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Live life fully while you’re here. Experience everything. Take care of yourself and your friends. Have fun, be crazy, be weird. Go out and screw up! You’re going to anyway, so you might as well enjoy the process. Take the opportunity to learn from your mistakes: find the cause of your problem and eliminate it. Don’t try to be perfect; just be an excellent example of being human.

~ Anthony Robbins

I’m in love. I wake up in the morning happy and I go to bed happy and everything in between has a kind of soft rosy glow, even the unexciting and unglamorous bits.

I’m in love… with life. I’m happy.

And I’ve realised a thing or two about happiness. Happiness does not mean being constantly ecstatic, or that nothing bad ever happens, or that you don’t have any problems or obstacles to deal with. Rather, happiness just is… it just floats there as a presence, even in the presence of all the normal problems and emotions of every day life. Happy exists like a constant backdrop against which all else occurs – you can be happy and still have moments of frustration, anger, sadness, loneliness. Happy doesn’t disappear in those moments. It just sits there and is present to the issue, while still being somewhat detached from it. Happy, as I am using the word, isn’t an emotion. It’s a state of being. Perhaps “peace” would be a more accurate word – but I like happy. Happy feels like the right word for how I feel about my life right now.

And I’ve realised that happy is always present, happy doesn’t go away, we all have that steady ball of happy sitting right inside of us all the time. All you have to do is learn how to be aware of it, to hold it always within your awareness. And sometimes, I have learned, you have to give yourself and your life a good shake up to really awaken that awareness. You have to give yourself a good jolt, pull yourself out of your comfort zone, away from Safety and Security, to really become awake to that little place of Happy sitting there right inside you.

I have heard it all my life,

A voice calling a name I recognized as my own.

Sometimes it comes as a soft-bellied whisper.

Sometimes it holds an edge of urgency.

But always it says: Wake up, my love. You are walking asleep.

There’s no safety in that!

~ Oriah Mountain Dreamer

I feel like I have woken up. I feel like I am awake for the first time in so very long. I am no longer walking asleep. I still have things to deal with – lack of money, being tired, physical pain, occasional loneliness – but none of these diminish the Happy… rather they occur on the backdrop of it.

So back to the point at which I left you. When you last heard from me, I was about to leave Oxford for London, into the great unknown. I hopped on the train to London and an hour later, I was at Paddington Station, with very little money, no job and nowhere to live, my life in a backpack on my back, knowing barely a soul. I didn’t know anything beyond the next hour. It was stressful, it was full of uncertainty – it was exhilarating.

If travel has taught me one thing, it is this: the universe is magical. Magic exists and it is all around us, everywhere. If you let go and trust, the universe always has your back. I had absolutely no idea what was going to happen in London, how I was going to find work, where I was going to live… but I just went and I just absolutely knew that it was all going to work out and I would be fine. I just had faith. I had utter faith and I can’t explain why. I just knew that the universe was my homeboy and it would always have my back.

I think sometimes the best thing you can do in life is just fall out into the great big cushion of the unknown with the utter unwavering faith that the landing is going to be softer than you could ever have imagined.

Of course, you have to do this in the full awareness that there will be some very difficult moments and a lot of hard work required on your part. You have to put yourself out there, and you have to do everything you can possibly do with what you have, where you are. My flute teacher used to always say that success was 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration, and a truer word was never spoken. You have to be willing to put in the perspiration. Ah, but that 1%… that’s where the magic happens.

So basically, my recipe for life is this: do everything you can possibly do, with what you have, where you are. Then – let go. And have faith.

But back to my story. One of the recruiters I had emailed from Oxford turned out to be a small specialist recruiter for Kiwi medical secretaries – who would have thought that even existed?! I didn’t even know that when I emailed him! Anyway, he contacted me straight away and met with me within just over an hour of me having gotten off the train from Oxford. All I did was stash my stuff in a hostel in Hammersmith and then met up with him straight away, hot, sweaty and stressed from lugging my stuff around, flustered and stressed from the fact that I had no money, no job and nowhere to live.

