Why you should take yourself on a date

I see you over there. Glancing at me with that ‘I feel sorry for you’ look on your face. Stop it. Don’t feel sorry for me.

I see you staring. Wondering why I’m dining alone. I can almost see the pity on your face.

Even though I actually really love to dine alone, in the past from time to time, I’d still take a book because I cared that other people might think I was a Nigel no friends and didn’t have anyone to eat with.

These days – well, I don’t care. But people still stare at me.

The truth is, sometimes I prefer to eat alone. In fact, its part of my self care routine.  Every Friday (well almost every Friday) I take myself to lunch, by myself, at one of the many cafes near my office. I cherish this time to myself. Sometimes I’ll take a book and have a read, but mostly I just sit and people watch and enjoy my food and just….well….just be.

 

lunch alone self care
Lunch alone – a form of self care

Not always of course. I’m a people person. I love people. My people. New people.  I love me too, and I’ve learnt over the years to love my own company.

When I travel, I love nothing more than exploring a new city and finding somewhere to have my dinner – alone. Of course, not every night, but some nights. I find it re-energises me.

So stop staring at me like I have two heads. I can see you doing it even though you’re trying to pretend you’re not. Seriously, don’t feel sorry for me – I am in one of my happy places right here, right now, eating my food, sitting in the sun and enjoying my ‘me’ time.

 

When was the last time you took yourself on a date?

Annually I also take myself away on a silent meditation retreat for 6 days. There are other people there of course, and the thing that keeps me coming back is that no-one can speak to me – for 6 whole days! I can see as I write this that it might sound a little selfish, or crazy.

 

mediation self care
Self care and self inquiry through silence

Now I love a good chat, probably more than the next person, and I love connecting with people, and I also love this 6 days in silence, where I don’t speak to anyone and no-one speaks to me.

I’m starting to realise that I’m not an either/or person, but rather an ‘and’ person. I love eating with friends and also alone, I enjoy 6 days of silence and I enjoy connecting with people.

It’s all about balance.

 

When was the last time you took yourself away?

When was the last time you took some time to get to know yourself?

I highly recommend taking yourself on a date once in a while and even, if you’re up for it, taking yourself away from time to time.

And if you get the ‘I feel sorry for you eating/holidaying alone’ look, just smile back knowing that you’re doing what you want to do, spending quality time with yourself, getting to know yourself better and letting yourself just ‘be’ for a while.

“Let your life be your message” Mahatma Gandhi.

Drop the comparison and get back in your own lane

 

“The comparison of others leads to disappointment. The comparison of self leads to improvement” ― Avina Celeste

I walked 96km. He walked 25 metres.

It’s like comparing apples with oranges isn’t it?

I remember the day very clearly. It was the day I returned from Papua New Guinea after having successfully hiked the Kokoda Track for the first time – a gruelling 96km through the jungles of the Owen Stanley Ranges.  He picked me up from the airport. My friend Bill that is.

Bill is an amazing human being that I’d known for many years. Initially we met professionally, but very soon became friends. Good friends at that. He picked me up from my flight and I was heading to his place for the weekend to catch up and to celebrate my epic achievement.

As we drove out of the airport he looked at me and said “I walked 25 metres today”.

I was speechless.

“You, you what?” I managed to get out.

With a grin bigger than a Cheshire cat he looked at me again, “I walked for the first time in 3 years. It was the hardest 25m I have ever walked, but I did it”.

Rewind a few years and Bill found himself flying over the edge of a mountain – with his Harley Davidson still between his legs and heading for a tree and a very steep ravine.

His wife had been his pillion but she was already off the back of the bike, tumbling down the slope.

Clearly this wasn’t in the plan for that day’s riding.

It was horrible. Just horrible, and each day I’m grateful that they both survived. I won’t focus on the details here suffice to say, Bill and his wife spent many, many months in hospital and subsequent rehabilitation. Bill, the doctors were adamant, was a paraplegic and would never, and they meant never, walk again. It was not a possibility they would entertain.

