Miyajima: heaven in Japan

Dear readers,

you may have wondered why I haven’t posted in over a week. Last summer we travelled through Japan for three weeks. Great memories which I wanted to capture in a picture book. This has been my project over the last several days. Going through all those different places we have had the joy of visiting so many great places and meet such nice people. Today I am writing about my favourite place among favourites in Japan, which is a small island of the south coast of Japan. It is called Miyajima and it is the home to the most fantastic sunset location. But there is more than meets the eye at first sight. Let me share the most amazing spots and must tries we enjoyed on this beautiful island.


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How would you describe what you call home? This is an interesting concept to explore. Are you one of those people who has moved a lot or have you been living in the same place for a long time? Is it a country, a neighbourhood, a house or a room? Or is it more the people you live with or a state of mind?

Definitions you may find are: 1) the place where one lives permanently, especially as member of a family or household, 2) the place where a person was born or grew up, 3) the place in which one’s domestic affections are centered. Or is it more then just a place, it is also an idea – where one’s heart is.

Where I was born
The town where I was born was several hours drive from where my parents grew up. They lived there for several years due to my dad’s job. We moved when I was three. I do not have any recollection of the place. I have visited it when I was a teenager. Our neighbours had a daughter the same age and we ended up being pen palls for a while. A spend a few days at her place during one of the school breaks. I cannot imagine living there now, and it is certainly not home.

Where I grew up
The town where I grew up is where my parents still live. I was twelve who we moved in the house they live in now. We did have another home in the same town before that. I have stopped by, but I do not feel any connection. I do have childhood memories from that place, but they are dearer to me than the actual location. But where my parents live now is where I come regularly. It is a base, and much more a base than any other place I do no longer live. It isn’t so much my room, which has changed, but I guess it is the people and the familiarity of the place. There are very few people other than family that I have stayed in touch with in this town.  To be honest I fancy it much more now than when I was in school to actually live here.

Exploring the world
After finishing school I lived many different places for studies and work. I had the great opportunity to live in different countries and travel quite a few places. I always enjoyed where I was. No matter whether I had some pretty big hurdles to take in my life. I was with my partner and later also children, but away from the rest of the family. The great thing was that we had much more intense contact when people came to visit or when we went ‘home’. Perhaps just because we would spend more time together, vacation together. Any holidays abroad we always had our local ‘family’, often neighbours to celebrate with. Spending time together was our home and feeling welcome and appreciated. Especially with all the very friendly people we met during travel or living abroad. It has really enriched my life.

Moving ‘home’
As the children had been abroad all their lives I decided to move back to my ‘home’ country before their teenage years. I think there is a sense of home with the country and the culture you grow up in, or where you are ‘from’. And I really wanted to give them that experience. Perhaps because you hear to many times people do not feel at home anywhere when they have been living in many places. I moved into a new town which I am very fond off. I have great neighbours. Though we have been here a few years I do not have a desire to move again. There is so much more to explore, especially my own connections in whatever way shape or form. What if the kids move out? Will I no longer feel at home? I am sure I will feel like a part of me is missing, but I will be so proud of them for taking up their adventures in life. And we will always stay connected.

Home is where my heart is
Over the years I have started to realise that you feel at home, when you feel at ease. At ease with yourself, with the people around you and the place you are at. If you feel safe, appreciated and at peace it doesn’t matter how long you are in a certain location, who you are with or what your are doing. You feel connected with what is good in life. For example if you are travelling and you are watching this beautiful sunset on a warm summer night. Or enjoying the a nice meal with family or friends. Isn’t that like a homea-feeling? I believe that home is where your heart is. You just need to make sure you are connected with it.

It is quite amazing how we can complain about things if you consider what a good life we have. Living in a peaceful country, having a nice roof above our heads, having plenty to eat and many things to wear. The abundance is sometime such that we take it so for granted. And then there are the social aspects, family and friends, hobbies and many enjoyable things to do. It is probably such that having less rather than more of all this would make you appreciate it more.