This recruitment guy ran his own small agency and he seemed adamant he would find me work. He also gave my number to another girl who had temped with him for a few years. She rang me the next day and said “So, I’ve been told you need a friend.” I, who hate hostels with a passion and had found one night in this particular one quite long enough, gasped a quivery “Yes I do!” into the phone. Within a few hours, I and all my belongings were on a train to met her at her apartment near Waterloo Station. She had said she would cook me dinner, I could stay the weekend, oh and by the way, she was moving out in a week, so if I liked it, I could take her place. I met her off the tube and as we walked the few seconds to the apartment block, I looked up to my right and there was the London Eye. Right there in front of me – not in the distance, but right there. I had never seen it before. It was very exciting.

The awning marks the front door of my apartment. The big ferris wheel thing is the London Eye.

Within half an hour I was having a glass of wine in my new flat and I’ve been living there ever since.

I live in a two bedroom apartment with 5 other girls. It sounds crazy, and if you’d ever told me I would be in this situation before now I would have laughed in your face, but it totally works and I love it. The girls are lovely, it’s cheap, and it’s right in the very centre of London.

The very day I moved in, the recruiter rang up with a week long temp assignment for me for the following week. So within a day of being in London, I had a flat and a job, albeit a temporary one, and a new friend or two to boot. I told you the universe was magical!

The following week I did a week’s worth of medical typing work in a public hospital in north west London. It was very good money and I was very grateful for it – and I was very good at it. But within a couple of hours I realised that it was exactly the job I had left at home and I was bored out of my tree. I realised that the whole reason I left my life in New Zealand and came halfway around the world was because I wanted to do something different, wanted to shake myself and my life up, feel somehow more alive, awaken to myself.

The assignment was only a week, so the following week I was sending out lots of job applications and went to a few interviews. The interviews I had all went well and I could have had a nice cushy well paid office job. But the thought of it just made every fibre of my being silently scream. I felt like some essential part of myself was suppressed inside me, squashed into a tiny box, and was screaming at me: Let me out, let me out!!! Give me expression, give me freedom! This is what you came here for!

“To change one’s life: Start immediately. Do it flamboyantly. No exceptions.”

~ William James

So on the Thursday afternoon, I was sitting on my computer looking at job ads and suddenly I was sick of just sitting around waiting for someone to find me work or give me a job, I was sick of it being in someone else’s hands. And I couldn’t bear the thought of being in an office again. So I got up, got my bag, left the house, walked across the bridge and walked into the Australian bar that is about 20 minutes walk from my house. It kind of went like this:

me: “Hi, I was just wondering if you had any work going?”

manager lady: “can you come in tomorrow at 11 am?”

Well, basically – you get the gist, anyway.

So I started at 11 am last Friday, was put onto the roster full time, and have worked there every day since, except my one day off yesterday. It’s a mad lifestyle and has taken a little getting used to. It is on your feet, physical work and it is a very busy bar, especially with the soccer World Cup on at the moment. I’ve been working til close every night, so I’ve had a strange cycle of working all night, getting home at some odd hour of the morning between 3-5 am, being starving and not sleepy so I sit and have a snack and read for a bit, get to bed as the sun is coming up (it comes up very early here!), sleep through the morning, up around lunchtime, and then start the cycle again! The work is fun though! It’s really hard work, it’s tiring, my feet hurt (although they’re getting used to it), it can be stressful, and the pay is crap – and it’s fun, the people are cool, and I’m loving it!!

So I have ended up having exactly the bar experience I wanted when I came over here in the first place. We do serve food, but it’s not a restaurant like the place I was at in Oxford – it’s just a bar that sells burgers and some meals. I don’t waitress, I work behind the bar, and I love it. I make snakebites and Jagerbombs and laugh with/at drunk people. It’s great!

