Saturday, 29 March 2014

Darkness, wisdom and daylight.

I wonder why it is that the thought I had complete clarity about in the wee small hours eludes me as soon as I fully waken?
It's as if daylight acts as a memory eraser.
Just as I'm heavily resting in that pre-wakened state it all makes sense - everything.  Life and death, the conscious and unconscious have unfolded in the most beautiful way, and I get it!
I keep my eyes closed in the hope that I can retain all I've understood and share all this comfort filled knowing with as many family and friends as will listen.
But, bit by bit as I rise up and up from my sleepy state, like a child clambering ever higher to reach the biscuit tin - it's always just a finger tips length away from my grasp. Then daylight snaps into my awareness and the "biscuit tin" has been snatched from me and locked back into the cupboard.
I wonder who puts those thoughts and images so clearly in my mind?  Is it the same person who so cruelly snatches them back?
Maybe, simply glimpsing and feeling that all is well should be enough. The frustrated child in me wants others to know why I feel this way - but without a clear explanation I risk sounding like a mad woman!
So, I'll keep my notebook and pen by my bedside in the hope that one of those days I will be able to clearly explain exactly what is contained within those night time wisdoms, before they magically dissolve into the mists of day break.
"Trust in dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity." - Khalil Gibran

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

An inspirational film

The other night I watched a documentary film which touched me deeply.  The description of, 'Cutie and the boxer' read:
'Cutie and the Boxer is a candid New York love story about life and art that explores the chaotic 40-year marriage of renowned “boxing” painter Ushio Shinohara and his wife and artist Noriko.'
I found the film to be intriguing, beautiful and at times a little disturbing.
The most endearing aspect of Ushio's personality was his determination and complete conviction towards following his passion - creating his, very unique form of art.
Ushio had tunnel vision, completely blinkered to the talents of his wife Noriko. It was sad playing witness to his own, often desperate attempts to have his art recognised and valued by the art world.
What I admired was the relentless, incomparable energy he threw into producing and promoting his work. 
Art fed him - he was his art. 
Despite being quite poor and living a hand to mouth existence, there seemed never to be a time where he thought he ought to get a, 'real' job to pay the bills and put food on the table. By the end of the film I had utter respect and admiration for Ushio and his equally artistic wife Noriko, who was completely devoted to art and her 40 year marriage to Ushio.
Following your passion and never deviating from that path, takes tremendous courage. The reward is health and contentment, with the occasional splattering of frustration and perhaps some condemnation from more conventional on-lookers. Being authentic and doing what you genuinely want to do is ultimately the only way to many more signs and nudges do you need before you grab the opportunity to be yourself - whatever unique and wonderful form that takes? 
"It is your passion that empowers you to be able to do that thing you were created to do." - T. D. Jakes

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Lighthouses, faith, you and me.

In my role as a therapist I have the privilege to meet and work with people from a broad spectrum of beliefs and spiritual backgrounds.
One thing I have learnt when speaking with my clients is that it matters to them that they get the chance to tell me a bit about their faith - often their faith makes up a huge part of their life, so their wish to share that with me is completely acceptable and understandable. I'm interested to hear about faith, so for me it's an educational part of our session and helps me gain a clearer understanding of the person I'm working with.
There's a thread that seems to connect each person who speaks to me about their faith - and when they speak about it I can often experience a wave of peaceful contentment as I listen to them describe what their faith brings to their life.
Just as a lighthouse shines out in the dark depths of night, no matter how treacherous the seas, no matter how isolated the sailor feels; the constant beckoning from the lighthouse provides comfort and security. For my clients with faith, however bad their symptoms, they often have a sense of peaceful knowing that all will be well.
Their "lighthouse" an unfaltering guide and companion on their journey through life.  Within each of them, it's unique; yet the same. A different name; yet the same.  A different place to worship; yet the same. A different way to pray; yet the same.  A different food to eat; yet the same.
Lighthouses are often shaped differently, standing solidly but in very different locations - yet they have the same job.  All different; but the same.
As lighthouses; as faith; as people.
Different - yet the same.
"All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree." - Albert Einstein
"The essence of all religions is one.  Only their approaches are different."- Mahatma Gandhi

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Doing things at the right time.

