Life Has to Change

Pretty obvious eh? Our lives have already in few short weeks changed dramatically. Following on from yesterday’s blog we are in a better head and heart space having accepted ‘our lot.’ 

Like Pavlov’s dog we practice social distancing, our hands are hopefully and constantly hot-water-soaped lickety-split clean and we are staying home. And as we settle into our lockdown we have time to reflect on life.

Like I did half a century ago, you may determine there are changes you need to make to live a more productive and happier lifestyle. Or simply, living with your foot off the pedal, go with the flow and allow things to happen organically.

This COVID 19 event has set the world asunder. No one can forecast what the future holds. Hopefully the world will rebel against the pace of life and greed that was ours over the past few decades. Employers may find that people working from home are more efficient, happier and healthier. We may find ‘looking out,’ for each other is a preferable way to live. Even come to the conclusion that less is the new more. 

One of the main drivers for me in changing my life was ‘finding the silver lining’ in a situation. It was difficult at first as my circumstances were pretty wretched and the nubs of thankfulness had to be dug out past anger and powerlessness. But it became a habit over time. 

In today’s lingo it is ‘the practice of gratitude.’ 

Robert Emmons is the professor of psychology at UC Davis, University of California and for over a decade, he has been contributing to the scientific literature on the study of gratitude and well-being. His studies show ‘the practice of gratitude’ improves physical and psychological health, and it allows people to form stronger relationships and become more resilient. 

The practice of gratitude I found kept me in the moment. I did not make, and have never made a list of things I was grateful about. As the habit grew it was more about appreciating the little moments in daily life that bring contentment or delight Maybe it was watching my children play, maybe a scudding cloud in a blue sky or a new shoot on a plant in the garden.

I enjoyed these smiley moments so much that I focused on encouraging the moments of pleasure to blossom to stretch in my mind. 

My mind of course was releasing endorphins, happy chappy hormones – not that I knew that at that time – practicing mindfulness or indeed living consciously was not yet in the dictionary.

Yes I know your life needs planning, priortising and setting goals or targets but now with our enforced isolation isn’t it an opportunity to live as mindfully as possible, that is deliberately being aware of the little good moments that life gives us? The practice of gratitude take us immediately into the present moment. In the present moment there is no looking over our shoulder no worrying about the future, just simply the now. 

Eckhart Toll, the spiritual teacher and author of The Power of Now said ‘The power for creating a better future is contained in the present moment. You create a good future by creating a good present. ‘

Eckhart Tolle

Tomorrow – Not Buying into the Fear

Mindfulness in Ho Chi Minh

IMG_7861Ho Chi Minh, (Saigon as it was) is a destination where I could sense my neurons lighting up with alacrity as I observed the city street scenes embracing a culture so different from Australia with its sights, smell and sounds of Asia teasing you at every juncture.

We had visited Vietnam once before, briefly on a cruise with day visits to Ho Chin Minh and Halong Bay, which was simply not enough time appreciate the magic of Vietnam. But enough time, with two hour coach rides into and out of Ho Chin Minh, to be amazed at the Vietnamese dominance and culture of the motor scooter.

The country boasts 30 million motorbikes/scooters equating to 95% of all registered road vehicles. A first time visit to ‘Nam spins you out of our established idea of motorbike usage. Forget Australia’s sights; a drove of newly bronzed backpackers nervously steering their scooters along coast roads hanging for the promise of a cold drink at the beach, men with red bandannas and leather chaps on gleaming Harley Davidson’s ready to throttle up the Great Ocean Road or the local postie wheeling into your drive. On the Vietnamese pot-holed roads you will more than likely see Momma and three small children perched precariously behind Poppa as he weaves his way in and out of the traffic. Here too you will see all manner, shape and size of commercial commodities laced to the frame of a Suzuki with the helmeted driver barely able to see the road in front.images-3

In Ho Chin Minh city, the bikes in all weathers create orchestrated chaos, there does not seem to be any road rules at all. Scooters flow into, weave around pedestrians and cut across the line of traffic without signals or sense of fear. While we did not see any accidents the road fatalities are understandably high in Vietnam with 1200 deaths a year. In Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) you can only be amazed that there are not more accidents as the city’s 3.1 million motorbikes, like buzzing ants, fill the roads to overflowing.

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Crossing city roads was my senior equivalent of a bungee jump. My guide said walk slowly and steadily across the stream of traffic, don’t stop don’t step back just slow and steady.’ But wait there is a crossing,’ I say ‘why don’t we cross there?’ My guide smiled Yes but the same rules apply as traffic does not stop or slow. A road-crossing phobic can do two things in Ho Chi Minh – stay in the hotel for the entire time and miss out on the bounty of life of Saigon or have faith in a different culture and trust that these bikies know what they are doing. Being one of the most fearful pedestrian when it comes to crossing the road I say proudly I did it, not once but several times and came away with nary a scratch or a bump.

We took a fascinating half-day tour in Ho Chi Minh visiting the Reunification Palace, Saigon Opera House, Notre Dame, Ben Thanh Markets and the War Remnant Museum. Mia, our tour guide of Charms of Indochina Travel Company gave breath and life to the history of Vietnam. No mean feat on a hot and monsoonal day when ones mind is sluggish and body sapped with sweat. Finally we asked if she rode a motor scooter in the city. Of course, she said. ‘But the traffic,’ we say ‘is so horrendous how to do you do it?’ It is about being aware, being conscious of the intention of riders around you and allowing their progress as they allow yours. Being mindful is the key.

 Very Zen I think as I cross the road to my shiny hotel, walking steadily beaming out my mind intention of simply getting to the other side.