The humble, roundabout magic of curiosity

fullsizeoutput_3a6a

In my last blog post, I shared that it can be a difficult path trying to “follow your dreams” if we don’t really understand what this means. How do we find fulfillment in our career if we’re not even sure what brings us joy? You’re not alone if you haven’t found one passion in life that you know for sure your life will be dedicated to. And for those still searching, Elizabeth Gilbert gives some encouraging advice:

“If you’ve lost your life’s true passion (or if you’re struggling desperately to find passion in the first place), don’t sweat it. Back off for a while. But don’t go idle either. Just try something different, something you don’t care about so much. Why not try following mere curiosity, with its humble roundabout magic? At the very least, it will keep you pleasantly distracted while life sorts itself out. At the very most, your curiosity may surprise you. Before you even realize what’s happening, it may have led you safely all the way home.” Elizabeth Gilbert

In following this sage advice, here are five ways of engaging your curiosity:

  1. Try new things. One of the best ways to find things that bring you joy is to explore new activities. New events, skills, documentaries, books, outings, hobbies. If you don’t want the commitment of signing up for a long series of classes, webinars or otherwise, try to find opportunities to sample new activities in a stress free way. Volunteer for a one time event, sign up for a one day race, or ask a friend to bring you along to their sport, hobby or club as a guest. As an example, my friend is a member of a dance studio and they offer a guest pass to members each month. This has allowed me to try out some fun new classes with my friend without the commitment of buying a membership. Allow your curiosity to drive this process and try not to let judgement cloud your thinking. Don’t feel guilty if the new activity just isn’t for you. Knowing what you don’t like is just as much a part of the process.    
  2. Pay attention to your thoughts that arise during the day and your dreams. It’s so easy to go about our days on autopilot, but our minds and bodies give us clues as to where we resonate and where we don’t. If a job, hobby, or activity causes you stress, stop and notice if your body is responding with nausea, heartburn, muscle tension or otherwise. Our bodies are generally in tune with how we are feeling, and often times we are given physical signals that we need to make a change. Also pay attention to positive bodily signals! I was talking to a friend and fellow psychotherapist and he couldn’t help but laugh and point out that upon us starting a new topic of conversation, my entire body language had changed. I was suddenly leaning forwards, my face had lit up and I was talking really fast. This all happened without my notice and it was because I so strongly resonated with the topic. That’s an opportunity for me to follow with my curiosity and explore how I can dive deeper into this topic. I also noted dreams in the first line because researchers have demonstrated that our subconscious minds actively solve problems while we sleep. Your dreams may give hints about the new ideas and activities you’re exploring. I’ve posted an article and book on this subject at the bottom of the post if you’re interested in learning more.                                                                                                       
  3. Write in a journal or find someone to speak to about your experiences. The written word is powerful and can be an outlet to reflect on emotions and experiences in a safe space. If you write with an open mind, your curiosity may lead you to conclusions or a new way of understanding your experiences. It can tap into your deeper intuition. Writing isn’t a preference for everyone though, and if you prefer, speaking to a friend, therapist, coach or mentor might be a helpful choice. Sometimes clarity comes when bouncing ideas off of another person.                             
  4. Use visualization to try out new scenarios. Try stepping deeper into your new adventures and visualize a new activity or project and how it might play out in your life. If your curiosity leads you to something that sparks your interest, find a quiet space and continue to use your curiosity to fill your mind with images of this new interest. Picture how it might fit into your life. How does it make you feel? If you were to spend more time on this project or activity, what environment would you be spending your time in? And with whom? Try to picture how you might feel after a full day of this? Would you feel exhausted, or energized? Does it inspire you to continue training, practicing or developing skills in this area? This is an article that explores visualization and career exploration in a bit more depth:     

        https://www.forbes.com/sites/julesschroeder/2016/10/18/5-ways-visualization-will-help-you-figure-out-your-next-career-move/#3ad793fd412f                  

You deserve to spend your time doing something that fills you with joy. Remember that as you visualize and try on a new activity for size.         

      5.  Be flexible and open to change. Life is full of cycles, seasons and change so be gentle with yourself if your desires and areas of joy shift as you grow and change.

