Tuesday, 30 March 2021

Lesson 6 - Afresh

It is the last week of March, and was it not a beautiful month?  The weather was cool, but not too cold.  The mornings were fresh and clear and we were blessed with beautiful rain.  This week I want to share with you one more lesson we can learn from children.

We visited our children this week-end and had the pleasure to play with our grandchildren.  Of course, children being children, there will always be the occasional slip or scrape during the course of a day.  There always seems to be some or other little mishap in the vicinity of children.  This week-end was no exception.  Somebody broke a cup, and although we took care to pick up all the pieces, a small shard was overlooked.  However, our granddaughter found the little piece and cut her finger in the process.  We all know how such a cut can sting and of course there was the appropriate amount of blood to scare mommy, granny and child equally much.  Tears flowed in huge drops and her sobs were heart wrenching. 

The next morning I asked my granddaughter how her finger was feeling.  She looked at me quizzically.  I repeated my question, reminding her about her cut.  She had forgotten about it.  You see, it was a new day, a fresh start and new adventures were waiting.  Children do not carry grudges, and they do not hang onto hurt.  They move on.  Every new day is exactly that, new and fresh.  To them a new day is another chance to enjoy everything this new day has to offer.

As adults, we so often miss out on this opportunity life gives to us.  We wake up to the same baggage we have been dragging around yesterday, last week, last year.  We mull over the same problems, rehash the same situations and hold onto the same fears.  We pick up yesterday's bundle of worries and add today's baggage to it.  Of course we also carry that little black book with us where we record all the wrongs that have been done to us, lest we forget.  What a load we drag along.  It becomes so much that we have no energy left to notice the brand new sunrise and the day waiting for us with so many new possibilities ahead.

Perhaps this is one of the greatest lessons we can learn from children, how to let go and move on.  The simple truth of the matter is that we cannot possibly grab hold of the beautiful new day and all the gifts awaiting us if our hands are still full of yesterday's troubles, disappointments and hurts.  So let us leave that baggage behind where it belongs, and start this new day afresh.  After all, what happened yesterday is not a life sentence, it was a lesson.  So learn the lesson, but move on.  Open your heart, let the air and sunlight in and have a fantastic new day.


Tuesday, 23 March 2021

Lesson 5 - Explore!

Today is one of those picture-book perfect Autumn days. It calls to my heart to come outside and play.  I want to get in the car and just drive off to wherever the wheels take me.  There I want to have tea and scones and breathe in the crisp air that can only be found in the Freestate on Autumn days.  Simply exhilarating.

This brings me to another lesson we can learn from children.  They love to explore.  Children are not afraid to discover new things or to try something new.  They are always ready for an adventure.  Children do not come up with excuses or reasons why they should not do something new.  They are excited at all the possibilities of what life has to offer them.

As adults we seem to have lost that fearlessness.  The unknown fills us with dread.  We desperately cling to our comfort zones and we overthink everything.  We worry about the what-if's and the how's until we find enough reasons not to do something.  Our safety net becomes so small that it restricts our growth, our movements and it strangles all our dreams.  Yes, as adults we need to be responsible and our safety and security are very important to us.  There is nothing wrong with living your life within your comfort zone, but what if there is more to life?  What if we were meant to live life to its fullest, to learn and experience more than just the mundane and ordinary?

There are huge benefits to venturing beyond our comfort zone and trying new things.  Firstly, we learn to overcome fear.  Fear debilitates us, and keeps us stuck in a rut, but the more we step into the unknown, the more we loosen fear's grip on our lives.  We build our courage one step at a time.  Whenever we do something new we inevitably also experience growth.  We meet new people, we acquire new abilities and we discover new things about ourselves.  Pablo Picasso said that he was always doing those things which he could not do in order that he could learn how to do it.  What seemed impossible now becomes the possible.  The truth is that if we only do that which we are able to do, then that is all we will ever be able to do.

When we try something new, when we stretch ourselves and we let go of the familiar for something new, we become excited and it boosts our confidence.  We become happier people when we add new experiences to our lives.  We meet new people and gain new skills.  Even if we did not really like the experience we would have learned something from it, and we would have discovered something about ourselves in the process. By trying out new things we challenge ourselves which in turn stimulates our brains. It increases the blood flow to all of our body parts as a result of the faster heartbeat.  The  excitement of the challenge boosts our well-being.  We start to look at life from new perspectives and discover new horizons.

