How To Fall in Love With Your City All Over Again.

Tammy T. Stone

Tammy T. Stone

 

“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” ~ Maya Angelou

Why do we want to be a tourist in our own city (or town, or suburb, or village, you name it?)

Because fresh eyes and an open heart are the true antidote to boredom, lethargy, confusion and feeling stuck, and by antidote, I don’t mean “cure,” because we already know that life entails more than naming a problem and then fixing it on the proverbial spot.

Sometimes a simple shift in perspective can get the ball rolling and awaken the brain-mind complex to start working with us toward desired change. It’s as simple as that. I’m sure we’ve all had experiences where the very last thing we wanted to do was hit the yoga mat, or show up for our coffee date, or sit on the meditation cushion at the appointed time.

We’ve probably also experienced the actual doing of those things that seemed so mountainous, and feeling greatly rewarded and satisfied as a result.

If for no other reason than to try something new and engage in a sense of discovery with where we are (physically and metaphysically), it’s worth casting our lives in a renewed light, or approaching familiar things in a different way. The seeds of change are also the seeds of possibility.

Why don’t we try a few of these, starting with very simple shifts we can make in our own home?

Watch the sun rise (suns don’t only rise on beach vacations!).

Look out the window for a few minutes, instead of turning on the computer or phone.

Start your tourism right where you are. Take a lingering look at the books on your shelf, or the smattering of varied dishware accumulated over the years, and use a different mug for your morning coffee (maybe while reading a “new” old book!).

Okay, we can leave the house now. Why not take a walk in a new neighborhood? If you have to work, walk instead of bike, or take a different route if you’re driving. You get the picture.

No matter what the time constraints are or where you’re headed, really look around. Notice the store fronts, the relative health of the grass and foliage around you, or at how melting snow changes the landscape you know so well. Any new construction projects in our midst? Anything that’s been redesigned?

Visit the local library. It may have been a long time, so going is like revisiting our childhood and a new part of town at once (how efficient!)—two very exotic locations, not to mention the worlds we can find in the books themselves. We can also get a library card, because while we’re tourists for the day, we’re also sticking around!

Take pictures. No matter what device your camera is lodged into, use it as a photography medium. Let’s regard the city/town/suburb/village as we would a tourist destination. Find what is beautiful and make an image of it. We can send our new discoveries to friends and share the wealth, enjoy looking at them and marveling at the hidden treasures continually awaiting our attention.

Try new cuisine. We can bring India, Thailand, Japan, Jamaica, and so on, right to us for a little while. Entering a new restaurant is like opening a great book, and is a feast for more than just our sense of taste.

Check for activities (free or otherwise) going around town and try a couple of them out. Maybe this is the perfect chance to discover new and rewarding ways to spend time and nourish ourselves, or try out different variations of things we already do, but in a different setting.

People watch. This can be done in a café, on a patio somewhere, on church steps—you name it. See what people are wearing, how they move, what their facial expressions or the sounds of their voices are revealing, how they live and go about their lives, and just get lost in the wandering, and wondering about humanity. This is not about invading people’s privacy, of course, but gathering impressions in a mindful and respectful way.

As Maya Angelou says above, one of the most beautiful aspects of travel is to find and remember all the ways in which we, as humans, are alike and connected, to the betterment of every single one of us. I can’t think of a better way to generate compassion.

Watch the sun set (suns don’t only set on beach vacations!)

And finally, we can take a moment at the end of any given day we’ve actively engaged with our environment in a new way, to express gratitude for where we are, and review. What did we enjoy among the discoveries, and what surprised us? Was there anything about this “new” place we’d like to incorporate into our lives in the coming weeks and months?

Let’s express gratitude for the opportunity we gave ourselves to open our eyes and begin again, and realize that beginning again is something that can, and will happen as many times as we allow it to.

Bon voyage!

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Japan Photo Diary: In Memory of the Ones who Were Lost …

Tammy T. Stone

Tammy T. Stone

 

Today’s photo diary is a dedication to those whose lives were lost in Paris, and to every single being in the world who suffers.

A few days ago, my husband and I started a Gratitude Jar – every night, we write down one (or more) things we’re grateful for. This was my initiative, and my husband embraced it. And then he said, “Let’s turn the paper into ‘origami’.”

We’re in Japan, where origami paper is a dollar store staple. I have tons of it: I use it to make collages and various things, and haven’t really taken the time to learn to make shapes yet.

We’re writing on a mini-sized origami paper, which makes it especially difficult for the newcomer to the craft to catch on. Slowly, he’s teaching me to make one of his childhood favourites: a bird with beautiful, wide and elegant wings.

At first I was convinced it was impossible, that he was secretly adding paper, and using scissors and tape. Day by day, though, the birds are taking shape, and I can’t help but think, “How amazing, that everyday, we are making creatures that can fly.”

