Monday, 2 May 2016

My Derren Brown Miracles

I came home from the joy of the HeartIQ Retreat Centre (Hemrik, Friesland) on Friday evening and after a day catching up with laundry and shopping, it was a treat to head out for an evening of entertainment at New Victoria Theatre, Woking on Saturday.  I put on my posh frock and everything!

I had a ticket for Derren Brown's show, 'Miracle'.  In a way this show was a bit of a 'stretch' for me, out of my comfort zone. Don't laugh, but there's a part of me finds magicians a bit scary.  What's more I was sitting in a vulnerable position alone at the end of a row quite close to the stage. In fact some of the action took place right beside me, and that was exhilarating.

Now I'm not planning to tell you about the show  except to say it was extraordinary.  I'm so glad I went.  Furthermore I feel I owe Derren Brown my grateful thanks for a couple of miracles I've enjoyed since the show: the next day I booked a session of table tennis at the local gym, and when I tried to pay for it, was told there was nothing to pay.  Then a friend rang up and invited me to go back to New Victoria Theatre on Monday night to see ThrillerLive - I'd wanted to go but didn't fancy going on my own, and she had a spare ticket as her mum was indisposed.  How lucky am I!  I'm reminded of a quote from 'A Course in Miracles':  there is no order of difficulty in miracles.

Thank you, Mr Brown, sir, for healing my fear of magicians.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Brave Scotland

Seals in Eyemouth Harbour

My flight was due to depart 8 am on Friday morning from Heathrow.  I set my alarm for 5 am knowing I needed to get up as soon as it went off and get on my way.  No, I made the mistake of switching off the alarm before I had fully woken up, and went straight back to sleep again.  I woke up at 6.05 and couldn’t believe I would make it in time.  Luckily I’d packed my bags ready the night before, had a shower and laid out my clothes so all I needed to do was throw them on, grab the bags and dash out the door.  I didn’t want to waste any time setting the satnav for the car park, and I remembered reading on the car park booking form that you could reach the car park from the M4, so I drove up the A322 and onto the M4 near Reading.  Now that I’ve checked out the map, I can see I picked the long way round, it would have been quicker to go M3 – M 25.  Anway, I followed the signs and found the car park ok.  At first the barrier didn’t lift so I reversed back and tried pushing the button again, and this time it lifted but now I had two tickets and shoved them both together into my document wallet.  I forgot to note which zone was indicated, just started driving round the car park looking for a space feeling panicky.  Luckily there was a space very close to a bus stop and the mini-bus arrived quickly, but there were a few businessmen getting on and it seemed to take them an age.

The Rialto, Eyemouth

Finally we reach the terminal.  I had my boarding pass and only carry-on luggage so I raced along to security and joined the queue.  I tried telling them I was late for my flight but they weren’t to be hurred (I expect they’ve heard it all before).  Because I was anxious, I made a mess of sorting my hand baggage into the basket to go through the x-ray and when my basket arrived the other side, it took me a few moments to realise that some of my stuff wasn’t in it.  I was looking round wildly wondering where I’d lost it when the security guard called me over to tell me he had shuffled my stuff into two baskets.  So I’m madly trying to stuff it all back into the bag and put my jacket and watch back on with time pressing on and the anxiety makes my mouth go completely dry as though it was full of cotton wool. 

Cliffs at St Abbs

I checked the departure boards and ran along to the gate … only to discover the flight had been delayed 20 minutes and wasn't even boarding yet.  Well, what a relief!  I even had time to go and use the ladies.

The flight was very pleasant and we were served a cooked breakfast which I wasn’t expecting.  YUM!  Most welcome.

Scottish Harebells

At the other end I found my way to the car rental area and picked up my hire car, a little Vauxhall Corsa.  I set up my destination on the satnav and off I went.  The drive was uneventful apart from a couple of little detours where I took the wrong exit at a roundabout.

Highlights of the trip included some pleasant walks around Eyemouth seeing all the banners with photos of previous years’ ‘EHQ’ – Eyemouth has been a significant port in the Herring trade for many years and each year has a festival in July during which a ‘Herring Queen’ is crowned.  In the harbour there were a couple of seals loitering in the hope of being fed.  The Rialto coffee shop served me a beautiful cup of coffee and gluten free chocolate and raspberry torte – highly recommended if you ever find yourself in Eyemouth. 

