A Jar of Gratitude and Joy!

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Day 115

I have been ‘posting’ butterfly notes into my Gratitude Jar for a few months now and it’s getting quite full.

Today, after a week of being unwell, I needed a little perking up. So I took a sneak peak at the contents of my jar. After fifteen minutes I was feeling pretty awesome! I was surprised at how quickly I had forgotten some of the fantastic things I have achieved, and some of the equally awesome things that have happened over the past few months.

Reading through my notes was a bit like looking through a stack of precious photos…you can’t help but remember the stories and the feelings you had on the day or in that moment in time.

I have a large jar that I bought at the $2 Shop and I decorated it with butterflies, red hearts and ribbons. Then I cut out a few purple and pink post it note pads in the shape of butterflies. I keep them next to my jar on my book shelf with some sharpie pens ready for the next ‘instalment’!

The plus for me is that the small shape of the butterfly keeps my note short and to the point. It also encourages me to document my achievements and experiences because I know it will only take me 15 seconds. Once I have written down my experience or achievement, I pop it into the jar. I’m saving them for a moment with my husband on New Years Eve when, over a glass of champagne, I can read the contents of my gratitude jar and look back on all of the wonderful moments and achievements of 2014.

Sometimes though, it’s great to have a sneak peak. It helps clarify what you want to write and record. What makes your heart sing, or burst with pride? What fills you with warmth and joy? What gives you an utter sense of love and pure bliss?

Today, when I was feeling a little tired and vulnerable, (and to be honest a bit cranky and frustrated that I am still unwell), taking the time to meander through some brightly coloured butterfly notes was…well a bubble of joy. It reminded me to be grateful. And excited. I am living an extraordinary life.

How are your gratitude or happiness jars going? Are you writing all of your amazing achievements down? Perhaps you have a bucket list jar instead and each time you achieve one of your dreams on your list you write that down and pop it into your jar. Perhaps you have had a few sneak peaks, or perhaps you are saving it all up for a special date.

Or maybe it’s time to finally set up your gratitude/happiness/ bucket list jar…it’s not too late!

“May you live every day of your life.” 
― Jonathan Swift

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Gala Darling Challenge #6

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“Write a list of things that you appreciate right now, in the present moment. Focus on each of them & let the love inside you well up. Even when things appear to be going really, really badly, there are always things to be happy about.”Gala Darling 100 Things to Do When You’re Upset (The Sad Trombone List)

I love this challenge. It’s a great way to focus on the positive things in that are in your life right now. It doesn’t matter how small or big they are. People, events, things that surround you, achievements, quotes, songs…there is so much to manifest and draw your positive energy from.

The trick is not just to write down what you are grateful for, but to also write about how each thing makes you feel. What memories are evoked, what feelings you have welling up inside you. Focus on the here and now. Be brave an open your eyes. You may be feeling sorry for yourself. Be grateful for what you already have, no matter how minuscule it seems. You may be richer than you think!

So today I spent some time breathing and writing. I wrapped myself up in my largest and warmest winter cardigan. I popped on my fluffy Japanese house slippers and made myself a huge mug of milky hot chocolate with cinnamon. I sat myself down on our couch, lit all of the candles I had in the house and placed them on our Jarrah wood coffee table in front of me. I lent against a pile of soft white cushions and I wrote for over an hour in my journal about all of the things I am grateful for right now.

When I finally stopped I was amazed at how much I had written (3 pages!) and how much better I felt about myself and the world around me. If you are having a difficult time at the moment, or just feeling sad – this is such a good activity to try.

Create the space and time in your day to think. Surround yourself with some things that nurture you. Maybe pop on some music you love that inspires you. Sit yourself down in your garden or your favourite cafe. Treat yourself to a warm drink and some solid nurturing food, like fresh scones or biscuits. Now breathe. Look around you. What do you see? Who is in your world? What do you have? Focus on the good. Open yourself up to the blessings, great and small, that are in your life right now. Today.

Like me, you may find that your life is much fuller and richer than you first realised. You may find yourself feeling much more optimistic and happier than you thought!

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” 
― Martin Luther King Jr.

There is no joy without gratitude

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DAY 64

5th March, 2014

I’ve spoken quite a bit on this blog about gratitude. I am not alone of course. Just google ‘gratitude’ and you will be inundated with information on the mental and physical health benefits of practicing gratitude, the best ways to practice gratitude and the reasons why practicing gratitude can change your life.

