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Five beautiful things

Today I am delighted to be welcome Tara Mohr to Reach Our Dreams. Tara is the author of Wise Living, a beautiful blog that is all about living simply and meaningfully. You can connect with Tara on Twitter or if you enjoy this interview why not subscribe to hers RSS?

I’m always looking for new ways to wake up to the life in front of me. This week I started playing with the idea of “five beautiful things.”

In any moment, particularly if I’m feeling stressed or out of sorts, I look for five beautiful things in my midst. I really look at them. I take them in—not just with my eyes but also with my mind and my breath and my heart. I spend a few moments just looking.

This morning, I’m in a bustling café. It isn’t particularly beautiful. But in a moment of feeling kind of bummed out and rushed and anxious, the thought popped up: look for five beautiful things.

The moment I raise my head, I see the red-gorgeous leaves of the trees out the window. Intensely rich as bowl of dark cherries. Hovering slightly in the wind, patiently waiting for our attention. Bold and unapologetic as they wait. Had I looked at them before this morning? Yes. Had I seen them? No.

Next, the face two seats down from me at the café. Clear, pale, freckled, trustworthy, unusual and familiar feeling all at once. Beautiful.

The bright green skirt of the woman walking past me, the green of summer. On this early day of spring, that is in itself a proclamation of good things to come.

The photos above the espresso bar, which I’ve seen at least a hundred times before. Three in a row, frame in arches. In looking at them I start to appreciate the miracle of someone taking the photograph, and the miracle of someone else framing them that way, the miracle of someone conceiving a design for this place. And then I start to feel the miracle that it is all here, and I’m here too. The miracle of a Saturday morning that is, that is now.

By the time it’s time to look for item number five, everything is looking beautiful. The white coffee cup is beautiful. It’s all starting to feel vibrating and alive and miraculous and now. (And I’m not even caffeinated yet).

So number five is, shockingly, the stop sign, right outside the window. It’s become stunningly gorgeous sometime in the past five minutes. It probably couldn’t have been beautiful thing number one, but through these eyes it’s a vibrant red. It’s the perfect shape composed above the green vines below and the brick building behind.

I’m left with this: There’s a way in which life is about looking. Looking closely. Looking with the intention to see beauty. Looking with curiosity and alertness. Looking with reverence for now.

Looking changes everything.

Right now, before you finish reading this post, and click over to the next window, will you find five things of beauty, of striking mystery, in your midst? Five things that are amazing out of their aliveness? Start with one or two, and take them in through your eyes, your mind, your heart and your breath. Spend a few moments with each, and the rest will take care of themselves.

I’m curious to hear what that was like for you. And I’d love to know, what does “life is about looking” mean to you?

Love,

How I found a balance

Since I wrote recently about taking a step back and how I was dealing with overwhelm I thought I would update you and let you know that I have achieved my goal and life is much more balanced and happy for me now.

I honestly feel healthier and happier than I have in a long time. My passion for this blog is as strong as ever and I have been enjoying my life immensely both on and offline.

I wanted to share with you the lessons I have learnt recently and what has made a difference to me personally as it seems that this is an issue that many of us are dealing with at the moment. For example, Matt Chevy over at Life without pants wrote an insightful and very relevant post on this very topic this week and hit on some great points about what many of us seem to have been dealing with recently. So without further ado, these are the things that have personally made a difference to me:

1. Disconnecting

Not reaching for my laptop / Blackberry every spare moment I have has made a huge difference. Previously if I had a spare half an hour I would jump on the computer (usually to check Twitter, stats etc) but I have been making a habit of checking myself when I feel like doing that and seeing if I really needed to. If not, I have been choosing another activity, maybe a leisurely cup of tea or reading a book. This has helped me slow down and enjoy my spare time rather than filling it with computer activities that can usually wait.

