Archives For Leisure activities

This week

November 13, 2016
Autumnal walk

Autumnal walk

It’s been a challenging week for so many people in big and small ways. We’re all struggling to find our place in a rapidly changing and uncertain world. This is a good poem to return to again and again.

Desiderate

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others,
even to the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
By Max Ehrmann

It’s Saturday 14 June and my husband is looking after our son. I am meeting up with a longstanding friend and very much looking forward to it. It’s one of the highlights of the summer where we do something arty, eat some nice food and share about our lives. We are professional women who are wives and mothers too. We were born in the same year and married one day apart.

This year we’re attending the Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition. Last year we saw The Amen Corner at The National Theatre, South Bank with Marianne Jean-Baptiste and a few years ago it was the Anish Kapoor exhibition. With her art and my therapy training we enjoy interpreting what is presented: the creative skills, the subject choice, what we imagine the artist is trying to say and how it makes us feel. It’s great to keep adding layers and affect each other’s perspective and be moved by our experience. We catch up too on being mums, about keeping boundaries, modeling how to be and our developing children.

We share our challenges and receive a fresh viewpoint from the other. Eventually after 2 hours in the exhibition and a 2- hour lunch we make our way down Piccadilly towards the tube. As promising writers – I have authored two books and she is completing a book on healing – we stop at Waterstones to browse.

Soon after leaving the shop a familiar looking tall black man walks past rather quickly. He is wearing glasses, a hat, headphones, shorts, trainers-type footwear and a Pharrell-style cardigan. Could this really be Samuel L Jackson of the Hollywood movies? I check it out with her but she does not know. Encouraged by her I speed up to find out. Just then another black man and I notice that we are both trying to follow the tall man. He confirms excitedly to me that it is Samuel. My friend is falling behind and encouraging me to continue whilst Samuel is going further away. I hesitate as am not sure if I should continue to follow him and for what purpose. I am not an agent, I don’t have a script and he probably won’t want to be interviewed for my local magazine. What will I say? “I’ve seen a few of your films.” These thoughts rush by.

We arrive at Piccadilly tube and my friend and I hug goodbye whilst Samuel dives into Lillywhites. This is not how our meet-ups usually end but there is a distracting moving target. Despite all the deep conversation I turn out to be as fickle as the next person. She leaves for her long train journey back to her family. I consider doing the same but find myself in the shop trying to make eye contact with Mr. Jackson.

He seems to look both through and around me with a determined focused expression on his face. I feel that if I get any closer he’ll have me in some martial arts brace and see it as self-defence. I am disappointed with the outcome and a little bit “how dare you ignore me”. I know I am a good person but I am not sure why I am trying to get his attention. What’s the point of a little star-dust, if that is what I seek?

Of course I don’t know him and he doesn’t know me. There are lots of people on the street watching the street dancers and performers. Why is he the only person I want to meet? If I were him I might easily do the same thing – dress ordinarily and try to walkabout like a regular person. The alternative is to have an entourage, be on show and feel unable to walk about freely.

He owes me nothing. If I pay to see his movie then I have the pleasure of seeing the movie. That’s the end of the contract. And yet still I stand outside the shop trying to decide whether to wait for a while or return home to my family and be with the people who are part of my real life.

Ten minutes later he comes out and I try to get a picture with my phone. In a flash I could see the back of his head as he walks away from me. I decide that this is the end of any encounter. It’s time to forget this and return to being present to my environment: a lovely Saturday in the summer filled with friendship, art, good food, books and now street performers and people from all over the world. I enjoy a leisurely walk to Trafalgar Square arriving near the end of a free Christian concert then getting on a train to begin the journey home. A
pleasant and eventful Saturday in London.

 Quiet spaces

It is important to have time to reflect on our life, the journey we are on and where we are heading.  It is about stopping and enjoying the moment.

Many people are embracing the idea of going slow, which is an antidote to all the rushing around and multitasking that many of us try to do.  Since starting a mindfulness course I am finding it more difficult to multitask and that feels like a good thing.

I do not believe that human beings are designed to go as fast as we are trying to.  We are presented with hundreds of choices every day from emails, posters, supermarkets, outfits and travel options to name but a few.  I am like every one else – trying to absorb everything so that I can make the best choice.  Sometimes it simply is not worth the effort and takes up valuable down time.

