Infusing summer

01/07/2021 at 4:03 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Drinking plenty of water is a priority in warm weather. Staying hydrated can help improve mood, memory and the digestive system, among many other benefits.

My favourite method is to infuse water with fresh herbs, fruit and flowers. I use a bottle that comes with its own filter. At the start of the day, seasonal edibles are added, such as elderflowers, roses, sweet cicely and lemon slices. This makes an instant, sugar-free summer cordial, (Note about elder: just use the flowers, with the fine stems that connect them; discard leaves and thicker stems. With sweet cicely, the whole plant can be used.)

For extra flavour, I sometimes add a few Positive Potions botanical drink drops. Made from herbs grown in a walled garden in Anglesey, these are a great store cupboard standby. They come in a range of blends with uplifting names such as ‘Bliss’, ‘Flourish’ and ‘Renew’, and are free of sugar and artificial sweeteners.  

Drinking infused water feeds all the senses. There’s the pleasure of foraging and gathering fragrant plants in the cool of the morning; the visual delight of vivid plants swirling in the water; and the freshest of delicate flavours to enjoy. When the bottle is emptied, simply refill it once or twice during the day. The only real question is what to put in it tomorrow: perhaps a simple cucumber and spearmint duo; or apple mint and lemon balm with rose petals and orange. Or even my newest favourite: lemon slices with roughly chopped ginger root – zingy bliss in a bottle. Experimenting is half the fun. 

Wellbeing notes: Of oceans and sea glitter

01/06/2021 at 5:52 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Our county is such a special one, of chalky downs, bluebell woods and stone circles… but one thing it entirely lacks is an ocean. There would have been one in previous eons, and we can still find the signs of it in the form of maritime fossils. To the north west of our village, for example, there is the Star Well, situated on private land, where a person can run their fingers in the silt that emerges from an ancient spring and, if they are lucky, find tiny, star-shaped fossils in the palm of their hand.

There are countless rivulets throughout our neighbourhood that may offer up their ancient treasures. Recently, my daughter found a fossilised shell that nature had planted with a pretty garden of moss and wild garlic. Such discoveries are brilliant at reminding us of the vastness of time. They can put the challenges we face today into perspective, reminding us that ‘this too shall pass’.

Another way to gain a healthy sense of perspective is to visit the present-day ocean or, at least, our nearest sea. The journey will take you, if you are lucky, to that place and that moment where you get to see the sun reflecting off the surface of the water in a sparkling avenue of light. There is something instantly calming about the sight. Every individual gleam is a reflection of the sun in miniature. Later, when we are home from the ocean, we can close our eyes, imagine it, and achieve the same wellness of mind.

Guided meditations: album and free bluebell track

07/05/2021 at 3:33 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

First, some background…

This album of guided meditations originally came about in Wiltshire UK, for members of The Intuition Group. Each of the meditations sprang from the amazing countryside around the studio where the group met. Original background music was created by Jules Addison. Members of The Intuition Group learnt how to use nature as an oracle to mirror their own hidden wisdom and insights. You can do the same by listening to ‘Dream Library Meditations’.

Buy album

Listen to sample track: Bluebell Meditation

Bluebell woods make for the best walks – and meditating on them can be wonderful too. Indigo, the colour of bluebells, is special. Not quite purple and not quite blue, it occupies only a tiny part of the colour spectrum. It’s associated with intuition, and the following meditation makes full use of that fact.

Wellbeing notes: tiny plant, giant teachings

03/05/2021 at 10:12 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments
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One regular walk takes me over the old canal bridge. I passed over it not so long ago and took a photo of a tiny clump of moss that grows there. Small details from nature such as moss make for excellent meditation subjects. You can give yourself a few minutes of quiet, close your eyes and imagine the tiny plant in sensory detail: the green, textured cushion; the slender stalks supporting spore capsules no bigger than a grain of rice. 

When you notice that your mind has wandered, you simply remind yourself that you are here to meditate, and you focus again on your chosen subject – in this case, the moss.

We meditate in this way to pause the relentless chatter of our thoughts. It’s impossible to empty the mind completely; focusing on one subject is the next best thing. Doing this regularly can help us become calmer and less stressed. We can become more self-aware and may enjoy physical benefits, such as better sleep and decreased blood pressure. 

