Perspective in the face of disaster

flat

My 10th floor CBD apartment following the 7.8 magnitude earthquake

This week has been particularly unsettling in New Zealand following the recent 7.8 earthquake, one of the largest in NZ in 150 years. It struck in the middle of the night, was followed by damage, loss of life and tsunami evacuations.

We’d gone about the usual Sunday night routine that consisted of thoughts of work Monday and the week ahead.  Things that seemed like issues and problems upon going to sleep suddenly paled into insignificance.  When something like this happens this all changes, you think about only what is important and it’s a stark reminder of what that is.  We went to bed saying we’d rather not have to get up and go to the office tomorrow, the Monday morning feeling, but had not quite imagined this.

As what happened sunk in we reflected on lucky escapes – thank god we stayed at yours not my 10th floor apartment (pictured).  Concern for family overseas watching it unfolding on the news and worrying for our safety.  Realising just how much those we love mean to us.  Loved ones headed out of the door to work, with long shifts ahead and without much sleep, like so many who keep the country going in times like this and put the safety of others before their own.

Our Monday morning conversations usually about plans for the evening, what the work day looks like became emergency plans, arranging where to meet should there be a significant aftershock and phones be out.  Events like this truly put perspective about what’s important in life.  How lucky we are, how everything can change in a moment and how important it is that those we care about know and are our priority.

My 10am meeting now doesn’t seem so important, in fact it can’t have been because it won’t be happening now, nor will any other the other ‘important’ events of the day.  The conversations that were ‘what’s for tea?’ ‘have you put the bins out?’ now become ‘stay safe, I love you’ and discussions about how we’ll know each other are safe.

The work to do list that occupied my mind and seemed so important last night is now nothing more than a distant memory so the question is, was it really that important in the scheme of things?  No-one is missing it now, the world still continues to turn and the sun will come up tomorrow.  So often our worries, our concerns, our priorities are not a reflection of what really matters and events like this put perspective around this.  It also highlights all we have to be grateful for, even when that’s no power and no way of leaving the house.  I am unable to return to CBD to check on my apartment but really there’s nothing in there I couldn’t lose, not compared to my life and those I love.

But why does it take a significant event like this to underline the things we already know.  To remind us of what’s important?  Maybe we get too carried away with the busyness of life we lose touch with our perspective.  Beyond life and death there are too many things to worry about these days and it’s this that takes our thoughts, our energy, our significance.  Often at the expense of what really matters.  Maybe it’s the brush with death that brings the realisation of how small we really are and how little we do have control over a life that we try to plan down to the last detail.

The ‘what ifs’ start to circle.  What if this had been in the day time not the middle of the night, the Capital city which was deserted would have been full of people, traffic, life.  But in a few weeks we’ll have forgotten about this, buildings will be fixed up, roads cleared and life will return to normal.  Our to do lists will fill up, life will become busy and the perspective will fade.

Each aftershock a stark reminder that life can change in a moments notice and no-one is immune to that.  They are also a reminder of everything this event has brought to mind, everything we should try and remind ourselves at every opportunity not just in the face of disaster.

Material things can be replaced – every single item in every cupboard fell out, the only thing that didn’t smash was one solitary wine glass.  But the things I hold dear, the things that are irreplaceable all survived and they aren’t actually things at all.

Out of tragedy comes kindness.  Seeing the events unfold and the media coverage of the worst hit areas, towns at the epicentre cut off and houses crumbling to the ground.  Out of these stories of devastation came acts of kindness; yoga studios opening with free classes, people welcoming displaced strangers into their homes, volunteers cleaning up and providing food and supplies to those who needed it.  After a few days of walking around shell shocked, on edge, with a lack of sleep and a nervous disposition life began to return to normal, people got on with it.  Buildings were fixed, the CBD cleaned up and we built a little more resilience.  We learned that we may bend but we don’t break, we get knocked down but we get up again and whilst the earth moves often in New Zealand, it always continues to turn as well.

As aftershocks continue and those with lucky escapes wonder if they’ll ever be able to live in a high-rise apartment again we allow ourselves to come together. To discuss near misses, our stories and the ‘what ifs’.  Feeling the connection of a shared experience, we comfort each other, reassure and understand that it’s ok not to be ok.  Often the emotional impacts of such an event can be felt long after the structural damage is repaired. The frayed nerves, the sea sick feeling of constantly moving ground, the fear of what’s coming next, the probability of further quakes.  This all adds to the unsettled feeling that comes naturally when the solid ground you live on, your bedrock, your earth becomes so unstable.

It’s all a stark reminder that life is too short, we never know what’s around the corner and we are rarely in control no matter how many plans we have in place.  But like a glimmer of light on the horizon and the dust clears, we have so much to be grateful for.  Being alive for a start, the safety of those we love and a whole life ahead of us and whilst it may be uncertain it’s also ours to live.

Ignite your life; live your passion

Live your dreams, find your passion and light your fire
yoga-beach

So many of us end up in jobs just for money—jobs that suffocate our soul but pay the bills.

I did.

I went through the motions of life without meaning and purpose. These are such a fundamental part of our happiness, but often we believe we can’t have both.