I can’t say enough how much I LOVE London. I have loved it from the moment I arrived here, even through moments of stress and uncertainty – it was love at first sight for London and I ,and the love just keeps growing. It just feels so vibrant, so alive, so vast and buzzing. I still can’t get over the fact of how my life now is, I feel like I’m in some kind of waking dream – but a dream in which I feel more alive than I ever did in my old life. Every day I leave my apartment and walk a few steps to find myself directly under the London Eye, I walk along Southbank and across the footbridge over the Thames river, looking out to my left at the Eye on one side and Westminster and Big Ben on the other as I cross, then a few moments further down along the river and I am at my place of work. And then I see it all in reverse on my way home again, feet and body aching, tired but exhilarated. This is my life! How did this become my life??! I am lucky, lucky, happy and blessed. I am very very alive.

Walking home from work at 4:30 in the morning.

And you know what?  I’ve stopped worrying about “what I’m supposed to do with my life.”  Because I know exactly what I’m supposed to be doing with my life, and I’m doing it right now.

I’m living it.

Don’t spend time beating on a wall, hoping to transform it into a door. I invented my life by taking for granted that everything I did not like would have an opposite, which I would like. There is no time for cut-and-dried monotony. There is time for work. And time for love. That leaves no other time!
~ Coco Chanel

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When you are logging on to iGoogle, you are redirected to a log in page which has  a little bulletpointed list of what you can do once you’ve signed in:

  • Indulge your creativity
  • Focus on your interests
  • Change your mind

Sounds like a pretty good recipe for life, if you ask me. 

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Photo by ambrown (Flickr)

 

For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move; to feel the needs and hitches of our life more nearly; to come down off this feather-bed of civilization, and find the globe granite underfoot and strewn with cutting flints.
 
~ Robert Louis Stevenson

For a long while, I rallied against travelling – especially the whole kiwi “OE” thing.  It seemed so cliched, and I’ve always hated following the crowd – any crowd.  If it’s a crowd, I’ll do everything in my power NOT to follow it.  This contrary nature has gotten me into trouble before – sometimes it results in me cutting off my nose to spite my face.  Case in point: the time my mother lovingly said to me, “you don’t think maybe you might be a bit young to get married…”  Note to self: listen to mum.  Note to anyone who is trying to get me to do something: tell me to do the opposite. 

I even had the outlines of a blog post in my head, which I was getting around to fleshing out to post here. The basic gist went along the lines of: I don’t believe in travelling to “find yourself”. You already are yourself. The courageous thing, the real journey, is to stay put and encounter yourself where you are. You will not find in a foreign land anything other than another set of buildings and trees and the very self you took with you. If you want to travel, make sure you do it for the right reasons – for travel’s sake, for the sake of seeing and experiencing new things and different cultures – not because you think it will reveal to you a self you should be able to find regardless of location. 

Well, it all sounds very grand and righteous, doesn’t it. But I came to realise that there was something more…. interesting…. at the heart of it. It wasn’t really the grand realisation of a deep thinker. It was the jealous justification of a lost girl envious of those living the life she wished she had and bitter about the way they kept leaving her behind. A bored, frustrated girl whose life felt… stuck. 

And that’s when I reaslied what I had to do. What I wanted to do but was too contrary to admit it. I had to embrace the crowd. 

Of course, there’s more to it than that. Part of what I have been trying to do for the last six months or so is to experiment with staying put. To try and be still, and not always running. To try just being, without having to seek. To try settling down

What I finally realised is that I was forcing it. I was forcing myself to live a life against my true nature, one that was making every cell of my body scream. Like I had grafted a foreign life onto myself and my body was crying out its rejection with a silent inner ongoing gasp. I felt like the lion I had once seen at Berlin Zoo, in a concrete cage only slightly bigger than its own body, walking back and forward, back and forward, back and forward, all day – bars, concrete, bars, concrete – so numbed that it forgot it was a lion and only knew itself as a pacing pacing piece of a grey concrete world. 