Yesterday I returned to the bridge. I was taking a longer walk than usual and although I did pause to take in the view, I hurried on towards my destination. It wasn’t until I got home that I realised I hadn’t even noticed the moss that grows on the bridge. And I realised a simple truth: what we focus on is what we see.

My invitation to you is to choose mindfully what you focus on today. 

Wellbeing notes: a time to bloom

01/04/2021 at 10:00 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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The cherry blossom around our neighbourhood is beginning to open up like tissue paper, lit through with sunlight. I try not to have favourites among the seasons but it is painfully easy to fall in love with blossom time. The Japanese word for this brief glimpse of heaven on earth is Hanami, or ‘flower viewing’ and round about now, all over Japan, crowds are flocking to view the delicate beauty that appears and then is gone. 

In England we honour spring flowers in more low-key ways but I’m pretty certain that walking among our local blossom acts as a wellbeing tonic like no other. If you are feeling low, or pessimistic, just go and bathe your senses beneath a cherry, plum or apple tree. As you do so, you may well find yourself fully present in the moment – a form of meditation in itself. 

Meditating or simply reflecting on blossom brings valuable insights into the passing of time… and into what the future may bring. When I study a dark branch dotted with fresh, light blooms, I am conscious that this spring moment will pass quickly – and this is surely a truth that applies to people as well as trees. So then I fast-forward my thoughts to the way that a good percentage of the blossoms will become fruit; and then I fast-forward once more to see that a small percentage of the fruit will seed new trees. And I find that thought oddly cheering because it suggests that all the kind, encouraging and inspiring thoughts we have; all the positive thoughts we put into action… some of these will bear fruit in ways we can never possibly imagine. 

Wellbeing notes: a perfect spring bounty for our times

01/03/2021 at 10:00 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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One of nature’s biggest harvests is growing fast right now. It’ll be ready to gather towards the end of March, and it will keep on giving until May. This produce brings an array of vitamins and minerals to the table, as well as antibacterial and antiviral properties. And yet this wonder harvest is not farmed. It simply grows wild in ancient woodland. And we can gather its leaves for free. 

The plant is wild garlic. Its botanical name, Allium ursinum, references the fact that bears apparently seek out wild garlic as their first spring food. It is a plentiful, green, spring tonic that gives energy and immunity-boosting benefits to animals weakened by a long hibernation. So this is the perfect time for us to walk in nature, to breathe in the pungent scent of wild garlic and to gather bowlfuls for the cooking pot. 

Be sure to pick the correct plant. Wild garlic is green, with pale stems and white, starry sprays of white flowers. The leaves are a sort of long, floppy arrow shape, and they release their pungent odour when rubbed between fingers and thumb. Never confuse it with other, harmful plants such as lily of the valley, Convallaria majalis, which has a purple stem and no odour when rubbed; or broader-leaved lords and ladies, Arum maculatum, which can often be found growing amidst a carpet of wild garlic. 

You can chop wild garlic leaves finely for salads, mix them with butter, simmer them like spinach or blend them into a fabulous pesto. You’ll find some ideas here

Wellbeing notes: message from a stream

01/02/2021 at 10:00 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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There’s a simple walk near my home that takes you over a brook. If you were to follow the brook’s flow you might discover that all the interlacing streams in the neighbourhood bear the same name, Cocklemore Brook, and you would eventually find that the water from the many branches of Cocklemore Brook flows into the River Avon. And the Avon would carry you through the cities of Bath and Bristol until you reached the sea.

On this particular morning I am walking beside the brook thinking about various personal projects – things relating to work and family and home. And suddenly I see that the interlacing flow of these projects is somehow the same in principle as the flow of tiny tributaries that join together into a river leading eventually to the sea. The details of my life are small and insignificant. And yet when combined with the countless tributaries of other people’s endeavours, an ocean is maintained.

What we collectively put into the ocean of our endeavours matters. If I approach my day with kindness, creativity and love, then that is what I contribute to the ocean of humanity.

