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. 

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.

Stone Age – a (free) audio meditation

07/04/2020 at 1:22 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Here is your (free) audio meditation for this week. Again from the Studio seven years back, it’s a Stone Age visualisation, giving you an opportunity to imagine yourself living a truly simple life, in nature, bathing in refreshing water and breathing the freshest of air. I hope you enjoy it. I will join you listening to it in spirit this Thursday at 1 pm, or any time to suit you. So sit or lie down, relax and enjoy!

With love

Suzanne x

 

Stone Age Meditation

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.

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 | 5 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?

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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?

 

This is the perfect time for your self care

12/02/2018 at 6:29 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Valentine’s Day and the first day of Lent coincide this year. The resulting fusion of love and abstinence from a selected item of food or drink makes this the perfect time to focus on self care.

How might you care for yourself for the 40 or more days of Lent, which begins this Wednesday 14th February?

One year ago, inspired by my friend Sarah Sexton, I gave up refined sugar for Lent. After Lent I continued the practice. I’m happy to say I am now 10 kg lighter, and back within a healthy weight range. Along the way I lost my sugar cravings, and the associated swings between high energy and tiredness.

Lent is a perfect time for self-reflection. On a scale of 1 to 10, how well are you currently caring for your body? What single act of food-abstinence will your body most benefit from?

Whatever your spirituality or lack thereof, approaching Lent as an act of self care is an invitation to thrive.

What Westerners can learn from Eastern meditation

13/06/2017 at 10:00 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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When meditation goes well, it’s brilliant. Blissful. Calming. However many beginners struggle to reach that point. They talk about ‘failing’ and ‘not being able to meditate’, as though it’s an exam they’ve somehow flunked.

I’ve heard this despondent comment many times over the nine years that I’ve been running meditation groups in the UK. When newcomers turn up, they often say, “I can’t meditate, but I want to try and give it another go”. Or “I tried meditation once before, and I couldn’t do it.”

And, of course, I regularly meet people who wouldn’t go anywhere near a meditation group, believing that they are doomed to failure so it’s not even worth trying. But there’s something wistful in the way they tell me this. It’s as if they suspect they’re missing something, and they just don’t know what to do about it.

There is an interesting reason why Westerners may sometimes find it more difficult to meditate than their Eastern counterparts. It all comes down to the name itself: ‘meditation’. Or, to be exact, the origins of the name.

The Western approach

We can trace the verb ‘to meditate’ back to Latin. It meant: to ponder, reflect, consider, devise. In the old European languages it also meant: ‘to measure’, ‘to judge’, ‘to protect’, ‘to provide for’ and ‘to deliberate’. Go further back in time, to the original ‘seed’ language that early humanity shared, and it meant ‘to take appropriate measures’, ‘to give advice’ and ‘to heal’.  This was the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) seed word, ‘med’, which also evolved into ‘mediate’ and medicine among other words.

The historical Western approach to meditation is therefore driven by a well-intentioned desire for results: the solving of a problem, the righting of a wrong, the mending of an ill.

The Eastern approach

In the East, the Sanskrit for meditation is ‘dhyana’. Other Eastern languages have variants on this. The PIE seed word for dhyana is ‘dheie’ meaning ‘to see, to look’. The word ‘Zen’, signifying an aspect of Buddhism with a deeply contemplative approach to life, shares the same seed word.

So in the East, ‘dhyana’ is the practice of simply being, simply witnessing without judgement.

Western meditators broadly follow the Eastern tradition. We sit in silence, simply being… but we also have a cultural legacy which whispers to us that we need to get results from our quiet time.

A happy fusion

Of course, we can’t really divide the world into neat East-West packages. Wherever you live, whatever your origins, you’re pretty well guaranteed to experience the ‘monkey chatter’ of your mind during meditation. And this can do a great job of distracting you with wide-ranging thoughts.

But your approach to the monkey chatter can make the difference between frustration and happiness during your practice – and that’s where an awareness of meditation’s ancient definitions can be helpful.

If we accept that we have chosen to sit in silence, focusing on a particular word, or concept, or image, or sound, simply to witness without trying to change anything, then we are much more likely to enjoy our meditation sessions. Each time we notice that our thoughts have strayed, we calmly remind ourselves that we are here to meditate, and we return to our point of focus.

No judgement. Just practice.

To summarise, we meditate simply to meditate. There is no end result we are looking for.  So we cannot ‘fail’. We are simply being conscious witnesses of the moment.

And yet, when we make a regular practice of meditating in this way, with no expectation of reward, the insights and inspiration do come. Meditation focuses and refreshes the mind like nothing else.

So if you really struggle to meditate, take heart. You are not alone. Now that you know the ancient secret buried in the very name of meditation, you can choose to let go of the striving and, instead, embrace the serenity.

 

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