Wabi sabi: learning to love the ‘imperfect’

28/01/2014 at 7:40 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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Damsons

Thirteen years ago…

I am living in Richmond, Surrey, in a small terraced house with my partner Steven, and our young, disabled son. At night I am dreaming of floods. I see Britain covered in sheets of silvery water. The border between meadow land and rivers becomes indeterminate. In my dreams I see people leaving the flood plains, moving higher up. Some want to go shopping, to buy up supplies. But in the background there is a quiet, wise voice, pointing out that this is not a time for shopping. 

Twelve years ago…

We have decided to move to rural Wiltshire. I notice that I absolutely do not want to live near any flood plains. I want to be on a hill. We buy a place on a hill.  We arrive on the eve of the Winter Solstice. During the following seasons, I study the countryside around us with a burgeoning sense of love. I have the dim understanding that out there, beyond our home, is the equivalent of a supermarket, if only I knew what I was looking at. There is food here, wild, unrecognised, unpackaged, unremarkable to look at… but food, nevertheless.

Damsons on tree

The present day…

Britain has been having a wet winter. It’s fair to say that the weather world-wide has become more extreme in recent years. At the foot of our hill, fields have been submerged in water for weeks now. Pilots flying over our neighbouring county have started referring to ‘Lake Somerset’.

I know a little, just a little, about the plants that grow around me. Depending on the time of year, I gather leaves, roots and berries. Elderflowers, mint and nettles become refreshing herbal teas. Marshmallow and elecampane roots are harvested for nourishing decoctions. Elderberries and damsons (pictured above) are transformed into ruby-coloured jams and cordials. Wild garlic and tender young ground elder add nutrients to casseroles, soups and salads. Small, juicy apples and plums (below) feed us for weeks from a few small trees.

The fruit my daughter and I collect bears no resemblance to the plump, perfect specimens in the nearby supermarkets. It’s as if the fruits in the shops have been photo-shopped. I wonder how many individual plums and apples are rejected by the store buyers. Ours, in comparison, are half-wild fruit: small and mottled. But they are still food, and vibrant food at that.

Plums

Recently I learnt that the Japanese have a name for what I have been learning in the English countryside: wabi sabi. This is the understanding and acceptance of the transience of things. Fruit and people age. None of us is perfectly shaped. The imperfections are to be appreciated. They add to the beauty of the whole.

Back in the nights when I dreamt of floods, my wise dream narrator told me that the floods were the sadness of people made manifest. That included myself, of course. At that time my disabled son was five years old. He had just started at mainstream school with one-to-one support. There were challenges, and we were still adjusting.

But I always felt the dreams were a comment on the wider community too. In the language of dreams, floods may signify suppressed emotions, which will find an outlet despite ourselves.

To put it another way, when a people cannot cry, the planet will cry for them. We have a legacy of not accepting ourselves – of believing that we, like the food we eat, need to be standardised to what we think is a perfect state. We cannot attain that state. I cannot. My disabled son cannot. No one can. No one should really want to. But many of us try to, or else we give up and feel disappointed at ourselves.

We don’t tend to talk about this, though people have recently begun the conversation. We get on with life, finding the funny side, suppressing the sadness. But the land becomes unbalanced, and the tears will out.  Only then does the healing begin.

Damsons

Of storms and miracles

28/10/2013 at 9:11 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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Sunset and fiesta

Wind and lightening came at 5 am. We were prepared. The apples ­– Fiesta and Sunset – had been gathered. Windows and gates were fastened shut.

The raw, elemental power of the wind hit our windows almost full on. The howling sound as it tore through the trees was unrelenting. We couldn’t see, but heard the sound of branches being torn out and raked along the ground by nature’s pruning shears.

In the darkness it’s so easy to become wide-eyed, to lie in bed with teeming thoughts. So I said these most reassuring words: “I am safe, and all is well”.

The “I” in that beautiful mantra stretches beyond the individual, to all who may be in need of reassurance at that time: “We are safe, and all is well”.

And suddenly, all was well. The high-velocity air became a friend once more: a welcome agent of change.

