Bookmark your intention

10/04/2015 at 8:34 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Not so long ago, I was doing a lot of caring for others, and forgetting to care for myself. Therefore, I was running on empty: constantly tired; crabby. My caring for others had become a monster that went through the motions and denied my loved ones the true energy of compassion.

This went on for several days. Then, one morning, in that dreamy state between sleep and awakening, I saw a bookmark hovering in front of me. You know, the long, thin rectangular sort that you put in a proper card-and-paper book.

“Bookmark your intention for today,” said a wise teacher who was invisibly beside me. And at once I saw words appearing on the bookmark. I understood then that I was choosing a simple, uncomplicated intention for the day. My intention – far shorter than a typical ‘to-do’ list – was to help a particular relative in a specific way, and also to care for myself. That was all. Sure, there would be other activities in the day, but my intention was just those two things.

And with that knowledge, I stopped feeling tired and overwhelmed. The energy of life and compassion returned to me.

Additionally, I understood that each new morning benefits from a fresh bookmark, spelling out an intention for that particular day.

What is your intention for today? Keep it simple. There’s only room for a few well-chosen words on a bookmark.

Why ‘eternal’ is the new ‘now’

23/03/2015 at 6:25 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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EclipseThis week we’re focusing on the word ‘eternal’. It’s the final theme in our series, Adapting Mindfully to Change. The idea is that underlying the myriad worldly changes that we grapple with, there is a pure unchanging energy that we might call universal consciousness. It’s the realm of unity, and of our spiritual identity.

In this morning’s session the group was fizzing. The talk was of ‘rebooting’ after the global shift in energy from the Vernal Equinox, not to mention the recent solar eclipse, and the supermoon…. But then we did manage to sit in silence. We breathed in “I am” and breathed out “eternal”.

And that’s the thing. Simply doing this, and keeping on even though our minds are racing, does bring peace. It enables us to step off the hamster wheel of distracting thoughts and dramas.

In The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle talks about having deep roots within – to connect consciously with our inner body, our essential energy. This is the essence of us that feels eternally young, however many calendar years we have. When we sit quietly with that energy, it is possible for the constraints of time to dissolve. We become fully present in the moment, aware that we are part of a blissfully soothing current of peace. If we look at our lives from the perspective of that peace, events appear like movies. We notice, almost lazily, that we don’t need to perpetuate the arguments and we can effortlessly forgive everyone, including ourselves, because actually there is nothing to forgive.

Tolle describes this as a divine reality. “What is God?” he writes. “The eternal One Life underneath all the forms of life. What is love? To feel the presence of that One Life deep within yourself and within all creatures. To be it. Therefore, all love is the love of God.”

We’re meditating on the word ‘journal’

05/03/2015 at 4:31 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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This week we’re meditating on the word ‘journal’. Many of us write journals. We love the act of buying a new notebook. There’s something gently intoxicating about the texture and scent of pristine pages. The writing itself is therapeutic. Often, it’s during the act of writing that we recognise how we actually feel. A journal, kept for decades, can even become a family heirloom.

And yet, even if we never put pen to paper, we are still recording life’s experiences, on the canvas of our own bodies. Habitual emotions are etched onto our faces through countless repetitions. Stored traumas alter the way we move our muscles and block the spontaneity of our movements. Happiness, in contrast, causes us to soften and glow. As Caroline Myss, author and speaker on human consciousness, has said, “Your biology becomes your biography.”

Meditating on the word ‘journal’ can be a challenge. We may not want to revisit the tricky times that are now indelibly recorded in book and body. Many of us would rather keep our life journals firmly closed. We may therefore feel resistance, even while we’re sitting still and trying to clear our minds.

However, there is a simple trick that can transform this meditation. I’d like you to picture, now, the brilliant white light that you can sometimes see emanating from a beautiful clear crystal, such as rock quartz. The light comes from a plane deep inside the crystal. Its beauty, shining from within, is a reminder of your own inner light. In your meditation, picture that light radiating from the pages of your journal, or from the canvas of your body.

It’s possible to see all of life’s events as though they were lit from within – with a soul light, if you like. From that perspective, it’s easier to recognise the gifts within a challenging experience, and also the new skills we’ve acquired from it, such as self-respect, wisdom and forgiveness.

We’re meditating on discovery

22/02/2015 at 4:16 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Sunrise

The word we’re meditating on this week is ‘Discovery’.