And so, in the name of freedom for all …

Much love,

Tammy xx

Make Your Rose-Tinted Glasses Work For You!

Tammy T. Stone

Tammy T. Stone

Most of us pass through typical milestones or rites of passage as we grow older, designed to propel us into a new stage of being.

These include going through puberty, getting our driver’s license, landing our first “real” job, getting married, having kids and so on.

All the world’s cultures have their own variations of rituals associated with the various (and varying) stages of life, from birth and coming-of-age to unions and ultimately death; we have much to learn and gain by studying how the peoples of the world celebrate growth, time, nature and transition.

If we’re lucky, and really attending to these moments, we can recognize all the subtle shifts at play—in our bodies, minds and psyches—as we morph from one phase of life to another.

On the other hand, we risk creating an imbalance between these big rites of passage and the rest of our “ordinary,” day-to-day lives, masking some truths about time and experience that can help us move beyond a life of delusion and toward peace and satisfaction.

Time doesn’t stop between Great Big Events, and life has an abundance of fascinating things on offer in these in-between spaces.

Maybe we’ve gone through those highs leading up to a wedding, or even New Year’s, imagining that some mysterious forces are going to transplant us right into the life we crave. The lows that come afterward remind us that the best thing we can do for ourselves is create a situation where we don’t attach to big dates, and thrive every day.

One of the core meanings behind rites of passage and even the change of seasons is to gently coax us into deepening our connection with the universe, and with ourselves as a harmonious part of it.

What better way to do this than to honour the very magic of existence by learning to celebrate the inevitable fact of change, and beauty of where we find ourselves each day?

“There is nothing you can see that is not a flower. There is nothing you can think that is not the moon.”

~ Matsuo Basho

We are in constant interplay with the world. We are changing, growing and evolving right alongside it. There is no keeping up, or reaching some fixed, pre-established goal. We are the life, we are Basho’s moon and flower, we are the goal.

In practical terms, we want to step out of our listless daydreams (though daydreams certainly have their place), and generate awe—an “aha” that serves to remind us why it is ridiculously amazing that we are here.

We don’t need to organize a huge event to do this, or spend a cent. All we need to do is find a way to flip a switch.

Sometimes this happens spontaneously, like when we find ourselves in nature and are suddenly overwhelmed by the serenity and beauty around us. Guards drop, thoughts slip away and only the present remains. Some consider these moments to be enlightenment.

We can’t always put ourselves directly in inspiration’s way, though, and these are the times when it’s helpful to have some tools up our sleeve.

One of my favourites is what I call: The Rose-Tinted Glasses Experiment.

I was inspired to do this when I was studying cinema years ago, awestruck by how the greatest filmmakers took full advantage of the knowledge that worlds, film and otherwise, aren’t passively received—they are made—and that directors have to actively create what they want audiences to experience. Films like The Wizard of Oz and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, which I wanted dozens of times each, utterly captivated me with their unique and highly expressive views of the world.

The Rose-Tinted Glasses Experiment is so easy it almost feels like a trick, but it’s amazing how a very simple intention can so thoroughly change the way you see things.

All you have to do is go outside and take a walk—you can also do this on a bike in your car, but it’s best if you can be as distraction-free as possible.

Now pick a colour.

With this colour in mind, just hang out and do your thing, and consciously put your proverbial rose-tinted glasses on, except the glasses are in your mind, and you can choose any colour you want (rose is not everyone’s cup of tea).

Now, with your chosen colour, tune into your environment and become aware of items of this colour around you, and awaken yourself to a world filled with this colour.

The first time I did this, I chose yellow. I figured there really weren’t that many yellow things around, and I was curious what would happen.

A new world opened up before me. A part of a billboard here, someone’s umbrella there, a shirt in a display window, another ad…the world was teeming with yellow!

Then I picked red, and the same thing happened.

Moments earlier, I was in a yellow world that had now turned red. The world, of course, didn’t change at all, but I was able to use my mind to create a world of my making, because the world is simply too large and grand for our limited brains or minds to take everything in. And so we filter. We normally do this subconsciously and in predictable ways, but with this exercise, we are taking hold of the reins.

This is empowering in itself—and helps overcome feelings of lack of control—but the important part of this exercise is that we can use it to jar ourselves out of boredom and complacency and learn to attend to things all around us that otherwise remain invisible.

We often don’t realize how stuck we’ve become in our conditioned way of seeing things, and this applies to the physical world around us as well as to our responses to things like discomfort and conflict. This “rose-tinted glasses” exercise is a great way to rewire and observe that there are endless perspectives available to us, some of which can be much more helpful and liberating than others, and all of which are a great celebration of change.

Who knows what is awaiting us once we have the heart and mind to see, and make every day an ordinary-magic rite of passage?

 

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Bonus: See how they Think Pink in the classic film, Funny Face, here.

 

*Published under a different title in elephant journal, here.