Step onto your magic carpet

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My wonderful husband took me to the Disney World, Magical Kingdom Park in Orlando, Florida this week. What a magical experience it was! The day was filled with colour, fantasy, inspiring stories and positive messages such as ‘Never stop believing in your dreams’, ‘Dreams do come true’ and ‘The magic lives inside you’.

It was my first time on a roller coaster. If you are someone who fears being out of control and wants to work on letting go of the need for control, I can recommend riding a roller coaster. After the first turn you realise that you need to face your fear otherwise it is going to take away the thrill and joy you get from the ride. The experience reminded me of Brené Brown’s book “Daring Greatly” that focuses on vulnerability. She writes that ‘…we all numb our feelings…our sense of vulnerability…numbing vulnerability is especially debilitating because it doesn’t just deaden the pain of our difficult experiences; numbing vulnerability also dulls our experiences of love, joy, belonging, creativity and empathy. We can’t selectively numb emotions. Numb the dark and you numb the light.’ I realised I had to allow myself to be vulnerable in order to experience the freedom and joy of flying through the air.

As a young girl my favourite Disney movie was Aladdin. I dreamed of flying through the air and seeing the world on a magic carpet. I knew the lyrics of the theme song ‘A whole new world’ by heart. My favourite parts of the song was where Aladdin sings to Princess Jasmine that with his magic carpet he will show her:

A whole new world

A new fantastic point of view

No one to tell us no or where to go

Or say we’re only dreaming

After a few turns on the Magic carpet princess Jasmine tells Aladdin 

when I’m way up here, it’s crystal clear …

I’m like a shooting star

I’ve come so far

I can’t go back

To where I used to be

When I heard the song again at Disney World (after 13 years) it was as if everything was all of a sudden crystal clear to me. My dream came true! I am on my own magic carpet ride. I was grateful for the life I had been given. Yes, my life was not always easy. The carpet ride had taken me to very dark places in the past but also to beautiful places beyond my imagination. After being at those places, I can’t go back to where I used to be…

We all have a magic carpet inside of us. All we need to do is to allow ourselves to be vulnerable, have the courage to step out of our ‘comfort zone’ and onto the magic carpet. Yes, the ride will not always be easy but we should not allow the fear of failure or tragedy hinder us from experiencing joy and stepping on the magic carpet. Brené Brown’s research indicates that ‘…every time we allow ourselves to lean into joy and give into those moments, we build resilience and we cultivate hope. The joy becomes part of who we are, and when bad things happen – and they do happen –we are stronger.’

The more you step onto the magic carpet, the stronger you become because you’ve allowed yourself to see and experience a whole new world. After that you can’t go back to your old way of thinking. You’ve seen new horizons to pursue. Walt Disney said:

“If you can dream it, you can do it. Always remember that this whole thing was started with a dream and a mouse.”

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What contributions are you making?

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What is a contribution? What contributions am I making? These are questions that I’ve reflected over the past week.

Contribution can be defined in different ways depending on the context. According to the Free Dictionary it can be defined as a ‘voluntary gift made to some worthwhile cause’. I don’t know about you but I feel that the best gifts to give others are usually the ones we won’t mind receiving ourselves. I think it is the same with contributions. It is the act of giving something you value to someone else without expecting anything in return. This something can include; giving money, sharing ideas, or providing a service to someone for free. The funny thing is that when we make contributions we usually do get something unexpected in return. For example, I tend to get so excited about the gift I’m giving that just the act of giving brings me joy. In giving something I’m receiving joy.

The dictionary also defines contribution as ‘the part played by a person in bringing about a result’. The result can be to help others to enhance or reach their goals. To inspire them to believe in their unique abilities. To support others in times of difficulty. To assist in a community project or to improve the living conditions of others, etc.

When I think about the contributions that others had made to me (knowingly or unknowingly), I recall times when; someone supported me financially, told me they believed in me, held me when I was sad, and gave me advice when I needed it. Other contributions I also recall include observing a great leader, listening to beautiful music or appreciating a piece of art.

The word contribution originates from the Latin word contribuere that means to bring together, to add. In contributing we are bringing people together. We are connecting on a shared purpose level. When we contribute our unique qualities and expertise we are adding value to others. We are voluntary sharing the gifts that had been given to us.

What people made the biggest contrition in your life? In what way have you contributed to others? In the following week think about the contributions that you want to make?

Which wolf are you feeding?

