Some time ago I got inspired by the photos on a site for free photo borrowing (a blogging friend of mine, Life is now, shared some links in her post). Well, what I mean by “inspired” is that I saw them and understood that I stand a long long way from them. But I want to be there too.
Still, I am glad that I have learnt the difference between envy and inspiration. They seem to have the same root – a feeling like “I want that too”. The difference is that envy adds “but I can’t”, while inspiration says “I can. I just have to work on it”. There is a great book which helped me realize this, “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron.
So, been inspired by those photos, I decided to give myself a challenge. One photo a day. That must be easy. Of course, it will start with some days with no photos, and some days with plenty. But somewhere it must start.
And I thought of sharing some. Not to see the progress, but just so. To share. Today, as I was going through the recent images, picking some to share, I saw this pic of a book page with a quote: “The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance; the wise grows it under his own feet”. And I realized that a challenge of collecting images of my immediate world is in the vein with the philosophy of growing happiness under my own feet. Start noticing the simple beauty around you – and there is a feeling of gratitude and happiness in the heart.
Wishing you all a nice spot where you can plant and grow your own happiness! 🙂
There are days when I get so happy seeing different small things – and then I sit down and list them. Under the title “reasons for happiness”. The autumn sun in my window, the violet flowers on the balcony, the green plants inside, yoga in the morning, a pink coffee cup with a cactus on it…
There are days when I feel neither up or down. Somewhere inbetween, like today. Maybe, it is the sign of autumn, because I feel as my usual enthusiasm goes down to rest, together with the light and temperature. I had a short walk in my neighborhood and was thinking about a new blog post. Post about 5 things has been a while ago. A very long while ago. What can I write there? And then suddenly I start listing all the nice things I see and feel around.
I like the colorful facades of my neighborhood. I like my red coat. I like the smell of fresh pastry from the kiosk. That lovely corner with a cafe, flower shop and a hipster coffee bar. That older man from the flower shop, careful about detail, who once sold me a bouquet of eucalyptus. The freshly painted frame of a barber shop, now in bright yellow. A guy on the orange Vespa. The fact that Vespas are still on the streets.
Monday night I arrived home from my favorite dance event – Croatian Summer Salsa Festival. Held in the fantastic town of Rovinj which has stolen my heart from the very first sight, four years ago. Two weeks I have spent dancing, meeting people and enjoying life.
There has been so much enjoying that at times I wanted to throw my arms into the air and shout on the top of my lungs. The first time I enter the sea and it catches me in its arms like a lover, carrying me and stroking my skin. The moment I share a meal in the place from the last year, and the waiter recognizes us, laughs and brings schnapps on the house. The moment we dance and sing alone to “One love” reggae while the sun is going down over our last pool party. And all those moments I meet old friends, new friends – and then again say good-bye to them. I would come home at 6am at the sunrise and could not sleep, my heart overflowing with the emotions and gratitude. Love and gratitude have been the air I breathe in and out.
I never expect great revelations from these two weeks as I go just for fun, chill, dance and swimming. And who would say that partying all day and all night, dancing at the beach, in the pool and on the streets, could be a source of any spiritual experience! 🙂 But here I am, full of happy memories and insights. And I want to share them with you. The lessons the life was teaching me on the dancefloor (and around it).
I am a firm believer that the art of life is created by small steps. Small habits, small adjustments. I have never been a fan of resolutions like “From Monday on I start a new life”, but advocated for the small changes one can make – first as an experiment – in order to change one’s quality of life.
I believe in the health and happiness that start from the inside out – from our mind and soul. I have tried to set big goals for myself, like meditating for 20 minutes every day, but I struggled to keep it as a daily routine. However, the small practices seem to stick with me. Today I want to share those that work for me.
Once I fell in love with the notion of Experimental Life (introduced by Jonathan Fields on my favorite podcast The Good Life Project). It proposes to see our projects not in the terms of succeeding/failing but in terms of an experiment: whatever outcome is, you have collected some data. This gives a kinder perspective on what we use to call “mistakes”. And it also encourages me to test different lifestyle habits without letting it define me. Last year I had an experiment of doing a social media detox and I wrote about it here – later also I went off Instagram for three months. Now I want to share why I did it and what I have learnt from it.
Every year, in the weird season between winter and spring, the same thing happens: the UN Happiness Report is released. Every year here in the Northern edge of Europe we delight ourselves in discussing its outcomes. It looks like the report is released in the month of March especially for our part of the world: while other places start watching spring signs, we still walk the icy streets, covered in winter layers, wondering if the meters of snow will ever melt this year. And our only novelty and a topic for discussion is this: who is the world’s happiest country this year? Because it is us. Or our neighbors.
The first place in the happy ranking was occupied by Denmark for so many years that everyone just had to give up. But last year Norway suddenly squeezed in to be the champion. As we shrugged from the snow and sleet in April and pulled on our last resources of patience, we looked at each other with disbelief and amusement: look, we live in the world’s happiest country, what a surprise! The top five was occupied by our Nordic neighbors: Denmark, Iceland and even Finland, with one non-Nordic country (what was that again?) miraculously making its way into the top. This year Norway was moved to the second place, but by whom? By Finland, ladies and gentlemen! I felt like laughing hysterically. The positions reshuffle but you would find the same countries in the top. It looks like the Nordics are really better than the rest of the world: at least, at answering those surveys 🙂
Norwegians love to ask the newcomers to their country: “Do you like it in Norway?” (“Trives du I Norge?” which reminds of “do you thrive?”). Which is a difficult question because it doesn’t leave you an option. Well, not really 🙂 Saying no would be rude. And it also would call for a reaction “so why do you stay if you don’t like it?” So, you say yes. I used to say yes with a feeling that I am lying. I could not honestly answer that I like it here, but what could I say? After some years I used to answer “yes” more honestly but still halfheartedly. I would usually say: “Yes, I like it here. After you build your life here, you have more friends and you like it more”.
Norwegians are sweet in this curiosity. In a way they still feel that theirs is a little country up in the North and why would someone come and stay here? It is also a common question if you begin in a new job, they would ask “do you like it?” (trives du?). But it took me many years to accept this question. I felt like I was suffering from the loneliness for quite a long time here and it colored my experience of the country. And even after I got some friends I felt like a lone fighter in this cold landscape, having no one to count on but myself. The struggles were many, and leaving for home was not an option for me.