I’m a big thinker, right? And I’d say my brain is at capacity most of the time. I’m constantly mulling over how I can improve things. Not just the goings-on of my inner world through various mediums of self-improvement, but also the outer one. From a vegan diet to living plastic-free, I’m on a constant mission to try to do my best with what I have. The world needs to change and I’ve dedicated my life to helping that come to fruition. But there’s an extra element that’s thrown into all this. Guilt. And it eats away at me from time to time.

Let me back-pedal a bit to talk about my time in university. Whilst there, I was a key member of the Amnesty International Society – a society that I still very much support. Nowadays, however, I do so from the sideline rather than actively. When I was heavily involved, my perspective was rather different to how it stands today. When day in, day out, you’re following the stories of the most broken of humanity, you are grateful for simply having a roof over your head and food in your belly. And freedom, of course. Just having those basic things is incredibly wonderful. If you get choice added in too, you’re flying.

But as I say, time went on and I left university and began placing more and more focus on environmental issues. The causes I was fighting for were marine habitats, rainforests, native woodland, animals facing extinction, coral bleaching and microplastic pollution. It became less about the people and more about the environment. If I think about it logically, without a planet there are no people and so of course these are worthy causes to be fighting for. But as I sit here with a regular income, enough money to pick and choose my food, my clothing, my lifestyle, I can’t help but feel an element of guilt.

Millions of people around the world – including many on these wealthy British Isles – can’t afford the luxury of choice. They can’t afford the time to even think about being able to shop in fancy food stores that offer aesthetically-pleasing vegan foods and household cleaners and beauty items that are made with an array of delightful natural ingredients. Their priority is getting food on the table for hungry mouths that need feeding. Their priority is being able to afford the rent each month. Their priority is being able to make it through each day. Living on the breadline is no place to be.

So I can’t help but feel guilty when I preach about how we should all be eating vegan foods and living waste-free as much as possible when in truth I don’t understand what it’s like not to have the choice. I don’t come from a wealthy family and in fact growing up I witnessed the stress that a single mother goes through trying to put food on the table for her kids. Her priority was keeping her children healthy and happy. But even with this, I don’t know what it was like to be her. I can’t fully understand.

My dilemma is not wanting someone living a polar opposite life to my own to look at me and see naivety and an unachievable goal. It makes me sick to think that I could evoke anger in someone over my lifestyle choices, values and priorities. It’s this fine line to teeter along, with compassion for humanity on one side and an inner environmental warrior on the other. I don’t yet know the best way of figuring all this out. And in truth, I might never. (To clarify: no one has raged at me. This is purely hypothetical.)

But one thing I do trust in is my gut instinct; as should we all. It guides us. The reality is that there’s no way I could compare my life to that of a low-income single mother with 4 children where the fight for survival is first priority. I’m not living that way – fortunately. So all I can do is what feels right to me, based on the scientific evidence I have ready, with wthe resources I have. If I can afford to choose the most ethical foods to eat, not consume plastic that ends up in the oceans and write about my lifestyle choices in the hope that it might influence someone else who can also make those choices to start living differently, then why not do it? It seems logical…

I’m part of a whole generation wanting to do life differently. We want to live more harmoniously with our planet, improve our infrastructure using renewable energy and live lives that place emphasis on creativity and passion rather than the mind-numbing and mundane. I frequently refer to it as ‘the vagina lottery’ because we don’t know what kind of family we’ll be born into. All we can do is the best we can based on what we know.

We don’t all fight for the same causes and in a way that’s actually kind of great. If some of us could keep doing the great work for humanity while others clean up the environment, we should have a sound future ahead of us. Perhaps that’s all I need to trust in; the fact that we’re all different for a reason and it’s best to just embrace it, even if it does seem flawed. We need each other; that’s the simple truth of it. We’re stronger together.

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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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Permission

Sat around the dinner table this evening with friends, talking about life and our dreams, I was thinking about permission. Too often we hang fire on chasing after our dreams because we’re waiting on someone else to give us the permission to do so. Whether we’re conscious of it or not, we’re awaiting permission from parents, society, our peers or even ourselves.

