Where is the Richest Place on Earth?

Where is the Richest Place on Earth?

“Your playing small does not serve the world”

Have you heard this sentence before? Do you know where it comes from?

It is from a passage written by Marianne Williamson that was introduced to me for the first time when I was absolutely not ready to read it. It was suggested to me that I show this passage to my clients for their own personal growth, so I read it and, honestly, thought that it was a little bit to ‘airy fairy’, a little bit too flouncy, a little bit too fluffy, a little bit too…

…true?  I personally was not ready to heed its meaning and therefore was not ready to present it to anybody else.

So I now present it to you: are you ready to heed the meaning?

Is it the fear of failing or the fear that we might really succeed that most frightens us? The thought of facing our fears can be hugely terrifying – we like to live within our self imposed ‘safety net’. Taking that a stage further, the thought of demolishing our fear and being an enormous success also brings with it a mammoth helping of terror.  But then the idea of being “brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous”, my goodness, are you ready to go there yet?

(I faced my fears yet again this weekend by somersaulting off a trampoline for the first time in my life.  Pretty liberating when you’re the ‘wrong’ side of 35!  I then continued to do it again and again and had so much fun.  Isn’t it amazing what our fears are ‘protecting’ us from?)

“As we let our own light shine we unconsciously give others permission to do the same”

We have all felt this: it is the gift in the simple act of smiling at a stranger as you walk along the street.  They smile back and you both feel a little bit happier. Happiness engenders happiness, just as strength engenders strength, success engenders success. So in being too modest, in playing the humble wallflower, in being ‘too British’ with that stiff upper lip preventing us from speaking up to announce our triumphs, we shine less and others around us follow suit, dimming their lamps for fear of dazzling those around them.

I was asked a question at the end of last year by someone very important in my life: “Where is the richest place on earth?”

After thinking for a while I decided my answer was, “the richest place on earth is inside your heart” as I had concluded that love is the most precious thing I could think of and that the residence of love was the heart. Apparently not.  I learned that this was actually a question posed many times before by a controversial preacher named Myles Munroe (who was sadly recently deceased).  He said, “the graveyard is the richest place on the surface of the earth because there you will see the books that were not published, ideas that were not harnessed, songs that were not sung and drama pieces that were never acted”.

Makes sense, doesn’t it? But it gave me cause for further thought and I have to say I don’t wholeheartedly agree with Myles Munroe. Is it really the potential books, ideas, songs and drama pieces that are the riches we leave behind? I can’t help returning to my thoughts of love and the richest place being inside your heart – where do we find the lost loves, or loves we left behind when we departed this life leaving our earthly remains in the aforementioned graveyard?

And so I turned to my inspirational and knowledgeable Mother who has spent her entire adult life caring for others in the medical profession, most recently working tirelessly for nearly 20 years as a specialist in palliative care (for the uninitiated, the care of those who are on the road towards death). My mum is one of the few who knows much about the thoughts of many and varied people who are now dearly departed, not long before they dearly depart, from many and varied conversations at bedsides as their soul prepares to leave this place for the next.

What are the things that people regret, the wishes and dreams that have passed folk by during their lives, what touches people the most as they take their last few breaths on the surface of this earth that we call home?

I called mum at work to ask her; her answers were succinct, clear, concise and comprised of three main categories which, she said, are experienced to some degree by almost all people as they live their last few moments and take their last few breaths:

1. Family: The feeling of missing our family, of missing out on what happens next, of not being there to support loved ones, of leaving loved ones behind and not being part of their lives.

2. Relationship/Love: Loves lost or failed relationships. Problematic relations with children due to familial problems or difficulties, or our children being estranged. Loved ones being geographically distant and our life ending having not been able to say goodbye. Or dying before we have chance to heal the wounds we left in the wake of life.

3. Knowledge: Where does our knowledge go, is it all lost? All that time spent studying, learning, gathering a lifetime of information around our own particular specialist subjects, linked to our own particular memories of events. Where does all that accumulated ‘knowing’ go?

Thank you Mum for your wise words that have given me cause to disagree, at least in part, with the late preacher Myles Munroe’s assertion. If the regrets upon our death bed are focused primarily around family, relationships, love and knowledge, then surely the graveyard will be littered with regrets of a different nature.  What about the opportunities to spend time with our families that were not harnessed because we were too busy making money in our office cubicle, with colleagues whom we saw more than our loved ones.  Then of course there would be the remains of words we never said to repair a broken heart, deeds that were never done to reach out and express our love to our estranged children, wounds left open and untreated after harsh words were spoken or trips that were never taken to visit our families and loved ones around the world.

