Wednesday, 25 December 2013

The wandering stranger

I wrote this blog in September as I sat opposite a stranger on the train to Edinburgh. I just found it in my notebook and thought I'd post it now- Christmas Day.  I hope today has given you the opportunity to create happy memories with family and loved ones that will help keep you warm throughout the year. Happy festive season one and all. Love, Kathleen x

Unaware of the clickity clack of the train. The bushes, buddleia, bankings, platforms, passengers  and station signs all race through her transparent reflection.
I watch her. 
Her eyes missing each and every thing.  Passing her vision - she's further away than the final destination.
What entrances her? 
Encased in her own thoughts, her destination behind her facing nowhere. 
Her eyes cannot be still, heavy blinking as the train rolls up to the next station, then like the accelerating train her eyes jump faster and faster trying to take in all that passes-by.
Bales of golden hay reflecting on her face - a montage of the summer memories. Pursing lips oblivious to others, unaware of her place or presence in this carriage to who knows where. 
I want to whisper to her, "Be still and soak up all that surrounds you now. Tomorrow can wait and yesterday is but a fading field of crops. You're here now - enjoy the journey." 
Instead I watch silently and write.
"Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it." - Greg Anderson 


Thursday, 19 December 2013

Forgiveness for all - even Gurus

A self professed Guru (which in itself is a bit worrying!) told me once that he gave everyone a second chance - but if he was let down or hurt a third time that was it!  Nothing would change his mind - the friendship, or relationship with that person, no matter who they were - family, friend or colleague would be permanently erased from that moment.
Thank goodness that belief isn't held by every one of us.  At the time of having that conversation I told him that I felt that, "rule" was a bit harsh. Being human means we will all make mistakes, some more than others, but we all will - even "Gurus"!  Hopefully we learn from them, and we may make more mistakes, and learn from them - but if we all decided that 3 strikes meant you were, "out" it would be a rather short-fused world we lived in, and not one I'd like to be part of.
Forgiveness is not easy - of course it isn't. I think it's THE hardest thing to do.  A little reminder of the nasty thing that person did creeps into the forefront of your mind, and no matter what wonderful thing that person is doing for you now, all you can see in front of you is their good deed obscured by a dancing, techni-colour memory of the hurtful event from the past.
BUT if you can stay grounded in NOW and recognise that the past is just that - and all that is happening in this moment is real and true, then the healing that can take place benefits both parties.  So, the "Guru" I referred to at the start of this blog misses opportunities to develop deeper, more meaningful relationships as he runs off looking for "better" people to surround himself with - no real challenge or opportunity for growth, in fact, if anything he risks becoming more and more cynical as he realises, 3 strikes maybe isn't enough and he's running out of people to surround himself with.
When you recognise you've made a mistake the first person to forgive is yourself. Only then can you take steps towards making amends to the person you have hurt or let down.  If they can't handle or aren't ready to accept or hear your apology, then lovingly step back - continue being kind to yourself without listening to your condemning critical headmind!  You've taken major steps forward by understanding where you went wrong, forgiving yourself and trying to repair the hurt between you and the other person.  This is a far more emotionally mature approach than judging or criticising yourself.  When you're the person who has been hurt just remember your own imperfections and be softer, and perhaps just a bit more gentle on the other person before you dive in and start ripping their character apart.
We're all human - we're all flawed - and we could all do with being a bit more forgiving and kind to our fellow man.
"The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong." - Mahatma Gandhi
"He that cannot forgive others breaks the bridge over which he must pass himself; for every man has need to be forgiven." - Thomas Fuller

Sunday, 15 December 2013

It starts with the knees....


When practising movements in Tai Chi and when moving in an Alexander Technique lesson one is told that bending the knee helps a person move more easily, stay balanced and avoid tension developing in other areas of the body.  I can only refer to those two as they, along with yoga are processes I'm most familiar with - but I'm sure this idea is also being taught to pupils of other disciplines.
When we hold ourselves tightly and push our way through the day we risk missing important clues from our own intuitive bodymind. Tightly fixed on getting to the end of our day - blinkers on - a tight narrow view as the clock ticks - what will your body have to do to get you to pay attention to the bigger picture?
Something as simple as a bend in the knee may seem too small a detail to bother paying much attention to - but I believe it's small things like this that make a huge difference to our ability to flow easily while also heightening our ability to be present here and now.  When we do that we are giving ourselves the opportunity to witness that creative "nudge", or follow through with that idea that seemed to spontaneously leap into our head regarding a kind thing we could do for our neighbour. Those thoughts, feelings and ideas are there for the taking and will present themselves easily whenever we soften that tight grip we're holding.
So, today as you move, think about unlocking your knees, your skeleton and muscles already know how to keep you upright without you thinking about tensing and tightening your body!
Bend your knees and enjoy letting go of being that active, critical tenser, and instead feel yourself becoming a mindful, yet passive witness to all that you are.
"You translate everything, whether physical, mental or spiritual, into muscular tension." - F.M Alexander
"Practise non-doing, and everything will fall into place." - Lao-tzu


Saturday, 23 November 2013

What is perfection?

My clients often speak of their deep sense of failure based on the belief that they're just not good enough. The overlap can extend far and wide, a dark heavy blanket covering their home and work environment. Their role as a parent, sibling, manager, friend, wife or husband comes under scrutiny by their over critical headmind.
"I'm so bad at keeping in touch - I'm such a bad friend!"
"I feel overwhelmed at work, out my depth, I'm not even sure how I got this job."
"I missed the signs when my daughter was struggling."
"Why did my wife not tell me she was so unhappy?  I'm hopeless!"
How on earth can we expect to master all the roles handed to us, perfecting every aspect of being human when no-one...NO-ONE is perfect?!
I shouted at my son the other day after he slammed the door in an angry outburst.  My reaction, shouting at him, was not necessarily the best, or perfect way to deal with that situation, but it's what I did.
If you find yourself demanding perfection from another person ask yourself this, "How can I demand perfection from others when I too am imperfect?!"
Try thinking STOP when the headmind starts up with its sabotaging thoughts and just be kinder to yourself. Swamp your negative, repetitive thoughts with the words your best friend would say to you if she or he heard you putting yourself down this way.  Visualise loving arms holding you and telling you not to be so hard on yourself.  You are here.  You are human.  You do what you can with the knowledge you have.  There's no-one out there getting it right all of the time.  We learn as we go.  You and I are no different.  We excel at times, and we make mistakes.  That's LIFE!
STOP thinking you're flawed and start being more forgiving.  By being more gentle and kinder to yourself you will find it easier to be that way with others.  As we heal we're then more able to heal others, relieving them of the burdens and beliefs they carry on their shoulders.  Life is such a short journey, shouldn't we try to love and laugh more while criticising and condemning less?
"Once you accept you are not perfect; then you develop some confidence." - Rosalynn Carter
"The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself." - Anna Quindlen


Tuesday, 12 November 2013

The bigness of there, and the smallness of me.

