Wandering And Pondering, Slowing Down to The Speed of Life

Goodbye, Commute. Hello, ‘Me Time.’

I recently had three weeks at home between jobs. Well, really, only one week between them – but I spent the last two weeks at my old job tying up projects from home. But that’s all beside the point.

What I got, was three weeks of not having to fight traffic, rush out of the house, or stress about running from meeting to meeting without time to eat, drink, or pee (AKA the trifecta of natural losses stemming from most corporate cultures these days.)

I know it wouldn’t surprise you to know that a professional life without traffic, timeframes, interruption (open-plan offices can be both the best thing & the worst all at once), or the need to wear anything other than activewear is good for both mind & body.

But, I’ll say it here anyhow:  whoa nelly, a few weeks of working to my own timeframe, at my own pace, & with the ability to exercise & ponder was amazing.

When I set out for some “me time” between jobs, my goal was to do nothing. And, to do a lot of it, at that. All of those copy-paste days of waking up, getting out the door, driving to work, sitting through meetings that could’ve been emails, driving home, sleeping…wash, rinse, repeat… oftentimes, fill a soul they do not.

For me, the goal of doing nothing was the pinnacle of re-setting. Though, as it turned out, my idea of nothing became doing a lot of somethings. And, looking back on it now, I’ve learned some good lessons when it comes to the art of slowing down to the speed of life.

Meditation in Motion
What have I learned about slowing down, then? Well, firstly I’ve learned that walking – or rather, wandering – without reason or end goal is the most cathartic thing for me when it comes to clearing my mind & moving my body.

I so love wandering. I walked every, single, day for three weeks & felt a huge shift both mentally & physically for me. I put my phone away & looked at flowers. I relished in the sunlight on my arms & legs. I sat near the ocean.

I went to cafes & eaves dropped on little old ladies (man, they’re the queens of the Gossip!)  In all, some days I walked over 30kms. Never did I have a day under 15kms. And, the wander + ponder gift I was given by time cleansed my soul happily & helped my mind wander creatively.

There’s peace in allowing your brain to wander freely. When you realize that there’s life beyond office politics, chasing numbers, & exhausting yourself to the point of tipping over – you put more onus on chasing memories.  We’re all only ever here for a short time. We might as well make it a good time. Right?

Wandering for the sake of it is akin to re-learning to play. At some point, as adults, we deprioritize playing. Some of us (I’m guilty of this at times) forget to play at all – or we create an internal narrative that playfulness at work will be seen as weakness. Pish tosh to that crap. My goal moving forward? Play more. Laugh more. Connect more.

What a blessing to have time to play without boundaries. With the only reason for it being to have fun & be joyous. I believe 110% that there needs to be more time built into corporate life for people to work play, physical movement, & the space for thinking into a day.

Slowing Down Means Speeding Up – Creatively
Between & during walks – & whilst getting myself ready for speaking events & workshops (that I also shoehorned into my “me time”), I listened to hours upon hours of podcasts with topics ranging from the science of happinessto building engaged teams to LGBTQ+ rights conversations & beyond.

By listening to other people, other points of view, & diving deeper into topics & conversations that interest me, I was able to think deeply. To ponder. To pontificate. Most mornings my friend Wendy would come for walks with me & we’d end up with no ears between us (because, ya know, we talked them off of each other).

What I found from having more unstructured learning, more fluid conversations, & more time to dive deep into different topics – is that my creative mind flourished. It’s almost as if the walls of big business act as force-fields against creativity. Really though, it’s not the walls that cause many of us to think inside of the proverbial box, it’s the constraints on time.

Creativity & cleverness both take time. For amazing work to happen – we need air to breathe, time to settle in, & space to evolve. And, a knowledge that speed does not equal best results by any means.

Just as we nurture those we love, we must learn to nurture ourselves & our own ways of working. We must honour the individuality inherent in each other, because the ways in which I work best won’t always be the same as the ways in which you feel most free to do your best.

