A Walk in the Park…

Yesterday we spent the day in Oxford attending Peace in the Park – The Festival of Spirit. This was held in the beautiful grounds of the Global Retreat Centre at Nuneham Park; a remarkably peaceful place.

The Retreat Centre is run by the Brahma Kumaris who work around the UK in local communities teaching Raja Yoga as a way to experience peace of mind and a positive approach to life.

Brahma Kumaris is also a worldwide spiritual movement dedicated to personal transformation and world renewal. It was founded in 1937 in India and is now spread over 110 countries on all continents. Their commitment is to helping individuals transform their perspective of the world from material to spiritual.

From the moment we drove through the gates we seemed to shed our ‘everyday skin.’ Kindness seemed to envelop us from all sides; every member of the parking team waved and smiled and welcomed us in. The people checking our tickets were helpful and calm and always ready to answer questions. We were given a programme and a map (it’s a big park)

The aim of the weekend was to bring together people from all corners of the UK to experience the dream of peace for our world. The event was free, and every single volunteer and performer offered their time out of love, meaning the event was open to everyone, no matter what their income. At the Retreat Centre, they rely totally on donations to keep the magnificent historical building, and its grounds open.

There was a wide list of events we could choose to attend in various large tents dotted around the grounds. The atmosphere was very relaxed and one could dip in and out of any class at will. Many people just laid on the grass and subconsciously soaked up the sounds, the music and the peaceful words. Some chose to attend guided meditation in the ‘Imagine Pavilion’, others liked the ‘Emergency Optimist’ (brilliant – a few minutes with helpful ideas resulting in a new way forward, or at the very least, helping you find some powers you didn’t know you had). There were sessions called ‘Answers to Life, the Universe and Everything,’ with various guest speakers. We attended one with Mike George, a favourite speaker of ours and we were inspired by his take on dealing with life and coping strategies. It is always encouraging when you encounter someone who is in such a good place; has been through many stresses in their earlier life but has come shining through. ( And can be lighthearted too)

There were too many classes of interest to mention here, but there truly did seem to be something for everyone, including fun and creative classes for children.  There was ‘Tea Under the Trees’ providing free tea and coffee for all, and there were food tents selling wholesome vegetarian food. As we walked around, we visited the chapel, where there were musical events taking place, and stood and looked at the amazing angel sculptures dotted among the trees.

After a day full of inspiring events and musical interludes, the event was brought to a close with a ‘Meditation for the World’ on the main stage, with beautiful music an inspiring words, and was followed by the Peacemaker Concert with Lucinda Drayton,  Marcus Cliffe and friends. Lucinda’s voice is truly that of an angel; indeed she finished with the song ‘A Hundred Thousand Angels’ which has become a classic all around the world.

As we walked back through the newly cropped fields with the warm sun on our backs we didn’t really want to leave. We had chatted to friendly strangers, hugged people we didn’t know, had meditated, listened to an outpouring of wisdom and been poleaxed at times with emotion. We were tired. We wanted to stay in the bubble of peace and gentility, in a place where everyone seemed good. And kind. And cared. Really cared. And accepted us for who we were without needing to know where we had come from, or what we did for a living. We wanted to stay in a world where everyone was free to love, and live and let live.

Of course, when I woke up this morning I was home in the real world with its usual stresses and strains, worries and yes, sometimes fears. And I know that life will never be perfect and peaceful all the time – (though maybe it could be if we all prayed hard enough!) But part of me is still back in the park, and I hope I can remember for a long time some of those words of wisdom.

       ‘Consider for a moment this special day….think it…feel it…experience it…know it…enjoy it….’

Blessings to you …...

Peace in park

Was it fifty years or yesterday?

We have just returned home from five days in Devon. We seemed to pack a lot into those five days; travelling, walking and revisiting old haunts. The days were very full, both with a variety of winds and weathers, varying accommodation and, for me, very mixed emotions.

