Category Archives: Reflection

How do you feel about reunions?

Whether school, college or university – how do you really feel about reunions?

I’ve just returned from the 30 year reunion of my college year. It was an extraordinary weekend.

Most of us have a morbid fascination with how our contemporaries might have aged in comparison with us. Many of us are intrigued to know how life has treated our peers. Some of us would run a mile in the opposite direction rather than find out. A handful are terrified of the prospect that few have achieved very much at all.

Inevitably over the years since graduating I’ve discovered that while I’ve been raising a family and working on my writing craft many others from my college cohort have been working on high-powered careers. Ten years ago I found the comparisons cringe-worthy, almost shameful, as my ego tried to taunt me about how little I had to show for my education.

But as we enter our fifth decade there is a different feeling. An awareness of our mortality perhaps. A realisation that for all the striving we can neither take our success with us, nor hand it on to anyone else.

Now my contemporaries and I are more open, more honest, more prepared to admit our mistakes, and more eager to know what else life has to offer other than climbing to the top of the corporate ladder and professional tree. It seems like we are becoming far more wise than clever.

At this reunion I’m happy to say I felt much more comfortable in my own skin. I learned that while others have become lawyers and bankers and headteachers and chief executives I have become myself. And that felt good.

Regardless of whether or not a school or college reunion is a possibility in your life, it’s a useful exercise to reflect in your journal on how you might bring people you used to know up-to-date on what, or who, you’ve become.

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November 12, 2018 · 2:42 pm

Reflecting on writing

There’s reflective writing – and then there’s reflecting on writing.

Clearly these are not the same. The first is an action in full flow, the second is the pause before or after.

I’m not really into navel-gazing. I get impatient with myself when I spend too long ruminating. I’ve learned to judge when I’ve done enough and when I need to come back down to earth.

Nevertheless there is a tonne of value in understanding why writing is so powerful. Reflecting on writing is a pause worth making.

Firstly rather than wait to be inspired to write, try writing to be inspired. Like yoga, the discipline to turn up to the mat or to the page is the only step. Then you can let the practice take over.

Reflective writing is about surrender to the quieter voice that guides us. Maybe you call it your higher self or your inner being or your sub-conscious. Whatever it is that takes over when we allow it to can reveal to us a whole depth of wisdom and insight we never realised we had access to.

And if we can begin to plumb those depths then we can come to recognise our own truth and authenticity. We each have our individual thread of integrity that runs through us like the writing through a stick of candy rock. Reviewing our journals over time often shows us the same messages and impulses, whether or not we ever chose to heed them.

Finally reflective writing can give us the springboard to action, to taking the next right step for us. Crucially it can illuminate our place in the world, giving us the guidance on how best to contribute our unique gifts to others in a way that feels so easy, because it’s so natural.

So reflecting on writing I am grateful for the inspiration, the discipline, the wisdom, truth, authenticity, integrity, action and guidance that it offers, ensures, and delivers.

What’s not to love?

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Balancing light and dark

Autumn is here in the northern hemisphere. Mabon to the pagans.

We have arrived at the moment of the year where night and day are poised in equilibrium – and from where night will gradually encroach more and more upon our waking hours.

Nature provides us with so many metaphors at this time of the year. Produce is plentiful so we can celebrate abundance. The trees shedding their leaves show us how to release what is no longer needed and simplify our life. And as the nights draw in and we go within we have time to reflect on our own light in the darkness.

It’s a rich time.

So whether you celebrate or not at this point of the year you can always think about whether you are typically ‘light’ or ‘dark’.

Are your actions, beliefs and thought patterns based in love or fear? How does the darkness serve you? And how can you use the season for inspiration?

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To lead or to follow?

As you dance through life are you aware of whether you tend to lead or follow? What’s the distinction for you? How do you know you are leading or following? How does it feel?

Yesterday I danced 5 Rhythms. It was a baking hot afternoon; the sweat was pouring and the beats were smoking.

And in the middle of it all I found myself dancing with another. We smiled. We felt the joy in our dance. I was dancing. She was dancing. We were dancing with each other. Mirroring. Leading and following.

We didn’t realise until later that we were sharing the lead. Sometimes her; sometimes me. It was fluid. There were no edges to it. We didn’t have to make a decision. It just happened. And it felt like fun. Playful and light.

And then we had to choose to lead or to follow, one or the other.

First I led.

It felt pressurised. I felt responsible. I needed to build her trust to follow, to feel safe. I felt bad when she resisted. Though I did shield her from two collisions, taking the full force of them myself!

But when she allowed herself to move according to my lead it felt great – as long as she was smiling. If it felt like I was forcing her I felt clumsy and sorry.

Next it was my turn to follow.

This felt easier for me. I was very comfortable in my trust. She had a great way of steering me away from danger – grabbing my index fingers and pulling! I felt safe.

However later she told me that sometimes I would want to go my own way, that I seemed determined to go in a particular direction. And like a good leader she allowed me my freedom.

How we dance is how we live, how we conduct ourselves. Yesterday I learned that whether leading or following the art is in allowing; and remembering that we are both.

