Tag Archives | appreciation

SOLITUDE

There is something lovely about being on your own. We often confuse being solitary or alone with being lonely, feeling deprived of company. The two do not necessarily follow: we feel lonely if we wish we did have company, but being alone is a choice to enjoy your own company.

And that choice allows the possibility of just doing and being whatever we feel like – it is a form of freedom. When no-one else is involved we have the opportunity to follow our own rhythms, to indulge our own fancies, to consider ourselves first.

We can eat and drink what we like, when we like. We can sing our hearts out, or have complete quiet. We can get up when we’re ready to, or lie in bed with a cup of tea and read a book. We can even have complete control of the TV remote!

In our busy world, it is good for us, once in a while, to have some solitary time. It allows us to replenish our energy, and that freedom to be completely ourselves,

So this year, see if you can find yourself a little solitary time. If you live with others, suggest they go out for the day, and bask in the freedom of solitude for a little while.

May 2019 be a great year for you!!

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PEACE ON EARTH, GOODWILL TO ALL

This blog is called Ways of Remembering. In our world today, I think it’s worth remembering what Christmas really stands for. The message that accompanies the birth of Christ is simple and profound: peace on earth, goodwill to all.

It isn’t Christmas trees or presents; it isn’t overindulgence in food and drink; it isn’t spending money, going into debt. Jesus set the example of a different mind-set, and whether we believe in him or not, it’s a great example that we can all attempt to follow.

He demonstrated by example that everyone has value and deserves kindness, no matter how different from you they may be. He used stories to remind people that it may be the outcast or stranger who actually lives the values we say we have, and those who claim the highest ground often use it to exclude or condemn others, rather than to help others to be in the same place. This is what goodwill to all looks like – inclusiveness and kindness.

Jesus also famously said, ‘Turn the other cheek’. This is often interpreted as weakness or submission, but I think it simply means: stand in your place, but don’t fight for it. If we truly believe we have got it right, we have no need to prove it to others, or try to force them to agree with us . We are more likely to influence another person by being our truth than by trying to convince them with words. This is peace on earth.

So this Christmas, let’s be kind and warm with others – (and ourselves!). Let’s be the best we can be, and let others be how they are without judgement. Let’s have some peace and goodwill, at least within our own sphere of influence!

May you have a peaceful, warm and joyous Christmas time..

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TAKING TIME TO REFLECT

It is easy in our busy world to just keep going, with that feeling that we never quite catch up. Yet taking time to reflect can help to make that constant activity more purposeful and productive.

The first thing that some time for reflection can give us is a reminder that we are doing some things well/right. We often don’t notice when we’ve set a ‘new normal’ for ourselves, because we haven’t perfected it.

I may be better at giving myself a break, even though I don’t always do it. I may be good at noticing the little everyday pleasures, and forget that I didn’t used to do that very much. I may occasionally go for a walk in the fresh air, and just criticise myself for not doing it more often.

Noticing our own progress in improving our lives matters. We are always developing and growing, even if sometimes the pace of it seems slow. By acknowledging our progress to ourselves, we encourage ourselves to do more of it.

The second part of reflecting is to set some intentions for the next period of time. Rather than beating ourselves up for not getting to where we wanted to in some areas of our lives, we can choose what we want to pay attention to, to take it to the next stage.

For example, I may want to pay more attention to eating good food, or I may want to focus on doing more things that make me feel good, or I may want to get better at stopping when I’ve run out of energy. By setting ourselves four or five intentions, we give ourselves a good chance of applying them, and thereby enhancing our own development. It also reminds us of what’s really important to us, so that we adjust our busyness to include things that really matter, and feel OK about not doing some of the stuff we just do habitually.

Most of us have a bit of time over the Christmas period, where we could allow ourselves to reflect. Why not have a go at it, and see what comes up for you?

(I’ve put some beginnings of sentences below that you may find helpful in this.)

my progress                                    My intentions

I’m better at…                                           I want to pay attention to…

I’m good at…                                              I want to focus on…

I’ve started…                                             I want to get better at…

I now sometimes…                                       I’ll have a go at…

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THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STORY

So much in our world at the moment seems to be doom and gloom: our politics, our ‘news’, the lack of compassion for others. It is hard to break out of the predominant zeitgeist sometimes, and remember that this isn’t the only human condition.

Yet in amongst this, there are always reminders that there is so much more to being human. I was reminded this week in a way I wasn’t really expecting. I went to see “Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again”. I don’t really like musicals or Abba’s music, but I sat and soaked up the atmosphere it created: warm, funny and joyful. It made me laugh and cry, engaged me totally, and left me with a feeling of hope and optimism. Why? It told the other side of the story of being human.

