Fell off the treadmill and had an epiphany

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So as I lay face down on the treadmill inhaling the delightful aroma of rubber and stale sweat, feeling the sharp twinge of the friction burn I’ve just inherited, a moment of clarity washes over my damp, listless lump of a body. To all the graceful gazelles who glide through the gym with such elegance and grace it would reduce a nostalgic old lady mourning her youth to tears, I salute you. I really do. You exude confidence and self-control as you pump away in your designer gym attire, dabbing your pristine complexions and taking a cute insta on the way out. Now there has been many a time when I have wished Sudden Adult Death Syndrome upon you admittedly because you embody the unobtainable. But today I thought to myself, you know what..I may be a sweaty, clumsy warthog with zero co-ordination, but I should be proud of that! To use analogy here, yeah maybe Simba is the brave, handsome lion that everybody wants to be, but who’s everyone’s favourite really? Yep, it’s Pumba who’s farting away in the corner, making us all howl with laughter.

My broader point here is of course about learning to love our perfections. I like a good cliché as you all know, but this one is really important because I genuinely believe it is one of the kindest things you can do for yourself and for other people.

I’m certainly not good at it myself a lot of the time; it goes against everything my obsessive inner-perfectionist screams out at me. But as I’ve grown older (and no wiser whatsoever), I’ve learned how to laugh at myself and not to take life so seriously. Because although it’s the most wonderful feeling ever when we work hard for something and achieve our goals, we’ve also got to put it into perspective here.. bearing in mind that we are essentially jazzed up amoeba floating around this incomprehensible universe, either a deity’s pet sea-monkeys or a load of gases randomly having an orgy and ending up with a mutant spawn, depending on which way you want to look at it. I know I’m being very facetious and in no way am I wishing to diminish the importance of our day-to-day achievements and challenges, but I’m basically saying that when life has been given to us as a completely random but nonetheless beautiful gift, it’s kind of just easier to see it as one big LOL.

I think I have digressed somewhat and somehow shared my very complex philosophy on creation with you by mistake, but back to how we should cherish and celebrate all of our wonderful eccentricities… one of mine being my penchant for hypocrisy, because sometimes in a fit of frustration I will smash out a list of things I NEED to do to feel accomplished whilst in the back of my mind knowing perfectly well that the only thing that will REALLY make me happy is accepting my whole self, warts and all (fitting, because I’ve actually got a wart on my finger currently that my friends have been disgusted by, but I have made the conscious but lazy decision to simply allow Wartymcwartface to chill on my flesh for as long as his little blood vessel heart desires..)

I also think this applies to our relationships with other people – trying to change another human into what we want them to be is like attempting to put a square peg into a round hole (trust me on this one – see previous post). Not only is it futile, it’s also a huge waste because why would you want to create someone who ticks all the boxes, when you already have someone stood in front of you who will grab the pen out of your hand, scribble all over those tick boxes and make the sheet of paper into a pirate hat!

Our weird habits, our troubled pasts, our guilty pleasures, our monumental ‘failures’ are the very things that make us loveable and funny and undeniably, us. Society may frown upon them and try to make us feel guilty, instructing us to repress them and to hide them from view. But who wants a society full of perfect robots? I’d rather see the whole picture when I look at someone – the complicated, the dysfunctional, the enigmatic, the flawed (and) the genuinely human. (Omg the my adjectives go CDEFGH and I didn’t even do it on purpose!)

So just to round off, here is a list of things that I was once super embarrassed of, but I now just laugh (and occasionally still cry) about:

  • I have bombed my driving test 4 times, the last time being because I completely failed to notice a mini-roundabout.
  • I take antidepressants because I’m a wreck without them. They make me really sweaty sometimes, but the trade off is worth it.

  • I grow chin hair because I have cysts on my ovaries but it’s actually a positive because plucking them out is oh-so-satisfying.
  • I have tried several times to go veggie but drunken Maccies breaks me every time.

  • I have zero common sense and once almost set the house on fire. Turns out you shouldn’t wipe up soup with kitchen towel while the gas flame is still on. Turns out you DEFINITELY shouldn’t throw said paper towel into the plastic dustbin hoping that the problem will just disappear.

I have so many more I could tell you, but I’ve babbled for long enough. In conclusion, let’s just laugh at ourselves through the medium of memes and use our imperfections as ammo for banging dinner table anecdotes and cringey af blog posts.