When we regularly sit down in quietness and allow the busy thoughts of our mind to subside, a clarity can emerge which spreads into every aspect of our life. We see things as though they are lit from the inside. We gain insights. This process of looking at the familiar and seeing it afresh is one of the best forms of discovery, and one of meditation’s great gifts.

The following is an example from this morning, when I simply looked out of a window, saw cars in the far distance, and understood on a deeper level that each vehicle contained a shining soul.

What discoveries will come your way today?

The Road to Calne

Shining beads glide

between fields of frost

under the rosy sky

of our potential.

~~~

Each bead, a soul

hiding from its light,

disturbed by the future,

wounded from the past.

~~~

If we dare see

how brightly we glow,

our heavy cloaks of fear

dissolve in the warmth.

The thing about gates

11/02/2015 at 9:35 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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This week, in the studio, we’re meditating on the word ‘gateway’. And the thing we discovered on Monday is that there is no such thing as a half-open gate, not really. In the fields around the studio, a gate is either unlatched and open:

Open latch

Or it’s latched and closed:

Latch closed

An unlatched gate in the country is designed to swing wide open. Cattle, sheep and people walk through. There are no half-measures. The gate is never just a little bit open. If it’s open, it’s open.

It all comes down to the latch.

When we are not living mindfully, we can kid ourselves that a gate along our own life path is open when it isn’t really. And because it isn’t really open, we never quite seem to get the job we want, or the partner, or the professional awards. We get frustrated, and can’t understand why we don’t progress.

Sitting quietly in meditation can help us to recognise that we haven’t actually lifted the latch and opened the gate to new opportunities along our path. We can also see the reason: we’re reluctant to leave the past; or we’re nervous about the future.

When we become aware of our conflicting emotions about progress, we can see more clearly how our own actions are keeping the latch closed. And then, we can mindfully choose to open the latch and walk through into the future.

Conversely, sometimes our boundaries are wide open. When that happens, we feel tugged by conflicting external demands; we don’t have enough rest time, or privacy. It can be useful then to sit quietly in meditation and tune into that gate latch once more. Why have we left the gate hanging wide open? What would happen if we closed the gate at least some of the time? That would mean saying ‘no’ to people. It would mean scheduling time in our diary for us. That would be a good feeling.

Intuitive mindfulness is a match made in heaven

03/01/2015 at 1:06 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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“Never do something because you feel other people expect you to do it, do it because you have that feeling of absolute certainty that what you are doing is right for you, because you have taken the time to be still, to listen and find out from within what you should do.”

The words are by Eileen Caddy, co-founder of the the Findhorn Foundation in Scotland. The poster here is shared with thanks to that spiritual community.  Eileen Caddy’s book of inspirational writings, Opening Doors Within, was a major influence on me when I first thought about running meditation workshops in a Wiltshire studio.

The principle of noticing what you notice is central to mindfulness. When we are mindful, we focus on our breath, our pulse, the position of our body, the feel of the chair beneath us, the temperature of the air entering and leaving us, and so on. We notice what we are doing in the present moment, without rushing on to the future, or dwelling in the past.

When we mindfully wash dishes at a sink, for example, we take our time noticing the rainbow colours in the detergent bubbles, the feel of water against the surface of our hands, the sound and movement of dishes within a bowl of warm water.

As Thich Nhat Hanh teaches through his many writings on mindfulness, when we are fully present, we experience peace.

What is less widely talked about is that when we are mindfully present, we allow the quiet inner voice of our intuition to be heard. This is what Eileen Caddy understood fully, and Findhorn still encourages this in myriad ways today.

Noticing what you notice is an integral part of receiving intuitive guidance. Being mindful is essential if we want to understand what we truly feel, and the direction that we fundamentally wish to go.

Three guidelines for any group

07/12/2014 at 8:54 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Candle

These guidelines came to me a few years ago from Pierre Pradevand, author of The Gentle Art of Blessing. It was the start of a delightful weekend retreat in Derbyshire. I’m sure his three peaceful rules enhanced the atmosphere. Ever since, I have shared the guidelines with those who meditate with me, two or three times a week, in Wiltshire. Now seems a good time to share them here. They apply to any group situation.

1) Listen without judgement, in a supportive and caring way.

2) Respect confidentiality. If someone is telling you something of a sensitive nature, keep it to yourself, understand that this is a privileged moment. Do not talk about it later to others.

3) Own your own experience. Say, “I feel”, rather than “You feel”. It’s surprising how often we cut ourselves off from our own emotions by describing them as though they belong to the listener, rather than the talker.

Here is an example of the third guideline:

“When your children leave home, you feel sad,” says one speaker.

