Archive | Ways of Remembering

Di’s Blog Post Articles

WHAT ENLIVENS YOU?

As we continue to be restricted in what we can do, who we can see, where we can go, it is easy to become fed up, a bit miserable, and rather dull! Life can seem like just a repetitive round of same old, same old, and we lack stimulus or motivation.

So we need to find as many ways as possible to enliven our lives – make it living not just surviving.

So what enlivens you?

There are the things that get us going physically and wake us up in our bodies: a walk in the fresh air, an hour in the garden, our favourite form of exercise, or just dancing to a favourite piece of music.

Then there are the things that enliven us mentally: watching an interesting documentary, talking ‘big talk’ with the friends who do that, tackling a tough crossword, reading more on a topic you’re curious about.

And there are those things that liven up our positive emotions: a feel-good movie, laughing with a friend, doing something kind for someone else, getting absorbed for a few hours in something you love doing.

And of course, any one of these ‘enliveners’ may well stimulate our liveliness in more than one way. We know the things that really ‘wake us up’ again.

We all have lots of possibilities, even with the restrictions we are currently experiencing, ad we can choose to give ourselves something that makes us feel truly alive each day, if only for a short time.

This is not indulgence, it’s essential for us, to keep us growing and thriving a human beings. And by practising it now, we can get into the habit of ensuring that we really live our lives each day.

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A SIGN OF HOPE

I know I usually write about something that is more personal, about our everyday lives, but I feel I have to reference what has just happened – it feels personal to me!

I spent most of the last week obsessively following the news on the American elections. It felt like the outcome of that election would be an important indicator of future possibilities: either more tendency towards empty rhetoric, a lack of fundamental values, and self-centred behaviour; or a revitalisation of decency, working together to improve things, and a thought-through approach to dealing with problems.

Halleluiah!! Despite Trump’s ability to stir up the worst in people and convince them that his ‘alternate facts’ were true, we have a new President-Elect. And Biden may not be an Obama, but he is an elder statesman who will bring some common sense, experience, and a strong team to restore some order in American politics, not to mention the world.

It won’t be straightforward, and he’s walking into a really difficult situation, with a lot to deal with, but for me, this result is a hopeful sign. Many people may still be convinced by sound bites, superficialities, and what they want to hear, but more people in the USA have decided to come out and say that enough is enough.

Some years ago, I took some time to research the descriptions of era changes – the big shifts that happen in societies and cultures. The common theme of signs that an era change was happening was that you begin to see more of the worst behaviour of the old era, with small examples of how the new era could be beginning to appear.

The real shift begins when the new era examples start to take more hold, and the old era behaviour begins to lose ground. This can be in politics, our attitude to our environment, the way we work, or our behaviour with each other.

I’ve always been interested in the bigger picture, and I believe we have been progressing towards a new era in many of these areas over the last decades, slowly but surely, despite the obvious worst of the old behaviours that have also been happening.

Joe Biden’s election gives me renewed optimism that we’re genuinely shifting, and encourages me to continue to do what I can to further the cause of a new era based on fundamental values of compassion, kindness, honesty, thoughtfulness, applied to the way we are with each other, the way things are done and the way we are in our world.

Let’s all build on this hopeful sign, and help- strengthen a new era in our world…

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THE THEATRE OF THE ABSURD

Many years ago, I studied the theatre of the absurd. Now I am living in it! We have a prime minster who looks like a clown, sounds like an advert spouting slogans and leads like a drunkard who has a ‘good idea’ – a less extreme yet equally unimpressive version of ‘crazy uncle’ Trump. His cohort in government is no better – they all seem more like caricatures than real human beings, and seem to be driven by the belief that if they spout their nonsense often enough, we will all fit in to their story.

If we go out anywhere, most people have face-coverings – remember when that was weird? – and we attempt to stay away from other people as much as possible. And we are all under threat from something we can’t see and we don’t understand.

It’s amazing we are coping as well as we are!

In this live version of the theatre of the absurd, I find it helpful to re-focus on my own corner of this world, and do what I can to give myself a sense of meaning, purpose and enjoyment. Despite the restrictions and the nonsense, I can still have contact with friends, work on my garden, do my writing, and enjoy the natural world as it goes about its normal natural flow. I can maintain and build and enjoyable and purposeful daily life that feels real, rather than being caught up in the absurd melodrama.