The storm has passed. It’s sweeping eastwards. Meanwhile, the rain is still with us. There is an Atlantic freshness in the air. I notice that my mind feels like a newly ploughed field: well-watered and fertile. All I have to do is plant my questions and the answers will grow.

This One is Special rises to the surface of my thoughts. This book that I am writing is all about my experience of having a child with undiagnosed special needs. He has been called a miracle child. After thStrange, that it’s come to mind in the context of the storm. I know that there will be a good reason for it. Somehow, in a way that I don’t yet see, the two will be connected.

“You want to know about the Miracle Child?” asks my inner voice of guidance. “The Miracle Child is not one person. It is each one of you. Every human being is a miracle child. When you share your story, you remind readers who they really are.”

I ask for clarification. My guidance directs me to a dream I had five years ago, entitled ‘The Angel Labels’. So I retrieve the relevant dream diary from a drawer. My eyes go straight to the following paragraph:

“I woke from that dream understanding the power of words and symbols. I saw that everyone is like a blown glass vessel – like a Christmas decoration – with a hazy, open bit at the top, connecting us with all that is, from whence we are blown.”

“From whence we are blown…” I love that expression. I was born into a Mediterranean storm. I am literally a child of the storm. However, according to my guidance, we are all blown in from the heavens, from the All That Is. So when the storm comes, don’t be afraid. Be glad, because it signifies birth: birth of the new you, the Miracle Child, who is blown in from the Universe, and eternally connected with it.

Today, this moment now, is fresh and sparkling and new. Your life right now is a new life, full of fertile possibilities. Whatever age you think you are, the reality is you are young, and vibrant, and the world is lying before you: fresh, and new and fun.

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.

A walk to the compost

02/08/2013 at 10:30 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments
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Image

It’s time to take the peelings out, to the compost bin at the end of the garden. My body is weary. It’s the end of such a busy day. In the kitchen, I pick up the dark green caddy. It’s full of richly odorous vegetation.

At this moment right now, I have two choices. I can do this task resentfully, feeling my tiredness every step of the way. Or I can choose to enjoy the experience, choose to be fully present and notice my short walk to the compost bin with all my senses.

Today, I choose to be present.

I step barefoot into the yard. Above me, I hear the tall poplars whispering in the breeze. I feel the warmth of stone beneath my feet, a spa-like sensation. Then, I step onto cool lush grass. The soles of my feet are thrilled. It feels like ancient reflexology for body and soul. My tiredness has vanished – so fast!

I walk by small trees laden with young apples, bursting with life and vitality.

Image

Beyond, on the hill, I see cows grazing in the sunlight. Image

I reach the compost bin. I tip the contents of the green kitchen caddy into it: onion and garlic peelings tumble with tomato stalks and marshmallow leaves into the pungent abyss below. The odour of vegetation returning to nature is unmistakable. In a year’s time, it will all be rich, brown earth.

And then I turn back, treading over that lush, cool green grass, my bare feet still revelling in the sensation. I look skywards, at towering clouds just masking the sun. My daughter, as a small child, used to say that unicorns played in the white cloud light of the evening sun. I can and do imagine them there, invisible in the brightness.

Can you see them?

Image

That, then was my walk to the compost. It could have been awful. It was idyllic. The choice was only ever mine to make.

What choices did you make today?

What did you do today?

07/07/2013 at 10:36 pm | Posted in Happiness, Inspiration, Nature, Uncategorized | 11 Comments
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Yarrow“What did you do today?”

I breathed. I lived. I put my bare feet on the earth.

“Yes, but what did you do?”

I’ve just told you what I did.

“What else did you do?”

I had a laugh with ones I love. I ate almonds under a wild cherry tree. I breathed the sweet scent of a pure white rose.

“Sounds nice. Anything else?”

Yes, now that you come to mention it, I gathered yarrow under a cloudless sky. I touched a silver birch whose leaves were shimmering in the breeze. And I watched the red sun go down, while a handsome man held me close…

That’s what I did today. And what about you; what did you do? Don’t tell me the stuff you didn’t really care about. Tell me what mattered to you.

