Category Archives: Life Lessons

How Osama Bin Laden’s Death Taught Me More About Myself

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“We can never judge the lives of others, because each person knows only their own pain and renunciation. It’s one thing to feel that you are on the right path, but it’s another to think that yours is the only path.”

~ Paulo Coelho

I wrote this after hearing the news of Osama Bin Laden’s death, and seeing the subsequent celebrations:

“I just don’t understand.

Three days ago, I saw people on facebook saying that they refuse to celebrate the royal wedding, that there were better things to be doing with their time. And today, I see those exact same people rejoicing over a death? Celebrating murder? Making jokes about it, too?

Is it just me, or is that just so completely backwards? Refusing to celebrate love, but celebrating the violent end of a life?

To be clear, I am in no way a sympathiser of Osama Bin Laden, and like everyone, I think he was one of the most vile people to have ever lived, but I will not rejoice in a death, no matter whose it is.

What are we celebrating exactly? Justice? Revenge? Murder? Triumph? Violence?

It was all those things that Osama claimed he was celebrating 10 years ago. I remember seeing footage of Osama’s supporters, they were cheering and dancing in the street on 9/11. I felt disgusted, horrified, and angered that they thought violence was something to celebrate.

Now I see us doing the same thing. 10 years later, so much pain, so many lives lost, and this is what it has come down to? An eye for an eye? Well, as Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”

Yes, they were celebrating the mass murder of thousands of innocent people, and today people are celebrating the death of their enemy, the one responsible for so much loss and pain, but it’s still the celebration of violence.

Celebrating violence is not the path to peace. It’s the path to more violence.

This killing doesn’t mean the war is won, it doesn’t even mean the war is over. After all, there are never really any winners in war, or in violence. 

Osama’s death was inevitable and necessary. But even writing that made me feel uneasy, as it well should. The day I find it easy to say that someone needed to die, is the day my humanity is lost. Which is why I am so disturbed to see people cheering and partying and even joking about this. Are we that desensitised that war and murder and violence are now considered funny? Are we that disconnected?

Maybe we are. And maybe we can learn from this. I’ve seen many others who feel the same way I do, who just can’t bring themselves to celebrate this. Maybe this is another moment in which we must choose, and our choice determines whether or not we move forward in love or in fear. I’m choosing love. And love doesn’t grow in violence or revenge.

I will celebrate the end of war, not the end of life.”

I was very angry when I wrote that. Seeing so many news articles, tweets, status updates and facebook pages all rejoicing over violence, joking about it, sharing footage and photos of the violence, made me feel sick to the stomach. For a moment, I completely lost faith in humanity.

Sitting at the computer and being continuously bombarded with so many things that were clashing with my soul (including one very graphic image on the homepage of a news site), I realised that the only way to clear my head and calm down was to get as far away from media as possible. And that’s exactly what I did.

I sat with it for a while, that feeling of anger, trying to figure out how anyone could think violence should be celebrated. I tried to put myself in their shoes, thinking maybe if someone I loved was in those towers…. Would I then be dancing in the street? If I had come face to face with Bin Laden in that room, and if I had been the one to take his life, would I then feel the need to celebrate?

I can’t answer those questions. All I know is, it just doesn’t feel right to be joyful about this. Relieved maybe, and sad that such acts are sometimes necessary in our world, mournful for all the lives that have been lost because of this war and because of that man, and also a feeling of closure, that at least some part of the past can now be let go of for a lot of people, but no joy.

Spending some time away from the media gave me time to reflect on my anger. I realised that I was being unfair to judge others reactions just because they were different to my own. As much as I don’t understand it, I have no right to condemn the behaviour of others. We all deal with things differently, because we are all different.

If I want to live in a world where people are treated equally, and accepted no matter their differences, then I first need to make those qualities a part of who I am. I can’t preach acceptance and then condemn others for doing things differently.

And although I believe that we can’t say we want peace and then cheer at the news of violence, I will accept those whose first reaction is to cheer. They need to do what feels right for them, and I need to do what feels right for me. I respect them for doing what feels right for them, and I love them for living their truth.

The moment I realised this, all my anger dissolved. Letting go of judgement meant I stopped trying to control the actions of others, and it allowed me to feel calm and peaceful again.

