Thursday, 28 February 2013

O is for Ocean

It's week fifteen of Alphabe-Thursday!

O is for Ocean...

The ocean always reminds me of how small and insignificant I am. Of course I know I'm not worthless or unimportant, but the ocean is a seemingly endless living creature that covers our entire planet. Compared to it I'm nothing more than a... umm, how to say it?... a drop in the ocean. ;-)  Being near the ocean puts everything into perspective for me. I'm reminded how magnificent Earth is and how remarkable life is. Who can stand near the rolling waves of the ocean and not be in awe of life? I know I can't! :-)

The ocean is so powerful and so vast. According to Wikipedia it covers over 70% of the Earth's surface and oceanographers say only a tiny 5% of it has actually been explored. That means almost the entire oceanic universe has never given up its secrets. I like to imagine it that way - the ocean is the same as the uncharted expanse of outer space, a galaxy all its own just waiting to be examined.

The spirit of the ocean is something we're all drawn to. It's no coincidence that most holidays are spent by the seaside. :-) Whenever I'm at the ocean I feel connected to her soulful energy and I long to bathe in her beautiful, revitalising waters. The breathtaking view of her reaching out as far as the horizon (especially at sunset!) ignites something deep within me. Mother nature has spoken and in that moment I feel alive and full of joy.

Connecting to nature is a way to give back to your soul. Nature transforms your energy body by clearing blocks and releasing negativity so you can fully embrace life, love, joy and feelings of abundance and hope. Nature can heal us and the ocean in particular, with her unending beauty, can remind us that all the world's potential is open to each and every one of us.

The ocean allows us to comprehend true abundance because just as our world is covered in ocean, so too is Earth flowing with the bountiful energies of love and joy. When you think about it, the ocean is essentially a giant pot of little water droplets. And just like those droplets we humans are tiny particles of the unlimited energetic soup that is our universe. We are individual beings made up of the same lifeforce energy as every other being, and when we come together as one we are as magnificent and as powerful as the ocean.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

N is for Now

It's week fourteen of Alphabe-Thursday!

N is for Now...

"Life is now. There was never a time when your life was not now, nor will there ever be."
   ~ Eckhart Tolle ~

One of the books I read when I first started out on my spiritual path was Eckhart Tolle's The Power of Now. I remember being blown away by what is actually a very simple idea - the present moment is all there is.

For the first time in my life I was able to stop and take a moment to really process that idea. Now is all we have. The past is gone and the future hasn't arrived yet. Before then I'd always spent my life going back over things from the past, or fantasising about the future I wanted to have. But once I read Tolle's book I started to focus more on the present moment. I found it to be a very powerful exercise. It made me feel intensely alive because I forgot all about the stuff that was weighing me down and I gave up trying to predict my future.

Of course our daily lives require a certain level of organisation and forward planning. We all have appointments, holidays, meetings etc that we need to book in advance. Ignoring our calendar entirely would make us very unreliable people! :-) But just like any other spiritual practice, focussing on the present moment doesn't mean we must give all our time and energy to it. In fact, living in the present moment is effortless. All it takes is a choice.

I remember in The Power of Now, Tolle suggested practicing present moment awareness while doing mundane chores like the washing up. Instead of letting your brain run on with endless chatter, allow yourself to really feel the soapy bubbles on your skin, to really feel the scrubbing sensation of the sponge against the saucepan. When we focus our awareness in such a specific way we can't help but live in the present moment. If your full attention is on the washing up you'll have no more room in your consciousness to moan about the next day's meeting or chide yourself on what you think you did wrong that day. All your stresses will slide away from you; much like the soapy water draining from the sink! :-)

Placing our attention on whatever we're doing at any given time is actually quite rewarding. We become alert to things around us and we can start to feel more alive and more accepting of life as it is. We can engage with the life we're living and set about making any necessary changes from a place of clear understanding, rather than just interpreting situations based on past experience.

Living in the moment can free us from dwelling on past hurts and it can help us to stop worrying about the future. Most of all, it allows us to fully appreciate the miracle of being alive.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

M is for Meditation

It's week thirteen of Alphabe-Thursday!

M is for Meditation...

For the past few months I have been meditating every day. I'm not usually so disciplined! :-) But at the end of last year I decided I needed to be kinder to myself and I knew that meditating was a simple way of doing this. I've found that it doesn't take much energy to stay in my warm bed for an extra twenty minutes in the morning while I listen to my guided meditation! In fact, it's a blessing. Those twenty minutes are a gift I've been giving to myself. And I feel so much better for having done it.

The great thing about meditation is that it can be done anywhere and at any time. Twenty minutes might be a luxury some people can't afford in the mornings, but there is sure to be one spare moment in the day where you can sit back, close your eyes and just take a few deep breaths. That's all meditation is, essentially. Taking a moment. Breathing. Shutting off all the crazy thoughts for a minute. Meditation isn't always about sitting in the lotus position and chanting 'om'. Meditation is actually a lot simpler than that.

Meditation is mindfulness. It's agreeing to consciously choose to take a short break from life, to let go of the daily grind and relax. Taking a moment for yourself isn't selfish. Quite the contrary. It helps you to deal with the stresses in life, which in turn makes you a more compassionate and supportive person. Take care of yourself first and you'll find the strength to take care of others.