Habits and thoughts
But if we are safe, taken care of and loved, what else do we really need? It is our habits and our constant thoughts that tend to make us miserable at times. The habits that make our lives to busy and do not help us focus our time and energy on what is really important. The thoughts that make us sorry, about bad things that may have happened to us or make us feel nervous about everything that still needs to be done. The constant distractions by the constant media and information available, the pressure of staying on top of information and requests that come in any time of day. We seem to feel that the expectations people have of us continue to rise and we try really hard to be as perfect as possible.

I have tried now for a while to slow things down. And even without a job at the moment I experience sometimes how these habits and thoughts can bug me down. The great thing is, that I have now created time to reflect during the day. This really helps in understanding why I do what I do, so I can slowly start to change these. One important part of this is to realise, how great the current moment is. I am so grateful that I have the possibility to write this blog for example. It helps me sort my thoughts and express some of my feelings. I am also very grateful I have the time to spend with my children, to work through some more complex topics, like deciding which school to go to and discuss issues   teenagers deal with these days. I can so enjoy going to a concert or for a nice walk and let the experience really sink in. Looking back over the last 4-5 weeks I am amazed at my progress doing yoga and learning the piano. I should be more grateful for that when I am in the middle of my practice and struggling sometimes. We work so hard to get things right and try to keep so many balls in the air, but too often forget to enjoy the moment.

What is next
How can I not be at peace with where I am at? Because there is one more thing on my list of what I considered my focus areas? This month I will be focussing on meeting new people and getting more connected with my family and friends. Isn’t that a great topic for the month of December? It may be a stretch for my introverted self, but I am sure I will enjoy being more relaxed around people. Hearing their points of view and opinions is what inspires me in many ways. May it be to be less hard on myself or to take the next steps in my journey. To learn something new or to just enjoy life more and have a good laugh. My life is so rich and there is so much more to be grateful for. Perhaps all it takes is just being aware of it more often. And being grateful is a great basis for being more compassionate, which makes you more connected with others.

12. Tidying up

There are so many things I have been wanting to tidy up. And the good thing is, I have made a start. Off course my ambition level was much higher. But that holds true mostly for the physical aspects of it. I have made great strides in working on negative thoughts and feelings, have been steadily working through those activities that have been on my to do list for too long and lastly I have already moved two loads of stuff out of my house. And as I start to become more detached from the physical stuff and find the peace of mind to decide what stays and what goes I am sure there is more to come. And yeah, I did nor buy anything during black friday (weekend).

Many years ago I was already interested in the principles of feng shui. It seems so calming if you only have the things you need and everything has it’s place. For some reason however over thebperiod of a decade you can accumulate so much stuff. It is not that my house is untidy, but what do you do when the books don’t fit anymore on the book shelfs, if your keep stuffing cloths in the drawers that are overfull and the kids schoolmaterials keep on piling and piling. Then you have those things that you have kept for many years because you think they have some emotional value, are nice keepsakes for whatever reason. Oh yes and what about those video cassettes and cd’s you do no longer have a player for and piles of dvd’s from before Europe had access to Netflix.

There is still much to do and it seems very time consuming, but it is cleansing and calming once you see that empty space and order reappearing. What I understand now is that certain things I have to do in stages, like my books. What do Inwant to keep and why. I never read novels twice and there are such great ressources like the library and the reading room. So I am destined to only keep the books I cannot get there or that I will likely have a look at again. Then there is the self control of not buying more books, unless it is something I will read more then once or can not get in the library and asking for e-books in case of gifts.

This seems like a clear way to go, so what about kids toys and games? Let’s keep the toys and games that we really enjoy(ed) playing and donate the rest. It seems like a shame to get rid of stuff that is in perfectly good order, but it doesn’t have any value collecting dust on the shelf.

We have been getting piles of beauty and wellness products as gifts. It might take a decade to use them all. How do we make sure we do not get any more? It seems unfriendly, but does feel better to be clear that you do prefer not to get these types of gifts. That you’d prefer a donation to a good cause or a gift card maybe? And for the products, let’s out them all in one place so we have an overview and just continue using them one by one.

Step-by-step I will get through it. But it does seem it will take much more time than I anticipated. But I have that time now, so just keep going at it. Interestingly I do already feel much less cluttered, because my increased peace of mind helps me be less annoyed. Things are the way they are. Nothing more and nothing less. And if I want the situation to change I will have to take action, step by step.

