I am, we are.

I am standing here In the dark. It is raining and the ground feebly trembles beneath me as a gentle storm appears to brew. The rain catches the edges of my hair, dampening it and darkening the tips in colour. My toes are slowly numbing and I wiggle them in anticipation of  being amongst the warmth of the tram that was due to arrive. The roads are wet and deserted and civilisation represents a scene from a 4am winters morning. I watch nervously as the time ticks past 8:45pm and my intention to reach home in good time gradually becomes threatened. There is no sign of the tram and I gaze towards the lady stood next to me, for reassurance. Knowing that there is a human body of warmth, one that carries emotions and sensations just like my own, provides me with an immediate sensation of connection and familiarity – the wonderfully strange reassurance of the company from a stranger.
It was at this moment that something became evident to me – if I was alone, my thoughts would be pacing, restless. Yet the obvious fact of having another human next to me was proudly comforting. We are social begins who were made to love and explore, thus when we come into contact with others, albeit briefly, their energy force field can penetrate our own, leaving a mark. Every day that we travel from one place to another, we are encapsulated by an energy force field, projecting our subconscious emotions onto those who we pass.
Keeping your soul open, allows you to pick up the sensations of another, even when they are painstakingly attempting to create a particular projection to display to the world. Occasionally the raw, uncut, uncensored, often dark emotions can prevail, painfully communicating this to the person who is staring deeply into your eyes. Most of the time, these darkened, more brutal, perhaps even less attractive emotions, are ignored and layered under a phoney facade.

Every so often you may encounter another soul that touches yours, softly yet intensely connecting with yourself- like two interlaced hands. Suddenly you don’t feel so deserted, you don’t feel betrayed by your mind and any old, reoccurring hurt may gently soften. Your souls reverberate off of one another and in that moment, the notion of time is obsolete and you are reminded, we are one.

10 mantras to help you on your journey

I’ve made it my life long quest to understand what it is to be happy and content. This may sound incredibly simplistic to some, but to other individuals who have experienced suffering, pain, tortuous thoughts or behaviours and a general disequilibrium of self, happiness being their only goal, is a tough one. I also understand that happiness is not a permanent emotional state that we can camp out in, feeling no more or less than eternal bliss. It is a wonderful emotion that reminds us that the dark, sometimes suffocating days will subside for the warmth eventually – we just have to be open enough to allow it. 

I came across these beautiful mantras through The Mind Unleashed Org and wanted to share. 

1) Even when I am alone I will remember that I am connected to all

2) I will find my path by helping others with theirs

3) I will not compound negative thoughts with shame

4) I will accept everybody wherever they are

5) I will look for and see beauty around me

6) I will allow abundance and good to happen to me

7) I will treat my mind and body as they deserve to be treated

8) I will dwell only on thoughts and emotions that help me grow

9) I will seek truth and knowledge

10) I will laugh and contribute positive energy to the universe

The disease of settlement

It is incredibly powerful. It carefully infiltrates every cell in your body and your mind. When you finally realise and acknowledge its presence, it spreads even quicker. Now you search those dense forests far and wide for the antidote – anything to cure this demobilising disease. This demobilising disease of settlement. The same disease that cripples your mind from curiosity and wanderlust, from encouraging you to pull back the curtains on life, allowing you to expose what is really out there, because in the world of settlement, the curtains are constantly drawn. 

Those dense forests that you struggled through, tried to rob your desire for more, whilst presenting you with a barrier to your own true self that you believe you in fact created. 

This desire is not a cheap dream sold to us as a scam, it’s a true state of being that only we ourselves hold the key to. But this version of ourselves is rarely accessed without a disruption to our equilibrium. We must suffer occasionally in order to allow ourselves to understand our true selves. Polarity. 

It must be a challenge to avoid the disease of settlement of course, otherwise, without it, it would be completely contradictory, it would simply involve settling. 

