Archive for June, 2010

The Five Pillars of Happiness

So this is turning into a bit of a self help blog me thinks.. 🙂 I assure you, this was not really the main aim with the blog, and it will not become the main aim, but since its MY blog I get to chose what we talk about here.. 😉 And at least for me, this is a very interesting topic at the moment. Those of you who are not in need of any realignment or any more happiness, do not despair, I will move on to other topics after this, in the mean time though, I hope you can try to find this topic interesting anyway for what it is. After all, everyone is searching for happiness, aren’t they?

Just to be clear on something, it is not the holy grail of happiness I am about to reveal to you. My apologies for any high expectations I might have raised in the first paragraph. This is simply the first post in a series of 6, discussing a few areas and things related to them that I try to maintain as well as I can for a healthy balance in life, something that will then facilitate my Happiness. Its as simple as that, but believe me, sometimes it feels much more complicated, especially when you try to appease all five areas at the same time.

The idea for this series of posts is to one by one lay out my five pillars of happiness, clearly define them in writing instead of just having them in my head and then hopefully have a clearer idea of what I need to work on when I feel a slight shiver in my happiness foundation. The seeds for the idea of the five pillars were sown already during my time in Barcelona, but over the years the idea has slowly grown into something I realise is of great meaning to me. Unfortunately even after many years, I still feel the structure in my mind is not yet crystal clear, but I hope these blog posts will help me get a clearer, final picture in my mind of all of this.

This whole thing started with the sudden realization that three areas of my life were massively faulty and not stable enough to serve as the foundation that I want to base my life on. Having three areas so out of place made me feel unbalanced, out of place and unhappy, and this in turn made me continuously striving towards something that would correct the situation. Unfortunately I was never really sure what needed correction and what was already ok, making it difficult to single out the things I needed to focus on.

So I kept on being all wishy washy with everything, searching for happiness all over the place, and especially in the wrong places, before I realised its not ONE thing I need to make me happy, I need MANY things. To be specific, I realised there were five specific things I liked having in my life and that it was exactly these areas I needed to focus on in order to achieve my foundation for happiness.

I do admit that the reason I was in this mess was because I had ignored my true self for quite a few years, I also admit I had not been paying any attention to the faulty pillars while they were slowly eroding and crumbling to pieces, and lastly I admit that they did so exactly because of this lack of attention to them. But having slowly realised where the fault was has made it easier to little by little start building the pillars up again, and as a result, restating the balance into my life.

Without further ado, let me introduce you to My Five Pillars of Happiness (as well as the following blog posts):

Pillar 1: Home

Pillar 2: Family and Friends

Pillar 3: Love

Pillar 4: Work

Pillar 5: Health and Fitness

I wont go into these topics any more in this post, we will be here all evening if I do. Instead, I will discuss one pillar at a time over the next few days so there is enough time to reflect between each pillar, and I think by next week or so the complete picture will be revealed. Enjoy!

Stumbling on Happiness

I don’t mean to brag, but I have lots of books. I am already starting to have quite the collection here, as well as a bit of a collection over in England where I set up camp last. Then there are the ones that are neatly stored in boxes over in Finland and the ones that are still kicking around in Spain. Not to mention all the books I have lent people that are currently floating around all over the world. Well, in general it has become somewhat difficult to keep track of them all.

The book I was missing the most at the moment is “Stumbling on Happiness” by Dan Gilbert, well, that was until I realized that I had been clever enough to bring it with me so I could finally finish it! I started the book about 2 years ago, and I think I am still only on page 80 or so.. Its a bit ironic that I havent managed to read the book yet, especially considering I have read a lot of online stuff about it as well as just today rewatched the excellent TEDtalk that Dan Gilbert gave about this exact topic.. I will have to try to pick it up again soon, if only so I can finally find out more about where to locate Happiness.

Actually, after a bit of soul searching these last few years, I think I am finally, little by little realising what makes me happy and what keeps me happy on a day to day basis. Nevertheless, I still have quite a long way to go to really “get it”, but then again, what fun would it be if it was just around the corner? At least I hope the journey there will be as fun as the destination.

Anyways, in the meantime, while you and I are both stumbling around, why not watch the below video and pay some attention to Dan’s hypothesis that we as human beings are actually better off in a world of limits and boundaries that are helping us “make do” and “settle for things” in order to lead a happier life, instead of a world of freedom? Its quite an interesting thought, but I think he is on to something here. Watch it and let me know what you think..