Le fin. 

 

Enough.

 

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A lot has been said about that scene in Love Actually. You know the one where Mark reveals his undying love for Juliet – who just so happened to marry his BEST FRIEND a mere week ago – through a series of sickening cue cards. There are entire Buzzfeed articles dedicated to how creepy, how deceitful, how SELFISH this act is. I completely agree with all of those statements, but at the same time, there is a reason why I sob the loudest at this point in the film…for me, the scene really does capture the heart-wrenchingly painful experience which is unrequited love.

Somewhere along the way, I accidentally fell in love with my gay best friend. To which most people would say, ‘you can’t have been truly in love with him if you knew he was gay all along’. But these things aren’t exactly logical and they certainly don’t follow any rules. Shout out to the twat who told me platonic love doesn’t exist, you’re categorically wrong.

Sometimes you just have an inexplicable connection with another human being. They flash up into your life out of nowhere and then before you realise what’s happening, you’ve made them the centre of your universe and you can’t imagine how you ever survived without sharing every intimate detail with them (yes, you even wee on the phone to eachother). They become the first person you want to speak to when you have good news, bad news, sad news, no news. You feel like they just ‘get you’, like no-one else ever has. You develop your own language. You commit all of their little sayings, mannerisms, anecdotes to memory because you want to become an expert on each of the thousands of puzzle pieces that construct the person they are. You find every little thing they say and do utterly adorable, to the disbelief and annoyance of everyone existing outside of your little bubble. But you can’t help it. To you, they are perfect.   

You could happily live in your delusional la la land forever. But painful spikes of reality begin to seep in. You begin to depend on them more than they depend on you. You begin to feel jealous when you have no reasonable right to do so. If they happen to be busy or hanging out with other people, you begin to feel terrified that they don’t want or need you anymore. You feel so completely vulnerable all of the time. You’re convinced that they will drop you in a millisecond once they find the person they actually want. And inevitably, you will be left heartbroken, because you gave your entire self to them when they never asked or wanted you to. They never pretended to be anything else, you just got so carried away by the idea of them that you honestly believed it was real.

You look in the mirror and question who you have become. Needy to the point of obsession. Stood there bearing your soul to someone who will never, ever feel the same. People pity you, they think you’re pathetic. You delude yourself into making it one big joke and constantly laugh it off, because that’s easier than admitting the situation is actually painful. But it does hurt. Because nothing you ever do will ever be good enough. It’s not a case of putting in more effort, or giving it more time. You are fundamentally unsuitable for this person and they will never want you.

So the time has to come to end the scene, as Mark dutifully does, to put on the brave mask of self-preservation and finally admit, enough now.

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A letter to my 18 year old self

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Dear Katy, 

You don’t know it yet, but the next four years will change your life forever…

Firstly, don’t be upset that you didn’t get accepted by Durham, Newcastle will be far better. 

Don’t panic when you get put in halls of residence that you don’t feel you quite ‘fit in to’. You will stick it out for a few months, make a couple of really good friends and then move to some halls which you absolutely love.

During this rocky start, you will feel unsure about things, you will even consider dropping out. You will spend your student loan visiting your friends from home at their respective unis and you will cling to your boyfriend like a security blanket. But that’s okay, it’s what you need to do to get through it.

Little do you know, but your coursemates will become your closest friends. Yeah, you know that girl Stevie, who you spoke to on a cringey NUSU forum before Freshers, you’re going to be squeeing at dog pictures together four years on. That pretty Scottish girl, Gillian, who you felt okay to talk to in seminars because she wasn’t intimidating like everybody else, she’s going to be your housemate for two years. Those crazy people you sat next to in Sociology, Jimmy and Raph, they will still be making you laugh at the end of your degree. Those two tall girls, Sapphire and Olivia, who took you home and put you to bed after you VOMMED on them after the first Combined Honours social – they’re going to become your uni sisters and will know every minute detail of your life. Olivia will then introduce you to Azuki, who you will fall in love with because she is perfect in every way. Sapphire will introduce you to Laura, who will become a caring and supportive friend to you. In second year, you will ‘mentor’ a stupidly handsome rah called George, who you will spend your craziest nights with. On your year abroad, you will become closer to the language girls, Jen and Nat, who will make you laugh ridiculous amounts. In final year, you will embark upon a group project where you get placed with a bunch of weirdos who will end up becoming your best friends… oh little fresher Katy, you may not feel like you belong right now, but be patient, you will find your people. 