The real meaning of home

28/09/2012 at 3:02 pm | Posted in Happiness, Meditation, Nature, Wellbeing | 12 Comments
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In our distant nomadic past, home was where we settled for the night: it was shelter, a place we lay down – a place of rest. Recently, on the West Coast of Scotland, I came across a perfect example of home at its simplest. This stone outcrop at Sand provided shelter for our ancestors nearly 10,000 years ago. It was their bedroom, and also their kitchen: there is evidence that they collected limpets from the sea shore and boiled them up in water before eating them.

My daughter led me up and onto the roof of the shelter. “There’s a place I’ve got to show you,” she said. “You’re going to love it; it’s really special.” And she was right. On the heather-clad roof there were several broad stones: slabs of natural paving. One, in particular, was a perfect meditation seat. It was easy to sit there, gaze out to sea and  simply let your thoughts drift into that in-between place – the other realm.

When I did so, I found myself talking to the inhabitants of that time. We weren’t using words, exactly, but we were communicating. To my surprise, I found they were admiring my build: the fact that compared with them I looked immensely well fed. I was aware of their lightness and slimness and superb fitness, and found myself wishing that I exercised more.

Self-acceptance

They were surprised at my lack of self-acceptance on this matter. They reminded me of the goodness of Mother Earth, or the Mother as they called her. She provided what we needed, and it made no sense to disparage her gifts. Abundance was a blessing. Each of us was a creation of the Mother. Each of us was divine. How could we criticise ourselves in that context? Criticism was utterly meaningless.

I actually had the sense they were laughing at me, as if I were a child who didn’t quite understand. And yet there was also respect. It was as if they saw wisdom in me, as I saw wisdom in them. And the wisdom wasn’t individual wisdom; it was collective. We all shared knowledge… and this knowledge was infinite awareness.

And then I understood the true meaning of home. It is unconditional love, and it is acceptance. When you are at home – truly at home –  you are loved, you are accepted. During the many times we find ourselves on our own, we can still feel unconditional love and acceptance towards ourselves. And when we are with others – however distant in terms of culture, or the passage of time – we can feel that exact same connection. As I did on that rock.

Down below, a car horn was sounding. I was being summoned back to the 21st Century. I clambered down the heather slopes, sea breeze in my hair, aware that the bliss I was feeling is our natural birthright.

It’s your birthright; it truly is.

This moment now

30/07/2012 at 10:25 am | Posted in Happiness, Meditation, Nature, Uncategorized, Wellbeing | 1 Comment
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This moment now is all we ever have, but it’s enough, because it’s everything.

Have a magical day.

Spirit of the Earth

15/06/2012 at 5:06 pm | Posted in Meditation, Nature, Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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Following on from my last post about the Stone Age and the base chakra, here is a favourite verse, from the Navajo Blessing Way, placed with a photo I took last week in the Dordogne, France, centre of the Stone Age. Enjoy.

Seven ways to strengthen your base chakra

13/06/2012 at 11:05 am | Posted in Happiness, Healing, Meditation, Nature, Uncategorized, Wellbeing | 10 Comments
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A healthy base chakra connects us with nature.

“An excellent course. Just what I was hoping for. A real gift. Many thanks,” emailed a student. “You said that you would think of a solution to getting my base chakra more engaged. Any luck please?”

Defining the base

The base chakra means different things to different people, so I’ll put forward a quick definition here. The chakra system is a useful way of explaining how we interact energetically with ourselves and the world. The idea is that there are energy concentrations – vortexes of spinning energy – at key points in the etheric energy field in which our bodies move and rest.

The base chakra is situated at the base of the spine, and it’s all about how connected we are to the physical world. The base chakra is about our physical survival. It’s about feeling safe, and solid, and definitely here, on this planet.

