Rae-Anne:

Today is International Women’s Day. I wrote this a couple of years ago when I was living in Ghana and feeling incredibly grateful for the freedom that my country of birth afforded me.

Originally posted on Aussieghana's Blog:

Freedom to choose:

Who to love

Who to marry

Not to marry

Whether to have children

How to dress

To study

To work

To drive

To dance

To sing

What to read

What to say

Where to go

Where to shop

What to buy

Who to spend time with

A religion

No religion

 

Freedom to choose whatever one wants to do, however one wants to do it, wherever one wants to do it, whenever one wants to do it.

Most of us are blessed to have this exquisite freedom of choice and we spend our lives taking it for granted.

Many of our sisters don’t have these choices, simply by virtue of their place of birth, their culture or family.

 

It could have been us.

 

 

 

 

 

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Working Nine to Five

This morning I was watching the clip for Battle Scars, the song by Guy Sebastian and Lupe Fiasco, at one point in the song various people hold up pieces of paper with single words written on them. One of them really stayed with me;  it was a white middle aged white collar worker holding a piece of paper with the word SLAVE. It reminded me of a piece I wrote when I had just returned to Australia. I had been home for a week and a half when I went back to work. I found the whole commuting process and being back in the corporate world incredibly surreal. I wrote a piece that I titled “Observations of a Commuter” on my iPhone on the train home one evening, here it is unedited:

People all in one place together yet all so disconnected. Busy with the busyness of their lives. Sitting together as we are transported to where we will spend the next eight or more hours. Everyone looks straight ahead, rarely at each other. Little human interaction. There are few conversations, just between those already acquainted. The focus is on external stimulation; phones, iPods, computers, books, anything to distract us and make the time go faster. Is anybody present? Is anyone here? We arrive at our destination and stream out en masse with other commuters, hundreds of us lining up and swarming like ants, in a hurry to exit the station, rushing to our destinations. All through the city we are busily heading to our places of work, but there are grim looks on so many faces, nobody looks excited to be going where they are going. What will we all do when we get there? Does anything we do at work really matter? Do we make a difference in anybody’s life? If we didn’t do that work would anyone notice? At lunch time we move outside to eat and do more of our busy things. Later, back to work for the afternoon. End of the day we all hurry back to make our transport home. Again all together but so disconnected. We reach home to spend such a very short time with our loved ones before bed.

For tomorrow we must do it all again….

Or must we?

Clearly I was struggling with the nine to five after a year of living a life quite the opposite with people who have such different values and priorities. About a month later I started this blog as a way to sort out the shit and find some clarity in my future direction as I find writing quite cathartic. I have hardly been consistent or regular with it but it has been a great process nonetheless.

I never fully settled back in to that workplace, though I was incredibly grateful for the opportunity, loved the actual work but I found that I just didn’t fit at my desk any longer. I used to say I felt like an enormous square peg in a tiny round hole. I applied for a different position and I was lucky enough to get an amazing job working for what is undoubtedly the world’s most incredible humanitarian organisation. With this job I can confidently answer my earlier question that the work we do does make a difference to many people’s lives, but is it making a difference in mine?

I am feeling restless again, it feels like I am standing on the edge of that precipice, sensing big change ahead. I am reminded of the quote by Guilluame Apollinaire Come to the edge, He said. They said, We are afraid. Come to the edge, He said. They came. He pushed them… and they flew.

Maybe it’s time for me to fly. 

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I am not going to soldier on!

There is a popular cold and flu medication that encourages us to “soldier on” despite being sick. The implication is that if we take the medication our cold and flu symptoms will be alleviated, allowing us to be brave and strong and continue meeting demands of our busy lives with no interruptions to work and home. I find it kind of sad. If we do get sick, our bodies are telling us to stop what we are doing and rest and recover. I believe that if we are in optimal health and getting adequate amounts of high quality nutrient rich food and plenty of water combined with moderate exercise, balanced with rest and relaxation then we won’t get sick. There is evidence to prove that when experiencing optimal health we are resistant to most viruses. However many of us don’t take great care of ourselves and our health is less than optimal and so we will eventually succumb to an illness of some kind.

