Why I Like Sunsets

 

Sunset, also known as sundown, is the daily disappearance of the Sun below the horizon due to Earth’s rotation. As viewed from the Equator, the equinox Sun sets exactly due west in both Spring and Autumn.

Someone once noticed that I have many pictures of sunsets in my photography collection and I must admit, I can never resist stopping to look at a beautiful sunset wherever I am.

I was looking through my photographs recently and realised I had hundreds of pictures relating to sunsets. I think the stunning beauty nature brings us is always awe inspiring but why do I find myself so moved by sunsets?

You know, when one is sad, one can get to love a sunset’      Antoine De Saint 

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I believe it is because it takes me beyond my physical dimension. There is peace and silence. I sense that time stops and maybe there is even an understanding of eternity. Dormant spirituality is awakened. How can such beauty be transient? I can feel the  enormity of creation, and see the breath-taking colour palette laid before me.

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Peace above the chimney tops..

When we stand in peace and stillness , we can let go of any pain, anger, fear or sadness, at least for a while. We can take a breath, renew our thoughts and know that the sun will rise again tomorrow.

  ‘Every sunset brings the promise of a new dawn’.      Ralph Waldo Emerson 

When you’ve had a challenging day look outward instead of inwards….

 

And just to show the sun does rise again…a beautiful sunrise taken from my back garden:

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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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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Climbing the Hill to Enlightenment…

Do you sometimes find yourself heading back to square one?

 

Or if at first you don’t succeed…..

Have you ever had times when you get disillusioned or feel that you can’t get where you want to be? You aren’t alone – I know there are times when I think I’ve ‘cracked it’, and have found my way – but then – wham, down I come to earth. But I guess if we had life all fathomed out we could become complacent or even a little smug. There is a reason why there are so many self- help books out there. People are always searching to find a new way of dealing with life; a new angle that might just make everything become clear. It’s a big industry, but I’m not knocking it. I have found several books and audio tapes over the years that have helped me through rough times, and are still helpful today. I’ve followed some inspiring gurus too. ( I loved to listen to the late motivational speaker Dr. Wayne Dyer, who always sounded warm and friendly and came across as a lovely man when I attended some of his seminars.) Sometimes just reading or hearing one illuminating story can offer up a ‘light bulb ‘ moment that gives us the answer we have been looking for.

Here is a story of one man’s quest for enlightenment…..

There was once a man who wanted to find the meaning of life. He spent many years listening to all sorts of gurus, and read many ‘self-help’ books. He tried yoga classes and quite enjoyed them and soon learned how to ‘Salute the Sun’. He learned how to meditate, and once he had stopped his busy mind wandering off and thinking about what to eat for his supper, he more or less got the hang of it. He ate an amazingly healthy diet with only a few slips-ups (he had rather a liking for donuts). He took plenty of exercise and breathed in the invigorating fresh air in the woods behind his cottage. He gave up his stressful job and decided to live simply and he put on sandals.

But with all this to help him there were still times when he felt he hadn’t quite ‘got it’.

So the man went up to the top of a mountain, made himself a simple camp, and stayed there for five years. He contemplated his life. He relaxed and completely ‘chilled out’. He prayed for peace in the world. He felt at one with the universe. Occasionally, the odd climber or two came up the mountain and he smiled at them most benignly, bestowing calmness upon them. That felt good.

One day he woke up and thought ‘I’m ready to go back and face the world and nothing will phase me now.’ Gleefully, he set off down the mountain. But he had forgotten how steep it was and by the time he got to the bottom, his feet were a bit sore and he was thirsty and tired. He walked into the café at the bottom of the mountain and asked for a bottle of water. No one heard him. He asked again but the staff were busy and ignored him. After five more minutes he felt the anger boil up inside him and banged his fist on the counter, and demanded to be served. A waitress rushed over and nervously placed a bottle of water in front of him mumbling an apology. He grabbed the water and drank it down without a word. From a table in the corner and old friend spotted the man and walked over to him. He asked him how he was getting on with his quest for enlightenment. Without a word the man turned and walked out of the café. He headed back up the mountain.

This is just a reminder that we can all fail from time to time no matter how far we think we have come. But it is okay. It happens to us all and it is never too late to try again. The man was just human like we all are. And remember – nothing good is ever lost.

‘Today is a new day; there is no need to focus on yesterday’s mistakes. Just as the pathway will sparkle again in the sunlight, so will you sparkle again too’.
Lyn Halvorsen

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Celebrating Our Uniqueness…

It’s time to stop worrying about being different. If you stick with the crowd you will never stand out….

Most parts of the country will have had some snowfalls by the time you read this. Last week, from the cosy warmth of my living room, I stared out of my window and watched the fat, fluffy snowflakes drifting silently downwards, and I got to thinking about snow, and the beauty and individuality of every single snowflake.

In ice crystals, water molecules line up and form a six-sided shape called a hexagon. This is why all snowflakes are six-sided … Even though two snowflakes may form in the same cloud, their different journeys to the ground will affect their shape and size, giving each snowflake its own unique identity.’
Taken from Wonderopolis.org

Scientists estimate that the chances of two snowflakes being exactly alike are about 1 in 1 million trillion (that’s a 1 followed by 18 zeros). Meteorologists think that there are 1 trillion , trillion, trillion, trillion different types of snowflakes. Imagine that!

I think we can liken ourselves to snowflakes. Ok we are not pretty little icy snowflakes but we are just as unique. If you examine two human fingerprints – again no two are the same. How is that possible in a world of billions of people? It is awe-inspiring to think that we are all completely individual.

