This is how everyday adventures are made

26/06/2019 at 2:13 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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My meditation groups are expecting a theme to focus on next month and, unusually, I don’t have one. So I lace up my walking boots and head outdoors for inspiration. The path into the woods is almost hidden by tall bracken. It looks like a keyhole to adventure…

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A gnarled tree decorated with long-limbed ivy dryads looms like a guardian just inside the entrance to the woods. The air feels still, waiting. And, just like that, my 21st-century preoccupations slide away to be replaced by the timeless now.

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I step along knotted narrow paths fringed by bedraggled wild garlic, then through more bracken that dwarfs me. There are no signs of human habitation here. It feels really wild. The sense of adventure is growing stronger and yet I’m still not that far from my own kitchen door. Maybe, it’s an everyday sort of adventure.

After a while, the path opens out and becomes an idyllic, meandering thing.

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‘If this is an adventure,’ I think, ‘there should be treasure of some sort.’ And so I look for treasure along the path – a tiny form of proof that this word ‘adventure’ is the one I’ve been searching for. And sure enough, before long, the way becomes dotted with wild orchids, like purple gems lining my route.

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I look more closely at one of the stems. They seem wonderfully exotic for temperate England. Each tiny, vibrant bloom is worth a meditation in itself.

It feels like a sign, as though I needed one, that ‘Adventure’ is the ideal theme for my groups to meditate on during July.

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This is why I let the wild bees go

10/06/2019 at 8:01 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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The honey bees buzzed into the garden like a striped, determined blizzard, and settled in a wild cherry tree where they became a solid mass that moved constantly yet kept its shape. The way they seethed and settled seemed alarming to this bee-ignorant person. I called a local beekeeper, who said he would turn up the next morning and capture the swarm. In the meantime, cautiously, I studied them. And began to see patterns in their movement.

Firstly,  they were reassuringly peaceful, cocooning and protecting their all-important queen. Then there were individual bees, scouts, who constantly buzzed off to search for a new nesting site in the nearby woods, and returned to communicate their findings to the swarm.

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For hours, on and off, I watched them. They were mesmerising. Gradually I began to see the swarm’s point of view. I liked the way so many bees could act as one community. As chance would have it, my own home was about to become a community. Within the week, our disabled son, Tim, would return from college to live a semi-independent life with us. He would bring a team of carers with him. I was looking forward to Tim’s return very much. However, I felt trepidation about the team that would nearly always be with him.

While I watched and waited, the bees quietly buzzed their message, that it’s okay to be part of a community, in which everyone has their role to play. During those hours, my attitude shifted. I began to accept my family’s new phase. Our home shimmered and changed shape around me, becoming its new, more public self.

The next day, I phoned the beekeeper and asked him to come a couple of hours later than planned. I had to go out but also, secretly, I hoped our visiting bees might have the chance to live a wild, free life. And sure enough, in that time the bees lifted and vanished into the woodland. They were gone within seconds. I understood that they had found their own home. And I wasn’t sorry that I let them go.

How to feel happy with solitude

27/05/2019 at 4:34 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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“Then stirs the feeling infinite, so felt in solitude, where we are least alone.” (Byron: Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage)

In June my meditation groups will be focusing on solitude. This is an edgy word: too similar to loneliness for some tastes. Yet, as countless creative people have found, something happens when you face up to silence and emptiness. If there is another way to write a book, a poem or a dissertation, I don’t know it.

I have travelled on my own, a little. At first I found it the loneliest thing. Like an orphan abroad, I kept looking for others who would see me in some role or other in relation to them. I was so used to being a partner, parent, daughter, colleague, friend. But in my travelling I had no role, beyond that of a stranger passing through.

Thank goodness, somewhere along the way there was a tiny ‘click’ in my awareness. I realised that solitude was never to be viewed in relation to absent people. It was a rich, full activity in itself. Then the emptiness of the moment became filled with insights. My mind was energised and I felt happy again.

