One of my uncle’s in Ireland, has a ‘chipper’ van parked on the side of the Waterford highway. A chipper van is basically a caravan that serves take-away burgers, chips, sandwiches, tea & coffee etc to the hungry truck drivers and commuters that use this busy motorway in Southern Ireland.
To promote his business to oncoming traffic, he places two A-frame signs, about a kilometre away in each direction, saying “Don’t Drive in Misery, Stop and Be Fed Up”.   
It still makes me smile, but his message actually resonates differently with me now than it’s intended promotional purpose some 3 decades ago.

I was reminded of my uncles sign and my times in Ireland again early this morning as I cycled to meet some clients. I had the wind behind me and I made a mental note to slow down as I’d arrive at my destination a little too early…5am is early enough for most, without me arriving any earlier...so I said to myself, and I quote…“Luke, slow down, otherwise I’ll get where I’m going quicker than I want to.”
(Again) I smiled to myself, not only did it remind me of my uncles signage in Ireland, but I thought, what a great metaphor for living.

One of the great joys I’m experiencing in my recalibrated, paired down, quieter, less exposed/distracted lifestyle is my ability to see and experience the natural simple joys in life.
I’ve mentioned in previous post that cycling provides me an opportunity to actively meditate – to focus my energies on my breath, and how the natural elements, the sun, wind, warmth, rain, ocean, birds, trees etc, all pose opportunities to acknowledge how lucky I am, and how beautiful the natural environment is, and what an important role it can have, if we allow it, to benefit our wellbeing.

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Exiled Vietnamese Monk, fellow baldie, and who Martin Luther King called ‘the apostle of peace’ Thich Nhat Hahn  says in his book A Guide to Walking Meditation ‘the greatest obstacle to (re)connecting with our joy is resentment’.

Joy has to do with seeing how big, how completely unobstructed, and how precious things are. Resenting what happens to you and complaining about your life are like refusing to smell the flowers when you go for a morning walk, or like being so blind, or preoccupied in with your phone, that you don’t embrace the wild beauty of the ocean, or a bird that lands in a tree that you’re sitting under 
We can get so caught up in our own personal pain or worries that we don’t notice that the wind has come up or that somebody has put flowers on the dining room table
Resentment, bitterness, and holding a grudge prevents us from seeing and hearing and tasting and delighting.
Ref: The Wisdom of No Escape

I’m on the coast most mornings, and usually venture into a cafe, and as I wait, I love to watch folks coming in during their morning walks with their dogs. They invariably tie the dog up outside, and head inside to order. As they do this, I remain focused on the dog. I watch its behaviour and its facial expressions whilst it waits for his/her owner to return .
Now, you don’t have to see the owner to know they’re returning to the dog, because the dogs behaviour and expression is all you need to see – no matter what mood the owner is in, how distracted they may be, the pure joy and excitement the dog displays is one of the best things to watch…and I think, a vital lesson on how we can reconnect with our joy…no matter how resentful we may feel.

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In Pema Chödrön’s book ‘The Wisdom of No escape’ (link below) she relays this story or a woman running away from tigers. She runs and runs, and the tigers are getting closer and closer. When she comes to the edge of a cliff, she sees some vines there, so she climbs down, she sees that there are tigers below her as well. She then notices that a mouse is gnawing away at the vine to which she is clinging to. She also sees a beautiful little bunch of strawberries close to her, growing out of clump of grass. She looks up and she looks down. She looks at the mouse. Then she just takes a strawberry, puts it in her mouth, and enjoys it thoroughly.
Tigers above, tiger below.
This is actually the predicament that we are all always in, in terms of our birth and death. Each moment is just what it is. It might be the only moment of our life, it might be the only strawberry we’ll ever eat. We could get depressed about it, or we could finally appreciate it and delight in the preciousness of every single (mouthful) moment of our life.

Reminding ourselves to ‘steal & embrace’ moments of joy and delight throughout our day is a habit, and a habit when honed can, even for just a little while, displace the everyday burdens we put on ourselves.
We all have with gripes, concerns, stresses and heartaches. We can find ourselves feeling this way, it can be displayed in our expressions and our actions – we can drink our coffee, we can drive our car, we can queue at the bank, we can eat our food, we can train and exercise all in a ‘grim’ state of mind.
We can look at strangers, and even our love ones, with this state of mind plastered all over our face…if we allow it.