2. Prioritising

I have stopped worrying as much about keeping up with reading other blogs. I worried about this initially as I don’t want it to seem that I am not interested in reading other people’s blogs as this just isn’t the case. However, the truth is that it was becoming overwhelming trying to keep up with reading and commenting on a certain amount of sites per day as I had been. I accidently deleted my RSS feeds (about 30) last week. Initially I was really annoyed that I had done that but I realised it was an opportunity to revaluate my reading habits. My new list includes 8 feeds and this has helped me feel much lighter about blogging. I still read other blogs not in my feed regularly and of course, not to be missed posts are always shared on Twitter. A consequence of taking the pressure off myself in this area is that I have the time to read and absorb the posts I do read and also made room for myself to find some fantastic new blogs such as far beyond the stars and Rowdy Kittens.

3. Enjoying life

I have been doing lots of fun things in the last few weeks. Adrian and I have been doing lots of cycling and getting out and enjoying the fantastic sunny spring we have been having in the UK. We have also been walking, going to the beach and catching up on some great films on DVD (“Men who stare at goats” is a big recommendation!)

4. Being present

I am not sure if I have become more present because of these changes or vice versa but either way I have had a definite increase in peace of mind and the feeling of being in the present moment. I have really been enjoying each day! I have started meditating again and as I shared above, I have been taking the time to enjoy activities other than being on the laptop. These have made a big difference to being present.

5. Enjoying my work

I am really enjoying the mentoring work I do with local universities as well as the administration work I do the rest of the time. Both are really enjoyable and satisfying. I am also fortunate that my schedule at the moment means that I don’t do a full eight hour day on any of the four days I work. This means that there is time each day to be outside enjoying the good weather, exercising and generally enjoying life outside work as well.

6. Starting the day well

One bad habit that I noticed last week was switching my laptop on as soon as I got out of bed. I usually have enough time at a computer each day to do what I need to do, so I don’t really need to do this. I noticed that when I do this, it makes me a little more anxious and less grounded before I start my day. I have now stopped switching my laptop on first thing and have been taking the first hour of the day to enjoy breakfast, spend time with Adrian and meditate. This change has made a huge difference as it sets the tone for the rest of the day.

In terms of this site I have been writing more than usual and have been doing lots of guest posts so the changes I have made are definately helping me to be more effective and productive as well!

These are the things that have made a difference to me recently. I would love to hear from you. Have you been struggling to find a balance or does this come easily to you? Have you got other tips that you would like to share?

Wherever you go…

“Wherever you go, your mind will go with you.” Osho

I was watching a TV programme this week (yup…lots of day time TV this week due to the snow! :) ), where each week a family decides whether or not to emigrate to New Zealand or Australia from the UK. Each member of the family votes whether they should go or stay at different points in the programme and part of the decision making process includes a visit to the country of choice and a chance to look at possible property and jobs out there.

This week the programmed featured a family who said the main reason they wanted to emigrate to New Zealand was that they felt like they were overworked and wanted a change in pace. They talked about this a lot. On arriving in New Zealand however, the father, who was the one who they said spent too much time at work, found a job with a vineyard which he was really excited about, which would include working weekend and evenings and overtime for at least two years to get experience. Now I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that decision, but watching this programme it was obvious that something didn’t add up. What they were saying they wanted and the actions they were taking were not congruent. As one of his daughters (about five years old) said, “Daddy could get a job working less hours in the UK.” The predictable scenario here is that they would create the same situation in New Zealand as they had in the UK.

Watching this episode made me think. I’m sure we’ve all done this – changed our circumstances in the hope that we will be different. Travel and moving are fantastic and I have done a lot of both in my life, but if you are expecting a place to make you different, you will be disappointed. You will not magically have more time or be different, just because you live in a different country. Yes … move, travel, experience the world! But know that for our day-to-day experience to change, we fundamentally need to change ourselves first.

“Things do not change; we change.” Henry David Thoreau

What’s your experience?

Are You Dreaming Patiently?