The most surreal day of my life to date (part 2)

Dad and decided to put our emotions to the side, silently reminding ourselves why we were here in the first place. We walked to the entrance of the camp, attempting to maintain an aspect of confidence in order to not appear too vulnerable. The best way that my mind was able to draw a parallel with the squalor that these human beings were living in, was to picture a miserable aftermath of a festival ground, which has seen nothing but terrential rain. Throughout the camp there were disregarded clothes and litter swarming the edges of every corner. I spotted some portaloos (‘who empties these?’ I thought). I was pleasantly surprised to see a cluster of mini shops with incredibly neatly piled stock (where was the animalistic chaos that the media so bravely declared?). Huge generators provided this short term dose of reality for the inhabitants of the camp. 

As we walked further and further into the depths of this vast makeshift town, we passed a nightclub with a multicoloured discoball spinning from the ceiling, an information centre, restaurants, a woman’s centre, a building that providing therapy, a town church and so many other points of rest bite – it was incredibly heartwarming and eye opening to see how the human race can react in situations such as this. One thought that did cross my mind, was how these people were able to buy food at the little shops – did they use euros or was there an element of trade going on within the camp?). This question was left unanswered. 

The camp was plastered with chalk drawings and colourful posters declaring peace and love – I couldn’t help but feel incredibly moved at these clear displays of emotional projection. Children as young as one were carried in their parents arms as they wobbled over the weaving stones paths. Every so often a pair of women strolled by with a plain look on their faces as if they were simply mooching around in their home town. My initial intimidation sunk as dad I blended in with the rest of the inhabitants and volunteers, left completely unbothered.

Embarrassed of our voyeur status, we called Lisa to offer our assistance. Suddenly, roaring through the muddy ‘jungle’ in a truck that resembled something from Mad Max, came Lisa. She jumped out and led us to a 2m by 2m shed where a group of incredibly young boys were staying. Lisa tends to this group of boys who are aged between 10-14 and parentless. The best way I can think to describe this woman, is as an extremely emotionally dedicated social worker (who is not being financially rewarded of course). For these parentless children, all they have is Lisa, the other volunteers and each other. When they roll over at night, the only thing of comfort that they can reach for is a fire retardant felt wall covering (after their previous ‘home’ burned down, the boys were helped by a local charity who provided them with a solid wooden structure, sheltering them from the wind and rain). Lisa attempts to feed the boys on a regular basis (leading them to get some food, they follow behind her like a group of baby ducklings).  However, feeding them is not her only task, she must also attempt to stop them jumping the night trains, where two children have recently died risking their life for some type of escape to the sacred lands of the United Kingdom. Her job is not a simple one. 

As we attempted to attach a gas pipe to a mini stove for the boys using some hair gel as a lubricant  (do’s and don’t’s essentially evaporate in the camp) a young, slightly rounded little boy grabbed my hand and began serenading me in his mother tongue. My heart sank as he signalled to the sky and back to my eyes, passionately closing his own eyes as he did so. The song made no sense to me whilst simultaneously making all the sense to me in the world. This moment didn’t fit the criteria of cliche charity moments we see on television where everyone dances around singing and crying whilst the chosen celebrity turns to the camera and encourages the audience  to donate ‘just £1’. No, the rain was beating down hard and the gale force winds encouraged the thousands of tents to aggressively flap in the wind. Unfortunately a vast amount of media coverage on calais appears to be overwhelmingly negative (cheers DailyMail). After receiving a hug goodbye, my heart truly began to ache. 

I did not leave the camp feeling as if I had made a difference that day, I left disheartened and a little defeated. The reality of the situation does not allow for rest bite or relief. However, the work that these long term volunteers are doing is incredible, and I guess that example of polarity between love and desertion restored my faith a little. I believe that the work they are doing is a beautiful display of unquestionable love that the human race can be so great at providing. Love can only transpire from one person to another through something untangible. This task does not deserve praise, just imitation. Get out there and do something.

