Tag Archives | being present

CONVERSATIONS

Last month I suggested that we ensure that our interaction with people is not transactional, and that we remember to engage with our hearts and not just our heads. This month I’m going to take that a stage further and suggest that we give more value to our interactions by engaging in real conversations with others.

The original meaning of the word conversation is that we turn together, and it always makes me think of dancing, where we take it in turns to lead, and enjoy being together and seeing where the dance takes us. Conversation has a flow to it, and a rhythm is created which has a special value.

In conversation, we learn about and from each other, and thereby enrich both our awareness and our relationship without effort. It doesn’t matter what the topic is to start with – it can be the weather, a TV programme you watched, or how you spent your evening. What matters is that you have the intention to engage with the other person, and share something of your self – then the magic happens.

I have stood at the bus stop, and begun with complaining about the poor service and ended up finding out what it was like to be a prisoner of war in Germany in World War Two. I have begun a conversation about having to do a lot of driving with a taxi driver, and ended up discussing our similar philosophies of life. Of course, not all conversations take us to such fascinating places, but they do always enable us to understand more of other people’s worlds and to be more sympathetic, at a minimum, and they can be a simple means of enhancing our lives and relationships.

So don’t ignore the opportunities to have a conversation every day. Stop for a moment and talk to the shop assistant, the work colleague, the person behind you in the queue. We seem to have got out of the habit in our culture – too busy, too rushed, too immersed in our phones – and we are losing out by not taking those 5 or 10 minutes. They are not a waste of time; they are a way of building relationship and awareness that comes naturally to us. Be interested in others and their lives and ideas – they’re fascinating!

Take a moment to think of a couple of real conversations you’ve had recently. Feel again the glow of being in that flow with someone else, the energy of it, the fun of it. And remember the after-effect on both of you: the warmer greeting next time you meet, the smile of recognition. Don’t deprive yourself – get out there and have a conversation with someone!

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OUR NATURAL WAY OF BEING

I have just been looking after my granddaughter for the weekend, and been reminded yet again of how perverted we become as we grow up and accept the cultural conditioning that brings us into line with the way things are in our society..

Amber has not yet absorbed this conditioning, and is consequently an absolute delight to be with. She spends most of her waking time actively looking for things to enjoy – nothing complicated – a game of counting or guessing things, a cuddle, the sensations of touching, looking at, listening to interesting things, helping with simple household jobs, talking about subjects she is noticing in her world – there are so many possibilities when you look through her eyes!

She also delights in making new connections – we call it learning – which key fits which door, how many things can be put inside a small box, how dictionaries work, making patterns from different objects, and which faces, gestures and phrases make grandma laugh the most!

As I watch and join in with her world, I am tempted back to that wonderful state of innocence, where life was about fun, and curiosity led me to explore possibilities, and develop my skills. We were all born to be like this, and as grown-ups we can choose to re-awaken this latent ability to love life.

Amber reminds me to really live my life, and go past my conditioning. What will remind you, if only for a little while? It is so much more fun to be childlike in the world!

 

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“FOUR YEAR OLD FEET”

So, you’re beginning the day, you gently swing your sleepy legs over the edge of the bed and stretch – the same as you do every morning.

You look at the clock, 6.30am again – Same as yesterday’s clock. That floorboard creaks as you walk on it, reminding you that you must do something about it. The tiles at the bottom of the stairs are cold on your feet, reminding you that you forgot the slippers again.

And so it continues, you’re daily routine. The cups, the two sugars, the saucepan and porridge oats.

The slightly impatient call from the bottom of the stairs to the sleeping family that lets them know you have given them an extra 5 minutes slumber!

How quickly we fall into routines that, over a period of time become uninspiring and enhance that feeling of monotony.

But wait…. the sound of smaller, lighter somehow excited feet are heard.

These are feet that woke up with a purpose – These feet wanted to feel that carpet squirming between their toes!

These feet now want to jump down those stairs in front of them – maybe from the top all the way down! They thrill at the cold of the floor tiles underneath them at the bottom of the stairs, making them move faster.

