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Yoga Camp Mantras: Day 1 | I accept

I’ve always struggled to listen to my physical body and give it all that it needs to be happy and healthy. I often feel disconnected from it and in my stuborness I refuse to accept that it contributes to how I feel. I do believe we need a deep connection between our bodies and mental state, as they’re feeding from each other so often. I’ve been looking for a way to exercise both at the same time, as I can’t help it but be bored when I’m only focusing on physical exercise. Until now, the only thing I’ve actually enjoyed has been yoga.

That’s why I’ve decided to combine a creativity exercise with a daily practice…for 30 days. I found Yoga with Adriene a couple of years ago and I (almost) finished the 30 days yoga challenge (I moved out of the country when I was at about day 20-something). I really enjoyed the energy of the channel and I think it’s about time I started to pay attention to it again.

Adriene’s new series of 30 videos started in Jan and it’s called Yoga Camp. What’s really cool is that each video/day/yoga session has a different mantra and the series is focused on waving together the mental with the physical.

This series of blogs is my response to that idea, my little contribution. I’ll write each post after I’ve done the yoga session, reflecting on the mantra, and hopefully, that will make me want to get on the mat more often. It won’t be 30 consecutive days, as I realise there’s so much going on right now that I don’t want this to be an extra stress, but rather an exercise in body, mind and spirit.

I accept

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What a wonderfully appropriate first mantra!

It’s so hard for me to start anything because I’m afraid it’s too late. It’s too late to get in shape, I haven’t done anything in so long. It’s too late for me to learn something new because if I want to be good at it, I should have started earlier. It’s too late to move somewhere else, because I haven’t learnt the language.

Continue reading “Yoga Camp Mantras: Day 1 | I accept”

Personal

Millennial

Happy 2016, everyone! It’s a new year, it’s a new day and we’re all setting new goals and raising our expectations high for our lives and projects.

I’ll admit it – I’ve been a bit stuck lately. I think it has to do with focus in the new year and the end of a pretty big project at work. I was concentrating all of my energy into this one thing and making it successful (which it was, hurray!) and now everything is up to me again.

With the new year, I started looking more closely at my goals for the future as well. Many interesting projects are coming along, but in a way, I feel I’m still at the drawing board phase in my life. I’ve figured some stuff out, I feel like I’m on the right path, but it’s still me defining what exactly I want to achieve.

 

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I was really lucky and found an outlet that explains just that: Millenial – the podcast that talks about maneuvering your 20s. It starts off with a confused protagonist. Megan Tan just finished college and she’s decided not to go the traditional route and get the first graduate job that comes along. Instead, she’s looking for what she really wants to do.

I identified with it so quickly that I got scared of how well I fit the stereotype. After I finished university, I was exactly the same. I felt lost and didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do with my degree. Don’t get me wrong, I loved what I studied – journalism.

But there are so many possibilities, with an arts degree in particular. I could become:

  • a news reporter in print, radio, TV, online, multimedia
  • a feature writer
  • a reviewer (of books, movies, games, music),
  • a researcher
  • social media assistant
  • radio producer, presenter, editor
  • editorial assistant
  • copywriter
  • blogger
  • vlogger
  • content creator
  • communications assistant
  • freelance writer.

And that’s just to name a few.

I could also focus on a certain subject and specialise in that nieche – I’d done that already, working for a sustainability magazine. I was interested in environmental news and reporting, but I also love books and publishing.

I did my dissertation on investigative journalism and loved every moment of it. I did investigations for news pieces that went into my portfolio and I researched everything on the Freedom of Information Act.

I loved Media Law and Ethics and was really keen on dwelving in deeper and examining the issues regulation brings up in investigative journalism – so I would have liked to be even a research assistant or go in academia.

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Having all these options de-centred my usual focus and a world of possibility meant I didn’t really have a clear idea, a staight forward line to go on. It’s such a blessing and a curse at the same time. I felt free to move about, experiment with my career, hopeing some day I will find what I’m meant to do.

At the same time, it meant I had the enormous responsibility of choosing the right one. I was in charge of my own happiness. Of course, I had more experience in some areas than in others, but I had the support available from family and friends who told me I could do anything I wanted.

Overwhelmed by all these choices, I took a side step. I decided to get away from it and carefully consider what I wanted. I took a break. I went on a teaching English course and straight after that I got a job in a school in Spain. I did what I found easiest there, I went with my skill set rather than my aspirations.