But finally, the graveyard would be drenched in the knowledge that we never shared, thoughts that were not developed into prose, ideas that will die with us – here I think the final thoughts of so many echo the theory presented by Preacher Munroe. In not sharing our knowledge, in not leaving a written or spoken legacy to allow future generations to benefit from our years of experience, we may well have missed our cultural calling. Herein lie Munroe’s “books that were not published, ideas that were not harnessed, songs that were not sung and drama pieces that were never acted”.

So the message here is balance, as in so many areas of life when we really break things down. Make the time in your life to really, truly be with your family. Not just to be in the same room or the same house while each of you stares with technologically-induced inebriation at your smart-device of choice, but actually being together and making sure that you savour every moment, knowing that not making the most of this now will be your single biggest regret in the future.

(Just to clarify, there was no death-bed mention of the time we didn’t get to spend with our colleagues in the office, hanging out drinking coffee by the photocopier, or of the dollars/pounds that we never earned to bulk out our savings plan, or of that one last hour spent surfing the internet page de jour)

And next, make time to fix what is broken. If you have dealt harsh words, make your peace and apologise. If you have received harsh words, make your peace through forgiveness. If your loved ones are estranged, be the one to make the first step towards a resolution. Bitterness met with love, resentment met with forgiveness, frustration met with understanding, these are the things that can heal a broken bond and rekindle relationships. Or at the very least, forgive, bring peace and move on.

Finally: share your knowledge! I broke my own mould, my samskara, and overcame many a fear by first publishing my thoughts in this blog that you’re reading today. I had no idea whether anyone even wanted to share in my knowledge, to delve into my thought processes, but a wise friend once posed the question, “who are you to not share what people may benefit from?”

The only certainty in life is death.  Morbid?  Or realistic?  Make sure you face your maker with the satisfaction that your particular, specialised experience and knowledge has been passed on rather than being taken with you to the grave. Write that book! What will it take? Pick up a pen and write. Sing that song, tell that story. Or even start a blog!

So in Marianne Williamson’s quote, “your playing small does not serve the world”, it could be considered that we should all let go of our fears, banish insecurities, ignore the self-doubt and get out there to grab hold of our dreams and passions with both hands, allowing ourselves to shine brighter than we ever thought possible!

I for one do not wish to be buried with my dreams, or with the particular knowledge that I accumulate, rather for them to be shining bright on the earth long after I have departed this place.

And right now I am giving my gift to you,

smiling at you from across the street…

…whilst wholeheartedly giving you the “permission to do the same”.

“Dear Me…”

“Dear Me…”

Happy New Year one and all!
The holiday season was such a wonderful period of reflection for me, for myriad reasons, both good and bad, and I have emerged relatively unscathed into 2015. My New Year’s resolutions are more continuations than revolutions – to have a daily practice encompassing yoga asana, pranayama and meditation exercises, to sleep more, to read more books for pleasure and to spend more time outside. But I have one more this year which is to focus more and to multitask less, therefore to live more in the moment: to work when I am working, write when I am writing, and to be a mum when I am, well, being a mum. In short, I am aiming to split myself into fewer pieces and enjoy the manifestation of myself that I am embodying at any one time! (Phew!)

And I’ll give myself time to stop and stare…

Last week I had my first dedicated day where I did no work, no writing, no chores, and not a single ‘little tiny piece of admin that has to be done today ……’. I simply existed completely with Beatrice, entirely, without distraction and we PLAYED. She really noticed the difference and actually commented in a variety of 4-year-old ways how it was so fun to ‘play’ with Mummy. I’m often present in our home without being truly present and I’d hoped she hadn’t noticed, that it didn’t make a huge difference as long as I was there. Apparently not.  Such a huge lesson for me.

I am also embarking upon some further study in health coaching (one can never stop learning) and I have been brainstorming some ideas for my clients here in Hong Kong. Out of those thought processes this week arose a letter addressed to myself in 2005, the super-motivated mid-20’s me who worked in finance in Central HK, but who felt the burn-out approaching and enquired on a health coach website (do you see where I’m going with this?).  Having written it, I decided to share it with you:

Dear ‘ambitious 20-something’, circa 2005.

Thank you for your enquiry on my website and for your interest in what I offer as a health and wellness coach here in Hong Kong.  I will do my best to address all of your questions, from personal experience, as honestly and succinctly as possible.

