A Bit About Wisdom and a Note From Provence

Take time to wonder…

We can know only that we know nothing. And that is the highest degree of human wisdom. Leo Tolstoy – War and Peace.

I am away from Dove Lane this week. Holidays are all about change really. Change from routine, change from our normal location and surroundings, change of diet, change of normal attire even. It can be a time to do things a bit differently and to break out. Most of all, it can be a change of thought patterns.

Travel and being a passenger gives me time to think; gazing out of the car window watching the foreign countryside roll past in an unfamiliar blur, my mind drifts from the present delights of the journey and the destination that awaits us, to half remembered conversations and abstract thoughts of just about anything. It’s a little like the moments before you drift off to sleep when reality gives way to the complexity and transience of dreaming.

Holidays give us time to take stock –  and I sit quietly in the peaceful garden overlooking the lavender field here in Provence as I have done many times before, silently feeling the embrace of the surroundings that manage to bring an intangible feeling of both happiness and wistfulness. And although being on holiday brings a change of scene there is a feeling here of timelessness too. We were last here three years ago, and yet the path to the house is unchanged; the wisteria may have wound its way a little more up the worn stone walls, but otherwise everything is the same.  For most of the time we are hundreds of miles away from here, going about our daily lives, busy with the ups and downs of daily life, the hubbub, the crazy politics, the going out, the staying in, good days, bad days and yet we return when we can, and expect to see everything just as we left it; the old, tetchy gentleman sitting in the little village square platting the lavender stems, the same lady at the boulangerie providing us with our daily breakfast of delicious croissants, the lavender growing as robustly as ever. Perhaps this place we love is suspended in time.

My mind can wander here thats for sure, because I have time to sit and think. Interestingly enough I have done this many times before because with each visit I find I have new thoughts and new concerns running through my head. This should tell me something – worries from previous years may not totally lie forgotten but certainly have eased and even been sorted with time.

And yet I sit in this beautiful place and ponder; ponder about life about home and about my loved ones, and the concerns of everyone’s trials. As always I don’t have all the answers. But do we ever really know the answers to the deep questions about our lives and the lives of those we love? I guess we just do our best to find our way.

I have to remember the world is full of mystery; It is always a mystery – we do not know why, and we do not understand why. There are things beyond our grasp that we cannot fathom. And yet there is balance. We see it in nature. I see it here in the bees and the butterflies as they buzz and fly about fertilizing the flowers. They are so many things on this planet that work perfectly together.

We have many books and articles that give us thousands of facts as we search for answers. We can google anything – hmm…not always a good thing but useful sometimes. But we still can’t answer everything.

Sometimes we need to just ‘be’ and I should remind myself of that as I sit in the shade of the ancient oak tree. The great thinkers and writers seem to agree. To quote Socrates ‘The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.’

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If You Want to Change the World Stop Trying to Change the World!

Just look around at the moment. Here in the UK it is difficult to make any sense of the current politics and the behaviour of some of the politicians does not fill me with confidence and certainly not any admiration. I have followed various parties in my time time but I have come to realise that we can never be satisfactorily governed, or certainly not governed in a way which keeps everyone happy.

Many points of views are bandied about. I imagine those people who become politicians set out with the wish to change things – to make a difference and create change for the better. We see up and coming politicians come to our attention, fresh faced and full of hope and wise ideas. We are impressed if they support our cause, and we gather and discuss them at length, ever hopeful that the state of ‘things’ will improve.

But so many theories are put forward and so many theories are rubbished. Criticism hails from every corner. Praise is rarely given. Instead, people who put themselves forward to govern are often ridiculed or knocked off their shaky and newly acquired pedestals. They are heckled when giving a speech even if they dare to cough. They are laughed at when they half-heartedly attempt to join in and dance with some visiting children in an attempt to appear approachable.  Their private lives are scrutinised. They keep going, they may climb the political ladder and find power, but rarely, if ever, do they have a straightforward path.

But I have digressed. Because I am not here to write about politics. I do wonder what make us all tick though. And I wonder where genuine kindness and politeness has gone when I see how those in the public eye are treated and treat each other.

How do we change things? How do we try and change the world?