My parents moved to Devon when I was eight years old and we lived there until I was fourteen, so these were possibly the years that had a strong influence on my adult life; my formative years. It was in the early sixties, the era where the country saw a dramatic change. The first teenage generation to be free of conscription emerged in Britain, and young people were given a voice and a certain amount of freedom. I don’t think that freedom had quite filtered down to me though; I was shy, and had been an only child until I was thirteen when my lovely sister was born. But boy! I did the like music of the era. I have just been looking at the top 100 most popular hits of 1963. They include The Beatles with ‘She Loves You’ and ‘From Me To You,’ ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone,’ Gerry and The Pacemakers, ‘Summer Holiday.’ Cliff Richard, and ‘In Dreams’ Roy Orbison. Also on there are Billy Fury, Elvis, The Shadows, I could go on and on ……Who could ever regret being a ‘baby boomer’ with that pedigree of music in the background? Later in the sixties came ‘flower power’ and I remember wafting around Torquay harbour with bare feet wearing a dress with a psychedelic print and feeling like a ‘flower child,’ and a little bit hippie. ( If I am honest, I have always had mild hippie leanings ever since).

Himself was very patient and drove me round all the places I remembered from those long lost days. I found our old house and stood outside the drive and looked up to my old bedroom window. I was pleased to see the house looked loved and well cared for. At the bottom of the road, I stared at the field where I used to go sledging after school on my dad’s old wooden surf board, in the long frozen winter of 1962. How could this now be a mild slope? In my mind it was a tremendously steep hill that I whizzed down with my eyes closed in exhilarating terror.

I tried to remember the directions to my old school; I was sure I knew how to find it but called in at the local shop to check the directions. I was a bit upset to see this was housed in what was formerly the village hall where I had both attended Girl Guides and ballet classes. Gone was the old wooden floor and the pretty sash windows. Only the old pitched roof remained the same. It was now a rather hideously fronted mini supermarket. The guy inside was friendly and gave me directions. He talked about the area and suggested it had gone downhill which was sad to hear.

The way to school soon became familiar to me and before long I was standing outside the railings looking at the playground. It had hardly changed and I could almost hear the clang of the school bell calling us in to class. I remembered my stern teacher; ramrod straight, dressed in severe grey with hair in a tight bun, admonishing me for letting my brain ‘go to rust, Lynda!’ Later, though, she must have seen something in me, for she made me a prefect. I guess she was strict, but fair.

We drove around a bit and inevitably some parts of the place I knew so well had changed beyond recognition. The sweet little cafe on the slope up from the harbour and which my mother loved was long gone, and replaced by a betting shop. The small nursing home where my sister was born was now a private residence and the town had a more than shabby appearance.

Does our mind play tricks on us? Do we sometimes remember things differently than they really were? I once heard someone say we should never go back. Maybe I won’t again. But I wondered about my mother. I wondered what she was thinking on the days when she sat in the little cafe by the harbour. She was in her late thirties then. Full of life, full of plans. Really not knowing that before long our family would move and make a new life somewhere else. And then somewhere else again. I looked back and felt a huge wistfulness.

And what is it about time? Why is it that we can sit on a bench looking out to sea and look at the horizon and feel that we last sat there yesterday, when in reality it was fifty years ago? Where do all the thoughts and dreams from all those years ago really, really go? I know someone wise would say treasure every day. And I know that.We all say it so often. It rolls off the tongue every time we hear a bit of bad news. But time still passes, with the good times and the bad. There is more than just going back. There is remembering and taking time to remember. Time to think about what and who has gone before. Time to think about what made us who we are. And then time to step forward.

Alice:   How long is forever?

White Rabbit:   Just one second.

                  Lewis Carroll   Alice In Wonderland

Time flies over us, but leaves its shadow behind.

                                                                           Nathaniel Hawthorn

Blessings to you ….

Step up to the Podium ….

Here in Dove Lane we have been glued to the television every evening watching the Olympics. It has become compulsory viewing. I feel so proud of all our British team, and our nation becomes united as we cheer them on and feel we are right beside them through both the highs and the lows. We become passionate about following sports we didn’t even realise we liked and become knowledgeable about all sorts of terms and techniques. We’ve watched a mind boggling array of sport from so many categories, and our team have dazzled us with the results of their years of hard work, skill and dedication. Some of them have battled against health problems and injuries but kept on going , full of belief and courage. Watching the winners climb the podium and raise their arms to the crowd in delight after they are awarded their medals is a wonderful sight, and as the Union Jack is raised there is not a dry eye in the house.