Meditation, of course, is a way of reaching the infinite through solitude. But so is travelling, gardening, walking, running, swimming, even sitting in a café writing that book or dissertation. When you reach the point of truly inhabiting solitude, that’s when somehow you connect with the universe in its entirety. And that’s when you’re part of the flow.

Choosing bluebell pathways

26/04/2019 at 11:07 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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At the weekend I was lucky enough to be shown Duncliffe Wood, in Dorset. It had been raining heavily, which meant this ancient woodland was largely empty of visitors, like a forest from a bygone era. The rain was still falling lightly as we walked through clouds of purple blooms. The ground was bumpy with odorous leaf mould and sap-filled roots, and the subtle bluebell fragrance lay all about us, mist-like.

There were many small paths through the woodland. Every few paces, it seemed, there was a new choice of route. At first we chose carefully, and then it dawned on us that the route didn’t really matter. Every choice was the right choice. This was a walk that meant us to meander, to explore, to absorb the bright spring vitality of the place.

When the walk finished, I carried away my own share of that diffuse purple bluebell energy which lay like a shimmering ball in my cupped hands. The next day I felt a portion of the ball pour out into two meditation sessions that I hosted. Afterwards there was still plenty left to pour around my house and garden, and into the everyday jobs I had to do there. Then some flowed into my writing and yet more seeped on to my list of things to do, muddling the tidy lines, creating watercolour opportunities that changed shape as I looked at them.

It was just a little walk. But its fragrance will linger, I think, for a goodly time.

 

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Celebrate what your body can do

27/12/2018 at 6:12 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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At this time of year it’s so easy to feel bad about eating too much and exercising too little. That’s why it was good to step through the sunlit winter mist and into my local gym, where the following unattributed message was displayed: “Exercise is a celebration of what your body can do, not a punishment for what you ate.” So true! Have you ever noticed that it’s easier to exercise when you accept and appreciate yourself wholeheartedly, just as you are? “I can do this” is a mantra that gives us wings.

The next step from appreciation is thankfulness, and that’s the word that we will be meditating on in sessions through January. I’m thankful for a body that is, on balance, pretty healthy. I’m thankful for family and friends and warmth and nourishment. I’m grateful for being part of overlapping circles of community that cooperate and help one another. Being thankful gives sustenance to the very things we appreciate. What will you appreciate in 2019? What forces will you feed with your thankfulness?

 

This is why we need spiritually sensitive hospitals

04/11/2018 at 4:28 pm | Posted in Healing, Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Here is a list of hospitals my son has visited. He stayed in all but three of these, which means that I have also stayed in all but three of these: Queen Mary’s Roehampton, Kingston, Royal Brompton, Great Ormond Street, Chippenham, Royal United, Wolfson Children’s, Great Western, Cheltenham General, Gloucestershire Royal, Churchill. Two of these hospitals involved prolonged stays in intensive care units. Together, they have spanned two continents. And in total they have added up to something over six months.

His dad and I, and all our family, have been extremely grateful for the care that he received. I wonder, though, looking back at over half a year of plastic mattresses and iv fluids, whether our son, the countless patients we met along the way, and their families, might have benefitted from a more overtly spiritual perspective.

According to research recently published in the Journal of Intensive Care Medicine (Ho et al, 2018): ‘There is a growing body of evidence that attending to the spiritual needs of patients and their families can improve outcomes including the quality of life, and several guidelines suggest spiritual care should be part of comprehensive health delivery. However, in practice, spiritual care is often overlooked in the management of critically ill patients.’

The Chambers English Dictionary defines the word ‘spiritual’ as:

‘Belonging, referring or relating to the spirit or soul rather than to the body or to physical things…’

And what does the dictionary mean by ‘spirit’?

‘The animating or vitalising essence or force that motivates, invigorates or energises someone or something…’

Look after the spirit

I humbly suggest that looking after the spirit that animates a person will help that person to recover. Going further, if that person is not going to recover, looking after their spirit will help them to die a good death – to be at peace at the end of life.

Spirituality, in my experience, is not a priority in hospitals. It has been largely absent from any of the wards and units my son has stayed in. There have, thankfully, been nurses and/or doctors in most (not all) of those places who have worked hard to promote emotional wellbeing. Going further, religion has been offered, but that’s not quite the same thing. As Chambers says, religion is: ‘A belief in, or the worship of, a god or gods’.

