For peace of mind, focus on the small spaces in-between

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The simple things bring lasting pleasure

Notice the small things. The rewards are inversely proportional.
Liz Vassey

Pausing the monkey mind was once a major priority for me. The constant chatter was deafening and debilitating. A wise woman shared with me a strategy; focus on the silence between the Oms in meditation.  It worked.  Those tiny spaces, for a breath, between the rhythmic chanting allowed my mind to rest and I eventually turned down and tuned out the monkey mind.

Today I see a great need to soothe nervous tension and anxiety, whether caused by work related stress or the result of too many responsibilities and expectations.  A great many people are being pulled into the eddy of chronic psychological dis-ease. Without discounting the support of professionals there may be a way we can help ourselves to resurface and recreate a more joyful life, using a similar strategy as described above. Instead, the attention would be on the small moments of joy between the larger grey periods.  Leader in the field of positive-psychology Marty Seligman, found that by consciously focusing our attention on what we want more of in life we increase our chance of getting it.  So turn your attention away from what you don’t want and see the things you do.  This is tough when you feel overwhelmed, on edge, lacking energy or can’t leave the house. So start small.

A posy of home-grown flowers from a friend, watching birds and animals in the wild (substitute garden), the soft ache of used muscles at the end of a long walk. These things bring me joy. As do following the path of a balloon as it rises into the sky until it is no longer visible or spotting a brightly coloured bush flower in a sea of green undergrowth as well as taking a moment to appreciate the magic of a giant tree soaring overhead while feeling the texture of its bark.  Filling the house with warm and soothing aromas on a cold, wet afternoon while baking cookies and brewing chai tea, the sound of a child’s laughter,  a smile from a stranger. These are the pauses in between.

Peace can be ours. We can rebuild joyful lives and it need cost nothing. Harmony can be restored. These things can be ours if we appreciate the many small moments in life. The first step is to notice. Notice where you focus most of your attention and refocus it if necessary.

Pass the popcorn ― how to have more fun

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It’s crazy, waiting for the universe to knock on the door and offer fulfilment on a platter.  ― Shannyn Steel

If there’s one thing I learned, it’s that nobody is here forever. You have to live for the moment, each and every day . . . the here, the now.”    ― Simone Elkeles

I’ve been marking time. Waiting for something to happen. Waiting for something to change. Waiting to find the thing that would propel me into the joyful, purposeful life I’d hoped for. Toward the end of last year the penny dropped and I suddenly understood what I already knew but wasn’t able to acknowledge. It’s crazy waiting for the universe to knock on the door and offer fulfilment on a platter.

After all that waiting I’ve finally twigged that the trick to this whole fulfilment thing is to get out there and do stuff that I want more of in life. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

A startling discovery, made as a result of this brain wave, is that the one thing I want more of in my life right now is not time, not spiritual connection, not more authentic relationships, though that would be nice too. What I want more of in my life right now is fun. Yes, fun. Now don’t get me wrong. My life is not devoid of enjoyment. There are plenty of things that bring me joy; spotting a flower dewy with raindrops; the smell, texture and colour of soggy leaves on the forest floor after a thunderstorm; the smell of freshly cut grass and the sound of kookaburras laughing from the great pine tree in my neighbour’s yard. Those things and more fill me with joy. I also have many pleasant ways to pass the time that would constitute enjoyment too. Long strolls on the beach, reclining with a good book, baking a batch of cookies for my beloved’s lunch. Those things are enjoyable to me. What I’m after is in a whole different category.

Fun to me is more outrageous than enjoyment. It’s buzzy and exciting and perhaps more “in the moment” rather than a slow burn. Do you see the difference?

I have begun gathering a list of big fun and little fun activities in earnest.  Big fun activities are those that may cost a bit of money and require a little planning like indoor skydiving, parasailing, swinging on a trapeze. Little fun is something that could be undertaken on the spur of the moment, is relatively inexpensive and something that could raise the fun factor on any given day. Such as jumping on a swing in the local park and throwing your head back to drink in the sky.

