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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Nostalgia at Christmas and Learning from the Children….

Do you find it hard to let go of Christmas?

It’s that time again when we have the slight lull that follows the festivities of Christmas Day with all the celebrating, eating and family time, before gearing ourselves up for the onslaught of the New Year. It is one of the precious few times of the year when we have several days off in a row (at least in our house), forget which day it is, and where we have time for lay-ins and cooked breakfasts before a leisurely walk or perhaps a trawl through the sales.

I always struggle with this time of year; I don’t like giving up on Christmas. I cling on to the twinkling lights and the decorations for as long as possible. I inwardly cringe when I hear people saying they can’t wait to ‘get back to normal’, or that they have already taken their decorations down the day after Boxing Day. I don’t get it. It’s dark. WE need lights. WE need to keep the fun going as long as possible and enjoy the time of year that allows us to slow down.

Whilst saying all this, I appreciate Christmas isn’t an easy time for some. For those struggling with illness, financial problems, or loss, it can be hard to face all the Christmas festivities. There is something so poignant about this time of year; it’s as if the world around us has altered in readiness for the revered time, and in the midst of the hectic build up there is a certain heightening of emotion which can be hard to cope with at times. For me, this was my first Christmas without my beloved dad; we missed him hugely, and I’m sure we weren’t the only family struggling not to look at an empty chair at this time.

I consider myself to be fairly senior now and I look back down the years with more than a little nostalgia, especially at this time of year. Memories flood back from Christmas’s past and I am plunged into certain wistfulness. The seasons seem to be getting shorter and shorter with the space between them constantly shifting and moving on before we have had chance to enjoy the present. At our local garden centre, Santa had moved in in October and was back in the North Pole before we knew it. (Although the grotto was amazing). All that remains in the Christmas store now are a few sad and bedraggled decorations selling at knock down prices, whilst the summer barbecue equipment is coming back in through the door, along with the garden furniture and the patio heaters. I have never been able to work out who would buy these things in the still dark days of winter, but obviously some people do. Don’t get me wrong, I know we can’t cling on to Christmas for too long, but surely we can wait a few more weeks before calling time on everything festive.

I am sure now I will never be the Queen of England. I would put money on it. I’m not even remotely in line to the throne, although I must say, I can do quite a good royal wave, but if I WERE ever to be Queen, or Prime Minister (now there’s a thought) the first thing I would do would be to create a public holiday at the end of January. I have always thought that would be a very good idea. It wouldn’t be nearly so bad clearing up after Christmas if we knew there was another holiday on the horizon. Like a ‘Goodbye to Winter, Spring is on the horizon’ sort of holiday.

I don’t want to see chocolate creme eggs in the shops during the first weeks of January, and although I am a romantic, I’m not yet ready to see Valentine’s cards either.

You have probably deduced that I don’t bother with starting a new diet or a new project on January 1st. I will just try and stick to the healthy diet I have always tried to follow, not always successfully, but then we all fail from time to time. I will try and keep up my daily walks and do the odd bit of meditation, but I won’t be setting any rules that will be broken a few weeks down the line. Yet I think I need to view things a little differently. One thing I have noticed this season whilst watching and listening to my grandchildren is this: children love Christmas and everything about it. They are able to plunge in to all the happy things about this time with more or less total abandon. They are (usually) happy to wear a tea towel on their heads and pose as a shepherd, or as an assistant alien as in our grandson’s case, and wave happily to an adoring audience. They think it is quite normal to listen out for distant bells and gaze expectantly at the sky on Christmas Eve. They are more than happy to get up in the early hours of Christmas Day and jump up and down with excitement. But as Christmas draws to a close they move on to new days and new experiences, running headlong into the New Year and all the new experiences it will bring.

That seems to me to be the best way to go about things.

So as this year draws to a close I wish you all good things – a chance to walk in frosty lanes when all the world is quiet, stillness when you need it, and joy and laughter too. The love of family and the familiarity and warmth that lasting friendships bring. And for all of us, I wish us the gift of peace.

Ps. Perhaps keep the fairy lights going for another week…….

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Summer Love ….

I’ve been enjoying the sunshine at Dove Lane and felt compelled to leaf through my own personal poetry book – I hope you may have found a moment to take a peaceful walk in the glorious countryside. Whatever you’ve been doing, enjoy my take on the summer atmosphere……

 

Summer

Suddenly the summer sun
Shines on a day I cannot miss,
Like the Prince who wakes his Princess
With a long awaited kiss.
The leafy trees swell and fill the lanes,
Their branches dipping low
To sweep a secret pathway
On the dusty ground below.
The fledglings fly their feathered nests
And flap their new found wings,
And I marvel at the changing scene
That each new season brings.
And all the fields are emerald green
Shot through with flecks of gold;
And though in winter, flowers slept unseen
Their petals now unfold.
Life is brimming all around
As if making another start
Nature never stopping
To question the mood of its heart.

© Lyn Halvorsen

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Coping With Fear in a Scary World.

