avocado and mango

In January 2016 I decided to label myself as a vegan. Six months later (ish) in August of last year, I wrote this post detailing my decision to no longer label myself as one. It’s now February 2017 – six months on again – and here are my thoughts.

The key word that comes to mind is choice. Having choice is the most wonderful, encouraging, satisfying, empowering feeling. The truth is that I’ve eaten my way through several dozen eggs, a fish or two and the odd serving of cheese during these six months. But without even realising it, I have gravitated towards entirely plant-based cooking in my own home.

Now it’s six months on, I’m doing a little ‘check up’ on myself to see how I’m doing. The truth is that I feel great. I’m eating almost exactly what I did a year ago, only the difference is that I don’t feel restricted. It all has to do with the label, or rather. lack of.

Six months ago, I did myself a great kindness by lifting the pressure and giving myself the choice to eat what I wanted without feeling like I was breaking the law; my own personal law that is. By simply allowing myself to have the choice to consume animal products if I wanted to, I felt good in the decisions I made to opt for plant-based instead. It was a conscious decision, not a forced commitment. Nowadays, when I have the choice (i.e. when I’m eating at home), I cook plant-based. But if I’m in work and someone brings in treats, or I’m at a friend’s place and he or she cooks a beautiful meal containing some cheese or egg, I gladly accept. The only thing I really draw the line at is meat. I just can’t do that one.

Opening this door for myself allowed me to become flexible and adaptable. I guess one thing I pride myself on is my adaptability. Putting myself on a restricted diet felt like I was going against my values. Sure, I see the environmental benefits, of course. But life doesn’t revolve around me and while I have control over the purchases I make and cook within my own home, part of my life is socialising with other people and so I now feel warmer and more welcoming towards compromising in those situations.

Something funny happened next, after this decision to relax a little bit and give myself choice. I decided to start looking at other areas of my life where I might also benefit from having a choice. You might think of it as me becomming a detective of sorts, pulling out my trusty magnifying glass and seeing where I had choices that were hiding from me. These were areas that I felt bound to and trapped in; areas where I wanted more flexibility.

It started with work. I was working a 40-hour week, Monday to Friday and before that point had never even considered the possibility of reducing my hours. But then I thought: what have I got to lose by asking? I wasn’t asking for a reduction so I could bum around; I was happy to explain that to my boss. Balance was what I was after; more time to do things that mattered to me. I wanted more variety.

The proposal was met with respect and support. Before I knew it, I was down to four days a week. This allowed me a day to do some volunteer work outside in the fresh – albeit brisk at this time of year – air. And then something else happened. I got offered not one, but two other opportunities to do what I love: pursue creativity through my writing.

When the ball started rolling, I suddenly had the overwhelming feeling that this is how life is meant to be lived: with freedom. Freedom is the greatest blessing and also the most notoriously in disguise. Until we see the choices we can make in our everyday lives, we won’t create the space for fulfilling opportunities to walk through the door.

Giving myself a choice last year changed my life. It allowed me to see that my life is ever-changing and that my dreams are possible, if only I remember to pause for perspective every now and then.

Photo via Unsplash

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I was sat on the train – a train I take regularly – and paused the music streaming through my headphones to notice the train attendant fighting with a passenger for the 75p he owed for his travels. His excuse was that he had no money on him and so couldn’t pay the fare. He was kicked off at the next stop.

She walked my way, looking worn down and saw that I had been watching the exchange. I turned up the corner of my mouth in sympathy and she went on to tell me her struggle with having to constantly battle with passengers who refused to pay for their journeys. Journeys costing less than £1. She said that train might be cancelled soon due to so many people trying to pull  a fast one and get away with travelling for free. The tragedy that would be!

This whole encounter got me thinking about responsibility and how so many of us refuse to take it. Some of us more often than others. I won’t lie – there are times I hope I’ll be able to commute for free. There’s the hope I’ll get lucky and be able to travel the one stop without paying. Because I could always use the extra cash, right? Couldn’t we all? But if an attendant appears, I buy a ticket. Why? Because I am choosing to use service they are providing. It’s helpful in getting me from A to B. I can’t expect to use it for free.