I have been guilty of not taking care of myself very well at all these past few months and this week my body decided to scream very loudly at me that enough is enough. Yes I’m sick, I admit it – I’m sick. I was feeling so happy with myself, wearing it like a badge of honour that I hadn’t even had a sniffle this horrible flu season, but now I have it. Sore eyes, runny nose, no appetite, no energy and the list goes on. I will not soldier on, I will rest. I have taken a few days off work and am happily doing lots of nothing. If you look at what our wonderful bodies tell us it’s quite remarkable. All of the symptoms point to only one thing – rest, rest and more rest. Sore throat – stop talking. Sore eyes – stop watching and reading. No appetite – stop eating. Runny nose – massive cleansing. No energy – stop stop stop! So I am. I am drinking tea, resting and saying no – a lot. It feels good. It’s also a great time to reflect and to renew promises to myself to take better care of my body in the future. I am in awe of my amazing body, not how it looks, although I am a great advocate for healthy body image and self love, no I am in awe of the fact that it has carried me through a whole lot of stuff this year and I have not been very kind to it. I don’t drink, smoke or take drugs, but I have been under a fair bit of stress and have not been eating well, or drinking enough water and exercise has completely disappeared from my life. That’s a whole other story for another day, and maybe even another blog, but I promise myself that once I have recovered, a whole new lifestyle for a whole new me awaits! In the meantime I’m going look a bit like this guy….

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15 Things I Will Never Take for Granted Again

 

Continuing on from my previous post on Gratitude, I would like to share a piece that I wrote on my other blog when I was living in Ghana. Living there taught me so many things.  One thing I learnt was to never take anything for granted, and to be grateful for all that we are blessed to have in this gorgeous country of ours.

This list is 15 of the things that most of us take for granted every day.

I will never take these simple things for granted again.

1. A constant and reliable electricity supply.

2. A constant and reliable water supply.

3. Sanitation; rubbish removal, sealed gutters, a litter free environment.

4. Public toilets; any toilets but especially those you can flush and even better those you can flush the paper down.

5. Clean beaches and oceans.

6. Access to anything that I want, need or desire whenever I want, need or desire it.

7. Basic human rights for everybody.

8. A political system, police system, government system, all systems for that matter free of corruption.

9. Education for all children.

10.Freedom of choice in anything and everything.

11.Traffic free roads.

12.Minimum wage and/or at least Government support for those who need it.

13.Access to free quality health care.

14.Pollution free air.

15.My beautiful homeland.

 

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An Attitude of Gratitude

I often talk about being thankful. I am thankful for everything in my life. I am truly blessed. I believe that if you live with an attitude of gratitude then you will have more to be thankful for; the more we give thanks, the more we receive.

If you haven’t tried consciously taking the time to be grateful every day, I highly recommend it. I have enjoyed using a conscious gratitude process for many years now in different forms. An example I would like to share happened a few years ago. I was having a really tough day, feeling down and miserable about a whole lot of stuff, mainly stuff that was outside of my control. Rather than continuing to wallow in self pity, I decided that I would shift my attitude using gratitude. I went for a slow walk outside and started to mentally consider all of the things I was grateful for, I even said a few quietly out loud to myself, when nobody was looking. Now remember, I was having a horrible day, so it wasn’t easy, didn’t come naturally and I certainly didn’t feel particularly grateful for anything. So I started small, feeling thankful that I had legs that enabled me to walk, eyes to see, ears to hear, hands to hold. I then started to feel a bit better, so my attention ventured outwards to my environment, the gorgeous day, blue sky, birds singing and so on. My awareness then ventured out further and further and slowly but surely my mood completely changed and I continued to walk and be thankful for quite some time, and came home feeling quite different to how I felt when I left.

I now record in a journal every night a few things I am grateful for each day. I don’t have a set number, some nights I write a big list and others a short one. But one interesting thing I have noticed, is that the longer I do this, the bigger my list gets and the more wonderful things come into my life for me to be grateful for. I often talk to people about this and I find that if they are facing challenges and difficulties in their lives, they just don’t know where to start. I say start small. Give thanks for the roof over your head, the food in your belly, access to fresh clean water, the warm blanket you can snuggle up under on a cold night, friends, family – you get the idea. There has been much attention given to the concept of gratitude lately and there are now lots of lovely books, journals and even iPhone apps to make it easy for us to record those things that we are grateful for every day, but you don’t even need those, just a piece of paper will do. It doesn’t matter how you do it, it’s just important that you do.

Why not start today? What are you grateful for right now?

Give it a few weeks and see how your list grows. I’d love to hear about it!

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Does my bum look big in this???

Dancing African style - you need a bum to dance in Africa!

