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The Rose That Grew From The Concrete

28 Mar
Copyright: Daydreamdaisies

Copyright: Daydreamdaisies

 

Here’s a painting of Tupac Shakur I finished the other day. I didn’t really have a burning passion for this guy’s music before picking up the brush since this piece started out as a present to my sister’s boyfriend. But its meaning soon became greater in my heart.

Tupac is one of those people who surprised me with his message.  I thought it was sex, drugs and bling bling combined with girls grinding shiny cars; in other words, the tool kit of many succesful (MTV) rapper. Oh, but how wrong was I.

Tupac speaks of bravery and of beating the odds. He encourages you to dream big, to journey on, to be resilient and to keep your head up. This man had many things to say, and many of them good. He had a tough life but still his voice rang clear and inspired many.

And guess what throws me and surprises me again and again?

The realisation that be your idol Jimi Hendrix or Susan Boyle, they’re all just humans. These inspiring, amazing people who we throw our dreams and knickers at in concerts.  These people who we look up to, they’re just people like us. Their hair gets greasy like ours and they have their bad days.

So if they are like us that means we are also like them. It means that the ability to inspire and comfort lives in all of us. We can reach out and touch someone’s heart. We can dream and make our dreams happen, if we only dare to. If we stop standing in our own way with doubts.

And even when life seems hopeless and dreams torn, there is still a way for us. Or have you not heard about the rose that grew from the concrete?

 

“Did you hear about the rose that grew from a crack in the concrete?

Proving nature’s law is wrong, it learned to walk without having feet.

Funny it seems, but by keeping its dreams

It learned to breathe fresh air.

Long live the rose that grew from the concrete

When no-one else ever cared.”

-Tupac Shakur 1971-1996

Breathing discoveries- Finding your place

21 Dec
Stormy Weather by Beatrice Baumgartner-Cohen, I own no rights.Source: artfinder.com

Stormy Weather by Beatrice Baumgartner-Cohen, I own no rights.
Source: artfinder.com

“The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say”

J.R.R Tolkien – Lord Of The Rings

Where do you think we belong?

Have you found your place in this world?

Have you ever felt in love with too many places all at once,  felt like you are living in between? Squatting on the border of two countries, one leg on each side. Or two cities, or two houses, or two beds. Have you ever felt distance weighing you down wherever you are?

I met a woman in a plane once. She was young and lovely. She was from Rome, had lived four years in Bangkok, was travelling to Finland and was currently living in the UK. Next week, she said, I’m going to Ukraine.

Where would you say she was from? Does it even matter?

Do you think the feeling of belonging is definately bound to a place? Or is it just something abstract floating inside you? Is belonging just a synonym to feeling comfortable, or is it the feeling of total acceptance of everything inside you and around you? Do you think the only map to guide us can be found in our hearts? Is there even a map?

Do you think there is one set path for us to take or just little stepping stones scattered carelessly around, chances that just come our way? Is there a place for everyone?

 

Breathing discoveries

 

Leaving tearing on the seams

On the bark of my solid being

Uprooting my ankles

As I skip from a cherry branch to another

Always parched, always searching

Tugging on bonds, knitting barren lands together

Till they form a smooth rug of rain

Filling all the air, touching all the cheeks

Reminding us of the lively streams

Entwining all under us, swimming under the skin of life

Everywhere we go they follow, unexhausted

Uniting our wondering feet

Till in loneliness too we are together

Till we are breathing discoveries

Miracles shaped out of pulping springs

Till we find ourselves again and in ourselves

A strength to go further

A wisdom to halt home

Believe in yourself? But how?

29 Nov

I have a solution to all your problems.

Okay, I’ll admit, despite this grand start: I’m not going to promise you hundred new, innovative ways to blend your vegetables or one, quick and easy route to abs as hard as James Bond, the way they do on every tele shopping channel. Heck, I’m not going to lie to you. This might not be easy or quick, but I’m pretty sure it can help you. It helped me, hugely. It resolved all the worry-knots of my heart. This is it:

Self-validation.

I have realised that this is all that you need in life, a bit of self-validation. Giving yourself credit for what you have achieved. Accepting yourself, asking acceptance and love from inside and not from your friends, landlady, postman and your Twitter followers.

