24.10.18

LIFE IN LONDON:
THE CITY AS A TEACHER





When I open my eyes in the morning, one of my first thoughts is always I can't believe I live in London and Is this real? I get out of bed and do my daily meditation. I feel peaceful and grateful for the day. I eat breakfast and drink tea. I get ready and leave my flat — either for work or to run errands or go for a wander in a new area. One thing I'm still adjusting to is the sheer amount of people in this city. I now expect crowds, line ups, and just people everywhere I go. I love it because I'm never alone and being among a blanket of people creates a veil of anonymity, creating less opportunities for judgment from strangers. I hate it because it can be overwhelming and public transit tends to bring out the worst in people. It also takes a lot longer to get somewhere. I describe London as the city of polarities. It's everything and anything, peace and chaos, rich and poor, sun and rain, darkness and light. It's a circus that runs itself and never sleeps. It's unapologetically British. 



I tried my best to not have expectations around what living in London would be like. I set myself up to expect that I could love it, I could be scared and times may be tough, I would face a lot of potential rejections (have I ever), and I could have a hard time finding friends or groups to join. I wanted to guard this experience by leaving the expectations as open as possible. This has helped me in so many ways. It's given me space to interpret all of my experiences as they come. 



One of my yoga students asked me how I was finding London so far. I thought for a moment and what came to mind was London has been the best teacher. They had never heard it described that way and I find Londoners are always amazed by how the city is perceived. I went on to explain how before moving here, I considered myself a quite calm and patient yogi. Just a few months in, I have learned that this is not exactly true. I've learned more about myself since moving here than I have in years and this is one of my reasons for wanting to follow this dream. I had a feeling that a lot of the things I believed to be true about myself weren't true — or at least weren't being tested enough to know for sure.



We think we know what we want and what we like and what we don't like and what we can handle. Until we put ourselves in situations outside our comfort zone, we don't truly know ourselves as well as we think we do. 



Here are a few recent revelations that have made me ponder how well I truly know myself. 

I don't like the city sometimes and big crowds can be overwhelming.

Key word is sometimes. Obviously I moved to London because I do love it. I love how big and chaotic and gritty it is. I love the buzz. And as an extrovert, I do get energized by people. However, I'm learning that I've overestimated my tolerance for things like thrusting myself into a packed subway cart, waiting a long time in line ups, getting excited to go to an art exhibit or movie only to learn it is sold out, waiting lists, and *accidentally* going to a market or vintage store at peak hour and literally not being able to walk because of how many people are there. These ~little~ things are all new to me and are teaching me how to be more patient, tolerant, and grateful than I could've ever imagined. I feel grateful because I realize that visiting galleries, markets and shopping are privileges. 



Routine is not only important but essential to my wellbeing. 

Moving to a new city and working part-time, blogging part-time, and searching for full-time work has certainly thrown off my extremely comfortable nine to five routine of the past six years. I didn't realize how much I depended on having a routine and the affect it has on my wellbeing. I knew I wouldn't have a daily routine for my first months here but figured if I could start each day off on the right foot, it would make up for the lack of routine everywhere else. A few weeks in, I established a morning routine so that every day starts the same regardless.




Trusting that everything will be okay is a daily effort. 

On the outside, I always appear to have a positive, cheerful, and sunny disposition. While I mostly feel this way, I have many moments of self-doubt. This whole process has really tested my ability to trust — in my dream, in this journey, and most importantly, in myself. I made a lot of sacrifices to move here. I quit my job, I sold my car, I sold a lot of my stuff, I saved a lot of money and paid off debts. I didn't have a job lined up or a solid place or many friends in the city. I did have goals, intuition, and trust. I had to really trust that this was the right decision and I knew because I felt it in my heart. When I tuned into that feeling, I just knew it would be okay. I have to renew this trust every day and sometimes many times throughout the day. It is the most bizarre feeling moving somewhere and signing a lease, even buying plants or furniture — items that symbolize settling — without fully knowing how this will all work out. 





Building a sense of trust within myself that I'll always be okay no matter what is a teaching that I could've only learned by taking a big risk and following my heart. For that, I am forever grateful. London, you truly are the best teacher and I'll continue trying to be a good student. 


