The Importance of Establishing Trust Whilst Travelling

The Importance of Establishing Trust Whilst Travelling

 

 ‘If fear is holding you back just remember that in general, places are safer and people are kinder than you may expect. Discovering this is one of the beautiful benefits of travelling’ – Justin Alexander

“Be careful. Mind yourself. Take care. Be safe.”
Anyone who’s embarked on a journey further than the corner shop or into town for the day has heard the warnings.
What if you get robbed? Knocked down? Attacked? What if you don’t understand what they’re saying?

Travelling places you directly in the firing line to be stifled and stagnated by these often irrational fears – yet also to conquer them. To experience humanity in all it’s confusing and miscommunicative glory, and for once, to let go and trust it.

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Finding and attending sunrise yoga sessions overlooking the Himalayas, meditating on the mountaintop at Tushita, jamming with local and Israeli musicians at Jolly’s and in tiny cafés and bars hidden away down windy paths in the mountains, and some of the best and cheapest monk-made vegetarian food at Tibetan and Indian restaurants where nobody actually speaks any English….2 years ago these things would have seemed impossible and terrifying for me.

I’ve experienced the anxieties, and I’ve now learned to surrender to the language barriers and embrace my fellow humans as the kindred souls they are. As a solo female traveller in particular, the warnings I received about India were enough to make me doubt my decision the entire flight over here. While an element of common sense is required in navigating unfamiliar soil and encountering cultures and people unaccustomed to communicating with pale-skinned, ginger women, in general, my experience here has been altogether more comfortable than the warnings had led me to expect – something which has left me ashamed of my paranoid actions (or lack thereof) on more than one occasion.

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Building bridges

Having become so used to this typically Irish paranoia, self-consciousness, and disinclination to trust ourselves or others we have come to adopt as the norm, I only realise now how much I was limiting myself in denying the natural inclination and need all humans possess to communicate and be open with one another. Given that communication leads to understanding, and understanding lies at the root of any harmonious relationship – be it mind and body, our relationship with ourselves, with friends, family, food – every aspect of our lives, it follows that the initial first step to reach out and interact with another human is often the most daunting, yet rewarding action we can take.
In the travelling/backpacking scene (in Asia, anyway) it may seem easier to speak to and make new acquaintances as everyone seems in the same boat – all secretly sipping beers or coffees in the underlying hope that the attractive guy across the bar will make the first move and ask you to accompany him to see the temple tomorrow (*swoon*).
We need to stop assuming.
We need to take action for ourselves, be more assertive and attentive to our own needs in the moment, and trust whatever natural direction we receive, be it from the kind stranger who just returned a 10 rupee note you dropped by accident, or the vague gestures of locals towards a forest path with not a word of English to accompany their directions. 9 times out of ten you will find their intentions to be genuine and heartfelt, even if their initial scowls or frowny faces may suggest otherwise. Some cultural differences will never change. It’s a shame that I still sometimes feel the apprehension before trusting the directions or unprovoked aid of a local on the street, but I’ve learned finally to open up and trust their lack of agenda for what it is – honesty.

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New friends and good food…

Travelling has helped me see that people aren’t so bad, really.
Discovering the kindness and hospitality of the Indian and Tibetan people I’ve encountered during my short time here has been fulfilling and heartwarming, and part of the reason I’m so reluctant to leave. While I have been careful not to walk too far alone at night or to concern myself with any ‘dodgy’ looking characters, I’ve found it’s the times when I’ve opened my mouth and made the first greeting, comment, or question to a fellow traveller or local that I have been rewarded with a flicker or flame or warmth and friendship – sometimes lasting no longer than a cup of chai, sometimes a whole week of meeting up for yoga classes, activities, or meals. Climbing mountains with new acquaintances and not being afraid to show your true self or embrace your lack of umbrella in a downpour at the Taj Mahal during monsoon season is about as freeing and grounding an experience as any I can hope to ever have again.

