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: 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: 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?

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

Wellbeing notes: tiny plant, giant teachings

03/05/2021 at 10:12 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 6 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: 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. 

Rose petals – a (free) audio meditation

09/06/2020 at 2:29 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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Recently a small group of us met up in my garden – the first get-together since lockdown began. From our conversation – and it was so nice to see each other, albeit at a social distance – we developed this meditation, which I’m pleased to share with you today. It’s based on the idea that what the world needs now are love and blessings, and that sometimes the heaviest of problems can be helped in the lightest of ways. So without further ado, here you are; Rose Petal Meditation.

 

Rose Petal Meditation

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