By binging the TED Radio Hour with Guy Raz, Queery with the amazing host Cameron Esposito, & a handful of other amazing podcasts – I filled my mind day in & day out. And, in doing so, I felt myself becoming more & more interested in the world around me.

Slowing down, for me, was a reawakening of sorts.

No Phone, Who Dis?
One thing that happened the last week of my “break” was that I became homeless as far as mobile phone plans go.

For a full 8 days I had no data on my phone (don’t get me started on the absolute highway robbery of telcos in New Zealand when it comes to top ups on pre-pay plans – $120 literally got me ten minutes on my phone – & I’m still seeing red about it). Day one & two were the most difficult for a tech-addict like myself.

It’s amazing how often we all pick up our phone & look at it for no reason. And I mean NO REASON AT ALL. We’ve hardwired ourselves to have our little BFF in our pockets or on our person at all times. And, I’m being real here, there were moments where I almost struggled to put my phone in my backpack & just leave it there.

By day three, everyone who needed to get in contact with me (or might need to) knew I had no connectivity unless I was at home with wifi or in another public place with wifi.

The freedom of knowing I wouldn’t hear the dull pings of emails, text messages, DMs, or social media notifications while I walked was awe-inspiring. I was no longer on anyone else’s timeframe. I made the rules in my day around when I would check emails, when I’d answer messages, & when I felt like turning back on to the tech.

What I’ve found since heading back to an office setting this week is that I’m the odd bird out (this is usual in most places) because I tend to now forget to bring my phone with me to meetings. The output? Being present. Taking in conversations – & remembering them.

I spend more time ideating, having better conversations, & am enjoying the heck out of my time in a new environment. A lot of it, I reckon, is due to the fact that I’m not tethered to a device that makes me feel like I’m living my life around other people’s to-do lists.

Winning!

Ye Olde Wrap-Up
So, what’s the point of all of these words? Why praise the art of wandering aimlessly?
Easy: we all need to do more wandering & pondering.

We live in a world where the exaltation of busy  is the way in which we comport ourselves day in & day out. I reckon we all need to ask for (perhaps even demand) time to slow down to the speed of the wind in the flowers, the bees in the trees, & the cadence of lyrical gossip that flows from the mouths of old ladies in cafes at lunchtime.

When we allow ourselves to do nothing – something becomes of it. If time is our most precious resource, we need to be kinder in doling it out to ourselves on a daily basis. We also need to be able to realize when we’re moving too fast, too often.

Climbing off the hamster wheel of life & running beside it – then out the door – is the best way to stay hungry, creative, & able.

I hope you’re able to enjoy slowing down soon, you deserve it!

 

Photographs & Memories – February 2017

Well I’ll be damned. Where in the world did February go? 

Did I blink and miss it? 

Seriously though. February, you sure flew by at the speed of a speedy-thing.

To find a photographic trend for the month, I’ve had to go back into my camera’s memory (thank goodness for a camera’s memory when mine fails to serve).

What did I find? RAINBOWS! 

Many, many, many rainbows. Which makes a theme for this month a simple one: Pride.

Pride in family. Pride in friends. Pride in the businesses we work for. Pride in our diverse community. Pride in the freedom to love who we choose.

 

An ode to a legend, Ponsonby Rd flair.

Sculpture on The Gulf, Waiheke Island wandering.

Amber waves.

Heaven is post-card perfect, on Waiheke.

#HoldTight, don’t let go.

Family by choice, afire by nature. #BGO17

Searching for sundown, North Shore styles.

Workmates roaring into the night, Auckland Pride Parade 2017.

Fuel set to music. 

DoubleShot – On Early Mornings & Gym Junkies 

This morning I got out of bed at 2:45am. Yep, by choice. (Again.)

Beating my 3am alarm by 15 minutes & cursing the fates for being born a true early bird, I opened a squinty right eye. The left followed begrudgingly. Blinking, I gave my gorgeous fiancee a sleepy smooch and then staggered to the guest room. Donning the gym clothes I’d set out the night before, I feel really good for getting this far! In my head I still hear my high school basketball coach saying “Proper preparation prevents poor performance!” Well coach, the 5P’s stuck.  And now, instead of leading us to a High school basketball Championship, they help to ensure I’m slightly less likely to bail on pre-dawn exercise. Thanks for the inspo – all these sleepy years later!

