Category Archives: Reflection

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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Filed under inspiration, Reflection, Seasons;

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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Filed under Philosophy, Poetry, Reflection, review, Uncategorized

Journaling for entrepreneurs

Last week I presented a 20 minute talk about journal writing to a group of 15 small business owners at a networking breakfast. They’re a great bunch with whom I network on a regular basis, and as they can be quite lively I was curious to see how they would respond to some quiet time to write reflectively.

Having explained a little bit about the power of journaling I then led them through 4 carefully selected journaling prompts – to break them in gently!

I was thrilled that for 10 whole minutes the whole group – most of whom were not accustomed to this type of activity – sat and wrote. The sense of mindful calm that descended upon the room was luscious – and something that I have become very familiar with, and fond of, when encouraging groups of people to reflect together.

In the spirit of reviewing and setting goals and intentions for the New Year, the prompts I suggested were:

I am grateful for..

It is a time of…

My accomplishments this week have been…

Next week I promise myself…

After the session there were a number of questions and comments, and a real sense that beginning the day mindfully was a positive thing.

I hope that more business owners will give journaling a try to gain perspective, test out ideas and tap into their inner wisdom, creativity and resourcefulness. After all this is the true spirit of the entrepreneur.

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Metamorphosis through art and journaling

It’s always a huge privilege to talk to artists about their work. I find it brings their creations to life for me in a way I don’t know that I’d get just by viewing their work in a gallery. I love to understand their process, the questions they begin with, the choices they make and how these present themselves.

Creating art is vital to our humanity, though often in our utilitarian, materialistic worldview it is more convenient, or more practical, to believe otherwise. However I am a fan of art and artists.

As a journal writer I like to reflect on what art has given me whenever I have encountered it. A couple of weeks ago I enjoyed a fabulous conversation with Swindon-based multi-media artist Jill Carter. Her collection Curious Narratives contains drawings, found items, photographs, stitched dolls, journals and items to wear, chronicling her time travelling in Italy, in search of the mythical Sybils, the prophetic women of the Classical world.

The Sybils

Jill’s Sybils, depicted here in pen and ink, are left to right a doll, a healer and a donor. It feels like these are symbols of her process and motivation.

I am intrigued by what dolls, and stitching, mean to Jill. Both are central to her work. Jill tells me that dolls signify our childlike creativity and expression, but she also considers them to be the story keepers, representing ritual and spiritual healing, like religious icons.

After working in social settings Jill describes feeling overwhelmed by people’s stories and how she felt herself being drawn to stitching dolls. I wonder whether this is about containment, holding in that which we cannot process or resolve. It’s like praying, transferring our pain onto an inanimate approximation of ourselves, in the hope of transformation. And the thought occurs to me that this could be why some people find dolls creepy – the artificial, frozen features are the repositories of unidentified fear and suffering.

After the stitching comes the healing. This feels like integration, and is akin for me to journaling. Once we are healed, once we have that clarity, then we can give. It is a metamorphosis of sorts.

Where are you on the journey from stitching to giving? How does your journal and your process help you heal?

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Filed under Art, Creative process, Journal Writing, Reflection