Well Bill had other ideas. He always had other ideas. Bill wanted to walk again.

I sat in the car grinning back at him. “Did you film it?” I said, “because that is something I want to see!”.

Bill was excited to hear about my trek across the iconic Kokoda Track and while I was super pleased with myself for having achieved this feat, I was truly more inspired by his 25 metre walk.

It was all the more poignant because I knew that his ultimate dream was greater than that. His dream was to dance with his wife again at a special event we had coming up the next year.

While I went on to continue trekking and to walk the Kokoda Track again the next year, Bill continued to commit and work hard to get himself into a position where he could fulfil his dream. He worked harder than I could ever imagine.

And then the night came. It is etched on my memory forever and still, as I recall it, brings happy tears to my eyes.

He tentatively moved himself out of his wheelchair with the aid of a few friends, under the stars, with the band playing, and took his wife’s hand as they stood together and danced, for the first time in years.  In the loving arms of his wife, and surrounded by loving friends, Bill danced an entire song, as he’d promised himself and his wife, he would do.

It’s ok.  Take a moment.

Do you ever get caught up measuring your success against others? Watching the highlight reels of others lives on social media and thinking you’re lacking, not achieving enough, not as successful as them? You post to social media your latest achievement only to see in your news feed that your high school nemesis has just one-upped you and done it one handed?

Yeah, me too.

“Comparison is the death of joy” ― Mark Twain

What Bill taught me, and continues to teach me even though he doesn’t even know he does, is that our success is not measured by comparison to anyone else’s success or anyone else’s version of what success should look like.

 

comparison stay in your own lane
Stay in your own lane – determine what success looks like for you

I determine what success means to me. I determine what’s important to me and what my goals will be. There is no comparison necessary against norms or against any other person. I own my definitions of success and no-one can take these from me.

You own your definition of success too – only you know what that looks like for you.

Bill owns his definition of success as well.

 

“If you pay attention to your ranking and comparison to others, you are competing with others.  If you ignore them, you can aim for the stars” Khang Kijarro Nguyen

I walked 96km. Bill walked 25 metres and danced with his wife. We both achieved an amazing feat and we both did it through hard work, determination and commitment. We both had a goal. Our goals were different but they were our own goals – ones we worked hard to achieve. We each determined what success meant for ourselves.

Where are you comparing your successes and who or what are you comparing them to?

Drop us a line below if you’d like to share.

By the way, Bill is one of my heroes. So is his wife.

“Let your life be your message” Mahatma Gandhi.

What does a dream coming true look, feel and taste like?

When I was younger I was so in love with the idea of Spain.  I wanted to learn the language, travel to the country, immerse myself in the culture – even since my teenage years.  I wasn’t sure why, not then or as I got older, but I was strongly drawn to the country.  I must admit at the time I really didn’t know too much about Spain, only that I wanted to be a part of it.  In fact, when I was a very late teen, I was so desperately in love with Spain (or the idea of Spain) that I went ahead and got engaged to a Spaniard whose name was Antonio.  Such was my desire for Spain….

Needless to say, that didn’t work out (possibly becoming engaged to someone because you love the country they were born in could work out, but for me, well, no).  But what did work out, after many years, was my desire to travel to Spain.  After years of keeping that dream alive, I left on a jet plane to spend the best part of three months in the country I’d dreamt of since I can remember.

I travelled first to France to start walking the Camino de Santiago Frances Route from St Jean Pied de Port all the way across the country to Santiago de Compostella.  That’s a trek of about 800km.  After that I extended the hiking on to an extended route out to the ocean, the Camino Muxia and Camino Finisterre.

I spent my first 40 days and 40 nights in Spain as a pilgrim, with all of my possessions in my backpack.

