Tag Archives: Meditation

Books that will change your life: “This Will Never Happen Again”, by David Cain

TWNHA_low res
To say this e-book is by a “fellow blogger” would be a massive overstatement – the author, Canadian-engineer-turned-full time writer David Cain, has tens of thousands of followers on his blog Raptitude, and on the Thought Catalog website. He’s a bit of a legend in the blogosphere and definitely a hero of mine…

The book

“This will never happen again” is a collection of previously published posts (so you could read them online, although I think the book versions have been slightly edited).

The Raptitude blog takes “a street-level look at the human experience” – it’s about how to become a better human. The book focuses on something more precise in the human experience: the mindfulness of everyday life; how we can learn to not take things for granted, and make sure we appreciate the magic in every single moment.

The big idea

Life is as it says in the title: this will never happen again. Today, this very moment, the special set of circumstances that are happening right now, have happened and will never be repeated. Even if you are in the same spot doing the same thing with the same people tomorrow, it will not be the exact same. External elements may be different; you may be in a different mood; you will have learnt something from the previous day. You will never be as young as you are today.

In our everyday lives we take far too much for granted. We may know we are lucky to have a good job, friends, family, but do we feel it? How often do we complain about petty things instead of appreciating all that we have? How often do we pause to feel the wonder of life itself – of waking up everyday, of having a roof over our heads or other basic things we couldn’t live without,

We owe it to yourselves to be fully conscious of this to enjoy a truly special “human experience”.

Why it will change your life

The great thing about this book is that it doesn’t lecture you – it’s written in a simple, down-to-earth style, and the author comes up with small techniques you can use to find blissful experiences in small, mundane things.

For example, how you can use boring downtimes such as walking from your car to the supermarket to awaken a sense of wonder. Or how to practice gratitude by imagining that tomorrow you will wake up without anything – you will open your eyes in the morning to find that you are in a forest, naked and alone. Or how you can “die on purpose” by imagining your surroundings – the room you sit in, the people in it – as they would be if you weren’t there.

And so it the book manages to capture the uncapturable – the tiny moments of bliss that add up to a deeply happy existence.

Reading it left me with a true sense of magic and a distinct feeling that I was walking on clouds… so it comes highly recommended.

If you would like a taste of it first, here are a couple of really amazing chapters:

How to walk across a parking lot

A day in the future

Enjoy!

“You’re okay, really”: what it feels like to love yourself

P1050662 low resI’ve always wondered what self-acceptance feels like. That great big love for yourself you always hear about in women’s magazines, and in the interviews of successful people who seem to have everything you wish for… and will never attain.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve yet to wake up in the morning feeling overwhelmed by self-love. I might wake up feeling love for my partner, my cat, or the world at large. But for myself…

“Love your neighbour as yourself”, Jesus said in what seemed simple enough instructions. Yet, many people, myself included, go through life treating themselves like their least favourite friend, not showing much patience or kindness and occasionally calling themselves names.

So a few days ago, as I was washing my face and pondering a difficult decision (to quit or not to quit my job), I was surprised to hear a gentle interior voice say to me: “you’re okay, really“.

This may seem like nothing to you, but it reminded me of something. I once had a boyfriend who was the coolest thing in the universe, with a cheeky smile and a punkrocker’s attitude to everything. Whenever he’d come across something great, not wanting to lose his cool by showing enthusiasm, he’d say “that’s okay, really”.

Just like him now, I’m not going for full-blown enthusiasm. My inner critic may not be going all BFF on me just yet, but at least we’re finally rooting for the same team. Of course it lasted only a few minutes. But it felt wonderful.

Now let me tell you something. If this happened to me, for no reason while I wasn’t even trying, it can happen to anybody. You better be prepared.

Some day, out of the blue…

You might look back upon your life so far and think you haven’t done too badly, overall.

You might be happy knowing you have done your best.

You might look into the mirror and no longer see the extra pounds or wrinkles (yes, the ones other people swear never existed but you just know are there).

You might see someone beautiful in their own, unique way.

You might look at the work you do and think, perhaps you’re doing enough.

You might no longer feel like a fraud, and let go of the fear of being found out.

IT WILL BLOW YOUR MIND

You will shed the illusion of your own criticism like you take off a heavy winter coat.

You will feel lighter.

