Thoughts of Peace, Freedom and Gratitude


Days such as today (commemorations, anniversaries, etc.) always remind me of the same important thing. One day is designated as a memorial day, during which we should dedicate our thoughts and attention towards significant people and events. However, thoughts of peace, freedom and gratitude aren’t to be restricted to just one day per year.

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Please understand this: there is no criticism here of any kind against those who outwardly show that they mark Remembrance Day with poppies, badges, wristbands or otherwise. There is nothing towards anyone, on the basis that they ‘don’t do enough the rest of the time in order to justify these few days of recognition at this time of year…’.


I won’t try to make you believe that I reserve time every single day specifically in order to remember and thank the soldiers who fought and died to preserve their world and ours. This is rather about encompassing these unnamed martyrs of freedom and peace, to whom we owe our way of life, in the overall circle of gratitude I send out for anything and everything for which I am grateful.

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What if we made it our objective, starting with this day, Remembrance Sunday – 15th November 2020, to remember, not once per year but at least once per day, whom our freedom is (in large part) thanks to. At least, to recognise the simple fact that freedom, as well as peace, are ours. In doing so, I daresay we will never again risk taking for granted even the smallest measure of freedom and peace which we enjoy every single day… Freedom can manifest itself in any number of ways, which aren’t for us to qualify as ‘big’ or ‘small’.


Our ‘everyday’ freedom, the kind which allows us to realise everyday endeavours, every day, may seem anything but extraordinary. However, we’d certainly notice if one day it were gone. Imagine a situation in which our right to go out as we choose – or to stay out as late as we choose – were taken away…? Let’s try to imagine that for just a moment…??!! Thoughts of peace, freedom and gratitude may seem a tall order when we are forced to compromise on what we consider as our basic ‘rights’.

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This morning, I woke up in a warm bed, in a peaceful apartment; we had toast for breakfast, of which there was plenty, and thought of the day ahead, which we’d fill with whatever we would decide. Later, I sat looking through the window at the sky and view outside, breathing and taking in that quiet, placid moment.


I then began thinking of the gift which is this peace, bestowed upon us by those for whom today is appointed a day of memorial.


It was justly this moment at which it occurred to me that I don’t attribute this gift to those who gave their lives for it, as they did for so many people, nearly as often as I ought to.


This one manifestation of the freedom I enjoy in my everyday life illustrates the main point I wish to make: even something by all accounts ‘ordinary’ warrants our gratitude for having the freedom to do it. That we don’t necessarily take the time daily to dedicate our thoughts to the brave soldiers, resistance fighters, medics, activists, civilians… All those who sacrificed and fought in order that we can live a life so peaceful they are absent from our very thoughts for so much of the year is perhaps even somewhat cruel irony…?

May we never know the fear they knew, face the danger they faced or be confronted, as they were, with the uncertainty of whether we will live to see another day of quiet peace, let alone return home to share it with our families.

May we live in such a way that, so as not to take for granted all they gave up in order to preserve the existence of their world, thereby paving the way for ours, they might feel as though all that they gave was worth the sacrifice.

Image by Michael from Pexels

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All year round we mark special occasions, and commemorate past ones with anniversaries, celebrating or remembering loved ones and the significant events which tie us together. Whatever the occasion, or nature of the significance, let’s reserve a place for remembering their importance not just on the ‘one day of the year that counts’, but every day of the year.


Keeping everything and everyone which matters to us constantly at the forefront of our minds is not what it takes to show them their importance to us. Thank goodness – where would be the space for all the insignificant, everyday things which clamour for the same attention?!! It isn’t even necessarily about telling them, either – no less giving them something – in order to remind them how important they are. Everyday recognition, in any form – however ‘big’ or ‘small’, but especially ‘small’ – of who and what makes our life extraordinary, is the first way of expressing our gratitude for them…


This can just as well be an internal (‘SMALL’!) as an external word of thanks, a tiny yet perceptible – and equally if not more powerful – acknowledgment of our gratitude for their presence or existence. The constant presence of these sentiments is what renders days such as anniversaries so genuinely special.

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© Away With Words, 2020

Daily Habits and Practices for a Calm, Healthy, Happy Mind

These are some examples of daily habits and practices I would recommend to anyone…

… To help integrate their favourite activities as regularly as possible into their lives, as well as to keep their minds calm and free from invading, distracting thoughts. I say ‘daily’ as, for me, any day which consists of any and all of these is a good day! But instead of wanting to try and fit in every single one of these, every single day, however they benefit you, how about starting to make time for one per day, another one per week, another per month…? This way, you’ll give yourself the chance to see which daily habits and practices are particularly beneficial, and therefore which you should keep . Then aim to make the very best ones even more regular, and notice the difference in your frame of mind and your satisfaction at how your precious time is spent everyday!

