It’s worth getting up early when you finally feel comfortable in a single scull and the river is like glass! Endorphins flowing and feeling happy… Valuable use of my time? Check.
It’s worth getting up early when you finally feel comfortable in a single scull and the river is like glass! Endorphins flowing and feeling happy… Valuable use of my time? Check.
I was doing my coaching training at the time when I knew deep down that I had tried everything I could to keep my marriage alive and that I needed to leave. I was also too terrified to deal with the mayhem I knew would result.
We had to practise coaching one another, and to that end, had to think up scenarios which we could use. Whatever ‘safe’ scenario I dreamt up, I invariably found myself being drawn into the one big question I didn’t really want to face.
My idea of writing a ‘thought for the day’ was to give myself both rhythm and inspiration briefly, so I could ‘get on’ with my day.
However, it seems to me, that whatever I think about, I keep coming back to this rather enormous question:
WHAT CONSTITUTES A VALUABLE USE OF OUR (MY ) TIME?
I am wrestling with this in a major way at the moment. If anyone has any thoughts they would like to share, I would be delighted to hear. Meanwhile, because this is only meant to be a thought, and the answer is going to take a lot of wrestling, I am going for the immediately simple one of cooking right now! More on this anon…..
SUMMER THOUGHTS FOR THE DAY
It’s August, and ‘everyone’ is away on holiday and all classes have stopped. It’s the month for whiling away the hours in lazy sunshine…
Except that I can’t afford to do that, and besides, it seems that Yorkshire was not made aware that ‘lazy sunshine’ was supposed to be the order of the day.
So I am giving notice to anyone who happens to read my blog, that I have made a covenant with myself to put in some sort of thought for the day for the next month – whether that be one of mine, or just one that inspires me.
I would be delighted if this helps/interests/entertains anyone else, but I just want to make it clear that this is something I am doing for myself:
REFLECTIONS ON MOTHERS DAY
My parents, though British, have lived all my life in Africa. I am the divorced mother of an only daughter. Her father’s family have always got together at Christmas and celebrated lavishly. If I loved my daughter, it seemed obvious to let her spend Christmas Day with them, and I learned to hold the day lightly, and to celebrate whenever I was able to get together with what family I had here in the UK. But I also learned to dread the familiar question (as early as September) –‘What are you doing for Christmas?’
Today, having the gift of a daughter here, but a mother on the other side of the world, I have been aware both of the joy of having a child, and the sadness of those who do not have, or are not able to be, a mother; of those who have had a child but no longer are with them for whatever reason, for those who are not able to be with their mothers.
These days of supposed celebration, much touted by the media, are often for many, a reason to feel disenfranchised, on the periphery, lonely and not part of something which feels important.
Because I know that pain, I wanted to write something to let those people know that they are being thought of, and reached out to, even if only in writing.
My training in Alexander Technique taught me the importance of peripheral vision. On days like this, this translates for me into being aware of those of our friends and acquaintances who may be feeling isolated, and finding ways to connect with them.
As someone who faced the very real threat of losing a child in the process of divorce, I also wish to encourage everyone who knows of someone in that situation to do as much as they can for any parent (mother or father) to help them bear that excruciating loss, and further to help prevent it if at all possible.
I have been pondering what it means to be a mother:
• Motherhood is a lifelong commitment, whether one outlives one’s offspring or not
• It is a gift that demands one’s utmost – in creativity, resolve, patience, selflessness, energy, time, fierceness, and longevity of commitment.
• It is way of loving which transcends dislike, exhaustion, frustration and pain
• One can leave country, city, town, village, job, lover or husband, but for me the bond with my daughter is the one constant that it would be unthinkable or impossible to sever. Even as I write this, I am aware that for some, because of fear, illness, pain, or addiction, this may not be true, and the children of those mothers carry the excruciating pain of rejection – whether or not that rejection was deliberate or unconscious.
And those who have not been granted the gift of motherhood have to find other ways to express their creativity, resolve, patience, energy, time and commitment without the daily reminder that children offer. It is therefore a harder task, and I honour those who manage it.
So while I rejoice in this ‘Mothers’ Day, for what it is worth, I send love and good wishes to all those women for whom this day would otherwise be one of sadness, loss or isolation. And to those who have chosen otherwise, I wish them a very happy ‘in-Mothers’ Day!
I spent the day with about 800 women at the ‘Be Inspired’ Conference today celebrating International Women’s Day – and was truly inspired.
Unity through Diversity:
The speakers came from very different walks of life and there were some common themes as to why we would count them ‘successful’. We can all learn from them!
These women followed their passions. They had a dream, and made that dream work for them.
