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 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

Thursday, 7 February 2013

A night time journey.

Sometimes when I sleep I have the most profound and seemingly deeply meaningful dreams.  As I fly over cliffs, through cities, over rural countryside and woodland I occasionally stop on a tree, perching on a high branch I turn to face the trunk and rub my hand on the bark, feeling the rough and smooth areas with my finger tips, my sleeping self asks my dreaming self where I am, but the question is ignored and instead I just remain focused on the bark.  My sleeping self whispers to the dreaming me, "If only I could just take a tiny piece of bark back with me now and keep it clenched in my hand until I waken - that would be great!  Hang on, who would believe that?!"
"Oh where did you get that from Kathleen?"
"Eh..not sure exactly, I flew over a tree which was so beautiful I just had to hop on a branch and admire it some more - then I just took this tiny piece of bark to remind me of what a beautiful place it was."
In those dreams I do take a tiny piece of the plant, or the bark or the flower and hold my hand tightly shut, but despite my best efforts every time I come back into my wakened state my hand is empty. On each occasion I genuinely feel just a little bit disappointed.
These vivid dreams don't happen every night, maybe only 2 or 3 times a month.  I've had them for as long as I can remember, and the one familiar thread running through them is that I always waken feeling excited, and happy, comforted and content - without actually being able to pinpoint why.  It's as if I've learnt or been privy to some important information, something that has been shared with me and has somehow calmed and comforted me.  It feels as if there is a very thin veil between my wakened state and my dream state - perhaps if I turn quickly in the day time I might catch a glimpse of the place I visited as I slept?
Last night was one of those exhilarating beautiful dreams.  I was in conversation with my sleeping self throughout - weird but fantastic.  It was a beautifully bright clear night.  Initially flying over woodland then higher and higher I flew, through a cloud base which chilled me, and on and on higher still.  I told myself not to too far as Charlie was asleep in the next room (good to know that even in sleep my parental duties didn't leave me!) So my sleeping self took a hold of the wooden edge of my bed frame and whispered to my rapidly climbing dreaming self, "You're not going any higher tonight!"  So, I turned and looked at the view below before starting my descent.  Down and down,  through the cool, moist clouds flying just above the trees I see a river and the rooftops of somewhere rural.  It was then I heard people speaking though I couldn't see them.  What they were saying was intriguing and interesting.  I stopped flying and perched myself on a high branch, and as I listened intently to the faceless voices my sleeping self said, "Yeah, this IS amazing and all that they're saying is making so much sense now, but I just know I'll not remember the content of what's being said when I waken up - how annoying!"  My dreaming self smiled and said, "Lets see!"
With that I was wide awake in my bed.  I felt really good and I immediately started trying to recall what those voices had been speaking about, but trying to grasp it, trying to hear them repeat what I'd heard in my dream was futile - I just couldn't get the words to come. As I've gone through my day today and continue to feel great after last nights inexplicable epiphany, it dawned on my that our truth telling, all knowing bodymind can ONLY use feelings and symptoms to express itself, while the headmind is trying constantly to get our attention through its relentless chatter. So, I'm not going to get stuck in the headmind trap of needing to know, or cognitively understand what happened last night, my bodymind knows it felt and still feels great, and that's enough for me!  Sleep well tonight and I hope you all have enjoyable dreams! x
"Why do we close our eyes when we pray, cry, kiss, dream? Because the most beautiful things in life are not seen but felt by the heart." - Author unknown.
"What I take from my nights, I add to my days." - Leon de Rotrou

Monday, 4 February 2013

Living the dream...not dreaming the life

We all have ideas and dreams about the life we want,  but mostly we manage to busy ourselves and avoid paying much attention to those dreams.
Then in the quiet times, a thought begins to squirm it's way into our minds tapping at the door of our imagination, it sneaks and snakes it's way from the blind darkness to the daylight at the forefront of our body and mind.  We feel excitement in our core as we see ourselves living this dream, our mind begins to lay out plans like an architect at his drawing board. We can visualise clearly and feel what it's like to be in that amazing place.  Then BANG! There's a knock at the door, or the phone rings, or you hear your name being called, and you're thrown right back into your current reality.  
With a heavy sigh you just get on with it.....after all you were only dreaming about the life you'd like.  But what if that was only partly true?  
What if it was only in those quiet times that your mind knew it could take the opportunity to show you what was possible for you?  What if, in even a small way you paid more attention to those ideas and did something, anything that would take you just one step closer to achieving that dream?  Taking steps towards living your dream will surely uplift you more than simply dreaming the life you desire.  It won't necessarily be an easy road, but by simply taking steps towards your dreams you have paid attention to that "nudge" from your core, that truth telling, all knowing part of you and with perseverance you might start living your dream!
"The tests can be harder than one imagined. But they are necessary in order to learn. And each of them brings us closer to the realisation of our dreams." - Paulo Coelho. 
"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you imagined." - Henry David Thoreau.