Elizabeth Gilbert quote:

“What to do if you can’t find your passion”

http://www.oprah.com/spirit/elizabeth-gilbert-on-the-importance-of-curiosity

The brain and dreams:

“The Superhuman Mind: Free the Genius in Your Brain”

https://www.amazon.ca/Superhuman-Mind-Free-Genius-Brain/dp/1594633681

“Sleep on it, but only if it is difficult: Effects of sleep on problem solving”

https://link.springer.com/article/10.3758/s13421-012-0256-7

Visualization

“5 Ways Visualization Will Help You Figure Out Your Next Career Move”

https://www.forbes.com/sites/julesschroeder/2016/10/18/5-ways-visualization-will-help-you-figure-out-your-next-career-move/#5dc9f741412f

Why the suggestion to ‘follow your dreams’ doesn’t work for most people; an alternative perspective

IMG_1121

How often have you heard the suggestion ‘follow your dreams’? It’s a phrase that’s thrown out frequently, and with the best of intentions. If someone is using these words, they are likely encouraging others to make choices in life that are intentional and from the heart. The idea is that this will lead to increased overall satisfaction and happiness, and who doesn’t want that? The problem with this phrase is that most people have no compass to figure out how to follow their dreams, and what that really means or looks like.

Some people have more of an intuitive sense as to their natural inclinations and focusing their time on what they love in life. But for most people this doesn’t come naturally, and that is ok! Paying attention to our intuition, abilities, energy, calling or whatever you choose to call it is a fairly recent phenomenon. Even 100 years ago, there were a lot more social restrictions placed on one’s career or vocation. If you were born on a farm in a small town in Saskatchewan, you were unlikely to have strayed too far from farm work in the prairies. With advances in technology, it became increasingly more common to start moving to cities and choosing one’s own career path. The world has become a much smaller place. But with more choice doesn’t always come more freedom, or so it can feel. There’s no instruction in school on how to figure out what we love or what we want to do in our life. Even career class in grade 10 failed me in this attempt, leaving me with an online quiz that told me my destiny was to become a cabinet maker or funeral director. This was left largely ignored by my grade 10 self, and I was left to make unguided decisions about my future at a fairly young age.

Without understanding what gives you energy and joy in life, it can be understandably frustrating to hear someone encourage you to ‘follow your dreams’. I definitely sympathize if you’ve ever felt this way before. I recently read about a new way to approach this situation, by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Big Magic. I am probably the thousandth person to quote this book in a blog because it is so incredibly accessible, inspiring and makes the reader want to instantly create. Elizabeth Gilbert encourages people who are struggling with this to follow their curiosity in place of following their dreams.

If we haven’t fully formed our thoughts or opinions on what we love in life, we can start by paying attention to where our curiosities lie. Our desires won’t always fall into our laps. Sometimes it takes courage and experimentation to jump into things that are new to us and find out what creates joy. Who knows what will come from signing up for that belly dancing or pottery class or volunteering at your local community centre. There are so many ways to follow your curiosity and intentionally seek out what you love to do. Hopefully by doing enough of this exploring, you can begin to answer the question of how to ‘follow your dreams’ in your own unique way. I look forward to exploring this topic again in my next post. Stay tuned ❤

Expanding the definition of career and exploring how to construct a unique, meaningful blueprint of your future

fullsizeoutput_3862

       I’ve recently found myself resonating with ideas about career exploration and intentionally making decisions that create meaning. As you can see from my earlier blog posts, I myself have transitioned from the world of physical health as a physiotherapist to a psychotherapist in the field of mental health. It has been a winding journey, but one that has allowed me to connect with a career that I love with all my heart, and can’t stop thinking about. So following this interest, I set out for Ottawa to attend a conference on Career Development called Cannexus 17, and I’m incredibly glad that I did. These are some of the themes that arose, and wisdom I gained from the sessions I attended at the conference:

  • An important area of exploration is tapping into what’s already there. Desires are sometimes dampened by external voices, but are usually already known.
  • Our careers and our lives do not have to be separate. A career is way more significant than just a job.
  • It’s helpful to find opportunities for making choices in our daily life that resonate with our vision for our own unique career.
  • Each person alone is responsible for making meaning of ourselves and our careers.
  • How can we find concrete stepping stones to turn self reflection and constructed vision into reality?

       For anyone in the field of teaching, mental health, social work, or counselling of any sort, this is an incredibly inspiring conference full of amazing insight into developing meaningful careers that resonate and provide fulfillment. I highly recommend it, and can’t wait to attend next year!