 

hay field
Resting wherever I could…

Of the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims who arrive in Santiago each year on the various Caminos, only about 5% walk on to the coastline with most of these going from Santiago to Finisterre (a 90km extension).  Finisterre was known as the end of the world and for me, it was more important a destination, or completion point, than Santiago was.  However I also wanted to walk to Muxia, a town further north on the Atlantic coastline, and even less than 5%  walk here first, and then on toFinisterre, a 120km extension from Santiago.

Following the Camino my travels took me to Ourense, Salamanca, Madrid, a week long stint in Portugal, Seville and the Andalucían area, and to end the trip, some time in Barcelona.

So did my dream to travel in Spain, walk the Camino and experience the culture and language of this country come true?

Sure.  You can see it did by the previous paragraphs.

But what did it look like, what did it feel like and what did it taste like?  Was it all I dreamt it would be?

What did this dream coming true look like?

It looked like fear sometimes.  It looked like love sometimes.  It looked like Groundhog Day sometimes.

It looked like me with my backpack on, walking 30km a day in the searing heat. Swearing a lot, sometimes.  Other times, just walking and taking every step as it came.

It looked like beauty.  It looked like poverty and despair.

It looked simple, and significant at the same time.

It looked like my comfort zone, and then it didn’t, and then it did again.

Heaven and Hell.  Wonder.

It looked like I thought it might.

It didn’t look anything like I thought it might.

 

jumping
It looked like this sometimes

What did this dream coming true feel like?

It felt like love.

Sometimes it felt like fear.

It felt like loneliness and then it felt like connection and belonging.

It felt frustrating, and it felt freeing.  It felt right, and sometimes it felt wrong.

It felt painful.  A lot of the time.  Blisters, muscle soreness.

It felt joyous.

I felt grateful.  Emotional.  Emotional a lot of the time.

I felt shattered, and also full of energy.

I felt at home, when I wasn’t feeling homesick.

I felt strong, except when I was feeling weak.

Torn. I felt torn.

I felt done – physically, mentally and emotionally.  Then I’d have a beer and a chat to new friends, a meal and a sleep.  And I didn’t feel done anymore.

It felt so right.  Walking day in day out.  Only a few decisions to make each day – where will I sleep, what will I eat?

It felt easy.  It felt hard.

Sometimes I would feel like quitting.

Sometimes I would feel like I could walk forever.

I felt disgust – when watching a bull fight.

I felt overwhelmed. In awe.

I felt brave and full of fear. Sometimes at the same time.

I felt guided.

I felt that the universe was consipiring  to provide me with what I needed. Not necessarily what I wanted.

 

heart
It felt like discovery

What did this dream coming true taste like?

For me, it tasted like Tarte de Santiago.

 

tarte
The taste of dreams coming true

In keeping my dream alive to walk the camino, for many years I’ve been making Tarte de Santiago for my family and friends. A traditional cake based on almond meal originally fed to pilgrims walking. The first time on the Camino that I had a slice of Tarte de Santiago was …well a little surreal for me.  I was alone and in a small village as I took my first taste.  It was at that moment that I understood what a dream that comes true tastes like.

It also tasted like pilgrims meals day in and day out.  And then it tasted like tapas and octopus (not something I would try again) and tortilla and red wine.

It tasted like shared meals with friends. New friends from all over the world.

So what now?

So I am settling in to return to work and back to my life in Australia after fulfilling this lifelong dream which in the end, was exactly everything I expected and dreamt it could be, and at the same time, completely different to anything I expected and dreamt it would be.

It also provided me with more personal growth every day than I could have ever imagined.  I was graced with beautiful new friends, some who I know will be in my life for a long time to come and others who were in my life just for the moments they were meant to be.

 

horse
Ultreya – onwards with courage

My belief in the goodness of people was tested and at the same time, confirmed, over and over again.

My belief in myself was tested, and at the same time, reaffirmed time and time again.

Not everyone will understand my journey.  That’s ok because it isn’t their journey to understand.  It’s mine. And even if I don’t fully understand it, that’s ok too.

