Succinctly

To be succinct, takes time for the writer, but saves time for the reader. The exercise now is to reduce, behind the scene, the time it takes to compose succinctly. 
(2 mins)

This series of short posts are part of Incrementally – a 366 day writing challenge.

Photo by Josh Applegate 

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51st Revolution

Having completed my fiftieth revolution around the sun, I have decided to recommit to daily incremental writing. Today I am writing for just one minute, tomorrow for two, then three, and so on.

Sundays, I will lay fallow.

By next August, as I follow this challenge through, I will be writing an average of four hours a day – by then, I hope that stringing words together meaningfully will become a more flowing skill.

Day One:
The only viable evolution is the inner revolution – let writing be another doorway to self-knowledge and insight sharing.

To read all the entries check out: incrementally
(as the challenge unfolds)

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In Love with Breath

There is a causeless joy that can emerge when, like children, we wake to the moment and bask in conscious breathing. Once we let go of the crust of our conditioned ego, our thought-filled mind movie, our self-importance, we can be in touch with an underlying innocence that is content with life as it is.

When we witness the magic of every day consciousness so simply expressed in the breath, we experience a contentment that approaches unconditional love. Touching the pervading life force in everything, watching the coming and going, the eternal and the transient. Some call it meditation, what if we just called it awake breathing.

We can all be in love with our lives, when we are in love with our breath.

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Dare to Danube

Jill: handmade wooden beauty from Brockwood Park School

A dream is unfolding. Finn and Tereza’s to be precise.
At seventeen, they have embarked on a journey of a lifetime – rowing and sailing across Europe on a wooden boat from River Rhine to the Black Sea up River Main and down River Danube. That’s more than three thousand kilometres of waterways across eight countries.

The project was born at Brockwood Park School in England – in the woodwork barn just across the garden where I live. Since last summer, we have been blessed with the enthusiasm of an Australian boatbuilder, Andrew Turner, who has been keen to share his passion for woodwork with the students and embarked on the construction of a 16ft, wooden, double-ended, clinker sailboat. Both Finn and Tereza got very involved in the construction of the boat and tools in hand, came up with the idea of rowing and sailing it to Tereza’s home in Russia, with the smallest environmental footprint possible.

The boat under construction

After months of planning and having to complete the finishing touches without Andrew, the pair managed to set off on their journey at the end of July. I was fortunate enough to share the beginning of their adventure and even spend ten days on the boat helping them progress along the Main towards the Danube.

As well as promoting slow sustainable travel, they are fundraising for the school to build a timber-framed ‘makers-space’ barn so future generation of students can build their dreams and attempt to make the world a better and more sustainable place. I invite you to follow their adventure on their blog: www.ToTheBlackSea.com and support their cause by spreading the word, and if you can, by donating a small contribution.

To the Black Sea…

They have dared to embark on this adventure and I wish them good luck on their long journey up the River Main and down the River Danube… to the Black Sea.

L.

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Blink of a Breath

We live in an era of busyness and accelerating change and all too often when faced with a stressful and difficult situation, we respond in counter-productive ways. This can be remedied by a very simple technique which I call Blink of a Breath.

Here is how it goes. As soon as we notice that we are about to get triggered, we internally pause everything and breathe slowly for a few seconds. It is a little like pressing the <<pause>> button on our remote control and have a mini inner-massage.

It is better to start with an exhale – a sort of sigh to empty our system of the stale air – and then take a slow and full in-breath through our nose with an inner smile. Finally, we can exhale as slowly as possible all the air through our nose – relaxing our face, shoulders, lungs and belly following our breath like the light of a scanner. We are now ready to resume slow normal breathing and to start thinking with a fresher head about what options we have and what the most appropriate decision/action to take. 

It a very simple technique and we probably instinctively all know about it, yet it is amazing how often we forget to put it into practice. Taking just a few seconds to pause and breathe allows us to make better decisions and consider our actions before we take them. It is also a great way to alleviate our stress while learning the art of thinking on our feet in a blink of a breath.