       Connecting with wise individuals in this field left me with the valuable conclusion that there are many people out there who crave meaning and deep connection from their careers. Don’t ever give up if this is something you crave and you haven’t quite found it. Sometimes it takes time, and experience in other fields. It will likely take some exploration, and getting up close and personal with who you are and what you really want out of life. Cannexus 17 allowed me the opportunity to meet an extensive network of warm, caring individuals who are advocates for anyone seeking deeper meaning in their lives. It was an inspiring place to be, and if I can pass on any of this insight I would be thrilled to do so. Have the courage to explore where you find your meaning in life, reach out if you need help to do so, and remind others in your life that they also deserve to connect with a career that sets their heart on fire.

Announcement: New Beginning!

           Sorry about the long pause folks, but I’m back! I’m here again to connect with you with a renewed energy. I have a pretty big announcement (that may not be news to some of you)…. I’ve begun a new career! I’m just finishing up my Masters of Spiritual Care and Psychotherapy, and beginning my new journey as a psychotherapist (mindfulness explorer/enthusiast, life architecture counsellor).

          I am beyond thrilled to be sharing this journey with you. I’m on my own path of learning, growth and change, and I’d like this to be a platform where I share with you ideas, concepts, questions and sometimes advice about making intentional decisions to create a life that resonates with you. So think of Marie Kondo and her words of empowerment to help readers fill their lives with solely material objects that spark joy. Only I want this to be a place where you’re inspired to make decisions about how you fill your immaterial world and make decisions about your life that spark joy. I want us to be able to inspire each other! How can we make space for who we truly are and how can we make space for our desires? Because our desires are sacred! Let’s remember and explore what sets our souls on fire. Life is too darn short to do anything else.

         I’m going to be posting weekly about various topics in psychotherapy, spiritual journeys, mindfulness, intentional decision making, travel and many more. I hope you’ll join me by subscribing and adding me on instagram, where I’ll be posting more frequently (@lauren_skye_w). Join  the conversation and comment on blog posts that speak to you or let me know if there are topics that would be helpful for you. Thanks for reading and connecting!

Home

It’s a hard thing to do to sum up 3 months of traveling. I just don’t think it can be done. But I do have some closing thoughts, upon arriving back home and starting work again and I’d like to share those with you 🙂

There are a myriad of things I love about traveling, including: making new friends around the world, trying new foods, seeing different clothes and artwork, listening to new sounds and music, and chatting with locals in their natural surroundings. But I love these things not only because they are enjoyable things to experience at the time, but the experiences are so significant they become transformative, and a part of my life experience. I come home a different person because I now understand that although we still fight for gender equality in North America, I really see how important my freedom is to my quality of life. And it seems so small compared to the struggle I see women encounter in the countries I visited. I see my patients in a whole new light and I am better able to get a sense of their story because I learned to understand my Nepali patients through gestures and smiles. This taught me to use more than just words to communicate the story of healthcare. I come home cherishing my political environment and human rights after internalizing the traumatic evidence leftover from the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia. These experiences and so many more have become part of who I am. I am happy to be home, surrounded by people I love. Yet true to who I am, I look forward to many new adventures in my future. Who knows where I’ll end up next!

DSC00980DSC00829

I thank you from the bottom of my heart for following me on my journeys through Asia and for all your lovely comments! I apologize for not responding while I was away, but I promise each comment made me smile 🙂

DSC01694

I have an important blog post on the way about a very special person I met in Nepal. I think you’ll find his work incredibly inspiring, I know I do! It’s on it’s way. I will also be posting some more photos from my trip. If you have any questions or comments, as always you can use the comment boxes below. Or you can catch me at lauren.wallis25@gmail.com.

Nepali mountain top experience

For my last week of volunteering,  I have done a village homestay near Pokhara. Along with one of my volunteering colleagues (who works as a radiographer at home in Australia), we were driven to the base of a nearby mountain village. We spent a few hours hiking up to the village in which we would be spending the week. It was a very hazy, rainy hike up to this small village. I had packed minimally,  but I still wished I could start chucking things out of my bag because it felt like so much weight on my back. As we saw the next morning,  the view from the village alone was well worth the hike. We awoke to a stunning view over the surrounding valley and the Annapurna mountain range everyday.