Deep in Thought

Jack Vettriano PaintingAll my life I have been a slave of my mind while wearing my heart on my sleeve. Anyone who has made this same mistake will recognise how exhausting it can be to let your mind control your thoughts while leaving your heart exposed to life’s twists and turns.

Interestingly enough, I didn’t really realise how much this was affecting me until recently. I think I managed to miss the point for so long, mainly because I never had the tools to really deal with negative thoughts or overwhelming emotion, but also because I never really questioned them as being bad for me.

For as long as I can remember, my way of dealing with emotion is to wallow in it till it subdues. No matter if its positive emotions, that can take you on such amazing personal highs, or negative emotions, that can plunge you down into the deepest valley’s of darkness. For years I actually loved my highs, but did feel quite wiped out by the lows. Nevertheless I thought the lows were acceptable and worth it, even just as a contrast and to make the highs even better.

Whatever it was, I was stuck on this roller-coaster ride and what was keeping me on was my own mind I realise now. And this is where the whole concept of “slave to my own mind” comes into the picture. (I know, it was a long way to get to the point but now we are finally here!) I didnt realise it at the time, but I had given over so much influence to my mind and was letting it run havoc with  my thoughts on a daily basis, and worse still, I didn’t even question it.

The change finally started slowly and quite innocently by me giving myself a big kick in the a** and pushing myself to make small efforts to get back into dancing and all other things I adore in life. Thanks to these small actions and changes in my way of acting, I started affecting my thinking as well. I started to manage to almost chose when to be happy and when to allow a little bit of sadness in my life, something that made me realise how big a deal my own thoughts were playing in how I was feeling.

Surprisingly though for someone who would consider themselves pretty switched on, the real “Aha!” experience with regards to this didn’t come to me until recently when I read about it in a book my mum suggested to me. The book in question is “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle and it discusses awareness of the moment and awareness of everything within you and around you at every single moment, rather than stressing about what has happened or what will happen. Well, it has some other stuff thrown in as well, but this is the gist of it.

This book, along with its follow up “A New Earth”, are widely regarded as two of the most influential spiritual books of our time, and even more impressive, the author had his spiritual awakening at the age of 29! My gosh.. What have I done by the age of 29, except for wallow in negative thoughts? I finished the book and decided that I really should not allow so much freedom to my mind and so much negativity into my life.

So, inspired by this book, I have started focussing more on the presence, the small positives and the small victories of every day life. Its going ok, but I must say I do fail miserably at this at least once a day thanks to my stubborn mind still wanting to sabotage my daily happiness. But I think we are starting to learn how to coexist, and most importantly, I am learning to shoot down most negative thoughts my mind comes up with before they do much harm.

Having been given some insights about the mind and a few initial tools to handle it with, I am starting to realise how little attention we in the Western World actually give to self exploration during most of our youth and the years we spend attempting to become somewhat educated. It has made me wonder how much you could affect people’s well being by making these tools readily available to them at an early stage, instead of waiting for them to hit a point when they will either succumb to the lows or finally start searching for the tools they need to deal with it all. Why not provide them with the wheel instead of having every single person reinvent it themselves once they realise they need it? I know I would have appreciated having at least a few of the pieces of the damn wheel instead of having had to start from scratch.

Lately, I have been pleased to find myself back on the roller-coaster at times, experiencing fabulous highs, but most of the time I am extremely pleased with the fact that I feel so much more balanced and peaceful if I do focus on blocking out the negativity and just letting in positive thoughts. Funny how easy it is for negativity to sneak into our minds, while positive thinking takes so much more work. What a cruel joke by our creator.

The Underwater Project

Mark Tipple Photography

A Whole New World Under the Waves

Today Mark Tipple’s photography is everywhere on the net. The Telegraph is showing it, The Sun has a whole slide show on parade while The Daily Mail is flaunting his fabulous images alongside many other news portals who have all picked up on the remarkable visual treat these images offers the viewer.

And I must say, he has totally managed to captivate my attention and imagination with these incredible images. My first thought was, “So THIS is what it must look like when I tumble in the waves…”. My second thought was more a feeling. I am so impressed by this guy’s photography.

