Thursday, June 28, 2012

Living the Life you Love II

I'm still on holiday for another two weeks. Today's guest post is from a fellow adventure traveller. She moved from Australia to Germany and keeps a brilliant blog about the experience. 

To Discover Your True Self Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone

Comfort zones are called comfort zones because they are precisely that.  When you are in your comfort zone, you know the lay of the land, you don't have to concerntrate on much and you fit into the well worn grooves of your life.  It is comforting and whilst comfort zones are important places to have to allow us to rest and recharge if your whole life is one big fluffy comfort zone, you are stifling your personal growth.

To find out who you truly are and what you are capable of, you have to throw off the comfy comfort zone and go and explore uncharted lands.  This can be doing something you have always wanted to do, but were afraid to do so, like taking a drama class or joining a choir or taking a cooking class.  Or if you are insane like me, this means moving your entire life to a foreign country where you can't speak the language and don't know a single soul.

When I moved to Germany, almost 2 years ago I had just a suitcase and a job offer and only knew how to say Hello, Thank you and Goodbye in German.  I was thrown way out of my comfort zone and into a strange foreign land and I had only myself to rely on.  If I wanted to buy groceries, find out where to buy train tickets or navigate the tricky land of German health insurance, then I had to do it myself.  Of course I had help from friends, but I had to build those support networks from scratch.  Those early months were some of the toughest in my life, but through them I found out just how capable I was.  I was able to throw out parts of my personality I didn't like and cultivate the parts I did like.  I had no one around telling me who I should be or reminding me of who I was. However, if I stuck to what I was like in my comfort zone, I would probably still be sitting in a small studio apartment not knowing a single soul, instead of having a wide range of friends, both German and expat and having the time of my life.

Of course, not everyone is going to get such a life changing experience that will allow them to basically reinvent themselves.  However, you can stretch yourself and test your limits by getting out of your comfort zone.  By doing something you have previously been afraid to do, you find out just what you are capable of.  By joining a new social group based on a common interest, you get to explore part of yourself you might have kept hidden through fear of ridicule or people expecting you to act a certain way.  Also, you never know who you might meet and what impact they will have on your life.  One of my mottos is that you can never have too many friends and you never know if the next person you meet will be someone who will change your life for the better.

Get out of your comfort zone.  Explore your city like you are a new arrival rather than a long-term resident.  Gather up all your courage and do something new, because you won't find out who you truly are whilst sitting on the couch. 

For more brilliant writing from an exPat Aussie, visit: 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Living the Life you Love I

I'm off on holiday, seeing my family and catching up with all things Canadian. I didn't want to neglect my wonderful readers though so I've collected some fantastic guest entries from fellow-bloggers.

St. Andrews Lynx describes herself as an 'International Chemist and Adventurer'. I discovered her blog some months ago and find much of her writing to be reflective of my own beliefs and values. She's an awesome-sauce blogger and today's guest entry is from her:


I know I’m taking my life in the right direction. I know this because I wake up every morning wanting to get out of bed. I never need to hit “Snooze” on my alarm clock, however early I need to be awake or how sleepy I am. Life for me is something I want to go out and experience, ups and downs. 
For me it isn’t about the specifics – job, location, personal circumstances – as much as attitude and philosophy, how we deal with the not-so-great bits. Here’s a collection my attitudes that shape my life:   
  • Wide-lens view. Do you believe everything happens for a reason? Can you see the positive in everything? Is life a series of lessons learnt or a series of traps trying to break you? If they have their own way, difficulties do all they can to fixate and drag us down.  Being able to look at challenges in a positive light helps break their hold on us.
  • Look for the beauty. There’s beauty in everyone, in everything and in every day.  Look for it. Life is beautiful. If you can stop and admire a gorgeous sunset at the end of a long and tiring day then life isn’t too bad. 
  • The key to happiness is a sense of humour. My sense of humour is one of my most valued possessions. Life without it would be very dark. Not only would I be unable to see the funny side of challenges, I would lack the means to express complex or difficult feelings.  For me humour isn’t about trivialising events – it is about processing and communicating them. 
  • Control the small things and the bigger pieces will follow. After going through a rough patch where multiple issues collided (work, education, personal), I decided to start the recovery…by drinking more tea. It really helped.  Taking 10 minutes to relax with a cup of tea gives me time away from my problems; helps me de-stress and reminds me of just how wonderful life with tea is. Of course, in a vacuum won’t solve my problems, but as a small and seemingly unrelated change it helped me more than I expected. 
  • Control the big things that you can. I can’t control everything in my life. I believe in taking responsibility for and controlling what I can.  I accept responsibility when I make mistakes; I make pro-active decisions about the future of my work, my education and my life direction.  Thus I become my own person leading my own life – not a person endlessly subjected to and defined by the fates.  