Perhaps we shouldn’t wait for others to change. They won’t. It is no good waiting for others to take responsibility for our future. Do we make the change ourselves? We can increase our awareness, read and listen to wiser people. But old habits are hard to change. And it is easy to say “No one else is changing so why should I?” And we may not want to change the beliefs we feel are important to us. They are part of who we are. The main thing to avoid is resistance. Being an immovable object. If we resist something or someone we are in conflict. That makes us and those around us unhappy. Many people make themselves unhappy every day.

There is a paradox in all this. When you stop trying to change things, you will often find things WILL change. Both in your world of your inner consciousness and in the world around you.  If you go about your business being kind, peaceful, loving and happy you will make a difference just by being you.

“Ah yes” I hear you say, “That’s all very well. But it smacks of laziness. Someone has to take responsibility and run the country/business/health centre.” It is true that we may not look like we are doing much, but when we act from a natural state, good thoughts and acts happen. We are not interfering with anyone else. If we could all come from a place of peace and goodwill, we will interact well together and THEN we will make headway.

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Laughter – The Best Medicine

Take time out to have a giggle today…

There is no better cure for a bad or sad mood than laughter. Not just a little giggle but hard to breathe laughter which is a bit like having an emotional cleanse. It’s hard not to feel better after a convulsion of hysterical laughter. Think of that feeling when you suddenly find something amuses you to the point of no return: breath comes in short pants, you double up and totally lose it. You straighten up then convulse again and again, tears streaming down your face. Sometimes you remember the moment for ages afterwards. Laughter should be a daily ritual for us all – a feel good factor to help us through the day, but sometimes spontaneous laughter eludes us. Stress hormones, depression, boredom and many other factors tip us into a mood that makes it impossible to feel jolly. I was feeling this dark mood today until I reminded myself of some funny experiences I’ve had in the past. Sometimes what sets us off along the path to possible hysteria may not be anywhere near as funny to someone else. Sometimes they are ‘you had to be there’ moments and indeed when you try to recount a funny story to someone some of the mirth gets lost along the way, but just for fun this week I want to write a few true stories that hopefully may amuse you .

For some reason some of the amusing things that have happened to me concerns cats. I don’t have a cat now but in the past we have had two. Both totally full of character and both typically eccentric like our family. Let me introduce them:

Jim : The most handsome Ginger Tom. Looked like a cat who should have been cast in a production of Garfield The Movie. Used to share his lunch with a Magpie. Prone to explosive diarrhoea which usually peppered the kitchen walls.

Fred : Black and white. Very fluffy with a bushy tail. Scared of his own shadow, adorable. Always walked into a room sideways. Had his own giant cat bed (the family sofa which he would let you sit on occasionally). Took a morning constitutional walk the same time every day always following the same route.

Jim’s story.

