Archive for the ‘Simple Living’ Category


Ten Signs You’re Awake

December 9, 2012

Following my previous post ‘Ten Signs of Awakening‘, let’s now take a look at ten ways to recognise that you’re well and truly awake – that is, what life will be like when you’ve been through the awakening process described previously and come out the other side. You don’t necessarily have to resonate with all of these to be awake but you will find each of these factors becoming more prevalent in your life once you do wake up.

1) Being true to you

Now you’ve shed your ‘stuff’ and been through the healing process, your authentic core self – call it your heart, your soul, your soul-self – is revealed in all its glory. At last you know who you are and what it is you want – and there’s a good chance it’s nothing like the life you’ve been lead to believe you should want or the ‘you’ that the world has reflected back at you.

That’s because unlike the unawakened world you’ve grown up in, you’re no longer experiencing life via the ego which views everything with fear, is self-obsessed and creates defences to protect itself. Instead, you’re seeing the world through your soul-self and the eyes of love, which means you now look out more than in and have made that all-important switch from ‘service to self ‘ to ‘service to others’, which is the cornerstone of soulful living.  You now see the truth of what the world needs – and you know what it is you can do to make that difference.

‘To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment’.  Ralph Waldo Emerson

2) Living in the moment

When you were asleep and living your life steeped in fear, you probably found yourself constantly dwelling on past grievances and worrying about what the future would bring. Whilst it’s important to learn the lessons which the past has taught us and to have a plan in mind for the future, when you constantly reside in those places, you miss so much of what is wonderful in the here and now – and also miss what needs to be done to make the world a better place. Living in the past and the future is SO self-absorbing and creates depression and anxiety – living in the moment brings inner peace which leaves you free to truly notice what is really going on both within and without you.

3) Getting in the flow

Remember those Universal nudges I mentioned in my previous post about awakening? Now you’re fully awake, you become a clear channel for Universal energy and as such, you will find yourself getting into the flow of life and riding a wave of Universal nudges and your inner guidance (the voice of your ‘soul-self). These nudges, coupled with the discernment of your intuitive self,  will help to guide you on to the right path towards fulfilling your life purpose and to live an existence which resonates with your authentic self.

4) Having faith

When you’re awake, you learn to relax and have faith in the aforementioned flow of life which will lead you in the right direction for both you and the good of the Universe.  Having faith means letting go of outcomes and getting out of your own way – in other words, you no longer try and control things or force them to go your way, as you know now that what is yours will come to you. (What it doesn’t mean though, is that you just sit back and do nothing – having faith doesn’t mean that you can’t be proactive in your life so keep on following those nudges!)

5) Appreciation and gratitude

Being awake means that you now find yourself spontaneously appreciating and feeling gratitude for what you already have.  Instead of living life in a state of perpetual longing, you love the gifts you already have and appreciate the simple things in life – your home, your family, your health, your own unique gifts. You will also find yourself noticing the beauty around you and may find that you have a newly awakened interest in the natural world. Spending time in nature can be very restorative for the awakened soul.

6) Being able to manifest what you need when you need it.

When you get into the flow and have faith, something really amazing happens – you find yourself manifesting exactly what you need just when you need it (NB this is NOT about what you ‘want’ – the Universe is not going to make you a multi-millionaire overnight, unless of course, it feels that this is appropriate for your particular life purpose!). This is  due to your inner guidance being in tune with the Universal Energy, creating a mutual support system which manifests everything you need for the highest good of your self and others.

7) Radiance

When you’ve shed the layers of darkness which have been masking your inner light, your authentic soul-self will be able to shine through. Consequently you will find others being drawn to you as you exude universal energy and light – you literally become a beacon of light for all around you. However this does not mean that an awakened life is completely free of darkness – though you will find that your ‘light’ repels a lot of dark energy, so you won’t be touched by it on a personal level as much as before – as we will see in point 8.

8) Living in balance

One of the misperceptions which some people have about being awake is that an awakened life is all sunshine, fluffiness and twinkly angels. This can result in some rather sneery attitudes towards awakening from those who would consider themselves ‘realists’.  However nothing could be further from the truth.