I got to thinking about the significance of medals. How one man’s bronze is another man’s gold, whilst to another, anything other than gold brings disappointment. I keep thinking of the utter joy on the face of the Brazilian gymnast who earned a bronze medal. To him, achieving a bronze medal in front of his home crowd was more than he could ever have dreamed of. Maybe it was because it was unexpected that it meant so much. Yet we hear of heartbreak and disappointment in another who was expected to win gold but had to accept silver. It seems to be all about expectations.

I guess we see this in all walks of life. It’s good to aim high of course and hard work and dedication should reap reward, but it’s also good when that spotlight shines on the unsung heroes too.

And what about the ones with no famous glow? Those who work hard in all walks of life.They are winners too; sometimes in the background, but still as courageous in what they do; showing kindness and compassion when no-one is watching.

I’m cheering nightly for our Olympic team. I think they are absolutely magnificent. But I’m shining my light on you today. Step up to the podium and receive your gold medal. For being you.

Blessings to you.


The Dove Lane Robin ….

Often when I am out walking I’m accompanied by a friendly robin. He may not always be apparent but before long I can hear his familiar song and spot him perched in the branches of a nearby tree. Timid, but at the same time, reassuring, he always seems to be around to boost my pensive mood. Moreover, wherever I am, I’m convinced it’s the same robin I see.

The Dove Lane Robin

Through winter chills
And summer suns,
The soft refreshing rain,
The cheeky robin sings his song
Along our leafy lane.
He perches on the old wood fence
And in the apple tree,
There’s a reason why he’s always there;
He’s singing just for me.
My constant friend with his rosy chest
And gently plumped up feathers,
I spy him flying from his nest
In all the winds and weathers.
Where sweet honeysuckle winds around my door
With golden scented flowers,
I hear the robin sing nearby
As I pass the busy hours.

Blessings to you.


All things being equal…

This morning we took an early morning walk. The sun had just  come up but there was a  chill in the air, hinting that Autumn is waiting in the wings. August seems to be a month of variables somehow…we can still experience sweltering heat as summer keeps us in its grip, but we begin to draw our blinds a little earlier each evening, and we watch wistfully as swathes of golden fields are laid bare and the circular bales are stored ready for the winter after the wheat harvest. The completion of harvesting marks the end of the growing season and the social importance of this event will, before too long, make it the focus of seasonal celebrations such as Harvest Festival. It’s hard to think the summer could be drawing to an end before too long, but then there are always the comforts of late summer and early Autumn to look forward to, like blackberry picking and the smell of smoky bonfires in the air. Having said all that, a mini heatwave seems to have been predicted for next week so maybe we shouldn’t be replacing our flip-flops with wellies just yet!

As we wound our way round the village and walked back up the hill toward the woods behind Dove Lane, the path beneath our feet sparkled in the sun. Looking more closely, I could see there were hundreds of glass chips embedded in the tarmac. I had never noticed this before; maybe it was the direction of the sun or the time of day, but the effect was magical. The path glittered like something out of a fairy tale and I half expected to be transported to a different land. I thought about the beauty that surrounds us whoever we are and whatever our circumstances; rich or poor, we are all entitled to walk along a glittery pathway.

We are all created as equals. Sometimes it is easy to forget that. I certainly do. I think most of us, at some time in our lives, have looked up at someone we see as more famous, wealthy or seemingly more accomplished than ourselves and felt a little overshadowed. It is a habit that is hard to shake off. But we all have our skills, our own uniqueness that no-one can take away. We can all have a chance to shine and take a walk in the sunshine. There are so many unsung heroes we may pass along the way; those who carry on in the most dire circumstances, and still raise a smile.

I sat in the sunshine drinking tea with a friend today and we talked about life; how things sometime surprise us and turn out differently than expected. How sometimes it’s hard to take the rough with the smooth. How busy life can be at times. But would we really want to walk in anyone else’s shoes, however important they are?