Being swept along in the hustle and bustle of London, or in fact in any big city can leave me feeling incredibly fragile. I ran a clinic in Harley Street for a few years, then subsequently in Wigmore Street, W1.
Central London was always a bit of a mystery to me. No-one smiled, or said, "Hello!" No-one! On my journey from the airport to the office via the underground and by foot I felt over stimulated by all the noise, the people - everything.
I always tried to arrive at my office a good bit before my first client so I could sit peacefully and free my head from the "buzziness" left by the journey.
My clients were lovely - they seemed completely unfazed by the race course they'd left outside, and as they entered my peaceful office they seemed perfectly calm.  On their arrival I always wanted to ask, "How is it out there now?!  It was crazy when I came in this morning, seriously!  I think I saw more people on my way to the office today than I've seen in my entire LIFE!"  But I quickly realised that could be misinterpreted as me being a tad unhinged, and though they knew I was a country bumpkin from Scotland, there was no point in labouring the fact that I found London, too big, too busy and too intimidating. Moving through it left me feeling dissociated and spaced out... that was, until I really got the hang of mindfulness.
It was while on the Victoria Line to Oxford Circus one morning at 8am that I really honed the ability to stay grounded and mindful.
As is probably the norm at that time of day the underground, and each train coming into the station, was jam packed full.  So, as I waited on the platform being pushed and jostled by everyone vying for the best position, the train stopped, the doors opened and in I went.  As I stood there making myself as slim-lined as possible, I tilted my head down, then to the side and counted the feet and bodies making contact with me. My arm clung tightly to the strap hanging from the pole above my head..1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6...7!  SEVEN! Seven strangers all making contact with me.  That was weird!  It was really hot in the carriage standing there, crammed in...and then I got a feeling I hadn't experienced in many years.  That weird prickly heat rising up from my core, sweaty hands, tight chest, shallow breathing - not a panic attack?!  Not now after so many years?!  So then I remembered all that I've learnt and all that I teach clients.
THINK STOP!
I shifted my awareness to my feet on the ground and engaged all my senses in that moment.  The driver had made an announcement that we'd had to stop (in the tunnel) for a few minutes as the train in front needed to move on first before he could progress.  I felt my hand gripping the strap, I heightened my awareness of how my hand felt, I paid more attention to the sensations and tension in my hand and shoulder.  Then I thought about my feet on the ground, someone's foot was on top of one of mine so I gently moved my foot and freed it from the shiny black shoe that had been bearing down on my toes. Then my focus moved to my breathing. I reminded myself of a teaching from the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh's,  and I started repeating silently in my head the words I'd read from his book years before,
"Breathing in - I am peace, breathing out - I am calm."
As our thoughts become physical manifestations I could feel myself settling into a very peaceful place as I repeated this phrase over and over.  I was cooling down, and re-connecting solidly to the reality of the situation.  Looking around me I could see that nobody was enjoying being stuck on the train.  We were all en route to our destination and all we wanted was to get off the train as soon as possible so we could get on with our day.
There was something unifying in that realisation.  I wasn't really alone in the big city.  I was surrounded by other people, some were comfortable on their commute, some weren't.  I could allow my discomfort to overwhelm me, or I could use tools and techniques to allow me to reign in the catastrophising headmind and let my fear diminish and melt away.

“Overcoming panic attacks has left me humbled. It’s taught me how to be brave. It’s left me compassionate to the fears and sufferings of other people. It’s given me the wisdom that my thoughts and feelings are simply subjective responses, and don’t need to be taken as true reflections of reality." - Julie Farrell


Saturday, 9 November 2013

The ultimate winners

After a terrible revelation that came to light a few years ago, I made it my mission to remedy a horrendous wrong. Sleepless nights, some anxiety and a deep sense of being completely alone with my grief and anger ensued.
Friends said the right stuff, family did their best, and my husband Andrew kept me as grounded as he could.
Sadly, bit by bit it became apparent that, despite letters and phone calls to all the relevant agencies involved in the case the ultimate, "corroborative evidence" was missing, therefore - at that point - the case could not be brought to fruition.
Five years have passed, and though justice has not (yet) been done, I feel that my daughters and I are winners in the true sense of the word. 
All three of us are healthy, happy and in loving relationships with a tremendous circle of friends that have been there for us throughout.
So, when I wrote recently on Facebook that, "winning is not always about defeating another person" it was this life changing event that I was referring to.
We may be deeply scarred by what has happened, BUT it has also done the opposite of what the perpetrator may have wanted, by making us stronger, even more appreciative of each other and bonded our love in a way that he, and people like him, will never experience in their lives.
"My love for you is not like rain, which comes and goes away. But it's like sky, moves with you all around." - Raghav Singh


Sunday, 3 November 2013

You can be your own guru

Last night I watched a documentary film made by  Deepak Chopra's son called, "Decoding Deepak". The description read,

"In this documentary, filmmaker and journalist Gotham Chopra embarks on a year-long road trip with his father, Deepak Chopra, to reconcile the spiritual icon with the real man known to his family."  

I have always had an awareness that our perception of people is directly affected by our starting point. Deepak's son, a successful journalist in his own right, wanted his Dad to spend more time at home as he and his sister were growing up - but Deepak was driven to spread his spiritual knowledge to as many people as he could through book writing, seminars and TV talk shows.  The flip side was that people who were searching for a Guru found Deepak. He was telling them exactly what they needed and wanted to hear.  His family often travelled with him, leading a chaotic life, feeling confused as they witnessed strangers idolise the man who was their father.
At several points in the documentary I could feel the strain between father and son - but equally there was a mutual love and respect there too.  Gotham remarked to his father that a lot of what he does must be great for his ego - to which Deepak responded by saying it had nothing to do with his ego.

I don't think there's anything wrong with "feeling good" about doing something well and having a sense of fulfilment and satisfaction about our personal achievements.  I also believe there's a fine line between that and becoming arrogant and self righteous about it.  Ego is involved, and there should be less shame and embarrassment about admitting that. I think and feel that some of the new age and religious movements have managed to demonise the ego, and yet it is simply another part of being human.

We certainly should practise keeping any self righteousness in check, and keep an eye on allowing the false belief to creep in that we're in some way special or better than others.  I'm no Deepak Chopra, but what I do know is that when a client of mine gets well I feel great about it!  Without doubt it is the most lovely and heart warming feeling when the mother of a client says, "You've given me back my daughter!"  or a client on returning to health asks , "What would my life have been like if I'd never made that first appointment with you?!"  I thank them for their kind words, and enjoy the sense of joy at seeing them well, but I only facilitated their journey to health.  They did the work - and their healing was always something within their grasp.

If you feel as if you're "searching" for guidance or support by all means get reading and researching, but remember that within you is the capability to take what you need from the authors and apply it to your own life.  Guru's are just like you and me - they may be expert in their field but they also have the same vulnerabilities and human frailties as the rest of us!

“No one and nothing outside of you can give you salvation, or free you from the misery. You have to light your own lamp. You have to know the miniature universe that you yourself are.” ― Banani Ray from Awakening Inner Guru


Monday, 21 October 2013

If you're bored - do something else!

