Friday, 27 April 2012

What the world needs now is love sweet love

What do you think the absolutely most important thing you should do while you are on earth?  Work hard to demonstrate your brilliance for all to observe, build an empire for your children to inherit, volunteer at a community organisation and make a difference in your local town, increase your knowledge and understanding and receive a lot of university degrees, become famous so people tell you how wonderful you are, be a politician so you can influence the future of your region, state or nation or maybe have as much fun as possible.  Or do you think the most important thing is to love your spouse, children, family and friends, or spend all your time, and most of your money, giving your children all the opportunities you never had. 

There are so many ways we can spend our time on earth, many of them noble and wonderful.  If we don’t consciously decide what our absolute number one priority is there is a risk we will spend valuable time doing lots of things that aren’t actually important, and this will lead to lots of regrets.

I absolutely believe the only important thing we can do is to love, everything we do needs to come from a place of love.  Here is a very clear instruction for life, “Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything.” Loving someone as if your life depends on it, doesn’t that sound fabulous.  Not just a half hearted thing we take for granted.  If there is somebody who loves you and you love them back, we need to prioritise that love, if you can do something to make someone feel loved, do it.  It might be just making them a cup of tea, sending them a text to let them know you are thinking of them, giving them a hug, watching them perform, listening to their ideas, dreams or opinions without judging, being kind and thoughtful.  Often it is really simple acts that make us feel loved.  Turn off the television, mute your phone, put down the iPad and love somebody instead.

If somebody loves you, treasure it like gold.  We need to do all that we can to protect, maintain and grow love.  Don’t ever take love for granted, don’t be too quick to throw it away and try your hardest never to betray that love.  To be loved is the absolute greatest gift we will ever receive.  I have been blessed all my life, I have felt loved by my parents, sister, grandparents, aunties and now my husband and children, truly, fiercely and completely loved.  Sometimes this has led to disappointment and sadness but mostly it is has made my life joyful and complete and wonderful. 

However, loving people who love us is just the start and that should be really easy.  Loving our planet, our sisters and brothers all over the world, the homeless, the hungry, the sad and the friendless, this is where the love challenge really begins.  Loving people who are mean to us, those who look different to us, speak differently, and think and believe different things to us, loving those who behave in a way we do not understand, this is where love gets challenging.  However, this is where love is so very important, and it can start with you. 

Don’t think about whether you like people, just love them – full stop.  Easier said than done, and I am not so good at it, but I do believe love, receiving love, giving love, acting out of love, being all consumed by love (in a healthy way not a stalker obsessive kind of way), will ensure you live the most wonderful life and your time spent on earth, while not devoid of sadness or disappointment, will be meaningful, and leave a legacy for future generations.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Matters of the heart

Does it really matter what we watch on TV, what we read in magazines, who we spend time with?  It matters possibly more than we understand.  If you set yourself a challenge to talk about, read and watch more positive than negative you will be surprised at the constant bombardment of negative, useless and untrue information we allow into our heart and mind.  This has a direct impact on our actions, thoughts, words and therefore our entire lives.

There is so much money directed towards healthy lifestyle messages, encouraging people to eat correctly and exercise to improve their health.  I think an equal amount of time and money should be given encouraging people to fill their hearts with true and good information, experiences and thoughts.  As the rates of suicide, divorce, depression, alcohol and drug addiction and gambling continue to rise it is fair to ask is there a better way.

The world is actually full of good, every single day we are surrounded by endless blessings that we often just don’t see.  Yes there is suffering and heartache, there is illness and death, there is poverty and abuse and we are constantly reminded of these things.  Why is that?  Why do we watch news bulletins and buy papers about wars, accidents, death and destruction.  I lived in a small country town in NSW and was good friends with the local journalist.  She was a good, kind person who tried to influence her community by printing more positive stories than negative.  I lived there for over four years and the only time the local newspaper sold out was when a fatal car accident was featured on the front page.  What does that say about us?

I use to love watching Dancing with the Stars but in the interest of trying to fill my heart with good I no longer watch it.  There is so much unnecessary name calling, drama and for the most part you are celebrating the misery and misfortune of other people.  It seems harmless, there are lots of beautiful people, fantastic sets, lots of jovial laughing and great music all in the name of entertainment so does it really matter.  I kind of think it does?

I even find it hard to take a genuine interest in politics at any level due to the constant personal attacks on the opposition.  If you want to fill your heart with good how it is possible to know what is going on in the world, do you have to become a hermit or become the most boring person known to mankind.  I don’t think so, but I have not completed the experiment so I can’t make any promises. I also think it is vital we continue to hear the cries of our precious brothers and sisters around the world who need us to fight for their food, freedom, dignity and safety.  Filling our heart with good is no excuse to not be compassionate or connected, it just means you obtain, process and act on information in a very specific and purposeful manner.

