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.

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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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It’s 06:45 as I’m writing this. I’m sat next next to my window. I can just about make out the rustling leaves on the tree across the driveway. I mention this because only a few weeks ago, I would have been sat here at the same time with daylight outside. The equinox is here and Autumn is now upon us. This means that winter is coming.

As a Seasonal Affective Disorder sufferer, this should surely spark dread in my core, but actually after the couple of years that I’ve had, I find this change welcoming now. It’s a gentle reminder that change is always upon is. It’s constant. Life on earth is one mass of constantly changing energies. They ebb and flow and transform. This is extremely comforting to someone like me, who’s greatest inner demon is the tendency to feel trapped in a pool of stagnant water. A pool with no way out.

I’ve mentioned it before, but these past couple years have been monotonous on the life line. I suppose if I were to break them down and analyse them week by week, I’d be able to pick out the enjoyable experiences that I should have been having. The holidays, the festivals, the get-togethers with friends… But actually, I look back and see stillness. And it’s as if I’m looking at a life happening underwater from the surface of a pond.

Everything changed in the spring of this year for me. It’s as though I ripped my way out of the sticky chrysalis that was my brain and awoke one morning a changed person. Things suddenly started to seem interesting again. Hope was restored.

Call it depression, as in retrospect I guess that’s what it was. But to me, I see it as a mistake I made, having let my anxious brain run riot – thinking it knew best of course – and completely overruling my body. All it could focus on – the theme it made of it’s life – was that there was no way out.

It’s a strange feeling and one that thankfully not everyone has to experience all the time, if at all: feeling trapped by your life, even though you’re not placed under physical constraint. This is because, a person placed in an isolated room – unable to escape and see or do anything else – can allocate a reason to their feelings. And reasoning is everything: it’s how we cope. A person who technically has free will in her life tends to struggle to find a reason to explain her mental claustrophobia. She instead suffers the onslaught of guilt for not simply just being happy with the way things are.

Now, I believe there is a reason behind every situation where a person feels this way. It could be debt, it could be past trauma with memory triggers left, right and centre, or it could be a hellish relationship. You may be ignorant to the source, of course, but there’s always a reason that you’re suffering in the way that you are. It comes down to unresolved problems.

But whatever the issue, a strange thing starts to happen when you make the choice to let your brain overrule: it gets addicted to the suffering. It doesn’t actually want you to rectify any problems. It further affirms your negative belief and thought patterns, continuously propelling you in the direction of pain. When what you feel is uncertainty, the brain will find something to give you relief. It’s certainty of pain that it’s offering, but we seem to view that as a better option that no certainty at all.

What changed for me was two things:

  1. I started making decisions that I thought a person who was being kind to themselves might make.
  2. I repeatedly told myself that my brain does not control me. It is a tool that I can use to help me do life.

The result? It’s been an upwards climb ever since. Remarkably, I’d say I’ve had less bad days than I can count on one hand; all because of the decision to be nice to myself and to remember that my brain isn’t allowed to always call the shots. It doesn’t always know best.

Think about the way that your brain makes decisions. It uses knowledge it has accumulated from past experience to come to a logical conclusion about what to do when faced with a similar situation. But let’s say that a past experience was somehow misconstrued or tainted or didn’t work out how you want it to. What then? Does that mean that you should never do that thing again? No. And that’s why you can’t always make decisions based on what is logical. You should always ask yourself how it feels.

I got into the pattern of expressing certain opinions about people or things simply because it’s what I did. It was a habit. One day a few months ago I found myself coming out with a statement and noticed a sensation in my stomach that said, ‘hey Kat, you know you don’t actually believe that, right?’ I suddenly realised that I was allowing my brain to put words to my mouth before I’d even had a chance to digest the arising thought and question if I really believed it or not. That’s no good way to be, spieling what isn’t even your truth.

Alongside these opinions, I found that I had trained myself to believe that life was all planned out. I had convinced myself that my life consisted of x,y, and z and that was simply it. I’d never be able to have the a,b and c that I longed for. That’s no good way to be either.

The feeling I’m describing is that of being trapped. And when things started to feel better based on the two action steps I listed above, I asked myself what I could do to make myself feel less trapped. I suddenly started to bring options onto the radar that I hadn’t even thought possible before. This was all because I began to ask what somebody who cared about themselves would fight for. I re-shuffled my work week around to free up time to do things that were meaningful to me – activities that fed my soul what it needed: more time outside spent giving something back to the community. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

So if you feel like there’s no way out. If you start to feel like life no longer holds that magical essence of possibility for you. If you begin to lose hope, you need to train your mind to think differently. Start asking what someone who cares about themselves might do. Where might they go from here? Then, start taking action based on what answers arise. You’ll be amazed how things pan out.

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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.

 

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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