Being awake means that we still recognise what is often termed the ‘duality’ of life (the light and the dark, the yin and the yang)  – but instead of attempting to repress, deny or project these aspects onto others, we accept them as a part of the whole rather than a separate entity – hence the term ‘oneness’ which is used to describe life as seen through awakened eyes.  We realise that the key to life is finding the balance between these aspects of ourselves and the world rather than allowing one to dominate – and in the next point, we will see how being awake and in touch with our core self allows us to deal with darkness in a far more healthy and productive way.

Living in balance also means that we live our lives in a more holistically healthy way, as we recognise how everything is connected. So we balance work and play, mind and body, and naturally gravitate to a more healthful way of being.

9) Dealing with unavoidable suffering in a positive and meaningful way

In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl describes three steps we can take towards discovering the meaning of life, the third of which is our attitude towards unavoidable suffering.

When we are awake, our authentic core self and the strength and inner peace which that gives us, means that never again will we be destroyed by external events in our lives. This does not mean that you won’t grieve or feel angry, but you will no longer allow any tragedy which befalls you to define you and control you.

To read more about people who have dealt with unavoidable suffering a positive and meaningful way and find out more about the three steps Frankl suggested to discover the meaning of life, check out my blog post on this here.

10) Being the change you want to see in the world.

When you’re fully awake, you don’t just talk the talk, you walk the walk too. Your whole life becomes  an example to others of how to find inner peace and you become the living embodiment of compassion and empathy. Your mantra becomes ‘Do no harm’ and you strive to leave the world in a better state than it was when you originally entered it in your current physical form.


Ten Signs of Awakening

July 7, 2012

How do you do it and how will you know?

Awakening can be sudden or gradual – sometimes it happens as the result of a trauma or upheaval in our lives, other times it happens entirely spontaneously with no obvious trigger. You just know that life, the Universe and everything appear very different and that the truth about all this is perhaps not the same as the story you’ve been told by your parents, your teachers, your peers, society etc. However your awakening occurs though, you can guarantee you’re in for a bit of a bumpy ride.

But why is such a wonderful life-changing experience seemingly beset with difficulties?

It’s due to the healing and shedding of our ‘stuff’ which is a necessary part of the process, to make ourselves a clear channel for the Universal Energy (akin to what Jung termed the ‘collective consciousness’, though perhaps more amazing than even he realised) which is the most powerful – but underused – resource in the universe.

Pain is also a good indicator that something in our lives is out of balance and needs to change. Like the pain we feel in our physical selves to alert us to potential damage to our bodies, emotional and psychological pain alerts us to those areas in our lives which need healing so that we can tune into the energy of the Universe and of our own authentic soul-selves, instead of having our signal distorted by the chatter of egos – our own and those around us.

The process of awakening has a number of emotional, psychological, physical, spiritual and social implications, which are listed below (with some links for further reading if you’re interested in finding out more):

1) You see the bigger picture on a personal and global level.  And become very clear about where we’ve lost our way and what needs to be done about it. This can create feelings of anger, frustration and despair as we feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of the task which seems to stand before us. If you feel this way, remind yourself that you may only be one person, but you are still powerful enough to create great change – think of the ripple effect. Your efforts will reach way further than you can possibly even imagine. Just follow the path which together the Universe and your soul are leading you towards – the path of your true life purpose.

2) You feel good in your own skin and enjoy solitude and leading an authentic, uncomplicated life. And you become aware that to feel like this on a more constant basis, you need to ditch your baggage to discover and strengthen the authentic core you.  (There are five parts to this article)

3) You recognise that inner peace can only come from within, not without.  Once you recognise this you begin to lose your unhealthy attachments to material things and to people.

4) Due to the mindbody connection, you may also experience unusual physical symptoms. Often repressed feelings get stuffed into parts of our body. Use the ‘bodyscan’ to keep yourself in tune with your physical and emotional self. (The ‘bodyscan’ is a straightforward exercise where you simply mentally  scan through your body and verbalise what is going on in there, and why you feel it might be happening eg churning in stomach area (solar plexus chakra) due to power issues; menstrual difficulties (sacral chakra) due to relationship issues; pain in left hand side due to problems with your feminine energy or a female in your life, and so on.)