(AP Photo/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Gary Kramer, File)
(AP Photo/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Gary Kramer, File)

There is an old Cherokee (Native American Indian) wisdom about a grandfather teaching his son about life. The grandfather told the boy “A fight is going on inside me. It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.” The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

It sometimes feels as if feeding the wolf of evil has become the status quo. We are confronted with negative news on a daily basis. The advertisement on television feeds our greed and not our need. It makes us believe that who we are and what we have is not enough.  In the newspaper we read about corruption, politicians who lie and crimes committed out of anger. We envy people who have more than us. It is easy to yield to self-pity and blame negative circumstances for our place in life, because it does not ask anything of us.

Feeding the wolf of goodness takes courage.  It asks of you to keep on believing in your dream even if the odds are against you. To challenge the beliefs and structures that limit your life. To face your fears and not hide from them because in avoiding your fears you are feeding it.  Later it can become so heavy that you can’t move anymore and then you get stuck.

In every moment there is the possibility of a better future. A choice to be made.  I want to challenge you to ask yourself every day for the following week ‘Which wolf am I feeding?’

Kindness

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At the beginning of the year I did an 8-week Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) course at the Institute for Mindfulness in Cape Town. One of the meditations that I learned at the course was the ‘Lovingkindness meditation’. You will start with evoking feelings of love and kindness towards yourself and then go on to evoke feelings of kindness towards a person whom you love. Later you extend the practice to include people who are known or unknown to you as well as a person who has caused you harm.

Jon Kabat-Zinn developed the MBSR programme and wrote about the benefits of the ‘Lovingkindness meditation’ in his book, “Full Catastrophe Living”. According to him ’the process of uncovering in ourselves deep feelings of empathy, compassion, and love towards others has its own purifying effects on the mind and heart…It can help us to cultivate strong positive emotions within ourselves, and let go of ill will and resentments…When practiced regularly, it can have a remarkable softening effect on the heart. It can help you to be kinder towards yourself and others.’

What I found interesting about the meditation was that it was easier for me to direct feelings of kindness, goodwill and generosity to a person that is closer to me than to myself. It was even easier for me to evoke feelings of forgiveness towards a person who caused me harm than to direct it towards myself. I realised that I did not know how to be kind towards myself. I started to wonder what kindness means to me (other than to treat myself with chocolate when I achieved a goal)?

The dictionary defines kindness as the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate. These are all qualities that I’ve been taught to extend to others but never learned to cultivate towards myself. I realised that if I want to feel at home within myself I need to learn to be kind to myself.

In the past six months I started drawing up a list of what being kind to me means. The list is not complete but these are the top 10 items on my list. So far kindness towards me is:

1. Listening to my body.
2. To do exercise such as yoga and dancing.
3. Letting go of ‘could have’ or ‘should have’ thoughts.
4. Journaling and doing a spiritual practice daily.
5. Watching a good movie or reading a good book.
6. Getting enough sleep.
7. To open myself to new experiences.
8. Eating healthy food that gives me energy.
9. Surrounding myself with inspirational and creative people.
10. A warm cup of coffee in a cosy coffee shop on a winter’s day or a gelato ice cream on a sunshine day.

I am definitely kinder towards myself than I was at the beginning of this year. But I do realise that in order to maintain the softness I need to consciously practise kindness towards others and myself. What does kindness mean to you?

Blessings for a new life

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In the past two weeks there were two of my family members that gave birth. My sister gave birth to a baby girl and my sister-in-law to twin boys. I want to dedicate this blog to them and bless them with the following:

Always remember that:

You were born out of love.
You were born whole and aware.
You were born with the potential to realise your dreams.

You are loved just as you are, don’t feel that you are not worthy of love.
You are enough just as you are, don’t think you are not good enough.
You are great just as you are, don’t try and be someone else.

Being vulnerable does not mean that you are weak; it shows that you are not afraid to open yourself to life.
Being ‘out of control’ does not mean that you are imperfect; it shows that you are not afraid to ‘let go’.
Being unclear does not mean that you can’t see; it shows that you are not afraid to take risks.

Your fears can’t keep you stuck if you face them.
Your failures can’t break you if you learn from them.
Your disappointments can’t cripple you if you endure them.

In silence you will find your voice.
In nature you will find grace.
In kindness you will find forgiveness.

May you be generous in love.
May you be courageous in life.
May you be comfortable with enough.