When I'm reading a book I love that excited feeling as I wonder what's going to happen next.  The anticipation, the guessing, wondering which way it will go, curious to uncover what unexpected twist the author will use to keep the reader gripped..
If you feel stuck in a repeating, unfulfilling pattern, like reading the same chapter of a book over and over again, then start taking steps towards making a more fulfilling life for yourself.
If I did re-reading the same chapter then I'd become incredibly familiar with the text, so much so that in time I'd be able to recite passages from it.  The result would be boredom which in turn would quickly diminish my interest in discovering what happened next and have me tossing it aside in favour of something new, fresh and more stimulating.
I have heard numerous times, "I can't change now - I've been doing it this way for years!"  Or another favourite is, "Oh it's not THAT bad..there's a lot worse off than I am!"
Oh my! Those are just two phrases clients use that have my heart sinking whenever I hear them.  Just because we can repeat a task without engaging that healthy relationship between our body and mind, doing it mindlessly, not mindfully doesn't make it okay.
We've all had those moments of joy when we've accomplished something.  It doesn't matter whether it was, working out how to use your new iPad, knitting your first square, climbing your first Munro, running your first 5K, overcoming nerves to give a speech.  At some point you did something that gave you a sense of achievement when you'd completed it.
It doesn't have to be a life changing, earth shattering occupation - or one laden with physical or academic pressure.  Doing anything well, doing it whole-heartedly and having it leave you with a sense of accomplishment is surely what we should all be striving for?  If you haven't found that yet, but need to make ends meet in the meantime doing something less than ideal, keep focused on where you'd like to go next and don't take your eye off that goal. Make a plan of action - spend time at the beginning and end of each day to take steps towards reaching that place. Stay grounded and stay focused and each day enjoy feeling that sense of accomplishment as you look back on your day knowing you've done all you could do that day to take even a small step closer to your desired future.
"You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream." - C.S Lewis

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Potential

Recently my husband planted some bulbs in our garden.  They were pretty scabby, unremarkable looking objects.
The photo on the packet however told a different story.
Circular headed purple flowers, perfectly formed, beautiful Alliums destined to bring colour and joy to our garden next year, providing they fulfil their potential.
Everything in nature has potential to be amazing.
Everything.
Sometimes individuals believe they can't reach their potential - lacking faith in themselves they make do with the hand they've been dealt.
The belief that we have to "make do" and give up trying to follow our dreams because life just isn't like that does not belong to you! That negativity has been "gifted" to you by the significant adults you listened to when you were growing up.  It belongs to them - and it's not what your core essence, that all loving, all knowing part of yourself believes - so please, no matter how old you are, start ignoring that repetitive thought!
Phrases I hear all too often in my work as a therapist start with,
"I'd love to but...."
"I've dreamt of doing that, but what would folk think of me giving up this career to do that?!"
"I can't - my Mum wouldn't like it - she's proud of me doing this job."
"Yes but, if I did that it might not work."
Do you think the Alliums have those thoughts?!  No!
All they ask for is a bit of nourishment, warmth and sunlight - and I can rest safe in the knowledge that they will reach their potential and be a magnificent spectacle in my garden.
If the weather is harsh on them I'll give them protection.  If the soil is lacking in nourishment I will provide nutrients by adding a fertilizer to help support their growth and encourage them to flourish into all they can be.
How wonderful a world this would be if we could simply provide the people we love with all the warmth, comfort and nourishment they need to enable them to be all they dream of becoming.
Supply a solid foundation, then step back.
You can hold them close to your heart and enjoy watching them flourish into exactly what they should be, can be and will be.
"Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces.  Smell the rain, and feel the wind.  Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams." - Ashley Smith
"With realization of one's own potential and self-confidence in one's ability, one can build a better world." - Dalai Lama


Thursday, 26 September 2013

What writing does for me.

I've been doing a lot more writing of late - not so much on my blog - but writing for my newsletter and another project I'm involved with right now.  I have found a pattern to the way I feel before I write, during the process and after I've put my idea down on the page.
Firstly, on my days off from working with clients, ideas about my next piece of writing start to bubble to the surface, filtering through to the forefront of my mind.  This often happens when I'm out walking, running, cycling or just drinking tea in the garden. The outdoors certainly seems to be a catalyst for my creativity.
As the ideas present themselves I try not to grab at them or make sense of the images or words popping up. I stay with it and let it happen, though I can feel slightly nervous as a sense of needing to take more control over how I want the idea to evolve takes hold.  But if I am patient, and if I can leave it alone I know it will make for a much better piece in the end.  I often wonder too where that first seedling of an idea has come from.
Then a bit of fear creeps in as I become a little bit scared at the idea I won't have time to put down what I want to say or I won't word it well enough to be understood.  So, as if to prove to my headmind that it's just made a very pertinent point I avoid sitting down with my pen and notebook for a few days.  But then the idea quietly, and steadily takes on it's own form in my mind.
I know if I don't sit down soon I will start to feel agitated.  I have a hunger, a real feeling in the pit of my stomach that is screaming at me to sit down and write - if I don't there is a very real belief I might die.
I get a cup of tea - not too strong.
The cats are in, their bowls filled with food and water, my son is at school, my man is away golfing, the door is locked and I have a feeling of peacefulness matched by an equal dose of anticipatory excitement.
I sit for a moment in trepidation.
I put on some classical music, piano, orchestra, opera - depending on my mood -  then I listen to it for a few minutes, pick up my pen, open my notebook and start writing.
The moment is here!  The opening of my notebook signifies the green light for my thoughts, feelings and emotions to make contact with the paper. They are now formally introducing themselves to each other - like a family reuniting for the first time in years. They knew of each other, and always knew one day they'd get together, and now finally they get to share in this harmonious union.
As I start to write I feel an intense happiness.  My emotions are acutely linked to the words being drawn out on the sheets of paper.  The pen seems to write without me being very involved in the process.  That feeling of unity between the paper, the pen, my thoughts, my emotions, the music brings with it an indescribable sense of peace.
Once the writing is complete I feel a huge sense of relief, but also a gratifying emptiness that I know means I have created space for the next idea to present itself.
I've never written about what goes on for me during the process of writing. I wanted to share this with you, but also with myself.  Not sure how self indulgent that sounds!
My hope is that during those moments when I feel stuck, I can re-read this and remember how intensely enjoyable and healing writing can be for me, and hopefully for the reader too!
"I can't write to please everyone, but someone, somewhere will be touched if I put my heart into it." - Sara Winters
"Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart." - William Wordsworth


Sunday, 1 September 2013

How to get off that roller coaster of approval

Think of a roller coaster..only this one is different.. once you've boarded it there's no getting off.. it just keeps going and going ...no stopping.
That relentless, tumultuous clattering going round and round, up and down, our hearts in our mouths one minute, then that sinking heaviness as we suddenly dip uncontrollably downwards. 
Sickening.
This nightmare reminds me of the futile cycle of seeking the approval of others.  This is especially true when the approval is sought from family members and loved ones.
Like children we present our best picture from school with baited breath and a fluttering anticipatory excitement in our tummy.  We wait to hear the response while searching for the glee and pride to spread across the face of our loving parent -  but nothing.  
Down we dip...lower and lower.
This sequence of events can be carried from our childhoods up into our adult relationships; so unless we learn how to stop the out of control roller coaster we are destined for a life filled with perpetual attempts to do the "right" thing, in the hope that we finally gain that elusive seal of approval from our loved one(s).  
Right now is the time to take back control of the choices you are making. Start doing what you want for your own fulfilment, and sense of well-being.  
No hidden agenda.  
No niggling thoughts of how this will be perceived by those you have being trying to please or gain approval from.  
Live your life from your unique view.  Take steps every day to do things that make your heart sing and leave you feeling uplifted.  Live the life you are here to live. 
Making choices based on the invisible belief we might get a pat on the back from someone is a waste of two priceless attributes - energy and time.  We want to preserve both of those things, and I'd rather use my energy and time doing things that engage, challenge, stimulate and uplift.  
We can only be accountable to ourselves for ourselves.  By genuinely being ourselves there is a certain inevitability that we will please others - it just might not be your parents or loved ones.  
However, if your improved health and the ability to step off the relentless roller coaster is the result then I encourage you to start making your plans now! 
"A truly strong person does not need the approval of others any more than a lion needs the approval of sheep." - Vernon Howard
"Most fears of rejection rest on the desire for approval from other people.  Don't base your self esteem on their opinions." - Harvey Mackay


