Category Archives: People

Wise Words Wednesday!

“When we long for life without difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds aremade under pressure.”

~ Peter Marshall

Force helps us to grow.

Just as the oak tree stands tall against the wind, & coal transforms under force, so does the salmon swim against the current, & the caterpillar evolve into a butterfly.

The lotus flower starts its life in the mud. It uses its natural strength to push through the sludge, & is then faced with the challenge to grow within the water, in order to reach the surface, where it is greeted by the warmth of the sun.

The beauty of a lotus flower has been mystifying people for thousands of years, & its strength & ability to elegantly rise above challenges is an inspiration to many, including myself.

Buddhism holds the lotus flower in a very high regard, in fact, the mantra ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’ means ‘the jewel is in the lotus’.

I first discovered the symbolism of the lotus when I was reading A Lotus Grows In The Mud, by Goldie Hawn – one of my heroes. And ever since, this magical flower has played a crucial part in my life, spiritually, mentally & artistically.

Lotus flowers often appear in my artwork, I always look to them for inspiration, & learning about its symbolism helped me realise that challenges are a part of the journey of life.

We can learn from the lotus flower – it can teach us how to live our lives.

And, maybe most importantly, we can see the lotus flower within ourselves.

We have all grown through hard times; the mud.

We have all risen above challenges; the water.

And, we all have the ability to reach the surface; the light.

I’ll finish with another quote:

“The lotus is the most beautiful flower, whose petals open one by one. But it will only grow in the mud. In order to grow and gain wisdom, first you must have the mud — the obstacles of life and its suffering. … The mud speaks of the common ground that humans share, no matter what our stations in life. … Whether we have it all or we have nothing, we are all faced with the same obstacles: sadness, loss, illness, dying and death. If we are to strive as human beings to gain more wisdom, more kindness and more compassion, we must have the intention to grow as a lotus and open each petal one by one. “

~ Goldie Hawn, ‘A Lotus Grows In The Mud’

Keep Smiling 🙂

Jen ♥

P.S Thanks to My Smiling Heart reader, Renee, for sharing the Peter Marshall quote on Facebook, which inspired this post 🙂

Goldie Hawn quote from http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/show/193026

2011: A Virtual Vision Wall :)

“Your future hasn’t been written yet. No one’s has.

Your future is whatever you make it.

So make it a good one.”

~ Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) in ‘Back To The Future Part III’.


To welcome 2011 & make sure it really is our best year yet, I’ve collected some of the most inspiring pictures from Tumblr & made a kind of virtual vision wall. These pictures represent what 2011 can be for all of us – this is 2011 in pictures.

This post will always be here – under the ‘Pure Awesomeness’ tab – for us all to come back to throughout the year, especially whenever we feel lost, confused, or ruined.

This virtual vision wall will point you in the direction towards what really matters.

So, save it, print it, bookmark it, & share it – let’s make 2011 AWESOME! 🙂

(For sources, click on the images)

Keep Smiling! 🙂

Jen ♥

Goals & Gifts – #reverb10 :)

December 28 – Achieve What’s the thing you most want to achieve next year? How do you imagine you’ll feel when you get it? Free? Happy? Complete? Blissful? Write that feeling down. Then, brainstorm 10 things you can do, or 10 new thoughts you can think, in order to experience that feeling today. (Author: Tara Mohr)

Today, when I looked at all my goals, hopes & dreams for the next year, I noticed a pattern begin to form. They all involve personal growth, inspiring others, & experiencing all that life & the world has to offer.

As I connected them even further, I realized that my most desired goal for 2011 is to end it with even more love, happiness, health, & purpose than I am ending 2010 with.

If, a year from now, I can look back on 2011 feeling like the best version of myself I have ever been & knowing that I gave it 100%, I will be satisfied & proud.

I’ve decided to go with the ‘10 thoughts’ option in order to experience those feelings of confidence, accomplishment, joy, love, purpose, satisfaction & pride today, because what you think about, you bring about.

(While these aren’t really ‘new’ thoughts, they are definitely ones I could think more often!)