Maybe you’d like to do the same. As ideas come to mind they could be written on a piece of paper, thrown into a big bowl with the intention of pulling an idea from the ‘popcorn’ bowl to infuse life with fun.  I’m going to experience ‘popcorn’ fun weekly and plan big fun, depending on the scale of it, monthly or quarterly. Oh, and I am going to scheduled those big fun activities to give me something to look forward to and to ensure having more  fun becomes a reality rather than a hope, wish or a dream.

Here are some popcorn fun ideas my friend Margaret, a kid at heart who  hasn’t lost sight of how much fun life can be, shared with me to start filling the bowl. I hope you get some ideas to add to your list.

Build a sandcastle or mermaid on the beach.
Water pistol shooting
Play SNAP (the card game)
Bubble blowing
Slide on a flying fox
Chew bubble gum and pop it.
Watch a funny cartoon
Singing in the shower
Dancing nude under the moon
Walk barefooted to the park
Feed the birds
Read Dr Seuss aloud
Pull weird faces and take pictures to replay
Walk on stilts
Dress up as a chicken
Three legged race
Sand dune sliding on cardboard

Celebrating art

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It has been said that art is a tryst, for in the joy of it maker and beholder meet. ~Kojiro Tomita

Art can be celebrated any day of the week but this year my home town of Brisbane is celebrating the 10th birthday of our very own Brisbane Gallery of Modern Art – GOMA with a summer long exhibition and series of activities. I popped along to join in the fun on another day of celebration, for some, – Australia Day. 

The 10th birthday celebrations feature a whopping 250 contemporary artworks that are a true feast for the senses. There are some newly commissioned works as well as a lovely smattering of old favourites.  The intention of the exhibition is to reflect our complex connections to the natural world through the senses. My senses were pleasantly engaged and enchanted by the multi dimensional and interactive landscape artfully curated for art lovers of all ages.

Visitors are greeted by two spiralling slides that rocket the brave and childlike from the top floor to the bottom. Around the corner vivid colour strikes the eye as a landscape of synthetic hair that appears to grow from the ground reaches toward the ceiling. A sudden change of sensory input occurs when you step from the bright, well light open space of the gallery into a softly dimmed cavern containing a Heard of sculptural horses that I believe can be brought to life by dancers.

I was pleasantly surprised and no less intrigued to see Ron Mueck’s massive and life-like sculpture In bed on display again. The detail and the intimacy of the work is mesmerizing. This is one work I long to reach out and touch.

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The hugely popular installation of thousands and thousands of white Lego pieces was back.  The joy of this piece is in watching young and old sit and build fantastic structures.  It was slightly disconcerting for me to have it placed in a different spot to the first time it appeared. It was deja vu gone wrong.

Pinaree Sanpitak’s Noon-nom installation drew me. I wanted to sink into it, lounge atop the soft sculptures and enjoy the view of the river.  Having commented to the gallery staffer that it was tempting to do just that, she informed me the work was designed for relaxing on. At first glance the installation appears to be a lovely compilation of multi coloured bean bags.  The many soft sculptures actually represent breast stupas; a lovely bringing together of the human form and the spiritual. I had to giggle at myself for lounging on large breasts but marvel too at the artist’s ingenuity in capturing the nurturing form so well.

So many of the exhibits and installations provoked a mindful consideration of our being and our interactions with others and the world. Standing beneath a gigantic aluminium snake skeleton that spirals 53 metres gave me pause to reflect on how tiny we humans are yet how bold our ideas, traditions and stories can be. Tomás Saraceno’s Biospheres bought to mind soap bubbles, jelly fish, a fragile globe all at once. Another delightful yet fragile landscape was constructed by Céleste Boursier-Mougenot’s in his musical installation of live finches. I felt a world away from the hustle and bustle and was lucky enough to be the sole visitor for a while in this soothing space. Lee Mingwei’s Writing the Unspoken was a change of pace. In an intimate room with subdued lighting three small asian inspired booths offer visitors the opportunity to exchange ideas, communicate gratitude, insights and forgiveness. Visitors can write unspoken messages to be sent by the gallery, if sealed and addressed or leave a message for others to read and enjoy.  I was moved by the strength and beauty of the words people chose to leave for strangers. 