That year abroad made me realise I can’t run away from my ambition. I could continue to do it and I learnt so much there – but it wasn’t enough for me.

Now I’m back at the drawing board – with a job I love, but still deciding what’s the next step. The narcissism in this plays a big part too. I realise I’m part of a generation that’s been told to follow our dreams – and then following economic collapse, we were left with designers, artists, journalists, musicians working in coffee shops and bars, or even worse, not working at all.

I know I’m priviledged and I acknowledge the struggle so many people go through. It makes my worries seem little and not important, but it doesn’t make them go away.

So what do I plan to do about it? I haven’t figured it out yet, but starting a conversation is a good first step. Keep an eye out for more millenial struggles.

Personal

Advice from my past self

We believe that we can change the things round us in accordance with our desires – Marcel Proust, In search of lost time

What do you want from this world? What do you want to give it and what do you expect it to give to you?

 

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We want to change people, situations, ideas that we come across. However, more often than not we find a way to derail our thinking, our objectives and just go round the things we don’t like.

That’s what Proust says and that acceptance of flaws or what we view as flawed is a million times harder than fighting to mend, to reshape.

Some battles are not ours and in order to be happy, we need to let things be, adapt and move on.

Change doesn’t happen in a split second and maybe you’ll never know what butterfly effect your words or actions will have on people you wanted to change, but staying true to yourself and finding your own happiness will benefit the world more than if you let what bothers you overtake you.

All the battles you’ve been in teach you acceptance. If you’ve lost, marvel at your ability to fight. Loss teaches you so much more than winning.

See yourself as you truly are: a wanderer, lost in a world of complexity and do what’s best for you. Maybe you won’t always be happy, you don’t know until you’ve failed so many times that what’s left can only be the right answer.

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Seek the meaning of your experiences and accept them for what they are.

If you wake up every day dreading the mundane ahead of you, you can’t be happy. Don’t disappear in a fog of certainty when the days are the same old same old. Take charge and have art and change and people to keep you grounded in a reality that’s good enough to live in.

Change what you need as soon as you notice it, as soon as you notice yourself withering under the routine of your passing. Live with love pouring through your veins and don’t let your dreams shrivel and die. Don’t go through life as a moving corpse because you’re the one controlling your feelings, actions and faith.

Don’t let society tell you what you need. Take chances and find your happiness.

Personal

Mental health and immigration

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We’ve been having some great conversations on mental health on the radio lately and it’s made me think quite a lot about different aspects of how we talk about it.

I think the easiest when talking about mental health is to base your thoughts on your personal experience and the experience of those who you know best, who talked to you about their issues and the friends you’ve tried to help.

My family has a history of depression. It’s started with my grandad who started experiencing pains in his abdomen when he was about 30. He tried to get to the root of the problem by going to so many doctors we’ve lost count. All they could say was it was psychological.

Somehow, the pain disappeared just as suddenly as it had come up. However, it came back about 12 years ago, in his 60s and he’s been dealing with it ever since. He’s on a number of drugs for his depression and he has bad days and good days, whole years that are better than others and the pain it’s causing him is immense, I can see it.

On the same part of the family, his sisters also deal with similar symptoms and it’s something that is acknowledged as part of our history. Depression is not 100% hereditary, but it is believed that genetic influence can be responsible for causing it.

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I didn’t really truly understand depression until I saw it firsthand affecting a close friend. And this is where things get tricky and I think there’s a discussion to be had around immigration and mental health.

I’ve had quite a privileged experience as an immigrant, coming to the UK to study at university. However, there are people who aren’t as lucky and go through a turmoil of emotions when moving to another country.

All of us go though experience similar emotions and have a lot in common. When relocating, for whatever reason, your emotional state is quite fragile. Stress is added and cultural differences make everything more difficult – from going to the grocery store (where all the food is different than what you’re used to) to working and having a social life.

Everything has the added pressure of succeeding because you’ve left your home country to get a better life, but everything is harder or at least different, so an adjustment period is crucial.

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My friend was wise enough to seek help when she saw that she needed it. She went to a psychologist and talked about her problems. We were 19 and in a foreign country and she trusted a doctor, a professional, with her issues.

What then what this person did was just mind blowing. Instead of providing support and coping mechanisms, they took the easy way out and suggested that my friend might consider going back home to her country if she was feeling stressed and depressed.