Even if I don’t understand it, I can accept it, and I can let them express what they need to without judging them. And I hope that those who don’t understand my reactions and beliefs can give me the same acceptance, and the same freedom to express myself without fear of judgement.

Judgement fuels hate, it separates people, turns simple differences into right and wrong, good and evil, and all of that leads to violence, to war.

Acceptance fuels kindness, kindness brings people together, turns simple similarities into understanding and connection, friendship and love, all of that leads to a united world, to peace.

A lot has happened in the world over the last few days, some big ups and downs, and as you can see, I was affected greatly by it all. The death of a man that I only knew as the face of fear, led me to have a very personal realisation, and as a result, gain a new perspective on life.

We really can learn from every experience.

The beautiful Liv at Choosing Beauty wrote this amazing piece that gave me another new perspective on all of this: What Happened To Osama Bin Laden’s Heart?

With a more open mind and heart,

Jen ♥

30 Days Of Beauty: Week 1

“We are all fascinated by beauty and many of us devote much of our lives to its pursuit. But physical beauty can only ever be held fleetingly. Real beauty is far greater – It’s a life force, an energy, which radiates from within and transcends the physical. It’s a vibe – you feel it in those who truly know they have it. Real beauty is not beauty generated purely for others’ consumption. Real beauty is beauty in action, not beauty that sits on the sidelines of life, worried it will run or get messed up. Real beauty may not always be visible at first glance, but it lasts forever.”

~ Anthea Paul

Hello beautiful!

Well, the 30 Days Of Beauty Challenge has been spreading self-love for a week now, and I am absolutely amazed at the response!

In less than a week, $90 has been raised for To Write Love On Her Arms. To everyone who has donated, thank you. So, so much. You have helped an amazing cause, and you are a force of good in this world.

To everyone who has shared this campaign on their blogs, twitter, facebook, and told their friends about what we are doing, thank you! Your support means more to us than you will ever know.

The first week of 30 Days Of Beauty has been more challenging than I expected. As Jen Fromal said in her post on The Smashed Planet;

“This was one of those times when I didn’t really know what I was getting into. Well, I kind of did, but I didn’t know it would actually be hard and I didn’t know it would make me uncomfortable.”

The planning part of this challenge was fun, exciting and kept me so busy that I didn’t think about the fact that every day, for 30 days, I have to see something beautiful about myself, and then tell the whole world about it.

Of course, when the idea for this challenge first came about, I was excited at the thought of digging deeper, seeing myself in a new light and promoting self-love. But when, on the 2nd of April, I was struggling to find something beautiful about myself already, I knew this was going to take work.

I sat at my laptop for a good 20 minutes, trying to come up with something. This is when I realised just how important this cause is – it shouldn’t be so hard to find one thing about myself that is beautiful.

Every single little girl and woman on this planet deserves to see how beautiful they are. Including me. That’s why I’m doing this. So that one day, without hesitation, or 20 minutes staring at a blank screen, I will be able to list at least 30 things about myself that are amazingly beautiful and wonderful, and then go on to list 30 more.

I eventually saw something beautiful in myself that day. Not a physical quality, but more related to how I live my life. I was feeling proud of myself because the night before I had done something that had been making me anxious for days; I went out to dinner and dancing with a group of the other expats here.

I know, to most people that’s not even something they would think about, it’s so easy. Most people don’t see how that could possibly scare someone, let alone keep them feeling panicked and anxious for days before hand. But the thought of being out in a club with a group of people, especially people that I haven’t known very long, used to paralyse me with fear so much that I never went out at all.

So, the fact that I had faced that fear, and had the courage to go out and live my life despite the sick feeling in my stomach and anxious worries in my head, is a big accomplishment for me.

It’s like someone who is afraid of heights jumping out of a plane every single day. I know that the more I jump, the less fear I will feel next time.

So, my tweet for that day, April 2nd, was this:

I face my fears every day, and no longer let my anxieties rule my life. #imbeautifulbecause

And I had never felt more beautiful.

Here are all of my other #imbeautifulbecause tweets for this week:

April 1st: Today, #imbeautifulbecause I am learning to see my own power, & how to use it to create my life.