Focussing on what we have, rather than what we don’t have, what we can do as opposed to what we can’t do, paying attention to the things that really matter to us, ensuring that we have enjoyable moments in the day, keeping ourselves as fit and healthy as we can – these are the things that will bring us through this period of absurdity, and maybe then we can reach a point where we are in the theatre of enlightenment instead of the theatre of the absurd.

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APPRECIATING OR JUDGING?

I was listening to a talk by Ram Dass, my teacher, the other day, and he said something that I found really challenging, about appreciating difference. He was proposing that we needed to learn how to simply appreciate the difference between different people who weren’t like us, rather than judging them as better or worse. He compared it to how we are with plants: we appreciate their diverse beauty and distinctiveness rather than judge them.

My initial reaction was to agree with him and castigate myself because I certainly judge other people some of the time.

As I thought about it more, I began to wish that he were here in the flesh, so I could debate it with him! I am good at appreciating our differences to a certain level: different histories, cultures, skin colour, shape, interests talents. I enjoy meeting people who are different from me because it is an opportunity to widen my own horizons.

The sticking point comes when they demonstrate values or behaviours which are at odds with my core values. I cannot accept cruelty, abuse, manipulation, misuse of power, to name a few. These go against values which are fundamental in every religion.

I then went back to the plants! I love my diverse mix of plants, I love woodland, but there are some plants which are definitely thugs! They may look attractive in the first place, but they take over the space, bullying other plants and using up the goodness of the soil. These ones I have to take out.

Now I know Ram Dass well enough to know that he would say that we should look past the behaviour and see that the soul of that person who’s behaving badly is either a ‘young soul’ that we could feel sorry for, that it has this incarnation, or that it has come to each us a lesson by being a nasty person, so we can remember what goodness and kindness is.

He was an amazing being, who could do that a lot of the time. I’m not there yet. I do judge some people for their behaviour and find it unacceptable at a fundamental level. I believe that kindness and consideration for others are crucial in this world and we need to stand up and speak out against those who offend these values.

What do you think?

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NOTHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO?

I didn’t realise how important it was to me to have things to look forward to: holidays and concerts booked for sometime in the future. I didn’t consciously think about them much, once they were booked, but cancelling the last one in the diary definitely hit hard. They obviously gave me a sense of movement, direction, and a form of landmark.

So now what, in these times when everything is uncertain, and none of us know for how long we will be restricted in our movement and our social activity? One of my friends gave me the clue: she said she was planning in visits with people she loves, which included me, I’m glad to say! (We can still do that, at this point in time).

I’ve always enjoyed that, and I realised that it was a reminder about two things. The first is how much our relationships with others matter. We all realised that when it was taken away from us during the full lockdown – let’s not forget it or take it for granted again. Instead, let’s delight in our friendships and fully appreciate them.

The second reminder was that, even in ‘ordinary’ times, the only real certainty is right now, the present moment. Getting through our everyday with occasional highlights to look forward to is not living our lives, and if the highlight is disappointing, that’s even worse!

So what can I appreciate about today, how can I make today a good day? Taking the time to notice the autumn sunshine, the flowers still blooming in the garden; paying attention to my cats and their sweetness; laughing with a friend at the absurdity of it all; making a tasty dinner; watching a good movie – there are so many ways we can enliven our day.

I may not have anything to look forward to at the moment but I do have today. Let’s make it a good one!

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EVERYDAY RITUALS

Over the years my mornings have changed considerably. Once upon a time the morning routine consisted of a quick shower, a gulped cup of coffee, and putting my face on (that’s how I thought of putting make-up on!). Nowadays, there is quiet time with lemon tea, a coffee with journal writing, a check through any plans for the day, and eventually the actual getting ready for the day – wash, clothes etc.

I was remembering how it felt to rush off to work, and wondering if my mornings are simply an indulgence, now that I don’t have to rush.

But I think there is a bigger distinction between those mornings than just time taken. I used to have a routine – etymologically that means an automatic, mechanical way of doing things – and it got me out of the house on time. Now I have everyday rituals – etymologically rituals are a sacred act, with intention.

