Wellbeing notes: Putting the fab into February

01/02/2023 at 9:07 am | Posted in Wellbeing notes | Leave a comment
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February can be a challenge. Winter is hard, and in the Northern Hemisphere we’ve already slogged through two months of it. We’ve had illness, snow, and floods. We’ve had storms, and the odd power cut. As I look out of my study window and into the garden, all I can see are bare trees and endless mud.

So how on earth can we start to feel better in February? Here are some ideas…

Bathe in bliss

February is named after an ancient Roman festival of purification. The original version involved making offerings and sacrifices. In the 21st Century, the month becomes an invitation to practise self-care. For example, you might enjoy a cleansing, candlelit bath, with salts. Adding a few drops of lavender oil fits in with the theme of wellbeing. 

Go on a bud walk

The best thing about the month before spring is seeing signs of new life. A country walk may take you to snowdrops, and green shoots that will soon explode into a yellow froth of daffodils. And if we simply look upwards, we may spot the first soft brushes of blossom against a cool, clear sky.

Be kind in unexpected ways

Random Acts of Kindness Week runs from 12th to 18th February this year. Write a note of appreciation, or phone a friend or relative. Give a compliment or a bunch of flowers to a perfect stranger. Kindness benefits everyone, and it all starts with a good deed.

Wellbeing notes: rhyming affirmations

04/01/2023 at 11:56 am | Posted in Wellbeing | 2 Comments
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Perhaps every thought we have – especially the ones we think often, or fervently – has the potential to come true. Hence the expression, ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’. I do believe that humans are hugely creative beings, in ways we scarcely understand. If every thought is a possible manifestation, it makes sense to choose at least some of our thoughts wisely. And the very best way I know of doing that is through rhyming affirmations.

Verses that rhyme have a habit of staying in our minds longer. We may find ourselves remembering them without even trying. They become a mantra that uplifts, in a way that’s reminiscent of comforting childhood rhymes.

I regularly write my own, personal rhyming affirmations, recording them with pen and ink in a journal. They’re not high art – just verses that stick in the mind. Verses that I repeat slowly, and mindfully. Verses that leave me feeling calmer, and happier. If you are at all inclined, I encourage you, today or tomorrow, to come up with a rhyming affirmation for yourself. It can be as simple as two lines that rhyme. Put pen to paper, or finger to phone, and play a little. And remember, no one is judging your creation!

The following rhyming affirmation is one I wrote last year. It’s a bit longer – four verses in total. Yet I have found this one particularly easy to remember, and repeating it slowly never fails to ramp up the levels of joy in my day. It reminds me that anything is possible, and that life – not just in some mythical future, but right now – is filled with a wonderful magic.

I believe

I believe in deeds of kindness

and presents wrapped in love

I believe that people can connect

with intervention from above

~~~

I believe in our creations

and doses of good luck

I believe that fortune flourishes

and blocks can get unstuck