April 3rd: I take the time to nurture and express my inner creative Goddess every day. #imbeautifulbecause

April 4th: When I smile, I can feel my body and soul smiling, too. #imbeautifulbecause

April 5th: Today, I’m taking the time to put myself first, and be still instead of wired in. #imbeautifulbecause

April 6th: I have big eyes, that really are the windows to my soul 🙂 #imbeautifulbecause

April 7th: I smile at myself in the mirror #imbeautifulbecause

April 8th: #imbeautifulbecause I can always find a reason to smile 🙂

I have been reading all of the #imbeautifulbecause tweets from women all over the world, and I am so inspired. I feel so blessed to be in the company of such amazing, beautiful women.

Here are some of my favourite tweets from you:

@Zanthi: #imbeautifulbecause I let my inner light shine through, even on my dark days.

@NJRae: Today, #imbeautifulbecause I have faith in me and achieving my dreams.

@ClaireLaraine: #imbeautifulbecause I have learned to bloom after I have broken.

@IncaMaia: #imbeautifulbecause I feel grateful every step of the way. For friends, running, yoga, magic, rainbows, being alive… so much more.

@karenmead: #imbeautifulbecause I make the choice to focus on the sunshine!

@frangepanni: #imbeautifulbecause I take time to indulge my passions even when my mind tries to tell me I could be doing something easier and more fun : )

@decodingdress: #imbeautifulbecause I don’t look like a supermodel. #imbeautifulbecause I look like ME.

@LaurRains: #imbeautifulbecause I believe in the hopes and dreams of myself and every single person I’ve met and haven’t met. : )

Thank you so much for sharing your beauty with the world.

If you are new to the 30 Days Of Beauty Challenge, find out more about it and how you can join the movement here.

If you don’t tweet, share what puts the YOU in beaYOUtiful in the comments or on the Facebook page, or show your support by donating whatever you can to To Write Love On Her Arms here.

“To be beautiful means to be yourself.

You don’t need to be accepted by others.

You need to accept yourself.”

~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Go smile at yourself,

Jen ♥

A Letter To My Younger Self

Not long ago, I read a post by Jamie Ridler on Roots Of She, about the kind of advice she would give to her younger self. I think I recall writing a bit about it during #reverb10 as well, but I never allowed myself to get too far into it, because I was scared of what might come out.

But the other day, Jess at So Uprightly Burning did a post on her letter to her 10-years-ago self, and it inspired me to finish mine.

So here it is:

A Letter To My Younger Self.

 

 

Me at around 14, and me today, 10 years later.

 

Dear beautiful Jen,

Well, you’re 14 years old. And I can tell you that this year is going to be the hardest year of your young life so far. And the next couple of years after won’t be much easier.

Your anxieties at school will get worse, you won’t feel safe in your own home, your self-esteem will be virtually non-existent, and people you love will die.

You will feel so ignored at school that when your favourite art teacher reaches out to you, you will be so surprised that you won’t know how to respond. Don’t assume she’s just doing her job; she really does care. I know this because even today, ten years later, she still remembers you.

I’m telling you all of this because I want you to know that, no matter how unbearable it all seems, and how lost you feel, you will get through it, you will find your way.

It’s all going to be okay.

The next few years will be dark, but there is so much light, so much good, waiting for you on the other side. Everything you are going through will be worth it, and everything these tough times teach you, about yourself, about others, and about life, will one day serve to make you very strong.

Just remember, everything happens for a reason, and things will get better, a lot better. I promise.

Please know that those people who hurt you, they do it because they, too, are suffering. It’s not your fault. They hurt others because they are hurting. You don’t have to put up with that in your life. Speak up.

It will take a long time for you to fully trust others, but someone will come along who will show how to love.

While you are running around chasing boys and looking for someone to love you, your soulmate will be right under your nose, and he will have already fallen for you before you even know his name.

It’s okay; you can trust this one. This boy won’t hurt you. So don’t get suspicious every time he gives you a compliment; he really does think you’re beautiful. He really does love you. And he really will marry you one day.

He will heal your closed heart, help you see how amazing you are, and show you what it’s like to have a real home, one where you feel safe, loved, and free to be who you really are. You can tell him your secrets, your fears and your dreams, and he will love you even more in return.

He will love you completely, every part of you, the good and the not-so-good. And you will feel the same about him. You will be a blessing to him just as much as he will be a blessing to you.

He makes everything you are going through now so, so worth it.

