I found this quote today, via The Letters of Gratitude‘s Twitter feed (I searched for the source and while I discovered Asha Tyson‘s inspirational story, I don’t know where the graphic originated – if you do, please share!).
Since I put myself on this path of mindfulness intention at the beginning of the year I have not so much been searching for answers as gradually and almost without conscious thought opening myself to new ideas and ways of Being. In recent weeks things have been coming together in ways that I just can’t believe are coincidence. For example, I won very expensive tickets to a conference about which I previously knew nothing, which turned out to be organised by a Tibetan Buddhist centre, right when I have been developing a gradual interest in Buddhism, and that just because I randomly came across Buddhism for Mothers on Amazon earlier this year. I was moved and inspired by so many of the speakers and the time away in itself gave me a fantastic opportunity for reflection and resulted in a new appreciation for the life I currently lead.
Upon my return from the conference I experienced a full 2 days of freakishly frequent and sometimes constant déjà vu. It was extremely disconcerting and I am very glad it stopped! But at the same time I had this constant sense not only that I had been here before but that it was absolutely the right place to be. It was a feeling of familiarity that actually gave me a sense of calm alongside the slight anxiety that I was losing my mind. Which was not much helped by a quick google that suggested that I either had a brain tumour, onset of epilespy, or previously untapped psychic ability! A friend suggested that I should not be at all concerned as it clearly meant that I am on the right path, and I am after much thought now inclined to agree with her. It makes sense to me, further encouraged as I am by my current reading – Shirley Maclaine’s Out on a Limb . She certainly does put herself out on a limb to those such as myself who don’t know much about such alternative ways of thinking and being! But, it is certainly preferable to worrying that I have brain tumour, and so I am keeping an open mind and just going with it!
While this current phase of my life is so blessed (by who, or what, I have yet to decide!), a great many shall we say “dark” years went before. I’ve been sober for almost a decade now and I am still often haunted by the time I feel I’ve wasted along the way, not just with regard to my alcoholism per se but to do with relationships, family, finances, and opportunities lost both related to my drinking and otherwise. That’s why I love this quote and I think it really does ring true for me, especially at this time in my life. The point is (yes, I do have a point somewhere in this post) that I have a deep sense that now is where I am absolutely meant to be. I feel myself increasingly drawn to Buddhism. Brought up in a strict Christian household, I have neglected my spiritual side for a great many years. Not any more. It does indeed feel like now is right on time.
A self-confessed city girl at heart, or so I thought, I was initially very excited to be back in a thriving metropolis. In more than two years I hadn’t been anywhere bigger than Surfers Paradise, but in the past I’ve accepted the 3 hour daily commute through the hustle and grime, and there was a time when I truly believed that I could never live more than 5 minutes walk from a 24 hour corner shop and a Starbucks.
I got my beloved Starbucks every single day I was in Sydney but man, I don’t think I could ever go back to that kind of life. Crazy busy, fast, impersonal, dirty, noisy and malodourous – everything that the little coastal town we now call home is not. I’ve got used to the chats at the checkout and the doctors surgery, the smiles in the street and bumping into people I know all the time. That said, I have to confess that within the first 15 minutes of my first morning out in Sydney I saw adverts for events that I would so love to be able to attend at the drop of a hat, for example, the Picasso exhibition and the She Runs The Night challenge. There are down sides to living in Regional Australia. We don’t have the fabulous shops, art galleries, restaurants and live music opportunities that I always used to take for granted. However, we do have so much else that matters so much more to me now – wide open green spaces, a vast and ever-changing sky, mountains that I can see from most streets I drive down, any number of near deserted beaches just a short drive away, the sound of the insect chorus every night as I drift off to sleep…
People don’t walk fast here. It’s not perfect, nowhere is, but it’s grown on me and I’ve come to love it. I’m aware I’ve often thought about my “other” life through rather rose-tinted glasses since I became a country mama. But my solo trip to the city has left me with no doubt whatsoever that where I live and breathe fresh country air now, is where I’m truly meant to be. I’ve found the beginnings of a new peace. And that is a great feeling.
A big highlight for me was hearing Mark Williamson, director of Action for Happiness, speak about the organisation. I only heard about AFH the week before last and they recently shared the post I wrote about happiness on their Facebook page, which was pretty exciting for me! Mark is clearly very passionate about this fantastic, optimistic organisation and also shared a great quote by businessman and business writer Tim Jackson: “… people are being persuaded to spend money we don’t have, on things we don’t need, to create impressions that won’t last, on people we don’t care about”. Totally!
Another favourite was Ellen Langer, who I had never heard of but who by all accounts is very famous psychologist and about to be played by Jennifer Aniston in a movie about her life! Her book Mindfulness is now on my list, along with many others from the conference, to be shared in a forthcoming post.
The feng shui segment was interesting and the speaker amusing but it’s not really my bag. I do know how to pronounce it now though – foong shway! Lissanne Oliver talked about decluttering as a route to a happier and more centred existence and while in all honesty I found her just a tiny bit irritating, it is also true that I really don’t need to keep the boxes that the EasiYo and the kitchen clock came in and I could certainly recycle the 1,286 knotted up plastic carriers that are taking up shelf space in the pantry and which will never be used.
Gretel Kileen, media presenter, author, feature film writer / director was an awesome chairperson throughout the day; journalist and author Sam de Britto seemed either uncomfortable or unprepared or both, but either way he was rather endearing (and attractive); Peter FitzSimons, columnist, TV presenter and author was brilliant. I didn’t get any of his rugby references but every other person in the room did and clearly loved it all, and while I was at times reminded of being in Spanish bars listening to jokes in Spanish and never getting the punchline, the atmosphere he created was absolutely infectious. Jessica Rowe spoke last and seemed lovely. I did get a shock when I turned the TV on the next morning and there she was reading the news! Had no idea. What rock have I been under? The one that doesn’t screen morning TV I guess!