It sounds a bit like the “Believe in yourself” that you have heard before, that results in 282 000 hits in Google, I know. I didn’t think I could make this post important at first, but then I realised I need to talk about this, that I want to! Because I realised there is one massive difference. And I want to make people see this difference, want them to have the same blissful feeling I had. This is the difference:

Self-validation is not the synonym of believing in yourself. It’s the basis for it, the foundation. To have self-confidence, you first need self-acceptance.

Realising this was a huge relief to me. Because I have been struggling with this believing in myself-thing. That’s also why I want to talk to you about this, because I think there might be others who feel the same way.

Believe in optimism? Check.

Believe in life? Check.

Believe love exists? Check.

Believe in myself? Uh oh. I don’t know.

I want to give love to the world so why can I not give it to myself?  Sound familiar?

Well, there is nothing wrong with you, or with me, no reason why you couldn’t believe in yourself. You have just maybe gone a bit amiss with finding the way. I know I have, I have tried to climb that tree from the top. There is only so many times one can reach for the moon from the top of the highest tree only to fall into a mud-pond head first. But I want to tell you now:

Maybe you have fallen so that you can look at things from the right perspective. You have fallen so that you can finally start climbing that tree of self-acceptance steadily, from the bottom. Just as it should be.

And I don’t think we’re missing much from getting to the top, to the point of believing in yourself. I think  all that we’re missing is that crucial little ‘in’.

I think the only reason we don’t believe in ourselves is because we believe ourselves too faithfully.

We believe ourselves on those weak moments at 3am when our only company is the still-blank Word document that has not blossomed words, not even after ten cups of coffee (and those two energy drinks). We believe that we can’t write then. And when it’s grim and rainy and gloomy we believe we carry that greyness on our face, when we tell to the mirror that we don’t look nice. We believe ourselves when we think we can’t sing or run or dance. When we think that we’re indecisive, awkward or a bit lazy.

We believe our inner-critic. And then we wonder why we don’t believe in ourselves.  But who would, who would believe in themselves whilst carrying a  nasty, judging troll inside their mind, one that always wants to start a mosh-pit of guilt in your head? One that never pipes down.

But to silence that inner-critic, I want to tell you:

Those are your beliefs. In fact, all the beliefs about you are yours. All of them. Even the stuff you think other people think about you. That is your beliefs too. The way you think others see you just reflects the way you see yourself.

So, next time someone says something hurtful to you,  you can choose if you let those words make you miserable. Because you have a choice. You don’t need to welcome those words, you don’t need to accept them in your heart anymore.

You’re only going to take that nasty blow of life to heart if you believe it, and only then can it knock your heart out. But if you accept yourself, if you change the way you “believe yourself”, if you question your beliefs and your inner-critic,  it is a whole new world. 

A world of love and bravery. A world of peace and acceptance. All inside you.

So start climbing that tree, even if you’re scared of heights. Because that is what you have waiting for you! Move from believing yourself into believing in yourself.

Come with me, I’m climbing. And I have messed up something as easy as Rice Krispie cakes. So if I can do it, so can you!

Do you want to see that world?

 

 

Why not me?

17 Nov

“My child died, very suddenly. I could never understand it but I never asked: “Why me?” Instead I asked: “Why not me?” It could happen to anyone so why should it not happen to me?”

Above is a father’s quote from a newspaper article I read recently, after a very tragic accident that killed his little child. It left me totally amazed at this man’s bravery and wisdom to see his loss in such a different light. It taught me a valuable life lesson, better than all the advice I have ever read about moving on and coping with hardships. It is this simple mantra of life: “Why not me?”

When we struggle, we always try to find answers by asking the why question.

“Why me, why this way, why now?”

Sound familiar? I know I have done it so many times. But if I could find that father, I would shower him in smiles and gratitude. Because his wisdom made me realise the danger of “Why me?”. While it is a natural reaction to a negative, unexpected obstacle or a trouble, it can also make you block the world out.  It will make you try to justify your troubles by finding answers in you.

And  that can lead us to create a pulping well of self-pity and worthlessness. We start feeling like we have done something wrong. We must have! Why else would this be happening to us? We start feeling that somehow, we deserve this horrible thing, this unhappiness.