Out the door I head – into a warm, sticky, buzzy summer’s morning, momentarily serenaded by a few notes of a Tui’s summer song from the tree above, and a handful of quiet hopes for the day ahead. I won’t make mention of the buzzy mosquitoes (ruh roh, just did!) that quietly snuck into my car for the ride to the gym.

Quite often, I spend the two hours between waking up early and the onset of dawn in blissful solitude (loud gym solitude!) while injecting my bloodstream with a well-needed dose of endorphins. I treasure these moments. Seemingly stolen, and always spent with a clear mind open to creativity, consultation, and competition.

Along with the buzz of moving my body, early morning sweat-sessions also to help balance my mind. Being awake while everyone else snoozes means I’m able to undulge in some of my favorite pastimes – the ones that fall by the wayside when you work long hours and are a Momma, too. While gymming, I read a lot of news, industry trends, interesting facts, and really just binge on chewing-gum-for-the-brain, snackable pop-culture memes, droll tweets, and addictive YouTube silliness. I find I am more inspired to to write more often when I have time to simply ingest content and think on it.

Ah, 3am. Bliss.

Bliss?

Honestly, I’d love to be someone who enjoys leisurely, lazy, languid sleep-ins past 7am (yes, even on weekends). Heck, the thought of snoozing until noon, curled up under a soft duvet with my beloved, sounds heavenly. But, reality being what it is (ahem, real) means that I’m up and at ’em each day before most people. And, while the reaction I tend to get when people find out my wake-up time tends to be “ARE YOU CRAZY???” I can honestly say: Nope. I’m not.

You see, there’s a gorgeousness to stillness. And silence. And the last remaining remnants of the night before as it morphs into a new day. Not to sound like too much of a hippy, but I really do think there’s magic in watching the world wake up – and in finding a rhythm between myself as an individual, and the universe as a whole. Quite often I do my best work first thing in the morning. Fresh mind, slightly caffeinated, and completely at peace. My goal is to greet most days with vigor and grace. All of this happening before the stress, hurry, hustle, bustle and pace of the day sometimes has me forgetting the beauty in being still and quiet… or, in moving the body while thinking.

I know a lot of people that fill their batteries at the other end of the day. Folks who like to stay awake until 3am. People with eyes that sparkle well into the wee small hours (mine drag!) It’s almost as if there’s an unspoken handing over of a torch when you put a night-owl next to an early-bird. And, I think it’s fairly fabulous that we, as humans, are so diverse not only in our thinking and beliefs, but in our body clocks and natural states of stasis.

So, what’s the point, Cass? The point is this: Yay for us early-birds! And, yay for the night owls. No matter when you greet the day or put it to bed, fill your batteries. Keep your engines fueled. Move your body. Get inspired on your own clock – no one else’s! Do what you need to do, when you need to do it, to stay balanced. Even if balance means 3am workouts and super snoozy evenings that sometimes call for a sugar-free Red Bull or two.

Fuel your best! Embrace your weird. Be thankful for understanding fiancees/partners/roomies when you’re up super-early. And, celebrate the “ARE YOU CRAZY!?” comments when they come. Because, normal is soooooooooooooooooooooo last decade.

 

My Top Sixteen in 2016

Let’s be honest. From the moment Bowie died, the wheels started to fall off for 2016. The fact that the universe began tilting askew only ten days into the year should’ve been worrying at the time. And, with the beauty of hindsight to look back on, the passing of such a gargantuan icon so early meant more than many of us could’ve known at the time. 

Whether it was Bowie or just some kind of fu*ked up aura, from very early on in 2016 it was apparent that the highs were  going to be seriously high, and the lows were going to be the lowest many of us had ever known. For me, and I think for a lot of folks out there, I’ve been left with a calmness, a feeling of relief, that this year is over and a new year is beginning. This trip around the sun was mixture of saccharine sweet happiness, rotten milk, all wound up with a kick of vinegar and spice just to keep us honest.

