The Power of Radiant Authenticity

Kangaroo Paw mandala on Dark, original artwork by Halyna Dee Creative

When I was in high school, I remember my school principal taking about authenticity (way before Instagram was a thing). He would use the analogy of a cabbage, saying that it only ever strives to be a cabbage and nothing else. In the same way, he would encourage his students to be true to themselves, and to embrace authenticity.

I have a valued friend that I have known for a number of years, through my work. Let’s call her Stella (not her real name, off course!)

Stella has been around the sun for over half a century. Her face is lined with many wrinkles, she is a bit on the tubby side, loud, and pretty much as rough as they come. Stella’s life has been no bed of roses. She is a survivor of breast cancer and has lost one breast as a result. Her brother was a victim of suicide. Stella swears like a trooper, is adorned with tattoos, and doesn’t sugarcoat anything. She says it how it is. I think you get the picture. With Stella, what you see is what you get.

Despite her rough exterior, Stella has a heart of gold. If need be, she will give you the shirt off her back. If you are her friend, you are a friend for life, and she will always be there for you. Stella is a nurse, and a very good one at that. Looking after people is what she does best. I have seen how Stella goes out of her way to make her patients feel worthy, valued and comfortable, even if it means sacrificing her own needs, even if her feet are sore, or she has gone for hours without food.

To the casual observer, Stella looks like a very rough middle-aged woman. She is not likely to win a beauty contest anytime soon. But looks can be deceptive.

Despite her outer appearance, Stella’s inner beauty shines incredibly bright. When she walks into a room, she totally lights it up. You cannot help but love Stella, even if she does swear, because that’s just how she is. She is not out to impress anyone, and she certainly doesn’t set out to light up a room, she just does. She just is…..well, she just is Stella!

What I really admire about Stella is her absolute authenticity, and this authenticity is what draws people to her. She is living life on her own terms. At a time when so many people are hiding behind filters and social media posts, it is truly refreshing and inspirational to meet someone like Stella.

We are all here to play our unique part in the drama of life, not to be like anyone else. There is power in being authentically you. May you seek it, find it and embrace it.

Maybe you know someone like Stella. Maybe you are like Stella, without realising it!

When Are You Leaving Your Day Job?

Nature’s perfection of imperfection found in a protea flower blooming

This is a question often thrown around in creative circles, and those looking for the golden egg of escaping the rat race.

When I reignited my passion for creativity recently, all I wanted to do was immerse myself in it totally – sketching, doodling, creating patterns, mandalas, setting up my online shops and learning about digital design.

At the same time, I started to see my day job in patient transport as a burden and something that was taking me away from creativity. I have always loved working in patient transport – listening to peoples’ stories, nurturing and caring for others, driving around and the occasional lunch break on the beach. But ever since creativity re-entered my life, my perception of this job totally changed. The key here is ‘my perception’. I could no longer see the adventure, fun and satisfaction in this job. The job was still the same, but I was different, and so the way I now perceived my job had changed as a result of internal changes.

But in life, everything changes and nothing stays the same for too long. Recently, I have started to see my day job in a different way again. I have started to become aware of the blessings and hidden gems within this job, that relate directly to my creativity. I have started to take note of the artwork hanging on hospitals walls and in nursing homes. I have started noticing gardens, rocks, flowers, weeds in crevices in the most mundane of places. I have started paying attention to the shifting landscape of clouds and colours of dawn and dusk. These are all precious sources of inspiration for my creativity. There is something enriching about seeing beauty in the so-called mundane.

Exploring the work of through their book ‘Patternity – A New Way of Seeing – The Inspirational Power of Pattern’ (sadly now out of print 🙂 has been instrumental in opening my eyes to the beauty and meaning of everyday surroundings.

The above photo is one that I took recently during downtime on a gloomy, humid day outside a nursing home. The colours and shapes are simply divine and a beautiful source of inspiration for my design work.