Attached to these feet are also two excited legs and a body that holds up a face that is brighter than sunshine. This is because through these eyes, nothing looks the same!

In the world of this four year old, every day is new. The previous day is somehow partially wiped from memory so that the opportunity to create magic today is presented.

Every task or challenge, from waking up to getting dressed or brushing teeth is embraced with gusto!

We live in busy times, our lives are sometimes so full that we just climb on the treadmill with everyone else and join the queue, not really thinking about where we are heading because it’s the same as yesterday.

So the challenge is…. slip back into those four year old feet again tomorrow morning and feel the carpet between your feet; look out of the window at a new and different day and grab it with both hands.

Re-frame what always happens into something with a wonderful, slightly odd and exciting feeling, the one you lost touch with when younger – And love it. Then at the end of the day, sleep soundly and dream of where those four year old feet might take you tomorrow?

 

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GOING SLOW

Some years ago, I read a book called “Stopping “ by David Kudtz.  It made an impression on me, I think mainly because I rarely did – stop, that is!  And, for a short while, I did put some “stops” into my life – times when I did nothing, and just allowed life to go by for an hour or two – but it didn’t really stick as a habit.

Now having just spent some time in one of my favourite places, Provence in France, I have realised that one of the reasons I love it there is because the cultural habit is going slow.  I may not have learnt to stop, but I’m pretty good at going slow some of the time, and I’m inclined to increase the habit.

When you sit down in a pavement café, the waiters assume you are going slow, so they don’t rush to serve you, or to ask for payment.  This is not poor service, it’s respectful service, respecting your right to go slow.

It is easy to become impatient when you are used to an “instant response and action” type of life, yet relax into the go slow culture, and you begin to notice the advantages:

  • Proper attention paid to detail – the arrangement of food, the laying of the table
  • Time for contact between human beings – smiles, conversations
  • Things get done, effectively and pleasantly
  • No tempers of frustration, but a tranquil atmosphere
  • A sense of spaciousness in time, instead of it rushing by
  • Room to notice what’s happening around you

OK, it may not be appropriate in our culture to run on “go slow” time all the time.  And sometimes, we may give ourselves permission to slow down for an hour or two in the day, and take that time to reflect, to refresh ourselves.

I love go slow starts to the day, with time to consider, before rushing into action.  And gardening is definitely a go slow activity for me. Maybe it is reading the Sunday newspaper, or having a meal or drink with friends for you.

And how else can we put some go slow time into our busy lives?  I intend to experiment, because I feel so much more as if I’m living my life when I go slow for a while.  I also regain perspective, and feel refreshed by that change of pace.  Why not join me in the experimentation, and see what some “going slow” does for you!!

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Possibilities

There is a basic tenet in Eastern Philosophies around being in the present moment.  And we can believe we are living to this when we caught up in our everyday stuff.  Yet there is an important distinction we need to be aware of.

When we are “caught up” in the everyday, we are on automatic, following historical habits of reaction, or thinking.  We are doing the moment, not being in the moment.

When we are truly here now, it is a spacious place, full of possibility.  We have choices about how we react, how we proceed, what we do next, how we think about things.

This is when everything is open to possibility.  Instead of saying “this must come next,” we can say, “what shall I do next?”  Instead of saying,”It’s obvious,” we can say, “what are the possibilities?”

This spaciousness of the moment offers us several very valuable gifts.

  • A release from habitual thinking and doing
  • A break from historical assumptions
  • A sense of controlling our own destiny
  • A broader view of our future

We can apply it to “big stuff” – times of transition in our lives, and we can also get the habit of taking that break by applying it to the “small stuff”- the rush into the next task on the list, the move from duties at work to duties at home.  It takes us a breathspace to move into being in the moment, and a breathspace to recognise we have choices, and one more breathspace to make a choice that is more comfortable and uses possibility instead of necessity as the driver.

Can you spare 3 breathspaces once in  a while in your busy life, to enhance your possibilities? Have a go, and see how much richer life can be, with such a simple application of being in the moment!!

