Balance

Lately, I’ve been feeling like I’ve had to really juice out the time in a single day. Always so much to do, in such little time. The key question is, how do I juggle and keep entertaining without dropping it all?

When I talk about entertainment, I just mean finding ways to keep on keeping on. Back to my question then, isn’t it about balance? Well, let’s dive into the different aspects of balance that are important for us to keep juggling.

I’ve written something similar before on mind, body and soul. I’ll use that as a reference and remind myself of why that triangle is important.

Mind

The mind is one of the most extraordinary things in existence. It’s essentially a super-computer. You can process like a million things at once. But maybe that’s where a bit of the trouble lies; when we start taking on so much stimuli that it starts to distract us.

Fun fact about the brain: It takes up around 2% of our total mass but uses approximately 20% of the energy in our system. I think that kind of speaks to the level of complexity it has compared to the rest of our body.

The mind is like a muscle, it can be trained. That also means it needs to rest. We don’t usually accommodate enough time for rest though, especially in the rat race a lot of us find ourselves in. So what can we do to balance this leg of the trio? You should be able to guess that by now…

Meditate!

Last time, I spoke about the impact meditation has on our ability to concentrate. This time, I’m speaking about how it can be used to help us find calm, clarity and balance.

The thing about being mindful is that you focus on the present moment. You’re not getting lost in thought, worrying about the future or stressing about the past. You learn to breathe, accept, and let go. There can be different ways of doing this, journalling works wonders too. Find something that works best for you to stay present and keep at it. Your brain deserves it.

Dandelion seed, shallow focus

Body

Here’s something you might not have expected me to say about taking care of your body:

Sleep!

Sure, exercise is a fundamental aspect of taking care of your body. We’ve talked about that in enough detail before and I’m certain you know it too. But sleep is something we don’t pay enough attention to. I’m currently reading a book called ‘Why We Sleep’ by Matthew Walker. It’s what inspired me to emphasize the importance of sleep.

Did you know that the process of transferring short-term memories from the hippocampus into long-term storage in the neocortex occurs during sleep? Specifically, during the deep phases of NREM sleep.

This means that sleep protects newly acquired information (a process called consolidation), enables us to remember better, enhances our ability to learn, accelerates physical recovery, stimulates muscle recovery and helps our cells restock energy.

The catch here, is that you need to sleep for at least 7 hours a night. If you’re sleeping for 6 hours or less, you’re essentially depriving your body of a vital recovery process. Have you ever heard anyone say “I’ll sleep when I’m dead”?

Well, the shorter your sleep, the shorter your life span (and the quality of that life). I wouldn’t recommend pulling too many all-nighters.

I encourage you to take your sleeping routine more seriously. Pay attention not just to the quantity, but the quality too. Stick to a consistent time to go to bed and wake up every night. Take 20 minute naps during the day whenever possible. It will genuinely enhance your overall performance.

http://clipartmag.com/images/cartoon-pictures-of-people-sleeping-46.png

Soul

We’ve learned a little about how to balance the mind and body, but what happens when we add another ball to juggle? Harmony I would hope. The final piece of the puzzle is to look after your soul. This is probably the hardest aspect to keep in check, because it has to do with your purpose.

In order to find acceptance in the chaos, we need to live with intention. We need to realize how temporary we truly are. We need to detach and stop clinging onto materialistic desires. For some people, religious practices are what keeps their soul balanced. This is true for me, as I am a practicing Muslim. For others, it might be something different.

The point is to find a way to serve others. To express yourself in a way that contributes to the greater good. To be disciplined and authentic to your true self. To understand that it’s no coincidence that you’re here. You’re exactly where you are meant to be and for a specific reason. Realize that you matter and that you make a difference.

We don’t have a choice as to whether or not we want to play. We do have a choice as to how we decide to play. Juggling through the game of life is not going to be easy, but it is going to be worth it. As long as we remember to take out some time to relax our mind and be present, take better care of our sleep and live with the intention to serve others.

“The only guarantee for failure is to stop trying.”