“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change” is a quote that I have come across many times. It has been quoted by Dr Wayne Dyer, but originates from Professor Max Planck who was the Nobel prize recipient for physics in 1918 – two very smart people!

I now see my day job as an extension of creativity, a source of grounding and balance with my creative work. As any artist knows, time away from the drawing board is crucial, to avoid burnout and to get out of your mind for a bit. Working in patient transport is quite physical, which my body appreciates as a break from sitting at a desk.

I used to envy creative colleagues of mine, who get to work on their creative pursuits in a full time capacity. I don’t have that luxury at this point in time, and what I have come to realise first hand, is Parkinson’s Law – ‘The less time I have, the more I get done’. It may be counter intuitive but it’s true. My creative work often gets done in small pockets of time and I find that if I have an entire day for creativity, it isn’t necessarily more productive than small pockets of time, found during and around my day job.

When am I leaving my day job? No time soon.

Life is about balance. Life is how I perceive it.

Have a look at my art and designs here.

May You Flourish Wherever You Are Planted

This playful design was created by yours truly and is available as a print, on t-shirts and other products.
Check it out here.

I attended an amazing exhibition recently, which explored the theme of displacement – of people finding themselves living outside their homeland, usually through no choice of their own, and often with violence and trauma involved.

This exhibition reflected my own situation – an offspring of parents who came to Australia from Ukraine, to escape the atrocities of war and suppression. My parents’ generation gathered almost ghetto like in certain parts of the city, and did their best to carry on the traditions and culture of their homeland. The offspring (like myself) had one foot in the Ukrainian culture and one foot in the Australian culture, often feeling like not really belonging to either.

In my fifty five years around the sun, I have lived in many different regions and immersed myself deeply in the study of Eastern philosophy and healing arts. I can easily say that my identity is multifaceted, and although I have a heritage which I acknowledge, I am not entirely defined by this.

My parents’ attitude towards finding themselves displaced, was on the opposite ends of the spectrum. My mother was forever pining for ‘the old country’ and her family ‘back home’, which would have been heart breaking for her. My father on the other hand, embraced the new country and was forever grateful for the opportunities and freedom. His only complaint was that the colours of the Australian bush are somewhat drab, compared the lush greenery of Europe that he was used to. Otherwise as an artist, he found lots of inspiration in his new country, and was forever grateful to his new country for the safe haven and lifestyle that it offered. One of his legacies to Australia, was a sculpture which he designed together with his brother, to commemorate the plight of immigrants in Australia in the mid twentieth century. This sculpture stands proud in Fairfield, New South Wales, which continues to be a hub for migrants and refugees from all over the world.

As for me, I have embraced Australia as my home, with an awareness of my Ukrainian heritage, which has been strengthened since the war in Ukraine broke out in early 2022. I also feel very much at home with the Indian and Chinese cultures, having studied Yoga and Oriental Therapies, and as a water baby, felt at home in the South Pacific when I spent time there. I am aware that I had a past life there.

As long as I can connect with the land of where I find myself, I can feel at home.

The land is waiting to embrace you. The land holds the key to your sense of belonging.

Remember your heritage for this enriches your story. Try to be grateful for wherever you are right now. Give yourself permission to adapt to wherever you find yourself, especially if the choice is not entirely yours. Be gentle with yourself, allow yourself to grieve, to find connections, to find your tribe. Allow yourself to find your feet again. Walk barefoot on the earth or the sand.

If you would like a reminder to Flourish Wherever You Are, the above design created by yours truly, can be purchased as an artboard, on t-shirts and other products.

Death does not have to be Futile

Image by Lastronaut from Pixabay

Death is such a multifaceted and loaded topic, and something that is not discussed openly in western society compared to places like India where funeral pyres are a daily sight. Yet death is a normal part of life and something that we will all have to deal with at some point.

I recently lost a person who was very dear to me. In fact he was my rock for as long as I can remember. His death left a big hole in my heart and the feeling that I would never be able to feel joy again. While I was coming to terms with his death on the inside, life was carrying on as normal on the outside. It was hard for me to fathom that the world could carry on without this dear person in it.

