lends itself to focussing more and more on time and how quickly it is slipping away.

Life is a bit like watching a movie that you’ve not seen before. There will be moments that ignite joy, others sadness and you don’t know how it is going to end. All you can do is commit to being along for the ride and relish the good times and do your best to handle the bad ones. Each of us has a very particular and unique life composition. We have had to face our own challenges along the way and we contribute a unique perspective to the collective. It’s no use focussing all your energy on longing for a life that will never be yours. You are here for a reason and that reason is to expand in the life you have been born into. All you can do is the best with what you have.

There is a difference between ambition and living in a perpetual state of pining and no doubt you’ll face difficulty differentiating between the two at times; I know I do. But what I’ve learned is that whenever things feel too overwhelming and life racing by too quickly, it’s best to stop and make your sole focus that of everything you are grateful for. Get quiet and play the movie in slow motion and notice all the individual details composing that scene. Appreciate how each detail creates the mood and ambience and catch it before it flutters away to make way for the next scene.

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Photo: Nick Wright via Flickr

 

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We are forever setting ourselves goals, raising the bar and seeking new. This applies to our lifestyles, careers, materialistic goods, travels and everything else. But there’s a knife edge in this, with a black hole on either side; one of stagnancy and the other obsession.

It’s really interesting how small the gap is between being a determined individual living a life of fulfillment and excitement, to being utterly immersed in a future that hasn’t yet happened and subsequently missing out on all the wonderful happening at present. You can do both: be ambitious and present, though it takes practice and requires self-discipline.

Think about your most recent enjoyable social interactions. Can you pinpoint what it was about those interactions that made them so memorable? It was most likely a combination of the three points below:

  1. 1/3 reminiscing about the past, sharing stories, learning about each other, bonding over previous adventures and remembering the wonderful things you have experienced
  2. 1/3 building anticipation for upcoming events, travels, celebrations that you are looking forward to. After all, John Lennon did say, “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans”.
  3. 1/3 activity, whether it is the food you are sharing, beer pong you are playing, trees you are planting, band you are worshiping or whatever else

Just like everything else in this universe, we find happiness in equilibrium; at the center of a Venn diagram as it were. We must be grateful and accepting of the life we are living, but remain determined to making our dreams come true, or work past a struggle or two should we find ourselves facing them.

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I have a tendency to resist life when it’s not panning out the way that I had anticipated. “Things aren’t doing what I want them to do” I’ll mope and then put all my energy into a different, parallel universe of how things should be. Focusing every last ounce of my energy on that, it’s almost like I trick myself into thinking that I’m not experiencing my current present. If I try to ignore what’s happening or pretend it isn’t real, that means it’s not reality, right? Wrong.

There is a delicate dance of wanting that we must do, every day, to remain on a track that is true to ourselves. We must wholly accept our lives, exactly as they are, facing any pain or embarrassment or resistance if your reality isn’t what you had imagined for yourself. If we don’t know where we really are, how can be build a sturdy platform from which to launch into a future tailored to our wishes? Being accepting is being present. Realising the relationships you find yourself in, the job, the financial situation, the location, and the body is the only way to accurately assess what is and isn’t working. What feels good when you think about it? That’s the purest way to get an idea of what lifestyle attributes are in tune with your highest self. If you think of your friends, does your heart warm from the way they fulfill you and bring you joy? If you think of your job, do you find the work rewarding and in line with your values? If you look at yourself in the mirror, is there a person looking back that is being taken care of and treated with love?

We have such fear with embracing our lives as they are, because if we do then that actually makes them real. We can no longer pretend. And you may feel ashamed when you do this, ashamed that you wandered so off track from what you knew was best that you don’t even know how to resume course. Or, you may actually find that you’re grateful you turned out relatively all right, despite the hardships you’ve had to endure.

Once you’re totally honest with yourself about where you’re at, begin to live a life on feeling. For some filthy reason we’re told that we should think logically and rationally and that living by what the heart wants is somehow weak or irresponsible. This could not be further from the truth and it’s unfortunate that we have this message consistently drilled into us. The truth is that you know what is best for you. You don’t need to force yourself into any kind of lifestyle or situation that doesn’t feel good because you think it will make you fit in or be considered more acceptable in society. The best contributors to our collective genius are those that do the exact opposite. And the exciting thing is that each one of us can be one of those people, if only we let ourselves.

This past weekend I committed to my home; something that is a struggle for me because I am forever pining for my next adventure. But something made me stop and question why I couldn’t do both. I accepted that my present reality is that I do live in one place, with temporary adventures interspersed. If I’m not accepting of that, I’m not respecting myself by providing a home environment that is warm and enjoyable. I am instead resisting the home, which is not being present. This means that I am preventing myself from relishing the pleasurable aspects of it, which really is a tragedy.

I guess I had a fear that by accepting my home I was closing a door on the opportunity of travel. But the truth is that if I’m neither traveling or accepting that I am based in one place, where else does that leave me but in limbo? And any kind of limbo that isn’t on a deck in the summertime with cocktails is no fun at all.