 

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THE ‘NOT ENOUGH’ SYNDROME

I have had a lovely week this week: I have spent time with friends that I love and haven’t seen for a while, I have been working with people I really enjoy working with, and I have seen a wonderful art exhibition as a special treat. There are also all the everyday miracles: my cat is now well, the vegetables from my garden are delicious, the sun has warmed me, the rain has watered my garden for me, and lots of things have made me laugh. And this is an ordinary week, which also had some not so good moments.

Like all of us, I can look at this week in a lot of different ways, depending on my mood, and the things that have affected me most. Yet culturally, we are trained to notice more of the everyday lacks and irritations, rather than the delights and abundances. So it takes a conscious effort to choose to view our world and our lives as abundant and pleasurable.

When I switch on my tv, I am shown all the things I don’t have, and what is wrong with others and myself, how we are all not good enough, how we all don’t have enough. When I ask people how they are, they tend to tell me the things that are not right, with them or the world. It is the ‘not enough’ syndrome gone mad! Not done enough work, not got enough money, not been kind enough to others ( or ourselves!), not good enough at what I do – the list goes on and on.

And yes, there are many areas where we are not as good as we might be, where the world is not as good as it might be, where we feel lacks, in ourselves, in others, in the world. Yet there are also many moments of abundance, when we are just lovely, when others are kind and delightful, when the world shows its wonder rather than its horror.

When we pay attention to what’s wrong or lacking, we make ourselves feel bad, and risk missing the opportunities for miracles to occur. It doesn’t help us to live our lives well, because it sends us back into the sort of mood that perpetuates the feeling of lack and wrongness.

This is not about wearing rose-tinted spectacles – we don’t have to pretend that everything is rosy, and nothing is wrong. We can recognise the bad bits, without getting caught by them. If we are going to get caught on something, let’s get caught on the good bits! They will help us keep a good frame of mind, so we can deal with the bad bits more constructively, and they will remind us to keep the bad bits in perspective.

Why not join me for a few days in choosing to notice the gifts of your life, the everyday miracles that occur. We may not need to change the world, just view it differently!

 

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SPRING INTO CREATIVITY

This month’s workshop was inspired by the balmy weather this April. Nature has gone wild this month – trees are in blossom, fresh green leaves are emerging from the hedgerows, flowers cover banks and woodland floors, bluebells, anemones, and fritillaries. Spring lambs bounce around in fields, and the air is thick with the songs of courting birds. This truly has been a wonderful month – it feels as if the whole world has come alive!

It is drummed into us that spring is a time for regeneration, to welcome the new year and the new life it will give us. We spring clean our houses, and watch the world around us spring into life. But why don’t we revitalise our creativity too?

There is so much around us to inspire us. Literally the whole natural world is screaming out, “Look at me! Look at me!” there is the miracle of creation happening all around us – right now! All we have to do is to stop our madcap lives and notice.

I went to Dudmaston, a National Trust House near Bridgnorth, and was amazed at the colour and sounds of its stunning grounds. A great crested grebe on the lake crying out for a partner, birds in the woods trying to impress with their vocal dexterity, an ornithological chorus of Wagnerian proportions! Grass on banks appeared to grow beneath your feet, trees sprouting with green tips and evergreen leaves, borders awash with colour, flowers of every hue vying for your attention. The sun played hide and seek behind the clouds, and all this for me, all out there just a short distance away.

The truth is that inspiration is waiting for us everywhere we look at this time of year, so get out there and be inspired!

Allow yourself to ‘Spring into Creativity’ and follow these hot tips to ensure your creativity gets some regeneration and feeding this month:

1. Get out into the natural world –  Go visit the countryside, have at least one trip out this month, have a picnic, visit your local woods (the bluebells will be out!), spend some time in your garden. Wherever you go take a notepad with you and record the impact Spring has upon you and your surroundings.

2. Visit a place of beauty- Dudmaston inspired me, and there are many National Trust places with beautiful grounds, go visit one!

3. Try something new – With the new life we see in Spring, why not try something you’ve never tried before in your artistic endeavours?