How can we manage our anxiety about world events?

It is easy to get anxious when we hear upsetting reports on the news especially when it is difficult to fathom out the reasoning behind the awful headlines reported. I found it hard to process the news last night of children being separated from their families at the U.S. border. What astounds me and upsets me the most is that those in power don’t always see, or want to see, what is directly in front of them. Sticking to the rules seems more important that basic humanity. How can it ever be right to know a child is distraught by being kept from its parents and do nothing? How can it ever be right to use this as a lesson to deter any already distressed or displaced person contemplating entering a country illegally? Whatever our political leanings how can we ever forget to show love and compassion?

As I write this, thankfully, it sounds as though there has been a u – turn in the policy and that this rule will now be lifted, although it will take a while to create order and reunite families.

Is there a good way to manage anxiety about world events if you’re the sort of person to take the weight of the world on your shoulders? If you feel like the world is falling apart, you’re not alone. Although empathy is more acutely developed in highly sensitive people, you don’t have to be ultra sensitive to feel anxious. It’s pretty easy to feel overwhelmed these days; everywhere we turn, it seems we see endless violence and natural disasters. Managing the anxiety caused by world events takes strength and helpful tactics.

Tragedy and violence affects a lot of us deeply. While most feel some sense of empathy, if we are highly sensitive we may respond to the news by subconsciously absorbing the emotions of the world into our bodies. That makes it more difficult to manage anxiety about world events. If we’re not careful, carrying the weight of the world can result in physical and mental illnesses, including anxiety symptoms.

Today we’re inundated with negative world events that create anxiety and it’s tough to manage. And it’s no secret that social media can magnify anxiety. Our constant connectedness makes it easy to fall prey to the idea that the world is more dangerous than ever. It’s true there are some horrific events happening, but we’re also more aware of them. Twenty years ago, there were events that simply didn’t reach our radar.

Every time we see, hear, or experience an event that induces fear, we condition our minds and bodies to view the world as dangerous. And the more worry you pile on, the worse anxiety becomes.

Managing anxiety about world events.

1. Limit your intake of media.

While it’s important to be informed and engaged in what’s going on in world events, you can manage anxiety if you don’t let the media consume your day. It is a good idea to turn off your social media notifications from time to time. Pay attention to what you listen to and read and notice how you feel – if you begin to feel tense and sad when listening to the news, turn it off.

2. Be mindful of what you say and how you say it.

It is easy to rant about a subject close to your heart – when you read or hear something that upsets you or you feel is unjust you may feel the need to vent your feelings, but sometimes this can evoke more anxiety. Think about what is important to you in a positive way and perhaps share that instead. In the long run this is more empowering.

3. Seek out heartwarming stories.

It’s amazing how there can be sudden turns in events just when it was thought a situation was dire. And sometimes on a particularly bad day someone can show an incredible act of kindness out of the blue and reaffirm the sheer goodness in the world that is often hidden. This is the time to share good news and also encourages you to look closer to home for what is important.

4. Look after yourself.

Take a short break from social media and use that time to meditate, exercise, or take a walk in nature. Self-care is not selfish. It is the very thing we need to stay mentally and physically healthy, which in turn helps us manage anxiety about world events.

5. Do something positive.

Tangible actions can be big or small, but doing something to move our world toward greater health is important. And serving others also helps alleviate anxiety. Imagine if everyone were to make a small donation to a relief organisation or join a peaceful group of like-minded people, the effects would make a huge difference.

‘There is a golden thread, that runs through every religion in the world. There is a golden thread that runs through the lives and the teachings of the prophets, seers, sages, and saviours in the world’s history, through the lives of all men and women of truly great and lasting power.’ This was written by the author Ralph Waldo Trine in his book ‘In Tune With the Infinite’ in 1897. It is interesting that Trine opens the book with a message for us – one that would be every bit as fitting today as it was in then. He notes that (then) we were born into a strange time – a time that tries men’s souls. Also, he states that bewilderment and fear grips many and that change and uncertainty stalk through the land – all lands. Sounds familiar doesn’t it?

Deep down we know there must be a better way. And we are not alone. Between us, we have the enormous potential to bring about change, both in businesses, our own lives, and all around the world and to hold a peaceful but determined thought in our minds to bring about change; change for a better and an enlightened world. We don’t need to lay down barriers and rules, for these become obsolete when we are completely united for the common good.

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Know That The Blackbird Sings..

Acknowledging that things happen, both good and bad….

What do we do when we are bombarded with bad news? Time and time again we hear news we do not want to hear and no matter how hard we try to be optimistic and refuse to be dragged down by negative thoughts, we hear something that shatters our beliefs and encroaches on our wobbly and winding path to enlightenment.

The path to enlightenment is long. There are many obstructions along the way, or certainly on my path there are. But I am still a learner. I know there are many who have navigated their path successfully and made it to the clearing at the end where they have unpacked their bags, set aside everything they don’t need, and understood that not everything can be understood in this life.