So while there is certainly truth in the saying (another cliche! embrace the cliche!) that “wherever you go, there you are” – or in the words of some fellow kiwis, “everywhere you go, you always take the weather with you” – while there is certainly truth in the idea that you carry everything you are, everything you seek, everything you think you need, inside you…. I also came to the conclusion that sometimes stepping away from everything you know, thrusting yourself into a different environment, stepping out far enough to gain a different persepctive – maybe these new inputs, this new emotional and mental and physical stimulation, can spark off or awaken parts of yourself that never could have been encountered had you stayed put in the same environment. Maybe the whole point of travel is to encounter the parts of yourself that you never knew were there. Of course everything is already within you – but sometimes it is so hidden or so numbed or so forgotten or just sitting at the edge of consciousness scratching at the corners of your brain, that it requires a complete shift of environment or perspective or interaction with the world or other people to bring it into awareness. 

We are so accustomed to disguise ourselves to others that in the end we become disguised to ourselves. 

~ Francois de La Rochefoucauld 

I think one of the most exciting things about travelling, especially on your own, is that whoever you turn up as in that new environment, that’s who people have to take you as. They have no idea of who you were or any preconceived ideas about who you are or should be, their perspective is not coloured by any previous interaction or knowledge of you or your family or your past. The person on the doorstep, right then in that moment, is who you are to them. And how liberating is that! It’s like being able to wipe the slate clean and discover yourself in that moment. Discover who you are and have become, unfettered by who you were and used to be. 

And I think it is part passive, part active. On the one hand, you can decide who you are going to be. And on the other hand, through those experiences and interactions, you discover and encounter who you really naturally are, without expectations or preconceived ideas. The more new experiences and situations you can stimulate your senses with, the more parts of yourself you can uncover and encounter. 

So I have decided to embrace this rite of passage of our generation, to not shun an experience just because it is so widely embraced. In the end, all journeys are really just variations of the human journey, the ultimate and ubiquitous quest, the search for self and self-actualisation. And each person will experience their journey in their own way, forge their own road through an oft trodden world, using it to forge a new road through a world only they can know, the world inside of them. 

 
 

So what this means in practical terms is (wait, you want me to descend from my cerebellosphere?? Give me moment to adjust here…)… ok what this actually means in the real world is that I am moving to the UK. I have gone through an agency that finds you a live-in pub job before you leave. That way I figure I have accommodation and income as soon as I land, I can find my feet and get my bearings, and then decide what do to next. I will enjoy my summer working in a pub and try not to think beyond that – after a while, the next thing will arise, and I will know when it feels right to move on, and what to.

I could have been put in a job anywhere, but as it turns out, I am going to be working in a lovely looking pub in Oxford, right on the river Thames. I am quite stoked with how it has turned out. I like that I won’t be in the midst of the London madness, that I will be in such a pretty and quintessentially English town, but that I will still be well enough located to easily make trips down to London or anywhere else I might like to go on my days off. It seems very me… again, I might be following the crowd in the sense of going to the UK, like so many kiwis do, but I have to do it my way, to put my own personal stamp on it, to do it in a way that feels right and resonates with who I am.

So I leave Wellington this coming Thursday, to wing my way towards the motherland and the great unknown and whatever adventures and experiences await me there and the rest of my life. People ask me if I’m scared, but there is no element of fear… I’m just excited – and yes, sometimes overwhelmed – but excited, because it feels right, it feels like the next step, it feels like what I have to and need to do next. Just the thought of being in Europe again, even just of getting on that plane… I feel like myself again. I feel like the self that has been asleep for the last 6-7 years of my life is stirring and awakening again within me.

I want to “feel the needs and hitches of our life more nearly”, I want to risk the “cutting flints” of this granite globe and all that they might unleash within and around me.