In regards to friends… well, don’t go the extra mile for anyone who wouldn’t do the same for you. And remember, anyone who gossips to you, will gossip about you. Even the ones who you think you can trust with your life.

Some friends you have now you will still have in ten years. Others will try to take advantage of you, and as soon as you are strong enough to stand up for yourself, you will realise you don’t want them, or their never-ending dramas, in your life anymore. It will be a hard choice to make, but I promise you won’t regret it.

In fact, by cutting them out, you will see just how much negativity they brought into your life in the first place, and you will have so much more room to grow into the positive woman you are meant to be.

Also, don’t get caught up in the aftermath of that ended friendship. The more drama they create about it, and the more lies they spread, the more they prove to you that you don’t need them in your life. Send them love and move on to the more awesome things that are coming your way.

Keep drawing, painting, creating, writing, and expressing yourself through art. You have no idea how much you need it to heal, grow, and be happy.

And never stop dreaming. That life-long dream you have of living overseas? You accomplish it at 23. I know, pretty awesome huh? You will also have your first art exhibit at age 22. And all those other things you dream of? You can do all of it. You really can.

Don’t avoid the things, places or people that make you anxious. You know those freak-outs you have before school, that you think are normal? Those are panic attacks. One day you will be so ruled by them that you never leave the house alone. Not even to get the mail.

Don’t worry; you need to live through that. That’s what causes you to do something drastic, like moving to China for a year. That will help you to overcome the anxiety pretty quickly. You will learn that your fears aren’t real, and that every time you face the things that scare you, the stronger and happier you become.

Then you will realise how brave you are, to do things that terrify you every single day.

Also, it’s okay to change your mind about what you want to do. Keep trying new things until you find what fits. A lot of those people who put you down for changing your mind will end up feeling stuck, doing jobs that they hate, and having no idea what they want to do with their lives. So don’t listen to their opinions.

Only listen to those people who are already living the kind of life you want to live – everyone else is just guessing.

I know right now you don’t know much about positive thinking, but you are always trying to see the bright side. Don’t listen to those people who call you unrealistic. What they don’t know is that it is optimism that will get you through the next few years, and start you on an amazing journey that will lead you to living such a happy and amazing life.

So, there will be a lot of tough moments in your life over the next ten years. But there will be even more amazing, happy and love-filled moments. So just keep going.

Most of all: Be kind to yourself. You are so worthy of love and respect, but it starts with you. Love yourself first, and everything else will fall into place. Make loving yourself your number one priority.

I Love You.

Jen ♥

The Story Of The Bird

 

Hello beautiful!

 

Are you having an AWESOME day? I hope so!

Did you know that it’s nearly My Smiling Heart’s six month birthday?! 😀 Yay! Six months of growing, learning, connecting, inspiring and smiling at ourselves in the mirror! I can’t tell you how grateful I am to be a part of such an amazing tribe, thank you for a wonderful six months – so far!

Anyone who knows My Smiling Heart is familiar with the image above, especially the bird, that has become the MSH logo.

I just entered this self portrait into an online art competition, and the prize for the People’s Choice award is $2,500 – more than enough for me to be able to continue writing My Smiling Heart once I return to Melbourne in July! – so I would be forever grateful if you would please vote for my work here (click vote in the top right corner). Thank you, thank you, thank you! 😀

As I entered my artwork into the competition today, I realized that I have never given you the full story behind this self-portrait, so here it is 🙂

The Story Of Me And The Bird My Cat Killed:

 

That’s what this painting is called: A Portrait Of Me And The Bird My Cat Killed.

A few days before I painted it, my cat, Juno, jumped through my window with a bird hanging from his mouth. As soon as I saw it, I ran over to him, took him outside and made him drop the bird, but it was too late. It just lay there on it’s back, eyes closed.

I took it to the back of my garden and placed it under a tree. I felt so saddened by it’s lifeless body, but at the same time I was mesmerized by it’s beauty.

It was a beautiful brown colour, with specks of green and yellow on its feathers. All I could think of was how tragically beautiful it was.

The next day I watched American Beauty for the first time. There’s a scene in it where a boy is filming a dead bird, as it lay lifeless on the grass. When asked why he was filming it, he replied, “Because it’s beautiful.”

Just as he filmed the dead bird for it’s beauty, and in turn immortalized it in film, I wanted to do the same for my dead bird.