I love this Malagasy proverb –

                                      ‘ A canoe does not know who is King, when it turns over, everyone gets wet.’

I hope you can walk the glittery path today.

                                                Blessings to you.

Harvest field

Would you have planned that?

I was reading about someone recently who had their diary planned out well into next year and even the year after. Blocks of time were set aside for trips, work events and family get-togethers. Many appointments were made, lunches and dinners scheduled and even visits to art gallery’s penciled in. They impressed upon the reader that they led an extremely busy lifestyle and it was the only way they could ensure their life ran smoothly. I was impressed; many times I have left things to the last minute and had to squeeze in appointments or last minute holidays with lots of phoning round and a bit of grovelling. Most times, though, I tend to get by. I know I’m probably not as busy as the person in the article, but it did set me thinking about plans, and I wonder how much life does actually go to plan.

I remember a little girl of about six or seven attending her art lesson at school. She loved art and painting and being creative. She had looked forward to her lesson for a full week; she had planned the picture she wanted to paint in her mind, and went excitedly in to the art room. She loved the smell of the paint and the rather chaotic aspect of the airy room with its old, paint splattered benches and the canvases stacked against the wall.This was a place where, for a while, she could get a bit messy and nobody minded. She put on her apron and collected together some paintbrushes and paint and placed them on the table in front of her. She laid down some paper and sketched an outline of the scene she wanted to paint. Lost in her own world she spent her time lovingly drawing the picture. Her teacher looked over her shoulder from time to time and made encouraging noises. She mixed her paints and carefully started painting. Her picture began to come alive and she was sure this was going to her best work yet. She looked at the pretty rural scene, its sunny blue sky and birds and butterflies, and was happy. The other classmates looked at her work with admiring glances. She couldn’t wait to pin her work on the wall. She pushed back her chair quickly, ready to take her picture to the teacher. In her haste her elbow knocked over her pot of dirty paint water, and, rooted to the spot, she watched as the water seeped across the paper in front of her. All the colours ran into one another, mixing together and fanning out in all directions until the picture beneath was indistinguishable. There was silence in the class. Tears welled up in the little girls eyes  and dropped on to the picture. But the little girl’s teacher smiled.  ‘You had painted a very pretty picture,’ she said, ‘but I think this one will be a lot more special. Look how the colours are flowing into one another and creating something beautiful to look at. There are shapes and swirls which will help the viewer to use their imagination when they look at it. It would grace any wall. So don’t be sad.’ As the painting dried it did indeed look beautiful and the little girl dried her tears. The teacher framed the picture and pinned it on the wall in the art room as an example of abstract art. At the end of term the little girl was awarded the art prize for her year.

The above is just one small example of how an unexpected occurrence can change our path or our viewpoint. At a young age, a lesson that teaches us to view a potential disaster with equanimity is a good thing, but so many times life throws us a curve ball and we flounder. – ‘But I had planned to do this or that,’ we say; ‘I don’t want to downsize because my finances dictate it!’or ‘I haven’t got time to be ill!’ How do we cope when life changes unexpectedly? It’s not easy. As the quote by Allen Saunders goes – ‘Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans.’

It may be hard at times to adjust, and of course some life changes are much harder to cope with than others. I ask myself now if I would go back to the house I loved and left six years ago. It was traumatic at the time for various reasons, but now I have a different life; I live in different surroundings and have downsized considerably. I enjoy the environment I now live in and enjoy spending time with new people I have met. It’s not what I would have chosen, but it’s good. With the love of good friends and family, we can cope with change.

For those coping with illness it is harder still. For those facing illness or surgery, life can alter unimaginably. I think then, especially, it’s clinging on to the the small things that can help. Trying to keep to a routine so that life still seems relatively normal seems to help.Often I read of someone who has faced illness and has come through the other side, and they are grateful. Grateful in some way for having been ill so that they could take stock and look at life in a different way. That, to me, is bravery.

Blessings to you.

‘The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another; and his humblest hour is when he compares the volume as it is with what he vowed to make it.’  

  J.M.Barrie  The Little Minister