Try Your Best

It is very easy to get caught up in the pressure to achieve status or acquire wealth in today’s times. Whilst it’s healthy and progressive to have dreams and goals, losing perspective on what’s necessary to live a healthy and fulfilling life is not!

As human beings, we have been gifted with an opportunity to experience life and share our unique perspective with others on a similar journey. We all have unique and valuable gifts to share with the rest of the tribe and that is all and everything we can offer. Amidst the pressures and expectations of today’s society, we can only try our best!

In each moment we find ourselves deciding on the next course of action, it is wise to ask the questions:
Is it honest/ ethical?
Is it kind to others and myself?
Is it necessary?

The third question being of great interest to many who have high expectations of themselves!

I have started to observe myself in the middle of a to-do list, completing one task so that I can start another.
My list appears to go on and on, endlessly self-generating as I think of more and more things I need to do or buy to get a job done – not to mention the money I hope to receive in reciprocation for my services, so that I can live a comfortable life.

Does this sound like you too? Whilst this scenario is routine to the average person and is by no means unhealthy, the moment you find yourself stressed – you have a concern.
At this stage, your achievements and monetary gains are taking precedent at the detriment of your mental health and general well-being. Short-term, this is a manageable compromise, long term, this can lead to resentment, disillusion, boredom, isolation, anxiety and eventually depression. And let’s face it – life is too short for that!

A great way to catch yourself before you go into hyper-drive is to take regular moments throughout the day to stop, breathe and reflect. Be honest with yourself when you answer the following question:
Am I asking too much of myself?
If you feel instinctively that the answer is yes, but you add the excuse that you ‘need’ or ‘have’ to, you’re in dangerous territory. We all have responsibilities to carry through, but only within our remit of capabilities and if you can’t honestly do it all on your own, that’s perfectly human! We all need to recognise our limits and learn to request help when it’s needed. Ultimately the task will be completed and will free up more time for yourself to do the things that replenish, revive and restore your happiness.

We can only try our best. Beyond that, are the opportunities we give  to others to shine a creative light on their own portion of the tapestry of life. We are all in it together, trying our best at being human!

It’s Just Stuff!

This is a very well used phrase in my household. Anytime something breaks, tears, gets dog-mauled or stained, a timely reminder chimes forth in the form of my mum’s happy voice. “It’s just stuff”, she says. How true!

Rewind several years ago and I can remember being quite fond of all my ‘stuff’. I had a rammed-packed wardrobe of high street clothes, an accumulation of shoes fit for a centipede and various trinkets, lotions and potions. After all, a girl needs all this, ‘stuff’. Right? Wrong. Two years ago I left to backpack around Australia with my boyfriend. Anything I wanted to accompany me on this adventure had to fit into a 60 liter rucksack. Whilst I was certainly an avid shopaholic as a care-free teenager, I wasn’t very attached to my stuff. This was a fortunate trait as I was quite ruthless with my leftovers. Anything that I wasn’t planning to take or that hadn’t been worn recently or was likely to be worn in the future, went to the charity shops. Good bye to those ridiculous stilettos that hurt every bone in my feet. Good bye to the printed t-shirts of my teens and good riddance to that massive box of makeup mayhem! I found the clear out to be a hugely liberating experience. I was also amazed at the feeling of peace that came about through knowing I didn’t have so much to keep and look after.

Fast forward those two years and here I sit in a coffee shop marveling at my change of outlook on stuff. It seems, we get a bit carried away on those rainy days with ‘nothing to do’. A curious browse turns into a frantic list of I needs. But do we reaaaaaally need it? Will it make us happy in the long run? The media plays an important role in dictating our means of happiness. Through various channels, we are assured desirability, entertainment and comfort if we buy this and that. Whilst there is a feeling of excitement at the time of purchase, the novelty factor quickly wears off and is soon replaced by disappointment and sometimes, guilt. This is because materialism isn’t the answer to lasting happiness. Buddhism teaches that until we experience liberation from the tiresome cycle of desire and aversion, we will continue to fall prey to the concept that stuff makes us happy. It also teaches us to patiently and persistently find time to be quiet and still. This is also known as meditation.

Meditation is acceptance of oneself as we are in this moment. Through meditation we learn to love who and what we are. As we practice more and more, we are less likely to crave ownership of material items and thus find appreciation and love for what we already have. It’s all very well reading about people’s methods of liberation and enlightenment but it all remains a concept until we experience it on an individual level. So, here are some steps to help you on your way to a more clutter-free, content life!

  1. Clear up, clear out! Start your new life by sorting through all your belongings that you don’t use regularly. Take them to charity shops and gift them to friends. Try to avoid selling unless it helps ease your current financial situation.
  2. Ask yourself, “Do I really need this?” Next time you find yourself on a frantic shopping spree, ask yourself this simple question, put the item back, wait a few moments and see if you’re still inclined to buy it.
  3. Find time to be alone. As intimidating as it may seem initially, find some time each day to sit in silence and stillness. Listen to your heartbeat or be aware of your breath. You may even want to stare at a candle. Whatever you choose, try to do it a little each day until you begin to enjoy it.
  4. Give to charity. Giving to those who are vulnerable and less privileged than we is a humbling act of kindness and a great dose of reality.
  5. Say Thank You. Whether you say thanks to your mom for all her selfless acts, to your friend for always being a listening ear or to God, for His love and grace, saying thank you regularly and with sincerity helps cultivate appreciation for what we already have.