I thought to myself, what better way to give something new life than to immortalize it forever in art?

Now, that bird will live forever.

And not only that, over the past six months of My Smiling Heart, the bird has become symbol of positivity, hope, and freedom for me.

This painting represents the beginning of my journey to recognising my own power. The woman in this self-portrait, is the woman that I have grown into since I painted it. And I hope that I have been able to use my power to help you realize your own immense power.

Because you are powerful, awesome, and just so damn amazing!

You have the power to create your life, live your dreams and make this world a better place!

There is no better time to release your AWESOMENESS to the world!

Start with a smile, and just go from there 🙂

So much LOVE,

Jen ♥

 

* It’s Link Love Friday! Head over to the Facebook page and share links to your amazing blogs/websites/twitter! 😀

 

 

Wise Words: Standing Up.

Source.

 

“Fall seven times, stand up eight.”

~ Japanese Proverb


With everything that has been going on in our world recently, flooding, hurricanes, volcanoes, and now the earthquakes and tsunamis in Japan, it’s easy to fall. It’s easy fall, and it’s even easier to stay down.

A good thing about being a westerner in China is that I don’t watch television. I don’t see the news, the sensationalism, the fear based headlines or the warnings of armageddon.

I have a friend living in Japan at the moment, thankfully she is fine, but she is feeling a lot of  frustration with the sensationalism of the news being shown around the world, as it is only focussing on the worst case scenarios, causing her family so much worry and anxiety. Not to mention the fact that she herself doesn’t know what to believe, with conflicting stories and a lot of misinformation going around.

If I was back home in Australia while all this was going on, I would be sitting in front of the TV, frozen in fear and too overwhelmed to be of any use.

Even seeing all the tweets about what’s happening, and what people think of it, is way too much for me. All it does is bring me down. I can’t help anyone if I’m down.

My heart breaks for all the people who have lost their lives, and the survivors who have lost their homes and loved ones. I fear for my friends who live in Japan and for myself as I am so close to the destruction. I fear the future and what challenges mother nature will bring us next. I want to help as much as I can.

But focussing on the news, the pain, and the fear only serves to weaken us.

If we are going to get through this, we need to be strong. We need to be strong just as the people of Japan are being strong. They are showing us what we need to do.

They have fallen, but they are standing back up.

They are the people who are in the most danger, the people who are suffering the most, but they are also the people who are handling it the best. They are focussing on what’s most important, and they are getting things done.

Most of all, they aren’t losing hope. They are opening their hearts. And so are we.

I read an amazing post written by a woman named Anne, who is living in Sendai, a town that has been completely devastated. In this inspiring Letter From Sendai, Anne is full of love and gratitude for everything she has, and writes about the powerful change that is occurring in our world right now:

“Somehow at this time I realize from direct experience that there is indeed an enormous Cosmic evolutionary step that is occurring all over the world right at this moment. And somehow as I experience the events happening now in Japan, I can feel my heart opening very wide.

My brother asked me if I felt so small because of all that is happening. I don’t. Rather, I feel as part of something happening that much larger than myself. This wave of birthing (worldwide) is hard, and yet magnificent.”

If Anne can be right in the middle of the destruction, and still see the good that is shining through the rubble, and even feel how the world is evolving as a result, then surely we can too.

Focussing on the love, the kindness and the compassion that is being shared during this time is the only way we can get through this, and become stronger, wiser, more awakened people in the process.

It’s time to stand up.


“The world is round and the place which may seem like the end may also be only the beginning.”

~ Ivy Baker Priest

 

Good News:

 

A four month old baby was found amongst the rubble, alive and well, 72 hours after the quake and tsunami hit. Source.

 

More Good News:

Daily Good: Human Spirit Rises to Meet Japan’s Tsunami

 

How You Can Help:

 

If you are able to donate, Jen Fromal and I have set up a donation page for the American Red Cross Earthquake Relief on our fundraising page for our 30DaysOfBeauty Project.


Here are some other ways you can help:

Tonic Blog: How You Can Help

Roots Of She: Sending Out Love To Japan

Lady Gaga has designed a prayer bracelet to support Japan, with all proceeds going to earthquake and tsunami relief efforts.