Most of the people I know and meet are kind and friendly. They are not selfish or greedy. They may worry about things, but they find their way through it. It’s time we boosted these aspects of being human and began to offset that unpleasant version that seems to infect everything.

If we’re going to change the zeitgeist, we have to start with ourselves. We can be the role modes and demonstrate the best of the human condition.

So let’s start by refusing to take on the story:

  • Let’s find the reasons to be optimistic rather than despairing
  • Let’s notice the good in people rather than what’s wrong
  • Let’s be kind and compassionate rather than critical
  • Let’s find reasons to laugh rather than be miserable
  • Lets appreciate what we have rather than wish we had more
  • And let’s enjoy all the good moments in our lives

It’s time we all told the other side of the story by how we live our lives, and that way we can remind even more people that life can be good.

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JUST BEING HERE NOW

We spend so much of our lives doing stuff: work, chores, going places, watching things, talking with others. Even when we’re not busy doing, we’re usually busy in our heads: reviewing what’s already happened or thinking about what’s ahead of us.

And in all this occupation, we miss something important: this moment now. If we stop for a little while, we can appreciate our world, and be with ourselves more completely. I don’t mean some grand or difficult version of being present. I just mean that moment of noticing what’s happening around you, what’s going on with you, how you are in this moment.

For example, I am sitting in a courtyard with warm air around me. There are noises of people and movement and cars outside but they don’t feel intrusive – they just highlight the peacefulness of this spot. I am enjoying my morning cup of coffee and feel quite relaxed. And I feel comfortable with myself this morning. That’s it! It doesn’t have to be deep and meaningful – it is just a way of being present for a moment, before the mind rushes off somewhere else.

As we stop, we notice more of what’s around us in the world and can appreciate the buzzing of the bees, the light playing on the wall in front of us, the colour of a favourite cushion – whatever it may be – and take a little taste of delight. We can also assess our own state and if necessary, do something to improve it.

So why not take a moment now, to just be here, now, – and then another in an hour or so. It gives us an extra fillip to our everyday.

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WHAT HAVE WE LOST?

I’ve just been staying in France, and noticed, amongst other things, how it is normal there to have a local market on a regular basis, where people go to buy their fruit, veg, cheese, meat etc.

In England ‘locally sourced’ is the boast of a few restaurants and cafes, who can thereby hoist their prices, and farmers markets are very much a middle class domain where they exist. Most of us don’t have easy access to local produce – and most places don’t have much local produce any more anyway!

Does it matter? I think so! We have lost so much in our gradual move to convenience and choice, and the takeover of small producers by the biggies..

In the French market, the fruit and veg have come from local farms. It’s as fresh as it can be, and tastes delicious. Local farms provide cheese, meat – again, fresh and tasty, following years of traditional production. If there are condiments – oils, flavours – they are from nearby. The wine is the wine of the region. You are literally getting a regional flavour of France.

What’s more, you are buying from the grower, the producer. They know their products and are proud of them. I find they are delighted to tell you about them: how to use them keep them etc. It’s a direct line from grower or producer to consumer that feels healthy and guarantees a quality that is lost when it all becomes anonymous, packaged, preserved.

Now I know that once upon a time this would have been normal in England too. If you watched ‘Poldark’ on TV, they bought from local markets, or produced their own, and when I was a child, it was still certainly more possible to buy local.

Why did we let it disappear while France kept the tradition? Maybe it is as the French would say: we don’t care enough about what we eat and drink to care when local produce gets lost in the conglomerates who produce for profit rather than taste. We may have more choice – strawberries all year round! – and it may be quicker to buy everything in one place, but we have lost the soul of the food we eat, and with it some of our own soul.

I am not someone who normally delights in food, but in France, I feel as if I’m being fed properly, and enjoy every mouthful. There’s an added extra in the tomato, that cheese, that bread, that wine, which feeds my soul as well as my body – thank you France!!

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THE RICHNESS OF LIVE EXPERIENCE

Last night, my friend and I went to see James Taylor in concert. It was wonderful and just reminded me of the vast difference between a virtual experience, through a screen, or listening on a player, and actually being there for the live experience.

Visually, it was captivating, musically it was perfect and delighting, yet it was so much more than that. The atmosphere was all-enveloping and warm, and the feelings evoked in us were obviously shared and therefore amplified by those around us. And James Taylor exuded love and joy and warmth which helped create that closeness with the band and the audience that grew with every moment – a wonderful feedback loop.