Behind the scenes, quietly, I have sensed that individual members of staff hold philosophies that prompt them unobtrusively to support a patient’s spirit – through a stillness and taking of time, through meditative techniques such as prayer or listening. But these are individual decisions, and rarely if ever shared with others.

At the other end of the scale, I have witnessed critically ill patients in a state of fearful delirium – a distressing way to transition from life.

That sense of unity

Spirituality could be described as a transcendent feeling that one is an indivisible part of the universe. It can be as simple as looking at a beautiful sunset and feeling a sense of purpose and connectedness. Or it might mean looking at another person and realising that they are simply another manifestation of the life force that animates you and everyone you love.

As a practising healer, registered with the NFSH Healing Trust, I have brought spirituality to my son in every ward that he has stayed in. But I have been unobtrusive. Occasionally I have alluded to healing methods, and my words have almost always been ignored, or invalidated with comments such as: “Well, it won’t do any harm”. When my son has fared better than medical staff expected, even surviving against the odds, there has never been any follow-up, no attempt to learn anything of the spiritual dimension that I perceive has been a factor in his recovery.

I have noticed on numerous ward rounds and outpatient appointments that medical staff rely on forms with boxes that they can tick. Fluids? Tick. Bowel movement? Tick. Antibiotics? Tick. So here is my simple request: please, dear medical staff, make sure ‘spiritual wellbeing’ is on your list of things to tick. Be sure to ask open, non-judgemental questions that will enable your patients and their families to open up about the things that will help their spiritual wellbeing.

Find out more

Spiritual Care in the Intensive Care Unit: a Narrative Review. Ho et al, Journal of Intensive Care Medicine, 2018, Vol 33(5), 279-287.

Some healers do currently work in hospitals. You can find healers through The Healing Trust, which is the largest membership association of accredited healers in the UK.

Connect with Suzanne Askham on Twitter.

Photo: rawpixel/Unsplash

 

 

 

 

 

Guidance is simpler than you think

30/10/2018 at 6:55 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Twenty years ago, I was struggling with the challenge of parenting a baby with complex health issues. I was also, by no coincidence at all, starting off on my long path to be an energy therapist. In the night, I would dream vividly. The dreams were detailed, emphatic and helpful. I called them ‘Night tuition’. I saw them as a form of guidance. Where they came from, I had no idea. To me, it didn’t matter whether they originated from my own subconscious, or from some infinite dream library to which all beings have access.

What mattered most to me is that, over time, the dreams helped me to navigate the tricky path that I was treading, along with my partner and our tiny, so vulnerable child.

I’d like to share with you the simplest, barest dream that I experienced. It was simple, but it was powerful. It set the tone for all my future parenting. Actually, it set the tone for everything that has happened since, in every single aspect of my life.

In the dream there was just one, single thing to look at: a rectangle. The shape was shown against a plain background. The rectangle and the background were both devoid of colour. The whole scene was greyscale – just varying degrees of light and dark.

“Which is lighter: the rectangle, or the background?” asked a teacher, next to me but invisible.

I looked carefully. It felt for all the world like some kind of eye test.

Truthfully, the rectangle and the background seemed at first to be pretty similar shades of grey. However, as I looked, it seemed to me that the rectangle was shining more brightly. In fact, it was definitely lighter.

“The rectangle,” I replied.

“Good,” said my teacher. And waves of love washed over me.

In that instant, I understood that the rectangle represented a choice that each of us makes countless times. The rectangle represented the choice between love and fear. Love, in this dream example, was lit up, as though a light was shining through it. If I had seen the rectangle as darker than its background, it would have meant that I was viewing life through a fearful lens, programmed to expect the worst. However, by seeing the rectangle as lighter than its background, I was actually viewing life through the lens of love. It meant that on some fundamental level, I had learnt to trust that in the big scheme of things, all is well.