There will be a new breeze on your skin, which you never knew was there because of the big coat

You will feel so alive that you will wonder how to contain so much joy.

You will no longer feel the need to be or act different.

You will be at home in your own skin.

Even if the doubts return after a moment, you and I both will know that it IS possible be our own best friends.

And once we’ve done it once, there must be a way we can do it again.

 

READ ON Other similar posts you might like:
Should I stay or should I go? 
Living life at your own pace
Everyday meditations: A cup of green tea

 

Books that will change you life: “Eat, Pray, Love”

P1050616 low res

I wasn’t sure about writing on Eat, Pray, Love, seeing that the entire world has already read it – or so it seems – or so they should, because it’s so awsomely good that they made a film adaptation with Julia Roberts. But I recently met a few friends who hadn’t read it yet, so here goes and I hope to convince you to pick up a copy.

 

The book

This is the memoir of American 30-something author Liz Gilbert, as she takes a year off to travel to Italy, India and Bali to reconnect with herself following a nasty divorce and disastrous rebound relationship. Hence the title – hers is a story of eating delicious foods of Italy, praying and meditating in an Ashram in India, and finally enjoying a balanced life and finding love in Bali. All the while discovering new cultures, making awsome friends and going on mini-adventures.

The big idea

The reason I love this book is that it is a honest, hide-nothing account of a woman falling apart, experiencing depression, loneliness and despair, and finally coming through to the other side through spiritual seeking and a good dose of courage.

As well as being authentic, it is also tremedously funny and very clever. It is not only about introspection, but also about beautiful people and gorgeous places – it takes you from the best pizza restaurant in the back streets of Naples to stunning Indonesian beaches – all embraced with great enthusiasm and curiosity. The friends she makes along the way are wonderful and it altogether makes for a really fun, refreshing read.

Why it will change your life

Wherever you’re at in your life (and well, most especially if you are female), you will be touched by at least some of this story. Those 12 months in the company of Liz will make you want to follow in her footsteps and live life to the full. You will find (or reawaken) an urge to travel, to find God, to cherish your friends old and new, to explore and to grow.

You will be reminded of how the simplest things can make you tremendously happy, if you know to appreciate them. 

I can pretty much guarantee you will love yourself and the world more. And you will feel as though you have made a new best friend, in the person the amazing Liz.

I, for one, have read it twice. Are you convinced yet? Let me know what you think.

 

READ ON View my booshelf

We are one

P1050280 low resPerhaps like other Westerners who are drawn to buddhist meditation for non-religious purposes (wellbeing, stress-busting, generally coping with modern life), I have a bit of a dilemna. Not being a buddhist myself, I feel there is only so much I can take in from the otherwise excellent meditation classes I have attended. The techniques themselves are great – much is focused on breathing, visualising, and feelings of kindness which are common to all human beings. The teachers are welcoming, patient and non-judgemental. But some of the concepts I just don’t get. Apart from the fact that I feel a bit of a fraud chanting in Sanskrit (which some of the classes include) without understanding a word, there are things that don’t make sense to my rational, European brain.

While some of the precepts are fairly universal (non-harming, loving-kindness), I particularly struggle with the idea that we are one, that no-one and nothing in the universe exists in separation from anything else. To me it sounds like saying “me” or “you” or any other living thing/ dead thing/ object are intimately related, and I cannot really say I get it. I wouldn’t argue whether it right or wrong as a concept – I just can’t work my head around it. In my mind, “I” am not “you”, and neither of us are the same as this chair, be it as it may that we are made of the same energy/ atoms/ elements, and however much I like both of you.

And still. If we look around us, the world is full of chances to see that everything is connected, in a way that even I can understand. As I sit at home writing this article and eating a delicious slice of chocolate cake I bough on the market, I try to think of everyone and everything that existed before this moment that made it possible for me to eat this cake. The Portuguese baker who runs the market stall. The ingredients and their provenance. The chocolate, the eggs, the milk. The cocoa beans, the cocoa tree and the people who planted them. The chicken, the cows, the farmers who tend to them. The grass the cows feed on. The rain that makes it grow, the clouds. The plate the cake is on, the spoon I eat it with, the people who designed and made them both. Our ancestors who invented eating from plates and spoons (somebody had to). The person who first had the idea to eat a cocoa bean. The person who first had the idea to bake it.