We feel we have no time to create, to exercise, to work, to play and yet we have the same time available to us every day.  Some days are productive while others feel like we have lead weights tied around our ankles, unable to motivate ourselves our mood changes, we get frustrated, irritable and grumpy with our seemingly impossible situation.
This morning I lit my fire. I did what I always do, made paper sticks, took some small wooden sticks from my box of kindling, laid a single fire lighter in the middle of my wigwam shaped construction, struck a match and used the flame to light the fire lighter and some of the paper.  I watched as the smoke coiled and twisted its way upwards towards the flue.  Effortlessly smooth it just streamed upwards, unhindered - doing what it must do - the same route it always takes - up and up and up the length of the chimney and out through the chimney pot higher and higher, up and up.
The time it takes for the process to go from smokey beginnings to roaring, cosy fire varies each day. On a windy winters day it's effortless as draughts make combustion so much easier.  So, on calm days it takes a bit more effort, and a bit more time as I use all sorts of techniques to ensure the fire reaches it's potential.
If the chimney is blocked and needs cleaning this too will affect the time it takes to get my home cosy and comfortable.
Knowing that sometimes I will need to take longer to get my fire lit is fine - I'm prepared for that.  I know that some mornings there may not be any kindling in the box in the kitchen, so I'll need to do that first - there's no cutting corners when it comes to lighting a fire.  If I go to my kindling box and see there's no small pieces of wood left and I just sit down, get annoyed and try lighting it without them, at best it will light after several goes with enough  paper and fire lighters, but if I just take some time to chop some big wood into kindling sticks, ultimately the process will be a lot less effortful.
When you feel you have no time to do the things you want to do just STOP for a moment.  This morning the smoke coiled its way effortlessly up the chimney because all the conditions were right, the same is true of you. Some days, after a good restorative sleep you waken feeling energised and positive about all the things you will be able to do today, and you bound through your day achieving all you set out to do. On wakening after having a later night than normal you may feel sluggish, or less focused, and that's okay too! Get up, eat, do what you have to do and relax in the knowledge that this too will pass!  Even having a quick cat nap for up to 30 minutes in the day is fine - because you will achieve much more, with much less effort if you do what you want to do feeling refreshed and focused.
Now I must go and chop a log up into kindling sticks...that fire won't light itself tomorrow morning!
"I try to do the right thing at the right time. They may just be little things, but usually they make the difference between winning and losing." - Kareem Adbul-Jabbar

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

To write and be free

To write without an audience in mind, to write for the sake of writing seems both freeing and frightening. If I don't have an audience, and I don't have feedback - who cares?
No-one but my ego.
This blog has given me an outlet to share my thoughts and feelings, from my life experiences to my dreams. Through the medium of writing I believe I have changed.  I am less bothered by the opinions of others and the worried me, the worrier who could be consumed by what others thought appears to have (finally) left the building.  I feel this has come about through a variety of positive things in my life - my children being healthy, well and settled - my husband - a hugely positive influence in my life, my work being fulfilling, and my tremendous network of friends
I spent some time today with my dear friend Jenny.  She and I have been friends a long time - we "get" each other, wholly and completely.  I appreciate her so much.  I am lucky. I never take my friendships for granted, especially this one.
The longer I live the more I realise that writing is the thing that enables me to be completely at ease and at peace with myself.  It moves me forward, it moves me into my grown-up adult self.  I love to see the words just appear in front of me, my fingers dancing across the key board; independent of my thoughts or consciousness - at least that's how it feels when I'm really in the groove and keeping myself out of it.
The minute my head starts thinking about the content, and who may or may not like it, is the moment I start over analysing each word.  My fingers stumble as they strike the appropriate key as instructed by my Sergeant Major Ego, my fingers no longer dancing but dragging themselves reluctantly from key to key to space bar to return.
But not today.  Today I feel grounded and the words are flowing from me as I type.  If someone reads my words and they find it resonates with them, then that's great; equally if someone else finds my writing annoying then that's okay too! What I know without doubt is that I need to write - the more I do the more I feel it's what I must do.
Today I feel incredibly happy and grateful that I can and do have time in my day to write.   Writing is my gift to myself  and enables all my emotions, ideas and thoughts to glide as freely from me as the wind blowing unhindered through the trees. Find whatever it is that makes you feel free and do it!  Think not of your audience, but of how well you will sleep at night knowing you've been true to yourself. There really is no time like now to let go of the restrictions created in your mind by you, for you.
"Writing has been for me like a bath from which I have risen feeling cleaner, healthier, and freer." - Henrik Ibsen.
"A person is a fool to become a writer.  His only compensation is absolute freedom.  He has no master except his own soul, and that, I am sure, is why he does it." - Roald Dahl.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Not them, just us.

