Author Archive | Di Kamp

MAKING A HOME

I have moved back into my house after nearly four months – wonderful!! – and I’ve been gradually re-establishing it as my home.

I was given a clean slate – all my contents moved out, the whole place re-decorated – so in some ways I was starting from scratch. What it’s made me realise is that making it my home again is about creating the right feel to the place, enabling it to reflect me and how I am now.

First priorities were books and cd’s properly on shelves, music set up, wine on the rack – if you know me, you’ll understand! Then it’s about taking things out of boxes, deciding if they’re still ‘me’, and if so, choosing where they go. Some are as they were before, some are in different places, and many are in the bin or the charity shop box.

It is both exciting and challenging to ask the question: ‘ Is this me?’ It makes you think about your own evolution, and how you influence your own development by what you decide to have around you. And it helps to create a home rather than a house – it puts the heart back into the place.

I have had the benefit of being able to completely reset my home, and I would encourage you to just consider whether your home reflects who you are now, gives you that feeling of being who you want to be.

Even small differences – an ornament moved; new cushion covers; a different photo displayed; fresh flowers in a vase; three books taken out and sent to the charity shop – can change the feel of your home to reflect you, so your home is even more where the heart of you resides.

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JUST BE YOURSELF!

When I was younger, I used to try quite hard to fit in: not be too quick at answering when I was at school, so others didn’t think I was being a clever clogs; pretending to like other people’s musical tastes so I was ‘up-to-date’; dressing properly when I was a teacher; not saying anything when people were being racist. And I found it difficult because it didn’t fit me, and sometimes it was downright impossible.

By the time I got to my 30’s, I gave up on trying to fit in, and began to just be myself. Although sometimes it gives me difficult situations to deal with, generally it made my life a whole lot easier, because I don’t have to pretend or compromise my own values most of the time.

So what do I mean by ‘just be yourself’? I mean accept your characteristics, live by your own values, act in a way that matches your natural way of being, whether they fit with the norm or not. We are all individuals, unique and special, with our own particular quirks, and we need to nurture that in ourselves, even if it means we don’t please everyone else.

If we pretend to be something we’re not, it shows, because we slip up sometimes and show our true colours, or we come across as false.

Some of us are tidy, some of us aren’t; some of us like to dress up, some of us prefer to dress down; some of us prefer routine, some of us prefer variety; some of us are chatty, some of us are quiet. Whatever we’re like, there are others who are similar to us, if not the same, and we will find our ‘tribe’ if we are being who we really are.

And this doesn’t mean that we don’t bother to enhance our characteristics or behaviour. If we behave in ways that make us uncomfortable, then we want to improve that – not to please others or fit in, but to make ourselves feel better about ourselves.

I believe that our innate nature is good – we’re not born selfish or unpleasant or mean. But we are born as a unique individual, so just be yourself…

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GOOD ENOUGH

Most of us have a really mean streak in us – it is mean to us much more than others. I’m referring to that tendency we have to judge ourselves against an impossibly high set of standards. We don’t usually realise that we’re even doing it – we just feel like we should have done better: been more caring; expressed it better; finished it more quickly; done it more thoroughly – you get my drift?

The questions we need to ask ourselves are: whom are we comparing ourselves to? And what standard exactly are we expecting ourselves to achieve?

In terms of whom we are comparing ourselves to, it seems to me that it’s generally in the realms of those who are much better at whatever it is than we are – not a bit better, which might spur us on to enhance our performance, but a lot better, presently unachievable for us – now that’s mean!

In terms of standards we are expecting of ourselves, well, it’s usually a level of perfection isn’t it! I know I have a tendency to expect my behaviour to be saintly in its compassion, forgiveness, kindness, equanimity, even though I know perfectly well that I’m no saint!

I am reminded of Robert Holden’s statement that there is no such thing as a happy perfectionist, and that is definitely true, because no matter how well we do, we are unlikely to hit perfection, so always have a reason to castigate ourselves rather than be pleased with ourselves.