There are two kinds of people. The first are those who are spoon-fed. The second are those who grab the bull by the horns. The former are those who do things the way things were done before them. Even if it doesn’t feel the best, they do what they feel they ought to be doing. It’s what everyone else is doing, therefore surely it’s the smartest choice…The latter are the people who don’t wait for someone to give them the permission to chase their dreams and do what calls to them. These are the people who instead commit to going after what they want – regardless of how difficult it is and how many ‘no’s’ they encounter along the way.

It seems the pattern is fairly consistent here. It doesn’t matter what the committed pioneer is pursuing. First, he tries and goes against societal expectations. He faces the ridicule of friends and family who are still stuck in old ways. This ridicule only stems from those who can’t imagine doing things any other way, or those who have tried and failed. He then faces self-doubt. ‘Why am I doing this to myself?’ he asks. And then, he wins. And it’s that win that feels more fulfilling to him than any amount of spoonfuls presented on a plate. This is because the meal he’s finally tasting is enriched with the most decadent and exotic flavours, far exceeding twice the quantity in slop.

This is metaphor heavy – I realise – but for someone who’s tasted the freedom of dream-chasing, any other life is a sure-fire path to starvation. It’s slop on the plate and a weevil-infested pantry in the mind.

We wonder why mental illness is at an all-time high. Loneliness and unfulfilled dreams permeating every ‘social’ circle. These brilliant minds are bored. They don’t believe in what they do and they’re craving the satiation – the satisfaction – of dreams come true. They’re craving the boomerang effect of vibrations just like the ones in their heart and soul bouncing back at them from a manifested existence that they want to be a part of. More so – that they want to create.

So if we’re all created equal. If each of us unique, with our own set of skills and strengths, why are only a few of us calling the shots? I call it a disease of awaiting permission unnecessarily. And it has quite simply got to stop.

There’s a formula for how the world works at the moment, and few who dare to go against the system and make an attempt at doing things differently. What would be the wider outcome if this became the way of the world? How would the system change?

Today’s food for thought.

Photo: Flickr

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toxic_media

“Oh my God!” she shouted – exasperated – as she swung open the office door. She was flaunting her phone for us all to see, explaining that BBC Breaking News had just informed her that Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were filing for divorce. Granted, the announcement was met with my surprise at first, but then my reaction moved to one of dismay. I was disgusted that the BBC had deemed this breaking news.

I understand, we live in a celebrity culture. I understand that celebrities are powerful brand ambassadors, marketing tools and sources of entertainment. But more than that, in a rather sinister sense celebrities are used as tools of distraction. If the media can scream and shout about the latest weight loss or nose job or in this case divorce, that’s bait. That’s bait for us, with our short attention spans and easily-influenced minds to feed upon. Meanwhile, beneath the surface darker tales are panning out.

The point of this post is not simply to rant, though I must say that I do take pride in that particular skill of mine. No, this post is more of a ‘how to’. How can we live amicably with the mass media when we don’t necessarily agree with the crap it spews?

  1. Don’t give it your power. We are each capable of deciding in any given moment whether to hold onto our own power or give it away. When you hear or read or see a story being presented to you as the ‘news’, firstly remember that the story was selected and manipulated in a way that the company doing the reporting benefits from. Remember that these are simply from the perspective of people with particular kinds of interests. Not all of it will affect your reality. What you’re hearing/reading/seeing is only a fraction of what is actually occurring in the world right now. It’s not even a dot on a page. Remember that you can choose the kind of reality you’re living and interacting with. What you’re being told isn’t necessarily it.
  2. Make a habit of taking in information from alternative sources. In other words, do your research. Read the publications that interest you. Follow the work of people you find inspiring. Be proactive in your approach to learning about the world and not resorting to being spoon-fed.
  3. Laugh at it. I know, trust me, that the time is now for changing the world and all that jazz. However, a bunch of angry, panicked individuals doesn’t really result in much other than frenzy. No, what’s going to comprise our salvation is strong, calm, centered individuals. That’s why you have to turn and laugh at the clever tactics used by the mass media, you really do. The material being churned out may be stupid, but the brains behind the creations are not. See through how it all works and you’re half way there. You can’t be sucked in if you understand what’s going on.

I remember being a teenager and thinking that people who didn’t read the news were stupid and ignorant. Nowadays, I realise that there isn’t really such a thing as ‘the’ news. There’s simply news and in topics across the spectrum. Don’t waste your time on information that you don’t need to dwell on – information that isn’t going to help you do your best work. Give it the middle finger and delve into those things that set your soul on fire.

