Category Archives: Wise Words Wednesday!

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 ♥

Wise Words: The Mad To Live

This month’s featured amazing woman is Lauren Rains, from The Mad To Live!

An adventurer, entrepreneur, blogger, and all-around life enthusiast, Laur is one inspiring girl! She is on a mission to get people so freakin’ excited about their lives that they explode. Okay, maybe not explode, but live their lives to the fullest!

I gotta say, I love this girl. Her passionate love of life is so contagious, and visiting her blog always gets me excited about my life and everything in it.

So, please welcome this firecracker, and fellow China expat, to My Smiling Heart!

What encouraged you to start The Mad To Live?

Well, it sort of just happened. When I was living in Beijing I started a blog to keep my family updated and to just journal my thoughts while living abroad. After a few months I realized that I wasn’t really writing about travel, but more about things I found inspiring, dreams I wanted to pursue, people I’d met along my journey that had impacted me.

And that’s when I started to investigate the whole blogging, social media thing. Needless to say, I fell in love!

I fell in love with the community of people I’ve connected with that inspire me everyday to be a better person, I fell in love with writing and reading posts, I fell in love with the projects that stem from it. I can honestly say that starting The Mad To Live was one of the best things I’ve ever fallen into in my life.

Do you know what things you need to do on a regular basis in order to maintain your happiness? What are they?

A sense of “exploration” is absolutely key! That’s why I’m addicted to travel and passion projects. I love to experience things for the first time… I feel the most alive when that’s happening. So, I suppose you could say that on a regular basis I must see, experience, or try something… irregular!

What advice would you give to someone who is going through a challenging time?

I would tell them to dig deep within and find out the source and the root of whatever it is that’s creating this challenging time. Oftentimes on the outside it seems like we’re going through a tough time for countless reasons, but when it comes down to it it’s normally something very crucial that we haven’t yet faced.

I’d also tell them to gather a group of their closest friends and go out for a wild, crazy night on the town filled with laughs and ridiculousness. Sometimes a little break from a mental-block, bad mood, drama etc helps us to get out of our heads and remember that despite the challenges we can still enjoy life! Besides, who doesn’t love a few (too many!) glasses of wine with your closest friends?

Why do you think it is so important that we make our own paths in life rather than follow the paths of others?

There are so many reasons that it’s essential to follow your own path. But for me, what it comes down to is that if one isn’t following their true path in life then simply stated, they aren’t really living. They aren’t being who they are meant to be, doing what they’re meant to do, seeing what they’re meant to see. It is when we follow our own paths that we discover the unique talents and gifts we have to offer the world. And you know what? The world needs us to do that. The world needs people who are blazing their own trails, following their passion, finding happiness.

If you aren’t doing that… you aren’t really living. You’re just existing.

What has creating your own path in life taught you most?

It’s taught me the importance of true, authentic, hard work combined with being my true, authentic self. It’s been so clear to me based on my own experiences and watching the success of some of the amazing people I get to talk with everyday that if you put in 120% true, authentic effort you can achieve whatever you set out to do. And I mean that… 90% isn’t enough… you have to put in 120%. You have to really WANT it. You have to really DREAM it.

From where I sit today I can look back on the past year and say to myself that I lived in Beijing, China for a year where I worked for an adventure company doing all their web work and started a popular hiking club for Expats and locals. I’m now in the process of starting my own web design business so I can move abroad again and support myself 100%. Has any of this been a walk in the park? Hell no! I’ve worked my ass off! But it has been a blast! I have learned so much from both the great days and the worst days whether it have to do with culture shock or business shock.

If you give 120% you can follow whatever path in life your wildest imagination can dream of. 🙂

What wise words do you live by?

