Starting and Stopping

The last time I let my heart run wild, sending quick little movements out from my fingertips, the days were cold and the nights were colder. Recently I’ve been filling notebooks with my thoughts, sharing them only with myself and the contents of my bag where the notebook lives. I want to share. I have so many ideas fluttering around and I can’t count how many times I’ve opened a blank page and let my feelings pour out. And yet, I can’t click ‘publish’. Enough is enough. Sometimes if you don’t do something for a long time, it can be really hard to start again. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve started and stopped yoga, started and stopped being a vegetarian, started and stopped starting and stopping. Today I must start again, even if the words don’t inspire, don’t strike a chord with anyone but myself. It’s so easy to fall off the bandwagon, but today I’m jumping back on. Hello words on my screen, what do you want to say?

Firstly, they want to say that you should never let other people’s negative opinions affect you. I have only ever written to inspire, to make people happy, to make them think. Sometimes I even write just for me, to capture a moment, a flurry of feelings that I want to set down to look back on at a later stage in my life. If someone takes offence at writing that is only there to inspire, then that is their problem. It should never ever stop you from continuing to write.

People are weird. Well, people are generally very awesome, but there are definitely some negative odd balls out there. Usually when people act like that, they have their own issues swarming around. Lately I’ve decided life is just too short to surround yourself with anyone who is less than lovely. There have been days where I’ve thought I would actually rather hang out with the characters in my book than be involved in the drama that can emanate around this city. That’s when I wish all my best friends lived in the same place, but alas that would be too good to be true, and so instead it will suffice to seek out the positive people. The people who want to talk about ideas instead of gossiping about others, the people who seek to make the world a better place instead of polluting it with their destructive, selfish habits. We can be friends!

The same applies for everything in life. If you are fortunate enough to be able to choose your job, your city or village or wherever you want to live, your partner, your friends, your food…choose carefully. Quit complaining and change something if you’re not happy and choose the life that best reflects who you are and find those people that make your heart squeal, your soul smile, your whole being relax. Ditch the life that makes you walk on eggshells, makes you wake up in the morning dreading your day. Live your best life and smile and be grateful everyday!

Love,

Luna

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Print can be bought on Etsy here.

We all float on

We float. We float all afternoon under the warm rays of the sun, paddling furiously like puppy dogs every time the sun slips behind the peaks of the mountains. The river winds on and on for days, and we are pulled along by its currents, by our alcohol-induced laughter. Every time a rock nears us, jutting out from the watery world below, we work together to avoid the inevitable onslaught of bruises, of losing someone to the powers of the river. But it happens. We lose someone. Their tire whisked away in the swirls of the current, only to wash up on a big, old rock, planting them there like a sun-basking mermaid. Pretty soon though, they rejoin our island of multi-cultural tires, each one carrying along a different country, a different face. From above, we must look like a miniature world. Each tire island representing a different continent, all brought together under one magnificent moon.

We are there to float. We are there to have fun. For two hours we drift into the setting sun, sipping our homemade concoctions. We sing songs from all around the world and grab onto strangers’ hands and ankles so that we can stick together. We don’t know each others names, but that’s totally fine. We give free foot massages instead, and talk about life and love and laugh so much our tires almost do somersaults, flipping us underneath. These carefree days are the most beautiful. The days where you can float down a river billions of miles from home with absolute strangers and not feel weird about it. In fact, if anything, it feels completely and utterly normal. You float. You greet. You cheers. You turn to the person in the tire next to you, smile at them, then throw your head back, letting your hair tickle the surface of the river and you just laugh. Life can be so random. One moment you are sitting in a café by yourself, the next you’re floating down a river, declaring your love for all these people you just met. Friends forever with your tubing family.

You will probably wake up the next day in a hungover haze, but you’ll be happy. Happy you had the chance to encounter all of these people from different worlds. To float with them on a beautiful river, twirling and swirling through the currents and the calm. And when you really think about it, that’s what life is all about, isn’t it? We float through moments, through years, with strangers who become family, friends, lovers. Most of the time it’s calm, but there’s the occasional current of chaos that we need to overcome in order to be able to float on again. But that is life, so let’s just enjoy the ride. The crazier the adventure, the better I say!

Imaged sourced from here.

You are more than your accomplishments

Curled up in a cosy little huddle around the coffee table, we listened intently as Maggie chattered away, a sparkle in her eye and a genuine smile upon her face. When our director Tre told us that Margaret (Maggie) Edson had replied to his email and agreed to Skype with us all, I thought he was pulling our leg. Why would a Pulitzer-Prize winning playwright want to Skype with a group of random actors in Shenzhen, China? Well, probably because she is one of the kindest, most down-to-earth people I have ever had the chance to meet (if meeting over Skype counts). For some reason when we think of someone famous who has won prestigious awards we more often than not assume that they have no interest in speaking to the little people (us). Why would we think in this way? As I ran into the room and plopped down on the floor, cross-legged, Maggie immediately greeted me and it was with real interest that she asked me questions, not just out of nicety. She remembered all of our names and she listened to our questions and thoughts intently. She seemed as happy as we were to have this unique opportunity to discuss her play and the production we put on of it. It felt like talking to an old friend, someone we had known our whole lives. Everything she said, regarding both the play and real life, really hit me hard. This woman is wise I tell you. So wise. I couldn’t stop smiling and nodding along with everything she said. And she is funny! I may have laughed a lot during the ninety minutes that we all chatted. Now I feel more inspired than ever and I wanted to share a few things that she talked to us about because I feel that these are things we all need to acknowledge.