You will consume more alcohol than you ever thought possible and you will soak it up with copious amounts of cheesy chips. You will consider getting ‘cheese, chips and ketchup’ tattooed on you because you love them so much. 

Talking of tattoos, you will get two of them whilst you are university. They will mean something to you and they will help you to love your body.

You will travel to places you never expected. You go to the coolest European cities – Barcelona, Prague, Amsterdam. You will book a spontaneous trip to Norway with an old school friend. You will move to France for a year and spend a dream summer in Paris, until you run out of money and reluctantly come home.

You will yoyo in weight like crazy. Don’t waste time worrying about it. 

You will dye your hair crazy colours and for a short time, you’ll feel like you’ve created a fun new identity. But then you’ll give into your mum’s nagging and go back blonde for good. 

You will spend money irresponsibly and have to extend your overdraft, but that’s okay, it’s a rite of passage of student life. 

You will have a turbulent relationship with your academic work. You will strive for perfection like you always have done, but sometimes you will be disappointed when you don’t do as well as you’d hoped. But you will find modules that you really love and you will excell in them. By the end of your degree, your writing will have improved ten-fold and you will finally know what it means to ‘think independently’. 

You will mess and get messed around by boys. You will come to realise that gay best friends are so much better. 

In final year especially, you will have a tough time and feel things you’ve never felt before. Through this, you will become a stronger person and will realise the true value of home. You will also see how much people really care about you and that will make you feel so so loved. 

You will not believe it when you land yourself a grad job in local government. Nor will you be able to process the fact that you will be awarded a first-class degree. It will feel like an absolute dream, surreal but wonderful. 

You will graduate feeling sad, but ready for change. In many ways, you will still be that 18 year old Fresher – unsure of herself and desperate to be liked by everyone. But you will have grown as a person – don’t worry, you’re still as cliché as ever – and you will leave Newcastle University with your head held high. 

Embrace it little Katy, it’ll be over before you know it. 

 

 

Hanging out with the big black dog

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So it’s actually shameful how long I’ve not blogged for. But never have I needed to write so badly as I do now.

So…I thought I’d been coping okay with final year. But I got back after Easter and, for some unknown reason, everything just seemed out of balance. It all came to a head this week when I finally went to the doctor and admitted that I was struggling with my mental health.

It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to admit to myself. But if I think about it, the clues have been there all along. The regular breakdowns to my mum down the phone. The constant tiredness. The endless self-doubt I subject myself to. Sitting in group conversations silently beating myself up for not being more interesting. Shying away from the dating scene because I don’t believe in myself enough to think I have anything to offer. Sitting in seminars feeling like an imposter because everyone knows so much more than me. People who are happy with themselves don’t do these kinds of things.

But now it’s started to affect my work. Rightly or wrongly, I’ve always judged my self-worth on my academic performance. So the situation I’m facing right now feels monumentally terrifying. I feel like I’m playing Jenga – by sheer luck, I’ve managed to do okay so far, but I’m one move away from having it all crash down around me. I’ve been diagnosed with Anxious Depression, meaning that I’m finding it near-impossible to approach my work in a rational way. Half of the time, I feel so anxious thinking about the approaching deadline, that I’m too strung up to actually get words down on a page. The other half of the time, I lack motivation and feel so tired that I just climb into bed, instead of powering through. Hardly the best combination for the point in my degree where I need to really ‘bring it’. 

The worst thing about it all is feeling scared all the time. I never used to feel like that. I used to see my work as a challenge and face it head on. Now I feel like I’m too weak an opponent to even turn up to the match. All the faith I used to have in my abilities seems to have disappeared. And I’ve never felt less like myself.

I didn’t write this post to gain sympathy. My aim was just to give an accurate depiction of what’s going on inside my head. I’ve always been 100% honest in this blog (sometimes TOO honest, especially given that my parents read it!), in an attempt to counter the discourse that we’re so often fed through social media – that we’re on a continuous upward trajectory, moving from one amazing achievement to the next.

