A beautiful life

So the weekend marked the start of the Rooster lunar year and the Rooster is known to be particularly vain so they’re obsessed with beauty. As well as this Roosters are known to be hard-working, talented, honest, intelligent, flexible, social and energetic so they’re so many more things to appreciate about the upcoming year. But I want to discuss the importance of being beautiful and the Chinese zodiac suggests that this year putting more effort to look beautiful and presentable will help you get further with all aspects of career and social.

I have an eye for the beautiful. I never thought myself vain or concerned with beauty that is only skin deep but I certainly notice the beauty in my life. My sister asked me a surprising question to me beginning of the year, when I mentioned how gorgeous the sky was during sunset, she said, ‘Sanny, when did you learn how to appreciate beauty?’ I thought, wow, isn’t it second nature to do so? Isn’t it built in all of us to stop and smell the roses, or gasp at a strikingly beautiful sunset? Not so, I guess. Am I particularly more romantic and whimsical than others? I’ve always taken it for granted, my ability to see things in the most beautiful light.

I have to think back to when it all began. My early memories of seeing beautiful things probably came from my father’s influence. Yep, he may not be an artist, but he sure did like pretty flowers in the garden, sunsets and oceanic views. I also noticed a few pieces of art on the walls, even if it was a basic one of two swans forming the shape of a heart on water. I remember my first drawings or artwork in grade 3 of a pretty sunset over my Australian backyard that I was in awe of. My teacher and friends at school thought I was that good I could be an artist some day. I also found out, to my surprise, my deceased biological mother was an art student. So with all of this influence, I believe it was in-built into my DNA as well as being lucky enough to have plenty of time during my childhood to notice nature. It was something until now, I took for granted and thought that every human can do naturally.

The next biggest thing was photography. At the age of 11, I somehow got a hold of my Dad’s heavy, sophisticated Canon film camera with a brilliant 50mm lens. I began to play with it as well as use a crappy point and shoot camera that was good enough to practice with. One of the biggest things I learned was seeing things differently, noticing detail, or a composition and although you could not always compare the real beauty of life with a photograph, I somehow was able to capture a glimpse of beauty that I saw in that very moment. The closer I got to representing the real beauty I saw, the better my photography got. I just wanted to capture what I saw in life and share it for people to see.

Now you may ask, what is the point of beauty? What is its’ function? I am a designer in my day job and I don’t care for the notion that design is just about making things pretty. I get very offended when people just assume that my job is to ‘pretty up’ their work. I approach it from an entirely different way. I first make sure that the communication is the function that it is clear, readable, and connects with the audience. Sometimes there isn’t a need for a good looking piece of work, as long as it serves a purpose for the communicator and the receiver, my design piece is just the messenger. However I do think aesthetically pleasing work can make it more eye-catching and pleasing to look at, therefore serving a function of capturing or captivating the audience if that is it’s need. It also connects with the audience in many ways, emotionally and delightfully touching the visual senses.

So I believe beauty plays a vital role in life. I crave it and believe that my life is the better for it, and choose to surround myself with it. It is not just skin deep in a visual sense. It is in a smile, the way the fabric on a dress gracefully sways, an old man dancing, the sound of a violin, the glint in someone’s eyes, a baby’s giggle or the beautifully smooth code that is written in a piece of work, the exotic taste of lychees, the smell of frangipanis or even in the detail of a shell. There’s so many ways to find it and for us to appreciate. And I think it’s true, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, not everyone agrees with what the notion of beauty is but you can make the decision of what you think is beautiful to you. I encourage you to invite more beauty into your lives by appreciating and noticing it everywhere you go. Take a moment to delight your senses, your sight, your hearing, touch, taste, smell and feel invigorated by the beauty of life itself.

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Minimalism: clearing out the clutter

Forgive me for not writing last week. I’ve been heavily focused on learning about technical aspects of creating a website as well as the developing the content for it to generate awareness and market myself as a designer. I regret that I didn’t spend some time to write to you as I am not really doing this blog for anyone but myself so I owe it to myself to get these thoughts out there and possibly help someone in the process. So back to the topic I most want to write about: minimalism.

My background is Chinese and we have a tradition that before new year comes, we clear out and clean the home preparing ourselves to invite good luck into our homes during the new year season. You may hear firecrackers and dragons and lion dancing on the streets, which is figuratively supposed to scare the bad, evil spirits away. If you’re like me, or know of any person who is Chinese and follows certain traditional values, you will see us sweeping, mopping, do our washing, getting a haircut, pay our debts, anything to clear any bad energies that lurk and linger in the home. I guess the fresh start doesn’t hurt! I physically feel great when the house is clean and I have donned a great outfit and a new hairstyle. So it must have an impact on my mental energy too.

I have been on a mission to part with things that don’t add any value to my life since moving house last year. This quest has been two fold, it refers to the physical things in my life as well as the thoughts, behaviours, habits and connections I have. What am I really holding on to? What do I gain from keeping certain aspects of my life?

I started with the easy bit of cleaning out the wardrobe, and all my paperwork that I don’t think I need. It is still a work in progress but it feels better already. It is still is hard to part with sentimental bits of paper, card, photographs, messages etc. from the past. I know because I struggled when I changed my phone over to a new one recently, and found myself holding onto and saving messages that were written 3 years ago! The clothes were easier… as I kept saying to myself that if I had not worn it for the last year, it was out. Plus, my new wardrobe in this tiny apartment forced me to give the charity bin as much as possible. It felt great!