But I want to tell you now: That is an illusion. Obstacle is just a circumstance. It is not your quality, not your innate trait. It does not mean you deserve unhappiness. It is just something that came your way. And a way to move past it, to fight back, is to follow the footsteps of the brave father above and ask:

Photocredit: nborlando.org

This question has been a revolution to me. No actually, more like an evolution. It has taught me a totally new way to assemble my worries.

Asking ‘Why not me?’ makes you open up to the world. It makes you look at your neigbour and think: This could have happened to him too. But still, I would not wish the same struggles for him. So why not me?

It makes you look around and realise that you’re not alone. That somewhere, someone is crying just like you are. That somewhere, someone is laughing just like you are.

The biggest illusion we have in life is that others won’t understand us. That our hardships are our own hardships.  But they’re not. There is over seven billion individuals dwelling around this planet right now so it is very likely you share experiences with them. That makes our hardships everyone’s hardships. This way, you can see you’re not alone and you can see the value of sharing a load. Be comforted by this.

“Why not me?”  will make you find perspective. Make you realise that you do not need to overscale your troubles, you do not need to tell people that they can’t possibly understand your suffering, just to show them how much you hurt or how stressed you are. You can show that by simply telling them what is wrong. And you might be surprised to find they have something to share with you too.

The photocredit: silverhuang.com
Caption edited in by me.

“Why not me?” can also make you see other people as they are, as people. It can stop you from making rushed judgements.

It is easy to look at a homeless person and think he is a hopeless alcoholic. It is easy to look at a parent having three jobs and think they’re neglecting their child. It is easy to look at someone overweight with two bags full of crisps and think they’re doing nothing to change their unhealthy lives.

And why is it so easy? Because our brain functions on learnt stereotypes, that is how it makes sense of the world. But you can break those stereotypes, those unpurposeful judgements. You can do it by introducing your brain a new way of making sense of the world:

“Why not me?”

That is a reality call ringing in your head. It can help you realise that these people have stories too, just like you do.

That homeless man might have children, he might have a top degree in maths but never had a full-time job. And that parent, juggling too many part-time jobs, she might be a single mum, trying to scrape money for bills, healthy food and her child’s school supplies. That man you thought fat and lazy, he might be comfort eating because his parents have just died and he does not know who he could turn to.

“Why not me?” makes you realise: That person you judged by outer appearance could be you.

And you can also be the person they can turn to.

You can help and be helped. You do not need to be alone. You can turn your obstacles into a source of strength.

So why don’t you?

Why not you?

Nietzsche vs. Winnie The Pooh

4 Nov

Today I want to give you the thoughts of these two great philosophers. (It is an odd combination maybe, but don’t you just sometimes love to be a bit weird?)

I think all they have to say on life is better than my ramblings would be today, considering I just had to remind myself how to spell the former by Google searching his name. I’ve had exhausting but amazing week, and now all my brain wants to do is hibernate. So I’ll let you, Mr Nietzche and Pooh do the thinking.  What do you say then, should we see them battle (or shake hands) with their opinions?

Nietzche teaches: Insanity is only our perception. Pooh teaches how to perceive even chaos as positive.

(So if you feel weird, don’t worry, you might be genius. And if you’re the one who always loses their keys and their way, celebrate the fact that for you, there is lot more to be found in life!)

 

Nietzche wants to remind you to remember the purpose behind your actions, Winnie the Pooh wants you to remember there is no boundaries to your actions:

 

And just to spice it up a little, to love or not to love eternally, that is their question:

Background image: “Hope” Artwork by Banksy

 

So who is it for you today, Nietzsche or Pooh? Or does neither suit your thoughts, and if so then I’m curious to know, who does it better?

Give me the address of happiness. Where is it?

3 Nov

Imagine if happiness lives in today. Imagine if all the happiness you will ever be given is the amount you’re feeling right now.

How did that make you feel?

If you’re feeling joyful today, you probably just shrugged your shoulders to the notion that today determines your happiness. ‘It’s all good then.’ But if you’re having particularly miserable, lonely, rainy or gloomy Saturday, you might feel a bit disappoined or angry.

