Wake up. Grind. Repeat.
When my to-do list gets out of control, this is what life feels like. Every single day.
From the moment I get out of bed, I jump head-first into the daily routine of doing everything I can to stay afloat or get ahead.
It’s a vicious, all-consuming cycle — I get so lost in endless work, chores and obligations that I sometimes forget that I’m alive.
I forget that it’s the little things that make my days meaningful, and that they’re nothing short of magical.
If only I took the time to notice and revel in them more often.
If only I took the time to live in them every chance I get.
Like a ghost slipping quietly into my body, consciousness returns in a rush, but softly.
I resist the startling appearance of reality for a brief moment, but soon find myself fighting off the heaviness of sleep as my eyelids flutter open.
As my eyes open, I recognise the cool of morning on my skin.
With sight still blurry but sound perked up, I pick up the beautiful melodic rhythms of birds singing outside.
They’re soul-stirring chirping is a reminder that this feeling comes by every single day, subtly reminding me that fresh starts are there for my taking every 24 hours — that no matter what’s happened the day before, every morning is an opportunity to reboot, rebuild or simply try again until I get things right.
I crave for a few moments of stillness every day.
Moments where I can let go of the noise of other people’s judgements, expectations and opinions.
Moments where nothing is moving and no one’s around so my body and mind have space to be present and breathe.
While cramming as many to-dos as possible gives me an adrenaline rush, it can also make me feel like a hamster on a wheel if I’m not intentional about it.
It’s in this stillness that I’m able to:
- Pay attention to my body, emotions and breath, and how amazing yet fragile they are.
- Watch life around me unfold, so I can either learn from or appreciate it.
- Realise how fleeting time (and my existence) is. That every second I experience is already gone.
- Just enjoy the fact that I’ve finally found peace after surviving some of what I’d call the most painful, uncertain and tumultuous years of my life.
Most important of all, I’m able to create the mental space to ask myself: “What am I doing, why am I doing it and how can I find magic in it?”
I caught up with an old friend recently.
She’s moved to another country and we hadn’t seen each other in over 6 months, but when we finally got the chance to catch up, we picked up right where left off — it was like time had stood still for our friendship despite the distance between us.
This quiet ease could’ve gone unnoticed or all too easily, been taken for granted, but it wasn’t.
Having someone (or a few) in your life who ‘gets’ you, who knows your strengths and weaknesses, has seen you at your worst, and yet has your back no matter what, is one of the biggest gifts you can give and receive.
When you’re with this person. no fake facade, hiding or pretending is necessary. All you have to do is show up as the real, vulnerable you, with your soul at rest.
This is the magic of true friendship.
I was driving around the hospital car park, desperately looking for an empty bay.
My mind was scattered into a million fragments, still trying to make sense of why we needed to be there, and worrying about how things would turn out.
Suddenly, the hospital doors swung open, and a man walked out, car keys in hand, his wife and kids trailing behind.
I slowed down, hoping their car would be nearby and that they’d get to it before I have to pass them by. Traffic was building up behind me, so I kept moving to avoid holding everyone up.
As I drove closer, his eyes caught mine and he started motioning for me to follow him. My heart lifted. He kept walking to his car on the other side of the car park and stood there, waiting for me to get to where he was.
But ahead of me, more cars were pouring into the cramped space and slowing down when the drivers saw him, hoping for the same thing I was.
My heart sank.
He could easily have given his spot to someone else, but he waited for me patiently, waving away every other car who rolled past him, motioning for them to keep moving.
His spot wasn’t up for the taking.
As the disappointed driver in front of me sped away, the man turned around, got into his car, reversed out of his spot, and started driving away.
I frantically opened my window, stuck my hand out and waved to let him know how grateful I was for his kindness, but it was too late.
He was gone.
Something magical happened when I started eating more slowly and mindfully: I was finally able to heal my dysfunctional relationship with food.
My attention and eating habits gradually shifted away from stuffing my face with the first thing I could get my hands on to learning my body’s hunger cues and being prepared for them.
I stopped reacting to hunger and started responding to my body’s need for nourishment.
This one tiny change alone has helped me virtually eliminate the constant overeating, bloating and resulting out-of-control weight gain that came with eating mindlessly the way I used to.
I’ve since replaced the confidence-crushing fear around food I used to feel with something more pleasurable and productive: Planning my meals around ingredients that I love and look forward to eating, minus the guilt.
Late last year, I suddenly developed a ‘clicking’ in the right side of my jaw.
At weeks went by, the clicking turned into unbearably painful popping and locking. A trip to the dentist and later, an oral surgeon revealed that I’d developed temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction.
I had an impacted wisdom tooth removed, hoping that its absence would relieve the pressure on my jaw joint, but rather than focus on the possible structural flaws that were contributing to my dental misery, both my dentist and oral surgeon seemed more concerned about the state of my mental well-being.
“How stressed ARE you?”, both of them asked.
Judging from my super-tense, inflamed jaw, the answer was “very, very stressed”.