11. The fear of blogging

Writing my personal story in this blog has been a way to do self-reflection and to get some focus. Once it is written down it seems more real. At the same time I have been afraid to share my story. The question is why?

I do want to write, but do feel a bit embarressed. How do people interpret what I write? Do they feel I am this foggy person now, with my head in the clouds? Do they think I am selfish for taking this time for myself? What if people don’t take me serious anymore at work? Do they think it is unprofessional to write about your feelings? Is it any good what I am writing? Would anybody be even interested in it? Why post it online and not keep it for myself?

Does all of that really matter is what I need to ask myself. To begin and get over the first hurddle I made my blog site under a pseudonym and shared it with a few people I trust. They were positive about my first two posts. This got me to the next step to spread the word more. Mostly to people that I do not know in anonymous groups online. I have nagging thoughts about yes or no to use my personal and professional network to post it to, but I haven’t so far.

Which fear is holding me back? Is it the fear of not being good enough. I am this perfectionist and can be really hard on myself if it is not 100% in order. Can I not just see this as something I just started doing and evolve as I progress? Look at it now, this is my 11th post and there are so many more topics I like to write about. Also, the interactions and posts of others give me new ideas to reflect upon. Isn’t it great to get some different views on life and try things out? I have had posts where there were spelling errors and wrong numbering in the title, a storyline that doesn’t quite flow or I forget to upload the feature photo. Big deal! I don’t think so now. It helps me be more forgiving to myself. I am doing this because I want and like to do it. And it may be a big deal for me if it isn’t perfect, somebody else may think it is just human. Or doesn’t even notice.

Then there is the fear of not being understood or respected. I question really hard what appearance am I trying to keep up to people around me, family, friends, acquintances, colleagues, bosses, …. Why am I afraid to bring more of myself into those relations? Why do I hold back and only show whatever seems approvable, acceptable and the perfect version of my self? On too many occassions I have had harsh responses when I wasn’t my perfect self. As a child already I felt like the odd one out. Not standing out and being agreeable seemed to avoid those negative responses in some cases. In contrast when it came to my results in terms of schoolwork or in my job, I did get positive responses. Maybe I started to believe that this was the only thing I was good at. Always trying to please others. Be professional and delivering good work started to be the top priority. What I ask myself now is whether I can be content with myself when being a bit more self-confident about all the other things that I am, do, think and enjoy. Accept my imperfections and just be in the moment. So what if people do not like my blog. So what if people don’t want to read it. But it is one thing I am doing right now and it is part of me. That still doesn’t mean I need to share it with everyone, but it is out there. And I am surely not that unique that I am the only one having these thoughts.

This leads to the thought that I need to justify myself. What fear is that? And whom and for what do I need to justify myself? Is it that I have tried so hard to be the responsable one, the person that keeps everything afloat and solves the problem. And I am. And I think I like it that way. But why do I continue to fomulate justifications in my head or verbally to others if I decide for me. I seem to have a constant guilt and feel selfish. Is it that, the fear of being seen as selfish. Why is it so hard to choose for me rather than living up to the perceived expectations of myself and others. I do thing this is a vital one. And it is getting in the way of choosing my hearts desires. If I am more at ease with myself can I be a better person? And what does this better person look like? More food for thought…

Curious to hear from you if you think I should get out there to all those people that know me in real life. I still do not have the courage.

A hobby is an activity, interest, enthusiasm, or pastime that is undertaken for pleasure or relaxation, done during one’s own time.

According to this definition you would assume that work cannot be your hobby. But how can work not be your own time? What if we said that doing things for pleasure and relaxation is a hobby. Why would work by definition not be pleasure and not be relaxing? Because you get paid for it?

Anyway I had stopped working in terms of the steady job I had. There are things that I spend time on that I would certainly not call a hobby, like cleaning the house. But would I call meeting friends or doing meditation a hobby. Probably not. Though these are things that I do enjoy. It always seems that a hobby needs to be something substantial a bit more special. So what really is the difference between enjoying something and something being a hobby.