At least, that’s the way I felt when I first read that idea somewhere. I was having one of those days where you swear to yourself that gravity is playing some sick-minded joke on you, pulling you down harder than anyone else.

What?! Are you bloody serious saying that if I feel miserable today, I’ll never get happier? That I’ll never be happy? Do I not deserve happiness?

The outrage above is quite an accurate replica of my feelings back then. First I was angry, then I was angry at myself which made me feel guilty. All the while I was straying further from feeling happy, and I felt like all the inspirational quotes in the world had betrayed me. I felt like they were one of those scam e-mails saying: Give me your PIN-number and I will give you one billion pounds.  And I had fell for it.

Why can I not feel happy? Have I not tried hard enough?

The quote stuck with me, it sat right next to me on my bad days, staring at me when I was burying my face into a tub of Ben & Jerry’s to find cheerfulness.

That quote was the one maths equation you still remember from school, the one that you always sweated over in lessons and that always, always popped up in an exam. Just so you couldnt’ solve it again. Bad luck isn’t it?

No… wait. Maybe it’s not. Just because you couldn’t solve something yesterday doesn’t mean you cannot do it today.

Maybe it didn’t come up to annoy you, but to give you one more chance to realise things. Maybe it’s not the annoying, unsolvable, hair-tearing mystery but an important lesson you have been given to learn. And when you do, and you will, it is a true gift.

I now love the idea that today determines your happiness, because that means you have a choice. You don’t have a choice to change your past, the only choice that is found there is to accept and forgive. But right now, you have a choice, to change your tomorrow.

So, if you knew for sure, that what you feel right now affects  your feelings tomorrow… what would you choose? Would you try and find happiness? If yes, then you will find it. If not now, then tomorrow.

If you choose it now, you will not be miserable. If you choose to trust happiness even in your worst moments, it will wait for you to find it again, like a loayl friend. Happiness will not abandon you.

Photocredit: 9images.blogspot.com

 

Wishing you a better today, and a better tomorrow!

Art prophecies of the future

26 Oct

The Future Man by Victor Hugo

Here’s the thought of the artist himself, Victor Hugo, on above artwork: “Nothing else in the world… not all the armies… is so powerful as an idea whose time has come.”

I hope he is right. Because if he is, I have and idea. It is the idea behind this blog, behind my pursuit for happinness. It is an idea I try to actively introcude to my life, and to the lives of people around me.  It is just two words, four simple syllables, it is this little thought:

More compassion.

And the best part is, it is not really my idea at all. I know it is an idea that others try to fulfill in their lives, just like I do.  I know it lives in many hearts. I know that there are people out there, compassionate and loving, caring and fond of little things, like stranger’s smile and surprise hugs. Actually, I believe we have all been given that talent. Whatever Darwin and natural selection has to say, I say there is much more to us than just bare animal instinct! We have been given the ability to love, the miracle of empathy. We are all capable of loving. Let’s be generous with it and create more of this love.

Because if Victor Hugo is right, and I believe he is, we can change this world. With more compassion, we do not create only a better potrait of the future man, we create a better mankind.

It might sound naiive. I know there is a lot of suffering in this world, more than I can imagine in my blessed little life where week’s biggest tribulation is that I missed a bus.  But think about Victor Hugo’s quote, think about the concept of an idea. Before there was a gun, there was the idea of a gun. Before there was war, there was the idea of war. Before violence, the violence was created in someone’s mind. Before this world was a chess game of super powers, leaders check and mating each other with nuclear bombs, there was someone who wanted that power. So with our idea, with the idea of more love and compassion, we can change this.  We can turn down the power of violence and spread the power of love. We can take this idea, this sweet and naiive-sounding idea, and turn it into reality. We can make this work. We can make this world a better place.

And when you doubt, the way I sometimes do, ask yourself: What are the options? Do we really want to see more crisis? Do we want the future man to be the portrait above: A hard shell of an armour, drained out of all empathy, feeling, compassion. Do we want to become efficient killing machines, love machines, labour machines, lost and unfeeling machines. Because the choice is ours, the choice is real. We have the choice to create more compassion or to destroy the idea of it.