One morning I felt some foreboding as a letter fell onto the mat bearing the logo of the local Veterinary Surgery. That could only mean one thing: Jim’s annual vaccination was due. This may not sound too worrying, but for a cat who had a morbid dislike of cat baskets this posed quite a problem. Somehow we had to attend. I am not normally a  deranged woman but I have to say on this occasion sensible reasoning went out of the window on the appointed day, and for reasons best known to myself I decided to take the cat in the car sitting on my lap whilst I persuaded my husband to drive. Jim, sensing adventure, started getting restless and began to knead his paws on my thighs before exploring the interior of the car and then climbing on to my back. It did not bode well. As we drew up outside the vet’s surgery the receptionist looked from the window, perturbed to see us arriving in such an unusual fashion. But there was no going back. We had come this far and WE WERE GOING IN. But first we had to get out of the car without Jim making a quick getaway . Good-naturedly, Jim allowed me to clamp him tightly to my chest and I manoeuvred the two of us out of the car and made for the entrance to the surgery. Thinking all was going well and this was a doddle, we entered the waiting room. Unfortunately , a sense of unease followed as we eyed the full waiting room. Here before us was a total menagerie of birds, rabbits, dogs, cats, hamsters and even a (hopefully) docile python coiled up in a glass case. Their owners looked at us with a mixture of sympathy and pity and started muttering among themselves. I was aware that Jim was beginning to struggle in my arms , even for a relatively placid cat this was way too much temptation tinged with a dose of fear. The receptionist looked at us with something close to horror and walked firmly to the clinical room. I heard her announcing to the young vet that there was a woman and a possibly wild cat in reception that had better be seen. (Or maybe it was a wild woman with a cat – I can’t remember which way round we were announced). A harassed looking veterinary surgeon emerged and, after apologising profusely to the packed waiting room for letting us jump the queue – ushered us in. More mumbling and raised voices ensued and the snake rather alarmingly uncoiled, raising its head and poking out its forked tongue in protest. A parrot in the corner then ruffled its feathers, its owner looking embarrassed as it was distinctly heard to squawk ‘bloody hell, bloody hell!’ Once we were inside the surgery it was suggested we get on with the vaccination as quickly as possible. The vet grabbed Jim in no uncertain terms by the scruff of the neck to plunge the needle in and the job was done. ‘Mrs H’ said the poor harassed chap, ‘I don’t think I need to tell you that bringing a cat along unsecured like this is not a good idea.’ I apologised profusely and totally agreed, promising never to attend again with a loose cat. He showed me out . Grimly, the receptionist handed me a cardboard cat box and demanded I put Jim inside. With a shriek, Jim broke loose from my arms and made for the door. Luckily the snake’s owner was a retired rugby player and caught him in an admirable tackle . Wailing and much flying of fur followed. We tried to edge Jim towards to box whilst holding him in a vice-like grip. He struggled free again and jumped on top of the box, purring smugly as if on a winners’ podium. The receptionist had had enough. She approached, flapping a towel, which she deftly wrapped him in in one fell swoop and unceremoniously bundled him into the box. I paid up and slunk out, the box moving and tilting at dangerous angles, muffled yowls of cat indignation emanating from within. In the car I viewed my reflection with horror . My hair was on end and ginger cat hair coated my pink lip gloss most unbecomingly. My hands were shaking and I gripped the the sides of my seat tightly to steady myself as my speechless husband drove us home. Back at the cottage I let Jim out of the dreaded box, whereupon he looked at me accusingly, leaped off and didn’t return for three days.

Fred’s story.

You would think I had had enough of cat antics, but as luck would have it, soon it was necessary for Fred to pay the vet a visit. Sadly, he had been injured by another cat in a fight and needed some attention. Luckily he didn’t have such an aversion to cat baskets as his erstwhile friend Jim if he was enticed in with a treat. Fred’s problem was his nerves, and when he felt cornered he would go crazy. All started well and on entering the vet’s surgery I placed Fred on the table as asked. A slight hiss could be heard from Fred but nothing too untoward. The wound wasn’t serious and after inspection it was cleaned and sprayed with antibiotic spray. Another slight hiss ensued and I noticed Fred’s hair starting to go on end. However, we were nearly there so no panic. Then the vet spoke. ‘His nails are a bit long, I think I will just give them a little trim.’ I looked at him as if he was totally mad but said nothing. ‘Just hold him for me’ he instructed, approaching with clippers. ‘It won’t take a moment.’ Fred had other ideas. As the vet tried to steady and position his paws, he shrieked and leapt off the table, ricocheting off the walls as he tried to find a way out. Eventually, after flying past us at eye level, he ended up in the open store cupboard and could be heard crashing around the shelves. The vet sighed and went to catch him. Time passed. More crashing and wailing reverberated round the room. Eventually, the vet came back in, his white coat in shreds and his hands wrapped in towels. Fred was dangling from his grip by the scruff of his neck. Wordlessly he pushed him in the basket and shut the lid. Eventually his voice returned. ‘We will leave the nails’ he said and ushered us out with a sigh.

Post script – In all seriousness I do realise Jim’s story could have gone horribly wrong and I would never recommend taking an animal loose in a car etc. Jim was unharmed and lived a long and happy cat life, seemingly unscathed from his escapade with his foolhardy owner, but still…..

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The Importance of Sleep – the role it plays in your physical and mental health.

I wrote the following words for an article a while back. Having read something again yesterday about the importance of sleep to health, I thought it worth putting out again. I have added a bit more regarding  the possible protective role it plays in breast cancer.

Good quality sleep is so important. Ideally we should get eight hours a night. With families to look after and demanding jobs or even a thriving social life, we often do not get that peaceful night’s sleep that we should. Sleep plays a big role in your physical health and mental health. For example, sleep is involved in healing and repairing your body and supporting good brain function. In children and teenagers, sleep also helps support growth and development so perhaps we shouldn’t be too hard on our teenagers when we have trouble getting them out of bed! Lack of sleep can impact on us in many ways and even cause harm over time; deficiency can raise your risk of some chronic health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, and can also affect how well you think, react, work, learn and get along with others. It can affect our safety too; if we are tired when performing important tasks such as driving or operating machinery we can be prone to accidents. Children who lack sleep may struggle with school work and examinations.