This post is part of the Guest Blog Grand Tour over at Life Without Pants – an epic two-month journey of over 50 guest posts. Want to learn more about Matt Cheuvront & see how far the rabbit hole goes? Subscribe to the Life Without Pants RSS feed & follow him on Twitter to keep in touch!

There’s a lot of talk these days about going everything we can to reach our dreams…wait, where am I?

Yeah, so all that talk about reaching our dreams, throwing a middle finger up to the naysayers, and doing whatever the hell you want – it sounds great, and I’m not here to tell you that you shouldn’t be doing all that.

What  a lot of people don’t want to admit is that breaking all the rules and achieving the impossible doesn’t happen overnight – and when we can’t see the end, when our dreams seem too far away, that’s when we lose hope, slow down, and give up.

Take a deep breath and take wisdom in the words of GNR. All we need is just a little patience.

I want to write a book…several actually. I want to start my own business, open a coffee shop, travel the world, the works. I have a list (literally) of things I want to accomplish in my life -those BHAGs (big hairy audacious goals) that loom over the long and windy road ahead of me.

The difference between me and a lot of people is that I’m willing to work, and work hard, to achieve these dreams. I’m patient enough to know that I may have to work at a non-dream job to gain experience, and, you know, make a little money – ‘cause that’s nice too.

The first step is identifying what your dreams are – no matter how ridiculous or far off they seem – if you don’t know what you’re working toward, if there’s no light at the end of the tunnel, you’ll end up wandering around in the dark without a flashlight. And FYI, no dream is ridiculous if YOU believe in it.

The next step is to start doing something about it. If you want to be a writer, start a blog, buy a spiral notebook, head to your local Starbucks and start writing things down.

If you want to start a business – do some research, open a savings account, set a budget, and get to work.

It’s nice to talk about dreams – it’s fine to lay in bed at night wondering “what if” – but things only start happening when you start taking action – and things have a funny way of happening sooner when you set goals to work toward.

And don’t get discouraged – don’t expect things to happen all at once. It’s OK to take things slow – it’s OK to relax and enjoy the ride along the way.

I’ll be the first to tell you that life’s rules are meant to be broken  – that you shouldn’t settle for the routine, but don’t get so caught up on the end goal that you forget what life is really all about. Living.

Note from Jen: A big thank you to Matt for visiting us on his Guest Blog Grand Tour. If you haven’t already, I would highly recommend a visit to Life Without Pants for a perspective on life less restricted!

Balance

Being honest, balance isn’t something I would say is natural to me. I don’t mean the physical act of balancing (I’m pretty good at that , but rather the skill of approaching life equitably and with harmony.

When I enjoy doing something, I want to do it all the time! I’ve never gone completely overboard but I know there is definitely a strong tendency within me, to be like this. In my twenties, when I used to go out to bars and clubs, I would smoke and drink, like there was no tomorrow. It was a lot of fun at times, but ultimately there is a tomorrow (until there’s not…if that makes sense! ;) ) and then there is an obvious cause and effect to that behaviour.

Not just in case you’re thinking, “oh gawd, Jen’s here to rain on my parade!” …I’m really not. That was great fun, if that’s what you want to do, and I strongly believe that if you are enjoying yourself and not hurting anyone, then all well and good. :) However, something I wanted to share is that I am finding I am enjoying “balance” these days. Maybe it’s getting older, as I never used to be a fan of balance! I am 34 this week, and I definitely enjoy different things these days than I would ten years ago, I think that’s often a natural thing in life. Neither is better or worst. We just change.

What got me thinking about this topic, was the recent posts by Karen at Dreamin’’ the Life. Karen has blown me away with her honesty and courage, in sharing that she is currently battling an addiction to alcohol. Someone commented on one of her posts, that we are all addicted to something. Whether its gossip, the internet, chocolate or alcohol. I think that’s true. If I’m really honest with myself, although I might not be facing the same challenges Karen is right now, I know I have that tendency within me, and I am not sure, that giving up certain things in my life, would be that easy.