Congratulations GOMA on your 10th birthday. Congratulations to the curators for bringing together seemingly disparate pieces and creating a world of joy, contemplation and reverence.  Well done. Thank you to artists everywhere who through great talent, sacrifice and struggle bring us these works that move us, shape us and create something that lingers long after we’ve taken in the work itself.

 

Harnessing the power of your emotions

… let’s harness the power of emotion to get things done, to lead fulfilling lives of integrity and adventure.  ― Shannyn Steel

“Joy is the holy fire that keeps our purpose warm and our intelligence aglow.”

― Helen Keller

I have completed a number of small projects around the house already this year and I feel a great sense of achievement. To actually get in and tick them off my ‘want to do’ list has made me feel, well, good.  I thought the emotion might be pride. I don’t  like the connotations connected to pride. On closer inspection I realise it’s joy I feel.  If the power of joy can help get things done and keep me motivated, I’m choosing joy as my motivator this year.

There is some research behind engaging with your emotions to create change in your life. Dr Tara Brach says we can use the eight main emotions to help us reach our goals.  As rational beings we require the power of emotional engagement to propel us and keep us motivated. For instance, someone might think the local creek needs to be cleaned up (rational thinking) but it may not be until their disgust (emotion) becomes the powerful motivator that they join the ‘clean up Australia day’, or similar, activity to restore it. Another’s anger may be the spark that leads them to campaign for equality. Love is powerful emotion that drives people to do incredible things for others.  Instead of shying away from or hiding our emotions, let’s harness the power of emotion to get things done, to lead fulfilling lives of integrity and adventure.

How might you engage with fear, anger, disgust, shame, sadness, love, joy and surprise to move you to take positive and purposeful action this year?

 

 

Four profoundly powerful practices everyone should do at least once

The best things in life are the people you love, the places you’ve seen, and the memories you’ve made along the way

A recent hiking holiday reminded me of several things I already knew but hadn’t fully grasped the significance of. I realised there are four things every woman (and man) should do, at least once in their life but preferably more often, for a powerful realignment to their true north.

1. Sleep with your back to the earth
There is something very settling about sleeping with your back to the earth. On several multi-day hikes around the world my beloved and I have slept in the wilderness with just the thin fabric of a tent between us and the elements. Enclosed in a small space, unadorned with furnishings, without manufactured structures between the earth and ourselves we revelled in the grounding, reconnective and healing nature of this opportunity.

I find now, having done this quite a bit, that I crave to pack up and go outdoors to sleep when things get busy and out of control.   Part of the pull is getting back to basics, it’s partly about shrugging off all the unwanted and unnecessary parts of life but a greater part is about reconnecting with nature. Feeling the warmth drain out of the earth, going to bed with the sinking of the sun and rising with the trill of birds and the breaking of day is powerfully seductive in its simplicity. Why not pitch a tent in the back yard, create a lean- to and crawl under it if you don’t have the time or means to take a camping holiday or throw a sleeping bag on the ground, if you are so inclined.

2. Go hiking and carry your belongings on your back
Like the previous item this action is mind-blowing. Apart from the reality check of hiking where time is inconsequential, devices are left behind and routine turns into a gentle daily rhythm, there is something really sobering about lacing on a pair of hiking boots, slinging a pack on your back and walking in nature for several days.

When on a multi day hike you are limited by how much you can carry. It’s a great lesson in prioritising. Only the essentials are necessary for a more comfortable experience. After my first multi day hike many years ago I realised the towel and the soap and the book I’d packed weren’t necessary. Nor were several other items I thought I had to have. Not only were they adding to the weight of my pack but in the end, I didn’t even use them. More recently I realised I could swap my small brush for a comb to lighten my load. I’d taken a sleeping bag liner that wasn’t necessary with the thermals I’d carried. Why did I pack three pairs of socks when I only wore two? Once you are out on the track things change. A clean set of clothes each day isn’t as important a priority as it usually is. Not looking in a mirror or doing the usual grooming routines, one normally engages in, is liberating and refreshing (well, perhaps not too refreshing for those in close contact with you when there hasn’t been facilities to shower or bathe for several days).