Sufficiently alarmed at the prospect of having to ‘manage’ my TMJ dysfunction-induced pain for the rest of my life, I decided that I needed to get my calm on….fast, so I shifted my priorities to make space for it — lots of space.
- Deep-breathing meditations twice a day.
- Getting at least 8 hours of sleep daily.
- Upping my intake of plant-based foods.
- Gentle flexibility and mobility exercises most evenings.
- Making sure my body was hydrated all day, and most important of all…
- Doing a better job of letting go of everything that I had zero control over.
- Doing a better job of managing the things did have control over.
Just two months into my calm-building routine, my jaw clicking, popping and locking gradually stopped, and the pain faded away.
A miracle? Not by a long shot. You have to take the same baby steps every single day to earn your calm stripes.
But is the outcome magical? Yes, oh yes.
The first time I ever tried to run, I was so out of shape that I was out of breath in less than 5 minutes.
At my fittest, my idea of a thrilling workout was sprinting uphill for as long as I could, as many times as I could, cranking out 20 push-ups on my toes in one go and climbing 12-foot walls at obstacle races.
Now, I’m somewhere in-between fitness-wise, and am looking for a new way to challenge my body and mind.
But no matter what I do, how low my body feels when I’m sick, and how tired it feels when I’m training hard, I’m constantly amazed at how intuitive and resilient it is .
I’m amazed at how…
- Miraculously self-sustaining it is.
- It’s able to bounce back when my health takes a hit.
- It allows me to show up in the world and do what I want to do.
- Express myself the way I want to, and
- It gets me through tough physical challenges that I never thought I’d be able to withstand.
The magic of my human body is something I constantly remind myself to marvel at, particularly on days where I feel like I’m grinding away at life.
Life is magic, but you’ll never notice it until you appreciate the mundane.
Resources that you might find helpful
(*Note: Some of these suggestions contain affiliate links, which means that I’ll earn a small commission if you decide to buy. Buying via these links won’t cost you anything extra, but it’ll allow this blog to earn money―thank you if use them!)
A New Earth: Awakening To Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle For most of us, life seems to bring with it a never-ending stream of chaos, grievances, judgement, complaining, anger, anguish and resentment….or does it? Could most of our suffering be our own doing? This book is a mini course on becoming aware of your ego, how to break free of the pain that it’s bringing into your life, and living in the present. It’s my go-to whenever I feel myself drowning in reactivity and negativity.
Your Inner Awakening: The Work of Byron Katie: Four Questions That Will Transform Your Life This is the perfect follow up to Tolle’s A New Earth because the lessons here show you how break the chain of pain and negativity that come up as a result of your thinking. Katie shows you how to release the powerful hold that your negative thoughts have on you by questioning them. When I’m struggling with thoughts that are triggering stressful emotions and need mental clarity, these are the exercises I turn to.
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying: A Simple, Effective Way To Banish Clutter Forever by Marie Kondo Being able to pay attention to the little things in your life starts with decluttering — not the easiest thing to do if your living (or even work) space is disorganised and drowning in stuff. This is my bible as far as tidying up my space and keeping it that way goes.
The Good Morning Guide If your mornings are typically rushed, chaotic and stressful, I made this guide to help you start your day calm, sane and strong.
Lose 4 Pounds in 4 Weeks Without Going On A Diet Struggling with constant overeating and uncontrolled weight gain? In this email course, I show you how to get started with the exact steps I took to stop feeling like a slave to the food around me, lose over 22 pounds of fat and keep them off for almost a decade now.
Tribe Of Mentors: Short Life Advice From The Best In The World by Timothy Ferriss Nothing beats having a mentor in your life who can personally guide you through the challenging process of becoming the best (and calmest) version of yourself. But not everyone does, and if (like me), you don’t, it doesn’t mean that you can’t learn from the best virtually or through books. Take what you need from the likes of Ray Dalio, Ben Stiller, Bear Grylls and more in this varied but comprehensive compilation of bite-sized advice on life, work and purpose from some of the best minds in the world.
Think And Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill This classic is so much more than what its title implies — it’s also a guide to taking control of the biggest driver behind everything you do and the reality you create for yourself: Your mind.
The Filofax Personal Organiser I’ve been using my trusty, old Filofax to organise my life for the past 18 years and don’t see myself being tempted to replace it with a digital one any time soon — there’s something really comforting about putting my to-dos and ideas down on paper. When I’m not at home, my hardcover Moleskin pocket journal goes everywhere I do (well, almost).
TAKE THE 7-DAY CALM MIND CHALLENGE.
Trying to win at life from day to day is hard. It gets even harder when you’re struggling with thoughts that leave you feeling reactive to the world and heavy with painful emotions that hold you back from living in the present. Start re-framing your thoughts to calm your mind, feel good about life and create the mental space that’s a must to reach your highest potential with my FREE, 7-Day Calm Mind Challenge. You’ll also receive my best calm-living tips & trainings delivered to your inbox every week. Sign up for your dose of calm now.