So as I said, I have realized recently, there is a lot to be learnt from balance, specifically I am learning that self discipline can actually be very freeing. Letting yourself do, whatever you feel like, can feel good in the moment, but can quickly feel bad if done too often.

One of my favourite writers; David Turnbull recently write a post where he shared that he found it useful, when writing to:

“Stop when you don’t want to stop. Are you in a killer paragraph? Writing something that’s so amazing that you feel like you’re going to explode in a burst of ecstasy? Stop writing. What?! Stop writing. Why? Because you’re in a good zone, but that good feeling is fleeting unfortunately and it needs to preserved.”

I think there is so much wisdom in what David says here, and it can be applied to any area of life. Continuing to do something fun, can be great, but there is something to be said for ‘preserving’ that feeling, and knowing when to stop.

Personally I have found that I get out of balance when I don’t listen to my feelings. Like a parent who sets healthy boundaries for their children, I have started to notice that when I do this for myself, and stop when I know to stop, or getting the things done first that I don’t want to do, there is a palpable sense of satisfaction. Another important thing to mention here is the importance of the ability to say “no”. As I shared in the post in the link, learning to say “no” has made a huge difference to my life, and the ability to balance what I want.

A further positive effect of being more balanced for me is that I notice I am starting to achieve more and I am clearer about what it is I want to achieve. I get inspired very easily, but left unchecked I can have lots of inspiration and not much follow through. I am realising the value of persistence and consistency.

I don’t want to take all the fun out of life and of course, at times good old fashioned spontaneity and throwing caution to the wind, can be the best thing to do. However at other times, delaying gratification and learning self discipline, can add another layer to life and our enjoyment of it.

We are all different. Your journey with balance may be very different to mine. I’d love to hear about yours.

In search of happiness

How often have you thought…when this happens, or I buy this,”I will be happy”.

We’ve all read about how things or people don’t make us happy but I for one know that, however many times I read this, I still manage to pull the wool over my eyes one more time!

For example, recently my husband and I decided to buy a netbook. Now these days I’m pretty self sufficient and don’t want a lot, although my new found geek does lust after technology (particularly the apple mac 🙂 ), suffice to say I was pretty happy to get this. But a few days down the line, with installation problems galore, the shine had come off. We have since sorted these problems, but there was a great lesson in there. Things don’t make you happy!

Another reminder has been in being offered and accepting a new job this week. I’ve been looking for a new job for nearly a year now and I am really happy that I have got one, and this one in particular. It is exactly where I wanted to work and opens up lots of possibilities around my mentoring and coaching work. I am really happy….now….but it took a few days to get there. I just wasn’t as happy as I imagined I would be.

Now before you think, maybe she’s just hard to please or never happy (which may be the case! 😉 ), I do think this is a common malaise. We convince ourselves that when this or that happens, things will be better. However enlightened we think we are, it’s easy to fall into that trap! When we meet “the one”, or achieve that goal, life will be better.

Just another reminder, the present moment is all we have.

So, this week, I’m working on being grateful for what I have (my new netbook and job, as well as many other blessings) and reminding myself that happiness isn’t dependant on anything ‘out there’. I have all I need to be happy right now. I just need to keep on remembering it! 🙂

How do you remind yourself that happiness isn’t ‘out there’, but here in the present moment?

Dream your dreams and make them reality

Back by popular demand! Today’s guest post is the second guest post from my husband Adrian (my own personal guru!) ;)

I have sometimes read advice in blog posts, stating that it’s ok to just be a dreamer and by being positive everything will come to you. If only it were that easy! I have even read that there’s no need to be realistic! Now, I am a practical person so this sort of fly in the face of how I am. I think being realistic, or realism, is actually a positive attitude. It actually makes dreams possible or ‘real’.