I long to be outdoors all of the time.  I get bundled up for the below zero temperatures, I turn my back on the prevailing gale force winds - ignoring bad behaviour as I do with a child.  Secretly I love all of it.  From the mundane to the extreme I am part of the great outdoors just as much as anything else "out there" in the natural world.
I have weather beaten hands, rough as a bricklayer who ignored health and safety regulations by never wearing protective gloves in his thirty year career.  It doesn't matter - they don't hurt me - my kids don't like them much, my husband cracks jokes about using them to sand down the woodwork before the next application of paint! I don't mind.
It's a small price to pay for staying outside where I feel completely connected to everything.
I get mildly irritated by man's involvement.  Long walks on the road can result in me having a heightened awareness of the weird camber of the road.  I know it's essential to allow surface water to drain off the hardened ground, but as a result I prefer to walk in the middle of the road, until I hear a car coming of course, more evasive action required because of man's involvement.
On Friday I'd been out for a walk on a grey windy day.  On my return home I opened my gate to find a blackbird welcoming me, simultaneously an inquisitive wren popped out from the stone wall to see what all the fuss was about, then quickly darted back into hiding.  I quietly envied them both.
I kept all my outdoor clothes on, made a hot drink and went back outside.  I lay flat on my wooden bench and just watched the grey sky.  There was much more going on that I'd appreciated on my walk.  This grey day was evolving and changing dramatically before my eyes.  Like the steam dancing from the boiling kettle the low clouds were steaming along at a great rate.  Every so often I caught a glimpse of the potential for a brighter, sunnier day - but the steaming clouds won. It didn't matter, I was mesmerised by nature in all it's glory.
If you're feeling disjointed and separate from the world I encourage you to go outside.  Just walk, or sit, cycle or jog - just breathe and observe all that's around you.  Be aware of your size and shape in the outside world.  Feel how much of you is in fact connected to everything else, the clouds, the air, the people, the birds - we are infinitely inseparable. - enjoy reminding you that the separateness you feel is created in your head, your body is well aware of the oneness of everything!
"But I'll tell you what hermits realise. If you go off into a far, far forest and get very quiet, you'll come to understand that you're connected with everything." - Alan Watts
"Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better." - Albert Einstein

Monday, 10 February 2014

To judge and condemn

One of the least endearing features of human nature is the tendency to judge and condemn another, usually without having any grounds or personal experience of that person to create an opinion.

Unfortunately, in the past I've been guilty of this too. A colleague or friend may have shared a story with me and before I'd even met the person my perception was altered so much that it didn't really matter how they behaved in my company, I saw them with that story playing over in the forefront of my mind.

They were tarnished.

But, or maybe thankfully as life lessons come in many guises; I have been on the receiving end too.  I have been that condemned person. I've had people cross the road to avoid me,  I've had my phone fall silent, in fact initially I thought there was a fault on the line!  I've heard and seen hatred spew from the mouths and eyes of people I once cared deeply for, and it was only then I realised in horrendously clear three dimensional techno-colour that I was on the receiving end of  a lie created by one, which caused a tidal wave of many to label and condemn me to the most isolating chapter of my life.  A chapter I'd like to forget - though I do believe now it was a blessing.

I learnt so much from that experience.  I learnt that I was stronger than I thought, though in the depths of my self enforced solitary confinement I wasn't sure I'd make it alone.  I learnt that in amongst the debris of chaotic knife throwing a very few, emotionally mature, grounded friends knew me better.  They didn't falter. They were so solid in their conviction to stand by me it made me cry many tears of gratitude. Twenty one years on, and they're all still in my life - only now we enjoy much lighter, fun times! We're no longer having to swerve and duck the deadly poisoned accusations of a man with an agenda.  Time has unfolded beautifully and the placement of my friends and family are testimony to the truth.

So, if you're on the receiving end of malicious rumour spreading -  firstly remember it WILL pass. Hold on tightly to those who truly know you. They will serve as a great reminder of the true essence of the best aspect of human nature, and their loyalty and love for you will get you over the isolation you feel in your heart.

If you, like so many of us, have heard a story ignore it and take time to speak with the person directly. Politely silence the gossip by telling him/her you don't wish to hear second hand stories about someone you barely know - be clear with them and explain you'd rather form your own opinion based on your personal -first hand experience.

At some point in life you will, most probably have the experience of being the judge, or the condemned - neither role is preferable to the other.  You are the only person who can judge or condemn your own actions, no-one else has to live with you but you!  Be kinder to others and yourself by accepting and acknowledging how fragile and flawed we all are.