The image at the top of this post can be bought as a poster, with proceeds going to the Red Cross and Save The Children.

 

Stay safe, think peace, feel love.



Jen ♥


A Love Letter To My Smiling Heart (YOU)

This was difficult and emotional for me to write, but it so needed to be said. It needed to be said, and it needs to be heard. This isn’t just a love letter to My Smiling Heart, this is a love letter to you.

You, who reads, supports and loves this blog as much as I do, you are My Smiling Heart. We are a community of smiling hearts. It wouldn’t be here without you, and neither would I.

Dear My Smiling Heart (You),

Thank you so much.

There are no words to describe what you have done for me. You appeared during one of the darkest times of my life, a time when I felt alone, meaningless, beaten down, and so, so sad. I was filled with hate, anger, and pain. I lived in fear, and let anxiety rule my life.

But, since the night you were created, you have been the light that shines my path. You have shown me my own truth, my own beauty, and my own power. You have reignited my creativity, my passion, and my self-belief.

Because of you, new doors have opened, leading me to meet some of the most amazing, inspirational women I have ever known. Women who have forever changed my life, women who support me, challenge me, and encourage me to live an extraordinary life.

You have made me see that I can change the world. And you have helped me do it.

You have given me meaning, joy, connection, and a reason to jump out of bed at 8am every single day with a smile on my face and love in my heart.

You have introduced me to my real passion. I thought my passions were art and writing, but really, it’s much deeper than that.

My passion, my life purpose, is to inspire others and help them to live their best lives. I am here to empower others, especially women. Art and writing is the vessel in which I can and will do that, I promise.

And now, as you continue to propel me forwards into new and exciting ventures, I know I have to trust the path that I am on, instead of trying to predict which way it will turn and where it will lead me.

As you continue to grow and become not only my passion but my full-time job, a way to earn a living while baring my soul, creating, and inspiring others, I promise I will stay focussed on my truth, my purpose, the community you have built and remember everything that has lead me to this point.

You are my passion, my light, my connection to the world and my connection to my true self.

My heart will always be full of gratitude for everything you bring me, and I promise to always honour you and continue to make you something that inspires anyone who comes into contact with you.

I want you to change lives, just as you have changed mine.

Even though I am scared and vulnerable right now, and feeling anxious about what’s to come, I know you will always be there, keeping me focussed and shining your light onto my soul.

You saved my life.

Thank you.

Jen ♥

Wise Words: International Women’s Day – We Can Do Anything

 

“My motto is, if a person can do it, I can do it.”

~ Geena Davis

 

It’s International Women’s Day, and how better to celebrate it than with a quote from one of the most dedicated and passionate advocates for women empowerment, the amazing Geena Davis – an actress, activist, mother, and founder of The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media.

I remember watching an episode of Oprah interviewing Geena when I was a teenager. I don’t remember much about the episode, except for this one vivid moment, when she said, “My motto is, if a person can do it, I can do it.”

The truth of that one simple statement hit me like a tidal wave, imbedding itself in my soul and forever changing my perspective.

I couldn’t believe what I had heard. I remember thinking, ‘I’m a person… that means I can do anything, too!’ I was shocked and excited at this realisation.

I can do anything.

We can do anything.

Here’s another inspirational quote from Geena Davis:

“If you risk nothing, then you risk everything.”

We can do anything. Enough already with risking it all by doing nothing.

To further celebrate International Women’s Day, here are three very important videos:

Miss Representation Trailer:


Geena Davis, Gloria Steinem and Jennifer Newsom: Miss Representation Sundance Panel:


Bond – EQUALS, featuring Daniel Craig:


 

 

Go be empowered,

Jen ♥

*My Smiling Heart is looking for Sponsors! Click here for more info 😀

*I love this – check out the amazingly empowering ROAR! Facebook page, and watch the ROAR! web series for some serious inspiration 🙂

For sources, click on the image.

Wise Words: Keep It Simple.

“I can express gratitude for the simple act of being able to breathe in and breathe out. I can move away from darkness and depression to light and hope.

I can be happy with who I am, not what I should be, or what I might have been, or what someone tells me I must be.

I am me, the true me; you are you, the true you – and that’s good. That’s beautiful. That’s enough.”

~ Janet Jackson

How AWESOME is this quote? So simple, yet so true.