Firstly, we need to slow down. I mean, really slow down. This is particularly important in our modern-day technology-fueled ‘go go go’ lifestyle. We never stop. We wake up, go to work, work all day, go home, sleep, and then we do it all again. We say ‘yes’ to everything. We fill up our schedules until they are positively bursting at the seams with both work and social engagements. It’s almost like we’re scared to stop, scared to stop ticking things off a list of never-ending activities. Why must we do something every single night after work? What’s wrong with going home, cooking a delicious meal, climbing into bed and reading until we drift into sleep? Nothing. There is nothing wrong with that, and yet still we inject our lives with such chaos, until before we know it, we are having an absolute meltdown. This is very true for Shenzhen. Living in such a young city filled with budding entrepreneurs, this city is our playground. We are the generation that has been put in charge of creating and developing the image and future of this baby city. And we don’t know when to stop. We can’t stop. We are addicted to accomplishing things. We work full-time, we party full-time and still, we are hungry for more. One more business plan, one more TV commercial, one more drink.

Well, this past weekend I realised enough is enough. After a magically-inspiring but busy week of performing ‘Wit’ every night, I decided that this weekend was ‘my’ weekend. I told the TV commercial people I needed to rest. I sold my ticket for the music festival I’d been so excited to attend. I ran to the supermarket and stocked up on all my favourite foods. I lit my candles and pulled out my fairy lights to create a more Christmasy mood. I played relaxing music, watched movies, read a lot. I didn’t go anywhere until Sunday night when it was time to Skype Maggie and it was probably the most relaxing weekend I’ve had in a long time. But I need to admit something…

I felt guilty. Should I have gone to the music festival even though I was tired and it was raining heavily? What about the TV commercial people? Had I let them down? Maybe I should be writing instead of watching movies? I better go outside and exercise a bit.

Those were the thoughts than ran through my mind continually. Then it struck me. Have we actually forgotten how to slow down, how to relax? What happened to us that made us want to accomplish so much? All I accomplished this past weekend was some much-needed rest, and let me tell you, I feel happier than ever. I woke up smiling. My skin has a glow again. My head isn’t so fuzzy and my heart feels inspired. Maggie told us that she currently has an elderly relative staying with her at the moment and she was intrigued to watch this older lady just doing nothing. Just sitting in an armchair with the cat on her lap. And yet, she looked so content. Content doing nothing. I believe that is something our generation have no idea how to do. We do yoga. We meditate. We sleep in on the weekends. But do we really ever fully relax? Is there a way that we could somehow remind ourselves that it is totally OK to just lie on our beds and stare into space. To sit against a tree in the park and read our books without having to run to catch a bus, a train. To engage in a real conversation with someone without checking our phones or letting our minds drift. Seriously, we need to revert back to a slower-paced life if we want to strive for what we’re all really looking for- that of happiness. We think that if we fast-track that new business of ours we’ll be happy. If we drown ourselves in a decade of debt just so we can have the latest, fanciest car we’ll have found what it is we’re looking for. Goals are gold. We should have goals. But they should not consume us to the extent that they do. As Maggie so kindly reminded us all yesterday, “you are more than your accomplishments.”

She is right. You, me, we are so much more than the sum amount of all that we’ve achieved in our lives so far. I am so proud of all that I’ve accomplished in my mere 28 years on this planet, and yet do you know what I am more proud of, or at least should be more proud of? Who I am. For being a kind, caring, compassionate human being. For always being honest and never harming anyone else. For being able to feel and in return, express these feelings, and for that making me who I am. For all my flaws and quirks, because they are unique to me. When I die one day (sorry, but come on, we all will die eventually. Wit reminded me of that, and we shouldn’t be scared), noone is going to remember me for the things I’ve accomplished, the gifts I bought them, the houses I owned, the countries I travelled to, the bicycle I rode. They are going to hopefully remember me because of the relationships I created and allowed to flourish. For being a real friend, an ear that was always ready to listen, a shoulder that was ready for any tears or laughter that came its way. For loving unconditionally and making people smile. For inspiring, if only for a second. These are the things I hope I am remembered for and the things you may also hope to be remembered by. Achieving amazing things in one’s life is awesome, but loving other human beings, laughing so hard you snort, watching little humans you brought into the world grow and blossom into big kind human beings, that is what matters. Relationships, with both yourself and others, and of course the world around you. Nurture those, instead of your greedy little materialistic desires.