Unfortunately, the articles at all the above mentioned publications as well as a few other ones are quite uninformative and uninteresting. I suggest you take a look at the article that Photography-News did on his project in April for a better insight into this wonderful underwater world as well as the mind of Mark Tipple.

Edith Shain and the World Famous Kiss

Edith Shain I love kisses and one of the most wonderful ones that has been recorded for everyone to see is the kiss on Times Square by a nurse and a sailor in celebration of the end of World War II.

This epic picture of a young Edith Shain, all dressed in white, taken by photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt managed to capture an epic moment in US history, if not world history. The photograph went on to become an iconic image when it was published in Life Magazine, to mark the end of the war.

I love the spontaneity of the kiss, the slightly raised leg and the complete surrender as she leans into his arms. Who would not want to be kissed like that! 🙂

This blog post is in memory of Edith Shain and all the others who got to experience the wonders that is a simple kiss, following years of war and misery over such a large part of the world.

As well as a celebration of the kiss in itself!

Actually, I’m going to go get me one as well now…


Elderflower Cordial

Making Elderflower CordialI have the most insane craving for Elderflower cordial going on at the moment. I wonder if it is a sign of the times, i.e. Scandinavian Midsummer is just around the corner and I know Elderflower cordial will feature on a lot of lovely dinner tables this coming weekend. And I must say, I am slightly jealous of this.

Then again, I guess nothing is stopping me from having my own little midsummer treat over here. If you cannot go to the Finnish Midsummer, you can always bring Finnish Midsummer to you! Well, this works for most things, except for the Elderflower Cordial.

I have been reading up on this and would love to try making some. Unfortunately I have NO idea where I could find some Elderflowers around here, but rest assured that I will have a snoop around to see if I find some and if I do then nothing will stop me from whipping up some delicious nectar of the gods (i.e. Elderflower Cordial… 🙂 ) Alternatively, I might have to grow some, but that would mean no cordial until much, much later…

But in the mean time, while I keep looking, please do let me know if anyone has some good tips and tricks how to make a delicious Elderflower Cordial…

International Day of Surf

Yesterday was the International Day of Surf and I didnt realise it until this morning when I logged into Facebook and saw that some of my friends were boasting about having celebrated this fabulous day. Thankfully I had also been in the waves yesterday, so I actually think I was celebrating it subconsciously…

Anyway, this weekend was such a lovely weekend I just have to talk about it. It was exactly what I needed following my slightly lost feeling last week as it reminded me yet again of all the fabulous things I have going on over here outside of work. We went to a lovely little B&B in Esparza, Oasis By The Sea. The B&B is run by Rob and Deb and their adorable and MASSIVE golden retriever Dude. We only had the pleasure of meeting Rob and Dude, since Deb was out of town. Even if Rob kept saying that it’s such a shame we won’t get to meet Deb, he and Dude received us with such amazing hospitality I cannot even start to imagine how it will be once we pop by and Deb is there… 🙂

Rob, who is an excellent pizza chef and makes the most amazing breakfasts, took excellent great care of me and J while Dude extended his hospitality to Sofia and played with her during the whole stay. Sofia was ecstatic about having a new friend but did seem a bit over excited about all the new adventures she was being treated to on her first weekend away so I think the sensory overload was a bit overwhelming for her… But my gosh I haven’t seen such a content little puppy in ages!

We arrived on Saturday and having dropped off Sofia, we basically headed right down to the beach for some waves. I practiced my pop for almost two hours before it was time for the evening’s treat back at the B&B – a gorgeous vegetarian pizza prepared by Rob in his own pizza oven (I am slightly jealous of it actually… ), accompanied by a glass of wine (for me and beer for J) and the gorgeous nocturnal views of Puntarenas and the Caldera harbour. We feasted on the pizza and the drinks in their wonderful little rancho that sits nestled among banana and papaya trees, beautiful flowers and amazing greenery on their own little hilltop next to where they build their little house. This proved to be the perfect end to a long day of travelling and surfing, and we passed out at about 8.15pm already…

Having slept almost 10hrs we got up almost at dawn to head down for another surf. Now THIS surf was excellent for me.. I sat among the nice waves where I felt safe and comfortable (and not all the way out with the monster waves) and managed to get 10 really nice rides during the morning as well as improve my take off and pop so I get on the wave earlier, and don’t end up nose diving it as per usual practice. I did miss the company of J a bit, but he is such a great surfer and it would have been a real shame to get him to come in to the smaller waves when he was doing so well on the monster ones! Although, I must say I think the longboard styling is a bit funny at times 🙂 I have to look into this a bit more, to really understand what I should be aiming at doing on a longboard… 😉

