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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

If you would like to write a book then this is a great afternoon workshop for you.

Many people would like to write a book but few create the space to make it happen.

Do you have a story to share? Have you had interesting experiences in your life so far? Is there a family story you would like to record? Do you have a message that you would like to put into the world?

During our interactive session we will explore the steps you need to take to get your book into the hands of admiring readers.

Join others on a similar journey and be encouraged in the process.

We begin where you are and help you plan the route ahead.

Book here for June workshop.

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.

Welcome to my final extract from An A-Z for your life, discovering and revealing who you are today.  You can read the chapters for X,Y, Z in the book at your own pace.

Witness

Witness

Sometimes it is not simply who we are and how we are but what other people make of us.  Here I want to talk about being a witness to others, and being seen by others.  The term is used in religious and legal circles but I am using it in a therapeutic way.

It’s about really seeing another as we witness their life.  It is also about being seen by others as they witness our life.  What is it like to be seen in our happiness or sadness, joy or frustration?  Similarly, what is it like to really see others close to us go through the range of experiences and emotions that make up their life?

Before I became a counsellor I cannot say I was particularly conscious of this.  I now know how powerful it is to witness others in their pain, for example, and to be seen with my feelings.  We like to know that we are not alone and that people see that we are alive.

It’s healthy to be heard and seen when we are struggling, and perhaps celebrated with when things are going well.  Our peers may be in different situations and that’s where understanding, love and kindness come in.  But the challenge is to witness to others when life is difficult for them.  This is delicate and important.  If you are having a difficult time it is made even worse if others see your difficulty and ignore it.  This ignoring of your pain is like another blow, saying that your pain does not matter.

Maybe we could recognise the daily struggles of those close to us, and how bravely they deal with their challenges.  A compliment from us would let them know that we see their courage and vulnerability and admire them for it.  By witnessing to them we are saying “yes it is real, you are not dreaming”.

How do you feel when others witness you, in your joy or pain? Share your thoughts below.

You can order ‘An A-Z for your life’: simply click on the book cover on the right or go direct to http://www.ana-zforyourlife.com and order your signed copy today!

 

 

Nature

Life is also about our connection to nature.  What does the word nature conjure up for you? For some it is a country walk and a picnic with beautiful scenery.  For others it might be about being cold, wet and exposed to the elements.

Having some sense of what is happening in our environment is healthy and nature is part of that environment.  Many studies show that we become a lot calmer when we have access to green spaces or the sound of flowing water.  This is an easy and often free way to recharge our batteries.  I am convinced that wherever we are we can find some connection to nature even if it is just going outside and looking up at the sky.

Like many of the other awakenings we have looked at you may decide that nature is quite important to you and this could affect your decision about where you live and the type of job that you do.  When I worked as a careers adviser I would discuss the impact of job environment – including indoor and outdoor work -with my clients.  If you enjoy nature you are more likely to become a farmer in a rural area than an office worker in a city.  An office worker in a city could still include nature by incorporating a short walk, going jogging etc. Looking after a pet, such as taking a dog for a walk, could also encourage engagement with the natural world.

I enjoy picnics and I have several friends who love camping.  I also like walking and for the past few years I have been getting into planting flowers.  There is something very affirming about planting something and seeing it grow.  Much of nature is free and available; we can enjoy it without owning it.

Are you someone who often pays attention to the changes in your natural environment or do you only notice the new buildings in your area?  Can you be still and feed your soul or do you feel uneasy when the birds sing and the rivers flow?

Here is a link to a current concern that you may find interesting and informative  The BBC on butterfly populations

 

Kindness is a good quality to practice on our journey through life.  The Bible talks about doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.  But there is also something to be said for being kind whilst not expecting anything.   Kindness is simply about saying yes to a request that we can accommodate or offering to do something that we know will help another person.  It could be as simple as picking up someone’s shopping, watering their plants, giving them a lift, phoning to check that they are ok.  It is about allowing someone else’s situation to cross our mind and allowing ourselves to offer to ease their burden without feeling superior or heroic.  It is sharing the gifts and resources that we have.

waterfall

We may also find ourselves on the receiving end of such generosity.  John Donne wrote that ‘no man is an island’ and it helps us to remember that our lives are all connected.   Unfortunately it often takes a tragedy to remind us of this.  Sometimes giving of our time and energy has more of an impact than writing a cheque.   I am reminded here of a television program called The Secret Millionaire, where wealthy people go undercover to discover real needs and later, financially support these.  I know they can get publicity from the show but as they already have a high profile in their field I do not think that is their motivation.  It seems to me that they want to help and to feel the joy of giving.  There are of course many who give of their time quietly through caring and volunteering.

Kindness is not about wealth.  We are all capable of giving of ourselves, whoever we are, wherever we live.  Is kindness something you experience of yourself or from those around you? Would you like to be kinder to yourself and others?

 

Appreciating who you are cannot be done in the time it takes you to read this post. I have included in these posts (and the book) some of the key things I have discovered in my life to date.  This is the result of my age, having lived in three different countries and my experience of three career paths including the study of psychology, sociology and counselling.  So it is an accumulation of my experience so far and undoubtedly part of my life’s journey.

Journey copy

What has your life journey been like so far and have you begun to make sense of it?  Is it all ahead of you or all behind you?  How does that affect your day-to-day choices?  For me I am grateful to my past and hopeful about my future whilst feeling that my current opportunities are good enough.  It is up to me to make the best of what is available to me rather than focusing on what is imperfect.  (Imperfection is part of the human condition and provides us all with opportunities to be vulnerable).  I certainly feel that I am now on my individual life journey even though I don’t know what happens next.  Do you have a sense of having a past, present and future?

