This girl listens to trees

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Wherever I go, I always notice trees. I think they are nature’s greatest wonders and we can learn so much about life just by observing trees and their seasonal transformation.
I have discovered some beautiful spots in and around Haarlem where I can go to spend time with trees.
Sometimes I am not alone (often I have my son with me) or I appreciate a beautiful tree through a window while I am indoors. However, I really treasure the moments when I am alone with them.
This ritual has become an important self care activity. Some people go for facials and manicures, I head for the trees.
In this environment I often find it easier to seek inner wisdom about life’s difficult questions and my inner struggles. It is an opportunity to connect with the earth and myself again. I don’t need to engage in articulate conversation. All I have to do is sit quietly, observe the beauty around me and listen to my heart. Trees teach stillness so well.

I think life is like a tyre’s tread. When a tyre hits a few bumps in the road it needs realignment to run smoothly again and prevent damage to the tyre. This also happens to people. When I feel that my soul is restless and things just don’t seem right I like to spend time in nature to find realignment and new perspectives.

Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. – Hermann Hesse

One of the most significant lessons I’ve learnt from trees is their ability to let go. Have you ever noticed how gracefully trees change colour and lose their leaves? They seem so at ease with embracing change.
Learning to welcome change – whether it is positive, negative or a bit of both – has improved my quality of life. I’ve realized that the universe always brings the change when I am ready for it and need it. Moving to another country is the biggest decision I’ve ever made. Uprooting 17 years of adult life in one place wasn’t easy but it also wasn’t difficult because the time was right to see what else the universe has planned for me.

There is great freedom in letting go. It could be a person, a relationship, a job, a career path, a home country or material possessions – all of these have applied to me at some point in my life. Letting go gives me so much freedom to discover new places, different ways of thinking, new people and ultimately a new life.

If you want to read some of my previous posts on trees, freedom and new beginnings, click on these links:

Life lessons from a sad tiger

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This evening I read my son Matthew the most beautiful story. It is about a sad tiger called Augustus and he thinks that he’s lost his smile.

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He sets off to find it and  right at the end he realises this:

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Happiness is everywhere around him. And that’s true! There is beauty in this world and in life even when it is unbearable and overwhelming. We must celebrate simple happiness…the little things.

I read this recently:

Think today is just another day? You woke up. You heart’s beating. You can talk to anyone. You can try anything. Your day has infinite potential. Now that’s something to celebrate. – Lori Deschene

Wow. That’s something to think about.

Thank you, Augustus! ♡

 

 

Trust the journey even when you don’t understand it

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Eastern Cape farm road, South Africa.

Eastern Cape farm road, South Africa.

Maybe the journey isn’t so much about becoming anything. Maybe it is about un-becoming everything that isn’t really you so you can be who you were meant to be in the first place.

There’s so much literature out there telling people what to become. Ten ways to be happy, five steps to get the body you want, how to be a better lover, how to overcome your fears, etc.

This is actually not helpful at all.

What I’ve realised is that it is much more important to just be. Just be who you are. Be happy with where you are on your journey. I’m finding that this approach to life is providing me with so much joy. There are good times. There are bad times. There is happiness, there is sadness. Sometimes lots of sadness along the way. But there’s also beauty.

Just being me and not trying to become anything has helped me to figure out what’s important in my life and build a life around that. Your personal journey is the greatest teacher you will ever have.

From the mud of adversity grows the lotus of joy

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My lotus flower mandala tattoo, November 2013

My lotus flower mandala tattoo, November 2013

The lotus flower blooms most beautifully from the deepest and thickest mud. – Buddhist proverb

This is the first time I’ve ever uploaded a picture of my tattoo on a social media platform. But I wanted to share it with you now. I guess it has always been a sacred thing for me – I decided to get it at a turning point in my life and the lotus/mandala symbol is very significant to me.  In Buddhism, the bud of the lotus symbolizes potential. The lotus flower represents an awakening, spiritual growth, and enlightenment. And that why I wanted a lotus – to me it signifies renewal, rebirth, strength and resilience. A spiritual and emotional awakening.

Here’s a short summary about the story of the lotus (taken from http://www.withanopenheart.org)

The lotus flower is a beautiful flower that can be found all over the world. But the start of this flower’s life is not as beautiful is one might image. It’s unlike many other flowers. When the lotus first begins to sprout, it is under water, making its home in lakes and ponds in areas where the water remains fairly still on the surface. But underneath the surface, the lotus is surrounded by mud and muck and by fish, by insects, and simply dirty, rough conditions.

Despite these conditions, the lotus flower maintains strength, and pushes aside each of these dirty obstacles as it makes its way to clearer surfaces. At this time, the lotus is still just a stem with only a few leaves, and a small flower pod. But in time, the stem continues to grow, and the pod slowly surfaces above the water, into the clean air, finally freeing itself from the harsh life conditions below. It is then that the lotus slowly opens each beautiful petal to the sun, basking in the worldly beauty surrounding it. The lotus flower is ready to take on the world.