Now these standards and expectations we set ourselves are largely unconscious, so a useful way to counteract their effect is to consciously decide what standard or expectation you will have about any particular aspect of your life where you tend to beat yourself up for not being good enough.

If we assess where we are now, and then set ourselves a small step further on, then we can have an assessment of our own progress which is fair, instead of another reason to be mean to ourselves. By doing this beforehand, we give ourselves motivation and encouragement before the event, instead of beating ourselves up after the event.

For example, if you tend to be impatient, see if you can take a deep breath and walk away from whatever is making you impatient the next time you feel it. If you’d like to be fitter, just set yourself to walk round the block once a day. Give yourself a sense of success and improvement rather than a sense of failure.

And remember, sometimes good enough is good enough. We aren’t here to be perfect, we’re here to be human.

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SOCIAL ACTION

I have taken my time to say something about the worldwide protests about inequality that were prompted by the death of George Floyd in the USA, because I wanted to reflect on the bigger picture of what’s happening. This is only my thoughts, of course, and I’d welcome any other ideas you may have that add to my thinking.

This felt like more than just a protest about a particular event, however horrifying that may be.

It seems to me that the lockdown we’ve all experienced has brought with it a greater awareness of some of the other things that are not right about our world. Our governments lie and bluster – they may claim that they’re doing things for the good of all, but it’s blatantly obvious that’s not true. Our way of managing economics means that some have money and some don’t, that businesses won’t survive this setback because of running a debt model, and that those people who will lose out the most are those who can least afford it. And our social policies have left vital areas of our public services unable to fulfil their intention.

I think that the time, for many, to reflect on what their lives are like, combined with daily briefings and covid-related news that serve to highlight some of the wrongs, have brought about a greater awareness of how our world isn’t working for the majority, and how prevalent the building of fear is.

We have massive redundancies and people losing their jobs; we have under-staffed care homes and hospitals; we rely on low-paid, often migrant workers to keep our economy going yet have policies to keep them out; and there are far more deaths from this disease in the ethnic minority communities. On top of that, most people were already under stress, working too long hours, trying to do more than is humanly possible, or struggling to maintain some dignity in poverty – food banks were already over-stretched, before the pandemic made it worse.

The intensification of that feeling of ‘It’s not right’ was given a particular focus by the killing of George Floyd – it gave people a reason to protest against injustice and inequality and they came out in their thousands – and yes, there were some fringe elements that caused problems, looting and fighting, but the majority were peacefully asserting everyone’s right to a decent and respected life.

It is more than a protest about inequality and injustice for black people, although that is undoubtedly a just cause, it is a protest about a world where that inequality and injustice is still a big part of the story, a world where respect and care for other human beings is lacking, where there are many versions of ‘them and us’, where basic support and care are lacking.

And if that is to change, we all need to make our voices heard. We need to move beyond the feeling of ‘it’s not right’ and begin to define what ‘right’ would be. Then we can stand up for what is right, rather than protest against what is wrong.

And please, let’s stand up. It is us that our governments, our policy makers, represent. Most of us are caring and believe in fairness. We need to ensure that those who represent us demonstrate our values in their actions and push them to listen to what we really want in our world.

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ACCEPTING THINGS AS THEY ARE

The other evening I was listening to an old album by Cat Stevens, and I’ve always loved the song ‘Moon Shadow’ (If you don’t know it, look it up – and listen to the lyrics as well as the beautiful melody). As I heard it again, it resonated even more with me than before, because it is about accepting things as they are, rather than fighting against your circumstances, and it was certainly a useful reminder for me!

At present I can’t be in my own home because it needs some big repair work after the fire I had, and I also recently tripped and cracked a rib which is very painful. So I’ve been feeling quite sorry for myself and railing against my bad luck. And what has that done for me? Just made me feel worse!

Wishing things were different never made it so, and in fact just emphasises whatever it is that we don’t want in our lives. On the other hand, accepting things as they are frees up our energy to look for ways of making it feel better.