What I am looking for are those activities that would get me in some kind of flow, that would require my full attention and feel good during and afterward. I realised that I like to create things, find solutions, grow and have a good conversation. I also like to feel calm and in control, and have my regular piece of quiet. Realising this it seems that not one hobby is going to cover this and then again having clear what I like also helps to know what I do not like.

There is plenty of time to make up my mind, but I still had no clear idea what I want to do after my sabbatical. But I do not seem to be able to completely park it either. What I do know is that I want to get as close as possible to what I do like. Even though you may not want to call it a hobby. For now it would be good to spend my time on hobbies that a really liked and not because I should like it.

As a staring point I looked at what I had enjoyed in the past. During my school years I would spend many hours and practicing music and doing arts and crafts, create with paper to be exact. I used to write many letters to penpalls and read a lot of books. During my grown years I started doing different kind of sports and worked with foto’s and video. I also started practicing relaxation during my second pregnancy. I have started to try these out again and I notice ghat if it is something I feel like doing almost every single day, it probably is one to stay. Or at least for now.

Yoga and meditation in the morning have become some a fixed element of the day and gives me a good start. I feel refreshed and strong fully charged to handle what comes on my path that day. The morning practice before going to work did serve me well in the past. It really doesn’t matter to much what it is, strength exercises, a run or yoga/pilates. As long as I get my body moving before breakfast.

Learning something new like playing the piano, takes a lot of practice, but it is so enjoyable to work on something with so much focus and see (hear) the progress. I have been doing that almost daily as well. It means that my other music is in the background now, it just seems there is no room for it now, but it doesn’t run away. No pressure. I’d like to play more music with the kids, but we do not seem to be able to chime our music wishes and hours of practice. Well, maybe something for later or as we have done in the past, for a special occassion.

My photobook project is still in the early stages. I guess it just doesn’t appeal to me right now and feels more like a chore.

And the there is arts and crafts. I did work on a few pieces. And I notice I get annoyed quickly if it doesn’t work out right away. But also this get’s better with practice and I enjoy the focus needed for a more complicated origami piece. I feel it is a good activity to practice my patience and self compasion. What really is the deal when it doesn’t work out the first time, nor the second time, just try again and keep perfecting it. It may help me figure out why I have such a hard time accepting when I make mistakes or do not get it right the first time. Why do I set my standards so high? And worse even I do this to others as well.

Next time will be about blog writing. No matter if you could call that a hobby or not. Certainly writing could be, so why not blogging?

Being more mindful for me means letting go of compulsive behaviours. In some cases you could even call them addictions when they get really dominant. I feel that those behaviours are a not very concious reponse to some sensation or desire. We all find it normal that we eat if we are hungry and go to bed when we are tired. But when do we believe they are mere pleasures, responses to emotions or even unhealthy? That is when you need to be weiry.

For me it means I am still peeling the onion of compulsive behaviours as I become more aware of what I am doing and understand more and more why. A few things are so obvious that I changed them from the beginning of my sabbatical. I stopped drinking coffee and alcohol. It is not so much that I used so much that you could say they were straight addictions. But I wanted to get away from the ups and downs of caffein and wanting another cup to lift me up during the day. Having more steady energy levels through the day is much easier to achieve if I do not drink caffein. The first few days were not easy, but if you are committed it is well worth it. Every now and then I drink a cup of decaf just for the taste.

As for the glass of wine it is a different story. I would drink a glass of wine to just unwind and relax before going to bed or to be a bit more relaxed when meeting friends. But sometimes this would be more a way to console myself, if I felt lonely or sad. I realise now that those emotions are the ones I did not want to feel. Something was missing and I was umconciously trying to fill that void with a glass of wine.

Next to caffein and wine, to some extend also work was part of the compuösive behaviour. I have always worked busy jobs and have been taking on roles with a lot of responsibility. I really enjoyed what I did. It A significant part of my self-worth. It was never hard to find the motivation and it kept me sane after my husband past away. The question is at what point you could say you are a workaholic. When are do you miss to much of what is going on in your childrens life, have the feeling chores are piling up and when was the last time you really felt relaxed or enjoyed something so much you lost track of time. I do believe it is at least compulsive id you do it not to feel down or sad, if you try to avoid emotions and it starts to become unhealthy if you feel you can nolonger makenthe decisions needed for your family and yourself.