Wit. A play that at first glance seems so full of arrogance and an overwhelming urge to want more knowledge, more recognition, is actually a play about kindness, about the human touch. Once you push all that 17th century metaphysical poetry aside and really engage with what is going on under all those complicated big words, you will notice a vulnerability, a gentleness that is buried within all of us. And sometimes it takes something like dying to let that out. Vivian Bearing is a professor who spends her life buried knee-deep in a pile of John  Donne books. Then she gets cancer. And who is there to comfort her? Well, noone actually, because she spent so much time and energy on John Donne papers that she never truly formed a real relationship with another human being. Thank goodness for the character I played- Susie, the nurse, or we might have all left the theatre in an even bigger pile of tears. Susie brings that element of kindness back into Vivian’s world. It was always there, lurking in the shadows of all that poetry and philosophy, and yet she couldn’t quite see it. E.M Ashford (her professor in university, a wise, kind woman) tried to instil it in her, but in that moment all she cared about was gaining more knowledge.

Moral of the story? It’s perfectly OK to follow your path in life, to ignite that passion within you, but please never lose sight of who you really are- that of a human being with a heart made to love and spread kindness wherever it goes. When you’re on your death bed strive to spend your last days surrounded by the people you love and who love you back, because those thesis papers and contracts and business plans sure as hell won’t be keeping you company. That’s not to say that success in what you love isn’t important too, but it’s all about finding a balance. Sign that contract, but at the same time turn your phone off on sundays and take your kids out for ice-cream in the park. Hold meetings all day and write until your hands might fall off, but at night have dinner with your loved ones and really listen to what it is they’re saying. Slow down and enjoy all of those little moments because they are so much more meaningful than anything else will ever be. Those are the moments that will flash across your mind. The faces of your loved ones, the way they sounded when they laughed, the smell of lavender growing in your garden, the taste of birthday cake.

Thank you Maggie for not only writing an incredibly, insightful play that struck such a chord within us, that brought a diverse group of talented people together from all around the world, but also for reminding us that we are far more than our accomplishments add up to. We are human beings and we are capable of the most magical thing in the world- kindness.

Let’s all slow down, be kind and learn to really appreciate life again.

Love,

Luna

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All the world’s a stage

The way your heart thumps in your chest, pumping blood through your veins so fast that you can feel it pulsing in your ears and prickling your eyes. Suddenly you have no saliva and every hair is standing on end. Your eyes are wide and bright and there are swarms of butterflies tickling every part of you. As you walk towards the stage every sense is heightened. Your heart beats so loud you imagine every audience member can hear it. But it doesn’t matter because you can’t see them. They are a blur. Then once you get on stage they disappear entirely. The thumping subsides and everything slows down and you are there. In the moment. In a parallel world, not so far from your normal world, and yet at the same time so, so far away. All those lines you thought you would forget, all the audience faces you imagined would distract you, all the bright lights you felt might blind you, all of this just dissolves and there you are, in a hospital, and you have a job to do. You are no longer Siobhan Lumsden or Joseph Lambert or whoever else. Who are those people anyway? Forget them. Now you are Susie Monahan and you have a very sick patient to care for. You are Mr Bearing and you have a very curious, intelligent daughter on your hands. You are Vivian Bearing and you are dying of cancer and it is one hell of a journey you are all about to undergo. Action!

It’s hard to explain how I first knew. I think I was nine years old, but it could have been earlier. I was in primary school and once a week a colourful-clad, bubbly old lady with wild white hair would come to our gym/ dining hall/ assembly room/ concert hall and teach us this thing called ‘drama’. I remember the first time she asked me to stand up with a boy in my class and ‘pretend’ to have an argument over who stole the football. Pretend? OK, I thought, I can do that. I do that all the time with my sister. We are always playing make believe games. And so I did it. I felt shy to stand up there in front of everyone but the minute the teacher said “OK, you can begin…”, I didn’t even hesitate. I forgot who I was and suddenly all I wanted to know was why this little boy had stolen the football and why did he think it was OK to do such a thing? From that day onwards, I was hooked. I joined private drama lessons after school. I told everyone that when I grow up I want to become an actress. My granny laughed at me. She said my imagination is too active, and I better not make it even more so. She told me to read books, become a nurse (oh, but granny, I am a nurse now…well, at least in the play!) or a lawyer, and forget this ‘drama malarky’.

But I couldn’t just forget.

I absolutely thrived from being up on stage. I wasn’t and still am not, one of those overly-loud, limelight seekers. I don’t crave attention. I’m actually quite shy and introverted. I abhor competition. But despite all of this, I still absolutely love acting. I think some people think to be an actor you need to be a show-off, someone who likes prancing about on stage or in front of a camera, ‘pretending’ to be someone you’re not. Well, as I soon came to discover, acting isn’t about ‘pretending’. It goes much deeper than that. Those raw emotions, those traits that make a character who he or she is, that takes work. You can’t just turn it on at the flick of a switch. Well you can, but not if you want to really ‘feel’ that character. You have to dig a lot deeper, create a life for this person who is in no way or shape ‘you’. It’s very intuitive work, especially if you want to create the most realistic, vivid portrayal of your character for the audience, which is of course what we should all be aiming to do. There is nothing like being in an audience and being swept along on the journey with the actor, where you forget that it’s your friend up there, and instead you float along with the flow of the action and sometimes forget where you are- in a plastic, yellow chair in a chilly theatre in Shenzhen, China. For a second there, you might have thought you really were right in the centre of a cancer centre.