In my attempt to fill my heart with good I fall off the bandwagon regularly, I still participate in conversations that occasionally make a negative judgment or comment about somebody or something, I watch movies that are funny because they are making fun of others, I love stand-up comedy which is nearly always based on bagging a certain person, race, religion etc for a laugh.  I have a long way to go before I can say my heart is completely filled with good, but I am committed to trying.  I truly believe that by protecting our hearts from the negative our health, our relationships, our lives and ultimately our world will benefit greatly. 

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

The value of a great childhood

A recent trip to Brisbane made me think of how precious a childhood is, each one of us only gets one chance at a childhood and I think, as individuals, a community and society we should be consciously committed to giving all our children a lovely childhood.

Henri Frederic Amiel, a Swiss philosopher poet and critic who lived in the 1800’s said “Blessed be childhood, which brings down something of heaven into the midst of our rough earthliness”.  There is no denying life can be tough, for some it is  tough from the very first breath, for others a beautiful life can get tough when they start school, or leave home or experience death, divorce, disappointment, disease or loneliness.  Some would argue that we have to toughen our kids up young, help them understand the harsh realities of life, so they know how to survive.  I don’t really agree.

Patty Wipfler writes on the Hand in Hand website “Though we work hard to prevent it, our children will be hurt by crises. They will need a reservoir of confidence in themselves to come through well.  Studies have shown that if just one person in a child's life is consistently supportive, a child is much more likely to overcome difficult circumstances. Just one person who is enthusiastic about the child. Just one person who lights up when the child walks into the room. Feeling close to one dependable adult is at the heart of resilience for children”.

This is not saying to provide a great childhood we need to offer endless sporting, musical, dramatic and social experiences to our children or is it saying a child needs to have endless clothes and rooms full of toys, or that discipline and disappointment are crucial to a good childhood.  Money, socio-economic status or education level do not determine whether a childhood is great; it is love, acceptance and freedom to explore and grow.

In Australian Country Style May 2012 edition it was described that when Sydney Fashion Designer Marnie Skillings is creating a new collection of clothes for her Paddington shop, her memory is often stirred by her childhood. I am sure our childhood shapes our adult lives in many complex ways.

School is a crucial aspect of most childhoods, with formal education starting for some as young as four years old.  I speak to a lot of parents who are concerned about our current education system.  The National Curriculum is setting very stringent guidelines for what and how our children should learn.  For teachers to meet all the objectives and outcomes and still embrace play based learning strategies it takes a lot of skill, time and energy.  Surely, a great way to help all children have a great childhood would be to invest much more heavily in the skills and resources for our early childhood educators. 

I also think being a parent needs a whole new marketing campaign.  A recent survey in America found that two-thirds of 18- to 34-year-old women say being successful in a high-paying career is “one of the most important things” or “very important” in their lives.  Professional ambition is admirable and vital to the economy and society but the ambition to be a great parent, fully committed to creating a happy childhood for the next generation is also noble and important and should be more highly valued and regarded.

I am not talking about creating Utopia, sadly some children are always going to suffer, and this breaks my heart, but I don’t see what harm can come of being committed to creating happy childhoods for as many children as possible.  What do you think?

Friday, 13 April 2012

Just like gravity, wanting more, will always bring you down

Why do we always want more?  What stops us from being genuinely content with what we have right here at this very moment?  Each one of us is guilty of wanting more, more time to spend with our children, more money, more time on earth, more clothes, more friends, more youth, more productivity from our employees .... more, more, more.  Society has become consumed by the desire for more but we have a responsibility to stop it right now otherwise we are condemning future generations to disappointment and sadness because we can’t always have more – it is not physically possible.
A few years ago the Reserve Bank of Australia figures showed mortgage, credit card and personal loan debts stood  at $1.2 trillion, equating to $56,000 for every man, woman and child in this country.  This figure keeps growing, but at some point it will stop.

We get distracted by what the media tells us is important, they want us to get distracted by politics, terrorism, power, fear and materialism, all these things keep us spending money which keeps them in business.  In fact, I believe the greatest risk to our happiness, financial security and the well being of our family and the future of the world is our constant and insatiable desire for more.

The European sovereign debt crisis is something I don’t really understand but it seems whole nations could possibly go bankrupt due to people’s desire for more.  I watched a show on the situation in Ireland and it reported that people were so desperate for more growth and wealth they built more houses than there were people in Ireland to live in them with money that never actually existed – seems strange but not in today’s world.

Just like you I am absolutely guilty of wanting more.  We just realised a long held dream of moving slightly out of town so we can raise our family in a peaceful and beautiful rural environment.  The minute we settled in I focused on wanting to extend the house, wanting a new bathroom, wanting an established garden.  When I get all these things there will be another list, we will never get to the end of our list of wanting more unless we consciously stop ourselves.

The only day any of us are guaranteed of living is this one.  We have come to expect we will have millions of moments to really enjoy life, when we get everything we want and need.  However that moment may never come, we have to enjoy it now, with what we have in our hands right now.  One of my favourite songs is All Your Need is Love by the Beattles, and one of the lines is “Nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be”... so true.

So do yourself a big favour.  Release yourself from the trap of wanting more.  Look at what you have and be truly, deeply happy.  Rest your soul and your mind, smile and be glad, with all that you have right now.