Sleep helps your brain work properly. While you are sleeping, your brain is preparing for the next day; it is forming new pathways to help you learn and take in information. It may be that sleep deficiency alters activity in some parts of the brain , so if you are sleep deficient you may have trouble making decisions or controlling your emotions and behaviour. It will also play a part in anxiety and depression.

Sleep is important in regulating the hormones in your body such as insulin which controls your blood sugar, and important growth hormones in children. Another interesting point is that lack of sleep makes you hungry, so if you battle with your weight and controlling your eating it may be worth thinking about a few early nights!

Melatonin and sleep

The pattern of waking up naturally when it is light and sleeping at night when it is dark is a natural part of human life. A key factor in how we sleep is regulated by exposure to light or darkness. You may say this is obvious, but in modern times we do not really sleep in the way our ancestors did or indeed as animals do. Melatonin is a natural and beneficial hormone produced by the pineal gland in your brain. During the day this gland is inactive. When the sun goes down and darkness occurs, the pineal gland starts to function and releases melatonin. This has the effect of naturally slowing the body down and preparing us for sleep. When we sleep melatonin levels stay elevated in the body and then fall again with the light of the new day. So we see that light affects how much melatonin the body produces. During the shorter days of winter, your body may produce melatonin either earlier or later in the day than usual and this change can have an effect on mood, often called seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Most of us know that the hormone melatonin helps regulate our sleep. But it also seems to play another role – suppressing cancer growth. Think of melatonin as helping to put cancer cells to sleep at night. Various studies have shown that women who interrupt their melatonin production by working night shifts appear to be at increased risk. Even living on a brightly-lit street may increase risk. Therefore, it’s probably best to sleep in a room with heavy curtains or black-out blinds and no lights. There is also something else you can do! Yes, eat more vegetables. Higher vegetable intake seems to increase levels of melatonin.

 All appliances should be switched off and try not to have a television in the room! Leave your mobile out of immediate range too! (It can be done!) All electronic devices can interfere with your sleep. One thing I try and do (and often find it hard to stick to) is to have a ‘wind down’ spell after 8pm. This means staying away from the computer and leaving unfinished work until the next day. Most emails can wait until the morning! Also, I try to avoid listening to late night news so that I don’t go to bed feeling troubled.

In the dark night hours, there is nothing much worse than laying awake tossing and turning. Every minor problem and worry about tomorrow becomes magnified and before you know it you have a whole list of possible bad scenarios bubbling up in your mind. The best thing to do in this situation is to get up. Instead of staying in bed worrying about how many hours sleep you will be missing and fearing you will be a wreck the next day, go and make a warm drink and try and clear your mind with some calm thoughts. Do something else for thirty minutes until you feel really tired. Just be sure it’s not something too stimulating or involving bright light.

When laying in bed, try relaxing all the muscles in your body from head to toe. This is called Progressive Muscle Relaxation and is a good way of winding down when you get into bed at night. Once you are laying quietly, work through your muscle groups from head to toe. Start with your face: lift your eyebrows and wrinkle the forehead, then close your eyes tightly before opening them and relaxing. Tense your lips, cheeks, and jaw muscles by grimacing, then feel the serenity come over you as you relax all your facial muscles. Work down through the body, tensing and then relaxing the shoulders and arms, the chest and abdomen, (breathing deeply and exhaling as you relax), the back muscles, hips and buttocks, and lastly, the legs and feet. After you have systematically tightened and relaxed all the muscle groups in your body, you should feel more relaxed and calm. You may even fall asleep half way through!

I love to listen to soothing music at night. It’s great for helping you drift off. There are many relaxation CD’s available online or you can listen via youtube.com. Also, there is now a brilliant App called Calm which you can download and listen to some brilliant bedtime stories! I challenge you to stay awake and listen til the end!