January was celebrated, sun-drenched, and full to the brim with friends and family. A big ‘ol Californian contingent spent time vineyard hopping on Waiheke Island, and then played at being tourists around the North Island. A great start to a year that, with the gift of hindsight, was to become a superbly confusing, but beautiful, one.

We celebrated the birth of our beloved Sloane in February. Enjoyed Auckland Pride in Ponsonby. Played in the sunshine as often as we could. And then, we rocked through March. We became engaged in Melbourne. We celebrated. And then, spent time with our loved ones in April back home for a blink-and-your-missed-me moment, while I ticked a professional-bucket-list-item off in heading to San Diego to speak at the Social Media Marketing World Conference.

May and June were a blur. Of work, of life, of finances. I bought a house. Mended fences. Fell deeper in love. And, pushed buttons – challenging the status quo. Attempting to get others to believe in the value of Common Sense.

Together with family and friends, I stayed standing even when the world shook around, below, and above me. Sometimes I wondered if it was all worth it – it was, and is.

July was bliss. Home. California summer. Love. Las Vegas nights. Hollywood birthdays with new friends. Old friends rediscovered randomly on Santa Monica Blvd cross-walks. Wow, July. My favourite month became even more superb.

August came and went quickly. Which was a blessing in the end. Because, as I would find out, the meaty part of the year was still ahead of us – and, let’s not confuse this meaty bit with a prime cut of filet mignon, it was a dry, stinky jerky I’d soon be chewing on.

September and October brought uncertainty. Pain of loss. Loss of a belief in the goodness and fairness of others. Loss of trust. Loss of confidence. Loss of self. Had I not had my stunning fiancee, adoring baby girl, and friends & family who continually reaffirmed that ‘you are fine, you are capable, you are better than this time…’ I’m not sure I’d be writing this right now with any semblance of a positive spin.

A light in the darkness, our beloved nephew Oscar was born on the eve of another trip home to California to see my best friend of over 30 years marry her amazing Eddie. California was kind, gentle, loving, and soaked in sunlight. The trip home in October restored my faith in me. In my capabilities. In the solidifying of what matters most in life (hint, it’s the people you love most – not any of the other noise).

Late October, it was back to New Zealand, where I began a new adventure professionally. Meeting new people with big ideas, sparkling with passion as a business, and married to doing world-class work as a true team – I’d found my place and my people!

November, you were a superstar – save for a certain American presidential election which I have almost completely erased from my mind for the sake of keeping my sanity in check. If I ignore it, it’s not really real – right? My darling and I had an amazing birthday getaway on our beloved Waiheke Island and we spent the entire month laughing and dancing in the kitchen. Seriously! November, you’re my Boo.

But, all good things (I’m learning) must come to an end. Early December brought unexpected change. The wheels looked like they’d fall off. The ride got wobbly. Tears. Loss. Disappointment. But, after just having had a lot of change, I shook it off. And… joy, sunshine, happiness, thankfulness, and more were restored to my head and heart.

Looking back on 2016, it’s been a mixed bag. Not just for me, but for all of us. While I greeted each new day with energy and hope, I also felt an omnipresent wariness of life-lessons yet to be learned (or, learned again).Because of this, and keeping in the tradition of lists at the end of years, I’d like to share sixteen things I learned (or had reaffirmed) in twenty-sixteen.

In no particular order, here’s what I’ve got for you! Take the gritty, the pretty, the optimistic, the not-so-positive, the uplifting and mix them, mould them, and meld them to suit.

More than anything though, remember this one thing: 2017 is coming.