I begin to feel dizzy with the million connections and people and days and amounts of knowledge that enabled me to sit here and eat this cake. I realise this is not only true of this cake, but the computer I use, the chair I sit on, the clothes I wear. Everything in the house and outside of the house. Everything that comes from nature and everything that is man made. Everything I can see and everything I cannot see. Everything that is in your life, and everyone else’s. Everything connected to our parents, and their parents before them.

I feel grateful to everyone who put in so much effort. I feel humbled and small, and in awe of a world that provides us with so much. The milk, the grass, the cocoa beans. The people.

I feel grateful and I feel connected. I feel the energy of such a perfect system and I feel blessed to be part of it.

I begin to feel with my heart what my head won’t understand. Without the shadow of a doubt, we are one.

 

Everyday meditations: A cup of green tea

P1050320 low resIt is early morning and the world is still quiet outside the window. I have slipped out of bed silently so as not to wake up my partner. I have fed the cat, stretched a little, put the kettle on. I have about half an hour before my day needs to start.

I open the cupboard and look for the packet – a small, delicate green box with the inscription “Jasmine Tea – Produce of the People’s Republic of China”. I take time to look at it, thinking how far it has travelled and how lucky I am that it found its way to my part of the world. It is beautifully designed, and the leaves inside it are gently fragrant. As I open the box I think about the ladies who picked them in a green field – agile hands under large straw hats – the men who  toasted the leaves. I think of the manager of the import company (I imagine him rather large), and of the Chinese lady who runs the shop next door.

I pour boiling water on the leaves to rinse them – as I have heard is the proper way – before brew the tea. I smile thinking I am probably not doing it very well. A proper tea master,or a Japanese master of tea ceremony, might wince in horror. Still, after a few seconds I fill up a small teapot and pour my first cup of the morning before sitting in an armchair in front of the window.

I take time to savour the first sip, feeling the hot water on my tongue, breathing in the sublte jasmine scent. I imagine how much history and skill is contained in this little cup – thousands of years of tradition across continents, in a humble drink.

I am grateful for the silence in the house, the beauty of nature outside. The birds, the trees, always their graceful selves day after day, come rain or sunshine. Weeds grow out of nowhere on the abandoned wall facing the window, against all odds. After a second cup I feel nicely awake. The cat is peacefully eating from his bowl. I empty my head of all thoughts and try to just be, only for a minute, taking in all my surroundings. It will soon be time for the day to start. I smile to myself and I feel grateful for another day of being alive.

Being connected

P1020819 low resThere’s a feeling I think of as being connected, which is the feeling you get whe you are completely at one with your surroundings. Those beautiful, ephemeral moments when you stop thinking as if by magic, and are overwhelmed by the deep knowledge that the world is wonderful. You are where you are supposed to be; extactly at the right time, in the right place.

When was the last time you felt connected? Perhaps something beautiful left you speechless, music moved you to tear, or you held a baby in your arms for the first time. Perhaps you sat by the sea, reached at long last the top of the mountain, or watched your plants grow strong and healthy. Connected moments make our lives special, and we cherish long after they have gone. But we can also learn to seek them in the everyday and the ordinary.

I once went to a buddhist meditation class that taught a special technique to develop “loving kindness”, and discovered this was exactly what I’d been calling connectedness. The practice was geared to train you at feeling this deep connection to the world around you and the people in it, so you could start to feel it all the time. The feeling was not so different from being in flow – the almost out-of-body experience we sometimes get when totally absorbed in an activity we love.There’s that same feeling of not really being there, paradoxically accompanied by hightened sensory perception.

As opposed to flow, connectedness seems to arise when we are not doing anything, perhaps precisely because we are not doing anything. That is why in my sense we should just leave ourselves a little bit of time every day for being idle, for being, full stop. Just breathing in deeply, slowly, and becoming aware of your surroundings, acutely, in full colour. Feeling fully alive, feeling that the world it a beautiful place, that people are good, and that you are part of something much, much greater than yourself. Feeling at peace and buzzing at the same time. Fully awake.

This month I will be writing about different ways to feel connected in everyday life. If you can relate to this experience through meditation or other practices, there’ll be plenty of space to share your thoughts with us in the comments section – we (me + other readers) would love to hear what you think.