Saturday, 24 August 2013

For the love of man, love yourself

Everywhere I turn I can see (and hear) dreadful acts of man's inhumanity to man.  It deeply saddens and distresses me - as it does the majority.
We must be careful not to be drawn in and pulled down by all the atrocities the media insists on broadcasting.
Impaled visual spears, forever piercing our minds.
It's important horrific stories aren't buried, and we should of course be informed, but do yourself a favour and avoid watching the news on a constant loop because there is a real risk that you will be left flattened and breathless by the horrors bouncing from camera to satellite to retina.
Just for now narrow the depth and width of your sight - wear blinkers - focus on loving yourself and those you're with right now.
Be kind to yourself.
Be kind to those close to you.
If we just did this one thing, who knows, those actions might have the best possible knock on effect.
A more peaceful, loving relationship with each other.
I'm an optimistic realist - I hope more positive change will happen - but I know change can be a challenge.
Right now, be only interested in your own circle.  Love and peace are not impossible.  Start locally, and hopefully the stretch will get wider and wider as more of us practise loving kindness.
"When we feel love and kindness toward others, it not only makes others feel loved and cared for, but it helps us also develop inner happiness and peace." - The 14th Dalai Lama (1935)
"May we not succumb to thoughts of violence and revenge today, but rather to thoughts of mercy and compassion.  We are to love our enemies that they might be returned to their right minds." - Marianne Williamson


Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Do yourself a favour and own up!

Angry people intrigue me - we all have our moments of course - but I'm talking about people who find the most obscure reasons to be outraged.
One egg cracked in a box of 12 shouldn't induce a furious outburst - should it?
A friend cancelling a night out because her mother has fallen ill - surely that's just an unfortunate turn of events.
A tradesman not answering his phone isn't really a hangable offence.
Have you ever caught yourself being outraged by the most benign of life's toils?  If you have, the chances are there's something hidden quietly inside you that needs to be spoken about and dealt with.  Ignoring it and hoping it will go away will just make that monster grow, leaving you lashing out at all the wrong people and in all the wrong places.
Dealing with and expressing life's small irritations is crucial, but it must be in proportion to the event.  By doing so it helps empty the body's emotional "pot" and keep you ship shape!
If however you find yourself flying off the handle at what others would recognise as the small stuff, ask yourself, "What is it that's really annoying me?"  "What have I been hiding from others and myself that's causing me to react this way?"
Invariably there will be something in there.
Be honest to yourself, and if it's safe to do so, be honest with others too.
"In controversy, the instant we feel anger, we have ceased striving for truth and begun striving for ourselves." - Abraham J. Heschel


Saturday, 10 August 2013

When silence is bad for your health

This blog is dedicated to both men and women who find themselves wondering what it is they have to do to enable them to be heard and understood by their loved one.
Being with someone who is emotionally damaged or disconnected can feel like death by a thousand cuts.
Slowly but surely the sense of being precariously balanced between the happy, contented times and the devastation of being emotionally bled dry by the hatred spewing forth quietly kills off the desire to be there.
Exhausted, confused, melancholy and bemused one has a hundred questions to ask but cannot risk letting the words form and leave the safety of one's head.  To risk speaking means the all too familiar outcome of being verbally and emotionally slapped down.  But to remain silent has it's own devastating effect.
Doubting one's own sanity, questions build up.
"Did I overact?"
"Did he really say what I think he said?"
"Was he always like this?"
"Is it me that makes him this way?"
"What did I say to provoke this response? What am I doing wrong?"
Believing you have to bottle up, or hide your feelings will only ever end badly.  Depression and anxiety, possibly with a panic attack or two thrown in for good measure, the body will scream out by engaging it's only tool of communication - symptoms.  It has no choice as it simply hates being witness to this situation!  
There's not much the victim of emotional abuse wouldn't give to replace that aspect of their loved ones personality. To be able to gift  their partner the ability to empathise and have a healthy connection to their emotions would be a relationship changing miracle!
It's not impossible to teach someone to connect to their feelings but they have to (a) recognise and believe that feelings exist, and (b) be willing to learn.  Sadly for the emotionally disconnected (a) + (b) = extreme discomfort.
So, if you're in a relationship with an emotionally disconnected person, there's one piece of advice I'd give to you.
Do not deny your own right to be emotionally honest with yourself and them.  If it hurts being put down, tell them.  If it falls on deaf ears, constructively express it again.  Don't leave it, or put it off so long that your body starts using physical symptoms to get your attention. If speaking up puts your safety in jeopardy then it's time to leave. You are here now, and you are entitled to be appreciated, loved, held and heard.
"This is slavery, not to speak one's thought." - Euripides
"I have learned now that while those who speak about ones miseries usually hurt, those who keep silence hurt more." - C.S Lewis


Thursday, 27 June 2013

Finding calm in the chaos

I visited my daughter and son-in-law in Brighton last week. I had a lovely time.
Brighton is a vibrant, busy place full of arty shops and arty people. The noise, the colours, the smells, so much busyness can exhaust me in a very short period of time.  I'm like a child on their first trip to the fair ground. Over excited, over stimulated -  I soak it all up but can quickly become saturated. So, by paying close attention to what my body is telling me, I slow down, narrow my vision and stop my mind racing in circles as it tries to understand all that's going on around me.
The photo on this blog is one I took in a vintage shop during my visit to Brighton last week - you can see why the products for sale on this shelf sent my mind in a spin!
When you step into an unfamiliar setting pay attention to what your head is doing and what you're feeling as you observe all the newness around you. Enjoy the experience while also being careful not to allow it to consume you.
"Peace.  It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart." - Author unknown




Friday, 14 June 2013

All that you see is you, and all that I see is me.