The village is small in geographical size, but the population including the surrounding area is 2500. So the health clinic we were volunteering at is the only one in the area and up to about 3000 people travel to reach the clinic’s services.  We were able to see a wide variety of patients in the clinic’s open hours during our stay. Some conditions included: a sliced hand from a farming accident, regular diabetes checkups, sick babies, high blood pressure checkups, headaches, as well as a wide range of injuries I was able to treat! I saw about 3-4 patients per day during the clinic’s short hours that I was able to assess, diagnose and provide education and home exercises. It seems that word got around that a physiotherapist was in town, because some patients with very similar injuries started coming in, people saying they heard from friends something might be done to help their chronic condition. It was wonderful to feel like I was making a difference to the people in this region, as they have no other physiotherapist. People would have to walk three hours to the town down the mountain to see a physiotherapist, and for the most part, the villagers are unaware of what a physiotherapist might be able to help with. That made it very difficult to leave at the end of the week, knowing it might be some time before another physiotherapist volunteer is able to visit.

One day in the middle of the week, we walked to a neighbouring village on the next peak of the mountain to watch a soccer tournament. On our way there, we were greeted by a family who was in the middle of wedding preparations for the next day. They insisted on sitting down to chat with us and sharing some delicious fried bread that they were cooking for the next day. The bride and groom are two of the kindest people I’ve ever met. The family insisted that we come to the wedding the next day, and boy are we ever glad we were able to go! Slightly overwhelming to the senses, we ate, chatted, watched, and ate some more at the village wedding the next day. The bride and groom were wearing beautiful traditional outfits, with vibrant wedding garlands around their necks. The whole day we were well taken care of, with nearly everyone making sure we had enough to eat and drink. The wedding was a welcoming,  fun, warm experience I won’t soon forget.

The day we left the village was a festival called Holi. It takes place in Nepal and India, one day apart. It’s a spring festival, known as colour festival, or festival of love. It’s traditionally a Hindu festival.  To me, it seems like an incredibly animated way to run wild, painting the faces of strangers with bright colours, shooting water guns and throwing water balloons. We hiked down from the village that day, and although we had no coloured chalk of our own, we were very appealing blank canvases to the young kids and teenagers we passed in the streets. Every time I thought our faces were saturated, a new layer of colour was added. Stay tuned for pictures next week!

Day to Day in Pokhara

I’d like to paint a picture of what my days have been like in Nepal to give you a better sense of what it’s like. We start our day by catching a bus to the hospital.  We only have to walk for about 5 minutes to the nearest stop. There’s normally a bus waiting there, our kind of bus we take to get to AB Care is actually a 90s style minivan, and it’s often full or nearly full when we arrive. There is a man on every ‘bus’ who hangs out the side and hops out at every stop, organizing people and taking tolls. There are no bus numbers, you just say your destination and they tell you yes or no. These rides are super cheap, 30 Nepali rupees (about 50 cents Canadian). A taxi ride for the same distance would be about $3, how pricey! 😉 On a busy day, way too many people are packed onto each bench, and some people are forced to stand. If you’re tall, good luck! You’ll be bending at the waist just to fit inside the van. We bump and jolt around at a good pace, avoiding cows and potholes,  listening to loud Nepali pop on the radio.  There’s something that makes me feel so good about saying no to the numerous taxi offers on my way to the bus stop and hopping in the van with all the locals. I feel a little more at home each day while I speak to kids who are keen to practice their English and adults who are curious what we’re up to. The people watching from the van is truly spectacular. 

After volunteering is over for the day, we head to an area of the city called Lakeside,  and it’s name simply refers to the fact that it’s located right next to Lake Phewa. It’s a long stretch of road that wraps around the lake, and it’s a touristy area that contains trekking shops, book shops, jewelry shops, cafés,  restaurants,  and bars. If we don’t have an outing planned after hospital work each day like hikes or cave exploring,  then you’ll often find us volunteers at Lakeside.  Perky Beans café on the rooftop is my favourite. But I’ve made such good friends with some of the shopkeeers that I’ve spent many afternoons having chia (tea) and chatting with them in their shops.

We have language lessons Monday and Wednesday evenings with Prem. Prem is a wonderful,  bubbly,  amazing teacher who helps us to pick up lots of Nepali, as quickly as we can so we can speak with our patients and new friends while we are here. He also gives us a good dose of Nepali culture,  and it’s always an enjoyable hour spent in his class. We have a great time becoming immersed in the culture here through Prem. He also does a lot of incredible work for others, and I’ll be writing a special blog on him later 🙂

More soon!
♥Lauren