Are any of these already a part of your daily rituals and habits? Do you see any which inspire you to take action? Which are your favourites?

Listening to inspiring audios

You can find any amount of inspiring material by searching in the right place! Listen when you’re able to concentrate only on what you hear, for example while meditating, cooking, running, walking, falling asleep… For audios on personal development, self improvement, spirituality, positive mentality, try: Tony Robbins, Beth Kempton or Law of Attraction Coaching.

Keeping a journal and/or a gratitude diary

Have the means to record any and all thoughts, ideas, impressions and reflections, at any time, and create the means to be able to come back and refer to them later. Don’t know why you would do that? You needn’t right now, however you’re giving yourself no way to come back to what you thought of, in order to decide what to do with it, unless you at least write it down straight away!

Walking

Perhaps the least strenuous, easiest, most relaxing form of exercise you could achieve! For those able, that is – there are people who would give anything to find walking as easy as we find it, which means it’s also up to us not to take it for granted, for their sake if for nothing else!

Drinking Water

Fill a reusable (sports) bottle, and have it with you as you go about your daily habits and practices. Water, like air, is the key to life! Hydrate, refresh and cleanse yourself from the inside out. You are more likely to drink a higher volume of water by drinking from a bottle throughout the day, than if you keep going back for one glass at a time… Drink at least twice as much if a sporting activity is also a part of your day!

Reading

Need I say more?? Read the same or a different book every time, settle down with a whole selection to indulge in, read for leisure or for learning, fiction or non-fiction… Keep that notebook by you 😉 don’t forget to stop and daydream from time to time, and you STAY THERE until the time you allocate is all up!! The rest will have to wait…

Learning

No matter whether it’s learning a foreign language, or any other skill, by personal study or otherwise, or simply a fact/figure/statistic/quote or even a new word – create the habit of taking in new information as regularly as you can. It’s not a question of trying to retain EVERY SINGLE item you learn. However, you will develop a reflex for taking in new, useful, interesting knowledge – and the more you do that, the less space you leave to be potentially invaded by harmful, negative or false pieces of information, and the more sensitive you’ll also be in order to recognise them in the first place!

Stopping…

Indoors, outdoors, or both, if possible… You are here; be here. Take the time to explore what each of your senses is giving to you, right now; breathe deeply and fully, and just be… Be present, be conscious, be aware, and be grateful

Looking out of the window

My last flat was less than 9m2, and looked out on to an internal courtyard and into other people’s flats (all of whose were definitely bigger than mine). I could still see the sky, thankfully, as I was on the 5th floor, and that was largely what constituted my ‘view’. So, I looked! I did go out, too, most days. Only looking indoors all day is like walking outside looking at the ground; there are surely plenty of nice things to look at there, but so many others if you lift your gaze and actually look around, too!

You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day – unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.

Zen Proverb




Image by Elias Sch. from Pixabay

I hope you decide to share your own daily habits and practices with us, below! I look forward to reading them, and certainly to being inspired by them, too!

Feature image by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay

Language Learning Daily Rituals: Baguette

Incorporating an integral element of French culture into your daily rituals to help you stay committed… This could apply to any foreign language, or – indeed – any habit or subject of study!

language learning daily rituals baguette

If you have lived or travelled in France, you will certainly be familiar with the ritual of buying bread from the bakery first thing in the morning. You may also, then, have experienced the sentiment of simultaneous relief and joy you get when passing someone on your way, walking in the opposite direction, a baked good of some description in their hand? Your confirmation that the bakery is OPEN today, and that you are going to arrive ON TIME without it closing! NB: Bakeries, like many establishments in France, have certain closing times during the day – sometimes for up to two hours. Don’t get caught out!!

Rather than representing a chore or a hardship of any kind, this early morning ritual is both a necessary and important duty, and a pleasure! Who wouldn’t enjoy starting the day by being greeted with the fresh, warm aromas and beautiful array of delicious-looking pastries that a French bakery has to offer?

Why is this important, and how can I make it relevant to language learning?

