‘Waking up this morning, I smile. Twenty-four brand new hours are before me. I vow to live fully each moment, and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.’ I’ve recently found myself waking up with this Gatha by Thich Nhat Hanh. As I start the day it reminds me that each hour is full of possibility, opportunity and hope.
Spring is surely the most hopeful time of year. Green buds are appearing, almost before my eyes. Birds are chirruping with a confidence in what is to come. The sun is starting to warm my skin, reminding me summer is on the way. Then there are all the spring flowers, such hopeful little things; they seem to know we need a smile and some warmth after the winter. Yes, spring is most certainly one of my biggest reminders to be hopeful. But what does it mean to hope?
For me, to hope is to remember there is constant growth, change and renewal. Nothing stays the same, which gives endless possibilities for the future. As I contemplate hope, spring reminds me to allow things to naturally unfold; to have a sense of purpose, yet also be content with where I am. Then there is the physical feeling of hope, a lightness and warmth ‘perched in the soul.’
By Emily Dickinson –
“Hope” is the thing with feathers
that perches in the soul
And sings the tune without words
And never stops – at all.
And sweetest in the gale is heard
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm.
I’ve heard it in the chillest land
And on the strangest sea
Yet, never, in extremity
It asked a crumb – of me.
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally.” Jon Kabat-Zinn often adds to his well known definition, saying, “as if your life depended on it.”
As if your life depended on it.
I’ve written in previous posts about how I use mindfulness to identify and acknowledge how I feel, enabling me to show myself kindness and attend to my needs during the most challenging times (‘Self-soothe‘ and ‘What do I need? A Technique for Self-Care‘). I’ve recently realised the importance not just of my practice during the harder times, but during the gentler times too. It’s during those better times that reserves of resilience are built. Practising mindfulness has been compared to weaving a parachute. As Mark Williams and Danny Penman wrote in ‘Mindfulness: Finding Peace in a Frantic World’, “there’s no point in doing this when we’re falling headlong towards destruction. We have to weave our parachute every day so that it’s always there to hold us in an emergency.” So how do we weave our parachute and keep those reserves of resilience topped up? Read More
So you’re reading this blog. I wonder how you got here? Maybe you came online to send an email, saw a notification for a new post and here you are? Or perhaps you were scrolling through Facebook, this post popped up and you clicked the link before you even knew it? I’ve been thinking a lot about my use and interaction with technology and the internet. I know too much time on these things doesn’t serve me well, yet it is so easy to get sucked in. If you go with the flow of modern society, that seems to be exactly what happens, but at what cost?Read More
What is mindfulness? The next time I’m asked, I may well recommend ‘The Little Mindfulness Workbook,’ by Gary Hennessey, co-founder of Breathworks. The small, compact size of this new mini book is appealing, yet Gary, with his extensive experience practising and teaching mindfulness, introduces many key principles and practices. He captures the essence of mindfulness, which can be so hard to articulate, in a down to earth and friendly manner.Read More
I was becoming invisible, my body paling to the white sheets. As I lay on the hospital trolley, unable to move or speak, all I had was my mind. The strength of my thoughts and the images they created could take me anywhere. As I felt my heart sinking and tears pooling at my eyes I knew I needed to change direction. I focused on my breath. It gave me perspective. What was I feeling and where was it coming from? I felt utterly worthless. The actions, or lack of actions, by others during a time of acute illness in A&E had triggered an inner story; a deep seated belief that I knew to be untrue, yet at that moment I was compelled to believe.Read More
It was a dark winter’s afternoon and I was surrounded by fields in rural Suffolk. I’d lost all sense of where I was when I embarked on my first meditation retreat, but the centre soon enveloped me in its gentle and calm atmosphere. I was at Vajrasana, part of the London Buddhist Centre, in the state of the art ‘intelligent’ building that opened in 2016. Communal spaces, bedrooms and meditation spaces surrounded peaceful courtyards. Each way I looked, a picture was framed by the architecture, changing with the light and dark, and the misty fog that seemed to shroud us until our final afternoon.Read More
Pause. Absorb yourself in the present moment. Engage fully with the festivities. It’s easy for mindfulness practice to be forgotten about during the busy time of Christmas, but it’s a useful way to remind yourself what it is you are truly celebrating, whilst looking after your well-being.
Here are ten of my favourite ways to practise mindfulness during the Christmas period –Read More
There’s a picture that has been hung up with the decorations in my parents’ home for as long as I can remember. It exudes feelings of love, warmth, light and joy. There’s a closeness and intimacy of the family holding hands together; everyone is connected as they share such a special day. Looking at it conjures up warm, cosy memories of my childhood Christmases, but I know for many, Christmas can be a very different experience. Some people are alone, others feel lonely even though they are surrounded by people. The same is often true living with a chronic illness. You can find yourself spending lengthy stretches of time alone through being housebound, unable to socialise or work. You can also be surrounded by people but still feel lonely, perhaps because you feel nobody understands or can truly share what you are experiencing.Read More
The cortical homunculus is a physical representation of our body in our brain. There are two types of these neurological ‘maps’; one for sensory pathways, the other for motor. The area a body part takes up on the map depends on how innervated it is, not how large. If our bodies actually looked like our brain’s representation, we would look very strange indeed. What these maps look like also varies from person to person as they are dependent on the information the brain receives. My hands probably have a larger representation than average due to my music and crafts, whilst my legs are likely to have a smaller representation than average as a result of the movement symptoms of my FND.Read More
George is a middle-aged man who lives in the States. He has a severe, progressive condition that affects all aspects of his day to day life, yet he is functioning on a higher level than many others with comparable disease. George practises mindfulness and is included as a case study in ‘Full Catastrophe Living’ by Jon Kabat-Zinn. ‘Within the limits of his disease, he is actively meeting life’s challenges rather than sitting at home and bemoaning his fate. He takes each moment as it comes and figures out how he can work with it and stay relaxed and aware.’ An example of this is how George does the weekly grocery shop for himself and his wife. He takes his time. He rests. He asks for help when necessary. He gets the shopping packed into light bag loads which he is then able to lift from the trolley to the car. The daily tasks he completes in this way bring value and meaning to his life as he is able to contribute to the running of his household, whilst self-managing his condition. Read More