Buy the ticket, take the ride.  See what happens.

I know my journey gave me so much.  There is a saying on the camino that “the camino provides”.  I agree and I experienced this day after day.  I have a new saying for the camino to add to that one.  “The camino also takes away”, and that is just as important.

Don’t confuse your path, with your destination.  Enjoy your journey.  Thanks for the memories Spain!

“Let your life be your message” Mahatma Gandhi.

 

Meditation – Learning How before learning Why

A guest post from Peter McFadyen on how he learnt the ‘how’ to of meditation before the ‘why’.

Our young Granddaughters have been staying with us for a week and I am always amazed by how keen they are to be involved in whatever is going on. This leads to new experiences for them and, being the little knowledge sponges that they are, the development of new skills. I was watching our eldest granddaughter happily manipulating the controls on our microwave in order to heat something up. Her little fingers were following the instructions given to her ‘push the button two times – one …. two” and happily being a part of the morning’s events.

Of course, for her the event was probably limited to – if I hit the button twice the light comes on and the cup turns around. I truly doubt at two years old that there is any understanding of the inner workings of a microwave, or even possibly that the microwave imparts heat into the object inside. For her it is simply that if I push this button, the light comes on, things move around and people are happy. Fine – it still gets the job done and the result is the same regardless of the level of understanding and belief. Of course, as our granddaughter ages she will gain a fuller understanding of microwaves and so her ability to influence the outcome and achieve specific desires will increase.

When I got back into meditation a few years back I underwent a similar learning process. I had read a few books on mindfulness, beginning with my first and favourite book “Mindfulness for life” by McKenzie and Hassed. This book appeals to the logical side of my mind and allowed me to gain a good initial understanding of what was happening behind the scenes with mindfulness and how it could apply to my life. As a result of that and further reading, I had decided that the “reading” stage of my education had progressed far enough and that the “doing” stage of my education should commence. Coincidentally at that stage two wonderful instructors in town were a holding a series of mindfulness courses and I signed up and went along.

A part of mindfulness practice is meditation and so I began to meditate for 20 minutes every morning. I had been told that it would be about two months before I noticed any real difference in my daily life but that the work was necessary and would be beneficial. Like the good student I was trying to be, and out of a genuine desire to discover this difference in my life, I commenced my daily meditation.

 

Rocks coloured
We all meditate differently…what works best for you?

Now we all meditate differently but for me it works as follows:
– Be awake early enough to meditate without being rushed
– Sit up in a straight-backed chair with legs together and comfortable
– Be in a place where I can feel the sun or the wind
– Be in a place where there is random noise – the more the better
I then go through series of small filtering exercises and practice not getting attached to any particular sound or even naming them. I just notice them and let them go. There is more to it of course but for now I will just focus on the basics.

Each morning I would wake up early enough to do my meditation practice, to get through whatever my other morning tasks were and to get to work at the designated hour. Days turned into a week and weeks turned into a month. I continued my practice but didn’t notice any dramatic changes, nothing really seemed all that different. And then one day I noticed that I was coming home with more energy at the end of the day and things seemed a lot less stressful during the day. Things that cropped up that would have normally caused me stress now caused me less stress and some things didn’t raise a reaction at all. Things that did occur I could generally deal with and let go or put on hold and not worry about until I could get to them.

 

Man meditating smoke
Do what works for you

So in the end, like my granddaughter, I had learnt how before learning why. The gift for me was both increased acceptance of life and a sense of calm I felt throughout the day, though I didn’t really understand that when I first began to meditate. The ‘why’ I learnt later in my practice, though that didn’t stop me from receiving the gifts that came from my action and dedication. This is not my usual way of learning but in this instance it certainly paid benefits.

Is there something beneficial that you are putting of doing because you don’t fully understand the why behind the how? Perhaps now is the time to give it a go and see what gifts it gives you now and what understanding it gives you a little further down the track.

“Let your life be your message” Mahatma Gandhi.