Mindful Monday #6

Why is it so difficult to concentrate? Why do we sometimes struggle to remember names or places? Do you also feel like your attention span is depreciating?

Mindful Monday is back! I really enjoy this series because it’s all about living in the present, focusing on your breath, being intentional and honouring gratitude.

I thought about how I know so many people who constantly tell themselves: “I’m terrible at remembering names”, “I really struggle to focus”, “I always misplace my things”. In today’s post, I’d like to share some techniques on how to concentrate, remember names better and discuss why love is about the quality of attention.

Meditate

The solution is to isolate yourself in the Himalayas, get rid of technology and meditate for 10 hours a day. I’m kidding (although it would probably seriously help). What you want to do is train your brain to focus. I’m bringing back the concept of neuroplasticity, whereby your brain physically changes with every experiences.

If you want to focus better, learn how to focus. It’s not something you have or don’t have, it’s a skill that you can develop. Meditation is the perfect tool to help you improve on that skill. Keep in mind that it’s much more meaningful and beneficial than just helping you focus, but that’s the advantage I’d like to emphasize here.

This is not the same thing as being mindful, because mindfulness is more of a lifestyle; embracing the present moment as often as possible. Meditation allows you to become more mindful.

Mindfulness meditation utilizes the breath and other physical cues in your immediate environment to help you acknowledge the present. By forming the habit of sitting down every morning or evening, for 5-10 minutes to focus on your breath, you train your mind to sit still. To not get distracted. To engage with your thoughts more consciously. To acknowledge the external world more clearly. To even help you remember better.

Sorry, what’s your name again?

I’ve mentioned Jim Kwik a number of times in previous posts, but it’s especially relevant to the topic of memory. In order to easily remember names, remember the acronym BE SUAVE.

BE SUAVE

  • Believe
  • Exercise
  • Say it
  • Use it
  • Ask
  • Visualize
  • End with it

Firstly, you have to actually Believe that you’re capable of this. There’s no use starting with limiting beliefs; you’re setting yourself up for defeat. No such thing as ‘I’m bad with names’, just put in effort. By Exercising, it implies repetition and continuous practice. Every skill requires practice to develop.

Saying it is about repeating the person’s name as they tell it to you, so you get to hear it twice. Using it is just regularly using their name throughout the conversation (in moderation). Asking relates to being curious about the origin of the name. Visualizing is about creatively thinking of their name in a memorable context (for example, if the person’s name is Matt, then you can imagine them on a flying mat). Ending it is just about repeating their name before you end the conversation.

It’s all about formulating a strategy. For more information, you can read the original article:

https://jimkwik.com/kwik-brain-006/

Attention!

I once read a quote that said:

“Love is the quality of attention we pay to things.”

Quite remarkable, don’t you think? I interpreted that to imply that we should starting paying a better quality of attention to our own lives. What does it really mean to love yourself?

If we have to think about the quality of our thoughts, habits and behaviours, we’d soon enough realize that there’s always work to do. But love is all about embracing the flaws, understanding that you will always have some form of imperfection, but striving for continuous improvement.

It all starts with attention. Pay better attention to life. Execute one task at a time. Remove distraction from your environment (especially digital). Find time to stare out of the window. It’s not about quantity, it’s about quality.

To recap what we’ve discussed so far:

  1. Meditate to enhance your focus
  2. BE SUAVE to help you remember names
  3. Pay quality attention to your own life

We’ll end on another brilliant quote, one which I often repeat to myself:

“Whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right.”

A Toolbox For Studying Online

How does working from home make you feel? Perhaps you thought it would be over by now. Maybe you were trying to form some kind of schedule but thought you wouldn’t be spending the entire year studying virtually.

For those of us at UCT, we’ve recently received the news that the second semester will be completed virtually. This is not really a surprise, given that we’re in the peak of the pandemic and that RSA has secured a top 5 spot for Covid cases. How can we move forward with this, given how overwhelming it truly is?

Today I’d like to share some of my life lessons and what has been working for me through this turbulent period. I’ll talk a little about scheduling and time management, how to make stress your friend, being supportive to others, understanding mental health, keeping your goals in check and remaining mindful.