What I didn’t understand at the time and I still don’t is how someone can be so reckless with their words when they see someone seeking their professional opinion. When a person is going through a lot and trying to achieve something in their life, through all the means they have available, advice shouldn’t be stop trying and maybe you’ll be happier.

It’s like a highly skilled manager going to therapy complaining about stress and the therapist suggesting they should quit their job.

Moving to another country is not a decision people make lightly. We think about it and make sacrifices. It affects and define who you are as a person for the rest of your life and it gives you amazing opportunities of growth and personal development.

It is also one of the most stressful things anyone can do and it can take a toll on you. Talking about mental health in a positive way and trying to find ways and support to deal with issues is crucial. There should be training for medical professionals to pay more attention and have more empathy to people who might be experiencing depression just because they don’t feel understood. Telling someone to go home is proving how much you misunderstand their situation as well.

Book reviews

The Comfort of Strangers by Ian McEwan | Book review

6872 The comfort of strangers by Ian McEwan is labelled as a thriller, with mystery sprinkled in and described as the story of a couple who “meet a man with a disturbing story to tell” as they end up in his “fantasy of violence and obsession”.

Now, I have no objections to books which are gorry and explore the darker side of human behaviour. I thoroughly enjoy them and I think they give offer us an insight into the complexities of the human mind. I love reading a book which takes my imagination to the extremes and disturb my pretty little life.

When I read a phrase such as “fantasy of violence and obsession”, I expect one of those books. However, that’s not the case with this one.

I’d summarise it instead as: bored couple goes on vacation, get drawn in by someone who is obviously more interesting than they are, make some stupid decisions and nothing really exciting does happen.

That’s the plot in a nutshell, but it’s not even the worst thing about this book. I’ve read thousands of pages of books that I could summarise in a sentence and I still loved them to bits (see 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami).

In order for a story to be successful without that much of a plot, it needs to have strong characters and great narrative style. This one read to me like the first draft of a novel that achieves that.

The only character who has personality is the “mysterious” Robert, the stranger the couple meets when out on holiday. He has a bit of a back story that could be developed and really drawn out, but I guess McEwan wants us just to guess and assume how he ended up as violent and obsessive as he has, as he gives us an incident from Robert’s past which involves humiliation. Is the reader supposed to just accept that story has defined this man’s whole personality?

We find out nothing really relevant about the other three main characters, except the couple is kind of bored and kind of passionate and have their own fantasies (OH MY GOD, people have an erotic side to them that comes out when they’re in creepy, interesting situations with new people? I could have never thought of that.)

Robert’s wife is a shadow of an interesting character and has the backbone to be one, if only there’d be more story for her to shine. Also, there’s a stereotype regarding the crazy dark and beautiful extremely rich people who play out their fantasies (American Psycho style) that takes away from these people’s authenticity.

I’ve moaned enough, so let’s get to the positives and why this book isn’t a waste of time.

Ian McEwan can write beautifully. Disregarding the subject matter, this is a literary book and the turn of phrase flows and sets the scene perfectly. I felt throughout that I was in a psychological thriller and I was waiting for the big reveal that would blow my mind…which never came.

She sleepwalked from moment to moment, and whole months slipped by without memory, without bearing the faintest imprint of her conscious will.

This style alone will be enough to leave readers satisfied with this book, despite its lack of plot of any character development. Or maybe some will take away from this beautiful writing more substance than I did. Every room and every setting is described perfectly, to the last detail and, if you choose to, you might analyse them and find some truth and guidance there. However, as this book is supposed to be about violence and passion, there isn’t any nearly enough true description of those two anywhere to be found.

In addition, this book was written in 1981 and it hasn’t aged one day. It’s admirable to see a story which is as relevant today as it was 34 years ago and that’s part of why it deserves the title of literary fiction.

All in all, I enjoyed reading this book until I realised it had finished. Maybe my expectations were too high, but I thought it was a great start for something much better and could have been explored in many different ways, giving meaning to the main themes rather than just addressing them and leaving them to hang there in the air like big blobs of nothing.

Rating: 🌟🌟 | Big fat MEH

🌟 Happy reading! 🌟

Book reviews

Us, by David Nicholls | Book review

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‘I was looking forward to us growing old together. Me and you, growing old and dying together.’

‘Douglas, who in their right mind would look forward to that?’”