Trying to get something for free indicates a feeling of entitlment. A person feels they are able to have what they want at any expense. This is a selfish approach. And this is very different to a person who believes in abundance.

Let’s look at these two concepts. If you believe in abundance, you believe that there is enough to go around. You believe that there is enough for everyone to live a rich life and therefore you freely give because you know you have nothing to worry about. This automatically leads to kindness because there is no need to look out for yourself and get yourself ahead at the expense of another.

If you believe you are entitled, this means that you put ‘getting yourself ahead’ above all else. You believe that you should be able to get special privileges that others do not. You cannot believe this and believe in abundance. If you believed in abundance, you wouldn’t need to keep trying to get away with special treatment. This stems from feelings of scarcity. This stems from a person not getting what they needed early on in life.

Ironic, or not really at all? A person who grows up feeling deprived of basic needs as a child enters adolescence and adulthood having to look out for number one. If they don’t look out for themselves, no one else will, right? That’s the sad ‘truth’ they’ve been taught.

If a child has his or her needs met, he or she grows up believing the ‘truth’ that whatever they want or need will naturally come to them. He or she doesn’t need to go on the hunt for loopholes and special privileges to get those things.

So parenting is everything, as we know. It’s so much easier to learn the correct behaviour the first time round. But what about for so many of us that struggle with entitlement? What can we do to transform this negative behaviour into something more positive?

The first step is realising that your approach to life will always be reflected back at you. It’s called the law of attraction (though I know, I know, that phrase is so overused and vomit-inducing that you might struggle to read past it.)

Everything in this universe is made of energy. This energy is expressed in different forms and it just shifts between them . Energy cannot be created or destroyed, only transformed in one way or another. Thanks Einstein.

An entitled approach instills negativity in those who suffer at your expense. An entitled approach emits vibrations of scarcity. And these resonate further than you might imagine. But just as you can create this negativity, you can also create positivity. That positivity can spread and transform into higher vibrations.

Give, and you’ll be amazed what you get back in return.

 

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universal-creator

In our modern construct, we have a generic social structure within our lives. This usually involves birth, schooling, university, a 9-5 job, marriage, babies, retirement, and death. Of course these events are joined by all the little day-to-day details, but for some reason there are milestones that we work towards and place enormous focus on. These are the events we consider the most important – the most memorable and profound.

But what about the day-to-day? Surely if we add up these ‘memorable’ days, they comprise only a few fleeting moments of the totality of our lives? Our lives seem to be filled with days and days of seemingly empty space that we don’t remember. These are days that don’t seem to important enough for us to draw attention to. I wonder if it’s because we feel that ensuring our existence fits into the current paradigm considered ‘acceptable’ and ‘worthy’ is enough. Is it because we feel we’re living how we should be?

We make decisions based on our options. But what if we have limited the options we give ourselves? What if our perspective is limited in a way that hinders our growth? We are raised in a way that often sets boundaries. These boundaries draw out the perimeter of the box we fit into. It’s a box that allows some choice, but not infinite free will.

A Different Perspective

If we remove this idea, this paradigm of modern day life, we are left with infinite possibility. We are left with a more simpler truth which is simply that anything can happen. If you let it, that is. If we halt the predictability and these aforementioned milestones that we inevitably find ourselves working towards, we’re left with a more sensitive approach. By a sensitive approach I mean taking life as it comes at you.

Having a ’10 year plan’ is useless. I used to at least give it an ounce of my thought, but now I see that it is entirely destructive. It is possible for you to be an entirely different man or woman in 10 years time. If you structure the next 10 years in a way that limits you to what you wanted for yourself at the start of those 10 years, you’re holding yourself back. With growth comes a change in perspective. How can you possibly know that in 10 years time the best thing for you is what you yearn for now?