There is a reason why there is a deluge of information about focussing on the present and being grateful for what you already have. It’s because until you are truly grateful for the things in your life that make life worth living, until you stop to smell the roses, you won’t really experience joy.

Have you ever worked your ass off to reach a goal and then when you finally achieved it/bought it/experienced it/ you took a nose dive into depression? The champagne moment lasted for a day or two, maybe a week and then you flat lined and started looking for the next big mountain to climb.

We’ve somehow lost our ability to not only stay in the moment and be present and grateful, but also to enjoy our accomplishments.

It’s as if we have been conditioned to get the task done, tick that goal off, add it to the growing list of accomplishments and then move on to the next one. Well, that’s great right? At the end of our lives we will have this incredible list of achievements read out at our eulogy. People will talk about the thousands of goals we ticked off in our lifetime and…and what?

How is this living our lives? Where are we leaning into that moment of bliss and breathing in the air around us. Are we stopping time to look into the face of our new born babies, or allowing ourselves to laugh for hours with our friends? When are we giving ourselves permission to experience the joy without any strings attached? A luxurious, blissful joy of being here, right now, in this amazing moment.

Over the past few months, I have spent my days considering that everyone I meet may be dead before midnight tonight. It’s a an odd place to be in your head. A little dark,  a bit emo but also liberating. The very idea has allowed me to be thoughtful and generous, well beyond my normal parameters. It has allowed me to say things and do things that I would not have taken the time to do a few months ago. This thought has also sometimes been a reality. People have left this planet. People I know, and people I barely know have passed away over the past two months. Some have been very young, some older, some by unexpected accidents or illnesses, some from long term illness. And I have been reminded of our fragile state. Our humanity.

It has also made me consider my own mortality. I may be planning to be tap dancing until I am 110, but I may not live past tomorrow, so all I really have is today. Today, this moment right now, is all you can be sure of. So it’s important to take the time to really see what you have in your life already, without feeling the tug to get on with something useful…the next big goal. It’s important to experience the joy of being alive, no matter what.

Here are a few of my favourite tips to help you with your gratitude process:

  • Create a gratitude ritual every day – Establish a set time every day. Set up a space so you can think. This could be a quiet time in your day when the baby is asleep, or in the car before you pick up the kids, or as you eat breakfast before the family wakes up. Perhaps you can take a break from work for 25 minutes, or join up with some friends to form a gratitude circle.
  • Set up a Gratitude Journal or a Gratitude Jar – I love both ideas. Your journal can go with you everywhere, and if you are having a rough day, you can read what you have written to remind yourself of all the amazing goodness in your life. I also love the jar idea. Especially if you write each thing you are grateful for on a separate piece of paper. Traditionally these jars are opened on New Years Eve – you can celebrate with a glass of bubbly and by opening your jar and reading all of the extraordinary and amazing things that have happened to you or that you have in your life! What an awesome way to bring in the new year!
  • Write it down – there is so much research now about when we write down what we are thinking it cements it in our head. It’s even better to say what you are grateful for out loud, which is the benefit of a gratitude circle, but if you can’t do that, writing down what you are grateful for will definitely work.
  • Get Specific – Don’t write down “I’m grateful for my family.” This is how gratitude lists get boring and stale very quickly. Be specific. Exactly what are you grateful for, and why? Be very clear about what you have. For example: I’m incredibly grateful for my son, who turns up at all hours of the day and night, stays for about 15 minutes before he is off again, but always gives me a huge hug and a kiss and tells me he loves me. He makes my heart sing! Cool right?
  • Lean into the joy – This is probably best done when you are actually experiencing the moment. Start training yourself to dismiss the doom and gloom thoughts and experience the moment. My husband is a great one for expecting the worst. Every time something amazing happens to him or us, he is terrified of being happy. Why? It’s too good to be true. Nothing can be this good. Something bad is going to happen. He’s not the only one. I feel it too, and talking to many of my friends and family – they also have that feeling. It’s like we can’t get too excited or happy, because we’ll be caught unaware when it all goes south! How insane are we? We can’t be too happy because we might jinx ourselves? It’s a really messed up thought process, and it’s affecting our ability to be grateful and to experience the bliss and joy in our lives. Actually it’s affecting our ability to experience our lives. So it’s time to change that crappy thought process. When something beautiful happens – lean into the moment and be thankful that you are experiencing it. It doesn’t have to be grandiose either! Sit and smell the roses, or the freshly brewed coffee or chai latte. Take the time to pat your beautiful cat or nuzzle with your dog…or whatever you do with your pet snake. Kiss your love…for longer than two seconds, and without thinking about putting on the dinner! Tip toe into your children’s bedroom and watch them sleep. You made those little people. Wow! How precious and amazing is that? Hold hands with your girlfriend/boyfriend/brother/sister/mum/dad and tell them how amazing they are to you. Lie in that bubble bath for hours and breathe…feel how amazing and rich your life is.
  • Take a look around you – Because when you start practicing gratitude on a daily basis, you will start to go through your day looking for it, and you will experience your life in a completely different way.