As the year draws to a close and new year’s resolutions are being made, I am sure that on the top of many people’s list is the resolution to lose weight. This has been my yearly resolution for as long as I can remember, except for the past two years. Along with most women in the West I have longed for and battled to achieve the perfect shape so idealised by the media. I have started so many diets on a Monday, only to break them, eat like a mad person for the rest of the week to begin another diet the following Monday. I have read almost every diet book and magazine there is and started a thousand and one different programs and regimes. I have yoyo-ed up and down, and up and down and up again – for over thirty years. I have now made a decision never to do this to my body and mind again. I will look at myself in the mirror with the love and acceptance that I deserve and embrace what I see.

What has brought about this change? I have just spent a year in Africa where women’s curves are loved, appreciated and valued, and ironically I lost more weight and was at my lifelong thinnest for the whole time I was there. I actually liked what I saw in the mirror and was happy to show off my curves. In Africa women love to be curvy and their men equally love them that way. I felt so comfortable in my skin that the word diet didn’t enter my head or thoughts for a whole year. My attitude and thinking were completely different and I think a part of that can be attributed to the fact that there was absolutely no pressure to conform to an ideal. My husband (who is African) tells me they have a saying that it’s better to have one big woman than two skinny ones. If you want to insult an African woman, tell her she has no bum! The bigger the bum the better! Most dance styles in Africa revolve around being able to shake your bum. If you watch an African woman walking down the street she walks in a particular way that accentuates the jiggle and shake. I remember once many years ago my belly dance teacher teaching us the shimmy and we were all laughing about how many other bits were moving as well and I will always remember her words – when you shimmy this bit moves and everything else is a bonus. The complete opposite to our skewed view of beauty in the West. So with a different attitude, I found myself eating only what I needed, when I needed it and the results spoke for themselves.

The thing is curves are sexy!  If you doubt it, go ask a few men.  There have been many surveys done where men were asked to rate the attractiveness of different women and most men voted for women in the 14-16 size bracket, far from the skin and bone models and photo shopped images that we are bombarded with in the media. I am not saying that being overweight is healthy, but I am saying that we should accept what nature has given us and embrace it. I am also not saying that if a woman is naturally slim that she is not sexy, this is about accepting the body we are given and learning to be comfortable in our own skin and loving ourselves just as we are.  I remember one day before we left for Africa, putting on a pair of pants that were almost too tight and made my bum look bigger, and so I was contemplating changing to another outfit when my husband came into the room and said “wow! you look beautiful”. It made me begin to look at myself in a different way.

There is this pressure nowadays for women to regain their pre pregnancy shape after giving birth and much attention is given to the speed in which they achieve it. Women are nurturers, we are built to be soft, who wants to cuddle up to something boney? Take a look at a little child, they love cuddling up to our soft breasts and being held in warm loving arms. I don’t believe that we are designed to be hard, and once we are mothers, I think the signs and remnants of having given life to another are lovely and are to be cherished. Our hard edges have been loved off and we are somehow more beautiful.

I have been home for almost six months now and have to confess I have gained back a few kilos that I have been unhappy with and beating myself up about. I was putting it down to having access to all of the food that I wasn’t able to get for a year, but I think it goes deeper than that. I have put myself back in the yoyo diet mentality again – well I am saying now, in this public forum that I will never go down that slippery slope again.

So…my new year’s resolution looks something like this:

  • I will eat only what nourishes me; body mind and soul.
  • I will exercise regularly doing activities that I enjoy.
  • I will love and accept myself as I am.
  • I will honour myself every day in every way.

Who wants to join me?

Here’s to 2012 being the year of acceptance.

You are beautiful – believe it!

 

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Redefining Practice

I love yoga. When I attended my first class about ten years ago, I had a profound sense of having found home. I began attending weekly classes and then increased to two or three classes a week. Within a year I began to study yoga and attained my first level certificate. My life underwent some big changes a few years later and I was living in a town where the nearest class was almost eighty kilometres away, I made time to attend when I could. Since then I have moved around a lot in Australia and overseas and have managed to find classes on a rather irregular basis.

Even with my great love of yoga, one thing I have always found myself challenged by is creating and maintaining a home practice. I should mention here that when I talk about a home practice I am talking about asana practice. Asana is the physical aspect of yoga that many of us in the West think of as yoga – the postures. Yoga is far more than asana, and I will talk more about the other aspects in another post. Since I came home to yoga I have done my best to live yoga on and off the mat. I have now returned from my travels and I am looking for a regular class, and plan to finally create and maintain a regular home practice.