I guess, when it comes down to it, life actually is pretty simple.

We breathe in, we breathe out. We drink, we eat. We rest, we move. We laugh, we love. We give, we receive. We share, we thank.

The real truth is, life is simple. It’s not complicated, it’s not hard, and it’s not unfair.

We are the ones who complicate it with our worries, we are the ones who choose to see it as hard, we are the ones who choose to live as victims rather than empower ourselves to live our best lives.

I am me, and you are you. It’s as simple as that. We are alive, we are healthy, we are loved, and we are blessed. That is enough.

And if you take the time, even just thirty seconds, to count your blessings for today, you might just see that what you have is, in fact, much more than enough.

Keep it simple.

Jen ♥

*MARCH already? 2011 is flying by! Now is a great time to go back and revisit the 2011 Virtual Vision Wall! Stay motivated, stay inspired, and most of all, stay AWESOME! 🙂

*My Smiling Heart was just featured on Positively Present, in a post called “be amazing anyway: self-love wrap-up + resources!” Check it out here 🙂

*Thank you to My Smiling Heart reader, Karen, for sharing this quote on Facebook and inspiring this Wise Words post! 🙂

Peace Wherever You Go ♥

Admiring the Summer Palace, Beijing

It’s amazing how much travelling can put personal growth and self-discovery into warp-speed mode.

Being in a new place, whether it’s around the corner from your home or on the other side of the world, heightens your senses and forces you to live in the moment, taking in everything you possibly can.

I learnt a lot about myself recently when Mike and I spent a week in Beijing. Even though we’ve been living in China for seven months, this was our first real back packing adventure with just the two of us, and something we had wanted to do for years.

Even though I had an amazing time there and will always look back on it as one of my best adventures yet, I wasn’t really looking forward to it beforehand.

We had organised to stay in a hostel, something I’d never done before, and even though we had booked a private room, I was a bit anxious about it. I’m a pretty shy and quiet person, an introvert, so being in a place that constantly has such a huge social atmosphere is a little overwhelming.

The overnight train rides to and from Beijing had also been making me a bit anxious, as it requires being in a cabin with total strangers for twelve hours, spending most of your time trying not to invade each others’ space while you attempt to navigate the bunks or move around the halls.

The fact that I had been worrying about these little things for the days leading up to our Beijing adventure obviously didn’t help anything either, so I eventually found myself losing all excitement for it.

But, as usual, I soon discovered that my worries were complete fiction, a waste of time, complete an utter bull.

I have learnt, during my years overcoming anxiety, the only way to stop being afraid of something, is to just do it.

The anxious mind is a trickster, a heckler, and a brilliant illusionist. And, as with any other form of unnecessary and unconstructive criticism, the best way to handle it is to not let it stop you from living the life you want to live, to ‘feel the fear and do it anyway.’

And that is just what I did.

The train rides were actually pretty fun, and not at all as bad as my mind had made me believe it would be. The hostel, well, that was just plain AWESOME. The people we so cool and friendly, the room was great, the food was freaking delicious, and we were encouraged to grab some textas and write on the walls. That is every artists’ dream!

The 365 Inn, where we stayed.

The message Mike wrote on wall

It ended up being one of the best weeks of my entire life, full of adventure, risk-taking, meeting new people, seeing amazing places, and coming home with a thousand awesome memories and a new sense of confidence, accomplishment and self-awareness.

In a traditional Chinese dress.

At the Summer Palace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A moment I know I will never forget occurred on Chinese New Year, Mike and I were standing on the rooftop of the hostel, counting down to midnight, and being completely surrounded by fireworks. Explosions of sound, colour, and cheers erupted again and again for almost an hour as families and friends throughout Beijing celebrated the new year.

I felt so blessed to be there to witness it, and I knew in that moment that I had come so, so far… too far to ever go back to the person I used to be. I felt a wave of relief as I realised then that my fears would never get in the way of me living my life ever again.

I was reminded of that rooftop moment just the other night. I was walking through the snow on my way to meet Mike for dinner, when fireworks started exploding right in front of me, continuing the 15 day celebrations for Spring Festival.

Fireworks in Daqing

As I looked up at the amazing colours falling from the sky, and felt the sweet kisses of snowflakes as they touched my skin, I realised I was, in that moment, proving to myself that I can do anything.