That’s really what it’s all about, for both the audience and the actors, for everyone involved. Creating another world that is so realistic that you actually forget for a little while that it’s not real. Or is it real? It’s a blurry line. A space where emotions jump from actor to audience and are fully absorbed, inspiring within both a chance to learn something, to feel something they might never have felt before or to acknowledge a part of them that they didn’t know existed. It’s about putting yourself out there, flying that flag of vulnerability and hopping out of your comfort zone. Simultaneously, it’s about feeling safe, knowing that no one is there to judge you. It’s a very intimate moment- the one between an actor and their audience. If you’re not breaking the fourth wall, you want to blur them out, but you also want to soak up their energy and spread yours, fueling the performance into the most ultimate experience.

There’s a difference between performing and being. Which do you want it to be? The one where you pop a stethoscope around your neck and perform as a doctor. Or the one where you pop a stethoscope around your neck and become a doctor. Nine times out of ten, it’s the latter of course. If you don’t believe you’re a doctor, how can you expect a theatre full of people to believe you. That applies to life in general too. You have to believe in yourself first and foremost if you expect to have other people believe in you too.

When we first began this journey of ‘Wit’ written by Margaret Edson, directed by Tre Tennyson, Tre invited us over to his apartment for a first read-through of the play. High above the city in his New York style apartment, we sat in a circle around his coffee table and we read the play out loud from start to finish. Afterwards we started working independently on developing our characters where we embarked on answering a series of questions set by Tre. These ranged from talk about a memory your character will never forget about his or her parents, to when was the last time your character made love? Was it a remarkable experience? So, here, you see what I’m talking about. It’s not as simple as just reading a script, memorising a bunch of lines, walking on stage and reciting these lines and robotically going through a series of actions. It is SO much more! It is about creating an entire past for your character, including his or her deepest secrets and desires- from what they are most scared of to what they daydream about when they are sitting on the train. It is everything. Of course, if you don’t want to do so much work, you don’t have to. But then what are you really getting from the experience? If, like me, you get a thrill from fully embodying another personality and making it come alive on stage, then you will want to do your homework. If I enter the stage with any remnants of ‘myself’ still lingering, it’ll be extremely obvious. There will be a sort of glaze across my eyes and my lines will sound like lines, as opposed to the real, natural dialogue between another human being that it should sound like. I might stumble or I might just be blank. That isn’t acting. When it’s real, you know. You can feel it in your very core, but also you can’t feel it, because it feels so real that you don’t even ponder for a second that it’s not.

It’s a special feeling, and it’s one that I haven’t felt for a long time. It’s not the kind of feeling that fades when you exit the stage. It stays. I can still feel it today, even though last night’s performance ended almost 24 hours ago. It’s the greatest form of adrenaline that inspires and ignites everything within you. I want to act every single day now. I am lucky to have a job that involves acting but it’s not quite the same without a live audience. There is nothing quite like that. And it’s absolutely not about the elation I feel after being on stage. It’s about how the audience feel. It’s about knowing that the world you just created tapped into something in the audience’s hearts and minds. That maybe, just maybe, the feelings and lives you just embodied may have seeped out and echoed around the room, entering the audience and giving them something to think about. That’s what theatre is. And literature, and films, and art, and everything really. It’s about giving, teaching, and ultimately feeling. If you felt something, even if it was just discomfort or a light relief, then we, as actors, as directors, as stage managers, as lighting designers, as sound guys, did our job.

I sometimes feel that my chosen path in this world is actually just about living. I chose acting, or maybe it chose me? But either way acting is just living. It’s about highlighting aspects of our lives that we might choose to hide from because it makes us feel uncomfortable or intimidates us or scares us. It’s about facing up to those things. It’s also about making people smile and cry and laugh and shift in their seats. It’s about feeling ALL the feelings. It is teaching and learning and reflecting and observing and being. It is life. That’s all it is. It is quite simply just living.

To Tre, our director, thank you. Thank you for choosing us to undergo this incredible, transformative journey with you. For trusting us and believing in us and allowing us to have the freedom to create these characters for ourselves. I will miss the rehearsals, even the ones in my tiny apartment where I’m pretty sure the neighbours thought I was murdering someone with all that yelling (haha!). From a beautifully written script by Margaret Edson, to intimate moments shared between the actors, to actually ending up in hospital in the process (oh, the irony!), to riding the metro and sharing taxi rides with you all after our late-night sessions, and of course actually ‘living’ up there on stage with you, I will miss those moments. I am so grateful to have this chance to work with you all and to be reminded that acting is what makes me who I am. It’s not about being the best or competing with other actors, it’s just about being. Being ‘me’, being a character in a play and blurring the lines. It’s the most rewarding process, truly. You get to have fun, whilst learning- about both yourself and your character and the worlds you both belong to. You get to teach, to spread a profound, meaningful message. Sometimes though, you just want to laugh and make someone else laugh. It’s the middleground- somewhere between striking a fine balance, of entertaining but also moving someone so much that they leave the theatre thinking. Their minds open a little, their hearts beat faster, the hairs on their arms stand on end (and not just because the theatre air conditioner is blasting freezing air, haha!). They felt something. You felt something. That is theatre, and finally, life.