St Abbs Harbour

Saturday I drove my host and myself over to St Abbs, a charming coastal village, where we enjoyed a walk along the cliffs followed by refreshments in the Old School Hall. 

Sunday we took a stroll around the city wall of Berwick-on-Tweed.  At one point we heard a piper warming up his bagpipes so we followed the sounds down to the churchyard and stood and listened to the performance by the two pipers and a troop of drummers.  “A Scottish Soldier”, “Scotland the Brave” and “Auld Lang Syne”  were but three of the tunes they played.  Serenaded by traditional Scottish music – what more could I ask from my trip to Scotland.  Sadly I didn't have the camera with me.

Sheep grazing on clifftops

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Meditation and Mindfulness Retreat, Bamford Quaker Community

It was great to arrive at last on Friday evening after a journey fraught with traffic delays, to be greeted with the warmth and comfort of a delicious meal.  As I was an hour late, there wasn't time to unpack my case, but the introductory session with a mindfulness breathing exercise helped me relax and unwind.

We were encouraged to be curious and to bring a respectful kindness to our observation of any thoughts or feelings that arose in the mindfulness exercises; to relax and pass no judgement or criticism on them.

One of the exercises was to place one hand over the other initially and to observe how it felt.  Having explored that hand position, the exercise moved on to clasping the hands together.  

The thoughts that arose in these hand exercises seemed deep and weightier than the simple actions.  I noticed that the captive hand felt more aware of sensations arising than the free hand, and this led to a thought around the subject of oppression, and the powerful emotional attachment to the word 'captive'.  Using one of the techniques suggested, having observed the thought, I treated it as I might treat a unique, precious vase - putting it down gently, knowing it would be there if I needed to return to it at a later date to examine it more closely.  The exercise moved on to clasping the fingers together and again observing the different sensations. I noticed it was difficult to tell the hands apart, to identify which hand was feeling which sensation.  "Do you struggle with discernment?" the question appeared in my thoughts as though from some external source. With gentle respect I declined to answer and brought my mind back to the chosen object of attention, my hands.

I particularly enjoyed another mindfulness exercise.  With eyes closed, we held out a hand palm up and received a stone.  Mindfully, we explored the stone, at first simply observing how it felt - the cold weight of it in the palm of the hand - then moving on to explore with touch, feeling the contours, texture, etc so that we would be able to identify the stone again later.

I noticed how my mind went immediately to a poem I wrote many years ago, called Metamorphic Rock:
I am a stone 
so round and smooth
that no moss clings;
no snags to catch
unwary hands
that touch my cold reality.
These gentle contours have been formed
through years of chipping constantly
the roughness of my edgy youth.
Though sunlight warms me,
nights are cold and featureless
and lonely.
Come hold me in caressive hands,
feel the weight of sadness
in my vast indifference.
Please touch me, reach me
if you can.

From this exercise I received an insight into the difference between simply offering the stone the warmth and support of the palm of my hand, and the probing curiosity of my fingers as I sought to become better acquainted with its contours.  "How would it be to offer people that simple warmth and support without subjecting them to the probing curiosity of my questions?"  Another opportunity to gently lay aside the thought as a unique and precious artefact to which I may return some time, and practice the discipline of bringing my attention back to the object of attention, the stone in my hand.   

The exercise moved on to the next phase - with closed eyes, we held our stone in our left hand and dropped it into the open palm of the person to the left, receiving a new stone from the person to the right.  I liked this exercise.  I liked the anticipation of waiting for the new stone; the warmth and contact of my neighbours' hands to my right and left; the curiosity to feel and explore the new stone.  Later I received an insight about this - how sometimes in relationships, a remark might come my way and I might encounter that remark as wounding.  How would it be to receive it in the same spirit as I was able to receive each new stone - with openness, curiosity and trust, with no resistance - to observe how I felt about it, and then to let it go, rather than taking it in and hurting myself on any jagged edges?  To trust that life has prepared me with the readiness to receive whatever may come my way, to be willing not to hold onto anything so tightly that I give it the power to cut me?  

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Moments of Mindfulness

Today I went to Spiritual Journeying's 'Moments of Mindfulness' awayday at St John's Parish Centre in Windlesham.  One of the exercises was to choose one or two items from the large eclectic collection and to spend half an hour paying attention to the item you had chosen.  I chose two items - one, this poem by Rumi:
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness - 
some momentary awareness comes 
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all.
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house 
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honourably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight ...