And my life has (and still is) like this. I don’t really think I’m ready to take on the world. I’m still confronted by so many harsh things and difficult decisions. I’m feeling the pain of so much loss and grief at the moment.

But eventually, as Carolyn Marsden so beautiful puts it, “from the mud of adversity grows the lotus of joy.” The lotus opens slowly to reveal each beautiful petal to the sun. Mother earth is extraordinary. I find comfort and hope in how the lotus manages to push through the mud.

 

Life is a work in progress

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Dusk in Knysna, Western Cape, South Africa.  Pic credit: Stephen Buchanan

Dusk in Knysna, Western Cape, South Africa.
Pic credit: Stephen Buchanan

I love reading stuff by The Mankind Project, an educational, personal coaching, counseling and mental health organisation. I found this on their Facebook page today. Real food for thought by Pema Chodron, Buddhist teacher, author and founder of the Pema Chodron Foundation.

Life is a work in progress, a process of uncovering our natural openness, uncovering our natural intelligence and warmth. I have discovered, just as my teachers always told me, that we already have what we need. The wisdom, the strength, the confidence, the awakened heart and mind are always accessible, here, now, always.

We are just uncovering them. We are rediscovering them. We’re not inventing them or importing them from somewhere else. They’re here. That’s why when we feel caught in darkness, suddenly the clouds can part. Out of nowhere we cheer up or relax or experience the vastness of our minds. No one else gives this to you. People will support you and help you with teachings and practices, as they have supported and helped me, but you yourself experience your unlimited potential.

I’m struggling with life at the moment and seeing the silver lining is a little difficult (I’ve blogged about this before – you can read that post here). But I’m also trying to keep things in perspective – amid everything that feels like disaster right now I have a beautiful life that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.

I don’t have to be perfect – striving for perfection is actually a self-abuse and not helpful in any way. I am trying to stay connected to myself by listening to my inner voice, even when my inner critic is talking very loudly. I read something that said the soul knows what to do to heal itself but the challenge is to silence the mind. I think there’s a lot of truth in that.

 

Listen to your heart

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Cheerio Farm, Magoebaskloof, Limpopo – South Africa

Everyday, try to find time to sit in complete and total silence with yourself. Dig down deep to the centre of your soul and listen to your heart. Find your inner voice and it is there you will find true peace. – Melanie Koulouris

This has been a very difficult week. Overwhelming actually. But what I continuously try and remind myself is that just because I’m struggling doesn’t mean I’m failing – although it feels like that now. This week I’ve been thinking about lots of things, but a quote from a book I read recently, The Fault in our Stars by John Green has been with me the whole week. One of the main characters, Augustus Waters says “that’s the thing about pain, it demands to be felt.” And I think that’s true for me right now.

I don’t think anything in life goes away until it teaches us what we need to know. I don’t think I’ve ever had to deal with anything more difficult than my own soul, but I’m not going to rush this process. The answers always come. The soul always knows what it needs to heal itself.

 

 

Spending quality time with myself

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Pincushion Protea (Leucospermum) from our garden. Pincushions are one of 50 species of flowering plants in the family Proteaceae, indigenous to Zimbabwe and South Africa, where they occupy a variety of habitats, including scrub, forest, and mountain slopes.

 

I found this fantastic article, What it means to really take care of yourself, on tinybuddha.com (it is a fantastic blog – take at look at it if you can. It is a great resource on how to do this thing called life, pursuing your dreams and finding your purpose).

This stood out for me:

I convinced myself I was okay. I wasn’t taking care of myself emotionally at all. Unconsciously, I placed “I’ll deal with it later” labels on several situations when they’d trickled into my life unplanned. Somewhere along the overachieving path of seeking perfection and always looking into the future, I lost myself when these labels accumulated.

I managed to forget how to take care of my inner world.

And that is exactly what happened to me. I forgot to take care of my inner world. I neglected myself. To be honest, I’m not sure I actually knew how to. I wasn’t used to ever prioritising myself.

So this is what I’m doing more of these days. I’m spending more time just “introverting”.

Here’s my first list of things I’ve realised I have to do to take better care of myself:

  • Look at the stars
  • Listen to the wind in the trees
  • Lie on the grass and look at the clouds
  • Devote time to just sitting – no reading or writing even (oh, the difficulty!). Just sitting.
  • Think about what is necessary. Worry less – it is a wasted emotion.
  • If you want to do it, do it now. Whatever it is.
  • Paint. Write. Make something. Bake a surprise cake. Lose yourself in doing what you love – that’s where you also find yourself.
  • Perfection isn’t necessary. It kills creativity and it is self abuse.
  • Be honest about your emotions. You owe it to yourself and the people close to you – even if it feels stupid or uncomfortable.
  • Go camping. Not in a campsite, but where there is nothing – my husband will be delighted to read this. 🙂 It is probably the most fantastic way to connect with nature, remove yourself from life and its busyness for a while and hear your inner voice.