4. Get rid of something old – Spring clean your art! If it doesn’t work for you no more, chuck it out and move on!

5. Choose one thing to take forward this year – Decide on one aspect of creativity that you would like to concentrate on/develop in this coming year. Find out what you can about it, and allow yourself the joy of exploring it!

6. Stop and notice for one hour a week – Stop the ride of your everyday life and notice what is around you, at least for one hour a week. Find somewhere quiet and peaceful, and allow yourself to be inspired!

 

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Holidays

 

WORKSHOP – HOLIDAYS -08.01

Holidays were originally holy days, days off work to celebrate special days in the church calendar, while in the US they have vacations, which originally means leaving something empty or unoccupied.

Both words imply stopping the everyday routine and stepping away from it to reflect on the larger picture of life.

We all need these breaks from routine to take stock, to refresh ourselves and to regain perspective. They are an essential part of our pattern for living, because they allow us a space, a review period, when we can run a check on what is and isn’t working in our lives, and rest before regaining our momentum.

So make sure that you take some time out over the summer period. Don’t just fill your time with lots of activities – have a do-nothing space, where you just ‘catch up with yourself’ as my mum used to say.

Homework

  1. Plan at least a day of doing nothing, preferably away from your home
  2. Plan at least another day of doing something non-productive that will just be fun
  3. Enjoy any holiday you take!

 

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Being In The Present

Most of us spend large parts of our lives ignoring the messages we are being given, because we are not present – we are too busy thinking about what has already happened or what might happen.

The first messages to take notice of are the ones which our body gives us. When we ignore these we put our health at risk. Do you listen when your body says ‘I am hungry’ or ‘I am tired’? Most of us have learnt to work past these signals and just carry on as if we were robots.

How about taking notice of your body for a little while each day?

Homework

  1. Spend two minutes every two hours listening to your body’s messages: do you need a break? Do you need a walk? Are you stiff or uncomfortable? Just noticing is the first step to doing something about it.
  2. Before you eat, ask yourself what your body really wants right now. Does it want food at all or is it just the normal time to eat? Does it want the sweet food first?
  3. Finally, notice how your body reacts when you go to reply to someone every so often: is it comfortable with your response?
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TOOLS FOR CREATION – NATURE

This month’s workshop is inspired by nature. As I write this update, the sun is streaming down and there’s a Magritte blue sky with whispery light clouds. The birds are singing, and you can almost hear the grass growing..

Nature has been the inspiration for artists and creatives throughout human existence. From the crude drawings of pre-historic man, through to the landscapes of Constable and Turner. Yet how we harness nature for our own creativity is not as predictable as it may sound.

Nature is all around us. I want us to look at nature, not as ‘watercolour challenge’ or a Constable ‘village scene’ but something vibrant and dynamic that can inspire!

Begin to look at nature with fresh eyes. Begin to see nature as a tool for creation. I have a few exercises which may help…

  1. Find a place in nature – this can be remote, a park, a garden, even an urban environment
  2. Take time to notice what is around you – what do you see? Make a note of everything in your place in nature.
  3. Take a slow walk, again noticing the bounty of nature around you. If you want to stop, pick something up, study it, do.
  4. Take time to study in depth a piece of nature, – a leaf, a hill, a berry, a cone, a feather – maybe sketch it, maybe take it home with you.
  5. The wonder of nature is in its perfection on a miniature scale– a bumblebee’s tiny wings, the veins on a leaf, the spiral on a snail’s shell.
  6. The cyclical nature of nature is everywhere. See new birth, life, death, growth, and reproduction. Does this have parallels in our own lives?
  7. What are we doing to this environment we live in? What is our relationship to it?
  8. How does it make you feel? What are its smells, tastes, sounds? Make a note of them.
  9. Nature is awash with colour, vibrant and full of life, let nature’s colours inspire you, be the starting point of a new piece of creation.
  10. What shapes can you find in nature? Take the outlines/shapes use them in your own work.

Nature is vast. It is a vast topic to cover in such a small workshop. But if the British summer does hold out, do take the time to go somewhere new and record in whatever way suits your own creativity, the way it makes you feel.

 

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