when what you have & where you are is enough.

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“Be content with what you have;
rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking,
the whole world belongs to you.” ― Lao Tzu

i’m not necessarily talking about material things. i’m not talking about the things that you  and i own. or the things that we wished we owned. i’m talking about something a little deeper than that. i’m talking about what we have inside of us.

we try so often to fill that space inside of us called “happiness” with things that are outside of us. we think that if we live here, or travel there, or buy this, or own that, then we will finally be happy. but, it doesn’t work like that.  not at all. at least that’s not how i have experienced it.

the thing that brings us happiness is not outside of us, but inside. it is the choice to decide to be free. for, as i once read, someone, somewhere, said that we can always choose to be free. even if we feel (or are) enslaved and trapped. if that weren’t true, all the martyrs throughout history would have never achieved martyrdom. though they found themselves in prisons and facing death, they chose to be free. they chose to listen to their soul and to be content with their lives & their decisions to be faithful to themselves, regardless of their outside situations. they lived the phrase, “no one can steal your joy.” and, of course, there are hundreds, even thousands of heroes today who choose to be free, even in the midst of violence, war, hunger, homelessness, and sickness.

one year i met person after person who lived what we would call difficult lives, but who seemed to be completely free and at peace. these people just came into my life at random times and in random places over the course of that year. on the street corner. or outside the church where i worked. in a bookstore in anchorage, alaska. they were all homeless people, on journeys of their own. with a mission. to help others or to walk across the usa or to find themselves. when i met each of them, they were all looking for a little nourishment. and, as i sat with them, they each had tons to teach me about what it really means to be happy, or content. because they all were. their lives were not easy, but simple. they lived in the middle of difficult situations and faces challenges every day, and yet they were content. they relied on the kindness of others. they wandered. they prayed. they shared. they were at peace.

am i that brave? am i that content with simplicity? perhaps not. but, it is something to strive for… contentment.

however, at least i know that, while i love to travel and believe that there are some places where i might be better suited to live than others, my happiness, my ability to be content and at peace, does not rely on my outside surroundings, where my home is, or the things i own. because truly, i don’t need that much to survive (as evidenced by the empty apartment i am living in right now).

my happiness, my peace, my ability to be content relies solely on my choices and my connection to my inner life. do i choose to truly live life and be alive? do i choose to take time to listen to what my soul is whispering to me? do i choose to focus on the positive? do i choose to spread good energy? do i choose to see every day as an adventure and every moment as something sacred? it’s all up to me. and it doesn’t matter where i am.

so i chose to do this…

compass tattoo
day 20 | contentment… my compass. my guide.

i had written about wanting a new tattoo in my guest post over at for the love of wanderlust. and i really wanted to get it in sweden before i moved to the states. well, since time was running out, it just so happened that i was able to get it yesterday.  yippee!

this new piece of art not only symbolizes my ever-growing thirst for travel and my wanderlust-y tendencies. but, it is also a reminder, a symbol of my true guide… my soul. each time i look at it, i will be reminded that i am never truly lost, as long as i know who i am. as long as i let my soul, my heart, the spirit guide me.

it’s true that i am a wanderer. and i believe that life is a continuous journey out into the world, one of exploring new places & people. but, the beauty of life is that it is also a journey inward. a never-ending journey exploring and discovering who we are and who we want to be. but, no matter how far i roam, or where i am, i am never, ever lost.

and like the other tattoos that i have, my compass has instantly become part of my story told in symbols. representing different places in the world, and different phases and ideas in my life. i may have grown and changed in my thoughts, but the foundational belief or idea behind each tattoo i have remains a steadfast, core truth in my life. and it represents a very specific time and memory and belief.

so, contentment? it’s not an elusive thing. it’s a conscious thing. it being mindful and aware of all that we already have… within us. our souls are our guides to contentment and inner peace. it is a life-long journey and a daily practice of just being present.

i wish you each of you some moments of contented peace today, in the midst of the hustle & bustle of your life. may you find some peace & feel loved even in the middle of the hectic moments.

contentment is just a long, deep breath away. peace.

be present. what a great idea.