It isn’t a passive giving in to the circumstances – that ‘poor me’ syndrome is caused by the contrast between how you’d like things to be and how they are. It is a simple ‘Well, this is how it is’, which leaves us room to actively begin to make the best of it, and space to begin to think about how we can adapt to make it work.

Once we say yes to how things are, we can start to be creative again, and help ourselves to improve the circumstances. I may have particular things to rail against at the moment, but this too will pass. And all of us have been suffering the restrictions due to the virus at a minimum, without anything extra to wish away.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t ever moan abut our circumstances and wish it were different – that would be denying our own feelings – but let’s keep it to a minimum, not in order to be ‘positive’ or a good person, but to keep our energy for something more useful.

After all, I may not be able to be as accepting as the song suggest, but a cracked rib means that I can’t do the hoovering, and I can choose new colours for the rooms in my house because they will be redecorating for me.

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‘MY COMMITMENT IS TO TRUTH, NOT CONSISTENCY’ – GHANDI

I first came across this quote many years ago, in a talk by Ram Dass. It resonated with me then, and changed the way I did things, and it seems very appropriate to now.

As we all try to cope with the times we’re in, where we don’t have our old normal to guide the way we live our lives, it is vital that we take the opportunity to listen to our own truth.

This can mean something quite simple, like admitting that we have good and bad days, or we are not all exercising like mad and getting fit, or coming up with new creative ideas. How we are reacting doesn’t have a logic to it, and I don’t know about you, but I find it a relief when friends say that some days they are really pissed off with the situation, and have no motivation to do anything. It’s good to know I’m not alone!!

In a wider context, a commitment to truth leads us to reflect on the way we have been leading our lives, and check out whether something is just habit or really fits with who we are.

I know many people are questioning the long hours they would normally put in at the office, or how little time they usually give to their family and friends.

When circumstances change so much, we have the chance to ask ourselves what really matters to us, what does make us feel fulfilled, good, happy. I think almost all of us, for example, have realised that hugs really matter, and that, good as technology is for helping us to keep in touch, it’s not the same as physical, face-to-face contact.

So please, don’t let’s just revert to our old normal when that looks possible. Let’s all be a little more true to ourselves and what makes a difference to us, and thereby gain something really valuable from this experience.

Oh, and by the way, just so you know, yesterday was a shitty day for me, but today feels better already, and both reactions are for no good reason except my truth!!

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THE SIMPLE THINGS IN LIFE

As I was sitting in the garden the other day, I heard someone in the street commenting on how beautiful the bluebells looked in a garden. Then another couple who were walking past were talking about the different birdsongs they could hear and how lovely it was to hear that rather than the traffic going past.

However hard this lockdown is, it is at least giving us the opportunity to appreciate the simple things in life – something we at Meta have advocated for many years. Whether it be the warmth of the sun on us, or the taste of fresh vegetables, or the smell of fresh-baked bread – (is everyone making their own bread these days?) – these things feed our soul and bring a much-needed smile to our faces.

And these simple things are all around us in our homes and in our world. They lift us out of the fear and restriction for a moment, out of our heads and into our hearts. They are what is there in the moment, real, free and available.

So spend a few moments each hour enjoying the simple pleasures in life, and have a little break from the uncertain nature of what’s going on in the world.

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THANK GOD FOR A SENSE OF HUMOUR!

I wrote a while ago about how kindness is good for us, and how it is showing its face more and more as this crisis goes on. The other aspect of our characters that is really useful at this time is our sense of humour.

They say laughter is the best medicine, and science backs this up – laughing releases health-giving chemicals into our bodies, and also helps us to let go of stress.

And there are streams of funny memes, tweets and video clips doing the rounds, to bring a smile to our faces. The TV channels have picked out some old sitcoms to replay in the space created by programmes that can’t now happen – they will certainly make some people laugh at them again. All of this will help keep us sane and in perspective, when everything else seems so serious and worrying.

