Well, 2016 has been a real humdinger of a year, amiright?!
On a global level, it has sometimes felt like the world is collapsing around us. We’ve lost so many incredible artists and global icons. We’ve witnessed political calamities unfolding like Brexit and the election of Trump. In public commentary, behaviour and voting patterns we’ve seen an unfortunate rise in anti-“outsider” sentiment and blatant racism. Terrorist attacks continue to inspire fear and sorrow around the world, and our hearts have broken wide open upon seeing the ongoing atrocities and slaughter in war-torn Syria.
On a personal level, 2016 was really a year of two halves.
About four months ago, my Mum noticed that my Dad had been a bit absent-minded – more than usual, anyway. Asking what day it was, ignoring a leaky kitchen ceiling for a few days, forgetting to play golf one day. That was the real warning sign right there – my Dad’s life pretty much revolved around golf, so for him to forget to play was simply unthinkable.
After several days of trying to convince him to go to a doctor (he was a stubborn man), he finally relented and allowed my Mum and my brother to bring him to the hospital. He was admitted immediately and was eventually diagnosed with a brain tumour. They thought it would be treatable, and Dad, our “Indestructible Man”, had bounced back from a number of health issues before, so, while concerned, we remained positive and didn’t necessarily fear the worst. Delays in getting the biopsy completed meant that it was another few weeks before we finally got the news every family dreads – the tumour was in fact an aggressive and terminal form of brain cancer. We were told he had months left. As it turned out, he only lasted another two weeks.
When it comes to spiritual (or self-improvement) practice, everyone has different preferences. Some like meditation, some prefer yoga, some do mindfulness practices, some talk to angels… I think that all practices can ultimately connect you to the same energy that lies within and around us, so it doesn’t really matter which particular practice resonates with you. There is no right or wrong.
With one caveat…
Spiritual practice should be a DAILY thing. Not every few days, or every once in a while. EVERY DAY.
Imagine having a conversation like this with a friend:
“Hey buddy! Thanks so much!”
“That 100 quid!”
“Ummm… what 100 quid?”
“The 100 quid you’re going to give me!”
“What, you need a loan?”
“Haha! No, not a loan, you’re just gonna give it to me!”
“Ehhh are you crazy? I can barely afford to splash out 100 quid on myself, let alone just give it away!”
Sounds about right, yeah? After all, it would be a bit presumptuous to just assume someone is just going to give you something for nothing.
Well here’s the good news – the Universe LOVES presumption!
You can be happy, right here, right now.
It is possible to summon a feeling of joy in every single moment, no matter where you are or what you’re doing.
And if it is possible to consciously create a joyful moment, doesn’t it then follow that you can bring that practice that to every moment and create a joyful life?
Yes, it does! Keep reading to find out how.
As my time in Ko Lanta draws to close (for now at least), I realised I’ve been holding back a bit from you guys. I’ve talked a little bit before about how difficult it can be to really open up and put myself out there publicly through a blog. This is a continual work in progress for me, not just on this site but on social media too. I’m generally always lurking around in the background but have never been one to post every step of my daily life online. I’m more a once-a-month than a once-a-day kinda gal. This is definitely on my “needs improvement” list, but right now it means that I haven’t shown you nearly enough of just how idyllic life on this island is.
From my last post you might be forgiven for thinking that life on Lanta is a never-ending party. Well I guess you wouldn’t be entirely wrong; there is always a party to go to with fantastic people if and when you’re in the mood. However, my most profound and rewarding moments on this beautiful island have come when I have withdrawn from the crowd to sit with my Self and embrace the serenity of solitude.
You might have noticed that all has been quiet on the Happy Chanter front for the last couple of weeks. My excuse for that comes in the form of my lovely friend Emily who came to visit for the holiday season, kicked up a party storm on the island, and left a series of hangovers in her wake. To be fair, I welcomed the opportunity to consciously step back from anything resembling work and have a bit of a holiday myself. Days, evenings and nights spent on the beach, basking, swimming, singing, eating, drinking, dancing… It was an absolute blast, and I wouldn’t change any of it. Well, except maybe that last SangSom bucket on Saturday night… That was the final straw as my body finally gave up, said NO, and the 6 day party binge left me suffering from vertigo and fatigue for 4 days in the run up to New Year’s Eve. That part wasn’t quite so much fun.
Since I set out on this journey, launching this blog and telling more and more people about nam myoho renge kyo, people have often asked me how exactly this chanting practice has impacted upon my life? How does it work? What exactly does it do for you? There is no easy answer to the bigger questions; in fact, my attempts to understand the cosmic mechanisms at play will make up the main focus of this blog. But for now I’d like to answer the first question at least, by telling you the story of the very first change that manifested in my life, and in myself, after I started chanting. There are two threads to this story which will come together, so bear with me…
It has officially been one month since I arrived on Ko Lanta. I know, I can’t believe it either! Time really does fly…
Apart from finally managing to get my Abu Dhabi trip all written up and posted, it might seem to you that I’ve been sitting back, taking it easy, and not getting much in the way of “work” done. Well, you’re not entirely wrong. But you know what? I’m not beating myself up about it. Not any more anyway.
See, during my year of intense student life, every single minute spent doing anything other than burying my nose in a book was riddled with guilt. There was always that feeling of “I should be doing <something>”, no matter how much I’d already done that day or week. That kind of guilty auto-response is probably familiar to a lot of people, whether you’re a student or a worker or a parent or just a person. And this is exactly the kind of automatic response-to-self that I am trying to escape, and that I have realised is unnecessary, pointless and even harmful. Harmful to your own sense of happiness and well-being. Why is it that we condition ourselves to berate ourselves far easier than patting ourselves on the back – or even simply giving ourselves a break?