Since I’ve spoken in depth about most of these topics before, I’ll provide links to the full posts under each heading.

Time Management

In order to successfully manage our time, we need to keep 3 things in check:

  • Structure
  • Consistency
  • Balance

This is forming a skeleton of your ideal day. Think of it as the foundation of your empire. How do we form structure? By setting out goals and objectives, each and every day.

When you’re consistent with the structure you’ve formed, it opens up time for you to do more. You gain confidence from consistency because you know what to expect from yourself.

Your structure should include time for you to rest, recover and reload. Make sure that you’re getting the right amount of sleep every night. Make sure that you’re putting in exercise at least 2-3 times a week. Make sure that you’re spending some time in nature too. Important here is to also monitor your social media usage and the amount of time you spend online.

Time management

I’ve been requested to talk a little about time management, so let’s give it a go. I’d like to first try and define time, or at least come to an understanding of what it is. Then we can dive into how to maneuver through the time we have. I aim to make you feel more … Continue reading Time management

Make Stress Your Friend #2

Flight or Fight!? How often do you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or relentlessly chasing deadlines as if your life depended on it? Let’s talk about why stress has low-key been the reason we’re achieving our goals and why we need to form a healthier relationship with it. I’ve talked about this before in the first … Continue reading Make Stress Your Friend #2

Make stress your friend

Far too often we get trapped in our own little cycle of thoughts. Some are true, some are exaggerated, some are just unnecessary and some are completely wrong.

“Stress is your body’s reaction to any change that requires a response.”

Keep in mind that stress is a beneficial part of your nature, it’s meant to help you adapt and react swiftly to changes in your environment. Manage stress by focusing on your breath and finding cues to the present moment.

Advertisements

Support structures and mental health

This is especially important now that we’re unable to physically meet each other on a regular basis. It’s really helpful to try and form a support structure with your peers, even if it’s just on group chat. Knowing that there are others who are going through a similar experience will make you feel a lot better.

This adds to the issue of taking care of your mental health. Your mental health is something that you need to take care of regularly. You can’t wait for things to go south and feel overwhelmed before you put in any effort.

Regularly taking care of your mental health can be as simple as journalling, meditating, praying, going for a walk or speaking to a friend. When it gets a little more hectic, speaking to a therapist or seeking professional help may be a better option.

Many universities offer virtual therapy sessions to their students for free. Be sure to utilize those resources if you need to.

Mental health

How are you currently feeling about your mental health? We all struggle or have struggled with our mental health at some point. We probably also know someone who currently struggles with their mental health. The reason I’m writing about mental health is for awareness. We often don’t realize how delicate our states of mind are. … Continue reading Mental health

Mindful Monday #1

Have you stopped to admire the sky today? Did you take a moment to notice how the colours on the leaves are changing? Why do we always find a way to escape the present moment? I’m starting a little series called ‘Mindful Monday‘. I’ve been part of a similar course before, so I just thought … Continue reading Mindful Monday #1

Mindfulness

This has been a recurring topic in my blog since I started. I’ve done a presentation on mindfulness a few weeks ago on 20 Life Learners that I’d like to share here.

It’s essentially about finding cues to stay in the present moment. Using grounding techniques such as focusing on your breath, you can control your physiology to condition your mind. There’s quite a bit of neuroscience behind it, you can read more in my Mindful Monday posts.

Goals

I’m not sure about you, but this year has forced me to reevaluate many of my goals. This is not necessarily a bad thing at all, it means that we need to be realistic and adapt.

Goal-setting is a powerful tool to help you move forward in life and to reach peaks you never could’ve imagined climbing. Find a place to write down some of your objectives for the rest of the year and review them constantly. It will make a difference in how motivated you feel.

Don’t give up when things don’t go according to plan. Find ways to improvise and keep looking at the bigger picture. You’re worthy. You’re capable. You will achieve greatness.

Meditations

How can we follow our nature? Can we lose anything other than the present? How can we learn to accept death and make the most of our time? Why are we so bothered by other people?