Here’s to life, both on and off stage. It’s a sweet, precious thing. Let’s enjoy every moment.

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The storm after the calm

Thick, like day-old coffee, my head feels fuzzy, but I know the words are in there somewhere. They float around my mind so freely and yet when I come face to face with this big, blank screen I just freeze and close the tab, close my eyes. I’m tired. I can’t remember what it feels like to just sit and have no place to rush to, and yet wasn’t I just sitting on a beach a mere two weeks ago with nothing to do but read my book and watch the waves? Why then, does it all feel like a dream? Like it never actually happened? When I reached Singapore after eight days of blissful relaxation in the jungle and on the beaches of Bali, my friend commented on how ‘zen’ I seemed. Calm. Still. Content.

Now, with a cup of black coffee sat in front of me (only my third coffee in my entire life!), I frantically try and find that girl. The one who woke up smiling with the rise of the sun, the one who fell asleep to the sound of the waves and the beat of the drum. The one who had no worries, only dreams and opportunities lying just around the corner. Is she hiding under the autumn leaves, or has she disappeared forever? Was she just a figment of our imagination? Is it actually possible to feel that calm? I crave it. The restful nights, the soft dreams, the sunshine, the fruits, the patience that never lingered, was always present. I crave it all.

This fog will lift soon. It always does. And in those lighter moments, when this haze miraculously evaporates, I will feel calm again, even amongst the beeps and horns and lights that vibrate throughout this city everyday non stop and all night long.

Urbanjungleitis

As the evenings get a little darker and the mornings a little cooler, my body struggles to adjust. Leaves start to change colour and my hips begin to ache. I am tired and no amount of hiding beneath the covers with my head buried in a book or a blur of dreams can pull me out of this mini hibernation. Impromptu planking sessions that slowly turn into child’s pose beneath my desk give a temporary boost of energy, but it quickly fades and I fall back into my inbetween-seasons slump. It’s the city life. It doesn’t bode well with the changing of the seasons. You can’t smell halloween on the horizon and there are no conkers trickling along the path at your feet. Leaves fall and turn a shade of gold, but there’s no crunch to them like there is back home, in the countryside. Oh man, I miss fresh air. Yes, I know I sound moany right now, but sometimes you just need to acknowledge your feelings and be honest with yourself. I miss nature. I kid myself that I can survive in an urban jungle, but I’m not sure I really can. Panic crawls around in my insides when I’m squeezed onto a bus with hundreds. Car fumes and nicotine swirl around the air and creep into my lungs. I am actually beyond craving the smell of wet grass and clean rain drops, I need them in my life right now.

A few weeks ago I had a massage for the first time in about a year and the lady was shocked by all the knots in my back. No amount of kneading could untie them, and deep down I know the only way to get rid of them is to run through an emerald field with no other people around me. That’s when I am myself, when everything slides away, when the stress rolls back to the city and I am left, light and free, in nature again, where I am supposed to be.

And it’s all my fault. The knots and the grey hairs and the heart palpitations. I brought it on myself by choosing to live in a city. And don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret it for a second. I love the convenience of life here, the buzz, the opportunities. But most of all I love it because I know it won’t be forever. I know that sooner or later I will slip back to a simple village life where the only sounds will be the wind blowing through the trees and the waves flirting with the seashells lying on the beach.

We are seriously crazy to live on top of each other in cloud-tickling towers, with our neighbours so close we can hear their every breath, but we choose to do so, and so let’s rather be content with it and find ways to enjoy it. And I must admit, it is pretty handy to be able to be awoken by my neighbour’s alarm clock every morning. I guess this city life does have its benefits…

But really, let’s get back to the root of things- to nature. The smell of the forest and moist earth. Mud caked on your shoes or even better, between your toes. The wind in your hair and salt on your lips, fresh from the sea. An elephant just around the corner, not behind a cage, and cats roaming the alleyways like kings. Strangers smiling and laughing, just because. Mid-afternoon monsoons that cleanse away all the dust and stress you brought with you from your urban jungle. Let it all go.

It’s gone.

And on that note, I am off to frolic and flirt with nature in Chiang Mai tomorrow.

Love,

Luna

p.s. Any tips on dealing with Urbanjungleitis, as I like to call it?

The Art of saying Farewell 再見

Everyone knows, to put it simply, that saying goodbye sucks. After leaving Scotland in 2007 and having lived abroad ever since, it’s suffice to say that I have almost mastered the saddening task of saying farewell. It’s almost not such a big deal anymore. There’s actually a few tricks to make it feel more like a ‘see you in a bit’ kind of goodbye.