I love the above quote from Wonderopolis when it talks about the snowflakes being formed in the same clouds but taking different journeys to the ground. Everyone of us has a journey too and we all live through countless different experiences and ups and downs, loves, losses, failures and winning situations. Each experience we encounter shapes us to some degree and makes us the people we are. An individual like no other.

What does it mean to be individual?

Being an individual takes work and dedication yet if only we would stop and think about it we would remember just how individual we really are. Being individual doesn’t necessarily mean you have to stand out in a crowd, but being a true individual means having the courage of your convictions and not being afraid to veer off the beaten path. Do you find yourself caring about what others think about you? It may be time to put aside those worries. If you obsess over what other people think then you will never to be able to please yourself; remember, it is impossible to please everyone.

Gossip may hurt us. We all have times when we get hurt, but if you hear something said about you that you don’t like, remind yourself that it is likely to have come from an insecure person who is coming from a place of weakness. Everyone gets knocked – even film stars or famous singers you may admire. No one is immune.

Don’t be afraid to be yourself.

Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you!
Dr. Seuss

As obvious as it sounds, being an individual means just being you. Not needing to present a front to people. If you show the quirky side of your personality to people they will warm to you. You have no need to present a perfect facade to the world. People are attracted to someone who is a bit different. And most people understand if you are struggling, especially if you admit to being vulnerable. Try opening up and being honest when you are in an anxious situation; admit to someone when you are out of your comfort zone and many times you will be met with sympathy. Often too, people will admit to feeling the same in similar situations. Of course, there are times when it may make sense to conform a little – you would probably present yourself differently to your boss at work than you would to someone at a drinks party. But still, apart from avoiding topics that may be sensitive, it’s good to be yourself and show yourself to be the interesting person you are.

At the same time do not force yourself to be different. Wear what suits you but don’t feel you have to wear super trendy clothes if that’s not your style. Be comfortable with your style. We all know that feeling when you go out wearing something you are not happy with – you can feel out of place all day. You cannot make something right if it doesn’t suit you. If getting a tattoo or changing your hair isn’t for you it doesn’t matter. Being individual comes from inside.

I was brought up to be modest and not to boast about my achievements. Of course, no one is drawn to someone who is too ‘full of themselves’ but at the same time, if you have accomplished something you are proud of, don’t be afraid to mention it. Your skills are part of the person you are.

Build up your confidence.

It took me years to become a confident person. An upbringing where it was important to ‘know our place’ and look up to those deemed to be better than us took years to shrug off. Even now I sometimes find I feel inferior in certain situations. Then I remind myself what a ridiculous and counter-productive feeling that is. I have just as much right to be here and voice my opinion as the next person. A great help in building confidence comes from spending time with the right kind of people. Those who make you feel good about yourself. Also, remembering to use confident body language really helps. Standing upright and looking people in the eye and engaging with them really puts you forward in the best way.

If you are thinking of things in your life you want to change and want to enhance your individuality, perhaps it is the time to think about exploring your creative side or accepting new challenges, or spending time with people you admire. Surrounding yourself with independent thinkers is a great way to start looking at life differently and finding inspiration.
Being comfortable in your own skin.

People who are true individuals just aren’t bothered about what people think about them; they just go through life being happy and comfortable. And if you look comfortable and happy with what you are doing, you are well on your way to gaining the respect you deserve.

So, just like the beautiful snowflake, know that there is literally no one else like you in the whole wide world. Think about this. You don’t have to work at trying to be different, you already are different! No one else has had the same upbringing as you, has the same looks, has had all the same experiences as you or has entirely the same values. No one else sees the world exactly as you do. You can be proud of that fact!

Being authentic

This is something I have had to work on. To be an individual you have to be authentic. You have to say what you feel is right and not what others want you to say. People can spot insincerity a mile off. Being authentic becomes easier the more you try to achieve it. It makes you feel so much better about yourself and the path you are trying to follow in life when you say what you really mean and you stand up for what is really important to you.

Be positive

Be positive whenever you can. Your individual cells will respond far better to good thoughts and feelings from inside you; bad thoughts and bad news from the outside will have a negative effect. We are all bombarded with ‘stuff’ from the media, both good and bad 24/7. Learn to know when to turn off. Turn off and turn away. Yes there are times when we need to be informed but there are also times when we need to say to ourselves that the world can turn without us worrying about it for a day.

Life can be hard at times. We know that. But whatever life throws at you, remember to be like that beautiful, individual snowflake when it makes its own particular journey to the ground – remember to land up in just the place you want to be. Be your own individual self.

Though an ordinary woman, nothing about me is plain; Like a single fingerprint traced in dust, no other is the same.’
                                                  Lyn Halvorsen

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Do you find it hard to be yourself? I would love to hear your comments ❤️.

 

Why We Should All Walk the Brightest Path…

We should all be able to feel safe this Christmas, in all four corners of the world..

This morning we took an early morning walk. The sun had just come up but there was a chill in the air making us hope we have a cold, crisp Christmas .

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 winter 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 – maybe if I had wished hard enough I may have seen one of Santa’s elves peaking out from behind one of the trees! 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 along a special path. 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.

This time of year, as I rush around crossing things off my long Christmas ‘to do’ list I often stop in my tracks and remember to be grateful. There are so many people without a roof over their heads, both in our country and in foreign lands. So many innocent children caught up in wars that have absolutely nothing to do with them apart from raging in the lands they happen to be born in. How can this be? The contrast between different lives is sometimes overwhelming.

One day, I hope there will be a world where every child, indeed every human being, has a home where they feel safe and secure at Christmas and all through the year – a place where they can stop and look out through the window at the moon and stars, and feel at peace.

I sat drinking a hot chocolate 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 Christmas path today.

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