The most surreal day of my life to date (part 1)

It’s quite a strange feeling knowing that the last time you embarked on this journey, the car was packed to the ceiling with belongings, holiday luggage and random antiques that your mother had acquired from the last brocante (she’s extremely talented in bringing dying pieces of furniture back to life, yet we still complain about her decision to drag around her purchases with us). During the 12 hour journey, our knees would often be wedged into our chests (only allowing for shallow breathing) and occasionally a friend, boyfriend or grandmother would be forced to squeeze into this tiny, frustrating space that ran on 4 wheels. I never considered the fact that I would mature to a point where I would deem  this infuriating journey to be one that I realised I was blessed to have even experienced. Today, I make the same journey to Calais with my father (only this time my dad drives from Belgium where he is temporarily working and I drive from Amsterdam were I now live – you could say things have changed). We repeat this journey due to the fact that we are offering some ‘hands on deck’ for the refugee crisis that is currently unfolding in Calais.

The journey

The nerves initiated as soon as I read the destination on the impending road sign and it was then that it all began to feel very present. I had to remind myself that these individuals have no option to turn around and go home, so what makes me think that I should even have the option to consider doing so? Presumably , the sensation of home is now non-existent for these people – it has completely dispersed.

Through social networking, I was able to discover a contact to instruct me on all of the ‘do’s and don’t s’ of visiting the refugee camp. The address, provided by a complete stranger via social networking also, allowed us to drive directly to the warehouse where the donated support was piled two stories high. It’s interesting how in these situations your ability to trust a complete stranger has to be inclined to increase, because at the end of the day, it is this blind trust that allows these organisations to execute their work in the way they do.

It soon became evident that every other number plate in the warehouse car park, displayed a nationality of people that were definitely prolific throughout the organisation of donations – Brits. My father and I timidly approached a group of people clustered together, smoking outside the entrance. They all possessed a look of enthusiasm, combined with a dose of sadness and exhaustion.

As we cautiously entered the warehouse I felt completely overwhelmed and genuinely shocked by the sheer volume of donations that stood before me. In a bit of a satirical way, with the radio gently pumping a bit of spirit in the background and volunteers carting items in and out, the warehouse reminded me of a slightly morbid Santa’s workshop – I’m a regular with inappropriate thoughts, sorry.

Dad and I stood between the two story high iron shelves feeling very overwhelmed, insignificant and in the way. This organisation felt like a tightly run ship and the volunteers knew exactly how to run it. Shortly after, dad and I met a feisty woman, who I’m going to call Lisa. She was a boisterous, yet headstrong  individual who dedicated her time to a group of also headstrong lads – many who had no parental supervision or care.  These boys (who she knew by their first names and various preferences), had either lost their parents through unfortunate death, possible abandonment or broken promise of return. The 5 ft 2, sharp yet distracted woman explained to dad and I that there were specific items that the boys needed – hair gel, deodorant and of course clean pants. Lisa explained that not only were these boys mischievous, but at times they were inconsolable and even dangerous. Lisa went on to explain how some evenings, the lads even ‘tooled up’ and shockingly mugged people – their dedication to survive was obviously evident, yet their ability to blend in and behave in the camp, was not. Thus, something such as hair gel obviously presented a bargaining tool for Lisa. At times, I found it difficult to mentally process the hardship that these kids had experienced being combined with certain elements of normality, such as wanting to smell good or have perfectly coiffed hair. Occasionally, the kids turned their nose up at certain brands of canned food that were handed to them and it was moments like this that gently reminded myself of the fact that they were still just teenage boys – this realisation allowed for the unproductive soppiness to wilt away, making way for some much needed proactive emotion.

After receiving the kind orders, dad and I went to the local Carrefour to purchase the goods. After raising just under 400 euros, it’s safe to say that this went a long way and bought a lot of pants – dad referred to us as the ‘pants people’ from this moment onward. Feeling incredibly determined, we then dumped the goods in the warehouse in the most organised way possible (there are strict orders not to interfere with the organisation of the warehouse, otherwise it becomes extremely chaotic).

Dad and I had initially agreed to perhaps remain in the warehouse as the camp had proved to be a vulnerable and highly sensitive area at times – perhaps we would discuss it together upon arrival. However, after a 3 and a 1/2 hour journey and with some guidance of other volunteers, it only felt right to make a visit to the media labelled ‘jungle’. Plus, the general tone for dad and I entering the refugee camp felt extremely non-chalant which subtly soothed our concerns. So, in response, we bit the bullet and decided to go for it – this is what we came for. No discussion was had, just a simplistic gaze to one another based on instinct.