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An Irish & an Indian climb a mountain…

After all, aren’t we all just doing our best to keep going? Keep meeting, discovering, and moving onwards to the next destination, even if it’s just down the road? In my experience you are 10 times more likely to encounter kindness than nasty or dangerous behaviour whilst on the road, and discovering the importance of trust and my capacity to remain calm in these situations has already led me to several places and friendships with people and places I never would have experienced had I remained in my ‘safe’ bubble of a hostel room. While an element of self-awareness and common sense is also necessary, the key is to find a balance between overly-analysing the outcome of potential interactions and ultimately ruining them for yourself before they ever happen, and just going with them without thinking. I’ve come to a peaceful middleground where both sides are now available to me, and now just appreciate that I have the opportunity to experience it all.

 

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Bhagsu Waterfall, Dharamsala

 

 

 

Why I’m Going to Keep Writing Even If I Never Get a Job Doing It

I don’t need to make brilliant art.
But I need to make art.
I don’t need to write award-winning novels, or groundbreaking, academically praised and published articles.
But I need to write.
I don’t need to write stories that will be remembered, passed down from generation to generation like engagement rings or other binding pieces of jewellery until the weight of a headstone of ancestors hangs around my neck, God forbid I should ever misplace it at the swimming pool.
But I need to write stories.
Even in my head. Even for nobody. Even if the only tangible form they ever embody is a whispy squiggle on a page as I doodle, coaxing ideas and the crazy knot of Christmas lights out until they all sparkle beautifully in alignment together.

Words are like that.
Alone, in the right context, they can shock. Enthrall. Bamboozle.

But the longer and more complex the cable of thoughts or ideas wishing to be expressed and made sense of, the more difficult it becomes to correctly put them into any sort of order to experience the dazzling after-effect of a well-structured sentence.
That’s why I find words so fascinating.
What numbers are to mathematicians, words are to me. I find solace in many art forms – music, singing, drawing, and yoga (I’m labelling it an art form for this articles’ sake). Yet words remain some of the most versatile and all-encompassing notes to the tune and harmonious chorus I hear when I have effectively teased out a quick sequence of words that actually makes some sort of sense.

Structuring sentences, making fleeting ideas tangible by sticking with them even just long enough to assign them a context, surname and postal address, gives me a sense of satisfaction I have yet to find elsewhere.

That is why I’m going to keep writing. Even if it never pays for more than a yoga class and some vegetables.
I’ll write about that yoga class and those vegetables.

Why Comparison is the Thief of Joy…

‘Come away o human child,
To the waters, and the wild,
With a faery hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping
Than you can understand”
– W. B. Yeats

 

As we grow, whether we are taught to specifically or not, we learn and become aware of the destructive, hindering, and downright ugly habit of comparison.

To compare. To contrast. To look at others in relation to ourselves.
We are placed into this cut-throat ‘race’ – even the word conjurs up a sense of competition – to appear the most ‘together’. The most ‘on-track’, the most, the best, the highest of something, or anything…The details of the path to which no one ever specifically outlines, and to those few who through some happy fortune and lucky accident have managed to avoid the now ingrained natural inclination to compare, probably seem ridiculous. But it’s everywhere. Even the most basic and first obvious step to ‘progress’ in life – the process of getting a job. The very nature of ‘jobsearching’ in it’s most basic form being an exercise in the techniques we use to compare ourselves.

Because these details remain unclear, rather a vague ideology of what ‘should be’, or what you ‘should have achieved’ by now in your life, so too remain the steps ‘required’ to achieve it; unclear, and downright confusing.

In essence, what I have just described leads to a life lived solely for the purpose of pleasing or fulfilling the presumed ‘expectations’ of others. These expectations having been sculpted from a firm base of solid fact, into pliable muscles that can be flexed and altered depending on the strengths and weaknesses of others and ourselves, and described in relation to whatever perceived ‘flaw’ or ‘issue’ a person may be preoccupied with in any given moment. Implying that the energy a person directs correctly towards any given thought or outcome, is where prevelence will occur.