‘One day you will wake up and there won’t be any more time to do the things you’ve always wanted. Do it now.’ – Paulo Coelho

The Hungry Ghost

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DAY 52

21st February, 2014

A few weeks ago a good friend of mine suggested that I should read The Desire Map, by Danielle LaPorte. So I jumped on Amazon.com to check it out and ended up on Danielle’s website listening to a ‘sneak peak’ of her book. The Desire Map is an approach to planning your life using your core desired feelings as a driver to achieve your goals. Of course her work is so much more advanced than my own, but I was amazed to find my own feelings about our goals being driven by the strength of our passion being echoed in her words.

So, I bought the book and the CD to listen to in the car. Just a heads up, Danielle has one ‘hot mamma’ voice! I think I listened to the CD twice before I actually heard her words! Anyway, before doing any goal setting, or working through your core desired feelings, Danielle talks about identifying what you already have in your life. Who are you already? What are you grateful for and why? It’s an interesting thing to consider. Particularly when we invest so much time setting goals, striving to achieve the next big thing, or purchase the next ‘must have’ item on our bucket list. We are often left with a never ending, exhausting ‘to do’ list. We no sooner achieve that raise, or buy that car, and it’s replaced with another goal. I hadn’t considered that I may be approaching my life from the wrong angle. It seemed I was coming from a place of emptiness; a perpetual void that screamed to be fed. A hungry ghost.

The Buddhist’s believe the hungry ghost is not fully capable of living and appreciating what the moment has to offer. They are ever seeking to be fulfilled like an insatiable addict, never realising what they already have.

So today, as I sat in a crowded public hospital waiting room, waiting to see a specialist, I considered what I already have. It seemed as good a time as any, and far more preferable than feeling anxious and sorry for myself.

I pulled out my journal and wrote down the following:

I get to spend my life with a man who is beautiful, gentle and romantic. Every morning he tells me I am his beautiful girl, and how lucky he is to have me in his life and I feel loved and cherished. I have four crazy, determined, creative and talented sons and an equally determined and amazing daughter in law. I love that I am a part of their adult lives and that no matter what, we stick together, we fight for each other and we love each other to bits. I am blessed beyond belief with my grandson. A day singing lullabies and eating mashed banana feels like heaven on a stick and never fails to remind me of all the goodness and beauty in the world as he snuggles into my arms to sleep.

Every day I get to go to work in a sector that supports young people. Some days are heartbreaking, but I work with a vibrant team of people that I absolutely love, who are just as passionate as I am about making a difference in young peoples lives. I am also surrounded by some amazing and beautiful friends who are always there for a dance or a glass of wine…or with chocolate, or a care package…or at the other end of a midnight phone call when I need them.

And what about me?

As a human being?

Well I am lucky enough to have grown up in a part of the world where most of my needs are met. I am smart and creative. Sometimes I am cheeky. I get to ‘play’. A lot. I come with a small truck load of professional and personal skills, all based on the simple fact that I grew up in a country where girls are educated, university is affordable, healthcare is free, and wars have never been fought in my backyard.

The truth is, that in this world, I am one of the fortunate ones.

Which made me laugh at my hungry ghost. Right there in the hospital waiting room. My screaming hungry ghost was wrong it seemed. I wasn’t empty, needing to be filled. I wasn’t lacking. I wasn’t poor. I was rich. It seemed that I am already living a very full and abundant life.