Another benefit from exploring new territories and trying new adventures is that we are creating memories.  Memories remind us that we have lived, loved and enjoyed life.  It gives us stories to tell our grandchildren which they in turn will expand upon and share with their children.  

Living in our comfort zones, are easy and even relaxing.  It is a safe haven.  Yet, if children were full-filled by living there they would have been fat, milk-fed blobs unable to move.  They would have put no effort into crawling or walking.  You see, in the comfort zone nothing much happens.  No growth, no excitement and no progress.  There is no incentive in the comfort zone.

We were all once upon a time wide-eyed children excited to explore every nook and cranny, but as adults we have forgotten the excitement which comes with new experiences.  We need to learn from children how to seek out adventure again. Start with small steps, doing something different every day. Maybe try something as simple as taking a different route to work, or trying something new for dinner.  Every new experience expands your vision and takes you to where you have never been before. 

Don't spend another day in your comfort zone, the world awaits, explore!!!


Monday, 15 March 2021

Lesson 4 - So What?

Most of us fall into one of three categories.  They are : those who worry about what other people think of them, those who don't care what other people think of them and those who pretend not to care about what others think of them. The chances are good that you who are now reading this, fall into the first category as most people care what other people think of them.  In fact, most of us do so for most of our lives.  Even children from as young as two years old start to be sensitive to what other people think of them.

So our role models for today's lesson will be babies under two years old.  These little creatures are still exempt from these worries.  They take life as it is presented to them.  They do not care to express their happiness or their dissatisfaction. They enjoy all the wonders and joys the world has to offer.  A face covered with ice-cream is of no importance to them.  It only mattered that it was nice and that they had fun while eating it. They could not care less about what they are wearing or where they are living.  They respond to all of life with unblemished hearts.

However, the older children get, the more they become aware of how the world responds to them, and the more they care about firstly, their parents and their families opinion, and later also about what the world think of them.  It gets imprinted on our minds from a very young age.  We become conditioned, and we start to link our own self-esteem to the approval of others. In itself there is nothing wrong about being aware of other people's opinions or what the norms are that society expects us to live by.  However, when we get consumed by the opinions of others and we start to sacrifice our own needs and happiness because we are afraid we might be ridiculed or rejected, then we have a real problem at hand.

Steve Jobs said: "Don't let the noise of other people's opinions drown your inner voice." So, how do we stop caring about what other people think of us?

Firstly, accept the fact that whatever they think about you comes from their own frame of reference.  It has nothing to do with you. Their opinions have been formed by their own likes and dislikes, expectations and judgements.  In a room full of people there will always be those who like you, those who dislike you and those who are totally indifferent, and the only thing they have in common is that it has nothing to do with who you are.  Accept the fact that you will never be able to please everybody.

Secondly, take a look at your own thoughts.  How important do you think you are in the life of the person whose thoughts you are worried about.  Are you the center of their lives?  Does their world revolve around you and what you are doing, wearing or saying?  Chances are that you are not as important to them as you imagine you are.  Chances are very good that they are so occupied with what is happening in their own lives that they spare you nothing but a momentary thought. So why worry what others are thinking about you if you are not high on their list of thought subjects?

The next point is very important.  Remember that your business is your business.  It has nothing to do with anybody else.  This life is yours to life however you choose to do.  They have no right to judge you or to demand that you do things their way.  So whatever their opinion, it is theirs to keep and it has nothing to do with you.  Just live your life as you choose.  Wear what you want, go where you want and do as you see fit according to your moral compass, circumstances and abilities.  You do not have to give an explanation to anybody nor defend your choices to anybody.  How you live your life is nobody's business.  Never make any choice with the purpose of pleasing anybody else.  You have this one life, make it the best one you can for yourself.

Next, become your own greatest fan.  Learn to love yourself, embrace yourself for the unique person you are.  Celebrate the things which make you YOU!  Focus on the things which make you happy and your own goals. Follow your heart.  Be true to who you are, and make the choices which are best for yourself and those who really matter in your life.