Meaning and purpose don’t have to come from our job; they can come out of our hobby (as for many artists) or the sense of satisfaction we get from helping others through volunteering. I felt more purpose in my voluntary jobs than in any paid job.

We may also find ways to incorporate our values and beliefs into our day jobs to make them more bearable—teaching others, solving problems, being a listening ear, or creating something unique. As we spend so much time at work, though, it makes sense to try to make money doing something we enjoy. Purpose is so much more than money can buy.

As I progressed up the corporate ladder, I found I became less fulfilled, despite the increased salary, the company car, posh hotels and holidays around the world.

My life still lacked meaning and purpose.  Find out how I found my passion and turned it into my career.  Read the full article here or watch the video blog below

 

Exciting developments

12661808_965565320158288_1820903136093652989_n

Exciting updates I just have to tell you about.  I have taken a winter break from events to concentrate on producing my online course material and it’s coming along so hope to be launching this towards the end of the year.

In the meantime sample some of the material over on my Youtube channel, heaps of free short video blogs designed to help you live a life you love and all for free, subscribe for the latest updates

Talking of subscribing, if you’re not on my mailing list, click here to sign up.  Be the first to hear of latest events and developments and heaps of free inspiration direct to your inbox (I won’t spam you either!)  You’ll also get a free copy of the guide to happiness when you join.

I’m delighted to announce my coaching packages just launched and available for booking now. Head over to the website for more details, pick the package that suits you and book now to secure your place.  Places are limited and this is available all over the world through the power of Skype & Zoom!

Local events in Wellington resuming soon including; finding meaning and purpose in life, doing what you love, living authentically and building a life around your passions.

If you’ve not got a copy of the book, these are available through the website or as ebook from amazon.  If you’ve read it please let us know what you thought and leave a review here.

As a special offer and thanks to all those who’ve shared my journey so far I’m giving some free copies away. Simply reply to this message direct by email or on social media and tell me what’s the one thing about life you’d like to change and what’s the first action you’re going to take as a result.  Winners will be selected at random and we’ll be in touch to arrange delivery of your prize.

Sending you best wishes and every happiness

Jess

What stops us being happy?

IMG_4919-1

It’s the one thing everyone wants and we spend our lives pursuing it, but in this day and age it seems to becoming more elusive. The word ‘happiness’ is banded about a lot these days, it appears in advertising campaigns around the world in a bid to sell us more of what we so desperately seek. In an age when we have all the conditions to be happy why does it feel like we are actually becoming more unhappy?

There are many barriers that prevent us from being happy but the good news is they are all within our control. Here’s a look at what could be holding us back from happiness and what to do about it:

http://www.projecthappiness.org/what-stops-us-from-being-happy/

Gaining perspective in Bali & Lombok

100_2243

I recently set off on the trip of a lifetime, a month in Asia spending time in Bali, Kathmandu and Bhutan. As I sat at the airport waiting to leave I heard about the earthquake in Nepal. I managed to get to Bali although a day late but couldn’t get much further.

I like to have everything planned and this trip was no exception, the disruption made me uncomfortable and darkened my mood, as well as being told all my air tickets were non refundable and the insurance would not cover anything. I knew I should be grateful I was not in Nepal, I should also be putting this into perspective, my dramas are nothing compared to what these people are going through. I reasoned with myself that feeling this way was ridiculous, I was a glass half full kind of person but I’d lost perspective and I’d lost the value of the present moment.

I knew all this stuff inside out, I’ve written a book on it yet here I was given the ideal opportunity to practice it and failing miserably. It got me thinking about the difference between intellectually understanding something and then actually putting it into practice. It’s like dieting, we know we shouldn’t eat cake and take aways but sometimes we do anyway.

I had to have a very stern word with myself, followed by a long walk and some meditation a massage and a slice of cake! I began to gain perspective and like a fog lifting I realised I was lucky not just to be alive but to be on holiday in Bali. I felt grateful for what I had, that so many others do not have, particularly those in Nepal. I no longer felt uncomfortable with not knowing, I knew it could be worse and I also knew it would turn out ok in the end, whatever was meant to be will be.

We may not always get what we want, but we always get what we need and for me that was this lesson. This has taught me about perspective, positive thinking and not to be so hard on myself, we are all human after all. But the biggest lesson I take is about putting what we know into practice. With so much information available to us we can know so much but what do we practice and experience? It’s this that makes the difference.

And now for the travel bit……………………….

Bali reminds me a lot of the Thai islands which I love, the people are happy and smiling, they have little but seem to make the best of it, the local food is fabulous, sunny days, rainy nights and laid back beaches. It also has the same annoyances; litter, hawkers, stray dogs and drunk backpackers. However Bali is not new to the tourist scene, they are more savvy and as a result have made much more money, prices are higher (although still very cheap compared to dollars) and flash resorts and glass fronted shops are around every corner. It is much more westernised, they speak very good English and have a great sense of humour.

As I ventured away from the main tourist spots I started to see local life unfold around me and particularly once I left Bali I noticed things like the 4:30am call to prayer from the local mosque in Lombok.