PHOTOGRAPHY BY LEANNE DIXON 










Read More »

15.10.18

EMOTIONAL STATES AT THE
LONDON DESIGN BIENNALE




One thing I definitely wanted to do when I moved here (London) was volunteer in some capacity. In my last post, I talked the importance of defining your identity based on your life's work rather than your job. Volunteering, creating, reading, learning — these all fall under my life's work umbrella. Among my many London-related Internet search black holes that I've fallen into was Somerset House — an iconic piece of history, art gallery, and venue that sits along the river near West London. This is where I first read about the London Design Biennale (LDB for short) and was immediately interested in getting involved. 

The very first LDB was in 2016 and brought together some of the world's most ambitious designers, innovators, and curators to show how design impacts our very being and every aspect of our lives. The theme for 2016 was Utopia by Design. The Biennale returned this September with the theme Emotional States. As someone who is fascinated by the human brain, emotions, and of course, mental health, this exhibition caught my attention. After sending in my application and attending an interview, I was chosen to be one of this year's volunteers. 

Two to three times per week throughout the Biennale, I threw my black and orange t-shirt on, grabbed a flat white, and hopped on the Northern line to Somerset House. We had our morning briefing, grabbed our LDB tote bags and catalogue, and walked to our stations. I spent my shift greeting hundreds of visitors, answering questions, admiring and interacting with the exhibits, and making new friends. 

What I thought would be a standard volunteering position turned into something much deeper ~as one should expect at a show titled Emotional States~ and I am so grateful for this experience. It was a perfect intro to London. 

Here's what I learned:

Emotion is a universal language. 

The nature of this exhibit is multi-cultural. Each installation represents a country in that the designers are from that country and their exhibit was heavily influenced by aspects of their culture. Being that London is often referred to as a melting pot of cultures, the LDB was a direct reflection of this. Visitors of all cultures came to the LDB and many were most excited to see how their country depicted the theme. The installations were interactive and many included highly emotional things like scent, textures, and sounds so specific to their country. 

Qatar's installation titled The State of You by designer Aisha Nasser Al-Sowaidi was one of my favourites. You could smell it from down the hallway but only got the full effect from standing under one of the ceramic domes. Visitors are invited to place their heads beneath seven dome-like “worlds”, each of which releases a different scented smoke. Each dome released a scent that bears emotional significance to the designer. Scents of mango, tobacco and rain filled the room. I am heavily influenced by scent and believe it is one of the most emotionally charged substances. A specific scent can transport us back in time.  





Canada's installation titled An Emotional Landscape by Bruce Mau Design (Toronto) displayed a map and markers of cities that are named after different emotional states. The design team were struck by the fact that so many places in Canada are named after emotional states – from Happy Adventure, Newfoundland to Hope, British Columbia by way of Love, Saskatchewan. Opposite the map were video projections of interviews with citizens of those cities. As a Canadian new to London, I found so much comfort in this room and my immediate reaction was this is just SO Canada and I love it. 



Most people I've met here so far are from somewhere else and while London is incredible, there is just something about home that is comforting and nostalgic. I think a lot of visitors found comfort in the sights, sounds, and scents of their homeland. 

Design can be a powerful force for good. 

Many of the installations not only represented their country but are sparking new ideas for solving crucial problems. Sustainability, up-cycling, accessibility, human rights, and healing trauma were common themes that I was heartened to see. 

Sweden showed how coal— a historically cheap and dirty fossil fuel— could be re-used to create art pieces, floor tiles, and furniture. It looks sleek too! 

The Netherlands presented a greenhouse of the future – a building that harvests both food and the electricity needed to grow it. How cool is that?



Good people make everything more fun. 

Some of the shifts felt longer than others and all of them required standing all day. What kept me going and coming back with a big smile on my face was my fellow volunteers. They all had diverse backgrounds but we all had our passion for art and design in common. As we sometimes spent over two hours with each other if we were stationed in the same exhibit, we all got really close fast and connected on a deep level. Some of them had me in tears laughing and it made the day go by in a flash. We're all still talking via text and liking each other's insta pics. It's the best. 



If you're at all interested in art and design, sustainability, and creative solutions to important issues, I invite you to read about all the participants here.


Read More »