Sixteen lessons I’ve learned in 2016

1) Sometimes kindness will be echoed with deception, disappointment, and deceit – be kind anyways. Yep, some people are just dickheads. Plain and simple. No matter how kind, hard-working, loving, helpful, or patient you are – they’re only out for themselves. I learned this (again) a few times this year. But, ya know what? I decided it’s more important to cut loose the bad eggs without letting them cool my fire, calm my passion, or temper my kindness. Everyday is another day to practice being kind. If you can be one thing, that’s the one thing you should be. It’ll ensure you a life full of love, friendship, and strong connections with those who matter most.
2) Work is work – spend time in the office, be passionate, be firm, and always learn… but remember that family & friendship is everything. This one is pretty self-explanatory. In a world where we’re all ever-connected, and trying to climb that proverbial ladder, we often put our friendships, marriages, and important relationships last. If this year has taught me anything, it’s this: work is work. While you can be passionate and proud about what you do, it shouldn’t replace your time with family and friends. Finding a good work-life balance (or, rather, integration) isn’t always easy – you have to work at it. But, believe me, the important stuff is your time and your people. Invest there, too.
3) Saltwater is the best salve. Beaches, tears. The beach has been my saviour for many years. Whether on a Californian shore, swimming in the Mediterranean, or looking out across the Pacific attempting to see home on the other side – the ocean and the sand beneath my feet have always been the best way for me to find silence, and calm. There’s a quote about seawater and tears both being the most healing things in this world, and I for one can say this isn’t far from the truth. If you can find a beach, go sit near the water. Watch the power of a gentle tide. The ebb and flow – like the heartbeat of the earth itself. When you feel small, you’ll find your centre. Promise.
4) 3am is the perfect time of day to restart. And, to sweat. When I tell people I go to the gym at 3am (not everyday!) the answer is always “Oh my god, you’re crazy!” Well… nope. I’m not crazy at all. In fact, I know myself well enough to be able to damn any clock or set metric of time if it means I get to prioritise my health. One constant in my life has always been athletics. Dad had me catching pop-flies by the ripe old age of two. From there, my life was full of sports, of teams, and of learning to work with and alongside others. Exercise for me is more than just physical, it’s the clearing of the mind while the body takes over. A sweaty, sometimes uncomfortable type of meditation in motion. The time at which I do it? It’s not important. Doing it is what matters. And, right now as a mother, colleague, friend, fiancee and more… 3am is the time I can have for me. Just, me.
5) Taking time to think deeply, to feel immensely, and cry recklessly is important. We’re all so damn busy. All. The. Damn. Time. One of the most healing, balancing, and strengthening things you can do in our connected age is just stop. Smell the roses, if there are some, or just look out a window and think. Let your mind and your body ‘just be’ for a while – and you’ll be amazed at the clarity that comes with small, meditative moments to yourself. I find my silence in motion. Exercise, walking by the beach, hiking outdoors… just me, the breeze, and an hour to feel. A lot of the time I’ll take time to recognise and allow emotions to overwhelm me. Yucky, ugly crying. Loud, rowdy thoughts. Chilled, calm soul. Whatever you need to balance, do it.
6) It’s okay to ask for help. This one seems simple. In fact, it’s a piece of advice I happily delve out to friends and family alike. Often. But, when it comes to treating ourselves as well as we treat others, the rules oftentimes don’t apply. When it comes to asking for help though (be it financial, emotional, or otherwise), it’s important to allow yourself the ability to do so. Weakness is not inherent in realising you need extra hands to carry the weight of your world – it’s strength that comes with allowing others to help. For me, asking for help has gotten easier with time. Just as I love helping my friends, I’ve realised that my friends love helping me. So… in 2017, when you need a hand up, ask. It really does take a village.
7) It’s okay to trust other people at first glance – and keep trusting them – even if you’ve been burned before. Right, so this is a hard one for even me to swallow. This year’s come-to-Jesus moment happened all at once, when people I trusted broke our shared trust irreparably. After this happened, I found a voice inside my head whispering (sometimes shouting!) ‘DO NOT TRUST ANYONE ANYMORE!’ My head and my heart were trying to keep me safe. And, if I’m honest, I listened to both for a while. But, I found that not trusting people caused me to be completely unhappy. Completely un-me. At the heart of who I am lies a happy human. A person who believes in the good of people and the world. So, not trusting means not moving forward. And if you know me well, you know that sitting still + Cassie = not possible for long. A turning point for me came when I started a new adventure – and found a safety net in new plans, new adventures…and new people. People whom I trust completely. The moral of the story? Just because you’ve been burned before, doesn’t mean you can’t safely stand (or dance) next to the fire again. Be bold. Be brave. And, trust in the goodness of others. 
 