Firstly, don’t plan how you’re going to do it. In fact, rather pick an obscure nondescript location, like a bus stop on a bustling street filled with rush-hour traffic, or some back alley with adjoining lanes that you can quickly scamper down to prevent nosy neighbours catching you mid-tear flow. Not so long ago, I embraced my friend in a little lane behind our university, in a crowd of friends, next to a small antique market. As we said goodbye, his bag strap dug into my neck, and before I knew it the hug was over and he was on his way. With a quick glance back, and a smile, I knew I’d see him again soon. I almost always see good friends again. Another occasion that sticks out in my mind was when I left Taipei. It was the hottest day of the summer. The steam was actually rising off the ground, mingling with the dust particles and floating up towards my eyes. I could blame the waterfalls of tears that erupted from my eyes on the dust, but I’d be lying. I was absolutely distraught to be leaving Taiwan and all my amazing friends. I clung onto my friend desperately on the street outside our apartment and I think the taxi driver had to scoop me up and put me inside with a big packet of tissues nestled on my knees. My other friend came along with me and I cried the whole way to the airport. But then suddenly, when the moment actually came to hug her goodbye, we both just burst out laughing and high-five’d each other. I knew I would see her again.

In Chinese goodbye is zai jian 再見 which directly translates as ‘again see/meet’, aka see you again, we will meet soon. This is SO much better than our English ‘GOODBYE’. There is absolutely nothing good about saying bye, nothing at all. And even just a quick, simple ‘bye’ doesn’t work for me. I always say ‘see you soon’, because chances are, I will see you soon. It’s definitely gotten much easier over the years, and it helps if you just don’t think too much when it’s happening. I am prone to overthinking things, and usually in the last few hours leading up to my departure or a friend or family members departure, I will go all quiet and not be able to look anywhere except down at my hands for fear of a sneaky tear or ten hundred that might happen to slip out and roll down my cheek. Whenever I leave my family in Scotland, I usually can’t eat the last meal we share together. I just feel so sad. I’m trying to overcome this, but it’s tough. We have a ‘farewell ritual’ that consists of me giving them each a handwritten letter and the quickest hug and squeeze possible. However, I know that they will never stop waving until I am completely out of sight and through immigration. I squeeze the tears back into my eyes when I walk away from them and when I glance back, there they are, waving and grinning.

I think that’s what we have to start doing. Just make our farewells more casual. No dramatic tears, no airport scenes of falling onto the floor crying. More high fives, more laughter, more sneakily looking back and sticking out your tongue and winking. Life is too short to make a huge deal out of saying goodbye. And as the mighty Chinese would like to remind us, it’s not ‘goodbye’ it’s see you soon. It really is. So now, instead of dwelling on your impending departure or thinking about your departure 5 minutes after you’ve only just arrived (you know you do this), start living in the moment. Enjoy the remaining minutes you have with your loved ones instead of jumping ahead to the moment when you will need to leave them again. But when it is time to leave, laugh with them all the way to immigration or all the way to the train platform. Make it easier for both of you by doing something silly like doing a crazy dance from the window of the train as you glide off into the sunset, or throw them a paper aeroplane letter as you walk through immigration (just don’t get arrested!!). Keep it simple. Saying farewell doesn’t need to be a traumatic experience. And actually, it just means that you can get even more excited for when you next see this person. I might not be a fan of airport departures but I certainly love an airport arrival, and watching other peoples arrivals too. There’s something so romantic about it, even if there is no one there to collect you. I personally like pouncing on whoever is waiting for me. Be it my Dad, my Mum, a lover, my sister, a stranger (no, just kidding with that last one! Again, you don’t want to get arrested!).

Anyway, the point is, don’t over think it. You will see that person again because the Chinese say so, and you don’t argue with the Chinese, OK! Haha. No, but seriously, you don’t. They have 5,000 years of history, people. They know.

And so, on that note, I shall bid you farewell for now my beautiful friends, and to those who live across the oceans, I shall see you soon. 再見!

Love,

Luna

Photo by Gamy Wong

upside down and back to front, for fun

Not so long ago, just a few moons back, things felt a little out of balance around here. A dart pierces through the light-hearted air, but instead of landing smack bang in the middle of the board, it slices downwards, smashing every inch of the glass table. Cups crumble between my fingers. The pavement seems to be waiting for me to trip. The buses are deliberately crawling along at a snail’s pace and there is nothing any of us can do about it. The world is battling between flashbacks to days gone by and glimpses into the future. It seems impossible to just ‘be’ right now. To lie back and read a chapter without having to go back and reread every single word again twice, because the first time around the words seemed to slip off the page and fly away. And good luck retaining any of that freshly inhaled knowledge because brains are just in their own little world at the moment. We’re trying to go forward but we’re constantly being pulled back. Computers crash. Phones freeze. People say things they don’t mean. We’re all confused. But there must be a reason for it all, right?

Sometimes we need to delve back into the past to be able to move on in the way that we want to. Washing away all those old ghosts and signing and sealing with a kiss any old unfinished business. When the same problems arise over and over again, let’s be honest, you need to deal with it. Even if it means falling over a few times to get there. Just have faith that all will work out the way it’s supposed to. And if all else fails, blame it on the moon, or on whatever retrograde happens to be gracing us at the moment. Those retrogrades can be hectic, especially mercury ones. My entire life flips upside down during mercury retrogrades. Everything flows in the wrong direction and I end up just hanging there, afraid to move a muscle in case it changes direction and I’m stuck in a backward, upside down, higgeldy-piggeldy world forever.