Rock Drill, the original sculpture by Jacob Epstein

Rock Drill, the original sculpture by Jacob Epstein

The remaining torso of Rock Drill by Jacob Epstein

The story of the sculpture above, Rock Drill, is probably one of my favourite art stories ever. Epstein created Rock Drill in 1913 to be the prophecy of humanity.

“I made and mounted a machine-like robot, visored, menacing, and carrying within itself its progeny, protectively ensconced. Here is the armed, sinister figure of today and tomorrow. No humanity, only the terrible Frankenstein’s monster we have made ourselves into…” Extract from the autobiography of Epstein

The sculpture was originally attached to real miner’s rock drill. However, later Epstein dismantled it himself, removed the drill and cut off its limbs, leaving the torso displayed on the bottom picture.  But even if the threatening apperance of Rock Drill was destroyed, what it stood for survived. It was the epitome of suffering, violence and war. None of them has yet grown extinct. We can see their effects every day, some of us in news and some of us, sadly, first hand.

So, the reason I love Rock Drill? Well,  I don’t think it is the epitome of suffering at all, I don’t think it is the prophecy of our future the way Epstein intended it to be.  I think it is the epitome of what we can do! Or if it isn’t, we can turn it into one.

Let’s make it the epitome of change. Let’s dismantle the body of hatred and violence in this world, the way Epstein did with his sculpture. Let’s replace it with love, community and compassion.

I believe we can do it. But if I didn’t convince you, check out this blog:  The Better Man Project.  It sets an amazing example, it is one of my constant inspiration foundations. Every day, I return there for examples of love and care, for ponderings, for instructions. For the followers, for the visitors of the blog, for the community.

Do you see now that this idea is not alone, that is not flimsy and imagined? Do you believe? Because if you do, we can change this.

In search for words

24 Oct

I have found myself at loss the past few days. I have reflected back on my old mistakes, looked forward to my dreams, but at the same time felt totally incapable of doing anything about either. It worries me. Because while I still have great spasms of inspiration and excitement, while I still know in my heart I need to work hard to achieve my dreams and to contribute in making this world a better place, by making myself a better person, at this moment all I wonder is how? How I’m going to do all this?

That is the question that bothers me the most. Because when you don’t know the why’s and the how’s, the reasons behind your feeling of tiredness or hurt or disappointment, it is hard to regain your sense of direction. It is hard to have a plan and then work the plan. Quite often you leave yourself there, in your anguish, not because you like to self-pity or don’t want to change things, but because you don’t know how to do it.

First, all you have to do is get to know yourself again. To put your work aside and work on you. Because if you don’t know who you are, you will never know who you can be. What you can achieve.

That is what I’m doing now. Getting to know myself, reflecting back on things. I realised I have been too busy doing this and that and everything to notice that many things have changed in my life during the past three years. That I have changed with them. I realised that in my will to look forward, I forgot to look back.

I think we are sometimes pushed too much to progress, to be all we can be and carpe diem every moment that is given to us. I think sometimes we push ourselves too much, papering the walls of our hearts with millions of to do-lists. But if all we do is charge forward, we might well forget the way back home. We have to know, in all our hurry to improve, how to get back to ourselves. What is the way to our hearts, where is the quiet place for looking back and resolving who you are. In all honesty, and in all kindess.

Looking back doesn’t need to be a guilt-trip to all your mistakes, it can be a learning curve to avoid the speed bumbs in the future.

That is what I’m doing now, trying to judge myself less and teach myself more. I’m polishing the mirror to see myself clearer. Because I don’t want to feel lonely in myself. I believe none of us do. Because if we are lonely in ourselves we can never be truly happy in others or in life.

That is also the reason I have scattered here some advice, in the form of photos and beautiful quotes. So that we never forget the lessons we have learnt and the ones we still can learn. So that we feel more consoled, in our search for words and for understanding. So that we remember, those wise words live in us and we can find them, always, if we just find ourselves.

What is the advice you would give to yourself today?

The Real Hunger Games

22 Oct

For anyone who has access to cinema, internet and books probably recognises what this is about:

Peeta and Catnip. The last survivors of the hunger games, a book which is essentially about kids in a ring running and killing for their lives. They need food. They need to survive, whatever it takes. Some might think it mindless, but I don’t think this subject should be censored, in fact I think the opposite. I love books that cause an outrage when they have effectively managed to poke at the sore spot in our society, to point out something that needs discussing and improvement.

