Celebrating ten years with just one word

12/09/2019 at 11:51 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Ten years ago this month a small group of us sat down in a little country sitting room to meditate. It felt mighty odd to be sharing the experience with others, but I was the facilitator, so I did my best to look as though I knew what I was doing.

Our theme, our subject of focus, was ‘Air’. During discussion and a long period of silence, we found ourselves looking at collective thoughtforms that can settle over an individual and a community and influence decisions, like a cloud in the sky which has the unconscious power to alter the moods of the people who live below it. We asked a basic question: whose thought are you thinking right now? The session was lively and stimulating. There was laughter as well as silence.

Afterwards, as I was clearing away, I reflected on how well the session had gone. Well enough, perhaps, to keep on running groups, just for a little while.,,,

That was ten years ago, and sessions have taken place in that little country sitting room, in an old farm building, ever since. This month, to celebrate our anniversary, we’re going back to those first words: air, and thought forms. Today it’s worth asking, perhaps more than ever before, whose thought are you thinking right now?

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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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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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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In homage to rain

13/07/2018 at 7:07 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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It hadn’t rained for weeks. The normally lush countryside had turned dry, apart from narrow ribbons along water courses. And now, at last, came the downpour. People became silly with happiness. It offered a powerful lesson in thankfulness, did we but remember it.

 

How to meditate with crystal geodes

04/07/2018 at 7:30 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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What are geodes?

Geodes are rock-encased cavities or bubbles within which crystals have formed. The crystals tend to point inwards, towards the centre. On the outside, geodes in their natural state are lumpy and bumpy. They may weigh less than you expect. On the inside, they are crystalline worlds that sparkle when the rock is cracked open and exposed to the light.

The contrast between a plain exterior and a detailed interior is one of the reasons why geodes work so well as tools of meditation. In meditation, our minds are revealed to have an internal richness, like a geode into which light shines.

The word ‘geode’ itself comes from the word for ‘earth’.

The geode sphere shown above is fantastic to meditate on, because it feeds both the senses and the imagination. This is a pale amethyst that has been removed from its bumpy exterior, and been shaped into a sphere. Platinum and silver vapour was then passed over it, creating permanent iridescent colours over every surface.

What’s the best kind of geode for meditation?

There are many varieties of geodes, and each one has a place in meditation. Put simply, the qualities you notice within the geode are qualities that you may also discover within yourself, bringing you a sense of peace, and insights. Here are a couple of geode examples.

Lightness and sparkle

Last week I picked up two humble snow quartz half-geodes for a fiver from Bath Market. Here is one of them.

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Small and light, it’s easy to keep this in your hand or your lap, or just near you while you work. Gaze into its depths, and you are subtly taken into another world of beauty and sparkle. Each time you look into a simple geode like this, your perspective shifts, and you feel a small dose of relaxation.  Note, this type of crystal is sometimes described as chalcedony, which just means it’s a microcrystalline variant of quartz. However, a clearer example of chalcedony can be seen below.

Deep and powerful

If you’ve ever walked into a crystal shop, you’ve almost certainly seen one or more amethyst caves, which are geodes by another name. These can range from diminutive to giant-sized. Search online for ‘amethyst cave’ and you’ll find plenty of examples. Many people find these deep purple caverns calming and restful.

At the furthest end of the scale of magnitude is the incredible Cave of Crystals in Mexico, a searingly hot cavern lined with the world’s largest known crystals. The cave is usually flooded and inaccessible. However, for a brief period some years ago, it was drained, and small numbers of people were able to walk around the giant selenite crystals.

Organic flow

Not all geodes contain crystal points. Here is an example of chalcedony where the mineral seems to have been caught mid-flow. At just under 4 cm, it’s slightly smaller than the sweet and sparkly snow quartz geode illustrated above, but it’s noticeably heavier to hold.