I do, however, realise that I’ve been overwhelmingly negative so far. So allow me to tell you now about some of the little things which have given me hope over the past few weeks…

1. My mum, who has been my absolute rock. She’s fighting her own depression demons, yet she’s been a source of constant positivity and reassurance for me.

2. My friends. I knew I’d picked a good bunch, but they’ve surpassed all my expectations with their unfaltering love and understanding. From laying next to me at 5am in the morning when I hadn’t slept all night to just being there whenever I’ve needed a cuddle, they’ve all been amazing.

3. Mind the Gap – the university’s mental health society. Yesterday was the annual conference. I played a small part it in, but I came away feeling utterly inspired by not only the speakers, but by the other members of the society – all of whom have been in some really dark places but exude strength and creativity despite that.

So what now? I’ve got to stay positive and believe people when they say ‘you’ll get through it’. I need to focus on the little moments of happiness I feel each day and think about how privileged I am to be surrounded by people who care about me. Of course, all that is easier said that done. But I’m going to try my best. At the end of the day, that’s all that any of us can do.

2015 reflections…

So it’s officially New Year’s Eve. I’m currently sat wrapped in my duvet, like a human fajita, watching the raindrops trickle down my skylight window. I’m off to a houseparty later on which will inevitably require washing my hair (for the first time since Christmas Day), but for now, I can’t really be bothered to budge from this cocoon of warmth. You see, I’m rather enjoying being pensive and reflecting on another year that’s almost over.

The world has changed in so many ways over the course of this year. Some developments have left us utterly awe-stricken, whilst others have shaken us to the very core. I’m not about to reel off a big list, because you already know what I’m talking about and I’m sure the newspapers have beaten me to it anyway! What I will say, however, is that we must learn from these events. This year has taught us what human beings are capable of. It has taught us about the power of language. It has taught us how technology can be used for both good and evil. It has taught us that we must not get wrapped up in our superficial human existence and forget to be kind to our planet. Yes I know this is beginning to sound like a presidential speech (if only!), but hopefully 2016 will be the year where we stop viewing the world as an incomprehensible, impossible equation that nobody can solve and begin believing that we can actually turn things around for the better, starting by simply being kinder to one-another.

Before I go all hippy on you, I should probably mention how 2015 has affected me personally. I don’t believe in saying ‘it’s been the best year yet’ and quoting reasons X, Y and Z (amazing holiday, losing weight, myriad of other clichés..). As far as I’m concerned, we learn just as much (if not more!) from the dark days where we feel lost and frustrated, as we do from the days where we feel on top of the world. So I could recount all my best memories and plaster this blog post with pictures of me smiling like the Cheshire Cat, but I’m not going to. While I’m incredibly grateful for all the incredible opportunities I’ve had this year (to visit new places, to try new things, to meet new people), I actually just want to say how thankful I am for all the obstacles that have come my way. For all the times I have felt unloved. For all the times I have felt disappointed. For all the times my internal monologue has told me that I am not good enough. Thankyou for giving me the opportunity to prove my self worth. This year, you have shown me that life is about soldiering on, being positive and most importantly, being yourself in a world that often tells you not to be. 2016 can throw all the crazy shit it wants at me, I am more than ready. 

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*The best Christmas present I received this year. From my lovely mum, who knows me all too well. 

A grizzy tale for gruesome uni students

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Once upon a time, a bright-eyed young girl called Katy used to write regular blog posts. Although she was often hyperbolic and self-deprecating when recounting her latest crazy adventure, her sheer zest for life was clearly evident.

One day (1st October 2015, to be exact) Katy was just gliding through her beautiful, carefree existence when she collided head first with a 7 foot troll who introduced himself as ‘Final Year’. Katy screamed in terror and tried to run in the opposite direction but Final Year was too quick – he snatched her up with his immense claws and started running.

Katy closed her eyes as tightly as she was physically able and prayed that this was all a dream. Coincidentally, she did end up falling into a deep slumber, only to wake up in an unknown location…

Coming to her senses, Katy realised that she was sat at a perfectly square desk, equipped with a plug socket. She tried to move but was unable to budge. Looking around, she saw that there were hundreds of other humans sat on adjacent desks, which looked identical to her own. She tried to call out to the boy next to her, frantically waving her arms, but he didn’t even lift his head from the thick textbook he was reading. Getting nowhere, Katy began to scream. Suddenly, the neighbouring boy gave her a momentary look of contempt and proceeded to take out a mobile phone. Little did she know that he was sending a message to the library police, forging a complaint that Katy was causing too much noise and needed to be reprimanded immediately.

