Whenever I visit Cape Town I like to visit what many consider to be the most beautiful garden in Africa – the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, on the slopes of Table Mountain. It is one of the most highly acclaimed botanical gardens in the world.
Reading a plaque one day, I was astounded to learn that it was started with the vision of just one man – Harold Pearson – a botanist who saw the need for a botanic garden in Cape Town in 1903 and set about achieving that goal.
It was 8 years before he found the place – the government owned Kirstenbosch Estate – where he wanted to establish the garden and another 2 before the land was set aside for this purpose. The garden began as nothing more than a neglected, overgrown farm with a ruined homestead, thickets of weeds and extensive plantations of alien plants. There were many difficulties to overcome – the topography was challenging for gardening, funds were severely lacking and the First World War happened leaving only one gardener. The worst blow was the untimely death of Harold Pearson himself in 1916. His dream, however, survived.
The beautiful garden we have today is of course due to many factors – the dream that started it all, the commitment and dedication of the staff during the early years, and the substantial support of the Botanical Society and its members over the years. Ultimately though, it was the vision and dream of just one man!
The lesson learned here is that if you dream and pursue that dream you can achieve mighty things.
Earlier this year I visited the Cape and spent time with a dear friend. Every day we did something different, but because we loved Stellenbosch so much we went back there many times. We ate in fabulous cafés and restaurants, we met interesting people, we popped in and out of wonderful shops and bought a variety of things that caught our fancy – artisan bread, a bone china tea set, a pretty scarf. We were delighted with the variety and diversity of our explorations.
The lesson here is to appreciate what is in your own backyard. In Stellenbosch I was made very aware that we were enjoying what millions of international tourists are drawn to annually – the sheer beauty of this land, its rich culture and heritage, and the warmth and hospitality of our fellow citizens. The rest of the world comes to enjoy the offerings that are already available to us.
At the beginning of every year, most people make plans and set goals for the year ahead. It’s a great idea, because knowing where you want to go is important – How can you get there, if you don’t know where you are going?
With my sailing background, one of my favourite quotes is “If a man knows not what harbour he seeks, any wind is the right wind.” ~ Seneca ~
But a sailor does not just allow himself to be blown about the ocean. It doesn’t matter what the wind, he just resets his sails to take him in the direction he wants to go. In the same way, when you know what you want out of life, you can set your course to get there, no matter what the circumstances.
But, you need to know where you want to go… you need to have a vision!
To help you clarify your vision, it may help to create a vision board (also called a Dream Board).
In our hectic, modern lifestyles, most of us focus so heavily on work and family commitments that we never seem to have time for pure fun. Somewhere between childhood and adulthood, we stopped playing. Even when we do make time for leisure, we're more likely to sit in front of the TV or computer than engage in fun, rejuvenating play like we did as children. But the reality is that we don’t have to take ourselves so seriously just because we’re adults. By giving ourselves permission to play with the joyful abandon of childhood, we will reap a variety of health benefits throughout life.
While cross country skiing in Keystone Ski Resort, high in the Rocky Mountains, I fell and a sharp piece of ice gouged a small chunk of flesh out of a finger. It was a small wound but for the next week it did not heal at all.
The ski season came to an end and my next adventure was to drive to Louisiana for the annual New Orleans Jazz Festival. I was fascinated to find that within 24 hours of entering Louisiana, which is hot and humid (the exact opposite of the extremely dry atmosphere at the ski resort) the flesh of my wound had drawn together and healing was well on its way. All it needed was the right conditions – wounds heal faster and better when kept moist.
In 1962 scientist George D. Winter found that the regrowth of skin proceeded twice as fast in a moist environment than under a scab. Wounds covered with a film dressing took about 12 to 15 days to heal, while similar wounds exposed to the air took about 25 to 30 days to heal. Our body’s cells need moisture to survive.
The lesson here is that the right things happen under the right conditions – we just need to discover and create the right conditions. This concept applies to all aspects of our life, be it physical, mental, emotional or spiritual.
The concept of ‘living in the now’ or ‘being in the present’ has its roots in Eastern philosophies, but has gained popularity in mainstream western thinking in recent years because of the writings of people such as Eckhart Tolle, Jon Kabat-zinn and many others.
The increasing popularity of the concept – also referred to as ‘mindfulness’ – has quickly promoted its status from an esoteric concept to an abundantly used ‘power-phrase’ in the area of ‘self-help’. Many people are still confused by the concept and don’t fully understand it. So what does ‘living in the now’ actually mean and why and how should introduce it into our lives?
Many people think of anger as a purely ‘negative’ emotion – an emotion that we should not actually allow ourselves to feel. But anger is, in fact, just an emotion - one of a whole range of emotions that we must allow ourselves to feel if we want to experience a rich mental and emotional life.
Arizona in the south-west region of the USA has a stark beauty punctuated with an assortment of cacti. While driving through, it was at the back of my mind that the area was home to a variety of scorpions and rattlesnakes among other creatures. We decided to stop and pop into one of the stores along the way, which was filled with lots of fun stuff and touristy curiosities. Some buff-coloured envelopes which were marked in capital letters – ‘DANGER: RATTLESNAKE EGGS’ caught my eye. I opened one to peek inside and got the fright of my life! It vibrated in my hands and made a whirring noise… just like the sound of a rattle snake! I nearly dropped it! What a laugh, it was a trick! An elastic band had been twisted around a metal disc. Hysterical!
The life lesson here is that expectations ‘set you up’. I was ‘primed’ for rattle snakes with all their potential danger, so when I heard a rattle it resulted in me having the fright of my life.
It’s important to set up the right expectations – first impressions count - so pay attention to your appearance, the way you treat others and the manner in which you behave. Are they congruent with the expectation you want people to have of you?
Situated on a hill with a view of the city of Granada in Spain, the Alhambra is a palace which has been built over centuries to reflect ‘the very beauty of Paradise itself’. Its many construction phases (beginning in the 9th Century as a citadel; developing in the 14th Century to become a Muslim palace and ultimately, in the 16th Century, housing Charles V) have retained the ‘paradise on earth’ theme as each new section has been added. These have included column arcades, fountains with running water and pools designed to reflect the architecture. The gardens are lush with flowers and foliage. It truly is a paradise. I was struck most, however, by the genius of the Arabic architecture, engineering and design which utilised no modern technology. Even though the sun was freely admitted, the air flowed in such a way that even on the hottest days, the rooms remained cool and airy and it was as if nature and architecture were blended as one. The feeling that I had at this place was so enriching that I really didn’t want to leave.
In the hustle and bustle of life in the city, one forgets to appreciate the beauty and tranquillity of nature and the fact that it is entirely possible to incorporate the natural environment into the design of our modern buildings. In this way we can enjoy the convenience of peaceful, airy rooms without the ambient noise of modern technology. The more we integrate our lives with nature, the more enriched we are.
A surprisingly large number of people do not know how to accept a compliment. They have a mind-set that says something like, “I cannot possibly deserve positive feedback - anyone who pays me a compliment must be misguided, lying or feeling sorry for me”. But, is this really true? Of course not! You not only have the right to accept compliments and feel good about yourself, but also the responsibility to accept a compliment that someone is giving you, graciously.