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Because, Listen.
As I continue my own life-journey to befriend myself, I can gladly say that I have relinquished the vices that did me no good. And, I’m sure it could be debated that my current lifestyle is another ‘construction of (healthy) vices’. 

I, like everyone, have certain things I’m passionate about – certain things that I’ve been passionate about all my life, but some of these things have only resurfaced in the past 3-4 years, all due to the simplification of my life and, acknowledging again what brings me great joy.

Now aside from going to bed early/getting up early, eating the best I can, keeping as strong, healthy and calm as possible I have another passionate-vice I’ve completely surrendered to…and that is music, and high quality sound. 

These days TV/Streaming viewing barely gets a look in, as my days are filled with ambient background music, and my nights are pretty much dedicated to sitting in front of my speakers playing music, and more often than not, having a good ol’ sing song to myself till the very late, early evening hours of 7:45pm…before I go to bed.  

Now I received a rather synchronistic text, again this morning (been a good morning for synergies), from my old china-plate (mate) Jeremy, which was a link to an article in the LA Times 
Synchronistic because the article titled The Art of Deep Listening. Chose an album. Lose the phone. Close Your Eyes… not only fits perfectly in this weeks blog, but also captures beautifully how I spend most my evenings.

Though I use my *iPad to stream music, nothing interrupts or distracts me…my iPhone is in the other room and I’ll sit completely ensconced in what I’m playing. As the author of the article rightly says Mindfulness is essential, the point is to listen with your ears in the same the way you read with your eyes.
[my iPad has had all email, sms, text, alerts, notifications etc removed – it stocks my e-books and is the device for my Tidal and Apple Music streaming accounts only]
Listening to new music adds to my current tapestry of life, whereas listening to albums from my past brings with it so many emotions, memories, locations, feelings, and states-of-mind (there’s a few)…it’s startling what clarity of memory music offers.
It’s such a rewarding journey.

If music is your thing, when was the last time you listened, really listened, to an album you love?

“I differentiate to hear and to listen.
To hear is the physical means that enables perception.
To listen is to give attention to what is perceived both acoustically and psychologically.”
Experimental composer and teacher Pauline Oliveros

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Find what brings you joy, and do it till it kills you…
Joy can be found anywhere…we just need to remind ourselves what it is that ignites our mojo, and start doing it…like everyday.
Joy can be found…
…in your golf swing
…swimming in the ocean or surfing 
…in your forehand
…on the judo matt
…in your foot stride as you hike
…in your garden
…at the opera, ballet or a Metallica concert
…cooking bread
…waking up is a pretty good place to start seeking joy, and the reason why I’m am an annoyingly passionate advocate for sobriety and optimal sleep…being motivated to seek joy is tad harder if affected by alcohol or poor sleep…or both.

It is up to us to instal these circuit-breakers in our day as we dangle on the eroding rope of life…how long do we really have?
How long is a piece of string…right!?

If we listen deeply to what we need and love to feel, we can then begin to seek moments in our day that will heighten and reintroduce actions, behaviours, sights and sounds that make us feel good, that nurture our soul, that puts a smile on our face and maybe, like music does to me, gives me goosebumps, make me laugh and sometimes tear up

This active self-input has so many positive side-effects, but one of the greatest dividends it pays is it not only slows down your life, but you are actively witnessing and experiencing it…now.
The old adage ‘it’s the journey not the destination’ sums it up neatly.

Slow down, stop for a while…before we get to where we’re all inevitably going…
Because if we don’t see the strawberries, how we can’t taste them?

It’s only by being self-fed moments of joy, that we have an opportunity to curb our misery…if even for a moment.

The Navajo teach their children that every morning when the sun comes up, it’s a brand new sun.
It’s born each morning, it lives for the duration of one day, and in the evening it passes on, never to return again.
As soon as the children are old enough to understand, the adults take them out at dawn and they say,
‘The sun has only one day. You must live this day in a good way, so that the sun won’t have wasted precious time.’
Acknowledging the preciousness of each day is a good way to live, a good way to reconnect with our basic joy.

Till Next Time…

Luke