And so with a pounding of drums blended with (I’m told) classical Asian flute, it was over! I feel so lucky to have been able to attend and will certainly try and win tickets for next year’s conference. There is no way on god’s earth I could afford to go otherwise, but I won’t knock the whole thing on that account – it may perhaps be viewed as a self-indulgent forum for well-to-do middle class navel-gazers by some, but who am I to judge what people spend their money on and why. I got so much out of it and I hope those who paid full whack felt they got a good bang for their hard-earned buck too!
The best part of the whole day was without a doubt the opening speaker, Sogyal Rinpoche, author of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. Absolutely brilliant! Such a fantastic sense of humour, fabulous delivery, completely engaging. I’m more inspired than ever to continue my Buddhist journey. When your mind is like a crazy elephant trampling everywhere, what hope have you got of peace and contentment? Totally! Anger and other negative emotions such as my biggie, resentment, taint all our perceptions, leaving very little room for reality, because it is our thoughts that make our world. Tame the elephant, and all will be well! Apparently it is scientifically proven that 30 minutes of meditation practice per day can change your mind for good, along with many general health benefits. “If you don’t stir water, it will become clear” – sounds much prettier in Tibetan but essentially that’s what meditation is all about. Pascal said, “All of man’s problems arise from his inability to sit quietly in a room by himself”. Food for thought, much!! I just need to figure out how to prolong the gap between one thought ending and another beginning, apparently. Well, I can but try, and we shall see!
Second favourite of the day after Sogyal Rinpoche was comedian and author Ahn Do, who was awesome!! Absolutely inspiring, incredibly moving and hysterically funny, all at once. Loved him!
Peter Singer, one of the world’s leading philosophers and author of The Life You Can Save was less inspiring. In a nutshell his message today seemed (in my humble opinion) to be that you can buy happiness by donating to charity, and that there is a mathematical equation based on income for the amount you need to give in order to live an ethical life. Although he wouldn’t admit to being happy himself. Apparently that is too “static” a position. And may be interpreted as being “smug”. Hmmm. Not impressed and a small poll of my fellow delegates backs me on this one.
Ita Buttrose was interviewed, which was great, but the following segments were rather serious, which was a bit unexpected at a conference about happiness. Much talk of death and dying, couched in positive terms but not exactly joyous subject matter although worthwhile discussions. I skipped the late afternoon session, which by all accounts was much more upbeat, as it was about happiness in the workplace, and I don’t have one. I opted instead to walk back to the harbour and catch my ferry back to the point, and then went for a long and pleasant walk both before and after dinner.
Would I pay $500 for today? Absolutely not. Did I enjoy it? Very much indeed!! Lots to think about, far more than I’ve written here, and I’m so glad I’ve been given the opportunity to attend. Looking forward to seeing what Day 2 brings!
The weather here in Sydney is atrocious but it is of little concern! I’m staying in a nice little hotel on Cremorne Point and after an easy journey via train and ferry from the airport I took myself out for an excellent massaman curry (best I’ve had outside of Thailand) and then went to a beautician on the spur of the moment and had my eyebrows waxed and shaped. Unheard of in recent years! I feel fab! Despite getting absolutely drenched on my walk up to the shops and back, it was lovely to see all the old (by Aussie standards) brick and tile houses, which brought to mind the old British colonial homes I saw in northern Burma.
Was just about to post this when a family with young children arrived in the room next door. Oh. My. God. Nightmare!! Fortunately I was able to change rooms which was a pain in the ass at that point in the evening but there’s no way I’m spending my child free time listening to someone else’s kids squawking!! Then spent first five minutes in the new room listening to the woman next door screaming blue bloody murder down the phone. Thankfully, all is now quiet and long may it continue!
Tomorrow’s conference topics are:
- HAPPINESS – IN YOUR HANDS
- HAPPINESS & A MEANINGFUL LIFE
- THE UPSIDE OF DOWN
- HAPPINESS, MEANING & WORK
Really looking forward! I shall be up very early as registration is at 8am and I have to catch the ferry back across the water and then make my way up to the Town Hall via Starbucks, which has not yet made it into Regional NSW, so I need to go every day while I am here. Obviously 🙂
My bags are (almost) packed and I’m (almost) ready to go! Slight panic caused by weather report last night sharing the wonderful news that Sydney is about to experience its worst weather in 30 years, with heavy rain, thunderstorms and flash flooding in metropolitan areas, starting today and lasting for the whole 3 days I am there. Whatever happens, I will be all alone, which is the whole fabulous point (well, that and attending the conference!) so the rotten weather in itself isn’t the end of the world. However, having lived in a subtropical small town uniform of shorts, t-shirts and
thongs flipflops (nope, I tried but I am still too British) for so long I was thrown into a quandary about what to pack for these adverse conditions. Thus I have spent an hour this morning trying to squeeze into clothes more suitable for a chilly (20C!) climate and wet city streets i.e. things I haven’t worn in eons and which appear to have (ahem) shrunk in the wash.
So, I have now cobbled together a couple of outfits which I hope are worthy of a two day conference that costs $1,100 (and that’s just the basic tickets, not the upgraded ones and not including the workshops). Yup, you read that correctly. I am not paying for the tickets, I won them, or I most certainly would not be able to go. So, lucky me! I have been wondering what kind of person has that amount of money to spend on learning to be happy though, and I guess I am about to find out. Indeed, the cost of the conference has attracted some criticism in the media. Just found an ABC article in which some very valid points are raised, and I’m looking forward to reading through all the comments.
But now, I have to finish packing, cuddle cuddle cuddle my girly, and then Mama is off to the airport. I’ll see you in Sydney!