When you start from a place of strength and gratefulness for what already exists, you approach your life and your plans from a very different place. Instead of crying for your empty void to be filled, you look for opportunities to add, to strengthen. You also shift from being a victim in your life, to being a creator of your life. You step up into a position of strength and purpose.

So what do you already have in your life that your hungry ghost prevents you from seeing and being grateful for?

“I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual. It is surprising how contented one can be with nothing definite – only a sense of existence. Well, anything for variety. I am ready to try this for the next ten thousand years, and exhaust it. How sweet to think of! my extremities well charred, and my intellectual part too, so that there is no danger of worm or rot for a long while. My breath is sweet to me. O how I laugh when I think of my vague indefinite riches. No run on my bank can drain it, for my wealth is not possession but enjoyment.”

 

 

 

 

 

Things I love Thursday

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Day 51

20th February, 2014

There are so many things I have loved this week: being spoilt on Valentines Day ~ especially the beautiful blood red rose my husband gave me; hanging out with the wild blue haired cosplay crew on the film set of It’s Japan, Man; singing KPop songs at the top of my lungs in the car on the way to work! Watching Thor 2~ watching, watching, watching…Playing Mario Kart with the girls at our first ever Wii party; having a deep and meaningful discussion about chasing our dreams with one of my sons over a hot cup of tea; luscious rain; reading The Desire Map ~ such an inspiring book; eating freshly made scones with yummy jam and cream; falling asleep to the sound of rain outside my window; and receiving a huge gift box full of things to help me relax on my holidays from two of my beautiful, thoughtful, and just completely awesome girlfriends ~ especially the panda slippers, chocolates and champagne!

“There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.”
― Jane AustenNorthanger Abbey

48 Gold stars, and a few trips and falls

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DAY 48

17th February, 2014

Today I realised that I have been on this Dead Before Midnight journey for six weeks.

It’s taken many twists and turns, and every day I have learnt something about myself and how I walk my talk in this world. Some days I am surprised by my actions. I am more generous and caring than I realised! Other days I am confronted with an ugly truth, which compels me to step it up and clean up my act. In my defence, I am committed to this journey. My resolve to be a better human being, to be a leader and hopefully a role model burns inside my heart. So I search out what I think I may need to teach me a better way, or assist me with new thoughts or ideas, and to enrich my soul and open heartedness. There is much reading, and much talking, and plenty of soul searching and accountability!

It has only been six weeks and 48 gold stars  (although who’s counting right?) but I feel like I have been travelling the universe for years. This is predominantly because of the people I am meeting, or re-discovering, and the way I am thinking about my role in their lives, or their role in my lives.

I am convinced that the conversations I am having are meant to be – for the two of us. I am trusting that the lessons learnt are important for my heart and my being – for both of us. And I love, love, love that the time I now take to be present for everyone I meet leads me to feel incredibly grateful for this life; extraordinarily rich.

I didn’t realise that I was working from a deficit model. Always seeing what I didn’t have. Always winging “Why me? Why them?” Always defaulting to a darker place because my view was obscured by a ridiculous idea of success and what I thought it looked like.

But I have so much more than I realised. My life is literally overflowing with beautiful and generous people who care for and love me. I have so much luscious, positive energy flowing around me, and I am gifted with an abundance of opportunities to create something wonderful every single day; Literally EVERY SINGLE DAY! I am so grateful to be able to see this.

Over 48 gold stars I have realised that life has a weird habit of giving back as much as you give. Try spending the day focussed on giving and being grateful for everything that you already have and you will see what I mean. Be determined to give back at every turn, at every possible opportunity. I promise you, you will walk away feeling impossibly richer than when you woke up!

From small offerings like smiling warmly at strangers or saying a kind word to donating money, buying a colleague lunch, or helping someone with their project. Send a gift to someone who would never expect something from you. Simply stop and have a conversation – be genuinely interested and listen. Focus on working through the issue so you can be helpful, not a judgemental road block! Empty your change into the charity tin – all of it! Or better yet, donate that $20 note.

