Tag Archives: growth

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! 😀

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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 ♥

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 ♥

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.

* Are you on Facebook? So is My Smiling Heart! Come and join us for extra fun and daily doses of awesomeness!

AWESOME SAUCE!

Another big ‘Hello!‘ from snow-covered Daqing! 🙂

I was just introduced to the brillaint phrase ‘awesome sauce’ by @DPWAssociation on Twitter, and just had to make it the title of this post!

I hope your day has been covered in AWESOME SAUCE!

If you haven’t noticed, I’ve been dedicating a lot of time to My Smiling Heart lately, making it as awesome as possible and doing my best to make it everything it can be. It’s still early days but I have big plans for this little love of mine and I hope you will all be there to experience all the exciting things that are coming our way!

A new segment will be coming to MSH soon, as I plan to interview one inspiring and AWESOME person every month. I’m also working on more printable awesomeness, just like this one, for you to keep.

The latest development in the world of My Smiling Heart is the creation of an official Facebook fan page! Yes, My Smiling Heart is now on Facebook! *happydance*

I will be using the My Smiling Heart fan page to build more of a community for all of us, as well as posting quotes, links to inspiring videos, blogs, and music, and anything else that reeks of awesomeness!

So c’mon over and give us a ‘Like’! 😀

It’s my 24th birthday in 11 days (woohoo!) and I would love to have at least 50 fans by then (22nd Feb), so please go ahead and share it with anyone who you think would love being a part of our little community of smiling hearts 🙂 ♥

Speaking of community, I love to hear what you think of MSH, and if you have any feedback, ideas, or suggestions of what you would like me to feature here, please feel free to leave me a comment, tweet me, email me (jenartist@live.com.au), or write on our Facebook wall.

And if you’re a blogger and want to collaborate somehow, send me an email anytime. Let’s change the world!

I’m so happy I could dance, so I will! Will you dance with me? You will! 😀 Awesome sauce!

*dancesoffintothesunset*

Jen ♥

Wise Words: Being Bold

This week’s Wise Words post is a bit different. Recently, I was interviewed by the lovely Tess Marshall from The Bold Life, & it has just been published!

For anyone unfamiliar with The Bold Life, it’s an amazingly inspirational self-development blog that always provides wise insights & encourages everyone to live boldly & speak their truth. I was absolutely thrilled to be interviewed for such an awesome blog & am so excited to share this great news with you all!

The questions I was asked for the interview were so challenging, they really made me think a lot more about who I am & how I could still live a much bolder life. If you are feeling particularly bold yourself today, I encourage you to take a look at some of the questions I was asked & take some time to think about what your own answers might be. You might be surprised!

So, head over to The Bold Life & check out ‘A Bold Artist With A Smiling Heart‘ 🙂

Feel free to comment on it after, I’d love to know what you think!

In other news, I’ve been working on a few little goodies for you guys, hopefully to be posted over the next few weeks, so keep an eye out! 😀

Go smile at yourself,

Jen ♥

The Importance Of Self-Acceptance

“I highly recommend inviting the worst-case scenario into your life.”

~ Portia de Rossi in Unbearable Lightness


I love books that change my life, & I just finished reading ‘Unbearable Lightness – A Story Of Loss & Gain’, by Portia de Rossi, &  it has already had a profound affect on the way I see the world.

It is such an amazing book. I couldn’t put it down.

In this beautiful memoir, de Rossi describes her childhood, her early career as a model, & her rise to fame after being cast in the hit show of the 90s, Ally McBeal.

But this isn’t just a book about Hollywood or an autobiography detailing the fairytale life of a seemingly normal girl from Geelong (near my hometown of Melbourne), Australia.

It’s so much more than that.

It’s about a girl who grew up feeling as though she wasn’t pretty enough or worthy enough to be loved by anyone, including herself. It’s about a girl who feels lost, & overwhelmed by the pressure to look, think & act a certain way in order to gain the approval of others & ‘fit in’. But most of all, it’s about a girl who, after overcoming the hardest challenges of her life, learns to love & accept herself for who she really is.

Isn’t that something we can all relate to?

De Rossi describes in detail how the pressure of the media & her low self-esteem lead her to anorexia & bulimia, & how terrified she was of the world finding out about her sexuality.

Portia reveals all of her vulnerabilities, sharing every thought she had about herself & about food during that dark time, from her extreme exercise routines & weighing small portions of food to the paranoia & anxiety at the thought of fat cells growing on her body.

This book has really opened my eyes & helped me to gain some sort of understanding of what it is like to have an eating disorder; the thoughts, the perceptions, the anxiety, & the lying & maintenance that is required to keep up such a painful ritual.

I don’t know if I’ve ever read a book as heartbreakingly honest & authentic as Unbearable Lightness. There’s nothing I love more than someone who is brave enough to be their complete authentic self, imperfections & all.

This is a must read for anyone who has ever felt less than or has struggled with self-acceptance. I’ve even read a few opinions of the book from girls living with eating disorders, saying they really related to de Rossi’s story & found it comforting to know that they weren’t alone in their illness & that there really is hope for recovery.

As for me, this book has made me question how much I focus on the way I look, & the ending was so beautiful, truthful, & wise that I don’t think I will ever stress about food or weight or exercise ever again.

Unbearable Lightness has helped me to discover more about myself & accept myself more than I ever have before.

I am who I am, whether that be straight or bisexual. It doesn’t matter.

And I look the way I look, whether that be a size 8 or a size 14. It doesn’t matter.

All that matters is that I love & accept myself for exactly who I am.

And the same goes for you.

You are who you are, & who you are is AWESOME.

It doesn’t matter what your sexuality is, what colour your skin is, what language you speak, how much you weigh or anything like that. All that matters is that you can accept yourself for who you are, & love yourself, flaws & all.

I’ll finish with another quote:

“The hotness is not about age, looks, body type, race – it is about honesty, knowing who you are and being who you are, without trying to front like you are better than you are. It is about the deep down authenticity of self, then living it, loving it and looking it.”

~ Margaret Cho

Keep Smiling!

Jen ♥

Wise Words… Thursday?

[This Wise Words post is a day late because my awesome Dad & brother have been visiting so we’ve been travelling a bit, more on that soon 🙂 ]

“Everything you need is within you

right now.” ~ Unknown

It’s true.

You already have all the strength, courage & wisdom you need inside of you. It’s just that, sometimes, we need to overcome obstacles in order to find it.

It’s all there; the clarity to know which path to choose; the strength to change your life for the better; the confidence to be yourself no matter what; & the courage to start taking action on your dreams.

Sometimes, it’s all just buried so deep under our insecurities & doubts that it takes some digging to bring it up to the surface. The Universe, or God, or Higher Power, or whatever you prefer to call it, knows this, & so gives you opportunities & experiences that force you to find all these qualities & more within your own self.

It’s what we do with those experiences that make all the difference. We can do our absolute best to stay positive, & learn as much as possible from it. Or, we can play the victim & add it to our list of reasons why we can’t live the lives we want, & as a result stay stuck in a negative pattern.

If we take the first route; with every experience, we are moulded into better, stronger versions of ourselves. And even if we sometimes lose touch & let ourselves fall into the second category, that’s ok. It is always possible to build ourselves back up again. Always.

So, whatever you’re worrying about today, know that you can handle it.

You have everything you need within you, right now.

Keep Smiling!

Jen ♥

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

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 ♥