Tag Archives: learning

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 ♥

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 ♥

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!

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

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

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

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

Continuing on with #reverb10:

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

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

I’ll post it sometime over the next week 🙂

In Other News…

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

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

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

Here’s the answer I gave:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep Smiling!

Jen ♥

Wow… !

Photo & text by Jen Saunders

Let me tell you about my day today.

I woke up early, turned on my laptop & made myself some breakfast.

As I sat down to my computer, I was surprised to see that I had over 100 new emails, & I don’t know how unusual that is for some people, but for me it’s way out of the ordinary!

Most of them were telling me about new subscribers to this blog, so a big ‘Hello!’ to all my new readers 🙂 You rock! The other emails were informing me of new twitter & tumblr followers, as well as facebook messages & friend requests.

It took me a second to figure out why I was so popular all of a sudden, then I remembered that my Tiny Buddha post was published today. Needless to say, I did my *happy dance* while eating my peanut butter on toast this morning!

I must say I definitely was not expecting so many people to read my post, not to mention all the re-blogs, tweets, likes, & follows! Not to mention over 1,000 blog views! Awesomeness! 😀

The best surprises of today, however, are all the super encouraging, supportive & kind comments from my readers. So many people can relate to my story, to being lost, & to feeling like a failure. And even more people can relate to finding themselves, their true path, & turning failure into success.

So, to all the people who took the time to read my post & to those who left me such amazing comments: thank you.

Thank you so much.

A lot of your words really inspired me today, & you have all made everything that has happened here in China just that much more worth it.

My passion for writing, creating & sharing my positive vibes with others has grown so much because of all your support, & I intend to make the most of it.

My whole day today has been a complete whirlwind of AWESOMENESS! It has taught me that I really can inspire & help others, that people like my writing, & that what I have to say is worth sharing with the world.

New opportunities have revealed themselves to me as a result of my Tiny Buddha post, & I can’t wait to see what amazing things are heading my way!

But for now, all this excitement has exhausted me. So Mike & I are going to order pizza & watch ‘Home Alone’ to bring in the holiday season, awesome-style 🙂

Thanks again, & Keep Smiling! 🙂

Jen ♥

A Quick Post To Remind You Of Your AWESOMENESS (Yes, YOU!) :)

This might be the caffeine talking, but I love my life right now 🙂 Everything is awesome. No, my life is not perfect, & I’ve had pretty tough times, especially recently, but I know that happiness is a choice.

I have chosen happiness every day, no matter what is going on in my life or in the outside world. And because of that one choice I make every day, my whole life is just Awesome. I’m Awesome. I appreciate the little things, I know everything happens for a reason, I learn from the not-so-good experiences & simply enjoy all the amazing experiences. But, most importantly, I think positive thoughts.

It is impossible to live a truly happy & fulfilling life while you are thinking negative thoughts. The only way to change your life & make it the life you are dreaming of is to take control of your thoughts, words & actions. After all, they are the only things we really can control in this world. Send positivity out to the rest of the world.

What you think about, you bring about.

Do what makes you happy. Listen to your favourite music, watch a funny movie that makes you really laugh out loud, go for a walk in nature, get cuddly with your pet… whatever makes you feel good.

List at least 5 things you are grateful for – whether it be your bed, your pet, or your favourite food. Think about the things & people that you love.

Help someone in need. One of the best ways to help you feel happier & get through hard times is to take the attention off of yourself & help a friend, family member or even stranger to feel better. Give your best friend a shoulder to cry on, hug a family member, or just leave a positive note on a bus for a stranger to find.

So, choose happiness. Think positively, even if you don’t really believe it at first, if you keep it up, one day you’ll reach a point where you are so happy that you won’t believe the negativity.

Remember, you are awesome. I don’t even know you, but I can see your awesomeness from here (& I’m in China so that says a lot!) Ignore anyone who ever says otherwise, even if it’s a voice in your head. You are beautiful, precious, & exactly where you need to be. And you are loved.

Keep Smiling! 🙂

Jen xox

The Cosmos & Other (AWESOME) News

 

By Jen Saunders 2010.

I have bee having some very interesting dreams lately. All my life I’ve had very odd, symbolic dreams, & I always look up their meaning the next day – if I can remember them, that is! Sometimes, I only remember a very tiny part of a dream, but then things happen during the day that help me to remember the rest of it, things like a conversation I have with someone in which they say a word or phrase that triggers my memory, or something I’m doing or watching on tv. It’s pretty cool 🙂

A few nights ago I had a dream in which I was in outer space, sitting on a planet, admiring the moon that was right in front of me, huge, glowing & so close that I could see all it’s craters. There was a greenish coloured planet in the distance, & countless stars twinkling at me. I felt so completely at peace, so still, & blissfully happy. Weirdly enough, I was singing Taylor Swift‘s song ‘Today Was A Fairytale’ to myself, haha!