1. Take action.

“When you don’t know what to do, do the thing in front of you.” ~ Elisabeth Elliot. Another good quote for this thought is: “Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” ~ Will Rogers

2. Yes, I can.

“My motto is; If a person can do it, I can do it.” ~ Geena Davis

3. Live with purpose.

“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.”

~ George Bernard Shaw

4. Anything is possible.

“Whatever your mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”

~ Napoleon Hill

5. Stay focused.

“Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.”  ~ Henry Ford

6. Dream big.

“If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.” ~ Marty McFly (Michael J Fox) in ‘Back to the Future’.

Another good quote for this thought is: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” ~ Les Brown

7. Be wild.

“Why sit in the bleachers, timid & afraid? When you could be the whole parade!” ~ Hairspray – Big, Blonde, & Beautiful

8. Think, do, be, positive.

“I crossed the street to walk in the sunshine.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert in ‘Eat, Pray, Love.’

9. Share the love.

“Freedom lies at the heart of my willingness to love everything.” ~ Alanis Morissette

10. Follow your bliss.

“If you do follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while waiting for you, and the life you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in the field of your bliss, and they open the doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be. If you follow your bliss, doors will open for you that wouldn’t have opened for anyone else.” ~ Joseph Campbell

December 29 – Defining Moment Describe a defining moment or series of events that has affected your life this year. (Author: Kathryn Fitzmaurice)

The defining moment for me this year would have to be the moment we decided to move to China.

As I described in my Tiny Buddha guest post, there have been so many ups & downs & lessons learned through a whole series of events that all lead back to that one decisive moment.

I am so grateful for that moment & everything I have experienced since, & I am 100% certain that I would not be who I am today without it.

December 30 – Gift Prompt: Gift. This month, gifts and gift-giving can seem inescapable. What’s the most memorable gift, tangible or emotional, you received this year? (Author: Holly Root)

The two most memorable gifts I have received this year, aren’t special to me because of their monetary value, one of them didn’t even cost a thing. These gifts are special to me because of their meaning, & what they symbolize in my life.

The first, I received back in April; an engagement ring from my soulmate. And while I do think it’s totally romantic & awesome that it boasts diamonds, my birth stone, & was designed by Mike especially for me, I get the most joy out of what it symbolizes.

It’s not just a ring, it’s a symbol of Mike’s love for me, & his commitment & desire to spend the rest of his life with me. It represents our friendship, our love, our past & our wonderful future together.

The second gift I received only last week; a link to a YouTube video from my brother.

It may not seem like much, but it is one of the sweetest, most meaningful & comforting gifts I have ever received.

The video is of British comedian Tim Minchin, singing a song he wrote about Christmas called ‘White Wine in the Sun.’

For most of it, I just thought it was really cool that this guy had summed up all my feelings about Christmas in a song, from consumerism to family.

In fact, the chorus could be about my family at Christmas:

“I’ll be seeing my dad

My brother and sisters, my gran and my mum

They’ll be drinking white wine in the sun

I’ll be seeing my dad

My brother and sisters, my gran and my mum

They’ll be drinking white wine in the sun”

Towards the end of the song, he sings to his daughter:

“And if, my baby girl

When you’re twenty-one or thirty-one

And Christmas comes around

And you find yourself nine thousand miles from home

You’ll know what ever comes

Your brother and sisters and me and your Mum

Will be waiting for you in the sun

Whenever you come

Your brothers and sisters, your aunts and your uncles

Your grandparents, cousins and me and your mum

We’ll be waiting for you in the sun

Drinking white wine in the sun

Darling, when Christmas comes

We’ll be waiting for you in the sun

Drinking white wine in the sun

Waiting for you in the sun

Waiting for you…

Waiting…”

This is when I started to cry like a baby.

This is when I realized that my brother wasn’t just sending me a video about Christmas, he was sending me a message. He was letting me know that he misses me.

He was letting me know that, even though I’m ‘nine thousand miles from home’, my family – Mum, Dad, him, my other brother & sister, my aunts, uncles, cousins & my Nana, were spending their Australian Christmas in the sun, & missing me, thinking of me, & waiting for me.