A few moments later, Final Year reappeared. He strolled up to Katy’s desk and bending down to her level, looked her directly in the eyes. He addressed her in a stern, grizzly tone:

“Now Katy, I think you better explain yourself”

Katy responded, in a tearful word-vomit tone: “I’m really sorry Final Year, I just don’t know where I am or what I’m doing here. My life used to be so carefree but this all seems like a big nightmare. I just want it to end.”

With an expression of pity, tinged with disgust, Final Year replied: “Listen up, Katy and listen well. You are sentenced to a one-year period in this facility which we call the Robinson Library. People here work 23.5 hours a day and are all entered into a national competition to secure future employment. You too are part of this contest. Although this may seem harsh, it is in your best interests to avoid the shameful title of “unemployed graduate”. Just think about that the next time you want to commit any acts of disobedience like noise or positively-social behaviour.”

With that, the troll turned and left, leaving Katy to contemplate her thoughts in the deadly silence of Level 4…

3 months on and Katy has adapted to life in the Robinson Library. She works hard and no longer protests to the troll, knowing that it will get her nowhere. Occasionally, she does allow herself a little daydream about the happiness and good state of mental health she used to take for granted. Back in the present, however, the sentence continues…

 

Okay, so that was a grim little fairy tale about how final year has pretty much hit me like a tonne of bricks. It was all for comic effect though; please don’t actually believe that I view my university education as a prison sentence. Far from it, this year has actually been my favourite so far academically. It’s taken me three and a half years, but I think I finally know how to ‘do uni’. It would be a great feeling apart from the fact I’m in a constant state of mental and physical exhaustion. But it’s definitely not all bad, I now have the balls to have proper conversations with lecturers and actually feel justified when I moan about how much work I have to do. Plus, the tougher it’s got, the more awesome my friends have revealed themselves to be. Like I already knew they were wonderful, wonderful human beings, but we all support each other now like penguins in a huddle. We’re one emotionally-unstable family and I love it.

Admittedly the whole job thing is getting to me quite a bit (that section of the story was pretty close to the truth), but I’ll save that rant for another blog post. Right now I’m off to plan if it’s feasible to do a couple of clinical trials to fund a once-in-a-lifetime trip with my bestie.

Night folks!

So I’m putting off the nun life just a little while longer….

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So today I arrived home after completing my first ever Buddhist retreat. Where the hell did that spring up from, you ask? Although I have been known to undertake adventures completely spontaneously, this one happened to be pre-meditated (well, it wouldn’t be a Snickerstoast blog post without a terrible pun now would it?)

After discovering the marvellous benefits of yoga whilst living in Paris, I wanted to go one step further and learn how to meditate. I’ve always been curious about alternative therapies and practices that help to improve people’s sense of wellbeing. I’d also been doing a bit of reading into Buddhism and although I didn’t venture into the more complex stuff, the main values and beliefs seemed pretty appealing. Because I’d been banging on about it so much at home, my wonderful parents went ahead and booked me onto a four day retreat at the Manjushri Kadampa centre, in the Lake District. Bless them, they do so well to indulge my constantly changing fascinations! After a pretty turbulent year with lots of uprooting, I hoped that the retreat would restore my natural balance in some way. Yet, I couldn’t help feeling slightly apprehensive; having never done anything remotely like this before, I didn’t have a clue what to expect! On the journey there, I vowed to keep an open-mind and just embrace the whole experience.

And what an interesting experience it turned out to be…

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Firstly, the location was absolutely incredible. Housed in the magnificent Conishead Priory, the building itself literally took my breath away. Grand and Hogwarts-like from the outside, yet remarkably cosy and warm on the inside, I couldn’t quite believe that this was going to be my home for the next four days. Originally a hospital for the poor, Conishead Priory has been everything from an aristocratic mansion to a convalescent home belonging to the Durham miners. It stood empty between 1972 and 1976, before being bought by the Kadampa Buddhist group. This period of stagnation had led to dry rot and general disrepair, meaning that the Buddhists had to set about completely restoring the priory to its former glory. With such a rich history, the place had a very unique character and it was absolutely fascinating to think about all the different people that had passed through its doors, throughout the centuries.