I feel the stirring of the wings on my back that have lain dormant for so long I was afraid they weren’t there, and (at risk of mixing metaphors) that I am remembering that I am a lion.

Roar?

Roar!…. Soar!

When you come to the end of all the light you know, and it’s time to step into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things shall happen: Either you will be given something solid to stand on or you will be taught to fly. 

~ Edward Teller 

I hope that I am taught to fly. 

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I moved into a new house. One bedroom by the sea. I thought I would feel free. I don’t. Every night when I get home, it’s just me. I thought I would like that. I don’t. There is no one to bug me, but no one to talk to me either. Maybe being bugged is the price we pay for not being alone. Sometimes I just want someone to listen to me tell them some boring office story from out of the quiet measured chaos of my day, want someone to share with me their thoughts on what we should have for tea. Sometimes I just want someone to bug me, but instead I just listen to the sea. The sea moves in a regular, unrelenting rhythm, it pays no heed and will not be interrupted. Sometimes (not often) I turn on the TV. Sometimes I sing.

I work in an office as a typist. Easy, flexible, hassle free. Sometimes I want someone to come and hassle me. My left wrist gets sore. Doctors drone their intelligence and boredom into my ear. I think some of them care – it’s hard to tell. I don’t. I just type. My eyes glaze over but my fingers keep moving. Autopilot. If a world exists, it’s contained within the four black corners of my computer screen. Tab, control-v, control-c, enter, type. I know all the shortcuts. No road less travelled for me. I thought I would feel free. I don’t.

I meditate. I try to find God. I pay good money for someone to teach me yoga. Maybe somewhere, between a bended knee and arched back, I will find God there waiting for me. I wonder if he lives in the sea, so I sit and watch it. I feel the smooth rounded wood of prayer beads beneath my fingers – japa mala – I speak to a foreign god. Om namah Shivaya – my fingers are already searching out the next bead, Shiva becomes a habit. I watch my thoughts and mostly they’re wondering if we’re done yet. I read books in solitude and write a few pretty words, and feel that I know myself. I interact with others and find myself in conversation, and I wonder who this person is that wears my body like a tight jacket and uses my mouth around her speech.

My soul aches for communion, my skin for touch, my life for meaning and purpose. I dwell within a solitude of choice and long to grow beyond it. I have lived a seeking life. I have craved a spiritual life. I have sought after passion as if it were a pair of lost keys. I have spent so many years with half a foot in quicksand, knowing that just a small wriggle and !PLOP! I would be free, have longed for a helping hand, someone to help me see, have known that the strength to shift would have to come from me.

The only thing I can think to do is something I haven’t done before. I’ve lived as a rider on a rotating carousel, lamenting at each repetition of the circle, not knowing how to jump free. I am jumping now – but really, I know not whether I will land on the grass or just the next white horse ahead of me, galloping forever after my own tail. I am jumping now because it’s the only thing I can think of to do – jumping off the balcony.

I am basically turning my life inside out, like looking at the negative of a photo you are tired of, and realizing that it was the negative you had been holding the whole time and missing the clarity of colour and shape in the true photograph. I live in New Zealand, so I am moving to the opposite hemisphere on the opposite side of the world – to England. I work as a typist, earn good money and talk to no one all day – so I am going to work in a pub, earn minimum wage, and fill my day with people and talking. I live an easy life in a familiar city – so I am moving to somewhere I have never been to do something I have never done. I’m learning to look at life sideways.

I hope that by living a life in opposite, I will somehow see a way to move forward into the space between, that secret place between the extremes – the true life, the life undefined and yet the very definition of life, the life where all the contradictions of my self can reconcile and live side by side.