But why have I been unable to do this until now? I asked myself this question recently. The realisation I came to is that perhaps my definition of practice needs redefining. I have previously limited myself to the idea that in order to practice I need to have a full uninterrupted hour; in the perfect space, at the perfect time. The reality is that I rarely find this time and space. The same applies to a lot of things; meditation, reiki practice, walking, writing – you get the idea.

So I now plan to look at practice in a different way. I will take small steps and celebrate those steps and build on them. Practice is practice, however it looks and however long it takes and it’s different for everybody. For instance if I have a few minutes spare now, I will roll out my mat and do a couple of downward dogs or some spinal twists. If I am not able to get to my mat, I may do a short meditation or some reiki practice, write a few words or even pop out for a quick walk. I will accept my practice for what it is on that day and not wait until everything is “perfect” before I begin.

I have learnt many valuable lessons over the years and in particular during my time living in Africa. Two of the most valuable lessons for me seem to sum this up nicely – going with the flow and acceptance of what is. 

What does practice look like for you?

Namaste


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Goodbye to do list – for today anyway!

I am a huge fan of lists, especially to-do lists, and always have been. I plan my work day, home life, weekends and my spare time. When I moved overseas my to-do list was a book of lists and it was the same upon returning home. I have lists in my bag, on my desk, on my phone, my computer – everywhere! I have even been known to create a retrospective list if I feel like I haven’t achieved much in a day, and then cross out the tasks completed, so that I can gain that same sense of satisfaction.

I recently decided to eliminate the word should from my life completely, and today I also made a decision to do only the things that I really felt like doing and those that brought me joy, as an opportunity to practice eliminating the should word. This also meant that I wouldn’t develop a to-do list for the day as there was nothing I had to do or get done. So I had a whole day ahead of me with no plans! Hmmm what to do?  What to do if there was nothing I should do or had to do? The first thing I did was to go back to bed and watch a movie – unheard of! After it was finished I read magazines, surfed the net, pottered around and generally amused myself with whatever I felt like doing, whenever I felt like doing it – how wonderful.

It felt a little strange at first, I even had my home to-do list notebook with me out of habit I realised later, but managed not to open it once. The should word occasionally crept into my thoughts, but I managed to eliminate it as quickly as it arose. After a lovely day of being rather than doing, I am feeling free, relaxed and refreshed. I am going to continue eliminating should from my vocabulary and thoughts, and who knows I might develop a new habit of being list free – well sometimes anyway!

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Live as if you were to die tomorrow…

Me - living and loving life African Style!

Mahatma Ghandi said “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” Last week I read a great blog post titled Regrets of the Dying at http://www.inspirationandchai.com. The author was a palliative care nurse who found some common themes amongst the regrets of her patients. Apart from the obvious such as wishing they didn’t work so hard, there was one regret that really resonated with me, “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” This week I also happened to watch the Bucket List. For those unfamiliar, it’s a movie about two men with terminal illnesses who write a list of all the things they had always dreamed of doing and they go off together and do them.  Let me say here, this post is not about death and dying. I’m not trying to depress you, quite the opposite.

A couple of years ago I made some decisions that resulted in major changes in my life and circumstances. I decided to be true to myself and follow my own dreams. So far I am doing pretty well with that. Lately however I find I am wanting more, or maybe it’s that I’m wanting less. The subtitle of my blog is creating space, inviting change, realising dreams. I was inspired to write this blog as a process to create some space and clarity for myself, by my good friend and fellow blogger Bronwyn Clee I have just returned from living in Africa for twelve months, where I found many of my long held beliefs and values challenged, and mostly for the better. I was very fortunate to have an opportunity to be rather than do for a whole year and I have learnt a whole lot about life and myself. This learning has put everything into a completely different perspective for me. I have returned questioning everything and wanting to create change, and sometimes I have so much that I want to do, I don’t know where to begin.

So I’m home again now, back at work and ready to make more changes, and creating my own bucket list. Every day is so precious and I plan to continue enjoying every second of it. The interesting thing is when I talk to people about this yearning within me to do something different and follow my passions, and not necessarily the usual and expected pattern of a five day working week with a two day weekend, I find so many are experiencing this same sense of restlessness. People are ready for change, they sometimes just don’t know where to start and are nervous about breaking away from the expectations placed on them by family, society and those that they impose on themselves. There is much written and said about work/life balance, but I think we have it all backwards, I believe it should be life/work balance. How can we achieve this? This will look different for everybody. I will share some of my learnings and experiences with you as I work towards achieving this sense of balance and what it looks like for me.

So….If we really were to live as though we were to die tomorrow, would we make different choices? What would you do differently?

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Freedom

Freedom to fly

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