Meditate on the landscape of your life

09/09/2022 at 3:00 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Every week for the past five months, my meditation group has been focusing on aspects of landscape. From river to forest, by coast, bridge and swamp, from harbour to canyon via a rainbow-coloured waterfall, we’ve had a lovely time imagining ourselves in nature, slowing down our breath, becoming peaceful. And the landscape theme is set to continue for a few weeks yet, as the list of potential subjects just continues to grow. 

Take this week. Someone suggested volcano. One thing I’ve noticed is that everyone views each aspect of landscape differently. For me, I will likely be thinking of a snowy volcano that I once visited in Iceland. Snaefellsjökull has an incredible, other-worldly atmosphere. But another member of my group, fresh from Italy’s Amalfi Coast, may think about a fiery Vesuvius. 

The way you think of a volcano can reflect your own life journey. I believe that, sooner or later, we all go through stuff. Some of the events we experience can be positively volcanic – changing our personal landscape. If those events are in the past, the volcano we imagine may be slumbering or extinct. If those events are current, the volcano of our imagination may be quite active. An active volcano will destroy like nothing else… but this may lead, in time, to new landscapes full of life and even beauty. 

Wellbeing notes: This is the plant for relaxation

01/06/2022 at 7:44 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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In June, lavender starts blooming, and gardens are fragranced with its sweet, herbal aroma. The word ‘lavender’ comes from the Latin, ‘lavare’, meaning ‘to wash’. I can’t begin to say how much I value this soothing flower. My favourite garden memories of childhood are lavender-scented. And my least favourite memories of adulthood – the many days and nights spent by my son’s bedside in hospitals – are also fragranced with lavender. The scent, which I scattered liberally in the form of essential oil, made those experiences more bearable.

There are many ways to bring lavender into the home, where its calming and antibacterial properties may be much appreciated. Here are a couple of my favourites. 

Fragrant sachets

Place a handful of fresh lavender heads in a pocket-sized, unbleached cotton bag, and hang up in your bathroom where it will dry quietly away. Then, for a fragrant bath, suspend under the running tap. You may like to squeeze the bag once or twice to release more aroma. When the bath is run, use the bag as a loofah over your skin. Discard the lavender after the bath. 

Embroidered little bags of dried lavender are, of course, lovely to place in drawers and storage boxes.

Lavender milk

This soothing bedtime drink encourages a good night’s sleep. You can use any kind of milk – we prefer oat. Pour a cupful of milk into a saucepan. Add a teaspoon of dried lavender flowers, bring to the boil, then remove from heat and leave to infuse for ten minutes. Stir in a teaspoon of honey, strain into cup and drink.

Finally, I do believe that every household needs a small bottle of lavender essential oil. Apply neat on minor burns and insect bites; place drops in a diffuser or just on a tissue to scent a room and bring wellbeing.

Wellbeing notes: a question of perspective

01/05/2022 at 5:18 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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In the late spring, some years ago, a new telegraph pole was put up in a nearby field. At first, everyone thought the pole was a blot on the landscape. “Shame that beautiful view’s been spoiled by the pole,” we all said. But one day a practical friend visited. She pointed out that the pole formed only a tiny part of the view. So why were we obsessing about that, when there were acres and acres of countryside to enjoy? 

Ever since, I’ve been careful to keep any blots in perspective – not just in nature, but in my personal life too. When crisis happens – and it does, because that is the way of things – a good exercise is to list the items in our lives that continue to be beautiful, useful and enriching. If we are lucky, we have plumbing, housing, warmth, food and income. And if we are luckier, we have many people whom we like, or maybe love.

Once we remember all these good things, the blot, whatever it may be, is put into perspective. We can possibly go one step further and say that everything – including that benighted telegraph pole – is serving some purpose. And we might begin to accept that the blots, too, have their place.

Metaphorically, a blot is any flaw that we study – that grows larger in our imagination. Yet when we walk away, the blot shrinks – and the landscape is revealed as infinite.

Wellbeing notes: Creating room for the wild

01/04/2022 at 8:00 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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One spring, a cowslip appeared in the garden. We studied it carefully. Soft, velvety green sepals cupped yellow heart-shaped petals. Their fragrance seemed like the essence of the season. Year after year, more cowslips grew. We began to add the edible flowers to green salads, and to herbal teas. We agreed they were pretty, and a little citrusy, and they added a subtle freshness to our meals. 

I believe that every garden benefits from some wildness. Perhaps every person does too. In a world where people try hard to control outcomes, the touch of wildness that arrives uninvited can be just what people need, by way of respite from all their striving and hard work. It’s a special gift when a flower is brought by the wind, though helping nature along with a packet of native seeds is also a lovely thing to do. Native flowers will never be the biggest or showiest in the garden, but they bring a grace and lightness – maybe, a reminder to take ourselves lightly too. 

So, while tending our gardens and our lives, it can make sense to leave a little corner, here and there, just to see what starts growing in it. If nothing else, this policy can create idyllic landscapes, vibrant with bees and butterflies. As Robert Burns writes, “And wild-scatter’d cowslips bedeck the green dale.”

May cowslips bedeck all those places that might need a little extra love and beauty at this time.

