Back in Wellington, now what?
It’s been a few days since I got home from Te Moata Retreat and life is good. Some great ideas have come to me while at Te Moata, and since. One of these is that I spend far too much time trying to craft the words in this blog.
My previous blog post was written during three days when the rain never stopped. As a result I got stuck inside my head, working on that damn blog post continuously, until the sun finally came out again.
Some days I write, and then rewrite, the simplest of ideas. The problem is that I doubt myself, my thoughts and words. It is painful and I’m not sure it’s all worth it. At the same time, I know that writing is good for me. I also know that writing about my experience with depression and anxiety helps others.
People have shared their stories with me and I know I have made that easy for them. So, while I am feeling really great about myself, I still doubt myself and my ability to write this blog.
Enough of that. I’m going to write – no matter what.
Life at Te Moata – The Highlights
- Living and working with a small team of international travellers is great. I learn a lot from them about how the world should be run. There are always good ideas, especially if I listen carefully and do not disregard their ideas as emotional and naive.
- Working as a kitchen hand, with fantastic vegetarian cooks, is an awesome experience. I helped prepare really, really good food for the yoga teacher retreat students and wwoofers.
- Bathing in the Moata Stream, which is fed from cold spring water, was a body awakening experience. It is so cold that I have to shampoo my hair before I get in, so that I can’t back out of dunking myself underwater to rinse out the suds.
- I learned to sing. More correctly, I learned that I could sing. Anxiety has throttled my throat and cramped my breathing. In my singing lesson I learned to relax my throat, produce the sound from within my body and to open my mouth. That’s made all the difference. I can sing! And I can sing in tune when I listen really hard. Yeah!
- Spending time in my head, asking myself the questions that lead to the insights and empower my growth, is never wasted. I have come away with a new sense of purpose and am ready to get on with the next stage of my life.
- What’s stopping me? That was absolutely the best question I could ask myself. The answer that came was surprising but not really unexpected. It’s fear, fear of ever going back to that dark place that was my experience of depression.
This fear has been holding me back from getting on with my life, but just acknowledging it has helped. I am finding ways to reduce the chance of getting to that soul destroying level of depression.
Living in the Coromandel bush every day for 2 weeks was a blessing. Coming back to the inner city of Wellington has been an adjustment. I seem to notice, even more than usual, the people who aren’t coping; living rough or just getting by. It’s in their body language and how they look.
We live in a beautiful city but this doesn’t mean it’s easy. Life in the city, without a strong connection to nature, takes nature out of us and leaves a vacuum. I need to think about how I can fill this space better.
So what now?
I’m back home, enjoying my family and very excited about my projects. The next Heart Strategy workshop planning is underway and very soon I will launch my new coaching service. I still need to take care to manage my energy, but aside from that, I am ready to get out and try new things.
So what about this blog post?
This time, I am trying not to second guess myself and doubt my writing abilities. This blog is coming to you without the multiple rewrites and edits. Life’s too short and I have lots of things I want to do and people I can help.
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A guide to planning happiness
Aside from my wwoofing duties, which involve about 4-5 hours a day as a kitchen hand, I am free to do as I please.
It was while I was considering how to use this time that I began thinking about happiness and how we make decisions about what we do with our time.
How good are we at choosing what makes us happy?
We falsely believe that we make conscious decisions about how we spend our time and that in making these choices, they are bound to make us happy.
From my experience, that’s not the case. The reality is that our behaviors and habits form and become entrenched, long before we begin to make conscious choices.
Consequently our lives are full of activities driven by instincts or conditioning. That’s when we keep asking ourselves; I should be happier than this, shouldn’t I?
So here’s a new plan for greater happiness.
Happiness is a combination of many feelings and it is the mix of these feelings that is unique for each one of us.
- Imagine a time in your life when you were really happy.
- Take a moment to get really curious about the feelings you experienced. Was it love, connection, gratefulness, fulfillment or even pure joy?
- Then make a list of these feelings.
- Next, write a description for each feeling in a way that captures what that feeling means to you!
- Now you can choose the activities or experiences that will result in the feelings you have listed.
It’s as simple as; know which feelings make up your happiness narrative and then decide what experiences will initiate the desired feelings.
So how does this work for real?
There are a number of feelings within my chosen memory, but what stands out is the feeling of being nurtured.
For me, nurture is about being grounded and spending quality time with people I love. It might also involve nice food and gentle exercise.
Knowing that it is the feeling of being nurtured which brings happiness; I can then make thoughtful decisions about how to spend my time.
For the past few days I have put this plan into practice here at Te Moata. So far, my free time has included taking a daily nap, bathing in the stream, meditation, bush walks and eating great vegetarian food with a lovely bunch of young travellers.
How lucky am I?
PS. This process for planning your happiness is an element of the Happiness Matrix workshop that I recently co-hosted with Keong Wong in Wellington. If you would like to find out more this workshop, which is currently in the testing stage, please leave a comment below.
The choices we make
One of my early decisions for letting go was to allow my two-year-old daughter to choose her own outfits. As a result, she wore the craziest, mis-matched clothes of any child I knew. Getting her delivered to pre-school before work was a challenge in itself. This meant that my opinion of what she should wear was far less important.
Fortunately, while she stood out like a beacon in the playground, she never felt uncomfortable. Even now, she chuckles at old photos and is proud of being able to dress herself from a very young age.
Living up to expectations
Trying to live up to others expectations affects us deeply and causes of a lot of pain. Measuring our success against self-imposed standards that are almost impossible to meet, is a significant contributor to depression and anxiety.
The antidote to my own long-standing self-imposed restrictions is to write this blog. It’s my way of expressing myself, just as my daughter expressed herself by wearing those crazy outfits. She didn’t care what people thought and I try not to worry about the response to my blogs. I only hope they are entertaining and useful.
To celebrate 2015…
I have put together a reunion of my most popular posts. I have enjoyed writing about my travels around New Zealand, raising awareness of mental health, my own struggles and even published my first poem.
- Coromandel, Wwoofing at Te Moata Retreat
- Raglan, Why You Should Trust Your Instincts When Meeting Strangers
- Depression and Anxiety, Why talking about your mental health is a gift to others
- My letter to a lost grandchild, Tribute to Connor
- My very-first poem (“Te Moata”)
Here is my latest poem which surprised me as I sat on the beach at Paekakariki, New Zealand.
I am the wave
And I am the ocean.
I am the soil
And I am the earth
I am the cloud
And I am the sky.
I am the wind
And I am the air.
I am all of this.
I am complete.
I wish you the best for 2016. Please care less about what others think of you – but think more about how you can care for others.