Friday, 13 October 2017

My latest article on The Huffington Post

13 October 2017

Archive of all my articles on The Huffington Post

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Banish The Blues By Living In The Present

I used to be unhappy until I understood how to live in the present moment. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not talking about being spontaneous to the point of not thinking about the effects of my actions, I'm describing a more philosophical approach to living in the now.

What is the now? Perhaps I should begin by explaining that our perception of reality is in fact the culmination of the past and an anticipation of the future. For example, we have opinions or behave in a certain manner based on our upbringing or past experiences. We regard the future as a phase in our lives when we hope to able to enjoy retirement because we would have saved enough to do so, etc... In the middle between past and future lies the present which is very much affected by both. If we consider that everything we do or say will have some bearing on our future, we would view the present as the only time in our lives which matters. So for example, if we were faced with an opportunity to be happy, we should take it because a) that opportunity may not come again and b) it will shape our future.

I recently went on a journey which was intended to reminisce and rediscover the past. I could not have been more surprised to discover how much the past is a foreign country. Everywhere I searched for the cosy warmth of nostalgia, I discovered that nothing had remained the same. The only constant was how I felt about a past lover. It was a profound time for me.  Not to reminisce but to discover the present moment, a feeling of overwhelming happiness that can't be bought or sought.

I've written in the past about one's disposition and the fact that despite travelling the world or metamorphosing several times over in our lives into different professions etc..., what never changes is who we are. I learned on my journey that I was the same person I had always been and after years of bad luck and sadness, I had lost none of the gentle softness which I had been forced to suffocate with an overdose of courage. I was moved to learn that in spite of everything which had occurred I was still the same.

What a relief to finally be able to empty my heart, overflowing for years with tears of sadness! What joy to be able to flee from the ghouls of dysfunction! Discovering the present moment as all there is, has been the beacon of light which brought me back from being lost in a desolate sea. I know that I am not alone and many will identify with the sense of living half a life, not necessarily full of regret but devoid of fulfilment and real happiness. Yes, there is fulfilment in accomplishing the mundane but we all think at some stage in our lives and as we look back, how things could have been so different. I would bet that those who never question anything in their lives are ruthless egoists who have no desire to understand the human psyche.

The human condition, in my view, is a riddle of what could have been, what should have been and what is. How once we thought we would learn to soar but instead ended up flapping about in a deep blue sea and resigned ourselves to mediocrity and disappointment. Perhaps for this reason the aestheticians revered beauty which I would argue, is the symbolic antithesis of failure. In our appreciation of beauty we escape pain, which in turn banishes sadness or fear, albeit temporarily. So too is unhappiness a type of failure because we think we will never find our way to be happy. Ironically, in our search for happiness we forget how to be happy and worse yet, how to be happy RIGHT NOW.

One could of course argue that as age accelerates, it is better to grab hold of the present because that could be all there is. Yes and no. Today is today and tomorrow will still be tomorrow. Understanding human complexity and accepting that in all our actions the self is in charge hence Steve Jobs' famous line about not living someone else's life. The self however does not have to be about ego. To love selflessly for example, is the purest, most rewarding and most virtuous type of love.

Living in the present demands more reflection and self-control (oh, the irony) than one would assume. It's not about grabbing what you can or wildly plunging into the unknown. The present is the balancing act while standing on the precipice. As the strong wind approaches to blow us off, we are able to fend it off by seeing the truth of who we are. And in that moment, we experience a blissful euphoria, otherwise known as happiness.

Photo copyright SvD.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Some love affairs never end

Je t'aime

Photo copyright SvD.

Endless possibilities

I feel sorry for those who live in cities, cooped up in apartments without a view or a vista that propels the soul into a realm far beyond the ordinary. This evening sky symbolises all that it happening in my life: change, transience, new beginnings, hope. I would often open a book randomly and more often than not, would fall upon a page where exactly what was happening in my life was mirrored on the page. Nature is the book of life and here it is in all its glory. Guess what's happening to me.

Evening walk with the hounds. Photo copyright SvD.

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Bordeaux, je t'aime

The one constant in my life is my love of France. I am lucky to live very near to France and can hop over quite easily. And so once again I ventured off solo with one suitcase and one piece of hand luggage in case my suitcase got lost. I normally drive but this time decided to fly.

I had spent many happy years as a student at university in Bordeaux. This time I was going to tour vineyards and take a couple of wine courses. And I should add, meet old friends who I was at university with thirty + years ago.

Suffice it to say that my trip was the best holiday of my life and one which I could probably write a book about. We're older but we're the same and how we feel will never change- that was the lesson we learned seeing each other after thirty years.

I walked the entire length and breadth of the center of Bordeaux- 65 kilometres in five days. Have comfortable shoes and the world is truly one's oyster. As a single woman, walking holidays in safe places are the most important part of my holiday and I can say that I never felt threatened in Bordeaux. I walked everywhere by myself and gladly have lived to tell the tale. Bordeaux is breathtakingly beautiful, easy to navigate on foot and very close to the best vineyards in the world.

On one of my wine courses in St Emilion I met a French Canadian who told me he was retracing the steps of his youth before he died. That is the conundrum of what it is to be human, my dear friend.

 Learning to distinguish between Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot.

Some of the 750,000 bottles in the underground cellars of CHATEAU DE LA RIVIERE.

Moi with a few bottles for lunch. CHATEAU DE PORTETS.


Some of the 22 kms of underground cellars at CHATEAU DE LA RIVIERE.

All photos copyright SvD.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Why The Past Is A Foreign Country

I recently returned to Bordeaux where I had spent many happy years, the best of my life, as a student. I graduated in 1987 and this year is 30 years exactly since I left university. I combined my desire to retrace my steps with winetasting tours to St Emilion and Medoc vineyards and revisiting old friends.
Photo copyright SvD.

I used to love spending the day in St. Emilion wandering around the cobbled streets of this ancient village some parts of which date to 767 AD. Thirty years ago I could walk through the whole village and maybe see a dozen people. Today the village receives 1.5 million tourists annually.
St. Emilion. Photo copyright SvD.

Bordeaux is now the second most visited town in France after Paris.
Ripening  grapes, St. Emilion. Photo copyright SvD.

I recognised nothing during my trip of how things used to be. In fact, I felt acutely aware of how I had aged and my memories were balancing off a precipice soon to be shunted into oblivion. The world has changed and seems intent on being bigger, more dynamic, more relevant and in my view, more false. There was a time where the quiet stillness of my soul could be found munching 'macarons' and sitting with my feet in the pools of spring water of the ancient communal stone laundry in St. Emilion which this time 'round, I couldn't find.

How the world has changed! I learned on this vist to retrace my steps that we can't recreate the journey we had to embark on in order to learn and to be what we needed to become.

One of these bottles is the year I was born. Photo copyright SvD.

Friday, 15 September 2017