2. ENERGY & DEDICATION
The proliferation of Reality TV shows, and the attention garnered through social media can lead us to believe that success is quickly and easily achievable. But each of these women had dedicated time, energy, intelligence, grit and determination to become leaders in their fields.
3. WILLINGNESS TO STAND UP AND BE COUNTED
Many of the women had become leaders in fields often thought of as bastions of the male sex. They had suffered contempt, criticism, humiliation and condescension on their way to the top. Nevertheless they had stood their ground, fought the fight, and stood out as beacons of hope and role models for those of us less willing to be seen and heard.
4. COLLABORATION, KINDNESS AND GENEROSITY
Not only had these women fought for themselves, they had all freely and generously given of their time and talents to foster talent, to mentor younger women, and to reach out to those less fortunate or skilled. They all realised that although we can strive to stand out and be different, ultimately collaboration is the way forward.
A common theme was the difficulty that many women face in trying to ‘have it all’ – i.e have a family and career. It is interesting (and somewhat dispiriting) that men seldom face this question.
So I have this challenge – how do we join together to change social norms, change attitudes and ultimately government policy. We have much to learn from our Scandinavian counterparts. In 2020, Finland will change its entire schooling system, no longer teaching by subject, but by phenomenon. Paternity leave is not only offered, but encouraged and supported, in most Scandinavian countries. If they can make such radical changes, why can’t we, and what do we need to do to make it happen?
And now, having attended the Conference, been to work afterwards, cooked a roast dinner for my daughter and cleared it up, written a couple of articles, tweeted and emailed, I need to go to bed!
It is said that we teach best what we most need to learn. I am a pretty good teacher on a number of things, but particularly on self acceptance!
I am embarking tomorrow on a 7 week online mindfulness course. I am doing this for a number of reasons.
Compassionate Presence vs Running Away
I have worked long enough with people to know that I am not alone in this. What I know is that when I scratch below the surface, almost everyone has a place where they face the challenge of themselves, more or less successfully. And I think it might help me and others for me to articulate some of the challenges I face in myself and seek to overcome.
In many ways, I love my life. I row, play tennis, sing, hike, camp, body surf when I get the chance, and much too little dance and play music. I have a job I love and a wonderful daughter and good friends.
How is it, that with all that, I can run away from myself? Well, I do. I notice that when left to myself, if I am not careful, and certainly if I am not thriving for any reason, I run away from myself, tune out, self numb or whatever you like to call it. Occasionally I tell myself I am not so bad, because the activities I choose are relatively innocuous – I watch other people live life on film instead of living it myself (under the heading of chilling out), I play rather a frightening amount of sudoku and free cell (under the heading of keeping my brain active), and rather less innocuously, from time to time, I smoke (under the heading of, well, it only harms me, and I don’t have vices like getting drunk or having loads of sex with random people, and I need some form of sensual outlet).
One of my favourite authors, Salley Vickers, talks in her book, ‘The Other Side of You’, about what passes for love often being a decidedly mixed bag: lust, anxiety, lack of self-worth, sadism, masochism, cowardice, fear, recklessness, self-glory, simple brutality, the need to control, the urge to be looked after; most dangerous of all, the desire to save. There are other, happier, ingredients: kindness, compassion, honour, friendship, sympathy, the wish to help, the attendant wish to be good, though these finer impulses can often wreak more havoc then the more blackguardly ones.
I cite this, because I think it is worth looking at in terms of relationship to others, but also because I think that ‘innocuous’ ways of running away from ourselves can also wreak more havoc than more blackguardly ones. We can convince ourselves that we are doing really important work that needs our time and attention, we can do charitable works or do sport, music or other things that are good in themselves, but can equally masquerade as ways of avoiding being quietly and compassionately present with ourselves.
‘Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment and especially on their children than the unlived life of the parent.’
—Carl Gustav Jung
As a parent, I am painfully aware of the truth of this statement. If for no other reason than to enable my daughter to live a full and happy life, I would like to truly live my life. And I have done enough work on self awareness to know that those ways I have of trying to escape myself, whether seemingly innocuous or not, will have, and have had, and impact on her. So I am doing my best to find strategies for facing myself, acknowledging my vulnerabilities and giving myself the love and compassion that I need to thrive.
We are what we habitually do
I also know from my work, that it takes 300 repetitions to create a new neural pathway, and 3000 to repetitions to break an old one!
I see it as no accident that all the major religions have about 5 calls a day to prayer. It seems that we all need help and reminding to come back to ourselves, to loving presence, and the means to live fully.
In my work I have developed a great sensitivity which enables me to tune into the pain of others, be that physical, mental, emotional, spiritual or energetic. But as Brene Brown says, we cannot selectively numb. I have told many of my clients who are deeply sensitive that sensitivity brings many riches, but if we don’t pay it attention, care for it and manage it well, it can wreak havoc.
