Animals – Seeing the Sentient Being

A few weeks ago I found out about an art gallery based around animals that was going to be held in my city over the next few days.

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Number one, an art gallery! Number two, art of animals, in support of animals! It was more than enough to make my little vegan animal-loving soul super excited.

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The art is going to be auctioned off tomorrow night, with all proceeds going towards a local animal sancturary.

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Each piece was wonderful, and some we wished we could have a home for. Some of my favourites included a painting of a beautiful cow, with the outline of a human reaching towards it, as well as a portrait of a blue heeler.

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It really emphasized the animals having an existance so rightfully theirs. That they are real, like us, deserving of care and love. The artwork was so powerful, in this sense, demonstrating their value they inherently have, far beyond mere products for our consumption. This overall message was what made the gallery so special.

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Love & light,

Kaitlyn.

Christmas Plum, Almond, Dark Chocolate & Peanut Butter Vegan Bliss Balls

Today I felt like experimenting in the kitchen, to try out different bliss ball combinations!

These are quickly becoming a common favourite, and we go through them so quickly! They are super quick and easy to make, and trying out different ingrediants depending on what we have left over in the pantry is fun.

Today I tried a slightly different method to last week’s bliss balls too, and resultantly they turned out  more gooey and soft. We prefer them this way, as opposed to the ones sold in grocery stores, which are more solid.

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Christmas is fast approaching, and I’m trying to decide what to make to share with family! It’s a lot of fun, and these Christmas bliss balls will defintely be on the list.

Ingredients:

– 250g dried pitted dates

– 6 pieces of Whittakers Plum & Almond Dark Chocolate

– 1 tbsp crunchy peanut butter

– 1/4 finely dessicated coconut

Method:

1) Soak the dates in a large bowl with hot water for around 20 minutes.

2) Shard the chocolate finely, and drain the water from the dates.

3) Mash the dates until smooth as can be.

4) Add the chocolate and peanut butter to the dates, and mash all together, until combined.

5) Roll into balls and dip into coconut, making sure each side is fully covered.

And that’s that! All ready to eat and to think Christmassy thoughts.

Love & light,

Kaitlyn.

One Week of Mindfulness

Today marks one week since I began practicing mindfulness with the help of the book Go Offline Be Mindful.

So far, I have really enjoyed it, as it has helped me to remember to be present. I used to, and often still do, spend most of my time feeling anxious about both the past and future. Practicing mindfulness, however, allows me moments where I feel completely in the now. And the now is all we ever really have. It’s such a beautiful gift, and learning to appreciate it is difficult yet wonderful.

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This past week’s experiences:

#3 “Write a letter and post it to someone special.” I made a playlist for an old friend (it included Fans by Kings of Leon, Lemons by Woodlock and Wait by M83, just to name a few). We have a very similar taste in music, so it’s always exciting to share it with each other! When she recieved it, she sent a beautiful message back, and it just made me so thankful to have such a beautiful friend.

#7 “Visit an art gallery or museum.” I went to a local university exhibition, which was awesome, and I posted about it yesterday. There will be many more adventures like these this summer, I’m determined.

#10 “Read a book (not an e-book).” Having read some reviews online for All the Light we cannot see by Anthony Doerr, I ordered it from the library a few months back, and today I finally got to pick it up. I haven’t started reading yet, but just the mere cover is simply beautiful. The mindfulness book reminds me to take note of how the pages feel, the scent of the book, and the weight of it in my arms. This is a common technique that was emphasized throughout therapy, it’s called grounding, and it will be good to continue practicing that too.

#52 “Listen to someone else’s story.” As part of my work with an organisation my partner and I run, we are very privileged to get to hear many people’s stories. We work to reduce stigma surrounding many social issues, and to help people share their stories in order to help create an open dialogue, an ongoing conversation in society, to spread hope and encourage vulnerability. Yesterday somebody very brave shared their story with us, and after we completed working with her, we had a really beautiful discussion together, about life experiences not defining our entire life experience. It was one of those conversations I will keep close together.

#86 “Give someone a compliment.” To be honest, I went into this one thinking it was to compliment a stranger. If I had known, I would have just stuck with a close friend, so I am glad that I was mistaken, because it gave me the opportunity to push myself. I was at work, and a customer had really cool glasses (think Harry Potter style, but bigger), and they really suited her. I nervously told her that I loved them, and she was so happy in response!