An Ebb and Flow

I am also guilty of labelling some things as ‘me’ and others as ‘so not me’. Whilst in this present moment I may have an affinity for a particular sense of style or type of music, for example, is it wise to spend the next 10 years habitually closing myself off from alternatives? Who’s to say I won’t change perspective entirely in 10 years from now; hell – even 1 year from now?

As we learn and grow and formulate new ideals for ourselves, we’re engaging in a kind of ebb and flow with life. It’s a little give and a little take. It’s a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Our moods change every moment and we are constantly learning by experience. We do this dance with life and if we do it well, we’ll get the best out of it.

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The next time someone asks me where I’ll be in 10 years time I’ll tell them that I couldn’t possibly imagine. I’d like to live my life as though I have no idea what tomorrow will hold. And it’s true, I don’t. It’s not the morbid anticipation that something awful might happen, but rather the eager excitement for what I might create simply by actively interacting with the events that happen today. We are all designers of our own lives. If only we accept that, we hold a world in the palms of our hands.

Photo: Flickr

Zen-And-The-Art-Of-Happiness

If you’re reading this, I think it’s safe to say you’re a spiritual person. Whether or not you would have labelled yourself that without my opinion is another thing. In fact, we’re all spiritual beings. Whether we embrace our spirituality in the form of a religion, a physical practice or whatever else, we all pursue something which feeds that aspect of ourselves which isn’t the mind or body, but the soul.

I would say that I became aware of the spiritual community I feel I fit into when I was in my early-twenties. I met someone who opened my eyes big time. From there it’s been a steady few years of learning about myself. As well as healing past trauma. And trying to get to grips with why things happen the way they do.

It’s safe to say that I’m an old soul. I think differently than most people my own age. I have an affinity for forming friendships with those older than myself. Intensity should be my middle name, really. And why the need to be so serious all the time? It’s not that I am actually serious all the time, but that I have so many thoughts – so many questions. This blog is my way of talking to the universe and whichever people it reaches are a part of that. Call it writing therapy: the process of processing through verse.

Changing Your Thinking

Recently I read an incredible little book: Zen And the Art of Happiness by Chris Prentiss. It’s tiny and can easily be finished in a few hours. But oh, what wonders I took away from it.

The book essentially discusses the idea that whatever happens to you in this life is for your greatest benefit. It’s a different perspective than most of us have. Prentiss gives accounts of events in his own life and that of others that initially seem disastrous, but work out for the better in the end. He describes the universe as a perfect machine of sorts, creating nothing but a perfect future for itself. If we’re all a part of the same energy, expressed in different forms, we’re all a part of that perfect plan. And therefore, although we interpret some events as ‘good’ and some as ‘bad’, all serve us positively in the end.

If one thinks about it logically, people are just people and events just events. It is how we feel about each one that makes all the difference. And it’s what causes us all to be so unique. Some of us have an affinity for one thing, others another. If we were all the same, life as we know it simply would not be possible. It is through our individuality that we learn and grow. We need things to be the way they are.

But the worst, the most painful part of life as we know it, is the hurt and disappointment when something happens to us or around us and we feel as if we’ve had a stroke of bad luck or are being punished. We feel we’ve somehow ‘lucked out’ and are doomed. The ideology that this simply cannot be possible is profound. And it takes some time getting your head around. But take a moment to look back at your own life and I’m sure you’ll be able to pinpoint situations that in the moment you thought were dire actually turning out to benefit you in the long-run.

It might have been a terrible break-up which meant getting that person off the scene in order for someone better to come along. It might have been being made redundant so that your dream job could be offered to you. It might have even been a near-death accident so that you could have a spiritual epiphany and really start living.

If we adopt this way of thinking, it’s not only stress-reducing but it’s also empowering. Stress is caused by the chronic worry about how a situation is going to pan-out. It’s ‘doom and gloom’ syndrome that leaves your body ridden with the horrible symptoms of anxiety. This is all for a situation which may never occur. Knowing instead that whatever happens will benefit you eases this strain.