I am a person who feels the highs and lows of life, and do not naturally flow along on an even keel, so I need to take care, and to develop the daily management of my sensitivity.
I am going to pay it attention in the next 7 weeks, and will report back on my progress!
Seven years ago (!) some of my necklaces got seriously entangled. My parents were staying with me at the time, and I handed them to my father, who loved to sit in a chair…but after an hour, he gave up, and so did I.
Five years ago I moved city and house, taking with me my bundle of necklaces. Since then, they have ‘adorned’ a bowl in my room, gathering dust and being otherwise useless.
Earlier this year, I read Marie Kondo’s Book, ‘The Magic of Tidying”, and am happy to say, have been putting some of her suggestions into practice. I disagree with her suggestion that one should sort by type, rather than location. If I had nothing else to do for about two weeks, that might have worked, but I have worked systematically through my house, room by room, following her most excellent suggestion of handling every piece of ‘stuff”. Anything that does not give joy and/or is useful, goes.
I am a hoarder by nature, and being self employed, am also obliged to hoard a certain amount of paperwork. But I have been through every piece of paper I have kept for the last 30 odd years, every piece of clothing, every drawer, cupboard, nook and cranny, and boy does it feel wonderful to clear!
My room was the last in the house, and I had been through everything and was on the last leg of the tidy up when a friend, who disappears for months on end, rang. I had been procrastinating about this last effort, and had only two hours available, and when he calls, he talks! So I confess I multi tasked by taking the nearest thing to hand – my necklaces, to work on while listening.
By the time we finished, I felt as though I was getting somewhere, and it felt imperative to finish the job. As I sat on the floor, patiently picking and weaving, getting to dead ends and having to start again elsewhere, my mind began writing this blog.
Our qualities and gifts are like beautiful, precious jewels that are given to us to adorn, to sparkle, to catch the light, to beautify us. Yet often we allow them to get enmeshed, to gather dust, to become unfit for purpose. Then not only we, but those with whom we come in contact are impoverished.
It feels very significant to me that I have managed to untangle these jewels of mine. It took me a long time, and I had to keep looking for different strands, and approach the problem from different perspectives (necklaces). But how lovely to once again have eight necklaces that I can use and enjoy! Interestingly one or two don’t really go with what I wear any more and I am giving them away so someone else can enjoy them.
Colour has always been really important to me, and I was interested that all these necklaces were either purple or orange. In the energy meditations I studied, these colours have to do with spirituality, (purple) and self esteem, creativity and sexuality (orange).
Now here I venture into the realms of things I experience but don’t fully understand. Moreover, I know that some of my friends who are steeped in Christianity will feel I am heading off on a path of the devil! Some of my intelligent, left brained friends and colleagues may feel I have gone ‘too mystical’. For a very long time I have drawn these things into my life and work in a practical way, but have not owned up to them publicly for fear of censure. I do feel though, that they form part of my jewels that I have to share.
One of the things on my bucket list is to find a way to understand and articulate what I know and experience about energy in such a way as to make it understandable to those who espouse Christianity and scientific enquiry (my background – fundamental, evangelical Christianity and a Maths Degree). So feel free to challenge or engage me further on this!
Interestingly, many people I know go to Yoga classes or have acupuncture. I wonder if they realise that they are essentially espousing some of the concepts I am going to address…. next time! Or this blog will be too long…
EXAM TIPS FROM MY DAUGHTER’S VERY BRILLIANT AUNT WHO IS NOW A VERY SUCCESSFUL LAWYER
(Reproduced with her permission)
It is exam time in our household (can you tell??) My daughter is currently managing her stress remarkably well and working hard. The only stress I currently have is that at the weekend, she asked if she could video me doing my warm up ‘dance’ as she calls it that I do with my music students, because her boyfriend was tired and she thought it would help him. I obliged, dressed in one of my oldest fleeces and not explaining anything much because she gave me no chance. Apparently the video is going viral (well, in very localised terms), and my daughter and all her friends were to be seen on the school playing fields practising this, much to the amusement of the boys looking on unseen.
Actually of course, I am secretly proud that my daughter thinks enough of something I find meaningful to share it with her friends. The following are things I was not much good at myself, and when her aunt took the trouble to write all these things down, I thought them too good to miss, so here is some more help in enjoying exams.
Coming up next…. Power Postures – 2 minutes to de-stress.
1. Be Prepared!
2. Organise your revision so that by the day before your exams you have reduced everything you know about a subject to notes on just one side of A4. Those notes should be able to spark your memory on all the host of other things you know about the subject. Like someone giving a speech has a card with maybe 5 or 6 headings but knows what to say around those headings.