I have also been keeping busy exploring different things too. Capturing street art, experimenting with baking, wedding planning and having dinner with friends. Life has been so beautiful lately.

Love & light,

Kaitlyn.

No Smaller Than

Two days ago I had the privilege of going to a university exhibition which included a friend’s photography.

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It was held in a historic building, in a series of small rooms down a hallway. I got lost finding it only three times, which was quite an achievement.

I love museums, galleries, exhibitions, places where people both create objects and meanings of them.

Famous works and people are wonderful, but what truly strikes me are the arts of those that are unknown.

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The idea behind popularity is simply that one entity is known by the masses. It inherently doesn’t speak anything of value or worth.

That’s why I love supporting ordinary people, just like you and me. The popularity of an idea or work, or even person doesn’t mean they are any better, but rather just more widely known.

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What we create is inherently important because it means both something to us, and something to those close to us. And that’s where value is truly found.

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Love & Light,

Kaitlyn.

Vegan Dark Chocolate & Peanut Butter Bliss Balls

Today the baking bug caught me!

Baking is something that I really enjoy doing, yet is the perfectionist in me also finds difficult. The fear of it not turning out perfectly, plus the fear of something going wrong usually prevails. This usually ends up with me not even attempting something, or plummeting into my old depths if it doesn’t go as planned. Either way, it’s unhealthy, and that’s not the person I am growing to be anymore. So today, I was determined to keep squashing this ridiculous part of me, so I abandoned recipes and guides, and instead turned just to what we had in the pantry. Surprisingly, I had fun, and it was a great way to be creative. The bliss balls turned out great, which was just an added bonus!

My partner is working from home this week, and I wanted to make something we could snack on. We haven’t been grocery shopping in a while, and we also grocery shop within a budget, so I didn’t have many ingredients to pick from.

These are the vegan dark chocolate, peanut butter bliss balls that the experiment resulted in! They are soft, rich, were cheap and quick to make, and have a melt in the mouth texture.

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Ingredients:

All measurements are approximate, as I was doing the whole “just chuck random amounts in a bowl” thing. Therefore, adjustments may be required.

– 250g dried pitted dates (as beautiful as fresh dates are, they are crazy expensive, and dried ones are a fraction of the price and seemed to work out fine!)

– 1tsp crunchy peanut butter (this was all we left, and I’m sure using more would be a fabulous addition too!)

– 12 small squares of vegan dark chocolate (used Whittakers 70% dark)

– 1/4 cup finely dessicated coconut

Method:

1) Place the dates in a large bowl, and fill with hot water until all dates are covered.

2) While the dates are soaking (this makes them softer and easier to shape), chop up the chocolate. I chopped it into shards, but chunks or grating would also work fine.

3) Drain the water from the dates, and place the sharded chocolate and peanut butter in the bowl.

4) Mash it all together! This part got tiring using our flimsy potato masher(which we have never, ever used for potatoes, only bananas!), and perhaps a fork would work better. Mash until it’s a consistancy thats as smooth as can be.

5) Using your hands, roll the mixture into small balls, and then cover in the coconut, making sure every side is fully covered.

And that’s that! The bliss balls are ready to be devoured!

Love & Light,

Kaitlyn.

Summer Mindfulness

It has reached the time of year where university is over until next year, and where summer begins!

Normally, my mental health is worse over summer than during other parts of the year. I’m not too sure why, but I think it has something to do with being out of the routine of university. Despite still working, I’m not overwhelmingly busy like the majority of the year. But this year, I’m determined to be healthy this summer (definitely not in a “beach-body -clean-eating” type way, that is horrible to the very core and is most certainly not healthy, but that’s a whole other post), in terms of taking care of my mind. When my mind is well, then the rest of me follows.

Mindfulness is something that was brought up again and again throughout therapy, by both my doctor and psychologist, and I have learnt a few techniques to help during feelings of intense anxiety. But this summer, I’m determined to make it a great one, and I want to include even just a tiny bit of mindfulness in every day. This will help teach me to be more present in the moment, and overall to cope with the ups and downs of life without reverting to old ways.

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For my birthday a few months ago, my partner got me a beautiful book filled with different ideas for practicing mindfulness. And it is a skill, just like writing or learning to ride a bike, that requires practice for it to become natural. So this summer, practicing mindfulness is what I’m going to be focusing on, and I’m quite excited to have a set of ideas to experience. They range from writing letters to friends and posting them via snail mail, to watching the sunset, to complimenting a stranger. It’s a diverse list, which will push me beyond my comfort zone, and give me practice in coping with the anxiety.