I’m so excited to be talking to you about my favourite philosophy book; ‘Meditations’ by Marcus Aurelius. Despite the title of the book, it has little to do with meditation. It’s all about stoicism, which is a genre of philosophy.

Marcus Aurelius was a Roman emperor around the period of 161 AD.

In today’s post, I’ll be talking all about death, following your nature, living in the present moment, dealing with your thoughts and being straightforward in your actions. Absolutely critical for times like this, when things seem to be falling out of control. Here are key takings from the book:

  1. Discard your misperceptions
  2. Limit yourself to the present
  3. Anticipate your final hours

I’ll be quoting a lot directly from the book, as I won’t be able to paraphrase everything.

The world is maintained by change.

Human Nature

Maintaining your character is key to living a fulfilling life. Ask yourself at every moment: ‘Is this necessary?’

The things you think about determine the quality of your mind. >> Your soul takes on the colour of your thoughts. Avoid randomness. No pointless thoughts or actions. Let your thoughts be that of an unselfish person. Unconcerned with pleasure and sensual indulgence.

“If it doesn’t harm your character, how can it harm your life?”

There is an emphasis on self-control and resisting distractions within this philosophy. Not falling into temptations or desire. Being straight, not straightened. Work for proper understanding; unselfish action; truthful speech.

We have control over our perceptions. It’s inappropriate to judge things as being “good” or “evil”. Our interpretations of the objects and events are the problem. Protect your mind from error and accept what’s out of your control.

“Nowhere you can go is more peaceful – more free of interruptions- than your own soul.”

Practice virtues that you can show: Honesty, endurance, abstinence, patience, sincerity, moderation, resilience, seriousness. If it’s not right – don’t do it. If it’s not true – don’t say it.

We need to master the art of acquiescence. Pay attention to your impulses, make sure they don’t go unmoderated. Steer clear of your desires.

Get back up when you fail – celebrate behaving like a human. Stop being hypocritical, self-centered, irritable.

“Our own worth is determined by what we devote our energy to.”

Death

“Don’t live as if you have endless days ahead of you. Death overshadows you. While you’re alive and able – be good.”

If you do everything as if it were the last thing you ever did, you would live with so much more passion. Look at how soon we’re all forgotten. Disturbance only comes from within; the way we perceive the world.

Recognize that the difference between years from now and tomorrow is just as small. Death is inevitable. It’s the end of sense-perception, of being controlled by emotions, mental activity & enslavement to our bodies.

Why should we fear what’s bound to happen? It’s part of the flux of life. All those before you, long gone. All those to come, soon to go. Utilize the days you have to work on your character and help those around you.

Why aren’t you running to do what your nature demands?

Disgraceful: For the soul to give up when the body is still going strong.”

Life is short. That’s all there is to say. Get what you can from the present – thoughtfully and justly.

Now

You can’t lose the past or the future, how could you lose what you don’t have?

Those who are alive today regardless of age, location, or race only have this present moment. A thousand more years or just one more day, what’s the difference?

The present is the same for everyone, its loss is the same. Don’t forget that.

“Change and flux constantly remake the world, just as the incessant progression of time remakes eternity.”

Be grateful for all that you have. Imagine how much you’d crave any of your blessings if they were to perish.

Short-lived creatures; long dead.

Serving Others

Everyone has a nature similar to our own. Even those who do us wrong are made of the same material. We were all born to work together, like feet, hands and eyes. We are all connected. Each of us are limbs, connected to the planet like a body.

Help others and be eager to share. How else are we meant to grow and flourish as a species? To care for all human beings is part of being human. Pride is a master of deception. To help others is to ultimately help yourself.

What use is praise except to make your lifestyle a little more comfortable?

The truth never harmed anyone. We harm ourselves by persisting in self-deceit and ignorance. By accepting what has been ordained unto us; that is wisdom. Don’t be ashamed to need help. Where does blaming others get you?

This book is phenomenal in helping you deal with pain and to overcome struggles. I highly recommend you give it a read for yourself, to fully absorb the wisdom behind it.

Stay present. Remember death. Serve those around you and follow your nature. This too shall pass.