Okay, the best way I can explain this is the self-talk I give myself when I’m about to jump into a freezing cold pool or ocean. You see.. I hate cold water… loathe it! But I LOVE it after that first second of terrible pain. And so every time I’m about to jump in I say to myself something along the lines of, “Okay Lauren… this is it… you only live once and you just have to do it. You just have to jump in. And during that 1 second don’t think about the pain of it, but think about the fact that you’re alive and feeling it! I’m feeling, seeing, touching, BEING.” So then I jump, and I’m so happy and I stand up in the water and I feel really alive in that moment.

I know, I know… it sounds kind of strange… but that’s how I try to live my life. Whatever it may be… good or bad – I just like to jump in and enjoy, learn from, and recognize every tiny little aspect of it.

What is something you are really proud of?

I’m really proud to have the friends in my life that I do, and I’m so proud of the fact that I love them like they are my family. I’m proud that there are people in my life that I can’t live without and that complete me and they feel the same way about me.

It seems to me that some of us get so caught up in our lives that we forget about our friends… the very people that help to make us who we are, the ones that pull us up when we’re down, the one’s that give it to us straight when we’re being complete and utter morons, the ones that we can act like complete and utter morons with!

The value of friendship… it seems to me people put this one on the backburner too much as they get older. But I know that my personal growth would be impossible without these people, and I’m really proud to have friendship as one of my greatest values.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given? Who gave it to you?

“Get out of your head, Lauren.”, said my oldest friend since 3rd grade Jaime. I had been going on and on and on about all these things that I’d been thinking about over and over again FOREVER. I had let all these things pile up and make me anxious, worried, stressed, and essentially depressed. And finally she laid down the law for me without sugar coating it and just told me to get out of my head.

It was at that moment that I realized I had been so caught up in my own self-talk that I had forgotten to enjoy life, to remember the bigger picture, to recognize there are thousands of positive things I could be thinking about instead of the 5 negatives.

The second you get out of your head is the second you’ve set yourself free to do whatever it is you’re meant to do.

What are you most grateful for?

I’m most grateful to my friends of course as I mentioned above. But in addition to that I’m most grateful for the people in my life believing in me when I didn’t believe in myself. I’m not sure if without their push and their encouragement I would have ever gotten out of the limbo I had been stuck in.

I’m also extremely grateful for warm summer nights + cold drinks + good music + great friends & good stories. I live for those nights… that’s when I’m most happy.

How do you want to inspire people?

I want to inspire people to truly, deeply LIVE. I guess that’s why I ultimately named my blog ‘The Mad To Live’. I want to see everyone around me feel ALIVE… not just being or doing or living… but BEING, DOING, LIVING. I know differentiating the two between caps and lowercase doesn’t say much but if you read between the lines there is such a big difference between the two.

I want to see people reach the age of 85 and look back on their life and say, “Damn… 85…. and I lived each of them with more life and passion than the last.”

What makes your heart smile?

Nothing makes my heart smile more than seeing someone doing something that brings them to life. My heart smiles when people tell me about the things they’re passionate about and suddenly their face is glowing, their talk is eager and excited, their aura is alive. I love that.. partially because I’m selfish… I find it contagious!

Also, beautiful websites make my heart smile, as well as cute boys (especially Spanish ones hehe), lemonade on a hot summer day, finding a book I love so much I read it in one weekend, seeing the skyline of the city I’m about to land in within a country I’ve never been to, and last but not least, long bike rides at sunset while I listen to music.

Check out Lauren’s site, The Mad To Live, and follow her on twitter and facebook.

Go smile at yourself,

Jen ♥

*A huge THANK YOU to everyone who has supported and donated to our 30 Days Of Beauty fundraiser – we have reached our goal of raising $300 for To Write Love On Her Arms! WOOHOO! 😀

Wise Words: Because I Am A Queen

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while now, you’ll know that I adore India Arie and her positive, self-loving, soulful music and lyrics. Her songs never fail to lift me up and make me feel as magical and wonderful as a fairy riding a unicorn over a double rainbow 🙂

In the spirit of 30 Days Of Beauty, I would like to share with you one of my favourite songs in the history of the Universe; ‘Video’ (also known as ‘Because I Am A Queen’), by India Arie.