I once read a book (Best Woodworking Books)years ago that has always stuck with me. In fact, it wasn’t a book as much as a few pages booklet. In this booklet it had a simple message – in order to achieve something or succeed, one must be prepared to do anything in order to achieve it. This made sense. To achieve something there can often be hurdles in the way. To get to the goal, these hurdles must be overcome, so in other words, one must be prepared to get over every hurdle. If any of the hurdles look like something you don’t want to approach, then you don’t want to achieve that success as much as you thought. It often happens that many hurdles that you imagined would exist would not actually occur, but it’s being prepared to take them on, if they do, that is important.

Now I don’t think getting over these hurdles can be done by dreaming it’s possible or just having a positive attitude, it takes more than that. I come from a very large family, and when I was young there was not a lot of money to go round. I had to wear hand-me-down clothes from my older brothers and sisters. Even from a young age, I used to care about how I looked, so I found this very hard. I used to dream about being able to wear fashionable clothes like my friends. I soon realized that dreaming about them would not change anything and my being positive on its own would not make the circumstances change. I looked at it realistically. If I wanted fashionable clothes I would have to find the cash myself to buy them. So I did. I delivered papers, dug gardens, washed cars, sold blackberries, etc in order to make my dream a reality. Being realistic helped me to turn my dream into something real. For this situation the hurdle was money. I wanted to succeed enough that I found a way to overcome that hurdle. I recognized that it was a dream that I really wanted to achieve. Now obviously staying positive played its part, but much more importantly it was the fact that I didn’t stay in the realms of dreams, I identified what it was I wanted to achieve, I stayed focused, I overcome the hurdles, and I reached success.

…And I looked as cool as a cucumber in my new clothes

This is the way I live my life, and it has worked for me. So, if you have a dream, look at it realistically, is it something you really want to achieve? Look at the hurdles, still, want it enough to overcome them? Then go for it!

Cherish the small stuff

Today’s guest post is from my husband Adrian. He is not a blogger (yet … I am working on him! ;) ) As I mentioned in many of my posts, Adrian is a huge inspiration for me. He is one of those people that ‘walks the talk.’

I have often found I get more pleasure from the small things in life.  The obvious clichés like watching a sunset, or enjoying a good meal, for example. I have also become to believe there is a benefit to this. At times when I have bought an expensive purchase, I have done so with high expectations, much higher than small purchases. This higher expectation leads to a greater chance of disappointment.  This has been demonstrated often in customer car surveys. The small, cheap cars often rank higher than the large, luxurious and expensive models. The magazines conducting these surveys, in their conclusions, often say this can be attributed to the fact that if you buy a car that promises more than you will obviously expect more. If the cheap car has a few rattles, so what? It’s not cost you much if the expensive one has similar rattles; you start to question where the differences are between the cars, for the extra expense.

With this in mind, I have come to the opinion that downsizing your life, as my wife and I have, and enjoying the simple things, can be even more rewarding than working more in order to earn more, so as to be able to buy more. Obviously, I’m not suggesting this will be the case for everyone, but it’s worth thinking about as it may be an option you haven’t explored that could bring you more contentment and happiness in your life.

So maybe give it some thought. If the things that make you truly happy are the small things, pursue them. You may find your life changes for the better, spiritually and financially.

Simple things that bring me pleasure

A good drill machine needs the best drill bits

Getting a buzz when I see squirrels. Now, this may sound like a strange one but, anyone who delights in observing an animal that appeals to them can probably relate to this. I have often tried to describe why I enjoy spotting them, I think it has to be something about my perceiving their behavior and movements as being playful and living in the moment.

Eating Italian style pizza. I wouldn’t say I LOVE  bread, or cheese, or tomatoes, or basil but, put these together and create a pizza and I find the smell and taste absolutely divine!

The sense of freedom that comes from owning an old car. No worrying if gets scratched, second hand (cheaper) parts available, less chance of it getting stolen, and of course less expensive to buy than a new one.

What small things in life bring you pleasure?

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