Sleep is very important in helping put away the thoughts from yesterday; with good restful sleep the brain can organise and sort the good thoughts from the bad and do away with ‘mind chatter’ so you can awake refreshed and ready to face a new day with new mental awareness. During the day and often the evening too, especially this time of the year, I have a Himalayan salt lamp plugged in. I have read various reports about their possible health benefits, such as cleansing the air, helping to reduce allergies, increasing energy levels, helping with sleep, treating Seasonal Affective Disorder, and producing an environmentally friendly light source. Whatever their benefits, I do know they certainly lighten up any room with their friendly warm glow and seem to freshen the air too. You can place them on a desk, in your living room, next to the bed or anywhere you choose.

When you are awake at night and feel the darkness closing in, remember that everything will feel better in the morning. Ok not everything perhaps, especially if you have any ongoing troubles, but you will be able to put things more into perspective when you are up and about, have opened the curtains, and chased away the night. And if you do lay awake worrying, remember also, that there is nothing at all you can do about anything in the night time hours, so you may as well get to sleep and think about it again another time!

As the sun sets, fold away your cares of the day and leave them outside your door. Then, wait to glimpse the moon and stars and know the Universe is wiser then we can ever be’.

Sleep Well!

 

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A Walk in Springtime

Lifting Our Mood and The Rhythm of Life

I often talk about the benefits of getting out into the countryside; the green fields and the chirpy birdsong usually manage to lift the spirits for a while at least. It’s always a comfort somehow to see the same old trees in the woods standing stoically strong; their trunks immovable and their roots firmly planted alongside the path where we often walk deep in thought. How many footsteps must have passed their way over perhaps hundreds of years and how many more still will? I can look at the trunk of my favourite tree in wonder. I can sense a benevolent charm in its being and almost see a kindly expression in the depths of its bark. And then I can look up and see its lofty branches reaching for the light. It knows what to do, my tree, it doesn’t need a set of rules or list of suggested requirements for better tree development.

I am a bit of a scaredy cat – I have even written a book about a scaredy cat. I am a person who has to cling on tight to the things I hold dear in times of strain and here is where I find nature has a way of literally grounding me. We may not find the solution to all our problems, but we sure can get them more into perspective after a walk in our favourite part of the countryside.

Recently I spent a long weekend in Devon. I can’t recall a time the countryside had ever looked more beautiful but maybe the spring has a way of renewing our outlook and refreshing our surroundings so that every time we revisit it is like the first time.

Walking through an apple orchard it was as though I could breathe life from the abundance around me and win hope from all the promise; I could listen to the music of the birds and see the beauty of the surrounding colours. A million petals gleamed and the air was fragrant with blossom as the bees were busy in each open flower preparing for the vital matter of making honey. Beneath my feet there was a carpet woven of many shades of green, shot through with vibrant threads of sunlight, and spiky spring flowers. The bluebells lowered their heads where the ferns were uncurling beside them. Trunks of old apple trees leaned at random angles, blotched with the lichen that Mother Nature inscribed on their ancient barks. From beyond a curtain of apple blossom I could hear a blackbird – who alone of all birds can put imagination into song like him?

Some trees still held their buds tightly clenched, as though half a hundred Springs had taught them to fear the oncoming of summer, yet Mother Nature gently commands, and soon every reluctant bud would open to fulfil its destiny.

So when we are being a scaredy cat – when we have those days when we can’t conjure up much effort to stride forward – it is good to look at all the signs around us and take the reassurance that everything turns and moves and goes full circle. I could almost imagine Pamona the wood nymph who was reputed to be the goddess of fruitful abundance talking to me with all her ancient and modern wisdom. I certainly felt she was making me welcome – her light laugh mingling with the surrounding sounds.

I think she was saying “I do love this time of year best, although I shouldn’t have favourites; it is dear to me because it is all about life – and the promise of good things to come later. And remember, dear one, no winter lasts forever.”

And that is what I feel we need to remember – good things will come.

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Staying Sane in a Crazy World

I’ve been thinking this week about how we cope when all around us is in a condition of uncertainty. In the UK with the political situation nothing short of farcical, we could be forgiven for thinking that a decent solution to the current problems and deliberations will never be found.

Perhaps it is time to close our ears to illogical political theories and time to sift through the rules foisted on us that are the results of sometimes selfish and manipulative governing.