I remember on the Walls of Jerusalem walk in Tasmania, a few years back, having a light bulb moment when I realised that all I needed to survive was in the pack on my back: food, water, shelter. I realised, in that moment, that so much of what I’d acquired over the years wasn’t really necessary. Yes, definitely some things make life more comfortable but going on a walk and having to consider what you’ll be happy to carry up hill and over dale day in day out helps you readjust your values and priorities. The things I long to have with me on my hikes are not things at all but the people I would love to share the experience with. Carrying a pack on a hike is a nice exercise in getting back to basics; something we all need from time to time. I challenge you to pack up and go hiking for a few days, what will you carry on your back? Who will you take with you?

3. See the sun set and rise on top of a mountain
There is something magical about a sunrise and sunset. It doesn’t matter how many you’ve seen, it’s one of those enchanting experiences. Sharing the experience with someone is even more special but sharing both, with someone you love, in the same place, is an absolute must do.

My beloved and I camped atop Brinkley Bluff in the West MacDonald Ranges recently and watched the sunset over a magnificent and vast landscape. We woke early to watch it rise again to warm the earth after a cold and windy night. That experience will stay with me forever. It was a highlight of my life such was the magnitude of it. I totally recommend you do it, you’ll not only be connecting with nature in a very real way but you’ll be investing in a shared experience with your loved one and creating a lasting memory.

4. Be a tourist in your own country.
I love to travel. It’s an enriching experience and it changes you. You can’t go home the same after all you see, do, hear and engage with. Travelling at home and visiting places in ones own country is immeasurably pleasing.

I recently visited the heart of my country, central Australia. I’d learnt about arid zones in school when I was young, I’d seen pictures in books and watched movies set in the various places I visited but nothing prepared me for the experience of actually being there. I was gobsmacked by the beauty, the vastness, the palpable spirit of the place. Of course not everywhere you go at home will have the same impact but it’s definitely worth exploring those places you know about but haven’t actually visited. It helps you have a greater appreciation for the country you live in, its history, its geology, the ecosystems that thrive there, the opportunities and the experiences available.

Many people I know were unaware they could ride a lift to the clock tower of our city hall. Nor did they know there is a magnificent art gallery and museum on the same level as the lift entrance. Discovering and exploring these points of interest creates a greater sense of connection and belonging with where you live. It is an easy way to bring more joy into your life through adventure, curiosity and discovery. I travel for work quite often now and approach each trip away with the attitude of ‘what will I discover there this time?’ Sometimes it’s beautiful botanical gardens, or quirky public art, a zoo, often it’s a peaceful place to watch life unfolding in that place.Where will your curiosity take you? What would you like to explore that’s close to home? Perhaps it’s somewhere in your own city or town.

If you feel rudderless and adrift or stressed out and totally wired why not take some time to get back to basics, to realign, to invest in yourself, to embrace life more, to reignite your sense of wonder and awe with some profoundly illuminating, yet simple practices, such as these. Go ahead. What will you do first?

My lessons from a classroom in Nepal.

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To give real service you must add something which cannot be bought or measured with money, and that is sincerity and integrity.          Douglas Adams 

 What is Grace? G-ive of yourself, R-elease the love from within, A-sk nothing in return, C- ompassion shows love, E-njoy your salvation. Calvin Dillard

I was truly honoured to have the opportunity to visit the Khangandra New Life School for handicapped and orphan children while in Kathmandu recently.  My thoughts wander to the children and teachers often now, wondering how they are in the wake of the devastating earthquake.

I accompanied a group of friends led by three Aussies who, having fallen in love with Nepal and her people,  chose to  give something back by raising money for the school to improve facilities for the children. We strangers from another land were so very warmly and generously welcomed one would think we were rock stars or royalty come to visit.

Our van, on entering the drive, was flanked by excited children, who had given up a day off school to meet us. The children quickly formed orderly lines and sang a rich and warming folk song. We reciprocated with a rendition of Advance Australia Fair and were warmly applauded for our efforts.

After each of us were individually welcomed with a kata (blessing scarf) and posy, crafted from flowers and foliage within the grounds, we were ushered inside, out of the sun, and offered sweet milk tea ( a real Nepalese treat).