5) You begin to understand how our energy systems affect us all. The basic seven chakra system (mentioned in point 4) is a really good place to start if you want to find out more about how you and the world operate.

6) You become a clearer channel for Universal Energy. This is due to simplifying your life and digging beneath the layers to reach your authentic core so your energy is no longer blocked by your ‘stuff’. Try the ‘white light’ breathing exercise to increase your connection. (Visualise  white light (universal energy)pouring into your crown, flowing through every cell of your body and into the ground, then back up round your body and out of your crown again. Do this any time during the day to keep the connection fresh and clear.)

7) You become increasingly uncomfortable around lower vibrating energy. And therefore find it harder to be around certain people. You will feel repelled by anyone who is ‘toxic ‘ to your energy. If possible, simply choose not to be around them. If there are people you have to interact with, then at least minimise contact and try the shielding exercise to protect you during that time. (Visualise yourself protected and surrounded by a cloud of white light – again you can do this any time of day, quickly and easily, and can add to it too, by visualising drops of whilte light feeding into it. There’s no limit to how big the cloud can be so keep feeding it!)

8) You become intolerant of lower vibrating and overstimulating environments. In particular, environments you know to be embodiments of the wrong path. Because of this, you may also find yourself increasingly avoiding the media, especially certain news items.

9) You crave a more healthy, serene and compassionate lifestyle. You recognise how the mindbody connection works and begin to take care of your body as you appreciate it as your means to interact with the Universe. Bad habits fall away as your fears diminish and you may want to live and work in a different place. Increased empathy may also mean a vegetarian and more eco-friendly lifestyle too.

10) You start noticing nudges from the Universe. One of the fun aspects of waking up! As you become a clearer channel for the Universal Energy, you begin to receive messages from the Universe to nudge you in the right direction. These can take a number of forms, such as:
Signs and symbols


Living without money – Native American wisdom

February 24, 2011

Before our white brothers came to civilize us we had no jails. Therefore we had no criminals. You can’t have criminals without a jail. We had no locks or keys, and so we had no thieves. If a man was so poor that he had no horse, tipi or blanket, someone gave him these things. We were too uncivilized to set much value on personal belongings. We wanted to have things only in order to give them away. We had no money, and therefore a man’s worth couldn’t be measured by it. We valued the exchange of love, so we did not deal in fear. We had no written law, no attorney or politicians, therefore we couldn’t cheat. We were in a really bad way before the white man came, and I don’t know how we managed to get along for millenniums without the basic things which, we are told, are absolutely necessary to make a current civilized society.

— Lakota Sage Lame Deer (from John Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions)


New Year, New Start

December 29, 2009

It’s the time of year when many of us start thinking about how we can improve our lives and make positive changes. ‘Change’ is a word I don’t always feel is appropriate to employ regarding our selves, though – the implication is that there is perhaps something wrong with us which needs to be radically altered to make it acceptable. Our core self is already totally acceptable as it is and all we need to do is cut away the extraneous stuff – physically, mentally, emotionally and psychologically – to reveal that self in all its glory.

So with this in mind, I thought I’d post a reminder of my previous blogs on de-cluttering your life.

Part one discusses ways to de-clutter your physical surroundings – time for a spring clean!

Part two talks about getting organised in order to reduce your mental clutter – why waste your brain power worrying about whether or not you paid that bill?

Part three continues the mental de-cluttering theme with a look at how we can make our lives easier by clearing out our wardrobes and finishing projects.

Part four moves on to the deeper aspects of your world with a look at emotional de-cluttering.

Part five delves even deeper by dealing with your psychological clutter.

And if you’d like to check out all the blog entries with links to this subject, then click here.

Here’s wishing you all a year filled with compassion and contentment.

See you in 2010!


Wabi-sabi (part two)

October 8, 2009

In part one, we looked at the original definition of wabi-sabi, which can perhaps be summed up by William Morris’ statement: ‘Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.’

In part two, we’ll explore how wabi-sabi can be applied to the rest of your life and how it relates to the ethos of Inner Simplicity.