3. In the exam, take stock. You will have worked out how many questions you have to answer and how long you should allow for each question.
4. You must read the whole paper carefully (always turning to over to check you don’t miss anything)
5. Take a gulp (calm breath, my words) and read each question again.
6. When you can choose questions, read through each question you choose to check you can answer each part, not just what you think it is about.
7. I (she) used to underline every word in a question to ensure I know that every word required consideration.
8. Spend some time doing an essay plan in notes – I used to spend a good 5+ minutes of a 30 minute answer doing this. You can them be more relaxed as you write the 25 minute answer.
9. Some questions are not suited to this eg calculations, précis etc but all questions need careful consideration before you start to answer.
10. When you have a choice, eg to answer 4 questions, I found a good technique was to answer my second favourite first, then my favourite, then my 3rd and then my 4th. That way you build up your own confidence.
11. Aways check and double check that you answer everything the question is asking. MORE POINTS ARE LOST THROUGH PANIC AND CARELESSNESS THAN IN NOT KNOWING THE ANSWER!
12. Do stick to the time allotted for each question come what may. Not to do so is fatal.
13. Never run out of time!
14. Try to enjoy exams. There is something satisfying about finally putting revision to good use and being able to prove yourself.
15. TREAT IT AS AN OPPORTUNITY TO SHINE, NOT AN ORDEAL.
The KISS Principle:
HOW 20 MINUTES A DAY CAN CREATE MIRACLES/HOW TO STAY SANE IN THE RUN UP TO EXAMS
What lights your fire and what makes you feel overwhelmed? I am really brave about some things, and yet apparently simple things floor me.
I actually like things to be clean and tidy, but my mother always used to say that I could reduce a room to chaos within five minutes of entry, and that is certainly true of my cooking practices, sadly.
So something as simple as a chaotic kitchen could make me feel utterly incapable and for an astonishing number of years, I would feel an overwhelming urge to sit down and ‘rest’ before tackling the mess. Multiply that by all the rooms in the house, and something that many people would deal with without thinking, and before they started what they would call ‘work’, became a mountain in my mind and stopped me from doing all sorts of interesting things because I had to ‘sort the house’. Even as I write this, I can hardly believe I am saying it, but it’s true, unfortunately.
My point though, is that I found the solution, and it is one that works for a myriad of other things that might feel initially overwhelming, so it falls very neatly into the KISS principle: –
KEEP IT SIMPLE, STUPID.
20 minutes seems to be a magical number. I have noticed that two very trendy techniques – Mindfulness, and CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) work on the assumption that participants will spend 20 minutes a day practising.
So I decided to apply this principle to house tidying and found it worked a treat. I put my alarm on and decided to see what I could get done in 20 minutes, feeling that was manageable. Amazingly, clearing a kitchen after dinner took only about 3-6 minutes on an ordinary evening.
The other way that daily 20 minutes works miracles, is that once you have started, and see how much you can accomplish in 20 minutes, you often feel inspired to do more. I keep putting the alarm on for another 20 minutes, and now I often practise my piano for up to an hour, where before I just wouldn’t even start.
APPLYING THIS PRINCIPLE TO STUDYING
Studying for exams, especially in ‘big swot’ topics like history and science, can seem overwhelming and I know there are times when my daughter doesn’t know where to start, so she doesn’t. There is a verse in the Bible (sorry but I grew up as a fundamentalist evangelical Christian and some things just stick) that says ‘A Prophet has no honour in his own country’, which in this case means that I haven’t really been able to persuade my daughter to apply this principle to her studies. If any of you try it out and find it works, please tell her!!
Anyway, next time you are feeling overwhelmed and don’t want to do anything, I challenge you to just allow yourself 20 minutes, and just study something – anything. Even if you don’t carry on and do more, I’m betting that if you keep practising that principle every time you feel like that, you will have done a shed load more than you would otherwise have done by the time it gets to exams.
Me, I decided there were three things that I needed to give 20 minutes to in order to stay sane – that’s still only one hour out of 24. These are my three –
MEDITATION: I can’t maintain the level of sensitivity I need to do the work I do without taking care of energy.
HOUSEWORK: Well I have said it already
PIANO PRACTISE: Because that is something I really want to learn but have spent years just not getting on with…
What I am observing is that when I don’t manage all three, I quickly notice how things are getting out of hand, but it prompts me to get back to my daily rhythm and stops me spiralling out of control. And believe me, I know what out of control feels like and it’s not something I enjoy or recommend!
So good luck with making some miracles and actually enjoying your learning and studying rather than feeling you have to be mega stressed.
If any of you dare, I would love to hear what things benefit from the 20 minute daily treatment for you.