This quote convinced me to pick up Us by David Nicholls. Maybe I’m a bit cookey, maybe it’s not going to persuade anyone else, but I think you can see from this quote how this book won’t be as anything else you’ve read.

Telling the story of the docile, mild-mannered scientist Douglas and his beautiful, creative, artistic wife Connie, Us is a journey through Europe, though the lives of two people who are as different as they can be from each other.

What started out as a completely different perspective (a middle-aged man) for me, ended up as a touching and heart warming story that I empathised with.

This is the story of a marriage in shambles, but it’s also a great tale of the modern man, who can’t seem to find his feet in his own family, becoming detached from it in spite of his best efforts to connect.

Douglas’s relationship with his son Albie seemed to represent lots of father-son/daughter relationships I’ve known. Douglas has the best intentions and he wants everything for his son. He wants Albie to be happy, for him to make the right choices in life, for Albie to have everything Douglas didn’t.

However, he’s disconnected from reality and from the person his son has become. It was gut wrenching to hear about the physical separation between the two, from wrestling to hand holding to no affection at all. When there isn’t a natural comfortable feeling between fathers and children, how can a relationship be healthy?

In my mind, this particular aspect of the book sparked lots of feminist points. What are we teaching our boys that they become so detached from reality and unable to form a healthy relationship with their children? Masculinity is much too commonly defined as being the provider, the teacher, the enforcer. All these roles men take over when they become fathers make them alienate themselves from their families. Expressing your love for your child is seen as unnatural, emasculating and something that should always be implied, but not actually said.

Communication is so skewed by preconceptions and fear of expressing anything that’s not in line with stereotypes.

In my opinion, you can see all of this in Douglas, especially because you get an understanding of his background, his own family and how he was raised. You can a complete picture of him as a character and that’s such a lovely realisation to come to at the end. I was at peace with the story (and I would have been no matter the ending) because I felt I saw Douglas grow and change throughout his journey.

I also felt I was on a trip alongside the main characters, getting to know them more and more through their action in the present and the stories told from the past.

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 | I loved it!

🌟 Happy reading! 🌟

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The Veracity Challenge | A world of adjectives

I discovered this challenge on Erika’s blog and I found it really exciting and difficult. So I had to do it, naturally. Writing without adjectives is something I thought I’d be good at. I’m a journalist, I’ve written news before and that’s supposed to be only facts. But when you’re writing from your imagination and creating a story line, you want to express so much through description. However, you can describe without adjectives – and I think great writers do that a lot. They create a feel and a vibe without using unnecessary language. It’s a skill I admire, so I had to give this one a shot.

RULES

  1. Write a paragraph without using a single adjective.
  2. Keep the link of the original Veracity Challenge in your post (so that the creator of the challenge may receive a pingback)
  3.  Anyone can join the challenge, you don’t have to be nominated!
  4.  Nominate 6 Bloggers for this challenge

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Practice makes perfect. Work and you will succeed. Go ahead and create your world. Look ahead and see what the universe has to offer. Never sleep, never dream, don’t look up from your path because distractions abound. Don’t get sidetracked by people, feelings, others’ decisions. But find a life, build a house, get a job. There’s a person out there who wants what you want and your paths will cross. They will live where you want, they will eat the food you cook and enjoy it, they will appreciate you when you clean the house or get the children to school. You will be in love…or not…but your life will succeed. You will work for hours, go on vacation where your friends or Cosmo tells you to, enjoy it like a caveman enjoys the rain. Grow old and have money to go to the supermarket. Grow old and regret everything. Grow old and despise your husband who stole your beauty, your years, your passion for life. Grow old and love your children but feel as if you’ve never known them. Grow old and regret.

Or ignore everything and do what you want. Go where your heart tells you to go. Live as if there are no rules. Laugh about tomorrow and enjoy the sunshine that is today.

Thank you, Mon, it was great mind-boggling trying to do this!

Here are my nominations:

  1. http://thoughtsontomes.wordpress.com
  2. http://susannevalenti.com/
  3. https://booksatdawn.wordpress.com
  4. http://bookaddictkels.wordpress.com
  5. https://bftreviews.wordpress.com
  6. https://cksreadingcorner.wordpress.com

…and anyone who’d like to do the challenge! I’d love to read more of these.

How did you think I did? Not sure right now. It was really hard 😀 Let me know how you find it. Until then…

🌟 Happy reading 🌟