I am grateful that I was able to spend time with someone who is on death’s doorstep. There was a sense of deep peace and acceptance amidst the sadness, which I took with me as I left the room, having said final goodbyes to ‘my rock’.

Now that some time has passed since the death of this dear person, I am starting to realise that his passing has somehow changed my outlook on life. His achievements in life could fill a book, and yet in his final days and today, none of that really matters. What really matters is the love and kindness that he was able to share with the world during his time on the earthly plane, and the memories created that live on in the hearts and minds of those of us left behind.

Our achievements, our possessions, our status, the dramas we create, none of it really matters in the end. These come and go, like clouds drifting across the sky, in their impermanence. These are merely toys that we entertain ourselves while we are here. While we have a body, we can enjoy earthly pleasures, but not be defined by these. I guess this is what Jesus meant when he said ‘Be in the world, but not of the world’.

Enjoy your time on earth, for this time is short. The things we stress about, do not really matter when we rise above and look at the big picture, like an eagle soaring over the land and seeing the picture at large.

Life is a series of moments to be savoured as they come and go. True wealth is measured in moments and qualities that money cannot buy – quality time spent with loved ones, watching a sunrise or sunset and giving it our full attention, losing ourself in the simple act of patting a dog and not thinking about anything else in that moment.

I believe that the purpose of life is simply to create, to appreciate and enjoy this precious gift that we have been given. It is precious because it can be taken away at any time, and it will be taken away. It’s merely a matter of time.

Without a doubt, the passing of this dear person from my life has been incredibly sad for those of us left behind and I feel like I have cried a bucket of tears. However, once the clouds of grief started to clear, what has been left behind is a new found appreciation for life and the intention of not taking life too seriously. Nothing on this earth is permanent, everything and everyone must come to an end. However, while we are here, let’s enjoy life, warts and all! Eat that ice cream, book that holiday, take the time to do more of what you enjoy doing, dance like no one is watching you! Live without regret, live without guilt. Sip your tea slowly, smell the roses.

Accept that there will still be stress and challenges, but know that these are life situations, clouds that drift in and out of the sphere of your sky. Don’t confuse the clouds (which are temporary) with the sky, which is the essence of your life.

In the words of Pitbull ‘Every day above ground is a good day’.

The death of this dear person has softened my outlook on life and reminded me just how precious life really is. Every life is precious, including the life of the glorious blue planet that supports us.

I realise that this death has not been futile, but has gifted me with priceless memories and teachings to enrich my life, keeping these in my heart forever.

Winter, Oriental Therapies and Food Choices

I have a love / hate relationship with winter.

I love sitting in front of an open fireplace, and I love feeling the warmth of the sun on my back. I am also one of those people who feels the cold, and I often have to resort to wearing a ridiculous amount of layers, gloves and beanies.

According to Oriental Therapies, winter is a time of rest and repose, a time of slowing down and allowing life to be. The season of winter relates to the kidney energy, the element of water and the colour blue-black. Imagine a dark body of water, deep and mysterious. Kidney energy resides deep in the body, in our bones and bone marrow. There is a sense of introversion with the kidney energy and with the season of winter. Where I live, we are in the middle of winter and it feels like a harsh winter with cold days and even colder nights, as well as lots of rain. Last year I was happily kayaking throughout winter. This year, I’ve only gone out once on the water this winter.

Foodwise, the salty flavour relates to winter. When I get a cold or flu, I find myself craving salty flavours. Miso soup with a sprinkle of seaweed and fresh ginger is usually how I satisfy this craving. Miso soup made from a heaped teaspoon of miso paste, is my version of ‘instant soup’ to which I add whatever is on hand – mushroom, egg noodles, dark leafy greens, frozen peas, rice, in fact any sort of leftovers!

Other salty foods include: chives, parsley, celery, barley, soy sauce, tamari and anchovy. 

Be careful however when adding salt in cooking and to food, as many of our foods already contain added salt. If you are going to add salt, use the Himalayan variety which is full of essential minerals, compared to ordinary table salt.  