And we can all play our part. We can actively choose to watch or listen to things that make us laugh. And we can tell others of the funny or absurd or silly things we’ve done or experienced while staying at home – I’ve done some, haven’t you?

I covered myself in dark green paint when I dropped the can and tried to catch it before it spilt, while painting the fence. It took ages to get it off my skin and there is still some on the clothes I was wearing. And I was glad there was no-one there to see me and I didn’t have to go out in public!

At the very least, we can smile at each other and say hello, even from two metres away! We don’t have to avoid emotional contact, only physical, so let’s spread more smiles, which are the beginning of laughter, when we are out for exercise or shopping.

We are living in absurd times – lets recognise the absurdity as well as the less positive aspects of it.

Find a reason to laugh today.

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THE THINGS WE TAKE FOR GRANTED

It’s strange times we live in. Being asked to stay at home except for essential trips, and to maintain social distancing are great reminders of the normal things we take for granted.

A minor example: my watch stopped working, and I would usually pop into town and get a new battery inserted – but the places that do that are closed. No one is having their hair trimmed or their nails done. There are no yoga classes or gyms –and yes, you can find replacements to do it remotely on-line, but it’s not the same.

And the biggest gap in our normality is all those casual relationships that we don’t even think of – the everyday human contact, with shop assistants, people in the street, the postman or delivery person, the other people at the gym or class. They are only brief exchanges, and we may not even know their name, but they enliven our days and often give us reason to smile.

We are biologically designed to interconnect with others – it is a basic human drive. The upturn in the use of zoom, facetime, skype etc. is an indicator of that. People are making a big effort to keep in touch with those they are close to. But these other relationships are also really important – I’m certainly missing them.

So maybe in future, when we are able to go about our normal daily business, we will take a little more time to appreciate the simple human interactions we take for granted: speak to the bank clerk, the shop assistant, the people who smile on the street, the refuse collectors, the delivery person. They all contribute to our well-being and our need to be connected, to have human contact.

(By the way, since I wrote this, I have had a house fire – and it means I have had to move in with my son and daughter-in-law until the repairs can be done. I now have a greater sympathy with those who are not in their own home with those things we take for granted – so please appreciate your own bed, your own chairs etc. They also contribute to our wellbeing and make our home our own place of peace and refuge – so love being with them during this period!)

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KINDNESS IS THE WAY

We are all of us affected by what’s going on with Covid 19, and it is something which can bring out the worst in us. There is panic buying, flouting of the social distancing guidelines and other forms of selfish or mean behaviour. All of this is driven by fear – an understandable emotion right now.

However, fear, anxiety, stress, are the emotions that will make us more vulnerable to the infection, because they release chemicals into our bodies that suppress the immune system.

Kindness is the way, and there are more and more examples of kindness being reported:

  • People helping each other out
  • Strangers offering to help anyone who needs it in their community
  • Postmen who check that those they deliver to are OK
  • And the amazing response when the National Health Service in the UK asked for 250,00 volunteers, and got 405,00 in less than 24 hours.
  • Then there are those who are videoing concerts for people, or activities to occupy small children at home, or virtual classes for exercise – and the list goes on.

People the world over are showing their appreciation for those on the front line, continuing to maintain services, and the health workers who are caring for those who have caught the infection. And more and more people are coming up with creative ways to help each other out.

This is the best of human behaviour, and it is also a really good way to stay healthy. Kindness releases all the health-giving chemicals into our bodies, and helps us to build our immunity.

And kindness is also highly infectious! We see an example of kindness, or we experience someone being kind to us, and we get prompted to be kinder ourselves.

This time will change our societies. Let’s make sure it’s a change for the better, and spread the infection of kindness, to the point where it’s habitual rather than occasional. We can all do something: a phone call to a friend; a bit of food shopping for a self-isolating neighbour; a big smile and thank you to those who are working to deliver things to keep us going and to care for the vulnerable and sick.

Let’s infect as many as we can with kindness!!

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