“When my children left home, I felt sad,” says another.

Can you feel how much more powerful and authentic the second sentence is? It’s also easier to empathise with the second speaker.

When we own our own experience, respect confidentiality, and listen in a supportive way without judgement, our corner of the world becomes infinitely more peaceful.

A haiku travel journal

27/06/2014 at 5:41 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments
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On the plane between London and Hong Kong, I thought I’d write a travel journal with a difference. Each day, I would write a haiku poem. My understanding of haiku is that it distils nature and our own true nature in a few short lines. In the English version, that most often means 5 syllables, then 7, then another 5. I wanted to do this for fun, and also to see if it brought me new insights.

The writing began as soon as we reached the refuge of our comfortable hotel.

Lily

Guan yin tea and bath

Fragrant lilies scent the dark

Harbour lights beyond.

Haiku traditionally loves contrast. Intuitively, I love the space between contrasts. During our days in Hong Kong, I was beginning to notice a very human trait: in the act of concealing, we end up revealing.

Leaves

Incense and Man Mo

Tiny shrines by shops of jade

Bird song on the Peak.

We were travelling as a family, which included my 18-year-old son Tim, who has learning difficulties and uses a wheelchair. Quickly we discovered that the streets were empty of others like Tim. It dawned on us that were connecting with a culture which believed that young people with special needs should stay at home.

An owl stares at us

in the Museum of Art

Kowloon’s rich treasure.

Most people simply, politely, ignored Tim, as they might ignore anything embarrassing, though we noticed plenty of covert glances. However, one day a taxi driver became visibly upset when he spotted Tim, and hissed at us while he drove erratically to our destination. We brushed off his crazy behaviour. But we wondered about it. We were beginning to feel that Tim – and we – were intrepid simply by being there. Mad taxi rides aside, we felt rather pleased with ourselves.

Orchid

Wow! Dim sum Tim Tim

at the old Luk Yu Tea House

Fountains and Flowers.

Someone told us one evening that the Buddhist belief in reincarnation was often interpreted to mean that handicapped children and young people must have done something wrong in a previous lifetime. Therefore, their presence brought shame to their families.  They were hidden away. Sometimes neglected, sometimes worse. Unwittingly, we were challenging that tradition.

After the sampans

barefoot in a sandy bay

Gods gaze at the sea.

Maybe all that scrutiny had something to do with it, but Tim’s wheel chair slipped on the sandy steps by the watchful concrete sculpted gods on the sea shore and he bruised his foot. Moments before the accident, I had been searching for Guan Yin, the Chinese goddess of mercy, among the seaside statues, but only found a rather overblown version of her, stripped of any spiritual truths.

However, I did experience peace each morning as I meditated in our high-up hotel room. I witnessed night turn to day.  And in that quietness the insights emerged.

Harbour

Morning mist makes clear:

we came to see, and be seen.

Each of us is loved.

That then was the truth we were exemplifying as a family. Sometimes it seems to me that the four of us (including Tim’s able younger sister) are four corners of a square. Each corner is equally important to create the whole. Each of us is equally valued within the family. This is normal for us, and perhaps also for our culture.

And then I wondered if perhaps families like us might tacitly encourage other families to take their disabled members out and about a bit more.

I noticed that I had begun my haiku travel journal with reference to Guan Yin – or, at any rate, the green tea named in her honour. And now I was ending my journal with the same sacred name.

Love and compassion

are divine gifts from Guan Yin

May all feel both here.

Lily

When nature’s remedy came to stay

03/03/2014 at 3:49 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Betony light leaves

One of the best teachers I ever had was a medical herbalist called Nina Nissen. She taught me the herbalists’ belief that the plants you need tend to grow near you. For example, nettles and cleavers appear in the spring, just in time to help our bodies to flush out winter congestions and give us a multi-vitamin and mineral boost.
I don’t know about you, but I can learn something in my head… and somehow forget to apply it in real life. A mysterious wild flower started growing near my kitchen door. It had serrated leaves like ancient arrow heads. In the summer, pinkish purple flowers grew on long stalks. I kept forgetting to look it up. One day, I ordered some new medicinal plants. When they arrived, I suddenly discovered the identity of the mystery wild flower…

Among my bought herbs was a nervine: a relaxing herb that is particularly helpful for highly sensitive people who may become fearful or worried easily, and who, on balance, find it easier to stay at home. I could relate to these qualities. Although I love being with people, I find I also need long, quiet periods on my own. And I know that sometimes this stops me from doing things that would be helpful in my work. Steven, my partner, says that I am a hermit, and there is some truth in his comment. 