For seven weeks now I have been away feom work, have not drank any caffein or alcohol, except dor the odd cup or glass that doesn’t have any effect on me. Some Emotions are starting to surface and as I become aware of them it is my tasknto make the right decision. Do I choose the behaviour to numb them or do I take the time to feel them and let them be? I am trying not to get all busy again and make a nice cup of tea when I long for coffee or wine. Today I went for a long walk in nature when I got sad sorting through old cards and cd’s. And look at the picture. Doesn’t it look beautifull! It is so hard to make decisions on what to toss and what to keep and yet again I really want to declutter and get rid of those unuseful spacefillers. I guess I will just do smaller portions each time, but keep going at it. It will be such a relieve once I am done and these things are no longer in my way. Or is this wishfull thinking?

And then there is this mobile phone. It draws on me seeing if anybody is interested on the items I put for sale or checkimg out if there are any replies to my blog. Let me think of some internet free zones or time. Behaviours can be changed! Focus on one thing at the time, for quite some time and I will enjoy what I am doing and see some progress.

Please come back to my next post which will be about hobby, those things you really enjoy doing.

Here I am six weeks into my sabbatical and I am so for ever greatfull that I made the decision to take a long period off work.

Early on I joined a five day mindfulness retreat. This really opened my eyes again on how living in the now and decluttering my thoughts raised my awareness tremendously. Next to the meditation, yoga and mindfulness sessions the afternoons gave me a chance to explore the beautiful nature area. I noticed that during the first day I enjoyed being outside and went for a nice walk. The fresh air was pleasant and stroling through the wetlands gave me a sense of calmth. Though it being in the fall I noticed thee different kinds of flowers. But in the subsequent days my senses started to open up and feel amplified. I noticed how the birds made different sounds and that the light would chance by the time of day and the weather. Really seeing the plants I noticed many different kinds of flowers and was in awe about all the different colors of green. During the meals we were also in silence which helped me focus completely on the food, tasting all the flavours and textures, taking half an hour to finish my plate. How often had I eaten my food and not really tasted it? Over the years I had become the master of fast eating.

You can imagine this was a really great (re)start into my mindfulness journey. Why did I ever unlearn to enjoy life in this way? Let’s talk about that in a future post!

Being back at I started thinking about what had felt so good. Especially the meditation and yoga in the morning felt like giving me such a refreshing start of the day. Now every morning I practice at least a half hour of meditation and a half hour of yoga. When there is more time I extend my meditation sitting or do a second one. My teenagers are fully supportive no matter whether I do it in the living room or in my room. It is important for me to be there for them and with their varying time tables it has taken some getting used to, to find the right rhythem.

I started practicing piano. Having played wood wind in the past I can read the score, at least the upper part of it. But the left hand score I needed to constantly translate. I could not make it work to play a different melody with both hands. One day at the and of a meditation session I just tried to do it in my head. Without the hands. It was so clear to me now how the pieces fitted together. The practise on the piano requires my full focus and I enjoy any minute of it.

During the retreat I read a few sections of The power of Now – by Eckhart Tolle. The words that struck me most and really are starting to get meaning for me are: “the only place where real change is possible and where you can resolve the past, is the now”. And closely related to that “all problems are illusions of the mind. A situation needs to be either dealt with or accepted. Why make it into a problem?” Quotes like this really help me to raise my awareness and examen my behaviour and my thoughts. What assumptions am I making? Why did I behave in a certain way? I started several therapy session which also helped me to have someone hold up the mirror to me. She was quite strict when I started to intermingle situations and thoughts, being clear they are in reality not connected. This was the beginning of untangling and resolving those nagging thoughts. It gave me the resolve and calmth observe each of those worries and really look at how I felt about it, so I could let go. There is still much in this space, but at least it is not intertwined anymore and therefor seems much easier to handle.