Bone broth is particularly beneficial in winter, as it is made from bones and marrow, which are deep inside the body and relate to the kidney / winter energy in Oriental Therapies. There are many cuisines around the world which incorporate bone broth in one form or another, but my favourite would have to be Vietnamese Pho which is usually made from a slow cooked bone broth with the most amazing flavours added to it. If you don’t feel like slow cooking bone broth, there are plenty available on the market, to which you can simply add protein and veggies of your choice. Look for one that has been slow cooked for at least a couple of hours.

The salty flavour tends to draw energy inwards and downwards, thus helping to maintain body warmth. It also has a moistening and detoxifying action which counteracts the drying affects of winter. 

Apart from salty flavoured foods, make sure you include lots of warming flavours such as ginger, garlic, cinnamon, cloves. The perfect excuse to drink more Chai! Also include warming foods such as onion, leek, pumpkin, coconut, cashews, black beans and oats.

Minimise cold foods such as tomatoes, bananas, pineapple, yoghurt. (The mere thought of these foods reminds me of summer!) Otherwise, balance cold foods with warming flavours, for example add basil and garlic to a tomato based sauce, or add curry paste to yoghurt for a yummy sauce base. 

If you slow down enough to be able to hear the soft whisper of the wisdom of your body and being, it will guide you to the foods that you need at any particular time. Also, look around you at any time of year to notice what mother nature is doing and allow yourself to be guided by her example and by her wisdom. This winter, allow yourself to listen without judgement and to honour the wisdom of your body and being.

A time for enforced Self Care!

Image by Anrita1705 from Pixabay

I recently tested positive for Covid. While watching others around me test positive with various degrees of severity, I felt like it was almost inevitable that I would contract the virus at some stage. Somehow I managed to evade it for a couple of years, even though I have worked through the pandemic, closely with Covid positive people.

The timing of me testing positive pointed towards universal and divine timing at play. I had just come back from holiday and it was a day after my birthday (which I spent happily alone recovering from a whirlwind holiday). I hadn’t been at work for a week which meant that none of my work colleagues would be affected.

Forced into isolation for at least 7 days, I had the pleasure of enjoying stunning autumn days in my humble abode, away from the responsibilities of the outside world. I’m grateful that I made the decision to get vaccinated as my symptoms after the first two days were actually quite mild.

As a long time student of Oriental Therapies and Yoga, I felt like I had an abundance of tools to deal with the virus. My children dropped of some rye sourdough, freshly picked lemons and oranges and I was set. This was going to be a lovely opportunity to focus on self care, and simply go with the flow.

Oriental Therapies refers to any sort of negative impact on the body, as a pernicious influence, whether it be bacterial or viral. This can be an external pernicious influence (EPI) which is a superficial attack (such as an upper respiratory tract infection) or if left unchecked can develop into an internal pernicious influence (IPI) which is on a deeper level and harder to treat, (such as a lower respiratory tract infection or pneumonia). I wanted to keep this virus at a superficial level so it wouldn’t enter too deeply into my body.

The body’s natural defense against any sort of attack is the inflammatory response, such as phlegm created in response to foreign bodies in the upper respiratory tract. However an exaggerated inflammatory response can be harmful, as seen in autoimmune disorders. In Oriental Therapies, inflammation is synonymous with the condition of Damp, which makes sense when you think of phlegm – a sticky, damp substance. Damp also creates a sense of heaviness and lethargy, as well as the brain fog so often associated with Covid, or most illnesses for that matter.

Certain foods exacerbate Damp, whereas other foods help to break it down. Foods such as red meat, alcohol, refined sugars, saturated fats, yeast, dairy, bananas, tomato concentrate and orange juice are examples of foods which create damp in the body. This makes sense when you consider the texture of these and how they make you feel after ingesting them.

Other foods help to break down damp. These include just about anything with a bitter flavour (so under-represented in the western diet!), pears, basil, green tea, garlic, seaweed, ginger, lemon, barley, buckwheat, rye.