There are several ways in which you can use this practice to help inspire your own language learning daily rituals:

  • you make time for it first thing in morning: it may require you to get up earlier (unless, for you, it can mean starting your day later…), but by creating a time slot first thing in the morning expressly for language learning, it won’t encroach on the rest of your busy schedule;
  • it constitutes an important, essential task – therefore, treat it as such! It will never get your attention unless you see it as something necessary for you to do, not just a pastime;
  • opening your routine with a learning (or a physical) activity will leave you feeling set up for the rest of the day! You will be prepared both mentally and physically, as you will already be engaged in the process of personal growth and development!

Please read for more ideas on how to integrate foreign language into your rituals for everyday life!

Creating your own world of foreign language immersion!

The four disciplines within language are: reading, writing, speaking and listening. Until such a time as you are in a country or living a life in which you only read, write, speak and listen to the language(s) you are learning, how can you make every effort to create that environment for yourself, everyday?


SPEAKING

Do you live with someone? Perhaps a partner, children, housemates or family? No matter whether you’re in constant contact with people, animals or #1, what’s important is making a daily habit of incorporating elements of your target language (the language you are in the process of learning) into your regular speech.

Here are a few suggestions for common words and phrases that you could very well work into your daily routine:

“Good morning/Goodnight!”

“Thank you!”

“I love you!”

“See you later!”

If you want to go further than that, you could also try:

asking for/telling the time;

asking/saying what is for tea;

phrases which, in English, begin with “Let’s …(cook, watch a film, go for a coffee, …)!”.

The key is to adopt what you usually say, ask or talk about within your daily rituals into your target language – which is also the key to the success of this exercise: making a daily commitment to include this as part of your routine, if immersion really is what you’re going for!!


READING

Do you own a phone? Possibly a laptop or tablet, too? One thing you can do to make sure you are frequently exposed to reading material in your target language… or, at least as often as you look at your device… is to tinker with the settings and overdo the whole thing in a bright new shade of: Japanese, French, Italian or whatever you wish to be more exposed to!! If you’re learning more than one language, use each for a different program on your computer!

However, even if you set up your phone in a different language, it may be that you don’t really spend enough time looking at the screen to make that one gesture worthwhile (a little like me!). If this is your case, worry not – it’s not the only thing you could be trying! Commit to reading a passage daily or even weekly in your target language(s)! It doesn’t have to be an enormous amount – but it does need to be done frequently, in order for you to feel that your are being immersed in your language(s) of choice…

By making a daily habit out of reading any resources in your target language, you are simultaneously allowing yourself to become used to the feeling of immersion in this language and giving yourself the opportunity to recognise and therefore begin to learn those words, phrases and constructions!


LISTENING

One reason I so love listening practice as a daily ritual is that it is an activity you can do almost anywhere and anytime, including at the same time as doing something else! Knowing how busy you undoubtedly are, that is a huge benefit!!

Whereas (personally!) I find reading, speaking and writing to be activities which require you to dedicate time to them and them alone, listening is something you can do whilst otherwise dedicating time only to yourself. Unless you can read and knit at the same time, speak and run at the same time or write and meditate at the same time, listening is your go-to activity for daily language immersion which doesn’t stop you from knitting, running, meditating, cooking, doing yoga or even sleeping while you do it.

Choose from the ample selection of free listening material available on the internet… Go for audios on YouTube (set it to, and then type in, your target language!), podcasts on any number of websites (my personal favourite being TuneIn), and, of course – music! Set your iTunes Country/Region accordingly, and discover artists whose music you can later search for online, or buy and listen to anytime!

Even without particularly focusing on, or even 100% following what you are listening to, by exposing your ears to the sounds and structures of the language you aspire to acquire, you are bringing yourself ever closer to being in sync with that language!


WRITING

Depending on the particular activities which make up your own personal daily routine, writing as a practice might be more or less easy to incorporate into your daily rituals – get creative!!

Here’s how your target language could contribute to your daily writing rituals… You could use it to write:

the days of the week and the months on your calendar/diary;

notes which you leave on the fridge as nice surprises (think of what you would say to those you share your home with – ‘SPEAKING‘, above!);

recipes, shopping lists or to-do lists – at a stage where you have gained sufficient confidence in yourself so as to entrust such tasks to your foreign language, perhaps!!

As with all the suggestions I make above, what I’d like to emphasise the most is the importance of integrating these gestures as part of your daily rituals; indeed, they are certain to benefit you only if they are based on your current daily practices! By dedicating the time you spend each day accomplishing your daily tasks to incorporating your target language(s), you are bound to make leaping progress and – above all – love feeling a sense of immersion in your foreign language!