Enjoy the tunes, feel the love and use the lyrics below to sing your heart out!

To watch the music video for this song (which won’t play here), click here.

“Sometimes I shave my legs and sometimes I don’t
Sometimes I comb my hair and sometimes I won’t
Depend on how the wind blows I might even paint my toes
It really just depends on whatever feels good in my soul

I’m not the average girl from your video
And I ain’t built like a supermodel
But I learned to love myself unconditionally
Because I am a queen
I’m not the average girl from your video
My worth is not determined by the price of my clothes
No matter what I’m wearing I will always be
The india arie

When I look in the mirror and the only one there is me
Every freckle on my face is where it’s supposed to be
And I know my creator didn’t make no mistakes on me
My feet my thighs my lips my eyes I’m loving what I see

I’m not the average girl from your video
And I ain’t built like a supermodel
But I learned to love myself unconditionally
Because I am a queen (yeah)
I’m not the average girl from your video (woo)
My worth is not determined by the price of my clothes (whoa)
No matter what I’m wearing I will always be
The india arie

Am I less of a lady if I don’t wear pantyhose
My mama said a lady ain’t what she wears but what she knows
But I’ve drawn the conclusion
It’s all an illusion
Confusion’s the name of the game
A misconception a vast deception,
Something’s got to change

Don’t be offended this is all my opinion
Ain’t nothing that I’m saying law
This is a true confession
Of a life-learned lesson
I was sent here to share with y’all
So get in when you fit in
Go on and shine
Clear your mind
Now’s the time
Put your salt on the shelf
Go on and love yourself (love yourself)
‘Cause everything’s gonna be alright (love yourself)

I’m not the average girl from your video
And I ain’t built like a supermodel
But I learned to love myself unconditionally
Because I am a queen (yeah)
I’m not the average girl from your video (woo)
My worth is not determined by the price of my clothes (whoa)
No matter what I’m wearing I will always be
The india arie

Keep your fancy drink and your expensive minks
I don’t need that to have a good time
Keep your expensive cars
And your caviar
All’s I need is my guitar
Keep your cristal and your pistol
I’d rather have a pretty piece of crystal
Don’t need your silicone
I prefer my own
What god gave me is just fine
(Oh hah hah hah)

I’m not the average girl from your video
And I ain’t built like a supermodel
But I learned to love myself unconditionally
Because I am a queen (yeah)
I’m not the average girl from your video (woo)
My worth is not determined by the price of my clothes (whoa)
No matter what I’m wearing I will always be
The india arie”


Stay beaYOUtiful,

Jen ♥

Lyrics from: http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/i/india_arie/#share

Wise Words: Life Lessons In Fight Club

I love movies. One of my favourite things to do is go to the movies, or even just stay home and watch an old favourite. As a result, I ace Six Degrees Of Kevin Bacon, quote movies way more than I need to, and often figure out how a movie is going play out about five minutes in – much to the annoyance of my fiance.

So, because movies are such a big part of my everyday life, it makes sense to somehow incorporate them into this blog. Every now and then, I will dedicate a Wise Words Wednesday post to a movie that is both awesome and inspiring, and writing about what life lessons we can learn from these films.

Today, it’s Fight Club. I know, awesome first choice, right? 😀

“I see all this potential, and I see it squandered. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables – slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our great war is a spiritual war. Our great depression is our lives.”

~ Tyler Durden

We have so much choice, so much freedom, so much potential, and more opportunities than ever, yet so many of us are going through the same routine, every day, every year, for our whole lives. As Tyler says, we work jobs we hate, to buy things we don’t need. And none of it makes us happy.

But lately I’ve been seeing sparks of hope. People risking it all to follow their passion, and turning what they love into successful businesses that not only make them happy but create a ripple effect of positivity throughout the world.