With this in mind, my drink of choice is green tea with lemon, honey and ginger, (as well as lots of water!) I make a big pot and simply sip it over a few hours.

My lunch of choice is a simple soup with cooked chicken, soba noodles (made from buckwheat), greens, carrot, miso, garlic, ginger and seaweed, all thrown in together. It smells amazing and I’m grateful that I haven’t lost my sense of smell! A toast of rye sourdough with butter is the perfect accompaniment.

My dinner of choice is a simple curry made with whatever veggies I have on hand. At the moment these include onion, choko (thank you neighbours for sharing these from your garden!), potato, mushrooms and greens, and served with rice. Curry is a pungent flavour which is renown in Oriental Therapies for expelling EPI’s.

I’ve also been craving pears and shortbread biscuits. The chocolate easter eggs that I was craving last week, I cannot stand the sight of, this week!

This is hardly the time to be indulging in raw foods as these are harder for the body to digest according to Oriental therapies, which claims that these subdue the digestive fire. On the other hand, cooked foods are already ‘partially digested’. The same is true of drinking cold drinks which ‘put out the digestive fire’.

The beauty of Oriental Therapy is that it is very much about the individual rather than a ‘one size fits all’ approach. So if the sound of these foods sounds totally unappealing to you, then by all means find some that do. Tune into your body and listen to what it has to say to you. By all means experiment. If you are craving a particular food, notice how it makes you feel after ingesting it. Your body will tell you.

If you have been forced into isolation through Covid, or any other illness, take this time to practice self care. If you feel like binge watching your favourite series, give yourself permission. If you feel like sleeping in the day, give yourself permission. If you feel like sorting through your wardrobe, give yourself permission. If you feel like sitting and looking for images in the clouds, give yourself permission. This is not a time of ‘shoulds’ but a time of being in the moment and deciding how you want to spend that moment, for after all, life is a series of consecutive moments.

Yoga has taught me to listen to my body, ask what it needs in the moment, and honour that. If I feel too tired to sit upright for meditation, I can do so in a semi reclined position, or in Viparita Kirani (legs up the wall), or in supported Bridge pose, with a bolster under my sacrum.

I ask myself, where do I feel tension in my body, and what can I do to relieve it. If my body is fighting a virus and I am feeling tired, this is not a time for vigorous sun salutations, but a time for gentle stretching and restorative poses. I don’t overthink it, but rather step on the mat and be guided by my body.

So if you find yourself forced into isolation, allow this time to be one of self care and nurturing, whatever that means to you. You are here and now, so you may as well enjoy it! Allow yourself to let go of expectations. Allow yourself to play, to rest, to restore, to be.

The Beauty of Transition

I remember many years ago, one of my lecturers mentioning how the most beautiful places on earth are the ones where transition occurs. He gave an example of the shoreline where water meets land. This place of transition is like a magnet that draws us in with its beauty. Children and animals run towards it, artists paint it, and we walk along this edge to marvel at the wonder found here in the form of shells, small creatures and driftwood. Endless vistas of land and endless vistas of water hold a charm of their own, but none like that special place where the two meet.

The same is true of the transition of night to day and day to night. Ancient cultures have revered these times, even seeing them as auspicious. Through time immemorial, people have come to pause and marvel at the beauty of these special times of change. Dawn and dusk are my favourite times for practicing yoga. I’ve noticed that at these times, the noise of wildbirds rises in crescendo before dropping away to silence and stillness. These are the most beautiful times of the day and night cycle.

The same can be said of times of change in our lives. I’ve experienced many career changes in my life, and have come to realise that there is a time of transition when I am still working in my old career but mentally starting to move onto the next. Often times I’ll be doing a bit of both. This is a time of restlessness and frustration, but also a time of possibilities, new beginnings and excitement. There is uncertainty and fear, but over the years I have learnt that if I take that leap of faith, the safety net appears. This can also be a time of marvel and beauty, as I open myself to the endless possibilities of the universe.

