When you meditate and try to keep your mind still, you can get frustrated by the thoughts coming and stealing your attention. But the masters say, that the real work is done not in emptying your mind but in that moment of becoming conscious of your thoughts coming and going.
I’ve been feeling bad about falling out of blogging for almost two weeks. I feel like I can’t live up to my simple resolution of 2 posts a week. And the longer I am not writing, the more difficult it is to get on track (though I keep on blogging on my Russian blog, I guess I have developed a better habit there).
I wish that Norwegian spring were more predictable, but it’s not. Before the end of March it is early to speak of the spring altogether – March is a winter month here, with a sudden snow and a biting freezing wind. Thanks to Instagram we have a daily reminder how gorgeous spring can be: there are first crocuses in Germany, and the blossoming trees in Paris and Vienna. While I decided to go check the forest for the first tiny sprouts last week – only to find there the rests of snow. Complaining is my old friend, but it doesn’t help me here, so I learn to reinvent myself and look for the ways to change my attitude. This year I learn not to wait for the spring, but to create it. Here are my tiny tricks so far.
Lately Norway was announced the world’s happiest country, according to the report made by UNO. Wow, how did it happen? I wouldn’t call the local population the happiest of all I have seen – but these are the results of the study. I wonder, what brought Norway to the 1st place. And I also wonder why the top 5 of the happiest countries is occupied by Nordic countries: Norway, Iceland, Denmark and Finland. What is their secret? It got me thinking, and thinking hard. I am not a social scientist (though I am a proud holder of the half-done master in sociology :)), so I don’t want to start a discussion here that lacks the scientific basis – instead, I want to share my understanding based on my personal experience. Experience of happiness in Norway.
The easiest way to explain that result is by the Norwegian oil money and high income, but that would simplify the whole thing way too much. The money can explain a lot – but not everything. And while BNP per capita and levels of education and medicine service are important for the studies that proclaim Norway the best country for living, they are not enough to justify the subjective feeling of happiness. Money cannot buy happiness, but the certain amount of money is necessary like a good fundament on which a person can build a happy life. But when I think of the results of the study, I don’t compare Norway to the African countries or even my own Ukraine. I compare it to the UK, Germany or Spain (which is on 34th place). If it was oil money in a country enjoying the Mediterranean climate, the rich cultural life and the vibrant social environment – then we would not have this discussion at all. But the North is the place of harsh climate, long dark winters, short rainy summers, highly introverted culture – and these things are important for feeling happiness. So how do the Nordic people do it?
My yellow collection from Provence has inspired two fellow bloggers to create yellow galeries of their own. Visit Pierrmorgan and The snow melts somewhere for their yellow inspirations. While I felt the challenge to keep on collecting the yellow pictures, now in Oslo, Norway. That feels so right for this season when we are expecting more sun and color. So here are my finds so far.
What if the highest art expression was the life we are living? What if it’s not what we do or create – but just our existence that has the most profound influence and artistic value?
This idea comes from listening to an interview on Youtube (here is the controversial thing: the interview is of an extraterrestrial being who is channeled by a human. If you are interested, search for Bashar and Alan Steinfeld. I know, that sounds weird, but my interest is not whether it is an alien speaking or not, but the points that are made. And there are a lot of good points there). I was struck by these words: “Just by your existence you already have all the impact you will ever have. Nothing you do in life will ever create or generate more impact that you already have. The things that you do, your creativity don’t have more impact – they reveal the impact you’ re already having”.
My favorite kind of profile on Instagram is a travel profile. Once I was showing my new finds to my friend: girls in floating dresses being photographed in beautiful and exotic sights. My friend replied: “Yes, it is cool, all those faraway places and adventures. But right now I prefer the exploration of the everyday life. When you can find something that makes your life here and now more wonderful. Like when you taught me once to enjoy staying at home, infusing it with chill-out music and relaxed attitude. This is more interesting to me than traveling”.
That got me thinking. How often I see pictures of sandy beaches with palms, or canyons and waterfalls, or old Italian streets with colorful houses and think: “This is the life worth living”. While the everyday life in my city, right now, seems gray and boring in this light. But is it so? Or better say, it is not the matter of proving that thought wrong or right, the question is: is such thinking good for me? Does it make me feel like I want to feel?
Isn’t it a good subject worth exploring? The art of everyday life. Art de vivre, as I like to call it, inspired by the French who gained their fame for knowing how to live the life with ease and pleasure. I want to devote myself to study of this art, as I believe it can be learnt just as all other forms of art. For me it is more than eating breakfast in hipster restaurants and taking photos of shoes, bags and Starbucks cups, or whatever is trendy now among the lifestyle bloggers of Instagram.
Some time ago I stumbled upon blog post by a Russian make-up blogger where she was discussing natural aging and surgery methods for staying young. Her position was firm and clear. The blog had a compilation of celebrity photos: those aging naturally versus those who use plastic surgery and the botox injections, – and the former seemed to be losing the game. The author argument was like that: there are many natural processes in our body, like body hair, which we don’t accept and fight, by epilation or shaving. So natural aging is not better, and should be fought by all means. In her comments a man supported that point of view: “It is the strongest that survive. So if you can find the means to look young and beautiful – of course, you should use them!”
My reaction was strong and emotional. I had a recollection of the culture where I grew up, the culture that believes in “survival of the fittest”, and for a moment I felt thankful for living in a different reality. I was born and grew up in the city in Eastern Ukraine (Soviet Union then), with the strong Russian culture and language traditions. It was that kind of place that make (Western) Europeans gasp and wonder. Why do they do it? Why – in the country with an unreasonably low wages – do the guys have the latest versions of smartphones? Why do girls look like they just got out of manicure salon, balancing on high heels in the mess of bad pavement?
Because this is Eastern Europe, I would say. A place where you must impress, you must fake that you are richer and cooler than you are. And since people don’t have enough money to impress with houses or cars, they would impress with phones and clothes. The streets can be messy, but on every corner there would be a barber’s shop, a beauty parlor or a solarium. And nowhere else but in my city will you see a girl on high heels, with a party make-up and sexy gear, heading to her usual office job on a Monday morning.