Wellbeing notes: Like calls to like

01/03/2022 at 10:00 am | Posted in Inspiration, Uncategorized, Wellbeing | Leave a comment
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A male woodpecker lives in my garden. Every morning he goes to the wild cherry tree and drills against the trunk, using his beak to beat a loud tattoo. He drums away, then flies to the uppermost branch. From there, he looks all around, searching the landscape for incoming female woodpeckers – potential mates. Then, he goes back to drilling again. Sometimes he flutters down to the ground for a tasty insect, or heads to the bird feeder, where his relative size makes him one of the dominant diners. He gets all the best treats, the ones that the bossy squirrels don’t manage to purloin.

Day after day the woodpecker repeats his routine. Utterly dedicated to the task, he embodies the old saying, ‘Like calls to like’. If there’s a female within half a mile, she will hear him. 

The woodpecker can teach us a wonderful principle for life: be who you are, and speak that truth clearly. Kindred spirits will hear your call. The woodpecker has never attempted to be some other, more colourful bird, like a jay or a parakeet or even a peacock. He is simply his own glorious self – surely the best way to attract the right mate for him.

When we are true to ourselves, we are also, I believe, more likely to respect other people’s differences. Those differences make the world a fascinating and beautiful place.

So my question for you is this: what do you choose to broadcast to the world today?

Photo: Unsplash

Wellbeing notes: This is the colour for growing and flourishing

01/02/2022 at 10:00 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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We’re focusing on colours in my Thursday meditation group – a different band of the rainbow for seven weeks. The latest colour we’ve been studying is green. My local countryside is still wintry, not yet verdant, so meditating on green brings a dose of early summer to the imagination, and tranquillity to the mind. Picture yourself, right now, in a lush green landscape. How does it feel?

The word ‘green’ comes from the Proto-Indo-European root, ‘ghre’, meaning ‘to grow’, signifying the way natural landscapes gain a colourwash of green as the weather warms up. Somewhere between the passion of red and the purity of white, green is associated with the heart chakra and can be viewed as a colour of healing, freshness and balance, a wonderful hue for feeling relaxed and calm in mind, body and spirit. 

If you feel the need for more green in your life, seek it out. Imagine it. Plant it. Grow it.

On the windowsill in my study are three flourishing plants. Each is beautiful in its own way. The frequent attention they receive helps them to thrive – a reminder that what I care for is more likely to do well. This principle applies equally to people and work projects as well as plants. 

So these are my questions to you. What in your own life is currently becoming green? What aspect is flourishing? And how can this be honoured and encouraged?

Wellbeing notes: This is the colour for strength and new beginnings

01/01/2022 at 10:12 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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We’ve been focusing on colours in my Thursday meditation group – each week, a different band of the rainbow. We began with red. Reasons to love red include: it’s the bright hue of sumptuous crystals such as garnet and ruby. It’s the rich velvet of crimson rose petals, and the warming taste of mulled wine. It’s the juicy goodness of summer strawberries and the vivid splash of winter rosehips.

In esoteric teachings red is linked with the base chakra, that place at the base of the human spine that is associated with the energies of survival and the fundamental, blood-and-marrow building blocks of life. A physically healthy, balanced, grounded individual can be said to have a well-functioning base chakra. 

One friend remembers buying a red car at a time of personal upheaval. “I would never normally choose such a bright colour, but it was so jaunty and fun,” she explains. “Driving my red car gave me confidence. It was what I needed as I entered a new chapter in my life.”

Her experience resonates with me. Newly single, after a relationship that lasted for decades, I have noticed that I currently love wearing warm, bright colours, including plenty of red. I have treated myself to a crimson, velvet coat which is, for me at this time, the definition of gorgeousness. Wearing red gives me a sense of confidence, an extra boost of energy, and the wellbeing effect is also helping my creative writing to flow. 

I invite you to consider the role of red in your life. The human world is going through unprecedented upheaval. Everyone is affected in varying ways and, honestly, the trials are likely to continue for some time. Maybe we can’t cure society’s ills this month, or even next, but we can choose to go into the future boldly and brightly. Wear red for courage. I dare you.

Building up your kindness muscles

06/12/2021 at 11:26 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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A wise person once said to me, “The most important thing you can learn to do is to forgive.” The act of forgiving has become a life-long lesson. It’s hard to forgive someone who has hurt me personally, or hurt others whom I care about, but there is something freeing about the act.
A useful tool if you wish to become more forgiving is to practise loving kindness meditation. Sometimes called Metta bhavana in the language of early Buddhist texts, or simply ‘Metta meditation’, the concept predates Buddhism, suggesting that kindness is part of our human character.
Try this common form of metta meditation. Close your eyes and think kindly thoughts towards yourself. You might say, silently: “May I be well. May I be happy. May I be safe. May I be peaceful and at ease with myself.”
Then, think of someone you love. Repeat those same kind thoughts: “May you be well. May you be happy. May you be safe. May you be peaceful and at ease with yourself.”
Then, think of someone you feel neutral towards. Cultivate the same feelings of non- judgemental kindness, and repeat the same words: “May you be well…”
And now, think of someone you find difficult, and repeat the process again, as best you can.
Finally, think of all four people together, in the same spirit of loving kindness, and repeat the words: “May we be well. May we be happy. May we be safe. May we be peaceful and at ease with ourselves.”

Wellbeing notes: do these three things every day

01/11/2021 at 11:02 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Continue Reading Wellbeing notes: do these three things every day…

Dancing goddess – a (free) audio meditation

15/08/2021 at 1:17 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Friend Sue picked the theme for this week’s meditation, but she couldn’t make the actual event, so I decided to record the meditation for her, and for others who might like to hear it. May it relax and empower you.

Photo: Julia Caesar/Unsplash

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