This distinction between routine and ritual is important because it is about choosing to imbue an activity with meaning rather than just doing it automatically. For example, your shower can be just what you do to clean yourself, or it can be a way of refreshing yourself ready for a new day.

Having everyday rituals helps us to punctuate our days with ways of refreshing, re-energising, or allowing ourselves to rest, and consciously using them for that purpose enriches their effect.

‘This is my wake-up cup of coffee.’

‘That spritz of perfume/cologne means I’m ready for what comes next.’

’The 5 minute walk round the garden is my time to re-energise.’

‘Reading a few pages of my book gets me ready to sleep.’

By connecting particular activities with an effect and saying so to ourselves, we give ourselves an easy way of achieving that effect.

So don’t have routines – they’re boring – but do have everyday rituals – they enrich your life.

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ONE THING TOO MANY

I’ve spent the last month or so gradually unpacking the contents of my home and sorting them. And in that period I have become aware of a bad habit I have.

Have you ever tripped over your own feet? Lost your temper when something you were fixing seemed to get worse not better? Dropped that pile of things you had carefully piled up in your arms so you only had to make one trip? If so, you may have this bad habit sometimes too…

I call it the one thing too many syndrome. It’s when you know in your guts that it’s time to stop, at least for a while, but your head says, ‘ I’ll just finish this, or move that or put the other away.’ It’s not only a denial of your own awareness, it’s also almost always a mistake! That extra task is when you drop something or break it, or when you can’t find what you’re looking for, or when you can’t get something to fit together, or when the right words won’t come to mind.

My impatience to get things done has led to frustration and more things to rectify rather than extra progress. So I am retraining myself to listen to my guts, and to assess what I can do against my own energy and enthusiasm levels rather than some external measure that says I could do more.

I know this really – I preach it to others. I know that we don’t have consistent energy or focus levels. I know we are not robots and we work more effectively in short bursts. I know that a bit of a break can make all the difference. And I know that overall I am far more productive when I work with myself rather than despite myself.

So I’m back n this learning curve – wouldn’t it be great if we got the message the first time around!! – doing half a task well instead of a whole task badly. It’s been a useful reminder to me – and if you recognise any of this, I hope it’s a useful reminder to you. As Winnie the Pooh suggests, if you allow yourself to stop and have a think, or a little honey, things do get done and you don’t wear yourself out.

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HOW CAN I HELP?

I do like to be helpful! When someone is finding life hard, I love to be able to suggest ways of making it easier. But it’s important to remember that we all walk our own path. I might think I know what will help, but I’m not living their life, with their lessons, their approaches, their beliefs. My view is only my view, from my perspective.

So how do we help others? I have had a to of help from friends over the last few months, so it’s obviously possible!

To begin with, we need to be in a good state ourselves. If we are OK in ourselves, we remind others at an unconscious level that there is that space to be OK, that it exists. We’re like the light at the end of the tunnel, saying: ‘You can come through this.’

Also, if we’re OK, we don’t need them to make us feel better by taking on our suggestions, our solutions. We’re not so invested in sorting it out for them, in order to make ourselves feel like a good person.

Then we probably help most by just being there to listen. By allowing someone to talk about their issues without judging or interrupting, whilst paying them proper attention, we give them the space to express it for themselves. This both relieves the pressure of it going round and round in their head, and often helps them to unravel it a bit for themselves. We call this being a witness – someone who is just there with you, supporting without interfering.

Now, as a witness, you have a different perspective from the person who is caught up in their story. You may notice that they have the problem out of proportion, or that a possible resolution is sitting there in their description, or that, if they looked at it from a different angle, it would feel different. Telling them what you notice can be helpful, but remember, they may not be ready to accept what you’re observing, and that’s OK.

Similarly, you may have ideas about what might help from your own experience of similar situations. And it’s good to offer them up as possibilities, but again, you have to accept that they may reject them – your ideas may not resonate with them in their story.

Finally, practical simple help can make a big difference. You may not be able to help with the problem, but you could read through that document they can’t make sense of, or get that thing from the shops for them so they’ve one less thing to think about, or just take them out for a coffee so they are literally in a different space for a little while.

When it comes down to it, being helpful is all about creating some space where someone has the possibility to sort it out for themselves. We can’t do it for them, but we can give them the room to begin to find their own way through.

And thank you to all my friends who have been so helpful to me in a time of turbulence!

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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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