To achieve a healthy base chakra, it’s good to know how it feels to have a healthy base chakra. To do that, I like to consider Stone Age people. We – our ancestors – lived for tens of thousands of years – far, far longer than modern civilisation has lasted to date – in a sometimes fluctuating, but always very natural environment. There was hardly any sense in those days that we controlled the world. Instead, we saw ourselves very much as part of a huge, intelligent and creative system. We were physically healthy to a degree we can scarcely imagine today.

Here are seven ways to safely balance and engage the base chakra, so that you feel grounded and stronger.

1) Imagine.

To help you imagine the ideal state of primal health, and a superb connection to the physical world, I have put together a simple, free, guided meditation for you to listen to: the Stone Age Meditation. For your audio copy, just fill out the form below, and I will send it to you (I’ll also pop you on my emailing list for future updates).  

Listen to the the Stone Age Meditation several times over a few weeks, and note the difference to your own state of wellbeing.

2) Take pleasure in simple tasks. Make a point every day of spending time mindfully on a simple activity related to your survival. For example, preparing a meal, or maintaining your home.

3) Find a nature totem. Go somewhere natural, and find a stone or a small piece of wood that pleases you. Keep it with you. Whenever you touch it, be aware that you, like the small object you hold, are always connected with the wider natural world.

4) Grow food to eat. Bean sprouts or salad on a window sill are an easy start, and all you need is a few seeds, and some earth. Don’t spend a fortune on a gardening kit – think Stone Age, and use basic stuff that you can find in your locality.

5) Buy whole foods. Consciously seek out groceries that have not been overly processed. Befriend your local farm shop.

6) Walk. Make walking a part of your daily life. Where possible, step outside at the start of the day and walk barefoot over dewy grass. When driving, park half a mile short of your destination, and enjoy the journey on foot.

7) Spend time in nature. Being in green spaces is calming and grounding because it’s our home environment – it’s just that we forget it sometimes. Seek out fresh air. Remember this: you are part of nature, and nature is part of you. You are unique, and special. There has never been anyone quite like you on this planet, and there never will be again. You are part of a whole, interconnecting stream of planetary life – and you have your role to play. Be proud of that role.

Love and blessings to you.

Meditation bluebell

20/04/2012 at 10:36 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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Bluebells in woodlandThis is English bluebell time. The woods around here are thick with lush green leaves topped with with ethereal indigo bells.

This flower thrives in the British Isles. So what does the bluebell say about the English psyche? And, if you are drawn to this beautiful flower, what does it say about you?

The bluebell hangs down almost shyly. There is a quiet, reflective element to it, and yet it’s sociable too – it’s generally found in crowds. Its deep, purple-blue colour is associated with the brow chakra. This, in turn, is linked with intelligence. When the brow chakra is functioning well, the two hemispheres of the brain are in balance, so we can operate both intuitively and analytically.

Signs of the future

Bluebells, or wood hyacinths, are fragrant, beautiful, modest and reflective. Although being modest and reflective are not generally valued in our busy human world, there is the distinct possibility that they will be in the future, as witnessed by the growing interest in mindful meditation in schools and workplaces.

On a practical level, there are signs that the natural wooded world of the bluebells will also increase in England. Oxygen, the main product of woodland, will become truly valued within our lifetimes, along with the food and fuel that woodland can offer. The value of a 3-dimensional landscape will be recognised, and our flat billiard table fields will gradually give way to hanging arboreal farms and gardens.

You can already see this awareness emerging in our collective psyche when you visit a city like London, where hanging gardens increasingly adorn the outsides of buildings and the insides of shops and atria. Instinctively, we are drawn to this aesthetic, because in our not-so-distant past we were truly arboreal. Deep down, we are still woodland people.

Bluebell in woodlandThe best way to understand the bluebell’s message is simply to spend time in bluebell woods. If that is not possible, hold a picture in your mind and meditate upon that. Dwell on the essential aspects of the bluebell – the womb-like hanging bell, and the sublime indigo of the flowers perfectly counterbalanced by the rich green of the leaves. Indigo and green – the colours of the head and heart chakras respectively – meet in this most beautiful of plants, bringing us an awareness of our own creativity, balanced by reason and love.

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