I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my feeling that the fundamental, original point of the concept of abundance is being lost in our Western commercialised and consumerist ideologies. Our habit of wanting more and bigger and better is being fed into the business models of many people or companies who are selling self-improvement and wellbeing courses. Although there are many positive benefits to be gained from these courses, and our movement as a society towards acknowledging the importance of looking after our mental health, it becomes a bit mixed up with our old beliefs that we need more of something before we can be happy or healthy or relaxed.
Instead of happiness coming from something, someone or somewhere outside of ourselves that we need to attach to us, my experience is that it’s when I’ve managed to get under the surface ‘stuff’ that I’ve been happiest and found real peace.
This was easiest when I went travelling on my own. I’d got to a point in my mind where I had to get away from relationships at home where I had allowed other people’s problems to become my own. What’s become known as ‘toxic relationships’ were really damaging my sense of self and my capacity to stay healthy and level. This had built up for a few years; dealing with eating disorders which stemmed from needing to control something because I felt important things were out of my control, dealing with excessive drinking (etc) which started in my teens when I couldn’t deal with my fears and anxieties, dealing with my Mum’s depression and lack of self-esteem and many resulting terrible decisions, dealing with my own despair and depression and feelings of being unbalanced and unloved.
I first landed in Vancouver with a huge, heavy backpack and spent the next four days cramming a ridiculous amount of sightseeing into each waking moment! It was a beautiful place, but it wasn’t until I got to a wonderfully chilled out hostel in Victoria, British Columbia on Vancouver Island, that I started to properly relax. I remember walking through the beautiful Beacon Hill Park most days to just get away from everything, then carrying on to the coast in the evenings to watch the sea and the sunset, even when it snowed. I can even remember laying on the floor and looking up at the clouds, feeling absolutely at peace and without pressure to be, do or have anything more than ‘this’. I think it was when I went across to Seattle or perhaps my next stop at Portland, Oregon, that I switched to a smaller backpack and started to give away the clothes I definitely thought I wouldn’t be able to do without. I met amazing, free spirited people on their own adventures or getting away from their own problems back home. I travelled the whole way down the West coast of America, meeting the most open and warm people at every stop. My favourite places were Santa Cruz and San Diego.
By the time I landed in Melbourne, by way of New Zealand, I was literally penniless. I’d got by on the good will and patience of some of the wonderful people I met a few times over the previous three months, but arriving at the Melbourne backpackers in the middle of the night, drenched with rain, hungry and tired, I had to negotiate with the manager to let me stay until one of my parents got the message and understood the urgency of my need for more money until I could find work. That wasn’t the last time I ran out of money over the next 10 months I was travelling. (I even got to the point of thinking seriously about working in a very seedy strip bar in Brisbane). Fortunately, I found work – grape picking, working in several different restaurants, as a cleaner and front of house in a backpackers in exchange for my stay, life modelling…and I lived in and saw so much of Australia – Hobart and other parts of beautiful Tasmania, Melbourne, Victoria, Uluru, Kings Canyon, Chillagoe, Brisbane, Mission Beach, Cairns, Byron Bay, Sydney, Perth, and lots of other places in between. I managed to have the absolute time of my life when I had next to no money and while vegan (which is no small feat when you consider this was 22 years ago).
It wasn’t easy to maintain the new sense of self and happiness I’d found while I was away from my ‘real’ life. It wasn’t long before I lost a friend who apparently couldn’t deal with me not moaning about my problems anymore. So, how do you keep, or even find, your inner peace while you’re surrounded by the chaos and pulls of your loved ones’ needs? How do you balance self-love and care, making enough money to pay for everything you (and your family) needs, looking after the needs and insecurities of all the people in your life, and all the other difficult, sometimes incredibly sad experiences? The simple answer is, keep things simple! There’s a good reason why we get overwhelmed so much; there are so many distractions and chaotic thoughts, and ‘stuff’ we’re told we need and that we’re missing out on if we don’t get or take part in. I was away from home for 13 months, and nothing much had really changed in that time. Anything that was a bit different was positive (the people who I’d always felt I had to be there for to make their lives happier had worked out some crucial things for themselves). The truth is, no-one can make your life better except for you. No thing can make you happier because if it’s not already coming from your heart you’ll always want more or something different.
A lot has happened in my life in the 22 years since I came home from this amazing adventure – I found my Traditional Chinese Meditation, Buddhism and Zen healing teacher, I met my husband, we had two children, I moved house a few times, the boys moved schools a few times, they were both diagnosed as autistic, 9 members of my family died (the most recent and devastating being my Mum) and Covid 19 struck, in a nutshell. I’ve faced heart-breaking times, fears, anxieties, ill health and many frustrations, but at the same time I’ve fought to maintain my mental health as well as that of my family. This has meant making positive choices, fighting battles, facing challenging circumstances and confronting challenging people. And I’ve done it all from a loving, compassionate mindset. Any time I’ve wobbled, it’s simplifying that brings me back on track. Part of that means doing and being an advocate for doing what makes your heart sing every day, and for me that’s creating and painting, meditating and practicing qigong.
What I’ve learned about finding peace is that it is necessary to give yourself space. Walk in green or open areas, notice the sounds, colours, smells and textures of what’s around you. Notice the whole beauty and balance of the trees, plants, ocean and sky. Watch butterflies and birds as they perform the tasks that seem so simple to us. Learn to breathe properly and fully so that your belly expands with the fresh, clean air coming in, and your lungs are completely emptied of the old stale air when you breathe out. Give yourself time. Healing is a long and slow process, and your joy and peace are worth the fight and the wait.
Get in touch if you’d like support and guidance to find your inner peace, strength and joy. My Clear the Clutter four week course is a great place to start, see link, or send me a message below.