Following our early 2 hour morning surf, we were treated to a gorgeous Texan dish called “Migas” which proved to be exactly what we needed to replenish our depleted energy reserves! Migas starts off as a kind of stir fry with peppers, tomatoes, onions and tortillas cut into smaller slices and heated up till lovely and tender. At this point the eggs are mixed with milk and spices and chucked into the mix. You then rummage around a bit until the eggs are all cooked and you have what looks a bit like a very generous omelette. Serve up on plates, add some grated cheese, coriander and jalapeños according to your liking and voilĂ ! Done!

We headed off back home around mid day since we needed to do a bit of a clean up of the house before our landlords came over for some tea and cake. I made another apple crumble for our landlord since he absolutely loves apple and cinnamon things, especially apple pie. As predicted it went down very well! I also prepared some custard (one of my favourite desserts, and super easy now thanks to J’s mum who gave me a massive Bird’s Custard Powder to take with me..) and a tuna salad to have something savoury before all the sweet treats. Sofia was a bit surprised to have guests in the house since we haven’t really had anyone over since we got her so it was yet another new experience for her.

Following so much excitement and so many novelties Sofia more or less passed out on the sofa around 5pm already. I have never seen her so tired and calm! Then again, I do understand her, I was pretty exhausted as well and didn’t take long to dose off into la-la-land myself following yet another excellent weekend in Costa Rica…


I am feeling a bit lost at the moment.. Well, actually, its not really that widespread. Its more like being lost with certain things, details in the big general picture. Its like fumbling around in one of the rooms in a big house of many rooms, but unfortunately exactly the room you happen to be in happens to be dark within that otherwise lit up house..

I hope you get the picture.

Basically, I am feeling very settled and happy with so many things in life, but seem to have constant issues with what I want to do with my 8hours a day that I have to spend at work. I have had a few weeks now of feeling a bit in limbo with things, these few weeks things in general have not been moving that much at all and this has made my itch for learning new things and doing challenging things quite unbearable.

I know, I know, and yes, I am being told I should sit back and relax and enjoy the ride instead of worrying about the fact that the scenery could be a tiny bit more interesting, or the ride a bit faster or just a tiny bit more exciting and challenging etc. But I have slight problems with doing that. I have always been a bit of a doer. Actually, I am more of an initiator, and I am an excellent initiator if I can hand over the project to someone else as soon as I have initiated it so that someone with more patience can finish it while I get to go on and initiate more stuff..I hear this is typical for people born in the Aries sign, so at least I have an excuse for my behaviour.

Anyways, I have felt this annoying itch now for a while and I think I need to look into adding some PGaD into my life as soon as possible, in other words, I need to look over my Personal Growth and Development strategy. My main problem is I feel totally stagnant at the moment, professionally that is, and unfortunately also somewhat unchallenged. The problem is not that there are no challenges, there are massive challenges in my work. The problem is I have not got the tools to properly approach these challenges.

Secondly, I can count the new things I have learned (at work) these last few months on the fingers of one hand, which according to me is quite unacceptable. You would think that starting a new job would mean that the first few months would be quite tiring and exhausting due to all the new stuff you have to internalize, unfortunately that was not the case in this situation.

So I am considering looking over my PGaD strategy again with the aim of reassessing it, and basically myself adding whatever is needed to it to make me feel a bit more challenged. Its not the end of the world, but I am a bit disappointed that once again everything will be up to me. And yes, I do admit that I was a spoiled brat who did not appreciate all the great trainings and educational opportunities I got to enjoy at Hewlett Packard and Accenture  while I worked with them. If I get another chance like that of trainings on the job I will definitely not waste it or not appreciate it.

But for now, I think I will listen to some more interesting videos about web 2.0 and about my new professional infatuation Sheryl Sandberg and then enjoy my cup of mint tea in silent contemplation with the lovely Sofia in my lap. And after all, things could definitely be worse so I will stop whining now and go look for some challenges. After all, usually in life its up to you to make the most of each day.