I will never forget my husband and I getting lost in Shibuya, in Tokyo, a few years ago. We were trying to find our friend’s apartment and had gotten confused with the numbering and street signs. We asked a Japanese man who was cycling past us if he spoke English and if he could help us. He was more than happy to, but also wasn’t exactly sure where the apartment was. Instead of leaving us, he took us into the community day centre for older adults, which was a few doors down, to see if they could assist. Within minutes we had a group of staff and our friendly cyclist pouring over a detailed map and helping to find the location. Finally they found where our friend lived and pointed it out on the map, giving us instructions on how to get there. Then our cyclist friend decided that he couldn’t risk us getting lost again, so he walked with us to our friend’s apartment building and again helped us to work the intercom system on security doors at the front of the building. He waited until we were buzzed in before he left us with a friendly wave. WOW! How kind. How generous of him to take time out of his day to help us. All in all it probably took 15 minutes from when we stopped and asked for assistance, but the experience had a massive impact on us and we were incredibly grateful for his help.

Anyway, if you are following my DBM journey, or embarking on a life changing journey of your own, I hope that you too are realising that you are richer than you think you are, and that you are taking the time to give back to the world around you.

“You are essentially who you create yourself to be and all that occurs in your life is the result of your own making.” – Stephen Richards

Things I love Thursday

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DAY 44

13th February, 2014

Odd how we can become immersed in the darkness, trapped in a prison made up of our own fears and longings.Our desire holds the key, a step towards freedom and bliss, but we hang back in the shadows, not quite sure which direction to run in.

Listen to your heart. Trust your instinct. Remind yourself about the richness that surrounds you already. You already have much of what you wish for, you just ned to open your eyes to see it.

So today I am practicing gratitude. I am opening my eyes, and my heart. I am being whole hearted. I am being whole hearted and vulnerable and walking out of the prison in my head and I am free.

Today I am celebrating the things over the past week that I have loved: the complete stranger who saved my son, grandson and daughter in law’s lives last night, by alerting them to their house being on fire- he walked off when the fire brigade arrived, before they could thank him properly~ wordless, grateful; not having enough time to catch up/talk/eat with my friend from the UK ~ hysterical, connected; being brought to tears watching my beautiful daughter in law trying on wedding dresses ~ grateful, joy; having a breakfast feast in a favourite cafe ~ sated; relaxing in the cool early morning air before  the summer day heats up ~ peaceful; my grandson curling into me and wrapping his small arms around my neck ~ love, joy ; waking up with my beautiful English Staffy asleep on the bed beside me ~ love; endless “I love you’s” from my sons ~ love, happiness; the mix of creative exhaustion and pride finishing another show ~ creative ; Butterflies. Everywhere ~ soul, spiritual! Views of my home city, Melbourne, from the top of the Exhibition Building – stunning; being kissed until I fall asleep ~ bliss.

Something beautiful happened today

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DAY 42

11th February, 2014

Today something very beautiful happened.

It was life changing.

The very act stopped me in my tracks and made me re-assess some vital elements in my life. How I go about my work, how I engage with other people, who I love and adore, essentially how I walk in this world and be me.

The very act made me realise a surprising truth about myself.

And it brought me to a breathless moment; a single instance of pure white light; a thoughtful experience in the middle of a manic day.

Today my friend made me a cup of tea.

In my cup.

Two tea bags.

Milk.

Two sugars.

Humph.

A luscious moment of being truly grateful for my friend. Unbearably grateful for a strong, sweet, hot cup of tea.

It wasn’t the being grateful though. Or the way my friend smiled at me when she asked me if she could make me a cup of tea. Or even when I started to get up out of my chair thinking I should really make the cup of tea myself – why was I letting my friend go to all of that effort, going out of her way to make me tea. Who did I think I was right? Who did I think I was to let someone go out of her way to do something for me? Who did I think I was to allow someone to help me.

Because that was it.

I was so tired. My head was a bit foggy, and I was looking at a list of tasks that needed to be ticked off before I went home and lay on the couch in an exhausted, depleted little mess.

I needed some help.

And I needed to let my friend help me.

I needed to allow my beautiful friend to make me a cup of tea. With her smile. And her love.

I often talk about how important it is for us to give to others, to ‘pay it forward’ with acts of kindness and compassion. It’s extraordinary that although we are the ones being kind, or generous, or loving, how life changing this is for our souls.

So we also need to accept, and allow others to care and give back to us, because in doing so we learn how to be grateful. In allowing someone to care for us, we experience vulnerability. In allowing someone to give back to us, we also allow for that person to feel the extraordinary life changing feelings in their soul.

So today something beautiful happened. My friend made me a cup of hot tea, and I gratefully accepted her gift.

“When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.” – Maya Angelou