Prior to entering the refugee camp, another volunteer requested that I wear waterproof trousers to cover my ankles as a sign of respect to those who support particular faiths where this would be thanked. I happily obliged, whilst mentally appreciating the volunteers’ sensitivity for other cultures – as if they didn’t do enough already.

We nervously jumped back in the car and using a vague map, cautiously made our way to the camp. After driving for about 5 minutes, a very subtle slip road forked to the right leading us to something which we could not have mentally prepared for. I gasped in disbelief, encouraging my father to follow my gaze, allowing him to lay his eyes on the enormous refugee camp that sat 10 feet away from us, yet a stone’s throw to the ferry port where endless amounts of holidaymakers  would be travelling happily back and forth – practically pulling the wool over their eyes, until the camp was out of their sight.

At the entrance, the atmosphere was tense as groups of men clustered together, staring out at the roads and the people gawping at them from their cars. Something just didn’t feel right in my gut, so we carried on driving, watching the entrance pass us by. First the pull of the handbrake and then the guilty look across to one another. We both voiced our reasonable concerns, and for a moment it all felt far too real. Our sights gazed around our environment to a police van that sat on the outskirts of the camp – we were both fully aware that this was only as a precaution for the tax paying public living on the outside. They provided an initial facade of safety within the camp, however it soon became clear that their interests were not with the people of the camp as they hid around a blind spot, naive to the goings on around the other side of that corner.

 

Amsterdam livin’

IMG_9597When you relocate to another country, your mind is forced to simultaneously process such a raw influx of information, that it is only natural to feel overwhelmed. I remember within my first month at my new apartment in Amsterdam (that still lacks internet, leading it to be incredibly lonely at times), my determination completely subsided and made way for pure defeat – that night I cried hysterically for about an hour into my fish dinner for no reason at all (I laugh when I reconsider this memory). Everything at that moment seemed so intense and devastatingly overpowering, I had no idea why. So what do you do in that situation? Write to your nearest and dearest, light some candles, count your blessings and go to sleep. I try to remind myself that as human beings, we require polarity of emotions, in order to appreciate the occasions when we feel good.

I’ve now been in Holland for around three months, and as far as relocations go, it’s been pretty straightforward. I fell into a job which I love, working with people who keep me entertained on a daily basis. I have a beautiful apartment (it’s not what you know, it’s who you know that does the trick) and I’m slowly starting to meet people – however this has been the part that has lead to the most personal detachment. The expat community is wonderfully huge in Holland, however the consequence of this demographic, is its fluidity. People are constantly relocating and contracts are constantly shifting. This truly tests your ability to be flexible when you meet some beautiful souls who you know you will be losing in the near future. Don’t get me wrong, when I say I ‘fell into a job’ and so forth, this implies that it was not necessary to make an effort. But, I worked my butt off to gain employment, meet new people, find somewhere to live, literally start my life from scratch – I was simply extremely lucky that everything came to me so quickly. The tip is work hard and eventually you will experience a change that is worthwhile. IMG_8732

There are blissful occasions when I am cycling home from work through the centre of Amsterdam and I find myself smiling the broadest grin – it’s these moments I cherish because I am able to experience a raw feeling of pure gratitude. Alternatively, there are times when I’m embarking on my morning commute when a man decides to ram his bike into mine as we cross paths – even though we both spot each other – this is swiftly followed by a ”fuck you”, to which i respond ”yeah? well…fuck you” whilst trying not to burst out laughing. Plus, although English is spoken by the majority of Dutch (something which has lead me to respect this race of people massively), the language barrier in work environments or social situations often reminds you of the differences that exist between yourself and your peers – I never thought I would be excited to hear a cockney accent as I walk by the canals.

Living in Holland is a constant journey of discovery in how to balance out the scales, attempting to achieve some inner peace and happiness, whilst still being kept on my toes, and it’s an experience that I am certainly enjoying.

