So as part of my 2014 New Year’s resolutions, I set a deadline that if I was unhappy with my life and job in six months’ time I would hand in my notice and start my own thing. This coincided with the amazing experience of visiting Sri Lanka with my mother at an Ayurvedic retreat. We were privileged to spend a lot of time with Ayurvedic doctors and learned so much about herbs, spices and the power of the food that we ate. Turmeric, as it turns out, is one of the most powerful spices we can consume. Shortly after my visit to Sri Lanka, I followed through with my initial plan and started Wunder Workshop, a turmeric focused business – piecing together what I had learned about Ayurveda and the knowledge and passion I had gained from my mother.
The timing could not have been more significant, as it never occurred to me that perhaps all the changes that I was making to improve my own life actually held a much higher purpose. I was going through a deep inner transformation that was giving me confidence in myself and in the path I had chosen to embark on. What I was to discover was that I would be needing this strength and confidence in order to cope with the news that one month into starting my business my mother had been diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer.
No one could believe it. My mother, who was radiant with life and youthfulness, had cancer. She was the most active and resilient woman I have ever met, so the idea that she would become weak and fragile was a very big shift. This pivotal event put my whole life into perspective. It made me realise that my decision to start my own business was the right decision, as it gave me the flexibility that no other job could ever have done and together with my aunt we cared for her from home in Germany flying back and forth to run my business in London. What struck me was that all the knowledge, love and gratitude she taught me throughout life, I could now give back to her.
Only one year later my dear mother passed away. We didn't expect (or dared to acknowledge) this, we still believed that my mother was getting better every day and that soon the cancer would have been a forgotten temporary inconvenience... I ask myself every single day whether we would have done anything different if we had known. Would I have asked her more questions, told her even more how much I love her, spent even more time with her and would I myself live my life differently today if knew I only had one year, month or day left to live? I was once taught the word ‘malkosh’—which means 'last rain' in Hebrew, it is only relevant in retrospect as when it is raining you do not know when the last drop is going to fall. This is similar to our whole life, and to losing a loved one, losing your mother who has always been there.
Letting the light in
Life is ridiculously unpredictable and the loss of my mother has come with such an important message, namely that we can’t take anything for granted. We learn what and who really matters and over the last year since she passed away I have learned that we get to choose our attitude in any given circumstance, that we can be serene and happy in moments of distress.
I often find we are not living life, but merely living time. We aren't embarking on the wild, wavy sea of our dreams and desires, but instead we’re bobbing along the still and safe stream, knowing that time will keep us afloat. Primarily what is holding us back from following our dreams is our mind. Our mind magnifies small things into big problems, fears and anxiety, and we make our daily decision based on these unconscious negative feelings and thus continue living a life of least resistance to our mind. But is so important to actually thrive on these aspects, I find uncertainty and change so exciting and that is what gets me jumping out of bed every morning. We need to challenge our mind, and most importantly we need to take control of it. I am so grateful to have learned this before my mum was diagnosed and especially for when she passed away as it is so important not to let your mind run wild with dark thoughts and self-pity, instead take control and be committed to improving and enjoying your life even when everything goes against you and especially when you lose the most important person in your life.
2000-year-old wisdom by philosopher Seneca is a poignant reminder of what we so easily forget and so chronically fail to put into practice, namely that it is not..
”that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing.”
When faced with a loved one dying, prioritising values and passion become a no-brainer, so in so many respects I can now say ‘hey, is it possible to start living your dreams this week, instead of waiting for everything to be in ‘order’? If you put your mind to it, you can do it.
By Zoe Lind van’t Hof, founder of Wunder Workshop and Boobs’Essential, first published in Inspire Magazine.