The name ‘Cocklemore’ comes from the old English words ‘ock’ or oak tree, and ‘more’– a wild, unfarmed place. There are many oak trees here, and the brook flows through boggy, unfarmable land. Like its name, the insights I receive from the brook appear wild, eternal and true. 

Photo: renowned composer Sir Michael Tippett used to sit on this humble bench by Cocklemore Brook, creating his later works such as ‘The Rose Lake’. It’s amazing to listen to this shimmering music while visiting the stream today. 

Wellbeing notes: nature’s message of hope

01/01/2021 at 3:07 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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There’s something so uplifting about the first, tiny snowdrops of the year – a reminder of balmier weather to come. One summer I lost someone I was close to. Grief was ever present. There was no respite from the sadness. The following January, I saw the first snowdrops emerge from black earth. And for the first time in many months, I felt uplifted. It was as if the dots of tiny white flowers spelt out the word ‘hope’ in a dark landscape. Since that time I have especially treasured snowdrops, planting them in small drifts around my garden, bringing in a few blooms for the kitchen table. 

Hope is an excellent quality to cultivate in 2021. Hope reminds us that the potential for happiness is a core part of every human being. When we focus on our potential, when we visualise it as though it is already present, wellbeing enters. We become uplifted. And in that state of openness, we become receptive to the loving kindness that, I believe, always surrounds us. 

One simple exercise is to write the word ‘Hope’ on a square of canvas or paper. Enjoy choosing the placement of the four characters. You might write them large and plain or add illustrations that are meaningful to you. Then display your finished work in a place where you will often see it. Let its beneficial message spill into your life.

Releasing 2020 with love and thanks

01/12/2020 at 11:11 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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When my two children were growing up, we used to hold parties around 21stDecember every year, to mark the longest night and to celebrate the return of longer days in the seasonal calendar. Some years we’d just hold a small family event. Other years we would invite 40 or so people and cater with big, easy pans of cheese and onion flan, parsnip and potato mash and salad, all washed down with local wines, beers and cordials. After supper we’d step outside for a simple ritual that had evolved with the help of a stoneware bowl – we’d make a tiny fire of handwritten notes on which we’d symbolically let go of the past in order to make room for the new.

Each person would quietly write down something they were ready to let go of from the previous year. We’d write, “According to the highest good of all concerned I now let go of (fill in the blank) with love and thanks.”  Then we’d scrunch the paper up and deposit it in the bowl. When all the notes had been gathered, everyone watched the flames. It was a good way to declutter mind and heart. After all, who needs to carry old emotional baggage into Christmas and the New Year?

November’s message of self-acceptance

01/11/2020 at 9:48 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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The trees around me in Wiltshire UK where I live are fast losing their colourful canopies as we approach winter. Leaf by leaf, they reveal their true shape. This is the perfect time to notice that there is no such thing as a perfect tree. They are all asymmetrical. Limbs and branches twist and extend in a mysterious pattern. We accept and delight in a tree’s unique shape. Why then should we not delight in our own unique human forms? 

Seen without judgement, human beings are gorgeous examples of creation. I’m pretty certain we are adored by the divine, creative force that lies within and beyond all living beings. And yet we can be so quick to find fault with ourselves. Even something as simple and natural as our age or weight can become something we prefer to hide. Think, for a moment, about how conscious so many of us are about our height. We feel too short or too tall. And yet we are only talking about a difference of a few inches! How can that matter compared with the vast reaches of the universe?

Each of us has the capacity to carry many psychological wounds through life. From childhood onwards we may retain messages from external figures of authority who have left us feeling ‘not good enough’. In adulthood we may become experts at criticising our appearance and our actions in countless small and punishing ways. We may even be unconscious of how wounded we are in this respect, which can lead to a tendency in us to project our unresolved issues on to others, and even to judge others harshly for their own perceived faults.

Yet the revealed shapes of trees in winter suggest to me that humans, like trees, are perfect, just as we are. Our healed wounds and scars are part of our personal story, to be honoured and even loved. Humans, like trees, are surely a beautiful and unique addition to the landscape. And, just like our cousins the trees, as we prepare for winter we carry the potential for new personal growth in the new year.

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