The plant for hermits goes by the name of Wood Betony,  or Stachys officinalis.

As I unpacked the Wood Betony plant I had ordered, I was amazed to see that it was identical to the mystery plant that grew near my kitchen door. Betony had come to me when I needed it, and had waited, patiently, for me to notice it.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So finally, today, I do something that my herbal medicine teacher, Nina Nissen, taught me a dozen years ago. I do an intuitive tea tasting.

First, I study the plant, to notice what I notice. I can see the leaves, shaped like arrowheads or even elongated hearts. I gather a few and bring them indoors. Close up, I can see tiny curved hairs all over the plant. The tiny hairs seem to collect particles from the environment. And yet a rinse under the kitchen tap is enough to clean the leaves completely.

Betony texture

I think, not for the first time, how important it is for any sensitive soul to let go of all that they pick up from their environment. Busy places in particular can make me feel exhausted far quicker than Steven, who thrives on stimulation. If I have lots of old energetic debris still clinging to me, I have to do something about it: a rest, a cleansing bath or shower, a dip in my local pool, a session of gardening. Like Betony, I need to let it go.

I continue to follow the advice of Nina Nissen, who has written about intuitive tea tasting in her classic book, Teach Yourself Herbal Medicine. I sniff the leaves, and  breathe in an earthy, almost musky scent, with fresh green undertones.

The chopped leaves go into freshly boiled water for three to five minutes. Many herbalists suggest ten minutes or so brewing time. If you are trying to get maximum nutrients, that’s probably a good idea. However, I remember Nina saying that you only need to make contact with the plant.

When the tea is ready, I filter it and study it once more before sipping it.

Betony tea

The colour is a fresh, delicate green that begins to fade almost as I look at it. The fragrance is earthy. It makes me think of a cottage, somewhere on a damp moor, with a peat fire creating a simple, peaceful warmth.

As I drink, the soft texture of the liquid reminds me of marshmallow tea. It soothes my dry throat, and the warmth spreads throughout my core. The taste is not a ‘pretty’ taste. It is more like the taste of Mother Earth, with fresh green after-notes.

I am beginning to feel distinctly light-headed. Images of scenes from my childhood and teenage years appear in my mind, one at a time. Alongside these images, there is a tight heaviness in my heart. What would make my heart feel better? Without really thinking about it, I imagine myself as a tiny point of consciousness, able to travel at will within a symbolic version of my body. I go to a control room just behind my eyes. There, I see a mini-version of myself at a big console. She is steering my body.

“It’s no use talking to me,” says the mini-me, who looks very busy. “I have to follow the programmes I’m given. If you want to change your direction, you need to talk to the programmers.” And she directs me deeper into my brain, to the programming room.

There, I find a small team of mini-me’s behind more consoles. These ones look quite boffin-like, with big dark spectacles. I talk to one of them, who is very friendly. She’s happy to write a new programme for me. We decide the words together and she hands me the completed programme. “You can take this to the navigation room yourself if you like,” says Boffin Me, smiling.

So I carry the programme back to the navigation room, and there it is received by the navigator who pops it into her console. “It’ll overwrite the previous programme,” she explains, comfortably. Together, we watch that happen on a big screen. I feel a huge sense of satisfaction.

Gradually, I return to my normal awareness. My heart feels less tight now, although I get the impression that changing course is a slow process that can take days or weeks to complete. I will be making more Wood Betony tea, though I will probably mix a leaf or two with another fragrant favourite such as spearmint, or lemon verbena. These have healing properties of their own.

And what was the new programme that I installed? Here it is, short and sweet:

“I have the power, wisdom and confidence to choose right action, or non-action, as appropriate.”

The answer is gazing right back at you

02/09/2013 at 5:46 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments
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Sky glow

Yesterday evening, I was tidying up indoors. My hands were present, but my mind was elsewhere. I was wondering about the new term of meditations I’d be running in the Studio. Would it go ok? The theme I’ve chosen for this week is ‘glow’. Would ‘glow’ be a good word to meditate on?

“Come outside,” called Steven. You’ve got to see this.”

His voice was light and excited.

I went outside.

And I saw this sunset.

Just to be clear, I have not altered the image in any way. The sky truly was lit with orange and red, with a tiny sprinkling of town lights below.

The sky was simply glowing. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it glow so fully before.

So I guess that answers my question. Thank you Universe, for a very big answer to my question.

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