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This example has a translucent, milky appearance, though it can equally be coloured – agate is a bright, banded version of chalcedony. With its flowing qualities, this form of chalcedony can have a organic, even intimate aspect to it. When you tune into those qualities within yourself, it can help you to be in touch with who you really are.

What’s the best way to meditate with a geode?

• Sit comfortably somewhere quiet and peaceful with your chosen geode. You might wish to set a timer for, say, 20 minutes for this exercise.

• Study the geode using your senses: handle it, gaze at it, notice how the light shines and reflects within it. Feel the weight of it in your hands. Tap it and notice any hollowness or otherwise. Gaze into it as though it is a sparkling cave that you can enter.

• Close your eyes and continue to notice your geode’s qualities in your imagination. Breathe in and out, slowly and peacefully. Allow your continued imaginary study of your geode to synchronise with your breathing.

• Continue your unhurried, relaxed breathing, and your imaginary exploration of your geode. As you do so, you may find your attention wanders. Whenever you notice that it has, just gently bring your attention back to your geode. Feel it in your hands to reinforce  your connection with it.

• As you continue your meditation, you may find spontaneous images or words enter your mind. Some of these may appear to make no sense. Some may feel like solutions to problems, or shimmering insights. Do your best to witness these without attachment. Let them float through and out of your consciousness. Remind yourself gently that you are here to meditate, and that it all.

• After the meditation, think about what has taken place. You will likely notice that your mind feels calmer and fresher, like a clear pool in which the silt has settled or been washed away. Note any new insights you may acquired as a result of your meditation.

In summary, geodes make useful and beautiful meditation companions. You can use them frequently as part of a regular practice, or simply to create a calm, meditative atmosphere in a room. You can also use images of geodes to focus on, or you can imagine the perfect meditative crystal cave, full of relaxing qualities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is virtually my favourite walk into the past

29/06/2018 at 7:31 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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I’m fortunate enough to live around 10 miles from the largest stone circle in the world, also known as Avebury. This ancient structure of raised banks and deep ditches surrounding giant stones formed into three circles, two spaced neatly inside the largest one, is just mind-blowing.  Most people today assume that it was built for ceremonial purposes but, honestly, no one really knows what happened there.

To enter Avebury Stone Circle, to walk, touch and meditate among the stones, is a very special thing: calming or exhilarating depending on your mood. The circle seems to have the ability to amplify whatever feelings you bring to it. Many of the stones are bigger than people, all uniquely shaped, and each one evokes intriguing insights. I feel blissed out every time I go there.

 

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However, I have never fully been able to imagine the circle in its entirety, because there is a picturesque village sitting in the middle of it. There is a busy road bisecting it. And during the 4,500 years since it was first built, there have been many attempts to destroy it. Stones have systematically been removed and used for building work. Luckily though,  enough remains to keep the aura of mystery and magnificence intact.

Then, last week, I was lucky enough to try out a 3D, fully immersive virtual simulation of Avebury stone circle, thanks to a neighbour, Liz Falconer. Liz has a good number of academic qualifications which can be summed up by this rather cool description: she is a professor of virtual reality. Liz and her colleagues have created a computer simulation of Avebury as it would have been when it was first built. The stones are intact, the ditches are deeper and steeper, the grass grows long and the wind whispers through it. An occasional wolf howls in the distance. Drums beat and you get the feeling that something amazing is about to happen – or perhaps is already happening, just beyond vision.

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The picturesque village and the road that bisects the circle are not present – they lie in the far, misty future. So when you walk, or fly (this is after all virtual reality) into the stone circle, you can absolutely understand how huge this place really is.

You can see some videos of virtual Avebury on Liz’s blog.  But to experience the fully immersive version, just head over to the National Trust’s Barn Gallery at Avebury on certain days during July and August, and try it out for yourself. Please do check dates on the project page on Bournemouth University’s website first before you go, to make sure the simulation will be available on your chosen day. I really hope you get to see it. And if your virtual exploration gives you new insights into what Avebury is really about, please be sure to share them with the rest of us.

 

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