8) It’s also okay to change your mind. Often. Yep. It is. Believe me… I’ve changed my mind more times in the past year than I had in the previous 33.5 years combined. Why? Because I am a grown-ass adult woman who is allowed to consistently learn, evolve, change and mould myself into a better version of who I am now and will be in the future. Just because you feel like pizza for dinner on Wednesday, doesn’t mean you can’t have Thai on Thursday and Japanese on Friday. I highly recommend getting comfortable with recognising moments in which you might just need to suck up a bit of ego, and flip-flop on a choice. Be it a big or small moment, allowing yourself to change your mind also allows other people to see a bit more of your genuine self. Holding tight to outdated beliefs – or even just being hard-headed for the sake of it, won’t get you very far down the road of life. And, it won’t find you happiness. That’s for certain. So, in sticking with a theme I see materialising now, go easy on yourself. Allow the winds of change to carry you where they may – just adjust those sails when and where you can.
9) Justin Beiber really is a mastermind musically (yes, I went there #Belieber) – so are Gaga, Adele, George Ezra, Keith Urban, and Christine and the Queens. Music is a language unto itself. Transcending languages, cultures, and experiences – it’s the one thing that can serve to glue us silly humans together as one. That said, it seems like (this year in particular) there are a lot of music snobs about. How about this, snobs… why don’t we just let people like what they like, and spend time not hating on Beliebers, country music fans, hard-house aficionados, et al. This trip around the sun, for me, was one made amazing when we talk about music. I discovered a lot of new artists (new to me), and really went back to the soul of what I love in music – storytelling. Think about Queen’s lyrics. Bernie Taupin’s. George Michael’s. There’s a new revolution happening, and it’s luckily favouring singer-songwriters who can yield both a pen and electric/acoustic guitar. No matter the moment, there’s a song for it or memory to be made through music. So, whether you love Slipknot or Bach, just do you. Turn it up. And, soak it in.
10) Shit is going to happen. When it does, roll with the punches and start your hustle. Shit is, well, shitty. And, it happens a lot. But, so too do good times. This year has been a decisively weird one because it seems like most people had a rough year, but not many of us can really say why. I mean, good stuff happened. A lot of good stuff. Probably more good than bad, really. But, the bad just seemed to be omnipresent. More like someone constantly poking at a bruise than an occasional sprain or broken bone. Does that make sense? What I’ve learned from the universe constantly prodding at ouchy bruises this year is this: complaining doesn’t help any situation. Neither does sitting still and wishing anything bad away. It’s perfectly normal and okay to rage and mourn when bad shit happens – but only for a little while. After the fall, you stand up. And you hustle. What do I mean by hustle? You stop feeling sorry for yourself – at least outwardly. You start smiling (again, outwardly). You start believing in yourself – wholly. At 35 years old, I’m fairly adept at the old bob-and-weave when life throws a punch or two at me. But, when a punch lands squarely between my eyes, I wait for the little cartoon birdies to clear, and then get on with it. Because, motion begets motion. And, moving forward makes me happy.
11) Putting yourself first must always come first. True story. This one, though seemingly simplistic in theory, is a hard one. Especially if, like me, you’re a mom, wife, colleague, boss, friend, cousin, daughter… etc etc. Modern life is, as we all know, BUSY. And ohhhhhhh, how I detest the glorification of busy. Oftentimes it takes just as much intestinal fortitude to take time for oneself as it does to take on a big project. I had learned over the years, but especially in the past year, to never ever apologise for taking time to myself. For taking time to work on myself. To better myself. To find my centre and learn. I found out the hard way (almost burning out completely) that being the best me that I can be is the best way to give to others. As cliche as it sounds, putting me first some of the time, helps me put others first the rest of the time. And, I’m a much happier human for it.
12) Binge watching YouTube channels (erm, hello Hannah Hart and Lacie & Robin) is a perfectly apt use of time. I never really was in to YouTubers. Never binge-watched channels. Never really consumed shows on YouTube voraciously… until 2016. This year was a year of discovery for me (in more than one way, on more than one channel and platform), and in that I have learned a lot from simply binge-watching funny, interesting, insightful, silly, crazy, in-depth shows online. My two fave channels, are above. Hannah Hart, a newcomer into my realm of knowing, is a big star on the interwebs. She’s got millions upon millions of followers, has a new book out, and a movie, too! But, she’s just Hannah. And, I love that about her. Her content is refreshingly funny, self-deprecating, and genuine. Check her channel out if you have time – she’s constantly creating new stories and shows. Something’s bound to tickle your entertainment fancy with her. And, alongside Hannah, I love Lacie & Robin. Though they may not have millions upon millions of followers, they’re just as amazing storytellers and content creators. Gorgeous women through and through, I am more than proud to call them friends. And, am more than okay admitting I binge-watch their content when they release it like a true fangirl should. 🙂 People always say ‘use your time wisely’ and I reckon watching all of the ladies listed above is as good a use of time as any.
13) Getting out there on a limb means you’ll gather more fruit… or something like that. Simply put, you’ve got to put yourself out there every once and a while if you want to learn, grow, and move up in life. Staying comfortable is okay if your goals in life are centred on comfort. But, if you’ve got goals that’s bigger than where you are right now (or, by rights, smaller), then you need to do something different that what you’ve always done before. That means getting used to being uncomfortable. And learning how to mask discomfort with confidence – until confidence is all you know (I’m still working on this bit). Just putting yourself out there for a new job, a relationship, a friendship… anything… is difficult. But, once you take the first step or make the first move, you’ll find that things usually end up for the better.
14) Being the most genuine version of yourself is the only way to really find happiness. Really! This year was the year when I stopped giving a flying f*ck about the opinions of people who have no discernible effect on my life. And, in doing so, have become the happiest, best version of me I’ve ever been. Ever. Living in the most genuine, unapologetic, open, and giving way possible has been healing. Epiphany after epiphany has happened. And, I’ve connected more deeply than ever with people I love on more levels than I ever knew possible. Moral of the story: just be. Happiness follows suit.

