Since I haven’t been able to see you in forever due to all of the world’s issues, I wanted to write you all the things I was planning to tell you, my dear nephew, Leo:
First things first:
Explore the world and stay curious as to why just you are here. Explore what makes you smile even when no one else is around. Explore what happens when you fall in love, explore what happens when a heart breaks.
Explore standing on your own two feet. Explore having that person who lets you lean back. Explore being alone. Explore friends of all kinds.
Explore the smells and sounds of a long walk in the forest. Explore the pain in your feet the day after walking in uncomfortable shoes.
Explore the dance of a helium balloon that has gotten loose in the air; explore the feeling of eating something you’ve never tasted before; explore having a bruise; explore different cities; explore different cultures; explore different weathers, explore smells in food markets when it’s warm; explore sleeping on a train.
Explore what is right now—simply explore life.
So, dear Leo (and the rest of you), take a moment and read this, then feel it, think about it, and sleep on it. And then, let’s explore the world together.
Never say no to any food, always try. And do this with your heart, not your mind.
When tasting, let go of the notion: “Do I like it or not?” Just taste it.
Recognise the sweet on the tip of your tongue all the way to the bitter in the back. Let the flavours dance with your senses. Smell your food before eating and do take a minute to appreciate how it looks before digging in. And do dig in without tools sometimes—you have two great ones on the ends of your arms.
Make a deal with yourself to try new things and keep exploring this wonderful world of tastes we have.
Firstly be sure to forgive yourself. You will run into trouble sometimes and that’s okay. You will make mistakes and sometimes you might even hurt someone on the way. Make sure you say it out loud—I forgive myself. And of course, make sure you do right by anyone you might have hurt as well.
And secondly, forgive others. They are as you—only human.
Make sure you get enough rest. The saying “you can sleep when you’re dead” only brings you closer to death.
“Sleeping on it,” however, states the truth and you will be a better version of yourself if you make sure to get enough of it. We need rest—both bodies and brains. Reset and allow dreaming to flow. Never go to bed angry, leave the phone outside, and keep good company—if any.
Do give yourself permission to forget things. We try to plan so much as humans and most of the time it’s not actually needed, for what happens most of the time is not what we planned for. Do not forget people, though; this is simply rude if you do.
…until you simply must move. Make a habit of standing still and do nothing but that. Make a habit to (sometimes) stop, turn around, and look where you came from—and just stand still.
Let it take time, let people watch, let people be curious or confused; that’s on them. You just stand there and take in the moment until you have to move again, and then you do.
Listen to your breath.
You knew this was coming from your yoga teaching aunt, but this, my dear, is a universal truth. Connect with your breathing and you connect with yourself. And this, kiddo, doesn’t sound too bad, does it?
Who else would you get this connection with? No one. Your breath is you and you should pay attention to it.
So, at any time you remember: listen to your breath.
Cross your fingers and drag them on the tip of your nose—just do it.
At any time your tears feel like paying a visit, let them.
Notice how warm they are on your cheeks (or cold if you are outside in the snow).
Notice the salty taste, take a breath, and only then start to think about why they are there. In any case, good or bad, be grateful. It’s a beautiful thing, this crying.
We cry when things are bad, and we cry when things are really, really good—or when things are just so funny that we cannot stop laughing. Crying is cleansing—let the body do its work.
Change it up, you do not always have to walk in a normal way up or down anything. Sometimes, a good jump can be good for you. Surprise yourself and maybe even someone around you. Enjoy this body you have with all it can do.
Ask all the questions.
I cannot stress this enough. Never believe that “everyone knows what they are doing”—they do not. We are all faking it. We are all making it up as we go—testing and trying it out.
This means that there is always space to ask a question on why, how, when. Although, sometimes, you will just have to listen (no questions asked) to your mom (I got you, sister)!
I mean really use your hands, and when you do, be there with them. Maybe it’s baking and feeling the dough stick to your fingers. Maybe it’s touching a tree trunk or maybe it’s laying your hands ever so lightly on someone you like. Use your hands!
Be in the rain.
Run, jump, sit, dance anything you like, but never shy away from rain. You will get wet but that’s about it and that’s okay.
Not to get somewhere fast, but just to feel the wind in your face and the ground under your feet. To feel your body getting tired, your breathing working with you and sometimes against you. Just go for a run.
Feel your feet.
Take off your socks and shoes and let your feet be free. Take a walk through grass, maybe a warm porch, or why not a careful one over gravel. Free your feet and hang out with them. Do not lose connection to them, whenever you can, even if not barefoot let your mind go to your feet.
If you feel like the world is tough on you, put your feet on the ground, find balance, feel the connection to the ground, and breathe. And if it feels like the world is spinning too fast, wiggle your toes.
Lay on grass.
And look at the sky (regardless of the weather). That’s it. Just do this whenever you get the chance.
Dance till you are dizzy and fall over. Make a habit of always being close to dancing. Remember that first sway to the beat and let this be an easy, accessible move for you. Maybe it’s a wiggle of the shoulder, slow movement with your head, or maybe you’re taking your hips for a spin.
Remember this first click when you want to start dancing and keep this feeling and movement handy. Bring it out whenever you can—there really are no bad times for dancing.
And when you move from there, recognise your body and the movements it’s making. And pay attention and breathe. I will make sure you get to dance where one should—that you will experience dancing from all angles. From the great flamenco dancers keeping their own beat to the ballerinas to the clubs. We will be dancing.
Be kind to animals.
This goes deep. In any world when we practice kindness, being mean to animals is not an option—be kind to all of them.
Make sure you study them. If you see a flock of birds, take a few minutes and just observe how they interact with each other, how they communicate, how they move together or alone. Notice all the things we have in common and the things we do not. Learn about our friends, where they live, how they live, and remember we live here together. And do, my dear, learn about where your food comes from.
And, speaking of which…
Try it out and step out of your comfort zone—try spices you’re unfamiliar with and try new recipes.
Taste as you go. Burn something. Learn how to hear when the water starts to boil. Learn how to smell the pie getting ready in the oven.
Cook a 3-course dinner for yourself. Invite people over for a quick and easy one. Eat your greens. Don’t eat our friends.
Life is too short to do anything else. When taken too seriously, the spark dies.
Laugh at yourself and the mistakes you might make, the falls you might do, the things you drop, forget, or stumble upon. Just laugh. Laugh about the misunderstandings that will come, laugh together, laugh alone, laugh loud, and let others be inspired by your laugh. Do not laugh at people, though—just with them.
Dig deep into music.
All kinds of music, even the things you might not like at first. Learn where things come from, learn who influenced who, learn about the roots of music and why it came to be what it is today. And listen, listen to it all—really listen.
Listen and do nothing else but lay on the ground and let the music take you wherever needed. Listen to the different instruments, the different beats, the different vocals, the lyrics, the drop, and the story it’s telling you.
Talk, read, listen.
Never scare away a conversation with anyone about anything. Make space in your time to think about things. Play with “what if” statements, explore options and people’s different views.
Think about it. Talk about it. Listen and learn. Read about biases, read about the mind and how it works, and talk about this as well. Make an effort to build a routine to let people finish their sentences—do not interrupt.
Learn about the magic of holding space for someone else to talk. Learn how to listen without thinking about the next thing you will say. Learn how to think critically—not to be cynical but critical. Talk to people you do not know, talk to people you do know, and never forget to tell people around you that they matter (not just to you, but to everything).
Let go of fear.
It will only be in your way. And if you do dare, my dear, you will dance through life with a smile on your face.