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Shoe season!

Canvas shoes seem to be cheap everywhere I go. It's great because I do love making my custom designs but often the initial cost of the product is a bit of a bullet to bite. I want people to have amazing, unique footwear but I also want it to be affordable. This design, including the shoes, cost £35.

 'Fire in my new Shoes'

 I think the laces go especially well with them. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

What is natural?

The other day I saw an ad on a bus shelter that said something along the lines of:
"Nature takes on wrinkles. Nature wins."

I immediately found the statement jarring. There's a bit of a conflict there for me because wrinkles are natural. This sort of advertising works really well and I know why. We are hardwired to reject 'natural' things about our bodies. This stems from our desire to avoid discomfort.

I realise I just used a lot of generalisations. I am by no means suggesting this advertising works on everyone or that all people everywhere are adverse to aging naturally. Nor am I saying that there is anything wrong with taking care of your skin or dying your hair or whatever it is someone might choose to do to look 'youthful'.

I just think it's interesting because there is so much that is natural that we, as human beings, tend to be highly resistant to. Emotions, for example. Emotions arise naturally in our bodies. They are a part of our experience. In fact, they are shaped by our experience. When we have an experience that leaves us feeling a certain way we associate the reality of what happened with how we felt at the time. It becomes very easy for us to get trapped in grasping or avoiding certain situations in an attempt to control how we feel.

In this way we can find ourselves trying to replicate a time when we felt happy or content - setting it up like a director of a film - so we might avoid discomfort. We also spend a lot of time avoiding certain situations or ignoring them because we associate an emotion we deem unpleasant with it.

I'm not saying we should avoid situations which have brought us happiness anymore than I'm saying we should put ourselves in situations where we have been hurt, angry or afraid. What I'm saying is, how you feel is totally normal. Emotions are there to communicate needs. Just like our stomach grumbles when we are hungry or our tongue goes white when we are dehydrated, our emotions communicate a need which is not being met.

The problems arise when we avoid, ignore or try to run away from how we feel. The longer we do this the worse the feeling is going to get because we've not dealt with the bigger issue. Suddenly a little sadness turns into depression. A little fear turns into an anxiety disorder. A little anger turns into complete rage.

This is when our emotions are screaming at us, telling us to really look at what is going on.

In the case of the three I've chosen for examples:

Sadness is there to help us grieve and let go, help us accept change, and move with the flow of life.

Fear is telling us that we need to prepare ourselves. We are lacking an essential resource or we need to be aware that we might be entering a situation without the necessary tools. It's asking us to be aware.

Anger is showing us our boundaries and where they have been touched or crossed by someone. It's protecting us.

This goes for all of our emotions. They're as natural as the colour of our hair or the texture of our skin. It's fine to cover up your hair colour and to put anti-aging creams all over your face. This doesn't make the fact that you're aging go away. But emotions don't work that way. There is no magic cream or mask. They are something to work with, not against. When you do it's an amazing thing because you will become more and more aware of how beneficial, and natural, they really are.



Thursday, June 14, 2012

Choice

I've talked before on my blog about how I've limited my options by predetermining how I wanted my life to turn out. It's something a lot of people do and generally something which life does everything it can to get us out of the habit of doing. The problem arrises when we struggle against life and look at the difficulties we face as some personal attack, rather than an opportunity to learn and view our world differently.

Each of us has a map of the world. Each map is as unique as we are because how we view it is entirely down to the experiences we've had, the life we've lived, and the beliefs we hold. Some people have huge maps, stretching out so far that they can't ever see the entire thing at once. Other people, however, have very tiny maps. Small things which show very little and offer few choices.