It makes me tear up even writing about it. But I love it so much, & it means more to me than almost any other gift I’ve ever received. I’ll never forget it.

(More lyrics: http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/t/tim_minchin/#share)

Stay tuned for a couple more posts over the next day or so, one of which I made especially for all of you! 🙂

Keep Smiling!

Jen ♥

“The least & most each of us can do is make sure we release something good into the Universe regularly.” ~ Oprah

I’ve been thinking about the above quote & wondering what good things I have released into the Universe today. I’m a firm believer that what you send out you get back, so I’m always trying hard to be conscious of the things I think, say or do.

When I look at myself in the mirror, I make sure I think kind thoughts about myself, & I always give myself a big, cheesy smile. My Dad, who is a psychologist, executive coach & public speaker, told me once that smiling at yourself in the mirror shows your mind that you are happy, & the happy feeling follows. It’s so true 🙂 I guess it’s the same as receiving a smile from a friend or a stranger, it always leaves you feeling brighter.

Sometimes I lose myself in conversations with people & often say things that don’t resonate with the person that I want to be, whether it be getting caught up in a bit of gossip or me just trying to portray myself as a tough-skinned, sociable person, when I’m really quite sensitive & a real introvert.

Online, I find it much easier to be my true self, express my thoughts & feelings, & I can be completely conscious of what I’m sending out into the Universe through tweets, status updates, emails & blog posts such as this.

In regards to doing things that release something good into the Universe, I feel that I have finally started to do that they way that I have always wanted to, thanks to this blog & all the amazing opportunities it has lead to. Things like contributing to a good cause by designing a promo card for the I Want Her Job campaign that is happening right now – $1 is being donated to the sponsorship of girls in Guatemala for every “like” on Facebook & follower on Twitter.

So, today, I have a challenge for you. Well, technically, three challenges.

1. Every time you see your reflection*, look yourself in the eye, & SMILE!

I mean really smile, the kind of smile you would show to your best friend, or your hero. (*While I do want you smile any time you see your reflection, I definitely don’t mean while you’re driving or doing anything else that requires your full attention!)

2. Give someone a compliment.

Tell your spouse they look gorgeous, tell your child how proud you are of them, tell a friend how amazing they are, or tell a coworker how funny they are. (Preferably, these compliments should be honest. Sending lies out into the Universe is no good. Come on, you can find something good in everyone!)

3. Send out a positi-tweet or an upbeat status update.

It can be a quote, a few words of gratitude, or a mass-compliment, telling everyone how AWESOME they are. (That reminds me, you are so damn AWESOME! :D)

If it helps, start off small. Do at least one of these every day & know that you are making the Universe a better place through your thoughts, words & actions 🙂

And, most of all, Keep Smiling!

Jen ♥

Exciting News: Likes For Learning!

Last week, I mentioned that I had been working on something awesome & top secret.

Well, today I can finally reveal it to you all!

I have been fortunate enough to be working with the amazing I Want Her Job, She’s The First & Starfish One By One teams on a campaign aimed at raising money for a group of girls in Guatemala to receive the education that they need in order to live their best lives.

My contribution involved designing the promo for the campaign, & I had SO much fun doing it!

If you want to know how you can help, too; it’s all here in the promo 🙂

 

Design: Jen Saunders

So, “like” IWHJ on Facebook, follow on Twitter, & remember to tell your friends! Let’s get these beautiful girls an education so that they can achieve their dreams & make this world a better place!

I absolutely LOVE I Want Her Job, I can always find a never-ending supply of inspiration there, & it’s such a great community for women. And She’s The First & Starfish One By One are such passionate & committed organizations, they really are making the world a better place.

For more information, visit IWHJ & read the latest post:

IWJH is Launching its First-Ever Nonprofit Campaign, and We Need Your Help!

And, check out the sponsors page to see little ol’ My Smiling Heart there! 😀

For many years now, it has been a major goal of mine to use my creative talents to help a non-profit that focusses on educating girls in developing countries, so this is an amazing dream come true!

Thanks everyone for all of your support!