I spent my first few days in Ubud, yes, mainly because I watched eat pray love! I went to yoga barn, stocked up on cheap clothes from the market, visited the monkey forest and was asked 100 times per day if I wanted a taxi. In fact I got so used to saying ‘no, thanks’ as I walked down the street that I pre empted one guy and said it before he’d finished his sentence. Turns out he wanted to ask me how I was. I felt rude so apologised, said “I am fine thanks, how are you?” He said “I’m fine, you want taxi?”

After dealing with the initial travel disruptions and finding I had more time on my hands I decided I needed to head to my happy place and be by the beach. Ubud is good to see but I miss wide open spaces and being able to walk in places that are not crowded with motor vehicles, pollution and people so I headed to Lombok.

Spending time in Lombok, which is not as busy as Bali and newer to tourism I found the people to be friendly and after a few days calling out my name as I walked down the street. They took a particular shine to my greenstone and some new about Maori and were fascinated to talk about NZ. The kids either wanted to hi-five me or have their photo taken with me, either way I felt like a bit of a film star walking down the street.

After spending a few days in Lombok I am ready to venture to the Gilli islands just off the coast. They say there is a gilli island for everyone so I looked at which may suit me;

    1. Gilli Trawangan – ‘party hard, backpacker heaven’ – no way, too old for this shit
    2. Gilli Meno – ‘not much here, perfect for getting away from it but don’t expect wifi and restaurants’ – what no food, no way!
    3. Gilli Air – ‘somewhere in between the 2, a laid back place, snorkelling, eateries, but not as crazy as Gilli T’perfect, this has my name written all over it

So next stop Gilli Air, for beach, yoga and snorkelling and if I’m feeling energetic there’s a 5km walk around the island. I’ve gained my perspective, I’ve learned a lot (mostly about myself) and I’ve gained a sun tan and perhaps a few extra pounds in weight but have been lucky to see more of Bali, it’s not a bad place to be stranded and despite using up huge chunks of my savings I’ve rebooked to go to Bhutan from Bangkok and hope to still be able to do that part of the trip before leaving Asia, but whatever’s meant to be will be, where we are is where we’re meant to be.

Pet Therapy

dog
We are living more separately now days than we did 30 years ago when social connection was a lot more common and science is now proving the impacts this has on our heath. Loneliness is one of the top reasons people see a therapist in the US now and a recent study suggests that over 25% of Americans feel they don’t have any close friends with which they’d share a problem. In the age of social media when we may have hundreds of friends on facebook we are actually getting increasingly lonely. Studies are now suggesting that social connection is as important to our health as diet and exercise and that social isolation is having a detrimental impact on our health.

Anyone who has owned a much loved pet will attest to the benefits, the smiles they bring to us, the comfort and companionship. Pets can ease loneliness, reduce stress, encourage exercise and studies now show they may even help you live longer. Most notably;
• Pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression.
• People with pets have lower blood pressure in stressful situations.
• Playing with a pet can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax.
• Heart attack patients with pets survive longer than those without.
• Pet owners over age 65 make 30% fewer visits to their doctors.

The use of pet therapy is becoming increasingly popular for the sick and elderly, this involves organisations bringing specially trained animals to visit those who are sick, depressed and lonely by bringing a smile to their face, providing companionship and calming anxiety to aid recovery.

But what if you are not able to have pets of your own? The Japanese have found the answer to this in Paro the therapeutic robot seal being used to help treat the sick and elderly. Designed to look and move like a real pet and respond to interaction, it is thought to help combat loneliness, make people smile, help keep them calm and is also used to help dementia sufferers. Paro has already been a real hit in nursing homes across the globe.

The studies seem to show more health benefits with dogs rather than cats probably due to the fact that a cat couldn’t care less about your health, aslong as you feed her, let her out and let her sit on your knee, bed, book, coat, desk, sofa and whenever else she wants. My family have had dogs and cats for as long as I can remember and the love, affection and company they have provided over the years for anyone who has visited the house has been immeasurable.

I have always admired the unconditional love you get from a dog, partly due to having less brain cells as cats will testify, cats will only love you when it suits and usually if there’s something in it for them. But what dogs lack in brains they make up for in heart (and appetite if they are Labradors)! I love both cats and dogs and animals in general but have noted that cats will tolerate us whereas dogs worship us but both bring benefits far beyond their company;

• The dog makes me feel safe when I am sleeping alone in the house
• He immediately cleans up any food I may have spilled on the floor
• The cat keeps me warm when she’s curled up on my bed
• She also keeps the mice population down in the garden shed
• The dog makes me exercise, even on the coldest days when he needs his walk
• When I am sick or sad they seem to know and come and curl up bedside me
• They have replaced the alarm clock as my morning wake up call
• They think it’s ok to go to sleep in the afternoon, in fact they encourage it
• They listen to you, even when you say the craziest things, and they never argue
• When I come home from shopping they great me as if I’ve returned from a six month expedition across the dessert.

I have grown up with animals around and I think it’s great for kids to learn how to look after something from a young age, even if it is a goldfish or a hamster, it also teaches kids lessons about life and death but the impact of pets goes much further than that. For me I am happier when animals are around and I always feel special when I come home to pets.