The world around us is suffering. This is nothing new – since time began there have always been monumental global challenges and there always will be. To list all the recent and ongoing global wars and tragedies would take us a long, long time, and finding a way forward seems impossible at times. We are heartbroken when we see innocent families fleeing their homes amid hostile conditions. We despair when we hear of countries in turmoil. We are disturbed by examples of greed and question some social policies. We see the divide between rich and poor become ever greater. In Europe we are exasperated by Brexit. Perhaps we cling to on to the fragile bonds of national identity, but how do we find what connects us universally?

What do we do to keep sane in this insane world?

I think the key is to maintain our relationship with reality. And that is much harder than we think. I’m not talking about the diversionary reality of Reality TV or social media here but the real reality that connects everyone with everything. As humans, we are not all-powerful but we are all powerful. We need to remember that there is both huge advantage AND limitation with power. When we understand that, we are able to maintain our sanity and manifest a saner world. WE have the power to choose new responses and keep our own lifestyles healthy. We may not be able to control our politicians and the way they use their power, but we can at least keep ourselves real.

None of us are completely rational at times. We can be afraid of everything that could go wrong or we can accept reality and make the best of it. Reasoning is good but sometimes emotions are good. Empathy is good. Getting depressed or angry about reality will not help us change things. If we use our own inner power we can become optimistic and have confidence to adapt to challenges and look for solutions.

Most of us look up to someone in this world who we admire. Often the people we admire the most are the gentle and peaceful ones, the ones who have no agenda, and no great personal ambitions. And yet they make their mark. Coherent and compassionate people have no need to dominate others, instead they seek to help rather than be in competition with others. Compassion freely shown reverberates around us like ripples in a pond.

Many times, bad things are predicted by those who think they are ‘in the know’. We are warned that all sorts of ills may befall us or the country if we don’t adhere to various policies. But when I think back to last weeks news it is mainly not relevant today as there have since been new twists or turns. There are now new predictions! And this is true of so many predictions we are either faced with, or make ourselves. Often what concerned us yesterday is forgotten and replaced by new concerns which in turn are replaced. Perhaps we should realise that most things get processed and dealt with one way or another. Can you remember what you were worrying about this time last year, or what was in the news headlines?

No one can deny that troubles occur, both in our immediate circles and in the outside world; often in life there is much to deal with. Interestingly, when we are focused on healing something in our own life, the outside world tends to carry on regardless and this should tell us something. We can just BE. We can think about the little things in life which are really the big things.

We are born with an inherent understanding of the world. It is a strange miracle that deep in our psyche we know things. When our minds are uncluttered we look benignly at the world and we are spiritually healthy. We are whole human beings and we have our own essence. Sometimes it is good to remind ourselves of that.

Don’t break your own spirit. Your sanity depends on seeing the world as a good place, having faith in one another and believing in human dignity – not just in our own small corner of the planet but all around the world. It is not what people have become in this world that makes them special necessarily- it is what they are inside and how they behave when no one is looking.

Everyone, even your greatest role models have had to cope with uncertainty at one time or another. Recognise you are part of a tribe of people who have amazing survival instincts. Out of the thousands of experiences we have in life, people doing wrong by us is not common. Most people are inherently good and we are biologically wired to love one another and to unite during bad times, and when we believe people are inherently good, this will determine how life treats us.

You can’t calm the storm so stop trying. What you can do is calm yourself and the storm will pass.’            Timber Hawkeye.

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Finding Our Way Wherever We Are in Life…

‘When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.’
-Lao Tzu

It is easy to become ‘stuck’. Life ticks on. If we go to work, we do what we have to do, and get through the day. We get stressed sometimes; we may be stuck in the fast lane but there is too much on the ‘to do’ list. We get caught up in a cycle; when we are at work or busy with life’s challenges, we fantasise about being on vacation, but then, on vacation we worry about the work piling up on our desks at home or worry about those who depend on us. We feel as though we are hurtling along when in fact we are slowly losing sight of what we really want. We may be comfortable with what we do but are we  excited or fulfilled by it?  If we are entrenched in a routine we can lose focus and that can mean we do not work to fulfil our full potential; we may not follow our dreams. When things are going reasonably well are you tempted to sit back and relax rather than ask yourself how they can be improved or advanced even more? I know I am. If we say we are happy for now, this means we miss out on so much more that is there for us. If we follow random stars and pick up mixed signals and information as we go through life, we may never know which path we want to follow. We fear getting older, yet we can amble along for a good part of our life until suddenly we have reached a senior age and find ourselves looking back down the years wishing we had done more with the time we had.