The priory also happened to be set in acres of lush, green woodland, leading down onto the ruggedly beautiful Morecambe Bay. Teeming with horses, squirrels and wild rabbits, it’s hard to convey in words just how peaceful and natural it felt. It was an absolutely magical setting and it felt a million miles away from any kind of stress or business. My photos really don’t do it justice!  

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But enough about that, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. Of course you want to know whether I was spiritually healed or if it turned out to be a load of tosh.

Well, the first thing I will say is that there is definitely something special about meditation. Admittedly, some practices didn’t exactly go to plan. There were times when I couldn’t stop fidgeting. There were times when multitudes of random trains of thought flooded into my mind, completely clouding my focus. However, on the few occasions when I did manage to fully concentrate on my breathing and on pushing away all of my noisy, distracting thoughts, something really amazing happened. I truly did feel a sense of inner peace. It was a unique state of relaxation, unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. It was like a wave washing over me, lifting me up slightly so that my physical body felt irrelevant. For a few moments, everything felt perfectly still and I felt perfectly content, not thinking about anything, but just breathing, just existing.

Now some of you cynics out there might claim that this was all psychological. Like the placebo effect, I simply imagined this feeling happening, because I was wanting it to happen so badly. That could well be the case. In fact, it probably is. But what does it matter ? The sensation felt as real as any other sensation, so as far as I’m concerned, it was real.

This was the main thing I wanted to gain from the retreat. I wanted to have the time and space to explore meditation, to see for myself if I felt anything from it and to see if it could help me feel more in control of daily challenges and stressful situations.  In this respect, I’ve definitely come away feeling empowered that meditation is a powerful tool, one which can definitely help us and strengthen us.

But of course, the retreat was more than just an insight into meditation, it was also an introduction to Buddhist teachings. Now in this respect, my overall impression is not so overwhelmingly positive…

I’m agnostic and I’ve always being curious, yet cautious of religion. Evidently, it is a force of both good and evil in the world. Having never been christened and through attending secular schools, I’ve always tried to look at religion with a critical eye.

Buddhism appealed to me because it isn’t presented as a religion as such. Rather, it’s a life philosophy, offering practical, spiritual guidance that we can apply to our daily lives in whichever way works for us. Or at least, this is what I believed it to be.

The Kadampa tradition in particular is presented as such – the word ‘Kadampa’ meaning action. Indeed, some of the teachings covered did make lots of sense and did seem easily applicable in a practical sense.

I agreed with the following :

  1. There can be no happiness without inner peace

This teaching is talking about material, superficial happiness. We are constantly looking to material possessions, other people, food, holidays, hobbies, etc. etc. to make us feel happy and fulfilled. But of course, these things are only temporary and only fulfil us for so long. On the contrary, if we overindulge in these things (i.e. too much food, too much emphasis on others), we may even start to suffer and feel pain. Buddhism claims that the only ‘true’ happiness (a consistent, unchanging happiness) comes from within. This means being spiritually happy and having a sense of inner peace and inner strength.

  1. Feelings are delusions

In one of the talks I attended, the teacher compared our feelings to passing clouds in the sky. By analogy, if the sky represents our sense of self and clouds represent our changing moods and feelings, we can rest assured that behind our moods, we are pure, just as the sky is pure, behind the clouds. This teaching is helpful in showing us not to beat ourselves up – for example, just because we experience bursts of anger, we do not need to label ourself as an essentially angry-natured person, who has been built this way and cannot change. Buddhism claims that feelings such as anger and jealously are delusions, because we hone in on the worst and negative points, greatly exaggerating these things, whilst missing the bigger picture. Therefore, to combat these feelings, we need to step back, be in control of our mind and say to ourselves, this is almost like an hallucination, it is not the accurate picture of what is really going on. We can then let go of it, just as the wind blows away a cloud, leaving a clear sky and thus, a clear mind.

  1. With laziness, we shall accomplish nothing

Now everyone knows that this one is true. Everything in life takes effort and even though sometimes we feel like hibernating under our duvet and never coming out, we have to force ourselves to get out of bed and get on with it. Whether its spirtuallity or gathering up the energy to take the dog out everyday, we need to be motivated and never stop trying our best.