The Journey VI

Little by little, a little becomes a lot. I had no idea that I’d be reaching 50 posts so soon. I started off back in 2014, just before I finished high-school. Let’s talk a little about how we got to this point, 6 years later.

As with everything in life, it started off as an experiment. There’s no better way to learn than from actually trying, so I attempted to use this space as a virtual journal. In this post, I’ll run you through the timeline of how things developed.

2014-2015

In 2014-2015, I was a little obsessed with my online presence. I took a lot of pride in the follower-following ratio, the aesthetic of my IG feed, twitter cliques and getting enough likes.

I was showcasing the best moments of my life, as social media often lures us to do. I’d say that I wasn’t mature enough to understand how to virtually socialize. I started this blog for the sake of starting a blog, coming from an egotistical place. My intentions were not aligned with my goals.

I carried on blogging every other month, about the most random aspects of my life. In 2016, it kind of all just stopped. When you’re inconsistent and your why isn’t clear, the motivation tends to dissipate.

2016-2017

Throughout 2016-2017, I went through quite a bit of emotional turbulence. I didn’t really know how to deal with my own insecurities or how to love myself. Those were key ingredients for low self-esteem. I’ve mentioned this before, but at the end of 2017, I took a social media sabbatical. (You can read more about it by clicking on the hyper-link)

That’s when things really started to change.

You don’t truly realize how toxic social media can be, until you step out of it. I had way more time than I could’ve previously imagined. I also had a lot of emotional energy that I needed to utilize.

2018

At the beginning of 2018, I started journalling, meditating and reading! It started off in that specific order. Having a journal completely changed the way I took charge of my life. My thoughts and habits became a lot clearer to me. And as I’ve said before:
Better awareness – Better choices – Better results.

That’s exactly what started to happen. With my self-awareness slowly increasing, I started making much better choices that were aligned with my values. This ultimately led to better results.

I started off being a little skeptical with regards to meditation, especially from an Islamic point of view. But through constantly being grateful and remembering God, I opened the space for myself to sit in presence every morning. It’s all about intention, don’t forget that.

At the beginning, I was barely able to focus on my breath for 2 minutes at a time. So I had to use guided meditations for a while, until that increased to 5 minutes, then 10 minutes, then 15 minutes. After that, I was able to sit with my own thoughts and just focus on my breath without needing a ‘guide’.

I used to read a lot when I was a child, thanks to my mother. Growing up in Saudi Arabia however, changed that quite a bit. Throughout middle school and high school, my focus shifted entirely to sports and gaming. I had no interest in reading anything, be that academic or even fiction.

After my mindfulness practice and journalling routine, I realized that I had a lot more to learn. Not only about those particular habits, but about the world in general. That led me to reading ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle.

It took me a few months to read that book, but once I actually completed it, my identity started to change. I was now a reader. Someone who could actually commit to finishing books.

As with every other habit, the more you deliberately practice, the better you get. I started reading books a little bit faster and started learning more about how to retain the information I was learning.

2019

From finishing 3-4 books in 2018, I started finishing 1 book every month in the beginning of 2019. I had to make a conscious effort to achieve that goal. It got even better towards the end of the year, where I started finishing around 2 books a month. A few months after that and I now objectively read at least 4 books a month.

To bring us back to how I started blogging more seriously, I had an urge to share the knowledge I was gaining from all those books and the few habits I was forming. I tried blogging again, with consistency and intention. It started with the The Journey. I (Click the hyper-link to read my first post in 2018)

“The teacher learns the most.”

2019 was the year a lot of my habits fell into place. Everything that I had attempted to do over the previous year was now becoming part of my identity. My intentions were finally aligned with my goals and values.

2020

“First you create your habits, then your habits create you.”

I became passionate about helping other people and serving the world around me. Aspire To Inspire became the motto. To help each and every one of us unleash our full potential and spread the knowledge we gain.

The objective now is to publish at least 2 blog posts per month. I’m also trying to get more people involved in the journey with me, to expand and grow.