What I’m trying to say is, we end up using the energy which should be expended clarifying all this uncertainty instead to fuel false and/or inaccurate beliefs about ourselves and circumstances. By the time many of us realise where this energy has gone, it is often too late to change the course in which it has been expended.

The ‘flaws’ or ‘issues’ which caused the reckless expension of this energy to occur are seen for what they really are; our natural differences, unique qualities, and irreversible traits, consequences, backgrounds and composition, which in their realisation present us with a breathtaking understanding of our own potential.

Potential being the key factor here in our contemplation of all of this.

In all of us, there lies potential. Potential to add to the world as it already exists. As it already stands. A unique offering from our unique composition and the possibilities presented by it, that only we have access to and control over.
By comparing ourselves to any existing and unchangeable (from our point of view) person, place, achievement, action, idea, whatever it may be, we are tainting already the potential which breathes originality and newness through our uniquely crafted and formulated lungs of individual DNA, and wasting what it is silently nourishing.
Similarly, by considering ourselves in context to, in comparison to, or as an extension of or addition to any other person, we immediately limit the valuable streams of energy which hold the potential to pave new and undiscovered paths to places that people may have travelled before – but probably not in quite the same way.

In all this pent up worry, these comparative and analytical thoughts and emotions being focused on why we can’t just have what someone else has, be what someone else is, or what someone else wants, for that matter, there is no room left for joy. For happiness. For contented, simple, pleasure in one’s own company. Within one’s own skin, home, environment. There is simply no place for it.
It’s only when you’ve been away from it for so long, and failed to experience the contented, relaxed and genuine oneness with yourself and your own mind and body that you realise how far away from it you once sought validation and comfort. There’s also the rather shameful realisation that this validation and comfort could not possibly ever have come from anywhere but within.

A friend asked me recently (in more colloquial terms) how my love life is at the moment. I replied saying that to be honest I kind of like just liking myself right now, and that I’d see how that goes for a while before getting too serious about anything. If I happen to make a new friend along the way who shares a similar fondness and appreciation for me, and I for him, then maybe, with a bit of luck we might bond over our mutual interests.
If I can someday appreciate someone for all they are, whilst also(and most crucially) still appreciating myself and my own body for what it is, does, and appears like, instead of trying to change it and alter it to suit misguided assumptions of what will ‘work’; then I feel I will be doing well.

Comparing with something, with someone…with an image of what I perceive to be correct or acceptable, steals away all energy which should be used to focus on developing my potential as a human being; my potential contribution to the world; my talents, loves, passions, rather than on potential that is reliant on outside factors beyond my control; like the choices, preferences or tendencies of others.

In avoiding comparison, I am avoiding any potential and useless despair. In accepting differences, and my own self the way I appear, think, and react instinctively, though it may not always be favourable, I am ridding myself of the misery and unsolvable, unavoidable reality that for so long wasted all potential energy which could have been of benefit elsewhere. The only potential created by that person, is the potential for disaster. The sensation of joy, of childish contentment and acceptance which comes with the banishment of this comparison is so powerful that the potential which has existed all along seems magnified, and powerfully exciting in it’s possibilities.
In redirecting the attention to my talents, passions, and potential contributions… they might finally receive the energy they require to come to fruition.

To conclude, I’ll merely state that comparison serves nobody, and creates nothing in it’s destructive pattern of over-analytical and negative thoughts. In order to make room for any potential joy or happiness in our lives, we must first assess what is taking up the space so cruelly witheld from this contentment, and take steps to remove it from our lives in favour of that which allows us to grow and explore our potential.