 Okay, so this is starting to sound a little preachy…definitely wasn’t my intention. But to sum up, these were the three teachings which really stood out to me, which seemed to make the most sense. Indeed, I am going to try and recall these as often as possible, in  order to inspire me whenever I feel down, unmotivated or frustrated.

So now onto the juicy part…the certain things which set alarm bells ringing, which didn’t quite seem to add up. Here’s my list :

1. All the teachings came from one single source

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All the teachings were read from books by the spiritual founder of the the Kadampa tradition, Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. These were the only books available in the entire centre. I mean he looks like any cute, happy, butter-wouldn’t- melt spiritual leader, but it did feel a bit cult-like at times. Everyone seemed to be subscribing to the interpretation of this one man, without even considering or examining the alternatives.

2. When the Dalai Lama got mentioned, shit got weird

I was on a guided tour of the house, when someone happened to mention the Dalai Lama and asked whether he was involved in the NKT (New Kadampa Tradition). At this point, the monk, who had been previously been so smiley and upbeat, adopted a grave tone and expression. He then proceeded to criticise his political activity and presence in the public eye, painting him as the black sheep of Buddhism almost. He suggested that the Dalai Lama, through his actions, had veered off the spiritual path and could no longer be respected as a spiritual leader.

It seemed strange to me that a Buddhist monk would so blatently criticise anyone, let alone a follower of Buddha Shakyamuni’s guidance. And upon doing some research on this (after coming to the end of my technology/wifi ban!), I came across dozens of articles claiming that the NKT had actively taken part in violent protests against the Dalai Lama (which seems to go against everything they believe in). I even stumbled upon groups calling the NKT a cult and claiming that Geshe Kelsang Gyatso is in fact, a clever and powerful dictator.

From my personal perspective, after spending just a few days in the NKT bubble, it genuinely seemed that both the ordained and laypeople were extremely happy and that their lives had been richly enhanced by Gyatso’s teachings. But of course, this apparent ‘dedication’ could have been evidence of indoctrination.

I am obviously in no position to judge this. I am by no means an expert, nor an investigative journalist. Speculation isn’t helpful, so that’s as far as my questioning goes.

I have to apologise as this blog post really is all over the place and it probably doesn’t make any coherent sense to anyone reading it! I didn’t really intend this to be an entertaining piece – it was more just for me to make sense of this very poignant experience.

To conclude, I will definitely take away the positive elements I’ve already mentioned and continue to practise meditation as frequently as I can. As for becoming a nun (although I definitely joke about it often enough!), I don’t think I’m quite ready to make that leap just yet…

There are still many unexplored avenues and many unanswered questions, but I’m grateful of this small insight I’ve had into very unique world.

10 things my first month in Paris has taught me

I’ve been pretty quiet on the blogging front since arriving in Paris. This makes me sad. I was going to write a big Katy-saga, but don’t think I’m ready to face all those feelings just yet. So for now, these 10 memes pretty much sum up my new life here….

1. Paris is SO EXPENSIVE.

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2. I have become what I used to detest – a commuting robot who spends waaaaay too much time underground.

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3. Although I may appear like I’ve got my shit under control, I’m pretty much just floating around like a fairy.

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4. There’s all the chic, competent, professional Parisiens and then there’s me.

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5. There’s so much stuff going on EVERYWHERE, ALL THE TIME, I’m in a constant state of FOMO.

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6. For this reason, Yoga has become a necessity to restablish my zen.

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7. I don’t have many friends here, but I’m grateful for the select few.

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8. Parisiens being a pretty miserable bunch, I appreciate the occasionally freaky people who break the mould. High-5 to the guy I saw pulling a mooney – you made my day.

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9. And there are little pockets of loveliness everywhere I go.

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10. Overall, I should probably just stop stressing and listen to the wise words of Jack Nicholson…

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Friends are the people who think you’re a good egg, even though you’re half cracked…

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I am so happy today. And it’s for two reasons. Firstly, the sun has come out! Omgawd. It’s crazy how just a little bit of sunshine can make my mood absolutely sky-rocket. Second reason, I met up with my besties in Lyon and had the most fun I’ve had in ages. Last week, I was all self-doubt, existential crisis, emotional breakdowns etc etc, but since seeing my girls, I feel absolutely fab. I’ve got my mojo back!