How do we lose sight of the best along the way? Why do some people die with their music still in them? Most of us don’t set out to squander our time or our days but often that is what happens when we get on the treadmill. We do it for the best of reasons. When we are young we feel that we have so much time ahead of us – we can follow our dreams someday, but first we have to finish our education, get a good job, find a partner we love, maybe start a family. That all can be wonderful, and if we find a lifelong partner we are happy with and who shares the same hopes and desires as we do, we are already a long way toward getting things right. But if we spend a great proportion of time trying to establish ourselves, and are motivated by ambition, then that often means we may neglect our spiritual and emotional wellbeing. We are surrounded by relentless testing and huge competition in life; social media dominates our lives and not always to our advantage. Yet science is working for us, for our benefit and for a good future. There are opportunities for us to work towards an amazing future and abundant living, we just need to take time to see them.

Fear of failure

Even if we have dreams we are often bound up with fear. Fear of what others will think about us; fear of a brave new plan going wrong; even fear of success. If we think about it, we all have heroes and people we admire and look up to, people we wish we could be like. We may quietly think to ourselves ‘it’s okay for them, they had a better start in life’, or, ‘they were lucky, they were in the right place at the right time’, but we would still like to be like them. But none of us are perfect, not even superheroes. Everyone of us has flaws, and dark moments late at night when we worry about what will happen tomorrow. But those who succeed have managed to maximise their one or two strengths and stopped focusing on their weaknesses. Everyone has fought or still fights their own battles and their own demons. The truth is, our heroes we look up to are no different to us, they just tend to handle life differently. That is marvellously encouraging as it means we can just as easily reach our new goals and aspirations as the next person.

At the very end of our life we will look back at missed ideas that could have evolved from our potential and proved invaluable. Nurse Bonnie Ware spent time caring for dying people for more than twenty years and wrote a book about their regrets. She found five sentences that were repeated and spoke of missed opportunities. The sentences were:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feeling.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
( The Top Five Regrets of the Dying – Hay House March 2012)
No matter how many times I read the above section I never fail to be moved by the list of regrets and each time they resonate anew.
So how did we get to where we are now? What has made us the person we have become?
Back to the beginning

When we are born we enter this world as totally helpless human beings. As we evolved our brains became bigger so nature had to compensate for this; for the female body to accommodate a full term baby and be able to give birth naturally, we were programmed to enter the world before we were able to fend for ourselves, unlike the rest of the animal world. At the time of birth only 28% of our brain is formed. As we grow so does our brain; it grows rapidly, and the capacity for learning is astounding, but twelve to fourteen years must pass before a human being can satisfactorily care for himself and function independently of his parents. Therefore we grow up programmed by people who can only teach us what they themselves have learned and believe. I am not saying that this is always a bad thing; only that we are governed in our early years by the facts we are given from our nearest source. We become dependant on others and are influenced by what others think about us and what they perceive to be advantageous for us. If we are lucky, we will be raised by parents who encourage us to think for ourselves and who do not object if we follow our own chosen path. Every human is born totally unique; born with an unmistakeable genetic fingerprint, with different cells, patterns and chemistry. But do we remember that when we try to conform and follow the crowd? If we try and fit in with someone else’s plan for us we will not always be happy.

Why are you thinking that?

Early man learned by trial and error. There were no instruction manuals to follow and no technology to tap into. A lot of the traits the early man developed are still present in us today. If we think about the ‘fight and flight’ mechanism we can see how necessary it was when being chased by a saber- tooth tiger as it was clearly a matter of life and death, but at times of stress in the modern day, we may still deploy this same mechanism and it can be present constantly, using so much adrenaline that it can lead us to suffer from adrenal fatigue. Normal mechanisms become completely exhausted leading to lack of energy, ‘brain fog’, depression and constant fatigue. We are not now using the mechanism of ‘fight or flight’ for preserving our lives, our modern lifestyle does not allow us to run away from stressful situations, both physically and mentally . Our ancestors were keen to improve but they also had to learn how to control their fear and increase their awareness levels. The earliest men must have thought that the vivid lightening flash and the rolling voice of thunder that followed it were the anger of the gods, especially when they saw other men struck and killed by lightening. It wasn’t until centuries later that scientific studies showed it to be a gigantic electric spark. For some, though, that primeval fear remains, as fear can transcend many generations.
If we compare different attitudes we can see how thought patterns and approaches dictate the way we live and appear to others. Again, if we are fearful, our judgement is coloured when we make decisions. The fear of something going wrong holds us back from participating in pursuits we would secretly like to try, but when we do push ourselves to try something new and exciting we are usually rewarded with great feelings of satisfaction and wish we had tried it sooner.