How to …Escape Emotional Dependency

 

How to… Escape Emotional Dependency…

Jack-Kerouac

 

“We are not creatures of circumstance; we are creators of circumstance.”
-Benjamin Disraeli

 

Cultivating the right environment for your own growth and development as a human being, as a creative individual, as a cog in the system of whatever functional or dysfunctional structure you’re fitting into, whether willingly or not, is absolutely vital if you’re going to make any kind of progression towards a happier life.

Emotional dependency is a trap so easily fallen into and so commonly mistaken for security and self-confidence. If I’m depending on someone to support me emotionally, I am feeding off energy supplies they have cultivated themselves, whether consciously or not, for their own benefit. Using their positivity and wellness as a means to support failing efforts at establishing my own. It’s a sign there is some sort of imbalance within my own life that I have chosen to either block entirely, thus rendering me in need of reassurance, or else I have allowed it to engulf me completely, creating the need and habit for another ear or shoulder to help carry its weight. This kind of dependency and relationship can actually appear to be functional for a time, until it becomes evident that the weight of whatever underlying issue exists is not the ‘dependents’’ own burden to bear, and they withdraw from it reluctantly in order to prevent further draining of their own precious strength.

They can want to help and offer a shoulder to cry on only a certain amount of times before it simply becomes unfair to expect anything more of them – after all, have they too not got their own problems? Aren’t we all suffering?

Using others as scaffolding on which to support problems you yourself have failed to cultivate a resilience to is humiliating. It’s humiliating, and inconvenient for all involved. It’s difficult enough to admit defeat and take the help in the first place, without becoming dependent on it to keep going.
Crops failed this year. No inner strength remains to feed off of. You’ll have to borrow a neighbours’ corn.
Sorry.

For this reason, it is so important to learn to cultivate your own happiness. To figure out what works best for your unique organism of cells. The things that really make your eyes light up at the very thought or mention of them, catching fire and lifting you up when you actually put them into practice. The things that make life bearable for you; that can help you pass an afternoon of endless rain in a negative environment relatively contently.

Once you’ve reached this stage, the rest is simple: do them. As much, as intensly, and as often as you can. Work towards building something new, instead of retreating into the shell of what used to be; because let’s be honest, ‘what used to be’, wasn’t working either, so progressing forwards is really our only option here.

Once you’ve planted these roots, you can begin to feed off your own strength, your own individual cultivation, instead of digesting elements of an environment around you that don’t quite lend themselves to the elevation of your mood and happiness.

Metaphorical as it sounds, be sure to have some of this strength put aside for times of need. In the event of a storm, for example – the fat on the side, the blubber for insulation – every element of our world can be used in comparison to describe what’s inside us. The only difference with mental health is that you can’t see or visualise it. You need to figure it out for yourself, and that’s why taking time our from your regular schedule to do so is a perfectly acceptable form of ‘therapy’. Talking will only get you so far. As soon as you leave the doctor’s office, the old reliable neighbour whose crops seem to flourish year in, year out without fail; you’re left to try again alone.

Cultivation takes time, but each step successfully taken to further it onwards comes to be a comforting reassurance that you are getting there. It’s still nice to have a cup of tea now and again, to talk over plans, progress, reassuring those who have helped in the past that you’re on the right path, without allowing an emotional dependency to catch again like a swarm of locusts to the only food around they are aware of. That would be the easy option. Making your own is not only more rewarding, but soul-strengthening in every sense of the words.

As soon as the sun shines in again, that first sign of warmth and comfort, you’ll see it – the other side. The side where everything isn’t dark and stagnant and hopeless. Growth, progression, new life and strength is being cultivated even as you watch it; even as you sit and read these words your cells are fixing themselves and strengthening a core that has finally come to terms with the fact that it has the ability to stand up by itself. To nourish itself. To cultivate growth, to change, to age, and to progress. To depend on none but your own field of crops, your own emotional and physical strength rooted deeply into the ground beneath your feet, wherever they may find themselves today.

On Perspective…Embracing the Power in Powerlessness

Your 2016 is within your power.