 

You are all so AWESOME! 😀

 

Keep Smiling!

 

Jen ♥

 

♥ Gift of Acceptance ♥

India.Arie (i)

Image by volume12 via Flickr

Just a quick post to show you a new music video just released from the beautiful India.Arie & Idan Raichel, which is only online for 24 hours.

They just sang it at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo, & I have to say, it is just so beautiful.

As I said in my last post, when it comes to music; positive, empowering & meaningful lyrics are a must for me. This song is the perfect example of amazing lyrics.

Here are a few lines from the song that India just posted on Twitter:

“Red, black, yellow, brown, or white, a man with a husband or a woman with a wife,

We can debate til the end of time, whose wrong and who is right, or I can honor your choices and you can honor mine,

Gandhi was a Hindu, Martin Luther King a Christian. Regardless of religion they knew love was the mission.

Give the world a present, give the gift of your acceptance. Give the world a present, give the gift of your acceptance.”

I’ve always loved India Arie; I listen to her music every single day. In my opinion, she is one of the most empowering & inspiring female musicians there is.

This is the real truth of the world. Imagine what we can all achieve if we just give up our needs to be right & instead give our acceptance.

Keep Smiling 🙂

Jen ♥

“Those who can laugh without cause have either found the true meaning of happiness or have gone stark raving mad.” ~ Norm Papernick

Last night, I was woken up by the sound of someone laughing. I was relieved to discover that it was me 🙂

I don’t know if that means I’ve gone mad or if I was just dreaming about something really funny, but either way, it was pretty cool.

Continuing on with #reverb10:

December 6 – Make. What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it? (Author: Gretchen Rubin)

I spent the whole day making something today. It’s awesome. I mean, really awesome. It’s for a really good cause, too! Also, it’s a secret.

I’ll post it sometime over the next week 🙂

In Other News…

I started university this week, studying two subjects; Philosophy, Morality & Society, & Art & Creation. I’m loving it all so far, & I wanted to share with you some of my Philosophy work. Last week, our tutor posed this question:

‘There are two ideas that will be central to the course: happiness and “the good.”

I wonder, how do you define “happiness”? And how do you think it relates to “goodness”‘?

Here’s the answer I gave:

‘To me, “happiness” is a combination of things, but at its core I believe it is always a choice. I think if we have enough strength & wisdom, we can always choose happiness – no matter what is going on in our lives or in the world around us.

I believe that true, fulfilling happiness cannot be found through money, material possessions or social status. We have to make the decision to be happy & keep up the internal maintenance to ensure it grows more every day.

“Goodness” is also a combination of things. It is being good to yourself, as well as being good to others. It is doing the activities that make you feel good, whether it is cooking, painting, reading, spending time with loved ones or watching a funny movie. It is seeing & appreciating the good in everything, everyone, & every moment, even if it is just enjoying a good meal.

I think ‘the good’ consists of the external things & qualities that contribute to happiness, whereas ‘happiness’ itself is an internal feeling, a perception of the world that always sees that goodness, & an internal choice that needs to be consciously made every day.’

I know there will be some people who disagree with my answer, but it is how I try to live my life every day. I’m not saying it’s perfect & that I’m always in a state of happiness – I’m not. There are times that I forget to choose it, & other times I decide not to choose it. But, most of the time, happiness is the path I choose to take.

Speaking of happiness, I want you to really laugh out loud today. Here’s a great video to get you started:

Keep Smiling!

Jen ♥

Words, Distractions & Love Bombs

 

Credit: moonlightbulb on flickr

I found a website today that I think is particularly cool. It’s called #reverb10, & for every day in this month of December, it’s awesome creators post a prompt for people to write about. The aim is to reflect on 2010, the year that is coming to an end, & manifest awesomeness for our next big adventure; 2011.

Obviously, I am starting a few days behind, so I will answer the first two in this post, & the next three tomorrow.

December 1 – One Word. Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you? (Author: Gwen Bell)

My word to encapsulate 2010 is ‘AWESOME’. If you haven’t noticed yet, I love that word. I think it a lot, I say it a lot, I definitely write it a lot, & if I ever had a band we would totally be called ‘The Awesomes’. I live in my own little Awesome Street.