Today I’m excited to start with #3, “Write a letter and post it to someone special.” I’m going to write a playlist for a dear friend of mine, because we used to do that a lot and haven’t in a while, and were talking a few nights ago about how much we love each other’s playlists!

What are your ideas for mindfulness? How do you practice it?

Love & light,
Kaitlyn.

Aliens, and the Fear of the Solo Hedonic Experience

Yesterday I had the experience of going to watch a movie alone, for the first time.

It was a big deal to me. And the fact that it was such a big deal, was annoying. I didn’t understand why I felt uncomfortable. I watch movies at home by myself, and I see films at the cinema with my partner all the time, so why did a combination of the two feel so unnatural?

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(Image sourced from: http://metro.co.uk/2015/10/20/seriously-why-are-we-so-scared-of-going-to-the-cinema-alone-5445847/)

Another influence on the situation was that I work part-time at this particular cinema. So not only do I see my work friends going to movies by themselves, but I also sell tickets and popcorn to strangers who watch alone too. In my time there, I have served hundreds of alone cinema-goers, and never thought anything of them, aside from the occassional admiration of their confidence of being able to do what would scare me. Each shift I am surrounded by examples of this being okay and accepted, yet it was still something that was difficult.

Why are we so afraid, or more so, unwilling, to go to the movies alone? Does it come down to confidence? Ratner and Hamilton of the Universities of Maryland and Georgetown put this down to hedonic verses utilitarian activities. A hedonic activity is one where the purpose is fun, such as going to see a movie, as opposed to utilitarian where productivity is the goal. Utilitairan activites are what we engage in each day, without a second thought. I have no trouble studying alone in the library, or going grocery shopping by myself. However, the the idea of going into a big theatre, surrounded by people seemingly reveling in their togetherness, was a completely different story.

I felt as though everyone would be judging me, thinking that I had nobody who would want to go with me. I also felt as though my work friends would be judging me too.

Ratner and Hamilton found that it was both the degree to which an activity is considered hedonic, and the anticipated number of observers, that determine how uncomfortable we are doing things alone. For example, reading a book in a cafe seems less daunting than dining in an expensive restaurant alone, because then we believe that we have more of a valid “reason” to be there; to read the book. Furthermore, sitting in a quiet park alone would be quite different to being alone in a busy movie theatre. The concentration of anticipated judgement from surrouding people would be far less, and thus the activity would be less uncomfortable.

So why does all of this matter? Logically, I didn’t understand why this was such a challenge for me. I have come a long way in my recovery from various mental illnesses to know that quite honestly, people out in public really don’t care about you, let alone are judging your every move. We are always far more focused on ourselves. When I’m out and see people alone, I don’t think twice about them, or the fact that I may be with someone while they aren’t. I’m too engrossed in simply thinking, doing, being a functioning human, just as we all are. Yet these fears still predominated as I lined up to buy a ticket to the latest mystery sci-fi, Arrival.

I got a ticket and joked with work friends about our day. We talked about the movie, about the sales competition we are part of, about an upcoming party. It was all so normal, and no different to every other time I have been, but without someone by my side.

Going into the theatre was scary too. It was about a third full, and I nervously took my seat, convinced that the groups of friends and couples would already be whispering about me. As the trailers started, a few more people took their seats, and to my suprise they were each alone too. It was then that I finally felt like what I was doing wasn’t so weird after all.

Arrival was brilliant. I wasn’t sure if it was something I was going to be interested in beforehand, but it was what I chose to complete this challenge with, and I am so happy that I did. It was beautiful, strange and sad all at once, with a few aliens thrown in there for good measure. It is definitely a new favourite.

As well as the movie, I had a great time. It was a better experience than I imagined it could ever be. It was really cool being completely engrossed in the film, and sitting in the dark all by yourself. I don’t really know how explain it, but it was refreshing in some way, and a good sort of different.

Of course I still love going to the movies with friends, my partner or family. I love discussing the plot, laughing together, and having someone to explain it to me when things get confusing. But now I’m pretty stoked that I can have a great time if it’s just me too.

Love & light,
Kaitlyn.

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Study referred to in: http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2015/04/why-you-should-go-to-the-movies-alone.html