This morning when I woke up, the bright sunshine was beaming in through the gap in my curtains, my head lay peacefully on my familiar pillow, but my arm was completely numb.  I pushed myself up with the other arm and looked at my feeling-less arm. The lack of feeling in that one limb had an affect on my ability to recognise it - it could have belonged to anyone. I had the thought that after 45 years it should be more than a bit familiar to me. 
I lay back down with my numb arm lying flat on top of the duvet waiting for the positional change to aid the feeling to come back - which it did.
Once, several years ago, I had a big, flat section of tree trunk positioned for me in my garden to use as a chopping block to enable me to split my own logs. 
It had been too heavy for me to move on my own.  One day, I took a phone call and was given some devastating news.  Crying, I walked outside and, without effort picked up that chopping block and threw it over the fence into the recently harrowed field that formed a boundary around my cottage. Later when I thought about what I'd done, I didn't recognise the person who had suddenly displayed immense physical strength.
Sometimes, you may catch yourself trundling through life, no fuss, no upset, no bother, no drama. You might surprise yourself when you respond (or react) to a life event in a way that leaves you reflecting and asking, "Was that me?!"  
Don't underestimate, and certainly don't block, your body's ability to express itself!  
If we practise speaking up and saying what we really feel on a daily basis, then it'll be less liable that we are ever faced with a stranger in our body venting, shouting, screaming out in a way that feels completely alien to us. Constructively expressing what you're feeling now promotes physical and mental health and helps you get your needs met.  All aspects of who are you should never come as surprise - you should be able to recognise yourself from the inside out, in the calm and in the turbulent times.
"Have the confidence to step into yourself and step out as the one and only you." - Hussein Nishah



Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Handle with care.

A trauma can feel like a paper thin, fragile, egg being carried in our hands.  Cupping it gently, believing that we owe it to ourselves to protect the memory of the trauma, burdened with the responsibility of remembering every detail of the event or events, the strain starts to tell, the trauma tightens its grip in our head, and we tighten and clench our grip around the memories.
Another crack appears on the egg.
Panic sets in. 
What if the egg shatters?  What if all that happened during that time is forgotten?  
The traumatic event may feel as if it forms your identity and the idea of living without it can cause anxiety to rise.
Look inside a box of eggs and you will see some are speckled, some are paler than others, there may be some dirt on the shell of one, a slightly strange shape or mark on another.  The details, or distinguishing marks on the exterior of the shells makes no difference to the contents contained within the egg.
Stop staring at the external events that have marked you, and start focusing on yourself from the inside. 
Be still.  
Meditate. 
Pray.
Ask for help and seek support if you need to - changing your focus can start right now!

"The past has no power to stop you from being present now. Only your grievance about the past can do that." - Eckhart Tolle
"The beautiful journey of today can only begin when we learn to let go of yesterday." - Steve Maraboli 





 

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Keep growing!

Last week I planted out my sweet peas.  There were several seedlings crammed into one small pot and as I gently upturned the container,  I tapped the bottom of the pot and the seedlings, with their roots crammed and twisted in and around the compost, almost sighed with relief at being released from the restrictive holder.
During the early stages of the sweet peas life the pot and nutrient rich compost was essential for the vulnerable little seeds.  Now however, the rapidly growing seedlings need space to stretch and grow,  as they crave new nutrients to nourish and support them in order that they can flourish and reach their full potential.
We were, and still are seedlings.  Most of us have, at some point in our lives, recognised when it was time to leave the familiar surroundings where we received the support and nourishment we needed in our early years.  Our need for a change of "compost" doesn't stop for us when we leave home and start our independent adult life, we need to pay attention to any signs that the nutrients that once fed us need replaced or replenished.
Don't allow your roots to become stunted through an apathy for change. What could you do now that would enable you to feel replenished and ready to grow again?  You owe it to yourself to become all that you can be.  Small steps make a big difference.
I could add a fertiliser to the pot of sweet peas, but keeping them in the same tiny container would still restrict their growth - so in order to support them fully they need room to grow and the nutrients to sustain them.  Be as kind to yourself as I am to my sweet peas and watch what happens!
"I am here for a purpose and that purpose is to grow into a mountain, not to shrink to a grain of sand. Henceforth will I apply ALL my efforts to become the highest mountain of all and I will strain my potential until it cries for mercy." - Og Mandino
"Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new." - Brian Tracy
"People are like dirt. They can either nourish you and help you grow as a person or they can stunt your growth and make you wilt and die." - Plato




Friday, 31 May 2013

Your true nature is perfect!

Have you ever been walking down the street with a young child and you've caught them staring wide mouthed at someone who was dressed or looked differently to those people they were used to seeing in their lives?  There's a moment when the other person notices you noticing them as you've both noticed the child's reaction - and in that impasse an awkward pacifying smile creeps from your mouth.

I liken this situation to the gentle, tolerant way the body tries to calm the over keen, excitable childlike headmind.....let me explain.
The core essence (bodymind) knows EXACTLY what makes your heart sing, what keeps you well, what you should avoid at all costs and what you need to be doing in order to maintain a healthy life.  Every so often though, our headmind (and ego) observes other peoples lives and decides it wants some of that!

So, the body has to go along with the heads forceful, determined plan of action..BUT the body will only tolerate this for a short time, and then it will do whatever it has to in order to get you back into that healthy aligned place, where there is harmonious communication from the body (telling you what feels right) and the head (putting those feelings into action).  Annoyingly for us though the only communication tool the body has is symptoms...so....if you are feeling symptomatic sit quietly and allow the truth to surface.

What are you not saying or not doing NOW that needs to be addressed?  AND remember, don't let the head say, "Well I would do all those things if I felt better.."  because, there's a high chance you have symptoms because you're NOT doing those things!

“Just keep being true to yourself, if you're passionate about something go for it. Don't sacrifice anything, just have fun.” ― Blake Lewis

 "The moon is faithful to its nature and its power is never diminished.” ― Deng Ming-Dao




Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Kindness

One of the uglier sides of human nature is selfishness.
A regular response to my questions about selfishness towards others is, "Well why should I?  What have they ever done for me?!"  I might point out something they've told me their loved one did for them, but that's often met with a shrug and dismissed.
That type of answer makes me sigh.....heavily.
It saddens me to witness someone taking pleasure as their partner or loved one does more and more things to please or satisfy their needs, knowing full well that they won't be reciprocating their partners selfless act.  I gently, but directly encourage them to do just one kind thing, without expectation or an agenda attached, just one, selfless act of kindness.
Resistance is normal at this stage - but I persevere!
When we are in a relationship - any relationship- be it with our children, significant other, friends or in a work setting with colleagues, giving and receiving is the only way to maintain a healthy bond with our fellow man.
See the unity within all of us.
We all appreciate kindness, thoughtfulness and selfless acts - your partner is no different.
You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by hanging up your selfish hat and trying something new.
"Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness." - Martin Luther King, Jr.
"Be kind whenever possible.  It is always possible." - Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama



Sunday, 12 May 2013

Select all, copy, paste



We live in a copy and paste society.
People use the same phrases over and over again.
One size fitting all - only it doesn't.
Cliches, metaphors and analogies trip off tongues without thought into whether or not they are in context.
This habit scourging our society appears to me at least, to be transferring to our behaviour.
Don't spend tomorrow copying and pasting the mask you wore yesterday - today is a new and unique day with experiences that will feel differently, IF you allow yourself to pay attention to your feelings!
Duplicating your response to a situation on the basis that that's how you've always responded, does not make it right.
Celebrate not being a robot carrying out it's function.
You're a one-off!
Be you, feel your emotions and express yourself!
"Be yourself; everyone else is already taken." - Oscar Wilde
"I pay no attention whatever to anybody's praise or blame. I simply follow my own feelings." - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Monday, 22 April 2013