Life is temporary. We’re all going to die eventually. Keep that fact in mind and allow it to vitalize your every day. Starting small and staying consistent will always help you sustain your habits. This will then help you become the person you wish to be.

Make it obvious. Make it attractive. Make it easy. Make it satisfying. Don’t only focus on what you need to get done, focus more on who you need to be.

A friend of mine recently told me something really inspiring: “The only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.”

I’d love to know more about the aspects that have helped you develop into the person you are today. Please feel free to share your story or comment your views on mine in the section below.

5 tips to help you with tough decisions

When was the last time you were stuck making a difficult choice? Do you feel like there’s a decision that will change the rest of your life? There’s always going to be a point in our lives when we’re going to have to make a sacrifice between several options, to move forward.

This post will deal with how to approach difficult decisions. Not in the sense where you’ll figure out exactly what to do, but rather a guiding tool to help you understand your situation better.

Better awareness, leads to better choices which ultimately leads to better result. So let’s try and enhance our self-awareness skill-set. I’ll dive into asking the right questions, starting with why, walking, then finding time to sit with your thoughts, praying & writing.

It’s like another collage of all my favourite topics. But again, reminders are extremely important, especially when you can use the concepts in every aspect of your life.

1-Ask the right questions

Questions are the answer. Every thought you have is a result of some question you’ve asked yourself. Once you realize the impact that has on you, you’ll be able to start asking yourself better questions.

I’ll give a few examples of what you can ask yourself in face of difficult decisions, but you should try and find what works best for you. Use them according to your own needs & circumstances.

  • Will this be in line with my values?
  • Why am I doing this?
  • Will this help me serve others?
  • What do I feel passionate about?
  • If I were to die tomorrow, will this really matter?
  • What impact do I want to have on the world?

Ask those questions relative to the options you have & use the most relevant answers to guide you.

I know some of these questions are rather vague, but you shouldn’t be expecting an immediate answer either way. It’s about giving yourself something to ponder over, and assisting your intuition to serve you.

2-Start with why

Another key aspect that directly relates to questions, ask yourself why you’re doing this. Find out the root cause of your indecision. Remember that the Golden Circle has 3 components, as introduced by Simon Sinek.

If both decisions are in line with your WHY, then you’ll have to do a lot more work. This would require some introspection and self-awareness. This comes in the form of meditation (or sitting in stillness) and journalling.

3-Go for a walk then sit in stillness

Walking as many of you may already know, is one of the healthiest habits to have. Not only does it serve as a mild form of exercise -which in itself has tremendous benefits- but it also does wonders for the brain.

Walking specifically helps you digest thoughts, get more creative, and deeply reflect. These mental benefits can’t be attributed to other forms of intense exercise (such as gyming or running), as those will distract your mind.

After giving yourself a topic to ponder over, go on a 15-20 minute walk (preferably in nature). When you’re back, find a safe space to sit in stillness. This would also be a lot better if you’re surrounded by nature.

Allow thoughts to come and go, without judgment or force. Focus on your breath initially, to immerse yourself in the present moment. Then allow yourself to reflect over the decisions you need to make.

You can also use your previous experiences to help you with the thought process. We’re feedback machines. We’re constantly learning from our mistake (hopefully), and using that knowledge to make better decisions in the future. So think of aspects in your life where you needed to make tough decisions and reflect on how it turned out.

4-Identify pros, cons and alternatives

Part of your introspection can include identifying the pros and cons in your decisions. Don’t dive too deeply into this, but use it to see if a certain decision would be far better than the others.

We often hold onto a tunnel vision and see things from one point of view. Look for alternatives (if possible) and try to identify other perspectives.

Asking people for advice can also work, but don’t rely too much on their opinion. Remember that it’s you who’ll have to live with the decision for the rest of your life (no pressure).

5-Pray, write & choose what feels right

Pray for guidance and constantly remember your purpose in life. We haven’t been created randomly. We’re here to each serve a cause greater than ourselves.

Time and time again, I bring up the notion of death. That’s because this life isn’t going to last forever. Don’t give decisions too much weight over you. There’s always room for learning and forgiveness.

