Tag Archives: Purpose

On getting ill, Vulnerability and Taking Stock

  There is nothing like getting ill for raising the feeling of Vulnerability when you’re self employed! Especially when it comes out of nowhere and you think your immune system is rock solid.

The interesting thing about this week of not working and not feeling up to much though, is that it has made me think about one of my favourite enemies – SHOULD.

It’s a word I ban in my teaching room, yet being solitary and incapable made me realise just how much space I still allow it in my own life, and particularly since my daughter left for University.

I think any big change in life circumstances calls us to take stock, and with good reason, but here is (some of) my list of ‘shoulds’ that have been sharing my bed and head since she left and I have reviewed the 7 years since we came to York:

I SHOULD HAVE …..

  • worked harder
  • studied more
  • made more money
  • been more successful
  • recycled more
  • cooked better food
  • taken more care of the planet
  • kept the house tidier
  • been a better role model to my daughter
  • dared to try and have another relationship
  • practised the piano more
  • helped her practise her music
  • encouraged her to play more sport
  • encouraged her to act
  • helped the needy
  • volunteered more
  • complained less about poor service in restaurants (🙄 really??)

OMG no wonder my immune system was under attack with all that lot going on.  And what a relief to have to let go of it all and just sleep, and almost feed myself and definitely not tidy the house! Talk about physician heal thyself! Because of course it became blindingly obvious to me that I much preferred being with this gentler, more tolerant me than the me with the big stick and long list, and for sure the big stick didn’t make me achieve very much more, just made me and I bet my poor daughter, fearful and miserable and bowed down and unwilling to try, to take risks, or as my wise Safari guide friend says, to Dance with Life.

 

One of my other wise friends asked how I was doing with vulnerability because he didn’t think I was going to make much progress until I was willing to embrace it a bit more.  Interestingly I couldn’t really answer the question, because I have been so busy hiding from it that it hadn’t really come up!

Of course I have had the excuse of having to make a living in a small place where everyone knows pretty much everything and I couldn’t afford to make mistakes because it cost cost my reputation and my job, etc etc. Doesn’t mean I have managed to avoid making mistakes anyway, interestingly- just haven’t deliberately put myself in their way.

So now I find myself looking back on 7 years where I started out enthusiastically with high hopes thinking I could crack this and make a wonderful new life for me and my daughter, and realising that 7 years have gone by, and I have done some stuff, and we’re still afloat, which is something, considering, but in the major life choices department, I have not danced with my life, more like hobbled on crutches, and then I have got angry with myself for hobbling, and knocked the crutches out of my hands….

Hmmmmm. …..Old habits die hard, and as I regain my strength, I can see that the voice of SHOULD is waiting for air time and the slightest opportunity.

 

So this next little while is going to be interesting as I see if I can find a different way of being with myself, talking to myself, and flexing the muscles of compassion  instead of self judgment….

 

 

REFLECTIONS ON MOTHERS’ DAY

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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!

About Purpose and Scarab Beetles…..

Scarab BeetleThis weekend I led a meditation on the word ‘Purpose’ as a way of beginning this New Year.

As a preparation for meditation, we allowed a symbol to come to mind that in some way represented Purpose. Over the many years that I worked with the teacher who taught me this meditation, she continually emphasized the importance of accepting the first symbol that came, whether or not it seemed wacky, or we understood its meaning or significance.

The last time I did this meditation, the image that came to me was of an acorn, for which I was most grateful. I first learnt this meditation when my University students were in their cradles, and I often feel that I have not learnt the lessons with which I was wrestling at the time. Oak trees are of course, extremely slow growing, but they are also very long lasting, and I was reminded to be patient with myself, and to value the process instead of  looking for dramatic results.Scarab Beetle

This weekend the image that came was that of a Scarab Beetle. I was intrigued, knowing that the scarab beetle has some significance in Egyptian mythology, but not what, and also that beetles are not usually the most likeable of creatures! The ‘not knowing’ allowed me just to relax with the overall concept of Purpose, and not to get into my analytical mind, which has a habit of intruding on my meditations.

Afterwards I looked up Scarab Beetles. There are many types of scarabs, but perhaps the best known (and of interest to me) is the Dung Beetle.

Dung Beetle

‘Dung beetles have a keen sense of smell that allows them to hone in on their favourite food and use specialized mouth parts to draw out moisture and nutrients from the waste. Some species simply live in the dung, while others form perfectly spherical dung balls, which they roll with their hind legs, often over large distances, to a place where they can bury it. Females plant a single egg in a dung ball where it matures from larva to fully formed beetle, feeding off the waste. Because they move so much waste underground, dung beetles are considered essential to controlling disease and pests among livestock.’ National Geographic

I was pretty astonished at the symbolic references – for anyone interested, there is a fairly exhaustive article that begins in the Paleolithic era referencing shamans, and the ability of the beetles to both fly (address issues in the celestial world) and dive into the earth (acting as mediators between infernal powers and ordinary men.) Perhaps the best known is the Egyptian mythology which associates the scarab with the rising sun god Khepri – the association being of the god rolling the ball of the sun through the skyScarab Beetle in Egyptian Art

The symbol of the scarab was also used in burials – A large (3-10cm) “heart scarab” was suspended from the mummy’s neck with a gold wire or chain, not only as a token of resurrection, but as an advocate to help the deceased to present his defence before the tribunal. These scarabs were often made with green stone (basalt, schist, jade, etc.), for green was an auspicious colour.

The article ends in the 17th century, with references to German Jesuits and alchemists who associated the scarab with Christ, resuscitated from the dead; a promise of resurrection for all human beings!

http://www.insects.org/ced1/beetles_rel_sym.html

Apart from anything else, this research demonstrates to me power of symbol, and the depth and breadth of meaning associated in one image.

But what stands out for me most of all, is that the scarab beetle takes shit, does something with it, and enables it to nourish and form new life. That sounds about what I do, and is a good enough purpose for me!  IMG_4715