Surround yourself with people who are on your team.  They are the ones who really have your best interests at heart.  They are the only ones who matter.  They will support you and your dreams.  You can count on their advice and guidance, but they will never judge you.  They will allow you to make your own choices and still love you no matter what.  Treasure them, because they are few and far between.

As many people as there are, so many opinions are out there.  You will always find more people ready to criticize or judge you than there will be people who cheer you on.  People will always have their two cents worth to say, or they will gossip about you behind your back.  So what?  Let them, feel sorry for them that they have so little of interest happening in their own lives that they have to resort to making you so important in theirs.  So what?  Live you life, dance, sing, paint in bold strokes, eat ice-cream with your whole face, walk barefoot and dream your dreams.  Those who love you will not mind, and those who mind never did matter!


Monday, 8 March 2021

Lesson 3 - Look with Your Heart

So, how is March treating you so far?  Have you made yourself a peanut butter sandwich yet?  Remember, this month we are taking the time to learn some lessons from children.  Today I want us to learn from them how to look at life and everything about life.  

We all know the saying that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, meaning that how we look at something determines if it is beautiful to us.  However, children do not even think about this concept, they are totally unaware of this phrase.  Children have the ability to look with their hearts.  They can do this because their hearts and minds are unblemished by preconceptions and judgements.  They look at life, at people and daily events with open minds, ready to be wonderfully entertained.  They look at every thing and everybody with special eyes, and therefore everything which happens is special to them.

I often just sit and watch my grandchildren at play.  I never tire of watching them.  When my youngest one got hold of a cookie the other day, I watched with fascination how she delighted in this rather plain and bland cookie.  Her gaze was fixated on it.  She gripped it with her little fingers and turned it around, studying it from every angle.  She tasted it, sucked it and removed it again.  She examined its sogginess with undivided attention, and bounced up and down on her derriere with glee.  She loved that cookie.  In fact her pure enjoyment made me regret that I had declined the offer of such a delicious morsel.
This brings back memories of my youngest daughter.  Years ago we were in a waiting room with a host of other people.  She was about two years old.  In the corner opposite my chair sat an old woman with an extremely grumpy face.  In fact, I found her a little scary and the other people in the room avoided sitting in the chairs closest to her.  Not my daughter.  Soon after we had settled on our seats she started making eye contact with the old woman who at first ignored her.  Of course, it is very difficult to avoid a smiling, curly-haired cherub staring at you, and before long the lady was playing hide and seek with her.  To my daughter's delight she fashioned some origami creatures out of an old newspaper. Soon three more toddlers joined her. The hour of waiting passed by in a wink.

What was the reason for this? Did the old angry looking woman miraculously transform?  Did she turn into a kindly granny?  No, she did not.  What happened was that these children had all looked at this old woman with special eyes.  They did not see the haggard look, her scuffed shoes, the battle scars or the bitterness. They looked with their hearts and saw something which had evaded the adults in the room.  They looked past all of society's barriers and taboos, past the exterior and straight into the heart.  Nothing about the woman had changed, but the way we looked at her did.  As I sat there, I suddenly saw the pain in her eyes, and I noticed the hands that had been worked into callouses.   I saw a person, not unlike the rest of us, who had the same fears and heartaches, the same hopes and prayers as all the rest of us.  That day my daughter had taught me to look with gentle eyes at the people around me.

Let us all learn to look with our hearts and not with judgement or intolerance.  The world is full of people who are too much in a hurry to really look, to really take note of their fellow human beings.  Let us make a decision that we will be different, because that is the only way we can make a difference.

Wednesday, 3 March 2021

Lesson 2 - Create

One of the first things my granddaughter asks me whenever they visit is "Can we paint, Nana?" She loves painting and being creative.  It is amazing how her skills have grown.  From the first bright blobs to beautiful soaring creatures, I have enjoyed watching her.  The way she would dip her brush into the creamy colours with such confidence still amazes me. When she is done, she proudly presents it to me "for you, Nana!" and runs off to the next activity.