Wabi-sabi is non-materialist and anti-consumerist

Daisetz T. Suzuki, one of the first scholars to interpret Japanese culture for Westerners, described wabi-sabi as an ‘active aesthetical appreciation of poverty’. In other words, it’s about removing the huge weight of material concerns from our lives and and instead living a simple and modest lifestyle, free from greed and its companions, envy and anger.

Losing your pre-occupation with the trappings of material success – wealth, status, power and luxury – will bring you a joyous freedom which fills your heart and soul. As the Japanese hermits and monks discovered, opting for material poverty can result in a life of spiritual richness and a deep serenity. When you are no longer desperately pursuing superficial goals, you will find yourself able to step out of the rat-race and live your life at a slower pace, resulting in a peaceful and more balanced way of being for both you and for those around you.

By living wabi-sabi and slowing your life down, you will also be able to re-establish your relationship with nature, taking the time to appreciate its many beauties and learning to tread more lightly on the planet. Being content with very little means that you learn to treat the Earth’s resources with respect and no longer squander them for the sake of temporarily fulfilling your ego.

Wabi-sabi means acceptance – of yourself, of others and of the way things are

One of the definitions of wabi-sabi which I found was this:  nothing lasts, nothing is finished, nothing is perfect.

Isn’t that a wonderfully liberating concept? Accepting these notions means that we can simply let go and let be.

For instance, when we accept that nothing is perfect, we can let go of our pursuit of perfection and appreciate the simple, unaffected beauty of things as they are – including ourselves. We are beautiful simply because we exist, and we learn to appreciate the beauty of our quirks and flaws – our scars, our stretchmarks and the signs of aging – rather than buying into our culture’s worship of ‘flawless’ (i.e. airbrushed and cosmetically enhanced) youth.

As well as ceasing to beating ourselves up for not achieving that unreachable goal of perfection, we also stop berating others for not being what we expect or demand them to be. We can let go of the fear which triggers our need to control everything and everyone and instead allow people and things to be as they are and love them for their ‘perfect imperfections’.

Accepting that nothing lasts also makes accepting our aging process easier and allows us to focus instead on enjoying the freedom which comes from the wisdom of age. This concept also helps us understand that adapting to the inevitable changes in our lives is a far healthier approach than fighting them. Flexibility is key to the wabi-sabi lifestyle.

Finally, when we accept that nothing is finished, we learn to live in the moment (the well-known concept of ‘living in the now’), rather than constantly regretting the past and hankering after an elusive future, resulting in us wasting our present by wallowing in ‘if onlys’ – ‘If only I had that car/body/partner, then my life would be complete’.

Wabi-sabi means being true to you

Living wabi-sabi allows us to discover our authentic self – the real person who exists beneath our desperate attempts to conform to society’s ideals, and who exists beneath all of the insecurities we’ve amassed due to our failure to live up to that ‘ideal’.

Being true to yourself and being happy with who you are helps you connect with that place within you where peace, serenity and harmony reside. By living within, rather than living without, you learn to trust your intuition and follow the promptings of your inner voice, and in doing so, you begin to express your deeper feelings and live, love and work in alignment with your true values.

And so you take the time to enjoy what is most important to you in life. A wabi-sabi life does not need to be constantly filled with stimulation and activities which sap your inner self – rather, it gives you the space to indulge your natural talents and abilities. Being creative is all part of wabi-sabi, which allows you the freedom to make mistakes and see it as part of the process, and to celebrate the imperfections of your unique creations. Or as Leonard Cohen said in his song Anthem :

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There’s a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in.


Wabi-sabi: For Artists, Designers, Poets and Designers by Leonard Koren

Practical Wabi Sabiby Simon G Brown
Wabi Sabi: The Japanese Art of Impermanenceby Andrew Juniper


Wabi-sabi (part one)

September 26, 2009


I’m sure most of you will have experienced the phenomenon of being followed around by a particular word or phrase. For example, I remember a couple of years ago the phrase ‘cut of his jib’ leaping out at me from a newspaper – and from that point on it seemed to be everywhere I looked for weeks. More recently I found myself being stalked by the word ‘labyrinth’, prompting me to buy a book on the spiritual practice of ‘walking the labyrinth’ in a bid to establish if it had any particular significance for me, as yet to no avail. (I’ll keep you posted.)