Our hosts, the Headmaster and teachers, each introduced themselves and shared their vision for the school and its pupils. A vision made possible by the funding my friends had provided.  You see, Khangandra school receives no government funding and relies solely on donations.  Several times I teared up listening to the grand dreams these amazing teachers held for their young charges. Grand not so much in western terms but grand considering the adversity these young people face with regard to distance, poverty and disability.

The school facilities are humble to say the least. Scanty, bare bones, dire even. The classrooms are small. On the day we visited there were 80 children in attendance so there were about 20 students in each classroom. That’s pretty comfortable until you realise there are 300 students enrolled. If they all attended, these dark, cramped classrooms would be terribly overcrowded.  The library was closed due to ill repair. The ceiling and walls were not just flaking but literally disintegrating. The playground was merely a dust bowl with a slide but it offered great joy to the children who have an incredible innocence and zest for life.

The money my friends and others have donated enabled the school to deliver safe drinking water to the children and improved the sanitation of the toilet facilities. Services and facilities I take for granted living here in Australia. Again, I cried.

Oh course, there is always more to be done and plans are underway for major improvements. Perhaps these plans will be bought forward as a result of damage caused by the earthquake.

The welcome we received was so unexpectedly warm. The kindness and unconditional acceptance so very humbling that I began to feel shame. I began to question my integrity. You see, many, many times I have been asked to host visitors in my workplace and more than once I’ve grumbled. More than once I’ve believed myself to be “too busy”. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never been rude to my guests but my actions haven’t always come freely and with grace.

Watching those children and their teachers in their tiny classrooms and seeing their incredible energy and love of life, it dawned on me, not for the first time, that we don’t need stuff, we don’t need lots of things to make us happy.  Here were people with very little who sang for us, played and conversed with us and who showed a great interest in us. They were genuine and authentic.  They were happy with their lot.

It became clear to me that it’s the ‘wanting more’ or something else that erodes true happiness. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying don’t aim high but accepting what is, right now, can liberate us from the bonds that tie our minds and hearts in knots.

What a wake up call I got that day in that tiny school in Kathmandu. I realised there are times when I need to forget the hustle and bustle and honour others by being totally present and giving freely of my time, my knowledge and myself. I can’t see myself presenting anyone with a posy of flowers, a hearty rendition of the national anthem or a scarf anytime soon but I can honour them with an open mind and a warm heart.

To serve and honour another is not beneath us, it does not belittle us, it grows connections, it deepens our humanity, it enriches others and it enriches us in the process.

In honour of my Neplaese colleagues,

Shannyn

Feed and grow your own magic

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.”  Melody Beattie

I’ve been thinking lately of how, when one passes away and leaves the earth, our footprint, our stamp on the earth, lasts for a time but is eventually worn smooth as those who love you also pass.   I’ve been thinking too of that moment in time when your voice and your stories are no longer heard and when your image in a photograph is no longer recognised by its viewers. I’m not sure exactly when that occurs and I’m sure it’s different for everyone but it’s been very strongly in my thoughts as I think about my grandparents and loved ones who have passed.  For me, I still feel them strongly.  I hear their voices still and I speak of them often.  But when I go, when my son no longer tells his children of my grandparents, what then? It’s like your echo stops rebounding and there is a silence, a stillness where you once were.

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On a pre-dawn walk, along a magical piece of coastline in Brisbane, just a few days ago I decided, not that I want my echo to last and last, but that I want the echo of places I’ve been, people I’ve spent time with, stuff I’ve done and achieved to echo within me for the rest of my days. A thought, that I guess was always there, bubbled and rose into a solid and conscious knowing and a conviction that I wanted to create moments of joy for myself that would sustain me, nourish me and fulfill me. I want to feel joyous anticipation for life and I want to truly cherish those moments, right now in the present and for years to come.

Often times I catch myself sitting at home and thinking, “Gosh, I should be out doing something. I’m wasting my life”. I’m convinced, on those occasions, that no one has a less interesting life than I.  Then, I think how silly that is. Life doesn’t have to be lived at break neck speed or be jam packed with adrenaline fuelled exploits. Sometimes it’s those quiet moments with a book and a cup of tea that are the most joyful. I can’t tell you how much I treasure the conversations I’ve had with my nana sitting at her kitchen table.  No pomp or ceremony, just us. Just love.

