Tag Archives: commitment

Weather – or not?

Here in the UK the country’s population is breathing a collective sigh of relief at the sight, for the second day running, of the sunshine. We might even be daring to imagine that spring is finally here.

It’s been a long, cold winter, on the back of last year’s long wet spring, summer and autumn. We Brits are struggling.

Personally I’ve noticed a much lower mood, and a craving for all sorts of food I really ought to avoid. Comfort eating, someone called it when I mentioned it to some friends yesterday, and we all nodded in earnest agreement. Seasonal Affective Disorder has been long recognised as a medically diagnosed ailment. Rarely before has it been possible to perceive some of the symptoms in the entire population. I’ve even been wondering whether the travel companies have inflated their prices to cash in on Brits desperate to get to the sunshine whatever the cost.

Don’t get me wrong. We Brits love talking about our awful weather. As much as we say it’s awful, we really love it because of the opportunities it affords us to complain. And complaining is one of the primary ways that We Brits engage with one another. In fact a few years ago I read a book by a social anthropologist named Kate someone who asserted that in order to be socially acceptable We Brits are obliged to agree with one another’s weather-based exchanges and observations. Even if the sun is shining gloriously, if someone says to a Brit “there’s a chilly wind though isn’t there?” We are honour-bound to agree. Woe betide anyone to dispute at this juncture the chilly wind in favour of the glorious sunshine. You couldn’t possibly say “Actually I hadn’t noticed the wind – I was too busy enjoying the sunshine.” You’d be ostracised.

But despite all this I think our relationship with the weather has gone a step too far this past 12 months. We’ve moved on from despising the weather just for the sake of social engagement, and have been stuck with weather so despicable that we’ve partially abandoned interaction altogether.

And now the sun’s out and, as one of my recent journaling workshop participants pointed out, we can finally see shadows. It’s wonderful to rediscover light and shade instead of just constantly being surrounded by gloom.

So today I’ve made a special commitment to make the most of the sun, and to be grateful for every opportunity to soak it up. For there’s another thing We Brits are fond of saying when the sun shines: “There’s nowhere like this country when the weather’s nice.” Just don’t mention the chilly wind.


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Filed under Mood Management, Uncategorized

How to use our journals to get into action this festive season

At 11.11 am on Friday 21 December 2012, the leader of the Druids, King Arthur Pendragon, made his Winter Solstice speech at Stonehenge, a little further south of where I live in Wiltshire, welcoming in a new cosmic era of peace, care and compassion, and calling for an end to suffering and greed.

The end of the world hasn’t come to pass. Personally I didn’t think it would. But, not unlike the Druids’ message, I am choosing to view this media-hyped Winter Solstice as a new opportunity, a time of new intentions, commitments and change.

And my journal is where I am devising the change I want to see in the world. However devising sounds like I’m going through a very deliberate process of planning and manipulating my thoughts and ideas about how I want life to be, then writing down a to do list or project plan of what I must achieve in 2013.

This would not be an accurate description of the process. It would be altogether too premeditated, too forced and analytical, too “left-brain”.

Rather I am allowing myself to write in response to what is happening in the world, and I’m being present to the emotions and feelings that real life events are evoking in me. What I find are ideas about how to do things differently, new creative ways to celebrate Christmas, and a quiet conviction that whatever needs to happen will present itself as the obvious next step. It’s an entirely different feeling from the concerted “I must be the change I want to see in the world” mindset. It’s much gentler, much more in the moment, and much more authentic.

One of the ideas that has most inspired me this festive season is the notion of “living well in your place.” So instead of sending Christmas cards this year I have chosen to hand out small parcels of Quality Street choccies to all my neighbours, complete with a folded note giving our phone number, and a thank you to one and all for being my neighbour. Although we have lived in our 25-home street for twelve years, there are some families that I have never met, and I suddenly wanted desperately to change that.

It was whilst writing about my current perceptions in my journal that this idea came to me. It was a moment of “clunk” when inspiration hits and you feel compelled into action. And it was such a simple idea that I can’t believe it had never before occured to me. My daughter and I walked round in the rain and knocked on everyone’s door, handed out the chocolates and our best wishes for Christmas, and basked in the smiles we received. It was truly heart-warming, and confirmed the spirit of Christmas for me and my little girl.