Photo: Flickr

 

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change

When we fear change, what is it that we’re really fearing? It’s surely not the process of evolving or upgrading to something new and different? Rather, it’s the fear that we’ll either lose something or end up worse off. We fear the possibility of suffering.

We always think we know best, don’t we? We think that we have the best idea about what’s good for us. If we take a good look at our lives, we think we’ve got it down. Everything around us might be looking all right – dare I say comfortable – and at these points change is unwelcome. If everything feels comfortable, why would we want to rock the boat?

In these circumstances, change is often shunned. We hold on so dearly with clutching little claws to that which we have, because after all we know best. We don’t want any nasty surprises creeping up and biting us in the behind.

Other times, perhaps we feel stagnant. Taking a look at your life reveals people and circumstances that are less than favourable. If this is the case, change could perhaps be just what it is you’re craving. Something new and shiny and exciting. Yet the change doesn’t come. You keep wishing so badly for something to turn your world upside down, yet all stays level. Every day is exactly the same.

Above I describe two very different situations. In the first, the person is happy with the way things are. They don’t want things to change, because the risk it’ll be for the worse outweighs the chances that it’ll be for the better. Sure, there’s the chance that life could improve in a way that he or she hardly thought possible, but isn’t it better to stick with what you know and what’s all right rather than risk total turbulence?

The second person is bored or suffering and yearning for change to shake things up a bit. They need new stimulation. They feel like they’ve got nothing to lose and so they’re willing to go face-to-face with whatever is thrown at them, because least of all they’ll have a challenge. Best case scenario they’ve got their dreams coming true.

We tend to fluctuate between these two states of mind. It’s only natural for us to want things to stay the same when we’re cruising the peaks of life and chase change when sinking in the troughs. And it’s because we always think we know best.

I’m not here to talk about God or the mystical powers of the universe. But I am here to discuss our thought patterns. I’ve seen in my own life how thinking can be either completely destructive or utterly beneficial to my mood. I’ve experienced dramatic changes in external circumstances and trauma – just like any of you reading this – but ironically the times I felt the worst were when from the outside everything looked good. It was the times that I couldn’t pinpoint a reason to feel so awful that I felt the most darkness. It all came down to my thinking habits. And that’s exactly what our thinking is: a habit. Some habits are good, others detrimental.

What I’ve learned is that the only times we suffer are when we feel like what we are experiencing should not be happening. It really is as simple as that. So with the first person in my example above, he feels as though he’s got a grip on his life. He feels like everything around him is right and should be happening because he feels OK experiencing it all each day. Any change surely should not happen to disturb that?

With the second person, he looks around at his life and is experiencing that which is unwanted and so he shouts up at the universe that ‘surely this should not be happening!’ and pleads for change.

Whether you believe you’re here to stumble onto a particular path or not is entirely your own prerogative, but you can’t argue with the fact that we’re all here to learn. That’s why we place such emphasis on education and doing stuff. But the thing is that some of the stuff we need to learn to get us from A to B (B being a place where we can do our best work) includes some hardship – some pain. And this arises from change.

If we stay in the comfort bubble, we’re never growing. We must face new situations to learn about the world and ourselves. This is from where inspiration stems. And curiosity. It’s how we discover those niches that call to us. Individuals we are, and so it takes some excavation to find the niche that feels the most compatible. It’s how we learn what we’re good at. And it’s how we connect to others; through shared experience and understanding.

I now try my best to approach trying situations with the mentality that whatever is happening, needs to happen. And one up from that even: whatever is happening will benefit me. We’re always so adamant about needing all the evidence, but suppose for a moment that you simply accepted that there are things you don’t know and will never know. The strange workings of the universe being one of them.

Doesn’t it take some pressure off, at least? Doesn’t accepting that your current situation is serving you feel good? I’m not talking about settling for that which is unwanted or giving up on your goals and dreams, but instead of feeling like you’re hitting your head against a brick wall 60 times a minute, consider that you’re gaining something from all this.

So when unwanted change is thrown at you: know in your heart that it needed to happen and that you will find a way through it. You always do. And if change simply isn’t coming, know that it’s because you’ve still not learned your lesson yet, do start paying attention.

 

Photo: Flickr

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