Any time of transition contains these elements, whether it be a transition in or out of a relationship; transitioning out of school into the workforce; from working to retirement; setting out on a long journey, especially on your own; driving alone for the very first time after getting your license.

Yes these times can be scary, but there is an element of excitement that is worth embracing, in order for us to grow, evolve and live life to the fullest.

To draw on yogic philosophy, this is the principle of beginning, middle and end, so beautifully reflected in the mantra of A-U-M, which represents the concept of the universe. Life is dynamic and organic, not static. This is a universal principle which encourages us to embrace the flow and transitions of life.

In the words of Piero Ferrucci:

Eliminate something superfluous from your life,

Break a habit,

Do something that makes you feel insecure.

Embrace the beauty of these times of transition. Every sunrise is pregnant with possibilities. Open up to these possibilities. Trust that the power which ensures the orbital movement of planets with ordered precision, is the same power that will provide you with ordered precision as you make your way through times of change. Trust and have faith. What else is life for, if not for creating and experiencing to the fullest of your ability.

Life is short. Live without regrets. Embrace the adventure and beauty of transition.

The Learning within the Learning

Image by chenspec from Pixabay

I have recently gone back to study, something which I haven’t done for a number of years. I am undertaking a Design course, a large portion of which is learning Adobe Illustrator. I consider myself computer literate but learning Illustrator has been incredibly challenging. We were warned from the outset that Illustrator would be challenging to learn, akin to learning a new language.

Many hours have passed with me feeling frustrated, overwhelmed and tears were shed when things weren’t working out as they were supposed to.

I came to the realisation that even though I am learning something quite specific, there are other lessons that I am learning also. These are subtle lessons which reveal themselves between the lines, once I step back a bit, start to observe my mind and my reaction to it all. These are the learnings within the learning.

These are some of my revelations during the course of my studies:

We all come into this world knowing absolutely nothing (other than innate wisdom, but that’s another blog!). So everything that I ever see anyone doing has had to be learned by them at some point. If they can do it, so can I. Why not me?

Technology doesn’t always behave as it should. Yes, sometimes it is the operator but sometimes technology just has it’s own agenda. It is what it is. Mercury may be in retrograde which impacts on global communications and technology.

Google, YouTube and the Help function are great friends at times when things aren’t going to plan.

The undo button or CTRL Z is my best friend because it allows me to learn through trial and error.

I may not be able to control technology crashing or not working properly but I can control my mindset and reaction around this.

While the mind is infinite, the brain is not, so it gets tired. If I am struggling to grasp a concept or find myself getting overly frustrated, I walk away, make a cuppa, stretch, go for a walk or sit outside. A good night’s sleep is even better. I am amazed at how such a break can bring on an ‘Aha’ moment of ‘so that’s how it’s done!!’ If all else fails, walk away and allow the brain to recharge.

There is an optimum time for study which will be different for everyone. My optimum time is between breakfast and lunch, which is why I try to schedule the more challenging tasks for this time and somewhat easier tasks for the afternoon.

I avoid spending time in front of the computer after dark because it leaves me wired in such a way that I struggle to get a good night’s sleep.

Sometimes no matter what I try, there is no flow in my work. It’s okay to give myself a day off every now and again, without feeling guilty about it. This too shall pass, and my mojo will return. Life is cyclical.

Sighing and long exhales help to release pent up tension and allow for energy to flow through my body in a healthy way.

Albert Einstein was right when he said that insanity is defined by doing the same thing and expecting different results. If something isn’t working, try a different way. Often slight variations will make all the difference. Is there another tool that I can use to achieve a similar result? Is this absolutely critical to my learning or can I move forward without it?

The concepts that are hardest to learn are often the ones that I will remember forever, for the simple reason that I have put a lot of effort into coming to terms with them.

Sometimes near enough is good enough.

I remember my why. What is the reason behind me wanting to study this?