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i am reading the tao of inner peace by diane dreher. and right now, i’m in the middle of the part on simplicity. i suppose you could argue that the whole book is about simplicity, but there is one part really struck me. i’ve been thinking alot about life, and how we have the power to choose the life that we want to lead. we may not be able to choose the circumstances we find ourselves in, and they may be very crappy circumstances, but we have the power (always!) to choose how we respond to those circumstances. how we act. and react. we have the power to change, or not. and again, we may not be able to change our circumstances, but we can always change and choose our attitude.

but, we must be strong. and self-aware. and vulnerable. and flexible. and hopeful. all at the same time. nevertheless, we have the power to choose how we face the day when we wake up in the morning. will we see it as a day with opportunities or a day with “musts” and “shoulds”?

however, it’s not as easy as just flipping on a little positive switch in our brain. i believe that in order to be able to find the strength to choose to seek & spread peace, to choose to spread out positive energy, we must begin to be in touch with ourselves. but, we have that power, if we tap into it.

in other words, we must simplify our lives just enough in order to focus on what is really important. we must slow down enough in order to simply be with ourselves. we must center ourselves, so we’re not just living life and going through the motions, but really feeling alive.

the way of the tao teaches that “without the center, the surface means nothing… what we are brings meaning and purpose. beneath the restless surface of our lives lies a deep source of peace, power, and inspiration. we find that deep center in reflection or meditation.”

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for the next 5 days i’m focusing on being present. living in the moment. slowing down. the next 5 challenges in june’s photo journey of simplicity are all about just being. and remembering that those quiet, alone, reflective moments are ones we need to remember to carve out each & every day. at least that’s what i believe.

quiet. alone. contemplative. present. alive. yeah, these are my focus words for this week.

i think that just being allows us to be with ourselves, which is sometimes difficult, but always a fantastic learning & growing experience. and right now, since we don’t have a tv anything in our apartment, life is pretty quiet and simple. part of it drives me crazy… but at the same time, i love the challenge. and i know it is good for me. i know that my soul needs to breathe. i know that i need to remember to be friends with myself. i know that i need to to just sit & listen, so that i can hear the heartbeat and music in my soul. only through listening will i know true peace. only through listening will i discover who i am. and remember who i am not.

i am not the labels that define and describe what i do or my relationship to others. i am, in fact, not defined by anything outside of me. who i am is found deep within my inner self. my soul. it is found in the same divine and sacred stardust, magic, spirit (or whatever you call it) that lives within each of us. of course, we are not all completely the same. we are created to be unique, beautiful creatures, each with unique, beautiful gifts to be used in the world; and yet mysteriously and wondrously connected to one another.

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side note: i just became aware that i am in the midst of a magical, special moment in my life as i type this. my love is sitting in our empty living room, picking on her guitar, singing loudly, filled with emotion as the bare walls and floors provide an amazing acoustic experience. and i’m on the bed, typing away, books open beside me. both of us, soaking up in our own ways the simple beauty of this moment. being fully aware. fully alive. fully in touch with our souls. so, i can feel it. it is a special moment of connection and peace. a gift.

suddenly, as a typed that last sentence, lina began singing & playing the song that i heard her sing the night that i met her for the first time. she hardly every sings it. and right now, she sits in the other room, singing to my soul. memories are rushing back. memories of meeting her. of my year of death and rebirth. of knowing exactly who i am. of knowing exactly what dream to chase. those memories were from 6 years ago… and in this moment, i know that hearing that song from lina in this present moment was a gift and a moment of clarification that everything is exactly as it should be.

and i am overwhelmed. with joy. and security. and fear. and excitement. and hope. and i know that this crazy journey to the states is exactly right for us right now.

well i did not intend for this post to go quite like this, but it did. and it feels right. but, before i settle in for the night, i’d like to share with you a quote i put on my photo for today’s word.