Yes, you are correct in your understanding that I worked in Central HK for quite some time in the corporate world myself. I found the whole experience exhilarating, motivating, exciting and rewarding but also incredibly challenging to my mental, emotional and physical reserves. I recall my Mum visiting me in my crazy, faced-paced world and telling me that my business suit was my battle armour and my make-up was my mask. I was rather taken aback at the time but she was so attuned to my truth, as mothers tend to be. Nowadays when I recount that period of my life in general conversation the phrase “I loved it but it nearly killed me”, invariably emerges from my lips.

battle armour

For me it was like going to war each and every day, a young woman moonlighting in battle. Resplendent in my pin-striped suit I was sprinting around a premier league pitch and catching the occasional goal until I got pretty good and ended up out front with the other attackers. And I did encounter workplace pressure as a woman but in honesty most of the additional pressure I felt was of my own creation, needing to prove myself to me.

I felt like I was up front, attacking, scoring and periodically dashing to the sidelines to fix my hair; we pressure ourselves to look like the pictures in the magazine whilst we endeavour to keep up with our male and female counterparts in the daily workplace grind.

football attackers

Firstly ‘ambitious 20-something’, let’s make one thing clear. You look great! You’re in your twenties and almost everyone looks great at that age, regardless of how you think you look. Your skin is still so young, your youthful body so resilient, your eyes so bright, your face retains a plump-cheeked, full-moon, fertile glow, all in spite of the daily pressures that you eke out upon it. But things need to change. The full-moon face of youth is not yours to use and abuse at will – it is a finite gift wrapped within the limits of time.

Imagine what could happen if you review how you live, if you gift your body, mind and spirit with the respect that they deserve and which you have not yet learned? What if you leave the battle behind and introduce balance to your life?  You asked me what a health coach does, but the question would be better phrased as ‘what health issue most bothers you this week?’, or ‘what area of your life is most out of balance nowadays?’.  Those are the things we will approach head on, together, learning how they arose and how best to implement small changes to your life in order to meet your health goals. We could address many challenges:

  • Your hormonal skin outbreaks that have plagued you will disappear
  • You will not need to wear foundation (seriously, that is possible)
  • You will not require a ‘tan’, your your skin will glow from the inside out
  • The mid-afternoon energy slump or post-work exhaustion be no more
  • You will go through the whole day without coffee and wonder why you ever drank it
  • The doctor will not be on speed dial, you can go year upon year with no prescribed medications at all and will not catch common colds more than once every 2-3 years
  • Your figure will be smaller and your weight will normalize at the correct level
  • You will be stronger in your body and mind once you open yourself to a regular yoga practice
  • You will be able to sleep, without wine, all night and in peace
  • Stress will no longer be your ruler, no longer omnipresent in each day
  • Earning more money will be no longer your sole motivator, not because you hit millionaire status, but because the cliché that money does not provide you riches is absolutely true
  • Moreover, if someone were to completely empty your bank accounts, your world would not collapse around you. You would simply continue, life would go on
  • When you choose not to drink alcohol for a year you will actually enjoy the process, finding that your social butterfly can still flutter-by

Nowadays my pin-striped battle armour is folded up in a drawer and is unlikely to ever see the light of another day. I am still smart but on my terms and, as for my ‘mask’, it is no longer built upon a thick layer of foundation because my skin no longer requires the coverage, just a little coconut oil and maybe a sliver of tinted organic moisturiser. And yes, I do still love my mascara, but there are days now when I don’t wear it and still feel ok which would have been unthinkable before. Again, it is on my terms rather than a requirement of my ‘uniform’. As for the stilettos, I do still love them but they make an occasional appearance on special occasions: I no longer need the reassuringly familiar ‘clip-clop’ to feel that I have arrived!


So if you would like to continue your exciting, action-packed, adrenaline-filled life in corporate HK but are not sure your body and mind can cope, if your full-moon face is starting to wane, if you one day decide to leave that life behind to parent full-time and miss the battle sometimes, or if you are wavering somewhere in between and are not sure where your life and health are heading, I can certainly help you to strike a better balance.  Or if you’re done with the battle field and want create a new version of you, learning how to better fuel your body and mind, I can help with that too.  Let’s arrange a meeting soon over an espresso morning coffee a post-yoga herbal tea to chat more about your personal health and wellness goals.  I’m so looking forward to meeting you!

With love & best wishes, Rowena (circa. January 2015)

And so, dear readers, endeth my letter to my old self. If only she could have read it and taken care of herself a little better in her twenties – thankfully her body was more resilient then and she emerged from the battle with minimal scarring. But those of us over the 30 threshold and beyond, take heed. Forgo the battle, maybe even the war, in order to save yourself. Who knows what might be over the horizon? My own battle scars are fading and my horizon is looking brighter than ever – join me! 🙂

I very much look forward to sharing the adventure of 2015 with you all.

Please feel free to share your comments and thoughts below – all are welcome.

Rowena x

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