I hope, I want, I’m learning to… I catch myself looking for life, living it all the while in the looking and yet oblivious, and every time hoping that in the next step, the next choice, the next version or action or minute, I will be able to dwell as fully in the life of right now as I do in the life of later. I ache for connection as if I weren’t already connected, I run after life as if I weren’t already living it, I long for freedom as if I weren’t already free. I try to learn how to be me, as if there were anything else I have ever been or could ever possibly be. I want to fly like a butterfly on the wind, I want to nest like a bird in a tall tree, I want to swim like a fish in the deep ocean, I want to be surrounded by the life that lives within me until the borders drawn in skin begin to blur.

But seeing as I’m here, on this Earth, in this body, held by gravity, then I intend to experience every inch of it, nosy out all the nooks and crannies this life and this world have to offer, to smell and taste and touch and hear and see all that this earth can assault my senses with… and to feel – oh yes, of all things, to feel! – to feel all there possibly is to feel, without judgment, filling myself up with love and carving myself out with pain, that there may be more room for love to fill. Oh, to live and love and die and feel and cry and drink tea – if there is any purpose beyond this, may I learn to live with the fact of its mystery and not look beyond the soft warm zing of lips on scalding tea.

Cup of Tea by ~sibuki on deviantART

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I want my life to be a piece of poetry.

Some times poetry is happy.  Sometimes poetry is sad or angry.

Sometimes poetry is stupid and frivoulous and funny.  Sometimes poetry is deep and poignant.

Sometimes poetry flows like a river off your tongue and through your soul.  Sometimes poetry is choppy, out of rhythm, staccato, syncopated.

Sometimes poetry is about love and passion.  Sometimes poetry is about hate.  And passion.

Sometimes poetry is happy and sometimes it’s not.

But it is always beautiful.

I want my life to be a piece of poetry, and yet but a stanza in the soul of the world.

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Eckhart Tolle is changing my life.  

By which I mean – reading his books is changing my perspective.  Which is actually so much more important than any external change in circumstances.  Without a change in perspective we just keep repeating the same patterns in different ways.  A fundamental change in perspective is much more transformative – most importantly of the inner life, but this can’t help but then flow over into external life circumstances as well.
 
Those of you who have followed my writing for a long time know that I have spent most of my adult life searching.  Searching for…. what?  Purpose, meaning, my place in things, the reason for it all.  Searching for my ‘yes’.
 
In reading Tolle recently, he summed up perfectly the mistake I had been making in all of this for so many years:
 
Don’t seek happiness.  If you seek it, you won’t find it, because seeking is the antithesis of happiness.
 
Seeking is the antithesis of happiness.  Reading that sentence was like the universe handed me a note entitled: What You Have Been Doing Wrong.  I’ve spent my whole adult life seeking and believing that the search was noble, that the search was the whole point of life.
 
In fact, I have been missing the point.  Happiness is not out there.  Happiness is a natural state of being that resides only and ever in the now, and is covered up by unhappiness, searching, confusion.  You cannot find it.  You can only become aware of it in each moment.  Trying to find it only perpetuates the confusion, the sense of lacking that blocks the awareness of its presence.
 
One of the most powerful questions you can ask yourself in any moment is: “In this moment, what is lacking?”
 
If you focus purely on the present moment – not your wider life situation, not the moment before or the moment after but always and only RIGHT NOW – I think you will find that the answer is pretty much always: nothing.
 
Nothing is lacking.  You are whole unto yourself in each moment.  There is nothing you need seek.  Seeking is the antithesis of happiness.  In letting go of the need to seek, you become aware of a peacefulness beneath the seeking that is really much more fundamental and pure than ‘happiness’.  Happiness, really, is a human invention.  Who and what you are just is. 
 
And that is more than enough.
 
Mastery of life is not a question of control, but of finding a balance between human and Being.
~ Eckhart Tolle

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I stumbled across this fabulous idea of six word memoirs – basically, the idea is to sum up the past year in six words.

The title of this post is my memoir for 2009.

Hopefully at this time next year, I will be writing:

Lived, loved and enjoyed life fully.

Or, as one poster on the above linked blog wrote: stopped searching and enjoyed my life.

What is your six word memoir?

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