What I do notice now, living a lot more mindful, is that I do much less multitasking. And to be honest as I focus on one think I am not able even to do it. It is datisfying to finish one thing before I start the next and it also means that I get better and better to have focus time woth the children again, which is especially rewarding.

7. Be not grumpy

Are you also annoyed by the fact that small little things get to you? You are looking for something it is not where it is supposed to be. Or the children leave all their stuff at the dining table. Or they have not put the cloths in the basket on laundry day. But why does this small stuff get you angry? Is it really that important? And why would it be okay to be unfriendly to somebody about it? All day in the work environment you try to be at your best behaviour. I call this the professional modus. At the same time at home you would like things to run smoothly. By the way, it doesn’t feel very smooth when you stumble over dirty socks. I guess that perfectionism is most of the time serving you well. The professional modus of always being composed, friendly, serious and hard-working is seen as a good trade and earns results that get complemented. But at what cost?

Let’s start with getting to the positive of this. It is one thing to say be NOT grumpy, but what am I going to be in stead? Be more patiënt, be more foregiving, be more enquiring? But if the situation is getting to you, what will change the situation? If those things didn’t happen, there would be no reason to get grumpy, right? Really?

One of the big lessons I learned is that if you are not happy with the situation, don’t wait for anybody else to change, or the circumstances to change. You can moan about it, because you are annoyed, feel like you are the only one that again needs to resolve this, or just because you feel too tired to lift your feet. The grumpiness pushes people away and you will only feel more lonely in your struggle. No, you are the one that needs to start the change.

What helped me enormously is getting more healthy and fit, see blogpost 5. When I started changing my habits I became more aware of what I was doing and this helped me reflect on why this happened. When I couldn’t find my gloves and was pretty sure my daughter took them without asking. In stead of saying: Can you gave me my gloves back!” I asked: ” Do you know where my gloves are?”. I am stil practicing this inquire style. It does feel beter to me, because I at least am not blaming someone for no reason. And it feels more like asking for help, which I do not do often enough. If I get stuck in a computer program, and I would normale try to resolve things ten times and get furious, I now would try three times, take a break before I get really annoyed and come back to it later with a fresh mind. Often I would find the solution quite quickly. But overall the biggest change was to just expres what my feelings were: “I am really hungry, tired or sad and that is why I don’t feel so well. Can you please help me fix this, or tidy it up, so …..” You find out that people do care for you and are more then willing to help, especially if you ask for it in a NICE way.

So what is the relation with the professional modus? I do think that during the work day, you hold in all kinds of emotions. If being composed and professional is important, you learn to deal with whatever comes your way. And in the type of work I had it can be very unpleasant things. Also work for me was a distraction. It felt good to be busy rather than being all sad and alone. Especially when my husband was ill and after he passed away. This seems all good and great as long as it lasts, but at home you can drop that ‘mask’ or the build up of emotions and tiredness is so much that you need to let off some steam. And then the stupid little things get you. And you are grumpy about nothing important.

With all the tension that had build up in my body over a long long period of time, this was off course not immediately gone after 6 weeks of sabbatical. And if I could not change the situation, or only partially influence it, one thing I could do is change the perspective on that situation. It was really hard to do it, when I was in the middle of it. I was sometimes able to talk to myself and say: ” Let go, it is not important.”. But especially now I notice that I try to at least park it and then see if it comes back up in my meditations. It may be that I felt that I had reacted the wrong way. And it would start with looking for acceptance about what is that is. Start with forgiving yourself for not being perfect. Often times a clue would come up about how to respond the next time or if there was a need to go back to that persoon to talk about it. The other thing was not to worry about the future and get worked up about it. Preparing for a lunchtalk ideas would come up about how it would go. I  just focus on what I needed to do to prepare and focus on my breathing again. The good thing was that I started to notice that during this meditation I had a good clarity of mind and it started to get easier to see solutions and move on.

This is a journey, but I am committed to get closer to my feelings and strive for being a friendly, care, loving person, without compromising my integrity. Please come back to read how things develop.