This was an important lesson for me. It helped me to understand that my love as a mother could be a powerful force in my son’s life. It enabled me to see that my partner’s love as a father could be as protective as mountains. And it taught me that fear would weaken that parental strength and power. So the dream reinforced my innate wish to choose love rather than fear.

 

 

 

 

Try this dreamy, let-it-all-go meditation

19/09/2018 at 6:15 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Unexpectedly an old email surfaced in my inbox today, concerning a healing workshop back in 2014. At the workshop I delivered ‘The Path and the Fire Bowl – a Meditation’, which was designed to help people to relax and let go of emotional ‘baggage’. The participants were a wonderfully receptive group. I recorded the meditation for future use… and promptly forgot about it. So here, now, for your relaxation, is ‘The Path and the Fire Bowl – a Meditation’.

It’s dreamy and soporific, so would probably work quite well in the afternoon or evening – and definitely not while driving!

How to improve your focus in meditation – and life

16/08/2018 at 5:59 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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What is your relationship with Focus? Have you been together a while? Was Focus a first love, or are you and Focus perhaps not even talking?

If I were a life coach, I might suggest that you feed your focus and starve your distractions. Or I might say, “What you focus on is what you get more of.”

However, I am not a life coach. In the spheres of wellbeing in which I move, focus is not an end goal. It’s an invitation to be fully present. All we can ever have is this present moment, but it’s enough, because it’s everything. If we witness this moment fully, it has the magical ability to open up like a fractal. Rather like the owl I met recently, we develop the ability to see, hear and sense in ever more detail.

The state of focusing is a relaxed, alert way of being. We become aware and awake to what’s around us. Importantly, we don’t focus on what we don’t have. We focus on what is. In so doing, we realise how very much is contained within the present moment. We can then make choices based on our expanded awareness, which can help us step into an optimum future.

What is your relationship with Focus? Are you perhaps close friends? Maybe, just maybe, Focus is your life-long guide and companion?

 

Try this simple star meditation for wellbeing

24/07/2018 at 6:48 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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This exercise is quick and easy to do. Once you’ve learnt it, you can complete it in just six breaths. Many people find it relaxing, and it can help you step into a mindset of good health and happiness. It’s a little about the hand movements, and a lot about the visualisation you do during the sequence. You can do this every day, or whenever you feel like it.

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1. Clasp your hands loosely together with the thumb pads touching. Focus on your breathing. Follow the breath as it moves in and out. As you breathe in, say the word ‘Divine’ to yourself – breathe in the word silently – and imagine a golden white ball of light, shimming and glowing right in the very centre of you. As you breathe out, say the word ‘light’ to yourself – breathe out silently – and imagine the light at the centre of you radiating outwards like a star. Imagine that the light clears away any detritus in your energy field that is no longer needed, so that you glow and shine ever more brightly.

 

 

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2. With the next in-breath, keep your thumbs together, and place the two index fingers together. Repeat as above, breathing in the word ‘divine’ and breathing out the word ‘light’. Imagine the light radiating, and clearing old energies.

 

 

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3. With the next in-breath, keep thumbs and index fingers together. Place the two middle fingers together. Repeat breathing and visualising as above. Imagine yourself like a star, with beautiful, life-giving rays of light streaming out in all directions.

 

 

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4. With the next in-breath, keep thumbs, index and middle together. Feel the sensation of the thumb pads and the finger pads connecting with their counterparts. Perhaps you can feel your pulse through the connection. Repeat breathing and visualising as above. With each in-breath the light in the centre of you glows more brightly. With each out-breath it radiates outwards.

 

 

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5. And with the next in-breath, keep all your digits together, including your little fingers. Take your time to be still and breathe meditatively. Imagine that the light in the centre of you is dazzlingly bright, and that the light is streaming outwards in every direction. Picture that any areas of physical or mental pain are harmlessly being cleared away by the powerful radiating light, leaving your body, mind and spirit full of radiant good health and happiness.

 

6. Finally, conclude the exercise by placing your hands briefly in the ‘namaste’ position. As you do so, focus on a sense of the divine in yourself, and in all living beings.

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