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day 17 of the simplicity photo journey | idea.

i am a true believer in the power of living in the present moment. tonight, after dinner, my love & i took a walk in the evening warmth. holding hands, laughing, strolling. and as we walked, my love commented on everything she was seeing. and she told me that she was purposefully paying attention to every little detail. she was, in fact, soaking up the sun’s rays and the present moment all at the same time. and i could feel her joy and her appreciation for life. i could feel her being grounded in that moment, in touch with her center and with all that really matters in life.

so, my friends, i urge you to find a moment over the next few days and just be. do it every day. while you drink your morning coffee. or while you walk. or when you lay down at night. or when you eat. anytime you have a moment to yourself. just close your eyes. and breathe. and see what amazing ideas, thoughts, and dreams come to you…

goodnight. peace & love.

green is the new black.

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everybody’s into going green these days. and that’s a good thing. our earth is a beautiful place to live, and somehow, we’ve got to get a handle on learning how to take better care of her. so, i’m all for all things green. and i do my part. i walk. i recycle. i turn off the water as i shower. i’m trying to leave light footprints wherever i go. i’m not so good at growing my own things, but i do buy locally & ecologically, when i can. but i am no where near perfect. i could do way much better.

as a part of the simplicity photo journey, i thought i’d take a few days to consider the earth. to focus on the simplicity and beauty found in nature, for she is one of the important things. and whether you believe in god or mother nature or whatever, nature reveals much to us about spirituality & interconnected-ness. simply being in the middle of nature, slowing down enough to observe the intricate beauty, can give us a connection to each other & the rest of creation. i call that spirit. and if that’s not spirituality, i don’t know what is.

in my opinion, living a green life is a way to take back some of the simplicity we are missing in our face-paced, fake, all-too-convenient world. now, don’t get me wrong, i love convenience, quick fixes, and the fast pace of the city energizes me. but, i also know that i i must balance it all. i must get back to nature in order to nurture my soul, and i must work hard to do my part to leave this world a better place…

today i had a staff luncheon… sort of a last hurrah before the summer begins – everything shuts down & slows down in sweden in the summer (speaking of simplicity…). however, we were not gonna just go to a restaurant in town for lunch. nope. we drove about 30 minutes out into the middle of the swedish countryside to visit an ostrich farm. that’s right. i said ostrich farm! i had no idea what an ostrich farm was doing in the middle of sweden, since they are native to africa. but, i soon found out that a man & his family read an article about the big birds and decided they wanted to raise them. soon i realized that they raised them for their meat. gaaaahhh. on the plus side, i guess, they were raised to be organic and free range. so that’s good, i guess.

anyway, aside from the whole poor ostriches thing, it was a fabulous day. the weather was outstanding. the landscape was the typical, eye-popping beautiful swedish landscape, and the company of ladies i was with was fun. on top of that, it was the perfect inspiration to get my head in gear for the next 5 days of the photo journey.

today’s word for the photo journey was grow, and i had tons of opportunities to snap pics of things growing. and here’s what i chose to be the official photo of the day:

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and here are a few others from the day. you won’t believe the beauty of sweden. even after living here for almost 3 years now, i still can hardly believe my eyes…

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it was the last time i’d see some of the staff today, so there were moments where i felt overwhelmed at the paradox of the beauty and peace, and the sadness and strangeness of embarking on something new. of course, seeing sweden in all of her natural glory today was both inspiring and difficult, for i will miss this country quite a bit.

but, i’m gonna soak up as much of it as i can over the next month. every single little minute. and for the next 4 days, i’m gonna do it by reminding myself what i have learned about living a simple and green life by living in sweden, a country that is serious about the environment. living here has made me a better person, a much more environmentally conscious person.

well, my friends, if you want to join in the photo journey fun, here are the simple words for the next 4 days:

  • wednesday: solar/sun
  • thursday: fruits & veggies
  • friday: vintage
  • saturday: recycle/reuse

take some pics, and spend the next few things thanking mother nature for being so amazing by going free. just let yourself float back to a time where things were much simpler & much more appreciated. and remember… green is the new black.

now go hug a tree. peace.