It was filling my memory bank with delight, and at the same time, calling to the front similar memories, linked to James Taylor, his music, other great concerts, and just joyous moments.

I came out completely filled up and replete, body and soul, with another amazing experience shared with my friend in both our stores of good times. And I was reminded of why I go to a concert rather than watching it on TV, or listening to the cd. It gives me so much more.

And on an everyday level, I also realised why I so much prefer spending time with someone face-to-face, rather than talking on the phone or emailing, messaging, texting. It involves so much more exchange of all sorts of information, and opportunity to influence the feedback loop between us.

I like my life to be rich. I can treat myself to the odd concert, but I can also enjoy the richness of live experience with people, with places, with life. How lovely is that!

Do exploit every possible moment of live experience – it’s so much more wholesome, in every sense of the word, than anything else we’re given.

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‘IF I DIE TONIGHT, WAS IT A GOOD FINAL DAY?’

I know it sounds dramatic! My friend Lynn gave me this question a while ago, when I was describing a list of to do’s that was pretty tedious, and I loved it – it changed my view of the day.

It reminds us that we none of us know when our final day in this life may be, and that every day counts. It makes you stop and think about what a good day in that context is.

For me, there are several elements to that good day.

  1. I did something I love doing
  2. I appreciated and enjoyed the taken-for granted’s around me
  3. I connected with people I love

What? Every day? It can seem hard to apply it to some days, I know. Yet in fact, those three elements need not be time-consuming.

It only takes a few moments to notice the spring flowers, the taste of your food, the feel of fresh air on your skin. We don’t have to spend a lot of time with someone to connect – just a quick phone call or conversation where we really pay attention to them and show our love. And something I love doing can be half and hour in the garden, watching a good film, or juts making and enjoying a decent dinner.

We so often fill our days with stuff we feel needs to be done, and put off what really matters to us, because we’re too busy. How about making every day count, every day a good final day?

I certainly have taken it on as my ambition, and it feels like it makes life even more worth living – thank you Lynn!!

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DOES IT MAKE YOUR HEART SING?

I’m in the midst of one of my periodic clear-outs. I find it both satisfying and interesting to go through all my ‘stuff’ and get rid of things I no longer want.

It’s satisfying because it means cupboards, wardrobes, drawers etc. get cleaned and tidied and decluttered – and I find some of those things that get lost or buried – you know what I mean: the other earring, sock, the cheese knife, the favourite pen!

The interesting aspect is seeing what I can part with this time. Of course, there are some things we keep because they’re just useful: the vacuum cleaner, the washing up bowl, the tools we have to help us with our everyday tasks. However, most of us have a lot of stuff that doesn’t fit into that category. And years ago I realised that logic doesn’t help me to de-clutter everything else. Throwing things out because I haven’t used them for a year doesn’t work for me. What does work is a simple question: ‘does it still make my heart sing?’

In the first place, this question helped me to get rid of heaps of stuff that didn’t fit with my story any more. I let go of those things we have because someone gave them to us, and the things that were part of my past rather than my present, and the things I had because people like me are supposed to have them.

Nowadays, the answer to: ‘Does it still make my heart sing?’ shows me how my story is changing, what I’ve grown out of, so to speak. The process helps me to clarify who I am now, and at the same time ensures that the stuff I have makes me happy, makes me smile, reflects me back to myself.

And much of what I get rid of can go to the charity shop, and find another home, be in someone else’s story for a while. I also use freecycle, where you email in what you have on offer, and if someone wants it, they can contact you and you give it to them. I love finding someone who really wants those odd things you’d prefer not to just throw away!

If you haven’t looked through your stuff for a while, why not give it a go? Just do a bit of a check: does it make your heart sing? And if it doesn’t, let it go to a new home. And if it does make your heart sing, appreciate it, enjoy it fully.

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THE CHRISTMAS STORY

Those who know me will know that I’m not much into Christmas – it’s surely not my favourite time of year. Yet each time it comes around, I appreciate the reminder that Christmas – and maybe life in general – is not really about presents and food – it’s to celebrate the birth of Jesus. And that story is a story about miracles, angels appearing, kings and shepherds being equally welcome, compassion, and love.

Whether we believe it or not, it is a story of the potential we have as humans, and calls out to us each time, to live up to our potential. It’s not difficult to be compassionate, to treat everyone equally, to love others – it comes naturally to us. And if we choose to, we can notice the ‘miracles’ in our world, the synchronicities and coincidences, the gentle touch of angels, and the fundamental call and support to the best in ourselves.

This Christmas, let’s remember that love comes first, that miracles can happen, that there is more to being human than the news would suggest.

May your Christmas be joyous and loving!

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