Quietening the night time demons

Demons creep into our sleeping state.  They've spent the daytime lurking in the shadows, sometimes catching our eye, but we're too busy to give them the attention they need so they just patiently wait.
They know that in just a few short hours they will be given all the attention they need.  The demons will hold centre stage, occupying every moment of the night hours as we toss and turn in the place that was supposed to be our safe haven.
They seem to smirk at how alert we are as they perform around and around in our minds. Every scenario is covered, no theatrical cast could ever put on such a brilliant show.  As the adrenalin pumps round our body any chance of sleep fades into the distance. The sun comes up, the alarm goes off and the demons, for now, sneak into the shadows as we busy ourselves in the daylight hours.
To be free from the night time demons we must rid ourselves from our daytime fears.
What's really bugging you?
What are you not saying or not doing because you think you might be condemned by others if you are seen to step outside the boundaries they have set for you?
Are you unhappy at work?  Is there someone you can speak to about that?
Have you been keeping a lid on what you're really feeling?
Now is the only time you have to reverse this downward spiral.  Being sleep deprived by the night time demons can lead to anxiety and a horrible sense of being overwhelmed by the most simple of tasks.
Check the shadows today.  Are there demons waiting to occupy your mind tonight?  Give them the attention they need now, and look forward to a peaceful, restorative sleep tonight.
"True silence is the rest of the mind, and is to the spirit what sleep is to the body, nourishment and refreshment." - William Penn




Sunday, 14 April 2013

Removing the rod from my back.

I think I've made a rod for my back.  This rod, stiff, inflexible and difficult for me to reach has shaped me in the eyes of others.
An independent, strong, capable woman - all very flattering and not aspects of my character I'd easily or happily give up.
But that's not all that's going on.
I can be vulnerable, overly-sensitive, confused and melancholy. I feel relieved when I know someone has caught a glimpse of that side of me.  I believe those who don't do so through their own choice, preferring only to see my strengths.
We are all multi-faceted - all capable of feeling and displaying passion -  all capable of falling into a deeply sad and isolated place.  Each of us, no exceptions - humans with emotions and the ability to experience all of them at some point.
You may be someone who likes to see what satisfies your perception of another - or you may be someone who has an awareness that what others see in you is not the whole story.  Whatever side of the fence you're on the most important thing is to be honest with yourself about all that you feel.
Feel it, express it, speak it, dance it, sing it, write it, draw it -  it matters not what your preferred genre is, the important thing is to move your feelings outwards and avoid burying them deeply and silently inside.
"Be true to yourself and to your feelings.  Those are the only things in your life that will never lie to you." - Author unknown
"The greatest happiness is to transform one's feelings into action." - Madame de Stael

Saturday, 30 March 2013

The dream of a pedestal free world

The osteopath with his niggling back problems, the dentist with tooth decay, the teacher of relaxation who has difficulty sleeping at night - each with skills and expertise AND each just as vulnerable as the next person to stress and health issues.
Be careful not to put someone with "expertise" on a pedestal, if they fall, you might too. Your reality shaken to the core when the expert falls ill, "If they can't sort themselves out, what hope is there for me?!"
Being more informed through training or by passing a set of exams does mean the expert is armed with the facts, will that mean they apply all that they know to their own life?  Not necessarily.
The moment we think we are separate, either in a lesser or greater way than another, we have lost the connection with the truth that is - we are all the same.
Be loving and gentle to yourself and have the humility to recognise the vulnerability in every one of us.
"A pedestal is as much a prison as any small, confined space." - Gloria Steinem
"Don't put me on a pedestal, for I am sure to fall. Just love me as I am, flaws and all." - Author unknown


Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Listen! It's peace calling!

Surely the greatest gift we can hope for others, and ourselves is to be able to feel a sense of peace and contentment radiating from our core.  From time to time, but not often enough I get glimmers of that peacefulness.  I know that within each of us we have that peace and contentment nestled there all the time - mostly ignored - it just waits patiently for our return.
The headminds response to life experiences wraps us up in the hustle and bustle, like an overprotective mother clutching a bundled up duvet to cover her child, dampening down our ability to feel where that peaceful place has gone.  Faster and faster the layers pile on, thicker and thicker they form a muffler to that internal peace-filled core, while amplifying all the chaos from the outside world.
I gave myself a talking to today.
Then I sat on my meditation stool and allowed that peaceful place to take centre stage. For all of us peace should have the leading role, not a walk on part.
"If you cannot find peace within yourself, you will never find it anywhere else." - Marvin Gaye

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Health, wealth & happiness

There is a distorted belief that when it comes to health, wealth and happiness there is an optimum, or perfect level to each, which, if reached leaves us free-wheeling through the remainder of our lives, a traffic free, downhill run on the smoothest of roads.
So, we search and search maintaining a deep rooted belief that at some point we'll find, "it!"
Look up at the sky and just observe all that you see.  Hundreds, probably thousands of people will look up at their sky today, wondering, questioning, crying, pleading, asking.
Our health, the ability to appreciate the beauty that is our functioning, effective body with all it's chemical and mechanical complexities.
Our wealth, not simply the monetary value enabling us to provide food and shelter for ourselves and those we love,  the rich asset that is our knowledge and emotional awareness.
Our happiness, not the hollow laughter of an egotistical hedonist, but the quiet joy of being here now - happiness at being part of a family, having friends, an appreciation of all that we are in this world.
Stop striving to find the elusive key to something that is already here with you right now.
"Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship." - Buddha
"Wealth is the ability to fully experience life." - Henry David Thoreau
"Happiness depends on ourselves." - Aristotle

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Being held back by beliefs

The trouble with belief is that at some point it will be challenged. No matter if the belief is about your spiritual leaning, your understanding of yourself, or your belief about what motivates another person - try keeping your beliefs as open and flexible as possible.
Stay rigid and you risk snapping as a boulder rolls on to the tight rope of belief you are walking. By maintaining a softer more pliable stance, keeping your heart and mind open you will be far better equipped to stay on your path, no matter if there are times when you question your belief. There's no shame in changing your mind - in fact it's the only way to keep growing!
"It is not disbelief that is dangerous in our society, it is belief." - George Bernard Shaw
"If you don't change your beliefs, your life will be like this forever. Is that good news?" - W. Somerset Maugham


Friday, 15 March 2013

Keeping afloat

As I swim I push the invisible force of the water to one side. Bit by bit I move through the water gradually reaching the other side of the pool. Stroke by stroke and by applying a certain amount of effort I ensure I don't sink. Living is a lot like swimming. There may be what seems like "invisible" forces making your journey feel like an enormous effort. Tread water for a moment, better still stop making it such hard work and just float. Let the water support you while you decide if there's another way for you to continue on your journey. Sometimes it may feel like you're sinking. Life can support, just as a floatation aid can keep you buoyant in water. Do what you need to do to stay afloat. Find whatever it is that supports you, talking to friends and loved ones, yoga, prayer, being out in nature - reach out to whatever resonates with you.
"A true friend never gets in your way unless you happen to be going down." - Arnold H. Glasgow

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Defining restrictions


To attempt to define water is like trying to explain the Universe in one sentence.
Water is a life source we all depend on, it can also take lives and devastate whole landscapes, washing away homes and livelihoods.
It is rain, clouds, a raging white water river, a calm lake, H2O, ice cubes, and the hot water that makes a cup of tea.
You are as diverse as the water and the Universe.
I feel sad when I listen to the self limiting definitions individuals use to describe their own understanding of themselves.
At this moment, there will be aspects of your life including,your job, relationship, family situation, financial status or popularity within the community that are true and accurate to your life right now. Is it by those "external" factors you define yourself? Do you really believe those things fully define who you are?
I'd like you to add another skill to your daily routine which may help you realise another aspect of yourself. Start practising mindfulness through meditation, yoga or breathing exercises. Being still, allowing peaceful "non-active" moments in your day will start to re-balance what you may currently hold as important in defining you with a much bigger, broader picture with less defined boundaries. In time a shift may occur enabling you to gently let go of those old beliefs about your identity. Mindfulness helps you enjoy the peaceful times, and with practise you can access that place anytime. Care less about how you have chosen to define yourself, take off that mask and celebrate all that makes you the complex being that you are!