15) Find a happy place – a consistently healing place – and go there, often. My happy place is the beach. Any beach. But, particularly, a beach on Waiheke Island near vineyards, restaurants, and endless hiking trails for long meditative walks while sipping strong coffee. When I feel lost, down, out of energy, or otherwise just in a funk, the ocean heals me. A few times this year, when I thought I was at breaking point, I simply got into my car and drove to the ocean. Most of the time I’d sit in my car, windows down so I could hear the waves crashing on the shore…and think. Just think. Most of the time I’d lose myself in feeling small. And a part of something larger. And then, quickly, realise that whatever worry was tugging at my heart wouldn’t stay forever. From that point on, I would start working through solutions to whatever problem needed solving. Emotional, financial – whatever it was, it could be built up, torn down, or sewn up securely at the beach.

16) Call your parents (and your grandparents, if you still are lucky enough to have them) regularly. Just chat. Connect. Love them. The more time that flies by, the less you have to spend on the people who love you best. Call Mom and Dad. FaceTime. Skpe. Text. Remember to let them know you’re thinking of them as much as they’re thinking of you. You’ll never regret taking the time to chat about everything and nothing at all. I promise.
2016, you’ve been a frenemy to many of us. Just this week my childhood crush, George Michael, was taken at 53yrs old. Along with Bowie, bookends of a year than can also now be put to rest with sadness and genuine adoration in equal parts. 
Here’s to a new trip around the sun. To balance, to you. To all of us.
Love and light.
Cass 

Who Stole My Zen?