Eventually though, things cool down. The bus comes on time and the cup that smashed is magically whole again. You find yourself galloping though books, digesting every last word. Now you can independently choose to flip your world upside down, just for fun. In the form of inversions. Headstands just for the crack! You start to enjoy that mad rush of blood to the head which ignites every last morsel of imagination hiding in that old brain of yours. You suddenly have epiphanies on every corner. Things start to make sense and you tuck the past away at the back of your dusty cupboard, or even better, you sweep it up and sprinkle it out of your window, watching as it lands on nearby tree branches. That’s lucky for you because if you wake up one Saturday morning and have a particularly strong bout of nostalgia, you can whip open the window and breathe it all back in. It’s always there. You just need to learn when it’s best to leave it alone. Nostalgia is a beautiful thing, but sometimes it’s totally unnecessary. And as we know, the most important thing is right now. How can we make life beautiful in this wonderfully unique moment in time? Well, leave the past lingering on the treetops, or at the back of your cupboard. Leave the future exactly where it’s supposed to be- in the future, in an unknown world, just out of reach. Nobody knows what’s in store, so instead of worrying about it all, let’s celebrate together, right now.

Love,

Luna

Illustration by the talented Lucy Evans

The Chinese Path

I knew I would never master the clicks, never fully understand the grammar no matter how hard I tried, and outside South Africa, when and where would I need to use Xhosa? And so it is that on a sunny February morning back in 2009 I found myself sat in a room with a bunch of other students listening to the sweetest Chinese man promoting a new Chinese course that the university was about to offer. Decked out in white running shoes, navy slacks and a white button-up shirt, I was sold. He was so enthusiastic and his combination of excitement, innocence and nerves led to me immediately signing up for the course with absolutely no idea of what to expect, or whether or not I’d actually enjoy it.

Well, um…here we are. Six and a half years later and I am STILL in China, so clearly Ma Laoshi did something right. When I think of it like that, my Chinese should be a lot better than it is. Basically I have spent more than a quarter of my life immersed in the Chinese language and culture. What?! I remember when we had only been studying for a couple of weeks, Ma Laoshi came up with this crazy idea that we should participate in Chinese Bridge. I could barely pronounciate ‘ni hao’ nevermind actually speak and compete in Chinese. And yet, after only three months of studying the language, four of us Chinese students found ourselves flying to Cape Town to compete with people who had been studying for years. Hilarious idea? Yup. But due to our refreshing enthusiasm and promising talent (for beginners), we were all awarded scholarships to study a semester abroad in China. Oh yeah and one of the four of us actually won the whole competition! Gisela Zipp, I’m looking at you. So yeah, clearly Ma Laoshi rocks! As we nibbled on noodles and attempted to master chopsticks, we just sat, flabbergasted at the idea that we would be going to China that year. I mean, I don’t think I even knew how to say ‘China’ in Chinese, and yet I was over the moon at having this chance.

The moment where we found out Gisela had won. Haha. Classic.

In case you hadn’t guessed, I went to China and I’ve been stuck here ever since (well, with a break in Taiwan and Hong Kong for a year and a half too). Nothing could have prepared me for the adventures the past six years have brought me, and it was only this past weekend when I met up with Gisela (one of the girls I studied Chinese with in South Africa) that I really started thinking about it all. How one tiny decision can sway the rest of your life. How you can find yourself on a completely different path from the one you had planned out in your mind. Up until the moment I found myself in that classroom signing up for a Chinese course, totally on a whim, I probably thought I would finish my studies in South Africa then move home to Edinburgh and work in theatre. But then something shifted, something clicked. Was I always supposed to end up in China, speaking Chinese? It makes me wonder if it was all predestined, or whether I had a choice? I normally just follow my heart even if it doesn’t make sense. I’m not very rational. And yet, I wouldn’t want to live my life any other way. Something attracted me to the Chinese language, and that brought me to China, and here I am, sat at a desk in Shenzhen, skyscrapers to my right, animation studios to my left. I don’t know how long I will stay in China, but I do know that it will forever be a huge part of my life, both the language and the culture, and of course the friends I’ve met along the way.

After participating in Chinese Bridge in 2009, Daniel and I were asked to host the 2010 South African Chinese Bridge.

Thank you Ma Laoshi for planting that seed of enthusiasm inside us. Even though we only studied with you for a short time, you helped pave the way for a future than can only be described as nothing short of incredible.

Ma Laoshi and I.

Life is very funny indeed. But I love it all the same.

Love,

Luna

To Inspire, to Breathe

The first time I walked into a yoga class, I walked straight back out. I was at Rhodes University in South Africa and I thought I’d accidentally stumbled into a gymnastics class. People were so flexible that I couldn’t actually make out where arms began and legs ended. I ran for my life. The same thing happened when I was 5 years old and I slipped on a pink leotard and matching tu-tu. I shyly stepped into the ballet class and within minutes was in tears. I want to be able to do ballet, I want to be able to do the splits mid-air and do headstands without the support of a wall, but until recently I hadn’t found anyone who could motivate me enough to make me really achieve this.