"We are so accustomed to disguise ourselves to others that in the end we become disguised to ourselves." - Francois de La Rochefoucauld.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Music and therapy

When my piano teacher gives me a new tune to play she always has me playing the right hand first, getting familiar with the melody before introducing the left hand.  Her expression is, "learn it separately THEN together!"  My daughter Emily was teaching me a tune on the m'bira recently, and she said, "I'm only going to show you the left hand, you have to know that piece before I show you what the right hand plays!"  So another, "separately THEN together" situation.  The music only sounds right, and feels good once you get both hands playing the whole piece as was the intention when the music was created by the composer.
As a result, when I start playing a new piece I can feel quite frustrated and struggle with imagining how it will ultimately sound when I'm finally able to put it all together.
I can definitely draw a parallel in relation to learning a new piece of music and meeting someone for the first time. Initially, the person is slightly guarded and only willing to share a small part of themselves.  That one piece is usually a long way from the whole story.  Patience is required by me to ensure I get a complete understanding of what brings someone to see me in my role as a therapist. A new client will often start by telling me individual, separate stories and experiences they have had, and in time I can put a fuller picture together enabling me to give them the support they need.  
There would be no point, in fact it would probably be quite detrimental to our relationship, if I said to them on their first session, "I need to hear everything NOW so I can get on with teaching you how to get well!"  Just as I can't play my right and left hand together on the piano when I'm first presented with a new piece of music..bit by bit, step by step as my confidence grows in my playing I can enjoy the tune and really be absorbed in the tone and feeling of the piece, a client will only fully embrace sharing and learning in a therapeutic setting when they are ready.
Before a client comes to see me they have been separate and often isolated, hiding all their fears and worries from the outside world.  Together, with support, guidance and commitment from both client and therapist, a healthy, enjoyable life is attainable.
The music is already composed and hoping to be played as beautifully as was intended by the composer.  
I am ready to support the client as soon as they feel able to share all that needs to be shared.  
"Patience is the companion of wisdom." - Saint Augustine
"All great achievements require time." - Maya Angelou

Monday, 4 March 2013

Lovingly trying to control


It's hard not to get frustrated when someone you care about isn't taking responsibility for their own health - either through naivety of the seriousness of their symptoms, or perhaps they do have an understanding of what's going on and are simply choosing to bury their heads in the sand.
Whatever the reason, at some point you have to stop and try to understand that their journey belongs to them - and you are on your own path - sharing just some of the journey with them.
Ultimately we can only make our own choices and decisions for ourselves, we cannot persuade or manipulate another into doing what WE think is right for them.
At times clients tell me their loved one thinks they are "a control freak" for nagging them into going to the Dr's or having a check up.  This type of "controlling" is often borne out of desperation, that sense of needing to know their loved one has the best information regarding their health, in the hope they then make the best decision.
Being called a control freak often conjures up very negative connotations - but in fact in many cases the need to control is based on a fear of loss. The loss of someone who is cared about very much. So if you have a partner who is nagging you, stop for a moment and think about why they are so determined to have you checked out. Maybe your loved one just wants to make sure you can spend even more time enjoying this journey together.
"Most of us can read the writing on the wall; we just assume it's addressed to someone else." - Ivern Ball
"A man sooner or later discovers that he is the master gardener of his soul, the director of his life." - James Allen

Saturday, 2 March 2013

The guise of the cruel eccentric

Throughout history eccentric men and women have made it into the history books for all sorts of reasons.  Eccentrics certainly brighten up the mundane day to day drudgery and can bring colour to the greyness of our lives, giving us all a reason to smile.
At times however, there is a darker side which I feel needs to be spoken about and not politely ignored.  I have noticed time and time again that we have a tendency to enable some eccentrics to be rude, nasty, cruel even, shrugging their behaviour off by saying, "Oh well, she's a bit mad! She's such an eccentric!"  
Being eccentric is absolutely fine - but if we observe someone being unkind to a fellow man, eccentric or not, it's not okay. We should celebrate and love our individuality. Expressing ourselves and getting our needs met is an essential part of being healthy, but not by using cruelty or bullying techniques dismissed as acceptable under the guise of eccentricity.
We are all human, we all have vulnerabilities and we should walk gently through this life, leaving only the mark of warmth and kindness on those we have met.
"It is very sad to me that some people are so intent on leaving their mark on the world that they don't care if that mark is a scar." - John Green
"No love, no friendship can cross the path of our destiny without leaving some mark on it forever." - Francois Mauriac

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Same footprints, different person.

I met myself coming back today - well, sort of.
I had a melancholy night with little sleep.  I got up at 7am, sorted everything out for my son to get off to school then, as I had the morning free, I decided to get out into the winter sun and not allow the waves of sadness to engulf me.
When I arrived at the beach the sky was a brilliant blue, the sun so, so bright and low in the sky everything glittered and shone at me as if screaming, "SMILE damn it!  Look at all this shiny loveliness..SMILE!"
Instead I breathed, I walked, I took photos, I breathed and I took in all that was beautiful around me.  And that was not in short supply.  The curlew's were doing their call, running about the beach trying to scare me off. The sea was gently, almost politely rolling in, tip toeing it's way over rocks and glittery sand.  I didn't smile but I could really feel a deep appreciation for all that I was witnessing.  A cormorant stood majestically facing me, perched on a rock,wings out basking in the sun, it's back to the sun - I'm pretty sure it was smiling. I walked, and walked.  One man and his dog stopped to speak.  The little dog rolled onto it's back, smiling and pleading with me to stroke it, which I did.  The man smiled too and said, "I come down here every day - and it's always quiet, empty most mornings - folk around here don't appreciate what's right on their doorstep!"
I smiled.
We chatted for a few minutes and I headed back.
About half way I noticed the footprints I had left in the sand as I'd headed out on the walk.  I stopped, I took a photo of them -  and I smiled.
What had happened to that pensive woman?  I know what happened.  Nature had worked it's magic, as it always can with me.  It took me out of my own repetitive, catastrophising headmind and brought me back into alignment with all that is around each and every one of us.  Our beautiful natural world.
A friend of mine gave me this quote, Ian, thank you so much for sharing it with me.  When I say it to myself I feel a tremendous peacefulness.  I hope, in your sadder, more difficult moments it does the same for you. x
"All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well." Mother Julian of Norwich.