 

 

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It’s a jungle out there

“Il faut cultiver votre propre jardin” roughly translated “You must tend to your own garden” is a maxim I learned from Voltaire during my French degree – and one which has prodded me from the other side of my mental fence throughout my life.

I take it to mean Mind your own business, Look after your own, Find and maintain your own places of rest, retreat and beauty, or Take personal responsibility for your own growth.

But as spring creeps uncharacteristically upon us, rather than doing its usual bursting into life thing, my mind is taking a more literal meaning.

Because it really is time to clear and weed and tend and nurture the garden outside my door.

The therapeutic effects of gardening are well known. The joy that comes from a bright border or a sumptuous setting of healthy plants is hard to beat.

So why have I resisted creating this in my own garden for so long?

If my real garden were a metaphor for my life it would convey a pretty chaotic and neglected picture: weeds, unkempt off-shoots, plants popping up where they weren’t intended, including a tree that literally walked, snook under the fence, from next door.

Sometimes I imagine the neighbours sniffing at the evidence of my non-existent garden routine. I can hear them muttering about how my garden besmirches the fineness of the surrounding suburban gardens, shimmering in smugness.

It’s tempting to beat myself up.

Yet in my kinder moments I persuade myself that manicured control can be less bountiful than untended wildness. I imagine that my garden has become a gentle harbour in the storm of gardening competitiveness; where happy primroses erupt in the lawn, where hedgehogs and bumble bees hibernate under discarded pots and where trees trek for shelter. Despite its messy outward appearance, there is great opportunity here for unexpected life, joy, and sustenance.

I suppose part of tending to your own garden includes a sense that you have to tend it in your own way and your own time. And allowing this means the whole undertaking can become more joyful. Now rather than closing the door on the jungle outside I’m finding ways to join the crazy party!

How’s your garden a metaphor for your experience?

 

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Too much, not enough or just right?

I had a sleepless night. Felt like I had both nothing and everything on my mind. Weird.

There’s a song by REM (appropriately named band given last night’s wakefulness) featuring the line “Oh no I’ve said too much – I haven’t said enough”. I find it’s a lyric that describes a frequent feeling of mine.

The REM song is called ‘Losing my Religion’. Its lyricist Michael Stipe claims it’s about romantic expression. To me it reflects a particular type of existential angst. A struggle between love and fear. Am I too much? Or am I not enough? Or who the hell am I anyway?

As I drove home from the school run this morning Petroc Trelawney on Radio 3 declared that today is 10 613 days since the Berlin Wall was broken; a barrier that stood for 10 613 days; built from fear, torn down from love.

It’s a statistic that made me reflect suddenly on what has happened in my life since then. A degree, a marriage, children, the dot com boom, three different addresses, bereavement, career change, a book published, lots of new friends made, as well as lots of love, quite a few fears and many, many, many hot dinners – some of which have been quite frightening in themselves. I’ve probably torn down a few walls of my own too.

I don’t really think I can judge whether this has been enough or too much. Probably best to say it’s been just right. That love has triumphed often over fear. And there’s always more to look forward to.

If you are minded take ten minutes to run the mental movie of your life over the past 10613 days. What has occurred in your life? What has been just right about it? And what more is to come?

 

 

 

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Deepening conversations

Yesterday I had the privilege to attend a lecture given by poet-philosopher David Whyte at the Ashmolean Museum. I’ve been dimly aware of Whyte’s work for a number of years, but my interest intensified last April during a poetry retreat on Iona in the Scottish Hebrides.

Sure enough, and true to the Law of Attraction, having ignited my awareness, I then began ‘seeing’ David everywhere. When the ad popped up on my Facebook feed about the talk he was giving in Oxford I made my reservation immediately.

For three whole hours yesterday afternoon I was caught in a spell of contemplation and appreciation. Conversations are fundamentally the way we engage in the world, and with ourselves, so learning how to deepen them, and how to interrupt the same old narratives of our lives which don’t always serve us, was the most wonderful gift for a chilly Friday in January.

David’s new book is titled “A Timeless Way: The Art and Practice of Deepening Conversations”. Although not yet ready for publication he explained that it sets out six steps to effect change in our existing conversations – and hence in our experience.

Three hours was not enough to go through every step. But we were able to explore the power of just a couple of them – interspersed with and enhanced by David’s resonant, insistent poetry recitals and profound, amusing stories. It was a wonderful and nourishing experience.

The practice of conversing with ourselves is of course one which we undertake in our journals. However, the quality of the conversation we maintain may not always be of service to us. We all fall into the trap of repeating thoughts and beliefs which persuade us that we, and the world, are a certain way, denying ourselves the creative certainty of living a different kind of life.

David’s work gives us a template to shift and deepen our perceptions and our understanding, gently challenging us to consider what are the conversations we need to stop having, and what is our relationship to the unknown.

As I learned yesterday, turning our sincere attention to these questions for even a short time initiates a collective easing open of hearts and minds. The effect was both palpable and magical.

David Whyte’s Timeless Way

Sincere thanks to Paul and Marie of The Beyond Partnership for facilitating the event.

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