I’m one of those people. I’ve decided to follow my passion, and turn it into my job. I won’t waste my potential anymore. And I especially won’t listen to the media’s (or anyone else’s) definition of success or failure.

“You are not your job. You’re not how much money you have in the bank. You’re not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You’re not your fucking khakis.”

~ Tyler Durden

I have a few things to add to that. You are not your house. You are not your dress size. You are not your Jimmy Choos. You are not how many facebook friends or twitter followers you have.

You are highly underestimating yourself (and others) if you think those things make you who you are.

You are how much you express love and kindness to others. You are what you share with the world. You are how you treat yourself and others. You are your thoughts.

“Sticking feathers up your butt does not make you a chicken.”

~ Tyler Durden

This is an awesome way of saying ‘Be Yourself.’

Be your beautiful, authentic self, instead of acting the way others act, or doing things because you think that’s what is expected of you. Staying true to yourself is so important for happiness.

“Only after disaster can we be resurrected.”

~ Tyler Durden

Man, I so relate to this. Although I wouldn’t really call my experiences ‘disasters’, it was enough to make me feel as though I had no choice but to rebuild myself. And now I’m better than ever – Jen 2.0, haha! But I would never have been able to resurrect myself, if I hadn’t crumbled first.

Through challenges and disaster, we learn and grow. Things collapse, and we rebuild it all, making sure it’s stronger than it was before.

“Fuck off with your sofa units and string green stripe patterns, I say never be complete, I say stop being perfect, I say let… let’s evolve, let the chips fall where they may.”

~ Tyler Durden

More and more people are starting to let go of material possessions as a route to happiness, and even more are starting to embrace their imperfections, rather than run from them. We are evolving. Everything that doesn’t really matter is starting to slowly fall away.

“This is your life, and it’s ending one minute at a time.”

~ Narrator

Why spend it stewing over what they said about you? Why spend it frowning at yourself in the mirror? Why spend it sending negativity out into the Universe? Why waste another minute of this one life doing anything that doesn’t make you heart smile?

Life is short and precious. Cherish every minute, smile every chance you get, and be a force of good in this world.

Love,

Jen ♥

*What puts the YOU in beaYOUtiful? Share it on twitter, using the hashtag #imbeautifulbecause, and join the 30 Days Of Beauty Challenge! We’ve already raised almost 1/3 of our fundraising goal for To Write Love On Her Arms! 😀 Yay!


Wise Words: Three Lessons From Oprah

 

“Now I want to talk a little bit about failings, because nobody’s journey is seamless or smooth. We all stumble. We all have setbacks. If things go wrong, you hit a dead end—as you will—it’s just life’s way of saying time to change course. So, ask every failure—this is what I do with every failure, every crisis, every difficult time—I say, what is this here to teach me? And as soon as you get the lesson, you get to move on. If you really get the lesson, you pass and you don’t have to repeat the class. If you don’t get the lesson, it shows up wearing another pair of pants—or skirt—to give you some remedial work.”

~ Oprah Winfrey

The above quote comes from a commencement speech that Oprah gave at Stanford University in 2008.

I watched this video a lot last year, after we moved to China, and found these words to be so inspiring, especially after I was fired and fell ill. This video, and the above quote in particular, were key in my journey to turning my life around, reclaiming my power, and choosing happiness.

You can watch the video of Oprah’s speech here, or read the transcript here.

What have you been experiencing lately? What is it here to teach you?

Whatever happens, I hope you’re smiling 🙂

Jen ♥

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 ♥


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! 🙂

Wise Words: Bohemian Musings

Today marks the beginning of a new monthly segment on My Smiling Heart, in which I interview inspiring, passionate, and creative women about how they are following their bliss and living a positive life.

Our first amazing guest couldn’t be more fitting of this description!

