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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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 ❤️.

 

The Brexit Effect -When Niceties Go Out of the Window….

Is there any excuse for bad behaviour in politics? When will the media circus calm down?

Well it could be quite a momentous day today. Here in the UK all the focus is on the vote regarding the Brexit agreement put forward by the Prime Minister for leaving the EU. Following weeks and weeks of haggling and bickering, the next few hours seem quite critical. I have my own views on what I want to happen, but this post isn’t about just me. I think this is what is often forgotten. The bigger picture.

Here I quote an excerpt of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s New Year speech….

There’s a parallel with our country today. We’re much more diverse than we used to be. Yet we disagree on many things. And we are struggling with how to disagree well. Turn on the television, read the news, and you see a lot that could tempt you to despair. Hope lies in our capacity to approach this new year in a spirit of openness towards each other. Committed to discovering more of what it means to be citizens together, even amid great challenges and changes.’

Wise words.

It sometimes it seems that the whole nation is in disagreement. Have we forgotten our basic and fundamental manners? Certainly some of the politicians I have listened to recently have. There needs to be a wake up call. A return to civility and respect for others. This doesn’t mean that those who govern can’t take action; of course we need to be governed, but governed in a way that benefits all of us. And even if the outcome isn’t one we would choose, if it is objectively administered and sensitively handled we could at least start to move forward.

Sometimes actions speak louder than words. There is a description in one of my favourite books ‘In Tune with the Infinite’ by Ralph Waldo Trine. He describes a man who owned a beautiful lotus pond. It was in a natural basin on his farm, supplied with water from a reservoir in the foothills some distance away:

‘ A gate regulated the flow of water from the main reservoir to the pond. It was a spot of transcendent beauty. There, through the days of perfect summer weather, the lotus flowers lay full blown on the surface of the clear, transparent water. June roses and other wild flowers were continually blooming upon its banks. The birds came here to drink and bathe, and from early to late one could hear the melody of their song. The bees were continually buzzing and at work in this garden of wild flowers. A beautiful grove in which many kinds of wild berries and many varieties of ferns grew stretched at the back of the pond as far as the eye could see. The good man who owned the grounds put up a sign to welcome all people to the lotus pond so good were his intentions. Here, were often merry groups of children playing and those who were weary could rest. Men and women seemed to be lifted of their heavy burdens. Many called the place ‘The Garden of God’. The man called it his ‘soul garden’. He would often sit and enjoy the fragrant flowers and sit on a bench in the moonlight. He was a man with a simple outlook but in this place, all his successful dreams and plans came to light. Everything in the vicinity seemed to breathe a spirit of love and kindness, comfort and good cheer. Even the cattle and sheep in the fields flourished. The gate of the pond was always open giving them pure mountain water to drink. For so long this wonderful place flourished until sadly, the man had to go away for a year. A new man was put in charge; one who had not much time for anything other than practicalities. He turned off the water flow and made the area private and invited no visitors. A great change came over everything; the flowers in the pond wilted; birds no longer came to drink and sing and the flowers no longer bloomed. The bees no longer hummed and as the stream dried up so the cattle no longer got their supply of water so they perished. By shutting the gate to the pond, thus preventing the flow of water from the reservoir in the hills, which was the source of life, the appearance of and around the beautiful lotus pond was entirely changed.’

Do we not see a parallel here? When we are connected to the source of good things, to the infinite, then all good things flow, and we live in harmony with the universe. We are connected to beauty and all things that are pure and health-giving. When this is taken from us or we disconnect from what is good, then we can fail to flourish, just like the lotus pond.

So on these, some would say, tumultuous days and when we are feeling less than optimistic, its good to remind ourselves to stay focused, to remember that good actions and good deeds bring the best results, and that when our hearts are open to others we live and let live. We remember that everyone has their own thoughts and opinions and we respect their right to go their own way.

Good manners and kindness are always in fashion.’

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Is it safe to come out yet?

What If You Were Homeless?

How would we cope without our essential home comforts this Christmas time?

Last week I was out and about doing some Christmas shopping. As I walked through the busy Oxford streets, just one of many people with thoughts of the busy time ahead, I noticed several homeless people huddled in doorways, some completely cocooned inside sleeping bags. I wondered if the person inside felt that the harsh outside world would disappear if they shielded themselves from prying eyes and the reality of their situation. I also wondered why these people preferred to sleep during the day but then I realised it probable felt safer – maybe there was less likelihood of being attacked or abused during the day. Like everyone else, I walked on past the homeless people. Sadly it is a common occurrence to see people living on the streets.

But then, later in the day, laden with shopping bags and having been lucky enough to enjoy lunch in a restaurant, I was approached by an elderly man asking for help. He tried to sell me a scruffy scarf saying it wasn’t glamorous but it was all he had to offer in exchange for some money. He said he hadn’t eaten since the day before. He was disheveled and looked desperate. He was polite and softly spoken. I looked into his eyes and saw despair and so I gave him enough money for a sandwich and a hot drink. I like to think he did use the money for that. I hope he did as I know a meal was what he needed the most. Whatever happened, I made the choice to give.

This year we seem to have the highest number of homeless people on our streets than we have seen for many years. Something is terribly wrong. What makes us get used to seeing people desperately needing help and a roof over their heads as part of everyday life?  For those of us with our heads in the sand, it is time to look at the facts – being homeless can happen to any of us  – a bad sequence of events can cause almost anyone to be caught up in a devastating spiral of loss.

Causes of homelessness are : poverty, unemployment, lack of affordable housing, poor physical or mental health, addiction, family and relationship breakdown, and violence or abuse. Low wages and irregular work can cause someone struggling on benefits to slip badly into arrears with rent and have no means to keep themselves solvent. People once able to cope see themselves uses food banks to keep themselves and their families fed.

I have heard it said that homeless people deserve to be on the streets and that they are all drug addicts or alcoholics. I have even known people question why so many homeless people have dogs – surely they can’t be that badly off? But a loving pet can be a lifeline when living without a home and social support. Remember, over 80 per cent of people are ‘between homes’ in most cases the individual had the pet while living in a previous home and wants to continue caring for it. Homelessness can be very isolating and pet companionship is known to help people feel happier and live longer.Maybe too, a homeless person will feel more protected with an animal by his or her side.

Most of the time, drink and drugs is not the cause of homelessness some may turn to drink and drugs as a way of coping with their desperate situations and who can blame them? There are hidden aspects to homelessness; it’s not just people sleeping in a shop window, but families floating from hotel room, to couch or B&B each night.

There are many issues that need to be resolved before we will see real change for the better, and before living on the streets will be a thing of the past. As we all know, our political system is in total disarray – logical thinking seems to have gone out of the window –  but here are ways we can all help to make a difference:

1. See people not labels.

2. Contact an organisation like the Salvation Army if you are worried about someone you see sleeping rough.

3. Make a donation this Christmas to one of The Homelessness Services. You can visit the Salvation Army page.

4. Reach out for support if you are worried for a family member.

http://www.salvationarmy.org.uk

http://www.nhs.uk/service-search.

http://www.england.shelter.org.uk

It is amazing to think that billions of pounds are being spent on a high-speed railway in the UK,  with preparations for this bulldozing their way through the country at a time when poverty is a serious problem…..I could go on…..

I am lucky, very lucky, to have a roof over my head this Christmas and good food on my table. I am blessed with the love and companionship of family. I am enjoying all the preparations for the week ahead. However, as the wind howls outside my door and the rain beats down on the roof, I cannot help but think of the lonely man with the haunted eyes who crossed my path for a moment. He had a life once.

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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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