The big plus of throwing away old things that do not add value to your life is that you can find the things you love or appreciate more easily. I am not fumbling through junk to get to the things that I really want to use or wear and therefore less time wasted on things of lesser value. What’s the use of wearing a holey shirt when you can wear a beautiful bright one that suits your energy? How good are you going to feel when you see your friends and family, bring your best out everyday? So start small, start with the easiest thing you can do. Throw out things you hate, or do not really value aesthetically or practically. If it makes you feel better, and it’s a valuable item, and just not to you, maybe it is worth selling it or giving to charity so that someone else who needs it. I might also add this documentary called Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things to get a sense of what I mean about letting go of objects that don’t add value in our lives, and the idea of ‘less is more’ has been taken to a whole new level.

I think this translates to our relationships and people also. This sounds harsh but you are doing yourself a favour by allowing an energy more in tune with you, into you life. I have always been one who sees value in everyone and accepts people for who they are. I have always tried to be inclusive and been in touch with everyone I once had a connection with. But that is mentally exhausting and it can affect your important relationships because you’re not able to bring as much as your best to your loved ones. Now, I recognise it’s time for a change, to value myself more, and to value my needs as well as committing to great friendships, family and people who I value. By giving more energy to the people that matter, and less to the people who don’t, I am giving to myself.

It takes on the same precedence as the physical stuff, and you can go through the same thought processes. Do I really need this person, do they make me happy? Are they adding value to my life? Are you just keeping in touch just because you used to be great friends? And now you really have nothing to give to each other? It sounds selfish but it may not be. If your need is to be of value to others, then giving to someone who needs your love and attention, then you are are giving yourself the best gift of all. But really ask yourself and list the things you value you in your relationships, what your needs are, and who is really really important in your life. Isn’t it time you focused on people who matter more? Or made way for new and interesting people who you can learn from or enjoy being with?

On top of this, I wanted to see what behaviours that I can do away with and what would add value to my life. It means, throwing away the behaviour that have led me to the same predictable unwanted outcomes. I suggest to start small, take baby steps because it is hard. Find the root of the problem, why are you doing the things you are doing, that you know aren’t getting you anywhere? You see, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got” a quote by Henry Ford rings true if you want something different in life. Behaviours are hard to get rid of, because the brain is telling us it’s comfortable, it’s what you’ve always done and survived with in the past. But maybe it’s time to assess what was ok then, may not be great for you now.

I have decided to list a few so you know what I mean. One example is that I am going change by doing what I can, rather than be perfect because this idea of being a perfectionist is driving me to the ground. I either procrastinate and never do the things I’ve wanted to do or I do it so well, it consumes me. Like writing this blog! It’s best that I get it done than not at all. Another behaviour I wish to change is being late. I know I’ve given myself slack or made up a tonne of excuses in the past, but I can see how others feel about it and I’m having anxiety attacks about being late all the time. If I dig deep, I know it comes from trying to do too much at a given time, trying to optimise my time and making the most of every living minute. However, I think in doing so, it doesn’t give breathing space to take in the experiences I’ve been having, and this jumping from one event to another may not be the wisest thing to do. The constant stress and axiety, is probably not good for my health as well as the relationships in my life. There, I’ve given you two examples of behaviours I wish to change. I know I am getting better with time with recent times, and it’s easy to revert to old behaviours but I have to remind myself of what I really want to be, or do in life. If you feel like you’re stuck in a rut, and want to get out, it may be time to think about what you can do differently. Be brutal, be brave but also be kind to yourself and take the steps to change and elimate the things you’re doing that isn’t helpful in your life.

This idea of minimalism for me exends from the physical things in the home, to relationships and behaviours. I challenge you to do this with me, start with the home, your physical space and maybe it will catch onto your thoughts, behaviours and even with people you let in your life. It’s time to keep only the valueable in your life, and be prepared to let new and exciting, great energy into your life with this year of the rooster!

 

Sukha

Start the year with Sukhasana. Build strength from a ‘good space’.

To set the tone for this blog and fittingly, being the beginning of the year 2017, I’m suggesting the idea of Sukha, a word I discovered while doing Yoga with Adriene – Day 1 of Revolution. Adriene has been a wise and fun teacher for me whilst doing yoga in the comfort of my own home, without having to step outside of the house and the benefits are fantastic. I’m diverging here, but she really is great! She got me curious about this word… Sukha, the root word, for Sukhasana – the easy pose and it means happiness, pleasure, ease, or bliss, in Sanskrit and Pali and Adriene eluded to the idea it is to come from a ‘good space’.

In this practice, it got me thinking that if we start off with building a strong foundation of being kind to ourselves and to come from a good space, we are prepared for whatever may come. It made me think that successful people prepared for their success, they didn’t just let things happen. They may have failed or been disappointed but they got up and did it differently until they got it. They did things with intention, and learned how to do or get the things they wanted. They also did it with heart, coming from this ‘good space’. Strength doesn’t necessarily mean to be forceful, controlling, or rigid and it can come from a strong foundation that you build, nurture and prepare for opportunities to grow.

So what do I want for 2017, what is my Sukha you may ask? I decided that it was finding my flow, my rhythm, and living my purpose with ease, with strength, and to make steps for success. There were too many years where I idly waited for things to happen. I went wherever the wind took me. This year, I want a year lived with intention, awareness and to come from a good space from my heart. I want to help and connect people who care about their health, their community, the environment and want to make a difference. But it does mean, I will need to be prepared for it, for the opportunities to grow and experience every moment of it by doing it with Sukha.

So what is your Sukha? What will give you the reason to wake up with enthusiasm everyday this year?