Even more recently, however, I’ve found myself being shadowed by an unusual pairing of words – the Japanese phrase ‘wabi-sabi’. Glimpses of wabi-sabi seemed to creep up on me in both written and spoken word, from a number of sources including the internet, books, newspapers and magazines so with my curiosity piqued, I decided to explore what this strange expression meant. And this time there was no doubting the significance of the words for me, as followers of my blog will soon see…

So what is wabi-sabi?

It’s a Japanese term which is said to be difficult to explain adequately to Westerners, and in my research I found a few differing stories about the origins of the expression – in particular there seemed to be confusion around dates – but here are some definitions and a description of the main principles of the concept as I understand it.

Wabi originally meant sad, desolate and lonely – ‘the misery of living alone in nature away from society – a cheerless emotional state’. However, towards the middle of the last millennium, wabi had evolved to mean simple, non-materialistic, ‘humble by choice’ and in tune with nature.  It also meant ‘the aesthetic of the people’, referring to the simple lifestyle of the ordinary samurai who lacked material comforts, as opposed to the warlord rulers who lived an ostentatious consumerist lifestyle. Another possibility is that this more positive definition evolved because the Japanese held the spiritual asceticism of the monks and hermits in high esteem.

Sabi also originally meant ‘to be desolate’ but its definition evolved to mean ‘to grow old’, and by the middle of the last millennium, it was regarded as meaning ‘the beauty of the natural progression of time’ or ‘the bloom of time’. Sabi is about taking pleasure in the beauty of an object which has aged or weathered, and about carrying the burden of years with dignity and grace.

The expression Wabi-sabi finally came into being in the 16th century, thanks to the style and beliefs of the Tea Master Sen no Rikyu. Rikyu rejected the formal practice of tea ceremonies which he felt had become too ostentatious, exclusive and complex, allowing only a privileged few to participate. He decided it was time to bring the ceremonies to the masses so he built tea rooms like farmers’ huts with rough mud walls, thatched roofs and misshapen exposed-wood structural elements. He also made it an art to use handmade cups, pots and tea bowls, and utensils hewn from unlacquered bamboo.

Aesthetically, then, wabi-sabi offers an alternative to the poor designs, mass production  and disposable extravagance of our commercial world and instead embraces the simple, the well-used, the earthy and the unpretentious. Wabi-sabi is ‘perfect imperfection’, appreciating the beauty of things modest and humble or unconventional and finding perfection in the flaws. It’s about treasuring the old and well-loved objects you already possess rather than discarding them for new bland ones. It’s about keeping only the items which are necessary to us for their utility and/or beauty. It’s about working with natural products and celebrating the handmade – objects made by humans rather than by machine – and the soulful – music and art which comes from the soul rather than slick corporate soulless stuff. And it’s about warmth and comfort and creating a cosy welcoming sanctuary – spending time with loved ones in a quaint rural tearoom instead of an anodyne Starbucks; relaxing at home in a battered old armchair instead of an Ikea special; and snuggling up in a well-worn cardigan instead of the latest throwaway fashion from Primark.

And once again, the definition of wabi-sabi has evolved and now embraces the personal – our lifestyle – as well as objects and environments.  In part two, I’ll share with you the key principles for living a wabi-sabi lifestyle.


Recession is a healer

September 8, 2009


Following on from my Meaning of Life blogs, here’s an article by psychologist Oliver James which I could have almost written myself. More syncs too – before I stumbled across this article, I was working on a re-write of one of my earlier blogs which coincidentally includes the line mentioned near the end of this article ‘You may say I’m a dreamer’ – and over the last few days I’ve not only watched a number of documentaries about the Beatles, but yesterday (no pun intended) I also read a magazine article about them which mentions the classic song from which that line originated.