Keep a tab of your thoughts by writing in a journal. This will allow you to easily notice patterns and aspects of your life that you wouldn’t otherwise see. It also gives you a bird’s eye point of view, seeing yourself from a completely different perspective.

At the end of the day, choose what feels right. The aforementioned tips will only serve as guide to help your intuition.

There’s no right or wrong. Life is full of lessons. Whatever you end up choosing, embrace it fully and live your best life. We can’t determine the outcome, but we can always choose our response. So choose optimism. Choose growth. Choose to learn.

Now is all we have, so let’s be thankful for that and strive to contribute to our best ability.

Self-actualization

I’ve been choosing topics from my Instagram followers and I think this one is super interesting. I’ll be speaking from my own understanding of what self-actualization is; finding a fulfilling way to live life.

The aspects that I’ll be considering are: Going inwards, understanding your environment and asking questions. I’d also like to emphasize how important contentment is (again), especially with regards to having a healthier outlook on life.

The reason I repeat topics are for it to serve as a reminder.

Going inwards (Reflection, introspection, journalling, meditating)

Being non-judgmental towards yourself and others. This is something we don’t pay enough attention to. We’re constantly in a state of judging. Whether we choose to be conscious of it or not. Our minds are quick at naming, blaming, comparing, and judging. Ourselves first and foremost.

Going inwards constitutes that we notice the thoughts that arise. No attachment, just awareness. Treat thoughts like clouds in the sky. They’re always different, always changing, and usually unpredictable. When we attach ourselves to thoughts or judge ourselves for the thoughts that we do have, we act as if the sky is in a permanent state.

But how untrue is that? Considering that change is inevitable, we should be kinder in dealing with our thoughts. Let’s look at a few ways to do just that.

-Meditating. The reason we should sit down and give ourselves space to let thoughts come and go, is to truly realize how impermanent they are. This would constitute setting a specific time every day (preferably early in the morning or just before you go to bed), to just let your mind wander. No attachment, just observation.

I like to think of it as going to the gym for your brain. You’re training your mind to be more present & to detach yourself from distractions.

Journalling. Oh hey, it’s this again! I honestly keep bringing this up because it has proven to be paramount in developing self-awareness. When you journal consistently, you gain insight on thought and behavioural patterns that you would otherwise just ignore.

Journalling provides a space for you to unwrap thoughts and ideas that are just floating around in your mind. It allows you to dump out unnecessary thoughts too, and clears up your mind. You also become very aware of trends in your life, that you can improve on or correct. I’d also recommend doing this either in the morning or before bed.

Consistency is the key to mastery. So make sure you try and implement both these habits on a regular basis, to truly reap their benefits.

Understanding your environment (Parents, friends, school)

Are we shaped by our circumstances? Are we able to change those circumstances? How much are we affected by our peers? How do we try to live up-to other people’s expectations of us?

Reasons reap benefits. Remember to keep asking your self important questions. This allows you to reflect quite easily on the person you’ve become. So let’s try and answer some of these questions, then dive into deeper ones.

A huge part of our psyche has been shaped in our childhood. This always fascinates me because that’s where we usually have the least control. Our parents, peers and environment largely shape the type of people we end up becoming.

We definitely do have inherent and innate talents, as well as some control in the way we deal with our circumstances. But they’re still influenced by the way we were brought up. Understanding yourself therefore requires unwrapping the parts of you that you never think of. The younger versions of yourself. The parts that you’ve evolved to ignore.

When we’re able to be vulnerable with ourselves, there’s no limit to how much we can learn. Just look at the past year. You’re nowhere near the same person you were at the end of 2018 (hopefully). Indulge in the lessons.

Constantly think back on what has worked for you. What hasn’t worked for you. Areas of your life that you want to improve. Areas of your life that have already improved.

More Questions

  • Why am I here?
  • What is my purpose?
  • How can I contribute?
  • How long will I be here for?
  • What happens next?

Start your day by refreshing your intentions. Ask yourself important questions. Think clearly of your vision. If you don’t have one yet, work towards it.