As you can see from the above image, this dream inspired me so much I decided to paint it. It’s now another creation to put towards Art Every Day Month 🙂

The next night, I dreamt that dinosaurs were roaming the earth again, similar to Jurassic Park. I spent most of my dream running & hiding from the huge creatures, trying to stay alive. All of a sudden I saw a T-Rex heading my way, so I jumped on top of a building & saw this amazing view of the ocean. What I didn’t see was a huge tidal wave that was speeding into the city, & as I jumped off the building it swept me away. That’s it, I woke up straight after I was swept away by the wave.

So, I looked up the possible meanings to these two dreams, & here’s what I found (courtesy of DreamMoods.com):

Outer Space: To dream of outer space, represents your boundless creativity.

Space: To see or dream that you are in space, represents exploration and independent thinking. You are broadening your horizons and view.

Moon: To see the moon in your dream, represents some hidden, mysterious aspect of yourself. It is often associated with the feminine mystique and intuition. A full moon signifies completion and wholeness.

Galaxy: To see the galaxy in your dream, represents your creativity. It also means that you are looking at the broader picture and are more aware of your surroundings.

Singing: To sing in your dream, represents happiness, harmony and joy in some situation or relationship. You are uplifting others with your positive attitude and cheerful disposition. Singing is a way to celebrate, communicate, embrace and express your feelings. To hear someone sing in your dream, signifies emotional and spiritual fulfillment. Your mood is changing for the positive as your outlook in life is looking up.

Dinosaur: To see a dinosaur in your dream, symbolizes an outdated attitude. You may need to discard your old ways of thinking & habits.

Tidal Wave: Symbolizes the clearing away of old habits. If you are carried away by the tidal wave, then it means that you are ready to make a brand new start in a new place.

It looks like they were both very positive dreams, one symbolizing my creativity – which has been boundless lately! – as well as broadening my horizons & enhancing my life with positivity & celebration. The other symbolizing my need to discard old habits – negative thinking, perhaps? – & finishing with a tidal wave, meaning I have already started to clearing the negativity & make a new start. Yep, that definitely sounds like me & my life right now! 😀

In Other News:

Amazing news everyone! Something I wrote about my experiences in China & lessons I’ve learnt from it all is going to be published on Tiny Buddha! 😀 I’m so happy about this, it’s a great opportunity to inspire others & reach such a large audience with my thoughts, creations & inspirations. I’ve been following tinybuddha since it was just a little tweet, & I’ve watched it grow into this huge inspiring empire, with the website, blogs & now a book, so this is an absolute honor for me 😀

It will be published sometime within the next month, so watch this space for news of it’s release!

Also, I wanted to thank everyone for all the amazing comments I’ve received! When I started this blog, I wasn’t expecting any readers at all, let alone such kind, supportive & fantastic comments, so thanks! I hope you are getting inspiration to live your best life.

Keep Smiling! 🙂

Jen xo

Day 3: Cooking!

Today is Day 3 of Art Every Day Month. I’d been wanting to make a vegan shepherd’s pie for a while now, so I decided to do some cooking as my creative task for the day. I found the recipe on VegWeb, but I added some new ingredients (& disregarded a few other ingredients that seem to be unavailable here in China) & my version goes something like this:

Ingredients:

  • Lentils, cooked. (I used a whole bag so that we can have leftovers for lunch tomorrow)
  • 1 stick of celery, chopped
  • 4 medium potatoes, cooked & mashed (Sweet potatoes are healthier but I’m not too keen on the taste so I compromised & used two normal, two sweet)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 green capsicum, chopped
  • 1 can of corn
  • tomato sauce
  • cooking oil

Note: I was only making this for Mike & I, & these ingredients gave us plenty, with some leftover for lunch tomorrow. Add more of whatever you like, this isn’t set in stone – be creative with it! 🙂

Due to my tiny kitchen & limited cooking supplies, I had to use our mini toaster oven to cook the meal, so my directions probably won’t be helpful to anyone, haha! Here’s what it says on VegWeb:

“Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Saute onion, celery, and garlic in a little olive oil.  Add lentils and tomato sauce and cook 15 minutes.  Pour into a baking pan and cover mashed potatoes.”

Here’s how it turned out:

I know it doesn’t really look like much, but it was delicious! And, best of all, it’s super healthy 🙂 Let me know if you try it for yourself!

Keep Smiling 🙂

Jen xo

Words To Live By…

“There is so much about my fate that I cannot control, but other things do fall under the jurisdiction. I can decide how I spend my time, whom I interact with, whom I share my body and life and money and energy with. I can select what I can read and eat and study. I can choose how I’m going to regard unfortunate circumstances in my life-whether I will see them as curses or opportunities. I can choose my words and the tone of voice in which I speak to others. And most of all, I can choose my thoughts.”

~ Elizabeth Gilbert in ‘Eat, Pray, Love‘.