There’s so many things that I’ve struggled with since I have moved here, and as a result my personality has definitely learnt to be more adaptable and to put it rather bluntly, all you can do in these environments is simply get on with it. Sulking and being caught in deep emotion are not attractive factors for creating new relationships or maintaining a positive environment. Moreover, when you’re lying in bed, completely alone and it hits you that you are miles away from home, you are the only one to comfort yourself, thus, leaning on others becomes void. This kind of thought process used to suffocate me, but now I find myself completely liberated. A work colleague remarked the other day ”I can do whatever I want to do and no one can tell me otherwise” – that’s when it hit me, that I am literally living the dream. Freedom without limits is such a privilege that we often forget to appreciate it. Now, it’s something that I feel blessed to be able to experience.

IMG_9489The key word for this situation is adaptability. In order to prosper and gain from these scenarios, one must try and remain open minded.

Skidding towards my destiny

A month has passed since I carelessly packed up my entire life and jumped on a flight to The Netherlands (I was filled to the brim with sedatives, regardless of the flight duration of course). My only regret at this point, is that I wish I had taken a little longer to pack my suitcase – if I had considered this and ignored the impetuous, carefree elements of my personality then perhaps my outfits would not be on a vigorous, repetitive cycle.image4

Let’s start with the comical. In The Netherlands, for most residents, it is imperative that you own a bike as this is seen as one of the most popular modes of transport. Of course, after initially purchasing a bike, the rest is free and that is the magical thing about it (although, the laws here regarding lights and so forth are quite strict – I’m currently ignorantly bending this law to suit the needs of my bank balance). Plus, the exercise makes you feel all giddy on the morning commute, theoretically segregating all of the miserable commuters to the tram and train (I soon learnt that bikes weren’t exclusive to happy people). So, after being stood up once (it hurt), I managed to purchase a bike and before I could even learn the Dutch word for bike (fiets), an old-school silver gazelle with a traditional gear system stood in front of me. (I managed to break the gears as soon as I trial rode the bike of course – leaving the seller’s hands covered in oil and dirt after he eventually fixed it on the side of the street for me). So, after a bit of a bump in the road, I was the proud owner of this beauty.

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Prior to the purchase, I was borrowing my aunt’s bike, to get me to and from my beach bar job. One evening, myself and another newbie friend decided to cycle into Den Haag and meet up with some others for some drinks (only a ‘quiet one’). After an entertaining evening meeting the funny locals, whilst slowly becoming more cheerfully intoxicated, and briefly rowing with some Dutch police, out of no where, the heaven’s opened. Ignorance was pure bliss as we embarked on our short journey home, whilst absolutely drenched without an ounce of fear or worry about the trip ahead of us.

As I was attempting to blink the heavy raindrops out of my eyes and wiping the tip of my nose with my already soaked through silk jacket, I gazed down at the floor to see my friend skidding past me in the road, shoe-less and in a fit of laughter. She had indeed fallen off her bike, rather gracefully mind. I tried to stop myself from screaming with laughter (I failed), so she threw her broken shoes in my basket and jumped straight back on her bike. Again, I arduously blinked, but this time it was me skidding to my destiny half way down the road. Opening my eyes, the ground was in my eye line and I could just about make out my own arm stretched out in the road. Clearly, our pathetic appearance screamed ‘help us’ and an onlooker ran out of his home to help the two tipsy girls who had fallen off of their bikes. Obviously, we both found this irresponsibly entertaining and continued to cycle home, holding back the tears of laughter . This accident was rich in riveting memory until the following morning, when my friend woke up in bruises and missing her shoes, whilst I awoke with an open wound on my hand and a broken phone.

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In reflection, the last time I remember confidently riding a bike was when I had a bike crash at the age of about 13 – no wonder I walk everywhere, I am completely accident prone and balance is not my forte. As you can imagine, I am now engulfed by terror every time I mount my bike. It is now my responsibility to gently increase my confidence, so I can eventually become used to the devil piece of apparatus – who knows, I may even be able to turn a corner without coming to an almost complete stop. Once I have that mastered, all I have to do is be alert for constant idiot bike riders, cars, trams, tramlines and pedestrians. Oh, and the huge, aggressive, appropriating seagulls, who are constantly out to kill – never eat, drink or move around a Seagull when in Scheveningen, they rule the streets here and will eat you. I saw one eat a plastic bag at the beach last week for God’s sake.

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