You've probably meditated without even realising it. Ever counted to ten before responding to someone during an argument? That's meditation. Ever lost track of time while jogging around the park or swimming laps? That's active meditation. Ever 'woken up' while reading a novel - the moment you realise you've been completely absorbed in your imagination? That's meditation too! Meditation is anything that gives you a break from incessant thinking.

For me, meditation allows me to 'get back to myself', to let go of stress and connect with my true self - the divine part of me. But it isn't all about my spirituality. I've found meditation can help me with my day-to-day physical life as well. I am calmer, happier and more creative when I give myself those twenty minutes every morning. Life still has its ups and downs of course, but I'm in a much better position to handle it all.

If you're usually too busy for meditation then I want to give you a gift right now. As you come to the end of this post take a moment for yourself before you move on to the next thing. Take a deep breath. Close your eyes. Picture something that makes you happy. Smile. And keep breathing deeply. Just for a minute. That's all it takes. Enjoy! :-)   

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Book Review: And All the Stars by Andrea K Höst

Come for the apocalypse.
Stay for cupcakes.
Die for love.

Madeleine Cost is working to become the youngest person ever to win the Archibald Prize for portraiture. Her elusive cousin Tyler is the perfect subject: androgynous, beautiful, and famous. All she needs to do is pin him down for the sittings.

None of her plans factored in the Spires: featureless, impossible, spearing into the hearts of cities across the world – and spraying clouds of sparkling dust into the wind.

Is it an alien invasion? Germ warfare? They are questions everyone on Earth would like answered, but Madeleine has a more immediate problem. At Ground Zero of the Sydney Spire, beneath the collapsed ruin of St James Station, she must make it to the surface before she can hope to find out if the world is ending.

YA sci-fi novel And All the Stars by Andrea K Höst is the second book I've read as part of the 2013 Australian Women Writers Challenge. I was excited to read this book as I'd seen some great reviews of it in last year's challenge. I was especially looking forward to reading a sci-fi book because it isn't a genre I normally read.

I was captivated by this story from the very first page. It really was like nothing I'd ever read before. An alien invasion that made everyone turn a starry shade of blue? I thought that was a terrific idea for a novel and Höst definitely delivers a unique story here. 

And All the Stars follows Madeleine and her group of 'Blue Musketeer' friends as they negotiate a new world where starry Spires rise from the ground and a sheet of dust turns their skin blue. Not only that, but the dust also gives them special powers, as they soon discover. What comes next is a fight for survival, with a bit of romance thrown in for good measure. 

As I read I was reminded of John Marsden's Tomorrow books, the seven-part series that I adored as a teenager. Yes, Tomorrow wasn't sci-fi and it didn't include scary creatures of light, but to me there were a few parallels - an invasion, a bunch of teenagers forced to fight together, a budding romance developing amidst all the chaos, a strong female lead character who is tested time and time again. 

I thought Höst did very well to capture in her own unique way what Marsden had successfully achieved before her - a serious war mixed with typical teenage issues, such as raging hormones and the need for maturity and skill beyond their years. These kinds of books are important for teens to read as they open their minds to possibilities (even the fictional kind) and aid their growth as human beings. At least that's what Tomorrow did for me, and what And All the Stars most certainly will do for its young readers.

But you don't need to be a teen to adore this novel! I thought it was one of the best stories I've ever read. I can happily recommend it to all ages. I loved reading about an invasion in my former hometown of Sydney; it was fun imagining a starry Spire in the middle of Hyde Park! I enjoyed following the 'Blue Musketeers' as they fought together and I really liked the book's message on the importance of friendship and community. Overall, this was a great read and I look forward to reading other books by Höst. 

Thursday, 7 February 2013

L is for Love

It's week twelve of Alphabe-Thursday!

L is for Love...

As The Beatles so wisely told us - "All you need is love." :-)

I'm in love with love. It's my favourite word. I love to write it. I love to say it. I love to see it. It's a beautiful word that rolls off the tongue and brings me such a sense of peace and joy.

But love is much more than a word isn't it? :-) It's a state of being. It's a feeling. It's a way to live one's life. Love really is all that matters. Love in all its forms - whether romantic or platonic - is what binds us all together. We all long for love. And love is the one thing that can save us all.

That might sound very dramatic and idealistic, but I can't help it. That's the way I've always felt about love. It's my number one priority in life and I do believe any hostility or anger towards others can be solved with a little love. Give someone a hug with love in your heart and you'll give them a rare gift - a shared moment of pure joy amongst all the chaos in the world.

Love isn't just for others though. We've all heard that to love another we must first love ourselves. It's true, even if it's hard to do sometimes. We can all be self-critical at times and it takes a lot of courage to love and accept ourselves fully, just as we are. But it is possible! And when we love ourselves we open our hearts and our world to unlimited potential. Our lives overflow with joy and abundance.

I've always believed that our only real purpose in life is to love and be loved. All our life lessons, all our experiences, come back to this. On our death beds this is really all that will matter to us. In my opinion as long as we know we have given our all to love, that we've lived with an open heart, been true to ourselves and allowed others to be true to themselves, then we will have fulfilled our purpose here on Earth.

So let your life be filled with love. Say it loud to the people you love. Don't hold back. Open your heart and be vulnerable. Love another and let them love you back. Love your friends and your family. Love your pets. Love a stranger. Love yourself.

Reach out with love and you will find it reaching right on back to you.