Jessika Gilker is a Free Spirit who spends her time taking pictures, doing yoga on the beach and travelling off the beaten path in her quest to live a full authentic life. She lives in Greece where her and her husband run Fresko, a Juice Bar on the Beach.

I know, AWESOME, right? 😀

I discovered Jess’ blog, Bohemian Musings, only a few weeks ago, but I’ve already been so inspired by her journey and wisdom, I just had to ask her to be the first My Smiling Heart interviewee!

What encouraged you to start Bohemian Musings?

I started Bohemian Musings in the New Year on a whim, wanting to learn more about the world of Information Technology, as well as explore my Passion for writing and photography.

I soon realized that starting this blogging journey was opening me up to a whole new world of personal growth. The reasons that motivate me now to continue this journey are:

  • I want to Challenge myself on a whole new level and expose my Thoughts, Feelings and Inspirations for the world to see. Being vulnerable is scary but can teach you so much about yourself. I’m introspective by nature. I spend a lot of time with my thoughts in my head and tend to share them only with my closest entourage. So this is a way to set those thoughts free.
  • Since I’ve chosen to live an Unconventional life by society’s standards and have found success and happiness on my personal journey, I hope I can help others see that it’s not out of their reach either. Meeting really cool, like-minded individuals (like yourself) is an added bonus of being a blogger.

Do you know what things you need to do on a regular basis in order to maintain your happiness? What are they?

Keeping my body, mind and spirit balanced is what leads to my happiness. Attaining that balance requires me to be conscious in all areas of my life as not one thing makes me whole but several together. They are:

Yoga is my salvation, it keeps me centered and in the present moment, while laughing and being around the people I love is what makes it worthwhile.

Writing, photography and design are what I need to do regularly to let my creative energy free and being curious and learning keeps my life fresh and exciting.

My strong interest in nutrition and my vegetarian lifestyle keep me healthy and ready to pursue my frequent adventures even if it’s exploring something on my doorstep that I’ve never seen before.

Making sure to spend time alone each day to reconnect with my thoughts allows me to be rejuvenated and ready for whatever life throws at me.

What advice would you give to someone who is going through a challenging time?

Don’t give up. Challenges, fear, and self-doubt are all part of the journey.

Roadblocks are placed strategically on our path to see just how badly we want something. If you persevere you will succeed.

Instead of viewing obstacles negatively, and allowing them to stop you from your goals, ask yourself what lesson you can gain from what is happening. As long as you are following your passions and being true to yourself you will make it. Remember, that those who fail and quit, are usually just around the corner from turning their dreams to reality.

Why do you think it is so important that we make our own paths in life rather than follow the paths of others?

Following anyone else’s path in life except your own will only lead to misery because it means ignoring your inner voice.

I tried it by wearing a white lab coat and studying bacteria, but it quickly ate away at my being until there was no other solution but to accept that this was not for me. Instead of ignoring what was left of my soul, I chose to listen to its cries.

My intuition served me well, and I was soon on my way to a dream internship doing research on Loggerhead Sea Turtles in a small village I never heard of in a country that I had never really given much thought. The next 6 months gave me time to reflect and realize where and what I wanted to be and following my inner voice has led me to achieving more than I could have ever imagined.

We weren’t created to follow others. We all have unique talents that we need to share. The universe wants to help us achieve our dreams but we must first believe in ourselves.

If we spent less time comparing ourselves to others and more time realizing that being unique is a blessing, something to be cultivated and then taken and served to the world as we see fit then we could all be happy on our own unique paths.

What has creating your own path in life taught you most?

If you can Dream it, you can do it.

Any goal, or dream that I have pursued with all my heart, strength and courage, I have achieved. Some have come easy, others have tested every last ounce of power from my being, but through hard work and perseverance, they have become a reality. I also learned that I was much more strong than I gave myself credit for and to always trust my intuition.

What wise words do you live by?