Now (Is all there is)

How can we use the present moment to extract valuable lessons from the past, to make wiser decisions in the future?

By being conscious of where you are now. By realizing that there is no way back, time only moves forward. By understanding that there is no such thing as failure or defeat, only lessons to be learnt.

By being vulnerable. Stop holding yourself back based on what other people are going to think. Have the courage to be yourself. Fully immerse yourself in the present moment by being vulnerable with those you love.

I spoke about how being vulnerable with yourself opens up doorways to learning. Being vulnerable with others opens up doorways for teaching.

Don’t fear failure. Don’t fear rejection. Don’t fear being laughed at. You are meant to live your best life, and achieve your full potential. Whatever that means to you. Take the leap of faith. Chase your dreams. Follow what ignites the flame within.

It must be acknowledged that self-actualization is something achieved through privilege. Only once your physiological and safety needs are met, can you truly start to climb the ladder. It’s crucial therefore, to be grateful if you’re able to start developing a feeling of belonging and high self-esteem.

To wrap things up, I just want to talk a little about gratitude. If you’re reading this, it means you’re probably high up in the hierarchy of needs. This is something to be extremely grateful for. There are so many other people who can’t achieve their dreams or pursue their passions, purely because of their socio-economic status.

Being thankful is the least we can do, alongside helping other people, to truly find contentment in life. I’m going to end by bringing up this wonderful quote again, because it’s imperative to this topic.

“You find yourself, when you lose yourself in the service of others.”

Thinking out loud ~ 2

Appreciation. Nature. Stillness. Presence.

Something that I find incredibly valuable, is noticing how unique the sky looks; Every. Single. Day. Just take a moment every morning to notice the patterns and formations taken by the clouds. It’ll never be the same.

I think being present amplifies your ability to learn. When we’re fully engaged in a single activity and give it our undivided attention, we’ll notice and take into account the most minute of details. This allows us to build on our muscle memory a lot quicker.

So how do we stay present? My first suggestion would be to acknowledge what a chatter box our ‘monkey mind’ is. We’re constantly evaluating ourselves and other people, which pulls us out of the now. By sifting through all these different perspectives in our minds, it leads to distraction. Do you want to know what works as jet fuel for distraction?

Social media.

This might be obvious and I’m certain there’ll be varying opinions on this. But you can’t deny the fact that, spending excessive amount of time on platforms that have infinite scroll feeds, will damage your concentration and capacity to learn rapidly. There’s no learning without remembering. Remembering also requires us to pay proper attention, for efficient storage of memories.

Your mind is one of your most valuable assets. There’s definitely a reason why there are systems in place, trying hard to take control over it. The more time you spend unconsciously scrolling through posts or binge-watching, the more you’re allowing others to influence your mindset.

All I’m saying is, make sure you use social media consciously. You can get trapped very swiftly. Moving onto something that positively affects your mind.

Sunsets. Trees. Butterflies.

I talk about plants and my love for trees a lot to my friends, because I feel like I gain wisdom when walking through forests. Because of their resilience and ability to adapt, it’s inspiring to be around that kind of energy. Following your nature and doing what’s required of you each and everyday. No randomness, no distraction. Everything in moderation.

Sunsets bring joy to my soul. There’s no other way to describe it. Sitting in sea point watching the waves crash over the rocks, with the pastel colours of the departing sun across the horizon. I try and learn from those experiences too. No matter what happens, the sun still sets and rises at the same place. It shows up. It follows its nature.

The waves of the ocean? Exactly the same thing. Resilience, consistency, perseverance. It brings serenity and calmness to the mind and body too. I have a hypothesis as to why. When we’re observing nature, the energy is pure and cyclic. The world follows a certain path, we just need to understand the inevitable temporariness of it all.

That leaves us with mindfulness and gratitude. What better way to live, than in the moment with utmost contentment?

Just wanted this to be another quick reminder, on how valuable it is to protect your mind & values. Take in deeper breaths, open your eyes a little wider and always remember to smile a lot brighter. Notice the small details and be grateful to have yet another day.

[Took all these pics on different nature-appreciation missions :)]