Secondly, as I mentioned earlier it is empowering. Instead of dreading what life is going to throw at you next, you can welcome it in. No matter the potential struggle or hardship you will face: approach it head-on and with open arms and you’ve got an opportunity for growth. After all, once you’ve learned your lesson there will be no need for that hardship to linger.

I ain’t no Zen Master, but this thinking was simply too good not to share. I highly encourage you to give this book a read. Food for thought – big time.

Photo: Flickr

 

 

neighbours

There’s something to be said about having good neighbours. I know we all encounter neighbours from hell sometimes, but today I’m talking solely about the good ones. There’s something really warming about the way neighbours coexist. I think we should try to extend that out beyond the home soil.

I live in a building of apartments. It’s a historic building converted into several flats, with many different stairwells and entrances. As such, I cross paths with one or another of my neighbours every day.

Above me on one side are a group of sharers. They’re of a similar age to me and all genuinely lovely people. We don’t socialise or even really make more than small talk when we see each other, but they collect my packages from the rain and kindly leave them outside my door. I do the same for them. It’s a mutual act of kindness that takes almost no effort and leaves the other party feeling taken care of and looked out for.

One day when I was at home there was a knock at the door from one of the guys above asking for help bringing in a massive ping-pong table he’d just had delivered. We laughed and joked trying to figure out the best way to navigate this thing up the stairs and through the door. In return he allocated me free use of it if I ever wanted a game.

Adjacent are a lovely couple on one side and another on the other. Above us an elderly couple who still order milk in glass bottles and tend to a herb garden that they have made communal for all to share. Beneath me there is the lad with his on-off girlfriend and rowdy parties. Sometimes he makes noise, but I know his intentions are pure.

We know so little about each other, but all share our home turf. We all help each other out on bin day or when the mail gets lost; we stop and catch up briefly – weather permitting.

My neighbours are regular people who could just as easily be replaced by any other human should they choose to up and move. The only difference is that by laws of the universe we ended up living next-door to each other and so happen to interact regularly rather than at random as you generally find with strangers.

Unkind behaviour does not go down well when you can’t run away. You are held accountable as a neighbour. They all know where you live and so when faced with a decision to the right thing, you’d be wise to make it. It’s amazing how easily kindness is reciprocated too. This further strengthens a good bond and genuinely makes where you live more pleasant.

Extend it

What if we treated each other like neighbours? I’m talking about extending beyond your home and out into the walks of life. You generally find this kind of relationship amongst folks in small towns. When the population is small, every individual gets noticed and paid more attention. Sometimes that can mean finding it hard to fit in, but once taken under the wing of a town community you often feel like you’ve extended your family.

I seem to be consumed by this topic lately – this idea of community. I don’t know if it’s just that I’m getting itchy feet living in a city or really want to make a change for the better.

I don’t think you can ever expect a city to have the same family-type dynamics that a small town shares, but I do think that we can encourage social change. We should be striving to stop fear and segregation and prejudice and instead start looking out for each other.

We all want what is best for ourselves and our loved ones. That’s really what emanates from our hearts. What if we raised our youngest children to believe that every person deserves kindness and respect? What if that was emphasised in school? So rather than prioritising studying for a test, we prioritised kindness and cooperation? It must also come from the home environment too.

We’ve got it all so backwards. By the time one reaches adulthood and has been through the trials and tribulations of growing up and the train wreck of emotional trauma along the way, getting back to basics is much more difficult. It’s a bit like learning a language: a child’s brain is akin to a sponge and so what you teach them has profound impact very rapidly. We’re less spongey the older we get.

I know, it’s so much easier said than done, all this ‘be kind to strangers’ crap because I too know the stubbornness that rises in me when I’m faced with someone being utterly rude or unkind. I want to tell them to f*ck off rather than give them a hug, for sure, but I also remember that for all of these people it’s not their fault they are that way: they were raised badly.

Try your best to be nice to people. Imagine them as your neighbours. If someone is in the neutral zone and hasn’t yet offended you with bad behaviour, give them the benefit of the doubt and throw kindness at them before they get a chance to sour the interaction. You just might alter the way they interact with you for the better.

 

Photo: Flickr