I make sure that I have a good support network (in my case, my sister who happens to be studying at the same time and an awesome online community of students and alumni). It helps to know that someone understands what I am going through.

Lastly, I remember that I exist as a separate entity from my studies. I am not my studies and I have a life outside of my studies. Creating that mental sense of separation can be quite cathartic.

Despite all, I get an incredible sense of achievement when I find myself whizzing through tasks that I had struggled with previously. Every challenge that I overcome makes me just that little bit surer of myself and builds up my confidence, task by task.

I am living life. I am growing. I am learning.

Ukraine – the madness and the beauty

(image of Carpathian mountains in Western Ukraine by Oleg Mityukhin from Pixabay)

As I sit down to write these words, my heart is filled with disbelief at the unfolding situation in Ukraine. A couple of days ago, Ukraine was subject to an unprovoked attack by the president of Russia and his army. This is the birth country of my parents, who had to flee after the second World War as the country was under attack, just like it is now – a pattern that has been repeating itself for hundreds of years.

I spent my childhood immersed in all things Ukrainian. My parents, (as is typical of Ukrainians) were patriotic and so we spent our weekends attending Ukrainian school, Church, dancing, singing, you name it, my sister and I were there. As I moved away from the family home, I discovered a world beyond the Ukrainian community, expanded my horizons, and my Ukrainian heritage was put on the backburner.

Like many of us in the Western world, I have taken for granted the ability to go about my daily life in peace. I can go to work, I can buy anything I like, I can travel freely (Covid restrictions aside!). In these past few days I have been reminded that in this very moment, there are millions of people just like me, with dreams and aspirations, whose ability to even enjoy a warm meal has been taken away. As I sit in the cool stillness of a new day in my apartment, families are being torn apart, children are crying, people are frightened. It isn’t fair and I cannot believe that in the 21st century, (some) humans are still oblivious to the atrocities of war.

As the current issue is close to my heart, it is hard for me to not be affected in some way, as I feel the Ukrainian part of me stirring. All of a sudden I have a desire to visit this country of my parents’ birth and I worry about how much of the culture, sacred architecture and natural beauty of this country will survive unscathed.

In many ways I feel helpless about a situation on the other side of the world and I am visited by feelings of anger, passion, disbelief, sadness and my mind often wanders to that other part of the world. I cannot control external events but I can control how I react to them, and I can control my inner world.

As a believer in universal energy and the oneness of all, there are things that I can do. I’ve been lighting a candle every night for the people of Ukraine. I can bring this light into my heart and I can send it to the people of Ukraine – the leaders, the soldiers, the mothers, fathers, children, the sick and injured. There is enough hatred and anger floating around, just as the perpetrators would like it. The people of Ukraine need hope, light and love. Yesterday I visited my local shrine to pray for the people of Ukraine, to send love and hope. I sat in silence away from the news, and I listened for the quiet whisper of divine wisdom to come through.

In daily meditation, I see myself as observer of my thoughts and feelings, which creates distance between me and my thought / feelings, so their impact on me is lessened. Distance always seems to dilute impact. I give my thoughts and feelings space to be acknowledged , so they can pass through me, rather than getting stuck inside my body and mind. Journaling is another tool that I find useful to release thoughts and feelings, getting them out of me and onto paper, again creating that sense of distance.

I remember that I am not my thoughts or feelings, they are merely visiting. They come and go but I remain the same at my core.

Yes it is challenging at times, like when I watch video footage from relatives as they watch tanks roll past their home. Yes it’s insane and yes it’s unfair, but I like to believe that even in the midst of this atrocity, there is divine reason, even if I’m not aware of it. I hold on to the belief that goodness, humanness and love will prevail in the long run.

I limit my consumption of news to prevent overwhelm. I focus on what goodness I have in my life – my work, my studies, my art, my family, and immerse myself in these. I move with the feelings, in yoga and dance, rejoicing in the blessing of being able to move. I go for a walk in nature, looking for goodness, beauty and life in the world.