Live. Love. Laugh. Three simple words that individually hold such a strong message. They are the three ingredients to a happy and successful life.

What is something you are really proud of?

I’m really proud that I had the strength and courage to know that I had to choose my own way from an early age. I’m happy I went to University and tried the career route early on, so that there are no doubts in my head about which is best for me. I’m proud to be living my journey on my own terms.

Professionally speaking, Fresko, my Juice Bar in Greece is a joint effort of creativity and love that my husband and I have made a reality and I’m real proud of our success.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given? Who gave it to you?

I was lucky to have a very wise and supportive father, who was also a free spirit in his own right.

He always made me believe that I could achieve anything, and that no dream was crazy as long as it’s what I really wanted and worked hard to attain it. He instilled great confidence within me and gave me space to make my own decisions from a very young age.

He set me on the path to think for myself and I surely would not be where I am today without such a great influence.

What are you most grateful for?

My life. My family. Being a Generalist (Jack of all Trades) has opened me up to so many opportunities and has helped to push me in the direction I am in today. If I didn’t have the ability to be passionate about 101 things at the same time (Yes, it’s normal), then I would not be where I am. My passions lead me to more passions and in turn to adventures that have opened door after door in my life.

How do you want to inspire people?

My hope is that if someone can find one positive or inspiring message or idea from something I have written or experienced and can add it to their own life and it allows them to take a step closer to a goal or dream then that would make me happy.

Life is so short and so beautiful, I just want to inspire people to open their eyes and take a deep breath and really see what’s around them, then LIVE, but according to their own rules.

What makes your heart smile?

So many simple things 🙂 Sunrises, yoga on the beach, a good book, bird’s singing, the exhilaration in discovering a new place through Travel, my husband’s laughter, Broadway, my Spaniel, Murt and Harry my rescued cats from Croatia, inspiring blogs, music, bright colors, vegetarian/vegan restaurants, Organic Fair Trade Coffee, Champagne, Sunsets and the list goes on and on….

Join Jessika on her Journey at Bohemian Musings, where she blogs about her thoughts and inspirations on how to live an Unconventional life straight to your dreams. Follow her on Twitter @bohemianmusings.

Hope you enjoyed the first My Smiling Heart interview!

Keep Smiling! 😀

Jen ♥

*A big THANK YOU to each and every one of you! Because of you, I reached my goal of making it to 50 fans on the My Smiling Heart facebook page by my 24th Birthday! You ROCK! 😀


*Did you see my guest post on The Mad To Live? I was asked to write about what I would say in a message in a bottle – so much fun! 😀 Check it out here!


*Another big THANK YOU to everyone who participated in Friday’s ‘Share The Love, Share Your Links’ event on the facebook page, it was so AWESOME learning more about all of you through your blogs – looking forward to doing it all again this Friday! 😀

Wise Words: Born This Way


If you are unsure of just how amazingly popular Lady Gaga is, well, maybe this will give you an idea; she’s huge in China.

Her music is played everywhere, once I saw a wedding dress shop open it’s doors one morning for all of the staff to go outside and do a choreographed dance to one of her songs. And now, there’s a new popular saying amongst the children, teenagers, and even some English-speaking adults: instead of ‘Oh my God!’, they say ‘Oh My Lady Gaga!’

And this is all just in China! I can’t imagine how freaking huge she must be back home, but her constant appearance in the trending topics on Twitter give me some idea of her goddess like fame.

Although I don’t know all of her songs, I think she’s pretty damn cool, especially after hearing her new song, ‘Born This Way.’

I love anyone that moves us forward, encourages us to be more accepting of ourselves and others, and isn’t afraid to say that love is love, no matter what.