So, as the morning of a new year dawned and as I was enjoying the smell of the ocean bought to me on a gentle breeze I was  drawn to reflect on the year that had been and how the echo of that year affected me.  You know, there were some tough times and dark moments but by golly I wouldn’t write that year off for anything. Dotted throughout, and despite the dull and the dreadful, there were many, and I mean many, small, glimmering moments splattered throughout the year that made the whole bright and colourful and something to be appreciated.

I’m all for spontaneity and living in the moment but sometimes we need to plan our magic and our fun. Sounds technical and contrived doesn’t it? It’s not. Let me explain.

Last year, for the first time in many many years, I set myself a few fun goals to reach. A love list if you will. I wanted to walk the Six Foot Track ( a three-day hike in the Blue mountains), I wanted to go pistol shooting at a range and to see the turtles laying at Mon Repos beach.  I also decided to challenge myself to read  fifty books in the year and to take a photo a day and post it. I wasn’t sure if I would indeed complete these goals and the others on my list but it gave me something to work toward, it gave me a way to make life fun.

I’m proud to report that I actually finished 56 books. Their themes were many and varied. Some were fiction, others not. A few were plays. Many were purchased secondhand from op shops and charity bookstores, some were electronic downloads and a few were gifts.  As I look back over the list of titles I realise I was filled up by the wonder of words. I am still moved by them. I was sated by the magic and wisdom of their authors in bringing me these precious tomes. The echo of these books is within me.

Another action I committed to that bought me great joy was to take a photo a day for the year.  I won’t win any awards with my snaps, all taken on my phone, but the process of taking a photo of something that intrigued me, caught my eye or tickled my fancy and sharing it with friends, via social media, was fun. Now, after sifting through the 365 photos, I am delighted to see my year in pictures. There are themes that reflect my preferences and personality  and some images take me back to places I visited and special moments I enjoyed.  Snapping the beautiful, interesting and plain old quirky has become a habit and I find I’m still reaching to record my days.  Again, the echo and the imprint of those captured moments fills me with gratitude for my life.

A visual representation of some of my love list items for this year.

A visual representation of some of my love list items for this year.

This year I have again written a love list ( some of you might know it as a bucket list). Why? Because I want to fill my life with wonder and joy.  I want to remind myself that, while I might not be climbing Mt Everest or canoeing down the Amazon, while I’m not a famous or accomplished artist or an actor, or a public figure, that my life has meaning, that it’s special, that a life is made up of all the special, little moments as well as the once in a life time moments.  I want the echo of those moments to resonate in my heart, my mind and in my thoughts.  That echo will sustain me. It will motivate and inspire me.  And, thanks to a very thoughtful gift from my son, I plan to collect these moments of joy by recording them on little pieces of colourful and patterned paper and keeping them in a gratitude jar.  This time next year I will again be able to reflect on the magic of the year and be humbled and grateful for the majesty of life, my life.

My advice to myself this year is to – Feed and grow your own magic.

Happy New Year,
Shannyn

 

Ditch the resolutions and get back to yourself instead.

Who are you? Do you even know anymore?

Sure, you’re a mother or father, a sister or brother. You are either an employee or an employer. Then you might add husband or wife, friend, aunt or uncle.  But who are you, without all the attachments and the relationships?

Can you remember when you were young and those things that made you happy, the things you loved to spend time doing? These activities can help us get back to ourselves. They can be our guides back to joy, peace and harmony.

Think back, what was it you loved doing? How did you spend most of your time? What made you happy?

For me it was dressing up and putting on performances for my grandmother.  I loved selecting pretty things to wear, that felt nice next to my skin, that made me feel good about myself. I loved entertaining, dancing and movement.

I loved the ritual of morning and afternoon tea with my Grandparents. It was always a simple affair but tea time was special. I got to choose my own cup and select a cookie from the barrel. They were usually only Arnott’s assorted biscuits but the cream ones were purely decadent in my young opinion.