Enter Vlada: an incredible yoga teacher from Ukraine who just happens to be teaching here in Shenzhen. I went along to my first class with her with the same expectations that I always have when I try a new yoga class for the first time. That I’ll be the least flexible in the class and end up going home with more tension than when I first started. That all the other girls will judge me and raise their eyebrows when I have to use a strap to reach my feet because my legs are so flipping long and my arm strength is the equivalent to zero. However, something was different in this class. That initial intimidation and insecurity immediately evaporated and in its place drifted a sprinkling of confidence, determination and utter calm. These girls I am practicing with and learning so much from, are not people I need to fear or compare myself to. They are embarking on their own journey of self-discovery and they are people I can connect with, share energy with and in the studio we practice in, you can feel that. It’s real. When we slide the glass door shut, and sit on our mats, our egos fly out the window and float down to rest on the tree tops. When class is over, I try not to pick it back up on the way out but sometimes it finds me and I carry it home again. But mostly, when class is over, I glide home. I never really thought about it before but the reason I am probably lacking flexibility is because I hold so much tension in my mind, and thus in my body too. This is the first time in my life that I really feel like I’m letting it all go. Not just the tension, but the insecurities too. I might not be able to do ‘crow pose’ or the splits, but I can now quieten my mind and little by little, day by day, I can feel my body getting stronger, and my mind too.

Maybe this is why I’m writing again. Yoga is my new inspiration, my ‘muse’ if you will. To inspire= to breathe in. I am breathing in new, fresh air, both literally and metaphorically and wonderful things are happening. I have never enjoyed exercise so much in my life. I feel even more compassionate than normal. I am more patient. I am sleeping better. I feel taller (that’s a lot of tall!). As opposed to normal exercise which seems to only focus on the body, with a couple of happy hormones thrown in for good measure, yoga is as much about the mind as it is the body. And for a repetitive newbie like myself (I’ve actually been practicing on and off for 3 years, but never as consistently as I am now) finding the perfect teacher, studio and people to practice with is essential. Something about practicing in a studio halfway up the mountain, with birds and trees for company, in a city of millions, just makes it even better. It is truly a little sanctuary of zen and I am beyond excited for every class.

That’s the way it should be, isn’t it? A daily habit that isn’t something you dread, or something you just do to keep in shape. It should be as easy as waking up and welcoming the new day. And yet at the same time, something that constantly challenges you and pushes you out of your comfort zone, whether it be trying something you didn’t even know you were capable of, or crying during savasana (corpse pose). The first time this happened to me a couple of weeks ago, I was shocked. I am an emotional person and I cry often, but I hadn’t expected these sneaky little tears to slip from my eyes during such a relaxing end to a beautiful class. But slip out they did, and I let them. Clearly, my body and mind had something to release and so there was nothing else for me to do but to allow it. This class had been focusing on restorative poses and so as the class neared the end I could feel tension slipping away, and layers of stress being pulled back. Underneath was just raw emotion and it poked its head out in the form of tears. I was so curious as to why this was happening. I wasn’t feeling particularly sad or tired, and yet my body knows best. I think of it now as a form of cleansing, a purging of old emotions and tension that were lying low in my heart and now it is time to let them all go flying out to melt into the tree tops with my ego, my insecurities, my anxiety and my stress.

Now, I am learning to embrace it all. The tears, the way my shoulders sometimes feel like they might pop out of place if I stretch a little further, the way the blood flows to my head when I’m upside down and I feel like I’ve just kissed my favourite person while simultaneously eating the best salted-caramel chocolate cupcake of my life (yoga rocks!), the way I feel like I have met these girls and this teacher at the most perfect time, the way the energy in our studio is poignantly positive- flowing from one person to the next, denying nobody. And our teacher’s voice. She is so gentle. Some teachers make the class all about them. They want to show-off and get a big ego-boost. Vlada is at the other end of the spectrum completely. She cares. She is passionate about yoga, not just as a form of exercise, but as a lifestyle and the most exciting part is that she inspires all of us to start believing in this too. I learn so much in every class, not just about yoga poses and meditation and disconnecting from technology to focus more on nature again, but also about myself. I am learning my strengths, my weaknesses, my flaws. And I am learning that yoga is not just a bunch of fancy poses done by beautiful people wearing expensive yoga pants who stick out their chests and with their eyes say “look at me, look at ME!”. Yoga is none of that. Yoga is about connecting back to yourself, to the roots of the earth, to each other, to the positive energy that flows throughout your veins. It is a discipline that can unite you with your higher self, with the ‘real you’, with all the people in this world.

To put it simply, I am addicted. And I would say that along with my travel addiction and my matcha tea addiction, I am onto something good here. Thank you Vlada for inspiring me, and thank you to everyone who joins our practice. I feel rejuvenated.

Here’s to our yoga journey!

Love,

Luna

p.s. You can check out Vlada’s blog here: www.shenzhenyoga.com