There are so many different ways to spend time with my children. When I decided to take a sabbatical it was really important for me they could continue doing what they were doing. I was not going to drag them to some lonely island, or take them out of school for world travel. I do believe that is not even allowed by the way. I have two great kids, that are caring, communicative, responsible, musical and creative. One of them is also very sportive. It wasn’t about now becoming that stay at home mum, nor was there any need for ‘correction’. They are teenagers now and actually find it very annoying if you take ‘too much’ care of them. I wasn’t all of the sudden going to become over protective. They want time with their friends and for their hobbies. But there are also things that they really enjoy doing together. And there were many topics that they really wanted to explore and discuss.

It took some time getting used to the fact that I was now home before they went to school and most of the time also when they got back. I noticed that weekday breakfast together was not as enjoyable as on sundays. Different starting times in school, finishing the last piece of homework or revision, packing for school. They were just too occupied and wanted to have that piece of quiet, not talking, before a busy school day. I decided to surprise them every now and then with something tasty to take to school and would cook a bit more for dinner, because they loved to take left overs for lunch.

What made an enormous difference is being there after school and have an open mind during the evenings. They started to discuss more topics with me and asking my opinion. Also there were quite a few important decisions to make in their live and we had time to explore and visit information sessions together. I had always spend a lot of time with them on important events like soccer games and concerts. And of course I was going to continue to do that.

Occasionally my daughter enjoyed sitting on the couch and watching a particular tv program with me. The greatest was to have some food or snacks with it. I had sometimes considered this a waste of time, but now I made sure I wasn’t distracted by phone or internet.

I encouraged them to bring their friends over so I would get to know them better and just provide them a safe place to meet. Though we had had many sleepovers I decided to always say yes, unless there was real big reason not to.

We all love food and like to explore different dishes. We decided to change our eating habits and not eat meat. Occasionally there would be some fish. This made our habit of trying out different restaurants more interesting, but necessarily easier. At home we would all try to cook something vegetarian. We had long conversations about how to eat healthy, cut sugar and stay healthy by eating a variety of foods.

One of the things they had always enjoyed was travel. Their wishlist of places to visit was rather long. We had been doing this regularly, but I was always a bit concerned about how tiresome it would be. Rather than recuperation before getting back to my demanding job. Now that I was on sabbatical I could start a trip well rested. And it wasn’t a problem to get things packed or drive longer distances.

It didn’t feel that different to the time before my sabbatical, other than really having the time to explore topics with them which resulted in very interesting conversations and have ample time for making arrangements, which reduced my stress level. I was less tired and therefor more present. The fact that we were not doing totally different things than before made me feel I had at least not been doing a bad job. When you are a single parent you always feel you are not good enough as you have to make up for the other parent too. Perhaps a topic for another day.

This was post number 6. If you enjoyed reading it, please come back or have a look at my previous posts. I am curious to hear from you, so please leave your comments.

5. Getting healthy and fit

What does that really mean? I am not the person to go run a marathon and I was never going to get that photo model body.  But really considering it I had a few habits that were not really helping me get healthy and fit. At the same time healthy and fit meant more to me than the physical. I wanted to feel good about it and cherish that body that was given to me. No, that is really under defining it. I wanted to feel strong and being able to move mountains if needed. To have the physical and mental stamina and energy that would help me mount any challenges that would come my way.

In order to gain strength the first steps was to break with dependencies. This had helped for me in the past to feel stronger. This meant quitting my coffee habit and stop the wine and late night snacks. The question was of course why after a while I always fell back into these habits. The coffee always helped me on weekdays to get to fifth gear and keep going all day. But what also helps to get the body in motion in the morning is doing some exercises. This was a much better habit. For some reason over the last year I had lost this practice completely. The first week of my sabbatical was able to quit the coffee, but I couldn’t get myself moving on the morning exercise. What really helped was the retreat. With a regular program of meditation and yoga every morning I got back into the groove. After I came back I was doing the suggested exercise, but was getting bored with it. What did make it easier for me is to follow a program. I am now on day 10 of the 31 day yoga Revolution. I can really recommend it! And the coffee habit the rest of the day? Actually once of the coffee for a week, you do not have the ups and downs any more and you don’t need it as much. And there are many great teas if you want something warm to drink. I occasionally drink a decaf if I really want to taste the coffee.