If you’re interested in reading more of Oliver James’ work on this topic, I’d recommend Affluenza and the follow-up The Selfish Capitalist: Origins of Affluenza.  I particularly resonate with the article below as it correlates with my intuitive feelings about the current recession –  namely that the economic collapse, rather than being the catastrophe our media would have us believe,  actually has the potential to free us from our increasingly oppressive/depressive state and the meaningless pursuit of ‘stuff’, which in turn will give us the opportunity to rediscover  what is really important and enjoy true meaning and fulfilment.  Here’s hoping…

Recession is a healer

By Oliver James

The implosion of the global financial system was as unexpected and rapid as the collapse of the Soviet Union. The good news is that we may be about to feel as liberated from oppression as the swarming crowds who celebrated in the eastern bloc in 1989.

The past 30 years have been a shop-till-you-drop, credit-fuelled consumer binge. Almost all of us caught what I term the Affluenza Virus — placing too high a value on money, possessions, appearances (physical and social) and fame. This virus is very bad for mental health. People with the virus are significantly more likely to suffer depression, anxiety and substance abuse (booze and drugs).

But following the collapse of the old financial system in which both individuals and nations lived on the never-never, our Affluenza habit will no longer be affordable. Time for cold turkey. In the short term, as with any addicts cleaning up their act, there will be pain. At the most extreme, as recession bites there will be unemployment, which will be depressing for hundreds of thousands.

For millions of others there will be anxiety about job security. And yet within quite a short time, as our values begin to change, I predict we will start to feel a whole lot better.

When you stop to think about it, you have learnt to confuse real needs with wants: you do not really need an awful lot of what you buy, you want it. A real need is for things like emotional intimacy or to feel emotionally secure; a new flat-screen TV or a conservatory are wants stimulated in us by advertising and the desire to keep up with the Joneses.

Property is at the heart of our confusion of needs and wants. Take kitchens. Many of us have spent tens of thousands on “improving” ours, yet what do we really need from it? A cooker for cooking, a fridge to keep things cold, clean flat surfaces and somewhere to wash up. Likewise, most of us have houses larger than we truly need and have paid beyond what we can afford to live in more prestigious areas.

Enter the credit crunch and a complete reappraisal. Virus-free, we will start counting our blessings. If property prices plummet, we will not care — rather than living in an investment vehicle, homes are vital components of our existence.

We will also rethink our work lives. Nearly all the increase in family income in the past 30 years came from working longer hours and women joining men in the workforce. At last we will see that if you spend less, you do not need to earn so much, so can work less. Those with small children will start thinking twice about working such long hours, or if one partner is made redundant, think: “Actually, let’s just make do with less money and I will enjoy looking after the nippers.”

Affluenza values will be replaced by the pursuit of intrinsic pleasures. Interest, enjoyment and the stimulation of a real challenge will become paramount: things are done for their own sake, not simply to please anyone else. At work you will put promotion prospects and salary rises second to what you find really interesting. You will be like a child absorbed in imaginary play. Wherever possible, you will be looking for work that improves the state of your mind — not just the state of your bank balance or the index of your professional ambitions.

Cutting down on Having, you focus on Being. As you recover from the virus, your brain and body chemistry will rapidly change for the better. You will no longer be jammed in a permanent state of readiness for fight or flight by high levels of the stress hormone cortisol. As you spend more time with your partner, your children and your intimate friends, your levels of the love hormone oxytocin will rise. Levels of the depression chemical serotonin will normalise.

You may say that I’m a dreamer, but I believe there is good reason to believe this version of our future. It is true that the poor are twice as likely to suffer from mental illness as the rich, but a recent British study proved that having a low income or unemployment does not in itself cause psychiatric problems. What was critical was how much a poor person felt themselves to be badly off relative to others — hard proof, as in many other studies, that if you can stop comparing yourself with others, you can be poor and happy.

Long before the credit crisis, downsizing (working fewer hours, seeking less competitive jobs) was already mushrooming among the middle-aged. Surveys reveal that young people are increasingly likely to reject “greed is good” workaholism.

Remember the title of the Christmas No 1 in 2003? It was Mad World. The truth is that we have been living through a crazy time in our history and we always suspected it. We should be grateful that the credit crunch is going to vaccinate us against the consumerist madness and that, nationally and individually, we are going to replace it with authentic personal fulfilment.

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