Today I witnessed an Asian lady purposely buy a tin of a now-familiar brand of instant-coffee that was sold by the mugful in cafés across Vietnam and Cambodia when I was there, instead of a regular cup of what we’d consider “normal” coffee. It was the very brand that only a few weeks ago I myself spent many trips into foreign supermarkets attempting to avoid, searching in vain for a familiar jar of Nescafé to mask the flavour and intensity of this special unique Vietnamese coffee that I just could not get used to. I could just imagine this woman’s face on discovering how different the coffee tastes over here, and I empathized wholeheartedly with the sense of loss and desperation that such a simple comfort as a cup of coffee not being easily attained when one strays so far away from home can bring.
I came home and poured myself a cup of my favourite coffee, or at least, what I’ve become accustomed to; an Italian blend of instant that may not be as good as the real thing, but which has become a staple part of my day and a relief after some of the frantic coffee-searches and disappointments in SouthEast Asia. I thanked my parents subconsciously for sticking with the same old, predictable and reliable brands, something I had recently become extremely frustrated with at having returned to a house that has remained relatively unchanged since I left.

Perspective is a funny thing, as it allows us not only to see others in a different light, but to see ourselves in ways we never thought we could imagine or be comfortable observing. Things that we may once have been afraid to try, or seemed impossible for us to embody purely because we said they must be so are all of a sudden as accessible for us as a cup of tea or coffee in the morning (this is provided you’re currently staying somewhere with a kitchen facilities of some sort!).
As we get older and look back on things we may have done or said in years gone by, it becomes easier to let them go, and to let go of the worry they may have induced at the time and anxiety they may have brought about since then. Letting go and embracing where we are right now becomes so much easier when you realise how powerless you are to change any previous actions; You can apologise. You can regret. You can remind and berate yourself again and again, over and over until you are consumed and defined by the very fact of this one occurance or circumstance. Or you can choose to accept it, and let go of the fact that it happened, that it was – for you cannot change it anymore. Only in the heat of the moment was it in any way changeable, and it was that very heat and urge to act which made it happen in the first place.

An effective exercise I have used to help myself rationalise things in the past can really aid in ascertaining your perspective on particular aspects of or current issues in your life which may be bothering you. It sounds simple (and it is), but even just taking the time it takes to complete it to be with yourself and acknowledge your thoughts and emotions can be of enormous help to someone struggling to escape a muddle of thoughts knotted up like Christmas tree lights after a year of being ignored in the attic.

 If we take a simple circle; the circumference of a cup of coffee, for example. Beside it, make a list of every important thing which affects your life or has significance to you right now, be it work; family; boyfriend; girlfriend; house; car; money; a certain aspect of each of these which may be suffering or proving particularly difficult at the moment, or elements of your own internal struggles which may not be obvious on the outside. Simply write them down; in bullet points, sentences, picture sequences – whatever suits you best. Make a list, and then inside the circle, place all of the things from this list that are within your control to change, help, fix, or solve in any way. Outside of the circle, list the things that are outside of your control. Be honest with yourself, and with the things themselves. Make a note of how it feels to place each thing in it’s position within or outside of the circle, and adjust yourself to accept that they have been placed there.

Above all what I realised from completing this task is that the things I was anxious about and spent most of my time concerned with solving or changing were just that; things. There were things that no amount of anxiety or worry was ever going to get rid of or solve, things seperate to my mind and body, and outside of any kind of emotional or physical control I could ever assert over them. Why on earth was I expending so much energy in thinking about them??
This made the things within the circle seem so much more managable and simple in comparison, and it meant I was able to direct a more intent and full attention toward improving them or ensuring their continued success. The things outside of the circle I was forced to accept my ignorance of and inability to change, and this in turn allowed me a sense of relief and power over my own life that I never could have imagined possible. They may have posed as issues in my life or things that I wasn’t particularly happy about, but they were not mine (and still are not) to change. I was powerless to change them, and so I began to let them go one by one each time I was faced with things, thoughts or people that called them into question. From this acceptance of powerlessness stemmed an almost ironic sense of actual power, that I now had the ability to let things go, to ignore that which does not serve me, and that which I am powerless to influence.