I want to make it clear that I wouldn’t choose that to be my word for 2010 if, in fact, 2010 wasn’t AWESOME. But it was, & still is. 2010 has very easily been the best year of my life.

Yes, some of my worst fears have come true this year, but so have my biggest dreams. But more on that later in the month, when I write about what this year has brought me, & what I intend to leave here as we enter 2011.

A word for next year is a bit harder to decide. Coincidentally enough (note: I don’t really believe in coincidences) today’s post by Gretchen Rubin for The Happiness Project discusses choosing a theme word for next year. Gretchen chose the word ‘Bigger’ as her theme for 2011.

I have to say, I am very tempted to take the easy way out & just choose ‘AWESOMER’ as my theme word for 2011… but before I decide I might have to think about it a bit more. Next year is definitely going to be huge for me though, a lot of change is coming my way (good change, of course!) so maybe a word along those lines would be best. Any suggestions? 🙂

December 2 – Writing. What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it? (Author: Leo Babauta)

First of all, I must find out who this Leo Babauta is, as that is the third time I’ve seen his name today &, as I said, I don’t believe in coincidences.

Okay, I just Googled this Leo guy & he is living the life of my dreams. I’m guessing most people reading this already know who he is (I just discovered his blog is in the top 25 of the whole world!) but for those who are like me & had no idea who he is until now, I shall explain further.

Leo Babauta is the creator & writer of the blog Zen Habits, & according to the ‘About’ page on his blog he is an author, has 6 kids, lives in San Francisco, & is a vegan. Yep, that’s pretty much my dream life right there. Looks like I have a new hero to learn from! 🙂

Do you see what I just did there? I got completely distracted from what I was supposed to be writing about. I went on a virtual knowledge hunt to satisfy my ever-growing curiosity instead of answering the prompt question.

On the other hand, I guess I did answer the question: with an example. Yes, I get distracted easily, especially when it comes to the internet. I can definitely work on that. Upside? I do always end up with some pretty cool & useful information! After all, I now have a new addition to my list of people who inspire me.

Speaking of people who inspire me…

There’s someone I want you all to meet. Her name is Vee, & she is going through an incredibly tough time right now. I was introduced to her through something called the ‘Love Bomb’, which I started participating in a few weeks ago.

It’s a group of people online, who once a week, visit the blog of someone who is experiencing hardship & leave hundreds of supportive, positive, love-filled comments for them to read. Every week, anyone can nominate a person whose blog they want to be love-bombed.

This week, the blogger is Vee, a pregnant mother of two, who only two weeks ago, lost her husband unexpectedly in a hunting accident. I took some time to read her posts & was brought to tears by her story. One line in particular really stood out to me…

Most people don’t know what they have until they lose it. I knew what I had, and I loved every minute of it.”

This line breaks my heart, makes me appreciate what I have & terrifies me all at once. It has weaved its way into my soul & will stay with me for the rest of my life.

So, if you are reading this, I ask you to please visit Vees’ blog & show your support. Send her some love. Leave a comment, write a message, anything that you think might help even just a little bit.

Kind words never go to waste.

If you want to participate in the weekly Love Bomb too, sign up here.

See you tomorrow!

Jen ♥

Wise Words Wednesday!

“Howl to the sky,  feel & release – be free, be wild, & dance the

pain out, reach up & touch the bliss of sheer existence!

I am alive, & I embrace it all!

I commit fully &  fearlessly to this life  –  are we not

blessed by simply taking in this one sweet deep breath?”

~ Lucy Cavendish

(Artwork by Jen Saunders based on the above quote)

What’s Coming Is Awesome! :D

This video is of an interview Jim Carrey did on The Ellen DeGeneres show. Not only is Jim hilarious, but he talks about his movie ‘Yes Man‘ – one of my favourites – & discusses how saying ‘Yes!’ to life can change everything for the better.

I always watch this clip when I need a bit of a boost or just a little extra inspiration to live my life to the fullest.

Keep Smiling! 🙂

Jen xo