The rewards of the brave

People often think someone is brave to give up a thriving career, turn their back on riches and start something new which will offer more fulfilment; but is it brave to follow your heart, or just natural? Maybe it is more brave to stay in a job you hate just to keep a lifestyle going.

We know of Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe as a German poet, playwright and novelist, but he also had many other talents, including being a painter, statesman, educator and naturalist philosopher. He was hugely creative and lived a very full and energetic life. This selection from Faust is one of the most frequently quoted passages in terms of self-improvement and I would like to include it here:

LOSE THIS DAY LOITERING

Lose this day loitering – ‘twill be the same story
To-morrow – and the next more dilatory;
Each indecision brings its own delays,
And days are lost lamenting o’er lost days.
Are you in earnest ? Seize this very minute-
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.
Only engage, and then the mind grows heated-
Begin it, and then the work will be completed!
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
(1749 – 1832).
Translated by John Anster

This is an incredibly powerful piece of literature, it illustrates so completely, the idea of boldness. It tells us how, if we loiter today, and again tomorrow, we will soon end up lamenting lost days. It speaks for living for the moment. Each day is a gift; it doesn’t have to follow a rigid timetable; it doesn’t necessarily matter what pattern it follows, we just need to be sure it HAS mattered.

Living in the moment

So we need to teach ourselves to live more in the moment. Living in the moment – also called mindfulness – is a state of active , open, intentional living, whilst focusing on the present. In this mindful state, we realise we are not just our thoughts but an observer of our thoughts which means we can observe our thoughts without judging them. We need not grasp them or push them away. Instead of letting our lives go by without living them, we can awaken to experience . Sometimes we need to plan ahead, but if we spend too much time planning we can miss out on enjoying the days we have now; however, if we view tomorrow as an observer, we can relinquish thoughts of pride and let go of our ego. We are more likely to have a calm and optimistic view of the future. We can let go of negative thoughts and separate ourselves from the outcome. We can view the world differently.

An Interconnected Universe

How many times do we get an inclination something is about to happen just before it does; or a deep feeling we can’t explain? It is the collective, interlocking, energy field that we are tapping in to; the ever- moving energy fields of life. If we learn to work with these feelings we can be empowered to manifest our potential, and join with the world at large. We will all benefit. It is interesting to that note than many individuals around the world who have worked independently without the knowledge of each other, have often made the same discoveries at practically the same time. There is no obvious explanation for this, just a dawning realisation that there is a collective energy field which we can respond to in a positive way.

In this interconnected universe, every improvement we make in our own world improves not only our own lives but that of others. All positive acts we partake in find a way of coming back to us in one way or another to benefit us, even years later. Kindness towards one’s self and all living things always leaves a lasting effect, spreading out like ripples in a pond.

Once we hear amazing news it is as though we have been given permission to be a part of it. When Roger Bannister ran the four minute mile – a feat that was previously thought to be impossible- we heard of dozens of other athletes doing the same within a year. Now, as then, limits are constantly being expanded.

What makes a writer wake in the middle of the night, suddenly awake with the words of a song running through his mind? He rushes to pen to paper and writes the words that echo in the minds of many for years to come. His talent has burst through the surface of his awareness, as if out of nowhere. The writer has been moved to write a powerful song; he has channelled the energy from the collective vibrations around him.

Sometimes we can walk into a room and feel uncomfortable, the air seems thick with anxiety and tension. We can imagine the tension building and boiling over, perhaps giving way to a violent outburst. Likewise, we know what it feels like when we enter a space filled with warmth and peaceful vibrations. Both these feelings and emotions cannot be seen, yet that greatly affect us. When we consciously focus mindful energy together, simultaneously seeking positive outcomes, we can alter our future.

If we stop and evaluate our lives and where we are now, we CAN look forward to progressing. We don’t need to put the brakes on if we don’t want to! Life doesn’t have to be full of regrets and what if’s. And it is never too late to change. There is so much out there for us and our world. Everything is possible!

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