The other habit I immediately quit in the first week was the wine and late night snack. The trouble with the combination is really, that once you start to snack something with your wine, you want more wine, which also increases your appetite. Worse so, I realise now, that this happens while binching on some series on Netflix. And therefor going to sleep way late. Oh no, another habit, but lucky me, I quit that too except for max one day a week. And what a waste of time!! The real question is why was I doing this. Two reasons I think, to get the sense of relaxing before going to bed, I deserved this after a days hard work. And secondly, to fill a void. If I kept myself “occupied” in this relaxing way, I could zone out the loneliness. In stead now I do some stretching exercises and put on a guided meditation. This often times eases me into sleep, and it doesn’t get so late.

To get some more stamina I also started to run again. I am aiming for that 10k run event, which I have been doing for the last four years, but am taking it slow. In stead of telling myself during my run, come-on you can do it, just push a little further, I am now trying to focus on the flow, feel the movement, and tell myself to find that ease. It is really much more enjoyable that way. In my mental frame of mind it is still a bit tricky not to have the set dates and objectives for each practice with the goal in mind. But there is plenty of time to get there and then again isn’t it all about the here and now. Enjoy what you are doing now, and the ease and stamina will come with practice.

And then there is the healthy food off course. Subject for another day.

This was post number 5. If you enjoyed reading it, please come back or have a look at my previous posts. I am curious to hear from you, so please leave your comments.

4. Time is an illusion

Guess what, the first new thing I learnt during my sabbatical is that time is an illusion. As Eckhart Tolle writes: “Time isn’t precious at all, because it is an illusion. What you perceive as precious is not time but the one point that is out of time: the Now. That is precious indeed. The more you are focused on time—past and future—the more you miss the Now, the most precious thing there is.”………… silence……….

What have I been thinking all this time? …….more silence………

The first week of my sabbatical I had spend one day at the spa, a massage and sit in the park the second day and a therapie session on the third. I stopped drinking coffee, which made me really tired initially and banned alcohol and late night snacks. I had to get stronger and quit with the consolation habits. I was in recovery mode from a very stessfull period since our summer break I had ended up in a situation at work with several unplanned events that took up all my time. I had been onboarding my successor and in the last week had many good bye sessions. And I do not like good byes. My head was one big blur. I slept a lot.

The second week I went on a retreat for 5 days. And this is where it happened. I started to get clarity. We spend our days in silence, had meditation and yoga sessions twice a day and a session on the here and now. Just be. We were in this beautifull nature park and I spend the afternoons with leasurely walks or riding my bike. On top we had this wonderfull self prepared healthy food and many good nights sleep. It was so great to feel every step, to enjoy every second of silence and to taste every bite of food. It seemed that colors were so much brighter and sounds so much more beautifull. Life felt so rich that way. I realized that off course during these ideal circumstances it was much more easy to live in the now. But I was wondering if I could not just have the faith that I would be able to continue to focus on the now and do my exercises every day. Be aware, present as much as possible every day. Things were really so much less complicated that way. And with the clarity in the present moment I would know what to do. I would know what was right. Or at least more often as I was getting better at having that awareness. When you are in the present moment you can really sense that there is no pain, that there is no worry. There only is. The following starts to make sense: All negativity is caused by an accumulation of psychological time and denial of the present. Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry – all forms of fear – are caused by too much future, and not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of nonforgiveness are caused by too much past, and not enough presence. – Eckhart Tolle.

In the few weeks since I have been doing my daily practice, sometimes more sometimes less. It has been so much easier to focus on one thing, like writing these posts. With the yoga I have been able to get the stiff muscles in motion and more flexible. I have taken on leasurely running again and were are eating mostly vegetarian and a lot of vegetables. I am working on the health of my mind and am starting to be more foregiving for myself and others. If change is needed it has to start with me and it has to happen in to now. Not tomorrow or next week. In all I was starting to get more healthy, more fit and less grumpy. And the great thing is, the now is always there if you care to notice!

This was post number 4. If you enjoyed reading it, please come back or have a look at my previous posts. I am curious to hear from you, so please leave your comments.

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