Here is a video of Lady Gaga performing ‘Born This Way’ for the first time at the recent Grammy Awards, the lyrics are just below, feel free to sing along! 😀

“It doesn’t matter if you love him, or capital H-I-M
Just put your paws up
’cause you were Born This Way, Baby

VERSE:
MY MAMA TOLD ME WHEN I WAS YOUNG
WE ARE ALL BORN SUPERSTARS

SHE ROLLED MY HAIR AND PUT MY LIPSTICK ON
IN THE GLASS OF HER BOUDOIR

“THERE’S NOTHIN WRONG WITH LOVIN WHO YOU ARE”
SHE SAID, “‘CAUSE HE MADE YOU PERFECT, BABE”

“SO HOLD YOUR HEAD UP GIRL AND YOU’LL GO FAR,
LISTEN TO ME WHEN I SAY”

CHORUS:
I’M BEAUTIFUL IN MY WAY
‘CAUSE GOD MAKES NO MISTAKES
I’M ON THE RIGHT TRACK BABY
I WAS BORN THIS WAY

DON’T HIDE YOURSELF IN REGRET
JUST LOVE YOURSELF AND YOU’RE SET
I’M ON THE RIGHT TRACK BABY
I WAS BORN THIS WAY

POST-CHORUS:
OOO THERE AIN’T NO OTHER WAY
BABY I WAS BORN THIS WAY
BABY I WAS BORN THIS WAY
OOO THERE AIN’T NO OTHER WAY
BABY I WAS BORN-
I’M ON THE RIGHT TRACK BABY
I WAS BORN THIS WAY

DON’T BE A DRAG -JUST BE A QUEEN
DON’T BE A DRAG -JUST BE A QUEEN
DON’T BE A DRAG -JUST BE A QUEEN
DON’T BE!

VERSE:
GIVE YOURSELF PRUDENCE
AND LOVE YOUR FRIENDS
SUBWAY KID, REJOICE YOUR TRUTH

IN THE RELIGION OF THE INSECURE
I MUST BE MYSELF, RESPECT MY YOUTH

A DIFFERENT LOVER IS NOT A SIN
BELIEVE CAPITAL H-I-M (HEY HEY HEY)
I LOVE MY LIFE I LOVE THIS RECORD AND
MI AMORE VOLE FE YAH (LOVE NEEDS FAITH)

REPEAT CHORUS + POST-CHORUS

BRIDGE:

DON’T BE A DRAG, JUST BE A QUEEN
WHETHER YOU’RE BROKE OR EVERGREEN
YOU’RE BLACK, WHITE, BEIGE, CHOLA DESCENT
YOU’RE LEBANESE, YOU’RE ORIENT
WHETHER LIFE’S DISABILITIES
LEFT YOU OUTCAST, BULLIED, OR TEASED
REJOICE AND LOVE YOURSELF TODAY
‘CAUSE BABY YOU WERE BORN THIS WAY

NO MATTER GAY, STRAIGHT, OR BI,
LESBIAN, TRANSGENDERED LIFE
I’M ON THE RIGHT TRACK BABY
I WAS BORN TO SURVIVE
NO MATTER BLACK, WHITE OR BEIGE
CHOLA OR ORIENT MADE
I’M ON THE RIGHT TRACK BABY
I WAS BORN TO BE BRAVE

REPEAT CHORUS

OUTRO/REFRAIN:

I WAS BORN THIS WAY HEY!
I WAS BORN THIS WAY HEY!
I’M ON THE RIGHT TRACK BABY
I WAS BORN THIS WAY HEY!

I WAS BORN THIS WAY HEY!
I WAS BORN THIS WAY HEY!
I’M ON THE RIGHT TRACK BABY
I WAS BORN THIS WAY HEY!”

Does anyone else feel like they were born AWESOME after listening to that? 😀

Dancing like no-one is watching,

Jen ♥

*Do you blog? Share the LOVE, Share your LINKS – Link Love Friday starts this Friday on the My Smiling Heart Facebook page! Simply ‘Like’ the My Smiling Heart on Facebook and get ready to share the love!

Lyrics from Billboard.com.