"We can never judge the lives of others, because each person knows only their own pain and renunciation."  - Paulo Coelho

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Now is the time!

There really is no time like the present - literally. There is NO time like the present! How often have you found yourself talking yourself out of starting something that needs to be dealt with?  Instead of doing it, you catch yourself pondering, wondering, trawling, sifting, analysing and fretting, not just over what needs to be done, but over old stuff that has already happened, or might (and might not) happen in the future?!
Maybe it serves as an excellent diversion to avoid getting on with all that needs to be addressed today - right now - in this moment. I don't know, but what I do know is that there's nothing more satisfying to body and mind than taking action and completing whatever needs to be tackled.  Make yourself a promise that today you're going to take the first step towards attending to that thing that needs fixing, discussed or sorted - when you do you're just going to feel so pleased with yourself - and so you should! Remember, now is the only time we have, so do yourself a favour and don't put it off any longer!  
"Do it badly; do it slowly; do it fearfully; do it any way you have to, but do it." - Steve Chandler.

Monday, 13 January 2014

The strength to snap!

Sometimes an assumption is made about the strength of another. I often meet clients who are seen by others as being able to cope with anything life throws at them; and so begins a cycle which can be seriously detrimental to their health.
This self-defeating pattern often begins when they are called upon by a family member, friend or colleague to help with a situation that has developed, and they hear themselves saying, "Yes, of problem!" Their headmind may initially be flattered by the fact that it's clear they're seen as focused, strong - maybe even infallible!
Putting aside any of their own needs they get stuck on that never-ending roller coaster of doing and doing and doing - and all of it for the benefit of others.
The bodymind will only tolerate this imbalance for so long - and if they don't gather the strength to speak up and ask for help the inevitable symptoms will begin.
How loud do your symptoms have to get before you stop and speak up?  Is there someone at your work, or in your family you know is dealing with too much, putting a brave face on it and resisting asking for help?  Do them a favour and get that conversation started.  Being strong is one thing - being strong enough to speak up when you want off the roller-coaster is another. Maybe you're the one who can help that person put the brakes on, or maybe you've started getting symptoms and are fumbling for the brakes yourself.  Know that the minute you reach out for help is the minute your body can start turning down the volume of your symptoms and help you get some balance back into your life.  Remember too, it really is okay to say, "No" and by doing so you will be able to say, "Yes" to more.  As soon as you make speaking up and creating balance in your own life the priority your body will truly celebrate that it can start freeing you from debilitating stress - related symptoms, so please, don't put it off any longer!
"When you say "yes" to others, make sure you are not saying "no" to yourself." - Paulo Coelho
"Saying yes to happiness means learning to say no to things and people that stress you out." - Thema Davis

Saturday, 11 January 2014

We're a' Jock Tamson's bairns!

More often than not when I hear someone being described as, "eccentric" the description of them usually involves a shaking of the head, a rolling of the eyes and an acknowledgement that they're a bit, "out there". In actual fact, I find that those so called "eccentrics" are often beautifully connected to their authentic self. Frequently their living their lives in a far more honest way than those who let the combination of a deep rooted need to conform with a fear of standing out from the crowd dictate their behaviour and life choices.
Of course there are varying degrees of eccentricity - but providing someone isn't inflicting pain on another why do others condemn them?
I wonder if there is an element of jealousy?  Perhaps they provoke a sense of awe to the conformist observer who cannot even imagine how it must feel to be freed from their restrictive thoughts and beliefs? Maybe the idea that anyone can truly embrace life and be completely honest about what makes their heart sing proves too much for the conventionalist?
What is wrong with simply celebrating our differences in the knowledge that, for both the eccentric and the conformist, life will serve them the whole gamut of experiences?
Just remember, that underneath whatever we perceive in another, is a human being who feels pain, who laughs, who cries, who celebrates, who needs comfort and who grieves.  Could you, in this new year work on just letting others be who they want to be without judgement or condemnation?  
We really are, quite simply - all the same.  We're here, we're alive, and we're living our lives in a way that fits our unique individuality and personality.  Love it or loathe it, that's how people are - wouldn't it be easier and less upsetting just to love and accept others?
"It is not our differences that divide us.  It is our inability to recognise, accept, and celebrate those differences." - Audre Lorde
"We're a' Jock Tamson's bairns"  a phrase written in Lowland Scots and Northumbrian English from the 1800's meaning, "We're all the same under the skin."