The world is fast. Beautiful. Broken. Uplifting. Harsh. Everything at once. It can build us up & tear us down quickly. All it takes is one interaction – one word, one Tweet, one text, one fleeting moment to change the course of a day or a life.

If I think about the world & my place in it too much, things (sometimes) can feel overwhelming – in a beautiful way, mostly.

Mother. Partner. Daughter. Aunt. Friend. Colleague. Boss. Ex. Bestie. Stranger.

Most days I ask myself: Which part of me will I strengthen today?  And, inversely, which part will I allow to crumble – if even just a little bit?  Because, let’s face it, when you focus on one area of life, others can slip. And, I’m completely cool with that.

When it comes to making decisions though, I find that, sometimes, the best way to decide is not to decide on anything at all.

Huh?

Practicing silence, stillness, and focusing on the present is a great way to just “be”. Whether it be relationships at work, at home, or in the abstract – when moments arise where everything seems too much, I find a quiet space, a silent moment & look for my personal zen.

Personal zen? It’s that special, untouchable thing that helps me return to a calm, content, happy & driven being with an end goal of staring in wild wonder at the beauty of the world around me.

Over the years, I’ve learned (mostly through falling, failing & getting back up again) that balance is always achievable if you take the time to do you. To work on & build your inner resolve. Time, effort, & introspection are all integral to getting there with the balance thing.

But where does one start? I reckon a little bit of practice daily, & one big decision to take ownership of your own zen could look something like this:

  • PRIORITIZE
    Put yourself first. Seriously, do it. Because, weirdly enough, being your own Number-One is really hard for a lot of people – specifically working women. We’re taught from day-dot to make others happy. And that we can only ever be successful if we look the part while playing by rules written not in our own hand. Throw that bull$hit out the door & put yourself first. Find what makes you happy – be it exercise, time to reflect, or even meditation. Do you. First.
  • WORK, FAMILY, FUN
    Work & family are all intermingled these days, aren’t they? Shutting off is damn hard. So, finding a profession that you love & working with people you love mean that you’re able to find zen in the very place that pays the bills. Personally, my team at work are my family. While we might not share blood, we share laughs, love, kindness, drive, & shared objectives. Having fun is a must – & this means coming home is just as amazing as heading to the office on a Monday. #winning
  • AMBITION
    Don’t be afraid to kick butt & be good at what you do! As an American living in New Zealand, I do sometimes still struggle with the “tall poppy syndrome.” I was always taught that you’re not a great leader until you create other great leaders. Personally, I find so much joy in seeing my team at work, my child, & my loved ones succeed. Celebrating the success of others, & actively helping others to grow themselves is the best work any of us can do. My advice? Never, ever be afraid to be proud of your achievements. And, in the same vein, always let others know when you’re proud of their successes too!
  • MOVE YOUR BODY
    Exercise. It’s basically magic. The best kind of magic human beings could ever hope to master. When you’re feeling low, when your confidence is lacking… hit the road, the gym, or the pool. We humans were made to move. So, make time to do just that. Lose yourself in the sound of your beating heart. Make being comfortable with the state of feeling uncomfortable your new norm. And, if you can remember one thing about fitness let it be this: it’s easier to stay fit, than to get fit! So, make a habit of fitness. Mind, body, soul. Start moving. You’ll be amazed by how quickly you find your zen.
  • GET INTO THE GROOVE
    Music. It’s a common language across all of humanity. Minor chords, variations of the majors. They work to lift us up & bring us spiraling back down to earth. Find your groove, own it, & lose yourself in the words & chords that make you feel like yourself. Whether you’re blasting out Ryan Adams, swooning to Joe Jonas, or find yourself rolling through Cam Country… music heals, uplifts, & help us all find our center. Turn it on, turn it up, & do you.

Balance, confidence, & zen. However you find them…make your life your own. And, enjoy every breath you’re blessed with.

And, feel free to leave your tips on finding your zen in the comments. I’m keen to hear your thoughts.

 

Cass