L.

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Tonight is the New Tomorrow

Our days are a reflection of our nights and our nights are a reflection of our days. In other words, ,the quality and quantity of our sleep will greatly influence how we meet and deal with our days and vice versa. So where does one start the virtuous cycle towards a healthier, happier and more effective version of ourselves?

I would like to suggest that working on our nights is a better place to start.  Firstly, unless one suffers from a sleep disorder, our nights are overall more simple, and controllable than our days.  Secondly, sleep is the activity we do the most and therefore plenty of experience to draw on. Lastly, it is very likely that we are sleep deprived and the earlier we remedy the issue the better!

So before I enquire further on the topic of fearlessness, commitment and freedom, let’s establish some basic healthy habits and sleep must be one of the most crucial one. If we are to be ready tomorrow we have to be ready tonight. Here are some of the most common tips for better sleep:

  1. Turning our bedroom into a sleep-inducing environment
    (Dark, cool, quiet, stimulation-free and comfortable)
  2. Sleeping for at least 8 solid hours per night
    (recent studies have shown that apart from some very rare exceptions we nearly all need the same amount of sleep)
  3. Keeping our internal clock set with consistent sleep
    (establishing basic rules about bed time and wake up time)
  4. Avoiding chemicals that interfere with sleep especially in the evenings
    (caffeine, alcohol, nicotine…)
  5. Ensuring adequate exposure to natural light
    (exposure to natural daylight during the day & keeping the room dark during the night)
  6. Limiting daytime naps to 30 mins
    (for some, regular early-afternoon naps may be beneficial)
  7. Balancing fluid intake and eating light meals in the evening
    (Drinking plenty during the day and less prior to bed)
  8. Exercising daily 
    (stretching, walking, swimming, running…)
  9. Establishing a regular relaxing bedtime routine
    (warm shower, light stretches, relaxation, reading a book…)
  10. Remembering that not all nights will be good nights
    (Avoiding, feeding worries, moving, looking at clock)

Everyone will have their own issues: not enough exercise, caffeine in the afternoon, looking at screens in beds, waking up too early and the list goes on. For me, establishing a regular and healthy bedtime routine has perhaps been the hardest. There always seems to be things to be done, conversation to be had, email to be checked, etc…, and until quiet recently I nearly gave up on the idea.

Today’s exploration, however, has uncovered that it is where I need to focus, so without further adieu, I am off to plan my ultimate night routine with the help of an article on Lifehack I just stubbled on.

Sweet dreams and remember tonight is the new tomorrow.

L.

Photo by Krista Mangulsone

Some useful links:

[1] The Strength of She: The Importance of a Nighttime Routine
[2] Business Insider: What your nightly routine should look like, according to science
[3] Pick the Brain, Grow Yourself: The Best Night Routine for a Productive Day
[4] Little Might: Nightly Routines and how to sleep hack your way to a productive morning
[5] Mark’s Daily Apple: Primal Starter: Is Your Night Routine Encouraging Fat Storage?
[6] Cosmopolitan: Six minutes of reading before bed will help you sleep, dream and live better
[7] Zapier: 12 Morning and Evening Routines That Will Set Up Each Day for Success
[8] The Muse: 5 Bedtime Routines That Will Make Your Mornings So Much Easier
[9] Pick the Brain, Grow Yourself: The Best Night Routine for a Productive Day
[10] National Sleep Foundation: Recommends New Sleep Times
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Lost in Books

So today, I have to confess that I got lost. I went to the library to work on my course and got distracted by the books on the shelves. It was like going through a rabbit hole. Time stopped, and before I knew the day was nearly over. An important part of fearlessness, is to admit to our errings. I need to reflect on the pattern as it is not the first time this happens – in fact it reminded me of my university days. I may write a blog post on the topic of procrastination if, or when, it comes to the fore again.

So, no blog post today – as I do not want to write after 6:00pm.