My other chosen item was a card, this beautiful image of a lion dozing. (Follow the link if you want to see the image)  Having just read the poem, I turned to the card and, studying the photo, felt inspired to write:
The Lion 
probably not thinking 
about how he looks
with his eyes closed
and his mouth open - 
nor about how his hair is doing its own thing today.
Probably not still brooding 
over something someone said 
some time ago.
Probably not even
about his next meal.
For the moment it's enough
to doze in the sun
enjoying the sensation
of a full belly.
Enough just to be
a lion king.
I thought some more on Rumi's poem, The Guest House - about the idea
'He may be clearing you out for some new delight'.  I know the joy of clearing out the clutter - of making a worktop empty and clean again - a simple, daily joy.  I know the joy of clearing out a misconception, a wrong belief, from my mind, my heart, my world - of becoming open to a new thought, a new belief.
I know the freedom of a door closing on the past, of handing in the keys - setting me free from a responsibility that would have been an intrusion in the present - I wrote in this blog back in December 2009 of the shed on my allotment having been burned down.  That act of vandalism, unwelcome though it was at the time, made it so much easier to walk away from the allotment - it set me free to move on to full-time work, stable mental health and the delights of my new life.
Proverbs 24:3-4
By wisdom a house is built,
    and through understanding it is established;
through knowledge its rooms are filled
    with rare and beautiful treasures.
So how's your home today - what new treasures have you encountered in that private inner world?

Saturday, 25 August 2012

New Look - Low Maintenance

For the past three years that I've lived here I've had to carry the lawnmower through the house to keep the grass in the front garden tidy, and set up a step ladder each time I've needed to trim the high hedges.  The cracked concrete path was a trip hazard and I was fed up with the neighbourhood cats using the area as a public latrine.  Finally I decided enough was enough and got some quotes for transforming it into a low-maintenance garden.  David Crowder Landscapes took on the task and the work was completed in two days.  Here are the before and after photos.  I'm very pleased with how much difference it's made to the light   coming into the lounge.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Indian Summer - Bracclesham Bay

What better way to enjoy this amazing Indian Summer than to head down to the coast!  Unfortunately I wasn't the only one who had that idea, and the journey took rather longer than anticipated.  At times it was tempting to turn aside and head back closer to home, but oh boy! was I glad I kept going.

When I arrived at my destination, the tiny car park at Bracclesham Bay was full.  I took my place in the queue and the car park attendant came over and assured me there were families about to leave.  Then when a car left and I was about to go and park, she came and asked me if I would mind the car behind having the space as the man was due to go out on a boat for a dive and was afraid he would miss his boat.  Now of course, if I had had my wits about me and thought quickly, I could have bargained for some advantage ... he could have my space if he would pay my car park fee!  Regrettably I didn't think of that until after I'd politely pulled aside and let him through.  Oh well.

At last I was able to park up and take my place on the beach.  I call it a beach - when the tide is in (as it was by the time I got there), it's more of a shingle bank.  I've been to Bracclesham Bay many, many times, and never seen it as busy as it was today, in October!  So strange, having such a hot, sunny day so late in the year - but I'm not complaining, you understand.  Back in May I was out in Lanzarote and went swimming there - never expected the sea off our south coast to be warmer than the waters lapping the shores of the Canaries. I floated and swam to my heart's content, until my fingers went crinkly, then sat and enjoyed the sunshine and the delight of people all around me making the most of this bounty.  Gorgeous!

Saturday, 1 October 2011


What amazing weather for October!

My drive to work takes me along one of those roads that has a canopy of trees overhanging it, and when the golden autumn sunshine slants through, it looks beautiful.  This week there has been the added beauty of early-morning mist, and I particularly noticed a large and intricate cobweb adding artistry to the scene.  Each day I've passed it, I thought how lovely it would be to stop and take a photo ... but it's a busy road and work was waiting.  Not today, however!  Today the dawn was too exquisite to resist.  I pulled on my walking boots, picked up the camera and headed out into the misty sunrise.

I liked the pattern of these palm fronds against the pale morning sky

This pampas grass seemed to glisten 
Over Barossa Common I found plenty of cobwebs festooning the heathland, and the mist shrouding the hills somehow brought a sense of tranquility.

cobweb tree