~~~

I believe in my good health

and my body being able

I believe in friends who help,

who can inspire and enable

~~~

I believe in gifts from God

and moments of laughter

I believe, above all, in love

and happy ever after

Wellbeing notes: Farewell, lovely meditations

01/12/2022 at 8:19 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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For the past 14 years I’ve hosted weekly meditation groups. They’ve brought me masses of pleasure, as I hope they have for countless attendees. But we’re not built to do the same thing all our lives, and this month the doors will close for the last time on our peaceful meetings. To mark the moment, I thought I’d include some memories here, with thanks to all the fabulous souls who participated…

Meditation is not always quiet. The biggest secret about our sessions were that they were a 50/50 mix of chat and silence. The chat always had a theme – and sometimes that theme required a little noise. So let’s hear it for Trevor on the accordion and Kerstie on the Native American flute, not to mention the noisy swarm of bees that once perched on the wild cherry tree outside. 

Meditators came from far and wide. We shared quiet times with guests from all over the world. Our youngest meditator was a very new baby. Our furriest attendee was a cat. Our most surprised visitor was the courier who tried to deliver to a room full of people sitting with their eyes closed – at least we weren’t chanting!

Those who meditate are creative – maybe the practice of stilling the mind helps ideas to flow. We have shared paintings, pottery, screen-printing, poetry, glasswork, and many other beautiful creations.

Meditation doesn’t have to take place in one room. During the pandemic, we went online. Other years we enjoyed the local countryside, including sacred Avebury, and neighbouring Somerset. The truth, as we discovered, is that peace, calm and kindness can flourish wherever we choose. And along the way, enduring friendships are made.

Wellbeing notes: Power of perseverance

01/10/2022 at 2:47 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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My latest book – first novel – is written and it’s time to see which literary agents and/or publishers might be interested. Fellow writers confirms that this can be A Hard Slog, involving many letters and accompanying documents. In a way, the process is like applying for a job, which can seem like a thankless task at times. So, for all those who are trying to make something happen, here is my personal checklist that may help you to persevere. 

  1. Keep on keeping on. Be persistent. Set an achievable weekly goal and do your very best to keep to it. I’ve resolved to have seven queries out at any one time. And with each one I try my best to understand the recipient.
  2. Tread lightly. If the task is feeling burdensome, step away for a while. Do something completely different. Reconnect with your joy. Imagine how wonderful you will feel when you achieve what you have set out to do.
  3. Review from time to time. Does your goal still resonate for you? Are you still happy that you’re on the right path, or do you wish to adjust your goal to something that feels more ‘you’?
  4. Believe in yourself and trust in a positive outcome. Remember that you have a wonderful and unique blend of qualities. No one does ‘you’ better than you. 

And when you finally reach your goal… celebrate and share the news!

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: a question of perspective

01/05/2022 at 5:18 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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In the late spring, some years ago, a new telegraph pole was put up in a nearby field. At first, everyone thought the pole was a blot on the landscape. “Shame that beautiful view’s been spoiled by the pole,” we all said. But one day a practical friend visited. She pointed out that the pole formed only a tiny part of the view. So why were we obsessing about that, when there were acres and acres of countryside to enjoy? 

Ever since, I’ve been careful to keep any blots in perspective – not just in nature, but in my personal life too. When crisis happens – and it does, because that is the way of things – a good exercise is to list the items in our lives that continue to be beautiful, useful and enriching. If we are lucky, we have plumbing, housing, warmth, food and income. And if we are luckier, we have many people whom we like, or maybe love.

Once we remember all these good things, the blot, whatever it may be, is put into perspective. We can possibly go one step further and say that everything – including that benighted telegraph pole – is serving some purpose. And we might begin to accept that the blots, too, have their place.

Metaphorically, a blot is any flaw that we study – that grows larger in our imagination. Yet when we walk away, the blot shrinks – and the landscape is revealed as infinite.

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: Like calls to like

01/03/2022 at 10:00 am | Posted in Inspiration, Uncategorized, Wellbeing | Leave a comment
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A male woodpecker lives in my garden. Every morning he goes to the wild cherry tree and drills against the trunk, using his beak to beat a loud tattoo. He drums away, then flies to the uppermost branch. From there, he looks all around, searching the landscape for incoming female woodpeckers – potential mates. Then, he goes back to drilling again. Sometimes he flutters down to the ground for a tasty insect, or heads to the bird feeder, where his relative size makes him one of the dominant diners. He gets all the best treats, the ones that the bossy squirrels don’t manage to purloin.

Day after day the woodpecker repeats his routine. Utterly dedicated to the task, he embodies the old saying, ‘Like calls to like’. If there’s a female within half a mile, she will hear him. 

The woodpecker can teach us a wonderful principle for life: be who you are, and speak that truth clearly. Kindred spirits will hear your call. The woodpecker has never attempted to be some other, more colourful bird, like a jay or a parakeet or even a peacock. He is simply his own glorious self – surely the best way to attract the right mate for him.

When we are true to ourselves, we are also, I believe, more likely to respect other people’s differences. Those differences make the world a fascinating and beautiful place.

So my question for you is this: what do you choose to broadcast to the world today?

Photo: Unsplash

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?

Wellbeing notes: This is the colour for strength and new beginnings

01/01/2022 at 10:12 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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We’ve been focusing on colours in my Thursday meditation group – each week, a different band of the rainbow. We began with red. Reasons to love red include: it’s the bright hue of sumptuous crystals such as garnet and ruby. It’s the rich velvet of crimson rose petals, and the warming taste of mulled wine. It’s the juicy goodness of summer strawberries and the vivid splash of winter rosehips.

In esoteric teachings red is linked with the base chakra, that place at the base of the human spine that is associated with the energies of survival and the fundamental, blood-and-marrow building blocks of life. A physically healthy, balanced, grounded individual can be said to have a well-functioning base chakra. 

One friend remembers buying a red car at a time of personal upheaval. “I would never normally choose such a bright colour, but it was so jaunty and fun,” she explains. “Driving my red car gave me confidence. It was what I needed as I entered a new chapter in my life.”

Her experience resonates with me. Newly single, after a relationship that lasted for decades, I have noticed that I currently love wearing warm, bright colours, including plenty of red. I have treated myself to a crimson, velvet coat which is, for me at this time, the definition of gorgeousness. Wearing red gives me a sense of confidence, an extra boost of energy, and the wellbeing effect is also helping my creative writing to flow. 

I invite you to consider the role of red in your life. The human world is going through unprecedented upheaval. Everyone is affected in varying ways and, honestly, the trials are likely to continue for some time. Maybe we can’t cure society’s ills this month, or even next, but we can choose to go into the future boldly and brightly. Wear red for courage. I dare you.

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