Except these books don’t do that. So it is indeed pretty mindless. They became a massive hit, as did the film, and yet it barely ponders over the questions the plot should raise, such as killing to survive, the value of your life against someone else’s or dealing out death. No, it became a massive hit because the two main characters fall in love. And then there is the jealous third wheel. Wait, why does this have a familiar ring in the history of love stories?

Indeed, the focus of the book seemed to be the gorgeous eyelashes of Peeta, the heart-breaker, and the dazzling outfits of the kids. But if you wanted to read about love drama and clothes you could just buy The Sun, magasine with a reading age of seven, costing you only a quid and the loss of few brain cells. I actually thought the book might ponder over and criticise living in a society where killing has turned into entertainment.

Then there’s the added bonus of the name. The Hunger Games. But the polished faces above are not what should be associated with the word ‘hunger’. The real hunger games are fought elsewhere. In India. In Africa. In Asia. In many sad parts of the world. This is what real hunger games look like:

https://i0.wp.com/flairpix.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/bathing_poverty.jpg

https://i2.wp.com/flairpix.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/poor_girl_lost.png

https://i1.wp.com/flairpix.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/poverty_starving_kids.jpg

They need food. They need to survive. And there are millions of them. It is not fiction, not some romaticised love story carelessly spiced up with death. It is real, real death and suffering. Looking at the above photos might have hurt your eyes, made you gulp down sadness, it did me. It’s hard to face. But think about what it does to the people experiencing starvation, how it hurts them, how they have to face the possibility of life leaving their body, slowly.

I will try to help, more than I have done so far. If I don’t know how, I will find out. I will appreciate what I have. I will hope and pray and beg that these hunger games end, for forever.

What about you? Or the question should actually be,

what about them?

870 million people do not have enough to eat  and 98 percent of them live in developing countries.     (Source: http://www.fao.org/docrep/016/i3027e/i3027e02.pdf 2012

Undernutrition contributes to five million deaths of children under five each year in developing countries. ( Source: UNICEF 2012)

The photos from: http://flairpix.com/41-heartbreakingly-beautiful-poverty-pictures/

What makes a good book?

20 Oct

I think there are as many definitions for this as there are readers… and writers:

I agree with Oscar Wilde above. I think a good book is one that changes with you, not one that you grow out of. One of these for me has definately been the Little Prince by Antoine De Saint Exupéry. As a child I enjoyed the mystery of the Prince, the boas and wild planets and Bonsai trees and definately chuckled at the mockery of adults, and now that I’m older I notice: I still enjoy all of the above, and can never get enough of the wisdom behind them.

Maybe a good book, then, isn’t one that just changes with you but also one that changes within you. One that gives you lines which you can twist into new thoughts in your head, endlessly, and into new stories. Maybe the best stories are the ones that don’t finish when we finish the book but live on, to be finished by us in our own time.

But I also think that, while there are those books that we return to over and over again, sometimes what defines a good book is simply giving it a second chance. I know there are many who would beg to disagree with this, arguing that good writing makes the book good straight away, on the first read. But I think that, above all, what makes a good book is that the good writing doesn’t just sit there, between the covers, but that it is experienced. That it reaches the reader. Or more crucially, that the reader reaches for the writing themselves.

I realised this recently while I was waiting on some books I had asked to be ordered in to our library. Impatient, I grabbed few books from my shelf that I had already read but weirdly, not properly formed an opinion about. They were The Great Gatsby and The Bell Jar.  Both of them had remained totally ambiguous in my head the first time round, but now that I picked them up the second time they transformed from sort of good into amazing. But the books hadn’t changed, the dots hadn’t danced around and the words hadn’t been swopped while they rested on my bookshelf. I had changed, as a reader.

So I think, what is needed to make a good book is both a devoted writer and an open-minded reader.

And an advice I have found helpful, when I’m struggling to write because my heavy expectations on myself weigh me down, is this: To write something good, you first have to write something.

What do you think makes a good book? What books do you think are good or even, the best?