I was so excited to be in Lyon (A CITY. PEOPLE WERE ACTUALLY WALKING AROUND AFTER 8PM!) and catch up with the girls. We hadn’t seen eachother properly in months, but it was just as if no time whatsoever had passed. It was just like being back home at uni, lounging about in our pjs, eating for England, making mischief, putting the world to rights. It really made me realise how much I’ve missed it all. Although being a bit of lone-wolf on the YA has taught me a lot of things, it felt absolutely incredible to be surrounded by mes proches. They reassure me. They join me in my crazy schemes (this weekend’s adventure involved a spontaneous night out with complete strangers). They understand me better than I understand myself sometimes.

I was really sad to have to leave them so soon, but I feel in such a good place right now. This weekend has reminded me of how lucky I am to have such amazing people in my life. It’s reminded me of how great my life actually is, how much I have to be grateful for. Most importantly, it’s proved to me that, despite all the overthinking, the self-doubt and god knows what else, I am in fact really happy with myself.

This morning for example, I woke up in a t-shirt I randomly found in the metro-station on Saturday night when I was drunk. I have no idea who left it there, it’s got some kind of takeaway logo on it (a really naf thing called ‘Mayo Ketchup’), but it’s super comfy and it was just begging to become my new favourite PJ top. I proceeded to throw on a hoodie over said t-shirt (no bra mind) and wander to the shop in search of pizza and chocolate for my breakfast, to the absolute disgust of early-rising, fresh-faced French people. I then gobbled my food, put on some cheesy pop and attempted to twerk in front of the mirror for fifteen minutes and now I’m here drooling over cool glasses frames and long-bob hairstyles on Pintrest whilst writing this blog post. All this to avoid cleaning my room and prepping my lessons (which I know I’ll end up doing at midnight tonight, despite having a full day to get it done).

In short, I’m a walking catastrophe. I’m a serial procrastinator. I’m late for everything. I’m unorganised. I can’t prioritise to save my life. My mum (the total polar-opposite) is probably cringing just reading this. She brought me up better than this, honestly she did. But I’m a hopeless case. I get my shit in order when it’s ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY, but the rest of the time, I prefer to glide through life according to my mantra that ‘it’ll be fine’ (which it usually is). But this is just me. And although I sometimes go through these phases where I make this big effort to transform and change myself, I know deep down that it’s futile. This is who I am. And I love it. As my grandad told me so many times – don’t change for anyone, Katy. People should accept you as you are and if they don’t like it, they can get stuffed. And by god, he was right.

Atoms

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I am very messed up when it comes to sex and relationships. Although my first real relationship was a complete disaster for many, many reasons, First Boyfriend did give me a taste of what it feels like to be loved by someone. And I guess since that, nothing has ever compared. I know that said boy had lots of issues himself and he probably wasn’t the right person for me, but I also messed up big time, by wanting it all. I wanted to have a stable, loving relationship and at the same time, I wanted to be free and single for Freshers (aka, slag it up and live my youth). But this latter option has never made me feel happy. Like even though it may be good at the time and sometimes i’m in the mood just to go a bit wild and feel wanted, I always end up feeling guilty. I end up feeling like I’ve betrayed my own romantic principles, that sex should always be special and loving. Then I contradict this thought and argue that this is just a stupid idea put in our heads by an old-fashioned society, driven by heterosexual monogamy. So I retract and desperately attempt to go with the flow and be that cool, detached, down-for-whatever girl. But inevitably, I realise that this isn’t really me at all, so I run away from it all, cut things off completely. And THEN proceed to moan when I’m living the spinster life. So I spend all my time analysing how I could have done things differently  and how I will somehow be better next time. I also fantasize about being a lesbian and exploring other parts of my sexuality, because the whole boy-thing just hasn’t really worked out all that well for me so far. So then I ask myself, why am I so fucked up in the first place ? Maybe it’s my childhood, maybe it’s in my genes. Best Friend tells me that I’m not alone, because every girl in existence goes through these same thought processes. But if that’s the case, what does that suggest about the future of womankind ? Are we just always destined to be these high-speed atoms constantly bouncing and reflecting off one another in an infinite number of different directions ? Or when we meet ‘the one’, our soulmate, the person who is the nutella to our toast, the ying to our yang, the fulfillment to our emptiness, does it all suddenly become crystal clear ?

In the meantime I’ll be here, patiently waiting to find out…