Monday, 25 February 2013

You're not a fish

When I'm encouraging clients to take steps towards getting back out into the world by engaging in new activities I often hear the phrase, "I felt like a fish out of water!"
In my dictionary of phrases and fables the definition of that phrase reads,

"A person who is in an unusual or unwelcome environment and who thus feels ill at ease or awkward.  A fish out of water cannot swim."

I've always thought it was a weird expression for us to use when we feel uncomfortable in a new environment - not only can a fish not swim out of water, but kept out of it a fish will definitely die!
It's one thing to feel uneasy in a new situation, and another when you realise that for you, if you persevere with it and don't let the initial uneasiness put you off, chances are the new interest or hobby will give you a tremendous energy and zest for life - not deplete you of it.

So remember, taking steps towards making your life more interesting and fulfilling may feel strange at first, but you're not a fish - so what are you waiting for?

"To change ones life: Start immediately. Do it flamboyantly." - William James
"If you don't like the road you're walking, start paving another one." - Dolly Parton

Saturday, 23 February 2013

My hopes for the hermit.

The person who appears to be incredibly comfortable in their independence still needs another human  within their reach.  Not necessarily someone by their side all the time, but when the dark times descend each of us should  know we are not in fact  in complete isolation.  Having that knowledge can make the difference between life and death. 
I met a hermit once - he didn't want to be met - especially not by a whipper snapper like me.  He had become very ill and was hospitalised.  He was a reluctant participant in a clattering, institutionalised world.  A ghostly visitor in a sterile box.  He seemed so afraid and misplaced.
I remember on his admission to the ward looking into his eyes, holding his hand trying to get him to speak to me. Gently, quietly comforting him.  A frightened, disorientated soul -   and there was a depth behind those eyes - a depth which had me feeling his distress. 
Over time, and he was in for several weeks, he became brighter, more engaged and unbelievably to those of us caring for him, interested in all of those around him.  I was only a teenager then and even now I can shed a tear when I think of him.  Alone for so long, and through a sequence of events his life brought him to the hustle and bustle of an alien world.  On his discharge from hospital, as far as the medical staff were concerned he had recovered. So this frail old man was sent back home to reacquaint himself with a life he had long forgotten.  I'd like to think he didn't just fall back into his old life of solitary confinement. I liked to imagine him walking to his local shop, chatting and laughing with his fellow villagers -  those details I'll never know.  I will remember forever the hermit I met in 1986 - and I hope that when his time came he knew he wasn't alone. 
“I need someone to fold the sheet, someone to take the other end of the sheet and walk towards me and fold once , then step back , fold and walk towards me again .We all need someone to fold the sheet.Someone to hitch on the coat at the neck .Someone to put on the kettle. Someone to dry up while I wash.” 
― Roger DeakinNotes From Walnut Tree Farm

Thursday, 21 February 2013

That heavy hearted feeling left by a cynic.

Of all human traits, being around someone who oozes cynicism at every opportunity makes me feel strangely sad.
Part of me wants to shake them and get them to realise that all they see around them is not actually negative, or being motivated by evil people. The world is not in fact conspiring against them. If I spend too long with a person like that I can end up feeling completely demoralised. It's as if because they are so completely opposite to me - I deflate!  If we were playing a game of paper, scissors, stone I'd be the paper, and they'd be the scissors.  I'm never going to win.
So, pay attention to the way you view the world - are you the eternal optimist?  Do you view the world with a healthy, balanced view?  Or do you think only bad things happen because people are out to hurt you?  The life experiences we have do of course leave their mark, but do pay attention to the reality of the situation being presented to you right NOW! Practising mindfulness can really help shed the old beliefs and bring more peace into your life - give it a go - it might just be that small step that makes a big difference.
"The cynicism that you have is not your real soul." - Yoko Ono
"A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing." - Oscar Wilde


Monday, 11 February 2013

That weirdly familiar feeling....

Yesterday I took all Charlie's pictures off my kitchen wall - it was quite an eclectic montage he'd created over the years I must say.  From a poem about living in Scotland (I've framed that one and it's now in the bathroom), to abstract art from when we first moved here when he was 8 years old.  They included colourful felt pen drawings of his favourite sweetie, to skeletons and an impressionistic sketch of his favourite brother in law Ewen, he's the only brother in law, just in case you thought I was being hurtful to someone!
I took them down as I'm re-painting the kitchen walls. I say "I'm" it's actually happening while I'm away this week by my husband Andrew..so technically it's not me doing it at all, but I am doing the preparation!
A weird thing happened during this process.  I was piling things up, moving things out, taking framed pictures off the walls and moving them to the study out of the way.  Bit by bit, the more I cleared away the sadder I became.  Finally it was done. I went in again to check all the blu tac had come off the wall that had previously been Charlie's art gallery, and it hit me!
In 45 years of my life I have moved 27 times.  4 of them were in childhood and I was a baby for the first one. But, I've been involved in moving house from when I first left home as a teenager to adulthood, a total of 23 times.
All those moving house memories. Boxes.  Taking things from their comfortingly familiar setting, wrapping them in newspaper, packing them in a box, the sound of parcel tape being unravelled, the smell of the big black marker pen - scrawling a description that is meaningful to me but no-one else on the side of the box so I know which room in the next place I want the box deposited in.  I hated it.
During those 23 moves the longest I've stayed anywhere was 3 years. In June this year I'll have lived in this house for 5 years, and I love what's happening to me.  I bought the house in October 2007, and it took 9 months to renovate - so by June 2008 Charlie and I were delighted to retrieve our boxes, dust them off and unpack into a home that we'd watched become our own through the great work of the joiners, plumbers, plasterers, electricians, carpet fitters and painters.  I love that I know what all the creaks and noises mean in this house, where they come from and I'm reassured and comforted by them.  I love that I've been here so long my kitchen walls need re-painting!  I love that I know my neighbours and when the bins get collected.  I love that only last week the electrician knew where to find me as he remembered doing a previous job here after I first moved in in 2008.  
So, while I was taking Charlie's pictures off the walls and packing things away I experienced a chemical memory of previous emotional turmoil linked to moving house.  Those times, when often, with a heavy heart I'd either had to, or convinced myself I need to move on.  Thank goodness for the understanding I have of that now!  As I made supper this evening looking at the bare walls that are all ready for Andrew to get started on tomorrow I was reminded of a phrase I teach my clients.  I teach this to those who experience a negative, often anxiety based feeling when they're about to embark on something that is simply reminding them of a previous event, "This is a new and unique experience!" The music playing in the background may be the same, the kitchen may have that same echo that previous rooms have had when I've been about to move house, but this is a new and unique experience!  Then I will extend that by asking clients to do a reality check on the facts of this new and unique experience.  So, in my example, yes the walls are bare and I'm having to pack things up and move boxes into the study, but this is so I can have my kitchen decorated and make it lovely again - because this is my home - this is where I live.  By all means acknowledge and pay attention to feelings that come up during your day, but make sure you're not feeling sad / anxious / scared because the man you're speaking to happens to be wearing the same after shave as someone who hurt you in the past! Stay grounded and remind yourself that he is not that person, this is a new and unique experience! Start enjoy engaging fully with life - the life you're in NOW!
"You can clutch the past so tightly to your chest that it leaves your arms too full to embrace the present." - Jan Glidewell.
"The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance; the wise grows it under his feet." - James Openheim