There is an analogy used in Buddhist teachings for how we limit ourselves. When you have a small map (you have a closed mind, you live in fear of change, you feel that you don't have any choices, you've made up your mind about something) it's like looking at the sky through a straw. You look at the sky through a small tube and see only a tiny circle of it. This circle might be blue but it's not difficult for a cloud to come along and the circle of sky becomes blocked. It might be a rain cloud and then that tiny patch of sky looks grey. Perhaps it's frightening, perhaps it's dull. Either way, our view is so limited that all we can see is that single, narrow point. 

But if we take away the straw suddenly there is a huge expanse of sky. There might be solid cloud cover but we can see how the clouds move and boil in the high winds above us. There is curvature to the clouds, points of dark and light. There may be patches of blue showing through. There will be a place where the sun is shining through as a bright orb. Birds may fly across it. Planes may come into view. The sky is open and there is far more to look at, and far more for us to see.

Whether we stick to our small map or keep looking through that single straw is our choice. The size of our world, the options available to us, are limited only be our own beliefs. If you make up your mind about something you might just be folding up a corner of your map, hiding it away. When you change your mind about something, let go of an idea or opinion, you are unfolding a corner of the map you may never have realised was there.

This sounds lovely, I know, but it's not easy. It's not meant to be easy. It's not meant to be impossible either. It's a challenge and it's your choice if you're going to take on the challenge. Your choice as to whether or not you want to keep looking through that tiny straw or if you want to take it away.

Having a map that stretches off further than we can see can be frightening, but it's also incredibly liberating. Think, if you had all the options in the world, if you had an infinite number of choices available to you, what would your life be like? Who would you be? Where would you go? What would you do?


Monday, June 11, 2012

Fabulous shoes!

Summer is upon us! Although, as I am quickly learning, 'Summer' is only a loose concept in the UK. There are moments of absolutely glorious warmth and intense humidity which could fool a person into believing they are living somewhere tropical. These can last for a few days or even a few weeks, lulling Londoners into thinking it's safe to put away their woolens and pull out all their shorts. 

But give it a few days and then there is rain. Then there is not rain but a lot of wind. Then there is a day of not a lot of rain or wind but a bit of threatening rain and a lot of cloud cover. Fortunately, as a Canadian, I have a thing for weird weather and discussing how absolutely strange it can be. 

But I digress. This post is not about something so boring as weather - or interesting as weather depending on who you're talking to about it. 

This post is about SHOES! Because, when the Summer comes, even if it's tepid or rather unsummery, I like to get a new pair of canvas shoes and make them lovely. The last pair I did for myself are nearly two years old now and anyone who wears canvas sneakers knows, canvas sneakers are not built to last. My old pair are on their last legs, erm, soles. They've cracked and torn and are rapidly becoming less usable as footwear. The final breaking point was a few weeks ago when I went to put them on the  shoe lace on the left one snapped. Now, I know I could just get a new set of laces. That would be sensible, but have you ever noticed how sad new laces look in old shoes? They're just too bright and clean against a pair of shoes which have had their day. 

So I let them go, as we must learn to let go of many things in life, and got not one pair of new canvas sneakers, but two! Two glorious pairs to customise to my heart's content. And customise I have. 

In celebration of Summer, I am happy to present my latest Canvas Shoe Creations
'Slice of Life' & 'Calligraphy' 


 'Slice of Life'

 'Calligraphy'

To see more of my artwork visit www.FaunawolfCreations.com

Monday, June 4, 2012

Guesting, anyone?

 I'm going on holiday at the end of the month! Taking a holiday is a very important thing. Regular breaks to recharge, reconnect and re-vitalise are super beneficial. I recommend that you try to take at least one proper holiday a year, even if it's a 'Staycation'. The trick is to completely drop all of your responsibilities and do something totally different during that break. It really does need to be a break to be properly effective.

The result is, you'll have new ideas, perhaps a different perspective on something that's been a sticking point, and if you've done it properly, you'll be more energised when you get back to work.

I want to recharge properly and that means taking a break from regular blog entry writing whilst I'm away. Which is where you (might) come in, if you're interested.

I'm looking for guest blog entries in the theme of 'Living the Life you Love'. I've already started collecting a few but I'm going to need at least six so if this is something you'd like to do please let me know in the comments below or send an email to faunawolf 'at' gmail 'dot' com