The availability of my favourite coffee in Asia is just a minor example of something which I had to place outside of the radius of my own influence, and adopt the perspective I’ve attempted to outline above. Once you stop forcing yourself and expecting too much of yourself, (in this sense, expecting and pressurizing myself anxiously to go and find the coffee somewhere, anywhere), it’s a relief to just sit back and relax, and let these things pass you by. They’re not going to disappear completely – far from it- but even just the ability to observe them as seperate things and thoughts instead of getting yourself wrapped up in solving them is an extremely empowering sensation. I’d recommend taking the time to do the circle exercise – it doesn’t take long. At the very least paint a mental picture of it and slot your various anxieties and issues into it accordingly, and who knows? You may surprise yourself with how much you’ve been hoarding in a worry-bank that doesn’t actually cater for some of the things you’ve forced inside it!!

Happy 2016!

“You are Beautiful. Stop looking at your phone.”

‘You are beautiful. Stop looking at your phone.’

I found a note on my phone the other morning with those words saved to it. I don’t remember saving it there, when or what even prompted me to write it, but I’m so glad I did.

When I looked up I realised that sure, all I was doing was sitting on the bus searching through my phone for some entertainment. But then I really thought, and I saw that I was sitting on the bus.
I looked around, and instead of shifting my gaze awkwardly from the searching eyes of the technologically-challenged elderly woman opposite me who had nothing but the world outside the window to pass the journey with, I looked at her full on and gave a simple smile.

Because at that moment, that was all I could do.
There was no point staring at the screen of my device and wishing I was elsewhere, or talking with someone online and losing myself in a life that’s not my own while my body was physically transported across the earth. From the past, I had inadvertently chosen to divert my attention into this present moment, and to interact with my surroundings.

And guess what the woman did?
She smiled back.
She didn’t have to, and I didn’t make her – but she smiled back.

 A short message, most likely written as a result of an inverted and paralysed moment of anxiety at some point in a public situation, had opened my mind and spurred me on to smile at this stranger. Purely because I had reminded myself of my own worth, she had then smiled and prompted a chain-reaction of positivity that would not have been possible otherwise.

Distraction

It’s so easy to look away when we feel we’re not worth looking at.
So easy to distract ourselves from our busy thoughts with other unimportant aspects of our lives, and get worked up about things that aren’t true, and most certainly aren’t worth it. We do it all the time with factors that are completely out of our control – we look away and ignore the world outside unless the sun is shining when we get up in the morning. But the world is still there, even during a storm. Even on a bad hair day, it doesn’t change the fact that I still have hair, no matter how many hairbands or hats I try to hide it with.

Power to Change

How often have you found yourself avoiding the mirror and leaving the house with a frown because of something you can not change at that present moment– be it your hair colour, height, weight, outside influences or thoughts about tasks you must complete within a given day?
By establishing mental boundaries and accepting the environmental factors that are both within and outside of our control, I find that my mind calms somewhat, with the knowledge and reaffirmation that although I am strong in myself, that there will always be things outside of my control. It’s a grounding and empowering realisation all at once, which places me firmly within my own body, and aware of both the potential and the limitations of it.

Everybody Gets It

We’ve all been in positions where we wish we could disappear or change certain aspects of our appearance. In grounding yourself in the moment, letting go of ‘what ifs’ and ‘should haves’, and coming to terms with the you that is in the minute right now, reading these words, it allows a lot of these preoccupations with beauty, perceptions and opinions to become irrelevant. We can begin to finally accept ourselves for what we really are.

So look away from that phone screen, close the laptop, and turn off the television for a mere few minutes – a fleeting moment in which you can think about where and what you are, and meet yourself there.

Just look up.

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