Another way of slowing down is to engage in the practice of meditation (or prayer).  Many great thinkers and spiritual people find this a rewarding experience.  Although we think of meditation in the context of Buddhism I believe Christians and other faiths also have a place for meditation in their belief systems.  It is also possible to meditate and not belong to any faith group.  There are lots of resources and centres that can tell you more about the practice and benefits of meditation.  ‘Your sacred space is where you can find yourself again and again.’ Joseph CampbellI do know that it helps us to slow down and find peace within ourselves and we can then carry this into the world through our daily encounters.  I do not meditate as regularly as I would like but I am doing more of it and I do know that whenever I do I am never disappointed.

So we need to give ourselves time for being rather than only doing.  I think many of us can get caught up in the need to tell others what we did on the weekend, a bank holiday, for our birthday or an anniversary.  What will our friends say if we told them we spent the weekend listening to music, writing poetry or meditating?  Are we always busy so we don’t appear boring?    If we don’t give ourselves time to reflect how do we know why we are doing what we are doing?  I think that quiet times help us on our quest to a fulfilling life that connects to our values.

Throughout this I am also encouraging us to ask questions of ourselves, and those in our life.  It is not good to accept what others tell us we should be doing.  Socrates says that ‘the unexamined life is not worth living’. This whole book is dedicated to asking questions of ourselves and then honestly seeking out the answers.  This seeking is what makes our life uniquely ours and offers vitality, authenticity and genuine freedom.

What do you think?

 

Slowing down

During my recent holidays I found myself becoming more aware of my shifting perspectives in a variety of nuanced ways.  Reflecting on this I could feel myself letting go of certain perspectives and giving others more space in my consciousness.

So although I was worried about children ruining their hearing by standing near to loudspeakers I needed to let go of that because I could not stop it.  On the other hand it took a while to remember how friendly people are and to share greetings with strangers on the buses.

This may only be temporary but it was a good opportunity to shake things up and feel open to new possibilities.  Many people do this all the time whilst some are expecting their holiday locations to provide them with all that they left at home.  How flexible are you when on holiday away from home?So, what was I letting go of and what was I embracing?

Letting go of:

Fun at the fringe

  • Options for the day
  • Work tasks
  • Working and living environments
  • Regular ‘to do’ activities
  • Sources for news and information
  • Familiar viewpoints

Embracing:

  • New daily activities and routines
  • Different choices
  • More reflective time
  • Different environment
  • Having less control
  • Less familiar viewpoints
  • New ways of implementing familiar activities

I am sure there is nothing new here but by consuming less social media I had more time to connect to my awareness in my changing environment. This ranged from different conversation styles to modes of transport to bedtime routines.

Having returned to the familiar environment known as home there is time to reflect on this and what changes might be helpful.  Life feels like a continuous opportunity to fine tune our living, being and doing to be the happiest and most fulfilled we can be.    Often times having a break can help us see what we do well and what we do less well.  Some people avoid breaking away from their daily environment or routines because it scares them so much.

What do you think?  Have you made any changes to your living as a result of a recent break?

Orbit and Olympic stadium

I remember being excited as the LONDON 2012 games approached but I wasn’t exactly sure why that was.  Could I sense the impending flow of competitiveness, national pride, personal stories of triumph and family sacrifices?  Or was I simply fed up with the negativity of naysayers and wanted to support the hardworking people trying to organise a global event?

Whether you were supporting a sport, a national team, or none in particular, you could not help but be moved by the Olympians and Paralympians.  We have seen so many people demonstrate what hard work, good coaching, focus and commitment can do.  We have become so cynical that it took a while to engage our attention.

There is so much to admire.    They encourage us to take time to explore our talents, work to get better at what we’re good at, see competition as a way to bring out the best in us, collaborate with others when we can for a team performance, set goals and work towards these, share the struggle, accept our individuality, try to overcome adversity and keep an eye on the rest of the world to give us perspective.  A wonderful reminder of what our fellow human beings are capable of.  This could help to motivate us to keep going through our own challenges and disappointments.  Many participants vowed to perform better in London than they did in Beijing and others are planning to improve for Rio; we have our own performance timelines to work towards.   We don’t need to do their best, just ours.

At the Paralympics wheelchair basketball final

I was lucky enough to get tickets for both Olympic and Paralympic events and able to absorb the atmosphere first hand. It is simply incredible to see people performing at their best and being part of the elite group in their field.  When else do we get the best in the world and have them compete to find the best of the best?

And it’s been great experiencing that community feel with people talking and laughing with strangers, smiling staff offering high 5’’s and people offering to take pictures for others.  And I even saw someone offering free hugs at a few events.

I am really pleased that Team GB performed brilliantly and Team Grenada won its first gold medal! I am left with a good feeling and a plan to get fitter and focus my energies better.  How did you feel before the games came, once they started, and now that they are over?