That’s how our journals can help us get into real, genuine and authentic action. And that’s how we can change the world.

With every good wish for the festive season.

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Filed under Journal Writing, Reflective Writing Practice

Journaling in the face of tragedy

Six days since Sandy Hook.

Throughout the week my mind has periodically reached across to Connecticut to be with the grieving families – the Mums, Dads, brothers, sisters, relatives and friends. Periodically I have felt my own tears fall at the horror of what has happened – the desolation and the unimaginable grief and pain being suffered.

But I’m daring to imagine it. To put myself in the shoes of those who have been so dreadfully affected. To reach out with my thoughts and to say “I hear you, I feel you, I am so sorry, and I promise to tread on with love and conscious awareness in memory of all those that lost their lives, especially the children , so vibrant, innocent and full of promise.”

And I’m doing this in my journal, in order to bear witness, to acknowledge the precariousness of life, its preciousness. Our journals are where we can extend our thoughts to those who are hurting; where we can name and own our own vulnerability, and pledge our intentions and commitments in the name of the victims.

Don’t talk about the end of the world this Winter Solstice. Remember that for 27 families in Newtown this has already happened. And it’s happening all over the world too. In Syria, in Palestine, in Pakistan. Every day the world ends for someone as they lose their most precious loved one to violence, war, disease or poverty. Three out of four of these killers are man-made, and are the result of people not bearing witness, not reaching out with compassion nor admitting and sharing our vulnerability and our precariousness.

This Winter Solstice let’s use our journals to apply ourselves to the particular reality of the last days, months and years of suffering that we have escaped while others haven’t.  Let’s remind ourselves what it is to be grateful, and how we must treat others the way we would like to be treated ourselves. Let’s individually and collectively reflect on what we each might do. And let our shared appalled reaction spur us into making a new resolution for ourselves – to live well in our place, and to turn the horror into compassionate action for those people on our doorsteps.

The world will not come to an end this Winter Solstice. But let’s hope something does. Let’s hope it’s our tendency to sleep-walk through life without paying attention to what’s really needed, nor to the part we each can play.

RIP Sandy Hook victims.


Filed under Current Affairs, Journal Writing

Why I hate the question ‘What’s your goal?’

Well, hate is probably too strong a word. But the goal question really bugs me. I have my excuses, for example: I’m great at starting things off, not too great at finishing them; I’m great at moving my own goalposts so things could go on forever (if I had the stamina) or (more likely) just get abandoned; I’m impatient; I like the thrill of new things and I get a bad attack of the gremlins when things are a couple of months old.

There are other reasons why goals and I don’t get on. I don’t like football and I especially don’t like how football commentators scream goooooal when somebody scores. It elongates a word I don’t like very much and it makes a lot of noise.

What’s more, it occurs to me that whenever we set ourselves a goal we’re focussing hard on something that is outside us. Something far in the future or in a completely different physical place from where we are right now. It feels disconnected from us, and it takes a lot of energy and resources to keep it in focus and move towards it consistently. Beware, should you finally reach it, that it isn’t a mirage.

So here’s my problem. Goals tend to shift us out of Now, the present moment, the only place we can live. Instead they thrust us into anxiety and stress about what might or might not be. We become rigid and unyielding, telling ourselves we’re making sacrifices when really we’re missing opportunities. Whether or not we achieve our goals has become for many a much more important question than how we are living our life.

‘Surely nothing would get done if noone had a goal?’ I hear you say. It’s a valid point. But let’s stop claiming goals willy-nilly without properly understanding how committed we are to achieve them, or whether we truly intend to achieve them.

I’m no saint. I’ve got as much anxiety and stress as the next person and I’m constantly reflecting on how to live with greater ease. It’s just that I’m beginning to understand what’s helpful and what’s not.

And goals without an appreciation of real intentions and commitment ain’t.

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Filed under Self-Awareness