My Inner Gardener

My “Inner Gardener” is dying to get out.. I can feel her trying to weed her way out into the spotlight. She is dying to bask in the feeling of accomplishment in the aftermath of a successful pruning operation or simple cultivation experimentation.. Unfortunately my everyday self is failing her miserably.

A few weeks ago we set out to implement our own little herb garden on one of our terraces. We ventured off to EPA early in the morning and picked up rosemary, coriander, thyme, basil and four different chilli plants along with all the necessary tools for setting up a herbal headquarters.My Two Lovely (Still Alive) Basil Plants

So far all went well, after all, I am pretty good at the spending money bit. The replanting also went well and actually, the first few weeks have generally given us much pleasure and enjoyment from our own herbs while cooking.

Sadly, the coriander plant started to look a bit pale within a few days already. The latest update on poor Miss Coriander is not good. The poor thing is about to whither away, she has already lost a lot of colour and this morning I noticed that actually, I think mould is setting up camp… Not good…

Unfortunately I am a terrible apprentice of Tethys and have forgotten to water my lovely herbs on various occasions, resulting in the rather whithered look of most of my plants at midday today when I popped by the house. Thankfully I did have time to attend to them and I hope I was not too generous with my little red watering can this time, provoking the opposite effect on the poor dehydrated lives.

I have been really keen to expand my garden by adding tomato plants to it as well, but when my colleague today reminded me of the fact that she has some small plants for me to have whenever I want to, I did feel a bit worried. Would I be able to take on even more plants? Will I be happy to take on this risk of possibly having even more dead plant souls on my conscience than what I have at the moment? (Please forgive me “San Fransisco” and  “San Diego” for failing you at the age of 8 and leaving you out in the scorching sunshine with no water…)

Then again, my Inner Gardener would love the opportunity to possibly be able to harvest my own tomatoes. Imagine, I could have lovely, ripe cherry tomatoes, freshly picked each day from my own little garden… Hmmm… I think its time for me to sit down with my Inner Gardener self and have a little chat to see how we can make this work, since after all, I am quite keen for my Inner Gardener to succeed as well as for me to get some fresh cherry tomatoes to put in my salad..

“Sunday Words”

Having spent more than three months now in this beautiful country, I am starting to feel a bit conscious about the fact that I should be speaking  more Spanish. I think there is way too much English around and I feel my Spanish is definitely digressing from the goal I had of continued grammatical development and proliferation of my active vocabulary.

Hmm.. Sadly I know its all up to me and there is no short cut that can be taken to achieve this goal. I guess I should be reading more in Spanish and I should definitely have brought over my dictionary. I did not spend a single day without it during my first three months in Spain, while I didn’t even bring it with me to Costa Rica. Shameful, I know.

I have always enjoyed learning languages, being able to go to countries and speak their language. Languages are like keys that unlock society to you in a much more intimate way than just a tourist guide and your attempts to speak an ever louder English to people who just do not care if you get it or not. I might be a bit cynical with my comments above as many of the people we have met here have been very friendly and helpful. And considering the fairly high level of English that is spoken by many of the ticos, not knowing Spanish is not a massive issue.

Kaizen Self ImprovementThe guilty conscience I am experiencing is completely due to personal reasons. I think its my “overzealous student” personality that kicks in, pushing me to improve myself further. But I guess its not all bad. I think it is just me, subconsciously aiming towards a Kaizen inspired philosophy of life by striving towards daily practices that focus upon continuous improvement, learning a language just being one of them.

But I really should make more of an effort for the next three months now. I think I will try to at least expand my vocabulary a bit with some “Palabras de Domingo”, “Sunday Words” or “fancy words” as I guess you could also call them. “Palabras de Domingo” are words that are used a bit more seldom, more elaborate, finer words worthy of Sunday use only. Kind of like Sunday Clothes, that you are only allowed to use during Sundays or special occasions in order to not wear them out.

I guess the problem with “Sunday Words” is that you might forget them if you do not use them or practice them, much like you might forget about that lovely dress in the back of your wardrobe simply because its been archived away under “Only to be used at Special Occasions”. Personally I think this is such a waste of beautiful words, not to mention lovely dresses and other pieces of clothing.

Over the next three months I think I will aim for adding more “Palabras de Domingo” to my everyday vocabulary. And to wear my Sunday dresses a bit more often.