Lastly, I find comfort in the words of Ralph Marston, and I hope that you do too:

Stop for a moment and calm your thoughts.

Let go of your anxieties and look around you.

What do you see?

You see a world filled with beauty.

You see a life filled with possibilities.

Yes there are challenges, yes there is sorrow.

Yes there is violence and hatred.

But more than these there is love,

there is goodness, there is joy.

Think of what a precious thing your life is

and how truly blessed you are to be experiencing it right now.

Breathe in the beauty around you, the beauty and richness of being alive.

The Suspense of Life

Most of us love a good storm – that electric energy in the air, the feeling of not knowing how dramatic or uneventful the storm is going to be. If it’s a big enough storm, it has the power to upend our well intentioned plans, with sporting matches halted, half dried washing brought in, traffic chaos and the destructive force of mother nature. We surrender to the storm, doing our best to live with it for as long as it chooses to grace us with its presence.

Then it passes and things return to normal.

There is a sense of suspense that accompanies a good storm. There is a sense of not knowing where the next lightning strike might be, somewhere far away or too close for comfort. Is it going to be a deep distant rumble, or a shocking thunder clap that feels like it is right above our head? Is there going to be hail? We might contact family and friends to compare notes to find out who got the bigger hail!

If we feel safe enough, we might like to venture outdoors, feeling the powerful might of the storm wash over us and the exhilaration that comes with it. (Please, only if totally safe to do this). We feel it in every cell of our body and being. We feel totally present and in the moment.

I feel like the sense of suspense of a storm is a fitting analogy for the suspense of life. We like to think that we have total control over our life and possibly the lives of others. But how much control do we really have? John Lennon said it beautifully when he said ‘life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans’.

We make plans and we set goals. We like to feel like we are in control of things in our life. We feel happy when ‘things are as they are meant to be’. And yet. life may have other plans in store – an unexpected illness, an accident, unexpected good news.

Sometimes the suspense of life can challenge us.

As I write these words, I am facing a suspense challenge of my own. A few days out of venturing out on a much needed family holiday, Covid is rampant and people all around us are falling victim to the pandemic. If either one of my family were to become infected with Covid now, that would mean the cancellation of our much needed holiday. And so for the next week days we have no choice but to live with the suspense and anxiety of the uncertainty of our holiday. It is beyond our control. All we can do is continue to make the most of each day and each moment. The suspense will still be there. We can acknowledge, accept it and make peace without knowing the outcome.

For what is certain in life anyway?

Being an earth sign (Taurus), I crave structure, certainty and solidity in my life. I am a planner, I love mind-maps and lists. I have made many vision boards over the years and I have set goals. For a large part of my life, suspense and not knowing has made me nervous.

Yet the experience of over five decades around the sun, has shown that the uncertainty of life means that it has turned out in ways that I could never have imagined. In fact, I can honestly say that, my life continues to be imbued with magnificence beyond my wildest dreams. I’m certainly not saying that my life has been a fairytale, because not a single person on this planet is immune to the trials and tribulations of life. However, after five plus decades, I have finally learnt to trust in the process of life.

Life constantly surprises me. Life contains a sense of suspense. I have learnt that I can relax into the suspense and that sense of not knowing. Life finds a way to take care of things, if I let it do so. I can only control life to a certain extent, so I may as well get comfortable with the suspense of life.

I can wake up every morning with the thought of it being another ordinary day, or I can embrace the suspense of life, anticipating the wonder, magic and unexpected gifts in store. Even the not so welcome unexpected gifts can turn out to be blessings in disguise, in hindsight.

Quite often it’s the seemingly little things that can make a difference and add up to a life of magical moments – a smile from a passing stranger, a breathtaking sunset or a synchronicity. These are like the thunderclaps which take us by surprise as we never know when they are going to turn up. We cannot control how or when these magical moments turn up in our life, and this is how life keeps us in suspense.

By all means make plans, draw up lists and mind maps. Just remember to allow life to keep you in suspense and be open to the unexpected.

Invite in the wonder and expansiveness of life.