From my maternal grandfather I learnt the joy of completing crossword puzzles. He drank tea too. Made in a pot with a cosy. I loved to watch comedy television shows with him like I Dream of Jeannie, I Love Lucy and Laverne and Shirley. We would laugh and laugh.

I remember too, the thrill of rolling down a grassy hill. The pure excitement and the great shrieks of laughter that rang out prompting me to run up and do it again.

So, next year, I intend to spend time doing these things again. I am going to find a friend who can teach me the joys of shopping for nice clothes (rather than racing in and buying the first thing I see on the rack), I’m going to move more by getting back into yoga. I might even dare to dance around the house when no one is looking.

I still love tea and I’m going to extend this ritual by inviting friends to enjoy afternoon tea with me. These little events will include nice cups and saucers, teapots and a selection of yummy homemade delicacies.

I’m going to keep a crossword book handy all year round and not save the fun for holidays only. I’m even going to allow myself to sit and watch something totally silly, trivial and funny on TV or DVD once in a while, to bring back the laughter.

I wonder if I’ll be brave enough to go out on my own, without a young child in tow as an excuse, and roll down a hill. I hope so.

If I can tap back into these activities that I enjoyed as young girl, by including them in my adult life, I know I will have a deeper sense of satisfaction. I know life will be more joyful. I know I will continue to peel back the layers to reveal my essence.

What about you? Will you pull out your Lego and build something? Will you dig out your old Barbie and dress her up? Will you find a slippery slide and ride down it for the pure fun of it? Maybe you’ll venture outside and splash in a puddle (if it ever rains again in Australia) or ride a bike around the neighbourhood.

What will bring you joy in 2014? What will help you tap back into your essence? I’d love to hear what you’ll do.

Wishing you a new year of fun, laughter and a deeper sense of self,

Shannyn

Tortured by the shadow. Released by the light.

The brightest flame casts the darkest shadow.
                       George R R Martin.
Purge yourself gnawing goblinimage
Begone you great twisted, tainted, torturer of doom.
Cleanse my mind, my body, my being of this engulfing creature of destruction
Remove your befouled and corrupt tendrils of fear and loathing
Take your troubled, torturous tokens and dissipate; evaporate.
Be gone!
Be gone!
 Be gone!
Release me.
Unchain me.
 Set me free from the deep demented agony your yoke yields.
Unburden my soul; I beg of thee!
Let your light shine so brightly that others can see their way out of the dark.
                                                               Author unknown

Blessed by your loving embrace the predawn stillness stirs my soul.image

I move freely; unencumbered, unbridled Rediscovering joy, unveiled by a chorus of songbirds.

My eyes delight in the dancing colours of the earth’s essence.

I am light.
I am free.

I have returned … and give thanks.

Walking with Robert Frost

The road less travelled

The chosen path

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

On my walk in the forest this morning I came to a fork in the path and was faced for a moment with a decision. Which way will I go? Almost without hesitation I took the road to my right. Neither path appeared less trodden, less traveled, they both looked fairly similar in terms of use and of scenery. I forged ahead on my chosen path without a second thought of what wonders the other path held. Instead, I found myself exhilarated by the journey, the sense of adventure that lay in the unexplored.  I was intrigued by the details I encountered – the small flock of finches humming their throaty song, the vibrant glow of the morning sun on my cheek and the deeply satisfying smell of the eucalypt, that always signifies home to me.

I sit now, with warm tea in hand, and  ponder Frost’s dilemma.  I do not wish to grow old, reflect and always hold that sense of loss for the path not taken. I do not wish to question, or second guess, nor do I wish to hold feelings of regret or remorse for what might have been.  There is no right or a wrong decision, no right or a wrong path. Instead, living a life of acceptance and gratitude; living life with a sense of reverence and wonder for the beauty and opportunities that are revealed  is, for me, far preferable than regret.

I will not sigh for moments lost, I will not sigh for what might have been. I will rejoice for opportunities taken and given, I will be grateful for the magic, mystery and wonders my path has held. And let’s be honest, what’s stopping me from hiking back and changing direction if I change my mind?

Wishing you a day filled with wonder.