You see, a year ago, I was too afraid to open my front door when the doorbell rang. Too anxious to walk down our short driveway just to check the mail. I even avoided going into the backyard alone, in case I was seen by a neighbour and forced into a potentially uncomfortable or awkward conversation.

I would never have admitted it then, in fact I wouldn’t have admitted it even six months ago, but I was so trapped by my own fears that I just avoided them altogether, until I couldn’t leave the house unless I was with someone.

So, imagine my pride when I suddenly realise that I am walking through the streets of a foreign city, in a foreign country, at night, completely alone, and with a freaking huge smile on my face! Thousands of miles away from my comfort zone, and not a single worry or fear on my mind.

That’s what travel can do for you.

Not long after that amazing moment on a rooftop in Beijing, but before that amazing moment in the snow, I was walking through some markets and found a stall that sold rings. I noticed one with four Chinese characters on it, and asked the woman working there what it meant.

“It mean… Peace… When you leave and when come back. Peace wherever you go.”

Peace wherever you go.

I wrote that on the wall of the 365 Inn, so that others can be inspired by it just as I was.

I’m wearing that ring now, as I write this. And I will always wear it, as a reminder of how far I’ve come, and how much I’ve overcome, in order to find my own peace, peace within myself, peace with my fears, and peace within the world.

Take some time now to look back and notice how far you have come, and what you have overcome in the process. Be proud of everything you have achieved, and how much you’ve grown! And be grateful for all the lessons you have learnt in between.

Go smile at yourself,

Jen ♥

Written on the second floor staircase of the 365 Inn, Beijing.

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Wise Words: Strength, Courage & Wisdom

To continue with the theme from my last post, which was everything you need is within, I want to share this song with you. It’s called ‘Strength, Courage & Wisdom’, by the beautiful India Arie.

When I first heard this song, I remember really listening to the lyrics & feeling so deeply connected to it, as though it was written specifically for me. A new layer of awareness of myself emerged, & now I always listen to this song whenever I’m feeling insecure or doubtful.

The lyrics always remind me that I already possess all the qualities that I need in order to overcome challenges & live the life I’ve always dreamed of.

Lyrics:

“Strength, Courage & Wisdom”

“Inside my head there lives a dream that I want to see in the sun
Behind my eyes there lives a me that I’ve been hiding for much too long
‘Cause I’ve been, too afraid to let it show
‘Cause I’m scared of the judgment that may follow
Always putting off my living for tomorrow
It’s time to step out on faith, I’ve gotta show my face
It’s been elusive for so long, but freedom is mine today
I’ve gotta step out on faith, It’s time to show my face
Procrastination had me down but look what I have found, I found

[Chorus:]
Strength, courage, and wisdom
And it’s been inside of me all along,
Strength, courage, and wisdom
Inside of me

Behind my pride there lives a me, that knows humility
Inside my voice there is a soul, and in my soul there is a voice
But I’ve been, too afraid to make a choice
‘Cause I’m scared of the things that I might be missing
Running too fast to stop and listen

It’s time to step out on faith, I’ve gotta show my face
It’s been elusive for so long but freedom is mine today
I’ve gotta step out on faith it’s time to show my face
Procrastination had me down but look what I have found, I found

[Chorus]

[Bridge:]
I close my eyes and I think of all the things that I want to see
‘Cause I know, now that I’ve opened up my heart I know that
Anything I want can be, so let it be, so let it be:.

Strength, courage, and wisdom
It’s been inside of me all along,
Strength, courage, wisdom
It’s been inside of me all along, everyday I’m praying for:

[Chorus]

I found it in me, I found it finally
I’m sure to keep it’ cause I like it, I say thank you”

Have you ever heard a song with so much truth to it?

Everything we need is within us right now.

In Other News…

Happy Chinese New Year!

Feb 3rd marks the beginning of the Year of the Rabbit, & as someone who was also born in the year of the rabbit in 1987, I have a good feeling about 2011 🙂

I found a website that has some information about what the year of the rabbit means, so if you’re interested, check it out.

As I said in my last post, I’m in Beijing at the moment so please forgive me if it takes a little longer for me to reply to your comments & emails, but I hope you are all having a great week!

Stay AWESOME!

P.S I’ve made something for you, keep an eye out for my next post! 😀

Jen ♥