L.

Photo by Jaredd Craig

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A Good Cry

When there is resistance, the present conditions that seem to provoke us are rarely the cause of our struggles.  These are merely symptoms of underlying undischarged trauma from the past. Unless we go at the source of the original recordings, the confusing feelings that emerge will keep on returning creating more friction.

To have someone by our side who can listen non-judgmentally and help us uncover what really is troubling us is so invaluable. We know we have found the right person, when tears come naturally. Crying is usually a sign that something inside is shifting, that some emotional knot is being released.

We may have been conditioned to suppress or stop the tears, but this needs to be challenged. It is true that there are many situations where it may not be appropriate to cry and it is wise to choose a safe context to discharge and re-evaluate the source of our sorrow.

After the tears, we may feel elated and relaxed – these are the sign of a good cry.

L.

Photo by Kat J.

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To Do and Not To Do

We all have to-do-lists.
Some of us may prefer not to bother writing them down and keep them in our heads. Others may have simple lists of tasks and commitments, jotting them down on paper or electronically so as not to forget. Others still, may have more elaborate systems with priorities and calendar functions with reminders. Lastly, there are those of us who use robust time-management tools and techniques, to not only stay on top of our to-dos but also to balance our life-work responsibilities and help us focus on short, medium, and long term goals. This is all very fine, but how much do our to-do-lists define our lives? And will we ever feel fulfilled by this seemingly never ending conveyor belt of activities?

Getting things done can be quite addictive as it gives us a sense of purpose, engages our problem solving minds and feels rewarding when we become better and better at juggling and keeping up with it all. The problem lies in that we may neglect its equally important polar opposite: not doing.

Doing nothing may sound boring or even unpleasant, yet I would like to argue here that it is not only necessary for our health and wellbeing but it may actually also be highly fulfilling. Whereas ‘doing’ deals with the measurable, ‘being’ dwells in the immeasurable.

There is an art of being idle, to take the time to enjoy the simple act of breathing, to contemplate the beauty of life and to adopt a child-like carefree alertness. These ‘acts of being’ are not reserved to the poets, philosophers and religious people – they are accessible to everyone.

With practice, we quickly recognise how good it feels to give ourselves a few moments of peace each day. Once we are able to put on hold all the things we have to do, even momentarily, we may touch a sense of freedom that we use to experience as children.

There is nothing wrong with the “to-do”s so long as they leave enough space for the “to-be”s

L.

Photo by Kai D.

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Begin Fearlessly

Can one have commitment and freedom at the same time?
This is what I am going to explore during the next six weeks.

On one hand, I am committing to complete two specific challenges. On the other, I want to investigate the more subtle relationship between doing and being. In other words, I am going to focus on the quality of the journey with a playful, fearless, carefree approach while keeping an eye on the final destination.

The first challenge I have set myself is to finish developing – an 8-week course in Yoga, breath work & health awareness that I am planning to run in the New Year. The second,  is to write a short blog post everyday  to document the learning that comes from consciously exploring fearlessness while moving out of my comfort zone.

Now that I have set this intention, the aim is to enjoy the process form moment to moment regardless of what comes my way. Today is a little special in that it is the very beginning and things have the quality of an exciting engagement – everything seems new and there is clarity. Showing up everyday without judgement is possibly the surest way to make progress, but above all it is essential: to begin.

Let me finish with a quote which is widely misattributed to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe but is in fact extracted from W. H. Murray’s book, The Scottish Himalayan Expedition (1951) [4]

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:
Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!”

(The “couplet” referred to here is from an extremely loose translation of Goethe’s Faust lines 214-30 made by John Anster in 1835)[5]

Learning about fearlessness, commitment and freedom is what seems to matter most to me now. Therefore, I am beginning the process of facing it head-on with a playful and effortless attitude.

L.

Photo: Matt Duncan

PS: I invite you to do the same, find out what currently matters most to you and begin playfully and fearlessly to do something about it.

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