Children love to play and to make things.  Their very being yearns to create.  They lose themselves completely in the moment of creativity.  There is no hesitation on their part, they do not fret whether they can do it or not.  They don't spend one moment being critical of their painting, sculpture or invention.  They are quite pleased with the masterpiece they have created.

Where did we as adults go wrong?  When did we first allow that fiend, the Inner Critic, into our minds?  Jean Piaget, a Swiss psychologist, said that to be creative we have to stay in part a child. 

Children are curious.  They are eager to learn and experiment.  Believe it or not, but that enthusiastic and creative child is still there inside you, and it is waiting to come out and play.  So it is time to re-acquaint yourself with your inner-child. Society, however, demands that we be serious and responsible and frowns on anything that might not be "adult-like".  Creativity has a very low priority on life's to-do list.  When last did you get out your paints and dipped your fingers into its wet stickiness?  When was the last time you put on a rock-n-roll song and danced while you sang at the top of your voice into your hairbrush?  Can you remember the last time you lay on your back and found animal shapes in the clouds? We have to let go of the ill-conceived idea that art, or creative play is unimportant.  Being creative is as essential to our well-being as daily exercise and a good diet.  Creativity impacts on all areas of our lives.  It helps us with problem solving, not only in our work, but also in our relationships and our reactions to life's events.

Let us learn this lesson from children: to create is an integral part of being alive, don't judge your creativity, take delight in it. Be ever curious and ready for adventure and take your inner-child on a play-date.  You do not need permission to be creative. Neither do you need to first do everything else before you are allowed to be creative. Don't label your creations, or your artwork, or your doodles, but label yourself - you ARE a creative being, yes, YOU!  So, why wait?  Create.  Do it now.

Monday, 1 March 2021

Lesson 1 - Have a sandwich

 This beautiful Autumn day with its clear blue skies takes me back many years.  This time of the year has always been my favourite.  There is a scent in the air that is unique to Autumn and the air against my skin feels crisp and exciting.  I reminds me of days spent on my bicycle, riding from park to park with my best friend, playing on the swings and dreaming dreams of dashing pirates and damsels in distress.  Telling tales of romantic castles and imagining galloping through the field on wild horses. My purple chopper bicycle was the finest steed of all the Arabian horses. I taste again the ice-cold chocolate milk and thickly sliced peanut-butter sandwiches my mom had made.  
What wonderful company childhood memories are.  I long to live again with such an abandon, such a carefree spirit. A time of teenage turbulence, yet looking back it was the finest of times, safely cocooned in a loving home, the smell of my mom's home-cooking and the sound of my dad's laughter.

As all these memories come flooding in, I have decided to take the time this month to look at what lessons I can learn from my younger self. 
The first thing we can learn from children is their sense of wonder.  Life is a big adventure to them.  My granddaughter has recently started walking, and when I look at her face I see such excitement to just get to point B.  Even when she thumps down, she gets up on wobbly little legs and eagerly stumbles forward, her eyes shining with excitement.  All because of that sense of wonder.  Everything is new and exciting.  Everyday is another new beginning.

In a sense, that is the one thing I have kept from my childhood.  I am a great believer in fresh starts.  I relish new beginnings and clean slates.  Every new year, every new month and every new day is to me like this amazing present just waiting to be opened.  Last month I also had this excitement of a new month, granted it did not turn out so amazing, because there was still some unfinished business dragging along into the next month.  Some of it will most likely still drag into this month too, but I am fine with it.  Last month I had to learn that sometimes there are villains out there who lie, cheat and deceive with such uncanny ease that it will leave your mind spinning.  So this month I have decided that I am done.  They owe me money and I am sure, that because of their nature, they will most likely try to cheat me out of it, but that will be on them.  They are the ones that will have to live with that.  This is a new time, a fresh moment and it is to be lived, treasured and enjoyed.

Keeping one's sense of wonder is an important part of being happy in the moment.  It makes us look at life with expectant eyes and allows us to relish every little moment of miracle.  We can revel in the way the sunlight falls through the window, the twitter of birds in the trees and even the rhythmic swish-swish of a broom sweeping the leaves together.  

Go, on, make yourself a peanut-butter sandwich and enjoy the sweet-salty taste of it on your tongue.  Forget about calories and gluten, forget about your worries and just be alive in this perfect moment.