The sense of life being a journey can help us gain perspective.  If we use the metaphor of travel then we can appreciate that sometimes we will like the scenery and other times we really want to get out of town.  Some paths are easy to walk through and others require us to accept assistance.  We may see others on our journey who appear to be having an easier or more difficult time.  Making comparisons can be a distraction to keeping on our own path.  We may feel we are running a marathon or a short sprint, doing hurdles or mountain climbing!   Henry David Thoreau says that ‘what lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lives within us.’

What opportunities do our journeys present for us and for those we meet?  How do we cope with the difficulties and the privileges?  What do we protect and what can we share with others we meet on the way?  Maybe we can only appreciate a journey when we’ve got to the end and reflected on where we have been.  It may be that we have time at the end to do this or it may be that others do that for us.  It does not matter; our journey is ours and no one else’s.

How do you feel about your journey so far – share your thoughts

healthHealth is something we all desire, and maybe something we do not spend enough time thinking about until we have suffered ill health.  I feel everyone should be informed and encouraged to look after their health from a young age.  There is a lot being done across the world but many people continue to ignore their health and pretend they do not know what to do.

I despair at the exporting of unhealthy foods from the developed world to the developing.  I am sad when I visit the Caribbean and see people replacing healthy local produce for mass-produced low-grade food imports.  This is particularly true of sweets where the homemade coconut fudge or nutmeg jam is thrown aside for a coloured chemical combination that contains no identifiable foods.

Like our health, we do not always value what we have until it disappears.  Because of the global economic climate many of us have rediscovered the joys of locally produced and home-cooked meals.  This is not only cheaper but often healthier as well.

Health is not only about the state of our bodies but also about our mental health, which covers our mind and emotions.  Our emotions show us how we are responding to things in our life. With good mental health we can make space for the range of our emotions, from despair to joy. No emotion is bad, it’s how we express it, or not, that is meaningful.

Be aware of what you pay attention to and what you ignore.  Some of us can be quite obsessive about one aspect of our health, such as our diet, whilst another area is completely ignored.  Take time to review how you take care of the health of your whole self.  It does not matter where you start but the message is to get started.  This is not about self-absorption but supports you to live a full and vibrant life. It is also generous as it  means you are more likely to be around for the loved ones in your life.

How are you looking after your physical, mental and emotional health?

So what is your attitude towards art and to your life as a whole?  It is the simple things that can sometimes make a big difference in how we approach life. I really think if we shared our insights and learning more it could have a wonderfully contagious and healing effect.  It is a much better gift to share than negativity, irritation, superficiality, self-importance and other non-uplifting attitudes.

Our attitude is a key aspect of what we put into life.  That attitude also affects what we get out of it.  It impacts on our relationships with others, how they experience us and how we perceive them.  Are we open and positive or closed off and negative?  If you believe that like attracts like then positivity from us brings that out in others.  Similarly, negativity attaches to negativity.  Individually we are part of this multiplying effect that spreads through society.  Some people pay attention to an approach called the law of attraction which suggests that you can attract into your life that which you seek by being focused on it.  It suggests that we have an impact on our world – it matters how we are.

Attitude

‘If you don’t like something, change it.  If you can’t change it, change your attitude.’ – Maya Angelou.

Are you aware of the attitudes you carry around with you?  How would the people in your life describe your attitudes?  Is this what you feel is true for you or does it feel like circumstances cause you to respond in certain ways?

Has your attitude made life difficult for you?  How would it be to talk to the people in your life who you trust and get them to give you some feedback on this?

Is there anything else you’d like to consider as a result of reading this?

An A-Z for your life – Art

December 30, 2012

artHave you ever wondered about what you know and what you do not know in life?  Sometimes I stumble upon insights and it surprises me that I did not know that thing before.  Art is all around us even though we do not always see it.  Classically it is about paintings and drawings that have been done by great artists.  It can also be about sculpture and other images.  For some it is about a literal interpretation of a real thing or event whilst for others it can be about creating a mood or a feeling.  Some people get very excited about what counts as art and what does not.

For me it is an opportunity to appreciate the image and the emotions it connects to.  I love a good painting or sculpture although I can’t really do either myself.  I do however enjoy taking photographs and have been very pleased to include my photos in this book.  Images can stir us on a very deep level and help us to appreciate the complexity of our existence.  I love to pop in to art galleries and museums in my lunch hour as it sometimes puts the day’s work into perspective and reminds me there is more to life than whatever I am working on.

What we call art seems to be changing and expanding all the time.  I went to see a very modern exhibition recently and found it very engaging.  I decided to enter into the fun of it and not stand aside critiquing it.  There were mounds of concrete and weird mirrors that contorted reality.  Other recent events have seen someone running in a gallery and people performing on a plinth as forms of living art.

As modern western life becomes more designed I think art is moving off the walls and into our homes and lives.  Art influences the designs of chairs, kitchens, cars and trainers.  It could be the way a dish is served in a restaurant or the beautiful movement of a world-class dancer.  We all consume art in our daily lives.  Art meets fashion on the high street.  I often see gorgeous shoes that are beautiful to look at but impossible to wear.  Art meets nature in sunrise and sunset.

Thankfully we do not need to create our own art to appreciate it.  How does the idea of art sound to you?  Is this something you have an appreciation for or does it seem unnecessary and foolish?  What do you consider art?  Are you able to appreciate any art in your life?