And maybe that is the key. To realise that we cannot understand everything in this life. Today I was out walking and as I walked through my favourite track in the woods my mind went back to some disturbing and news I had listened to last night before going to bed. A report of a story of heartbreaking proportions; a dreadful and tragic news bulletin that left me feeling depressed. I wondered for the thousandth time why awful things happened to totally innocent people.

We have to press on with life I know. We cannot carry the weight of the world on our shoulders all the time. Yet our hearts are affected by what we hear. We are human and feel the pain of others. And sometimes some things just get to us; they hit a raw spot and we cannot detach ourselves easily.

I looked up at the tree above. A blackbird was perched on the branch of the tree and it was singing its melodic song. I swear it was singing for me; showing me a sign that no matter what, there is a bigger and deeper meaning to life, and that there is a greater force than I can understand. There is great comfort in nature and somehow nature will always find a way.

Even a stone, and more easily a flower or a bird, could show you the way back to the Source, to yourself. When you look at it or hold it and let it be without imposing a word of mental label on it, a sense of awe, of wonder, arises within you. It’s essence silently communicates itself to you and reflects your own essence back to you’.

                                                                                               Elkhart Tolle

I wonder if I will ever be able to look at things without attaching labels and stories to them and feel I have acquired a state of being that offers internal peace, happiness and joy and the satisfaction of all needs and wants. I don’t know about that but I would like to think so. Enlightenment as a word can be misleading, because it is sometimes perceived and communicated as a ‘higher’ state of being that feels like it is out of reach for the ‘normal’ person. However, the reality is, enlightenment is a natural state. It is inside of everyone of us and we can all get there, even if we stumble along the way. We just really need to be ourselves and not try to act as someone we are not. We have to acknowledge things happen, life happens, and with that comes both good and bad things.

When you stumble. When you feel overwhelmed,  know that the blackbird sings.

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Surviving Treacherous Times…Finding your own compass…

If you were washed up on a desert island and desperate to survive, I wonder what survival technique would serve you best? No matter how fit and strong you were, if you weren’t mentally strong you would find it difficult to keep going. Bulging muscles and gym enhanced fitness might help you bounce around the sand for a while but without mental fitness you would soon start to panic or go into ‘freeze’ mode. You would only be able to run around searching for ships on the horizon, and an immediate solution, for so long. While it is certainly good to keep physically fit, there is much more to survival than that. Often the person with hidden strengths survives against the odds.

Just as we would find it hard to cope alone on a desert island, this time of year especially, with all the extra stresses and strains, we may feel we need to go into survival mode. We may not be lost on that desert island but we may feel just as stranded and panicked. It may not only be the stresses of Christmas that bring us down; there could be more serious worries in our lives; worries about finances, health, relationships or body image may become more pressing during the festive period. There is something about Christmas that heightens our emotions and makes us feel things, both good and bad, more deeply.

The strongest survival skill comes from managing the mind. Everything you do and experience comes from your mind after all. It is hard at times I know, but there are some basic tips to help you settle your mind and feel more in control. Just as when trapped on that island, if you worry too much you may panic in stressful situations. In times like this just STOP.  Stop and find a quiet space and take a breather. Pause and do nothing and think about your situation and what is really bothering you. Think carefully about what to do next. Are you stressed by loud music and crowds in a shopping centre for instance? Can the shopping wait to another day? Is it really that important? Think about finding a quieter area to regain some calm. Remember most things aren’t as crucial to get done as you think.

If you were stranded somewhere you would probably make yourself a base camp – somewhere where you felt safe and could shelter from the storm. In the same way so it is also needed in normal life – make sure your surroundings at home are peaceful and comfortable – create your own safe haven and your own ‘go to’ place. Escape to this place from time to time and especially during frantic days, and feel the calmness there. If you work in an office keep your own space uncluttered and perhaps keep a photo on your desk of loved ones or have a framed positive quote that you like. Have a little corner that is just yours and rest your eyes on a scene that is tranquil. If you can go for a walk at lunchtime and play some peaceful music on your headphones you will feel more able to cope with the day.

Make a plan – in  the desert you would formulate a plan so that you could attract help and the possibility of rescue. Do the same in your mind to help you ease your worries. Think of who may be able to help you in your current situation, whatever it may be. Be open to advice. Put out feelers  – you will be surprised where help may come from.

Work out your everyday survival techniques. Have an imaginary compass in your mind – picture it pointing you in the right direction – the calm and happy direction. If you have a problem that is really worrying you, picture your compass rotating until it points you to a place where you can work out your problems. Picture it pointing you to a friend who is ready to receive you with kind and open arms. Imagine it sending you towards your own personal North Star where peace and contentment abounds. It is amazing how this can help you find a way forward and calm your mind.

Every time you leave your own particular safe place, your ‘base camp’, and venture out in a calm and peaceful way and can cope with what ever is outside you will be building confidence and more able to take control of different and even anxious feelings. Also, knowing you have a place to retreat to and recharge your batteries will help, even if you just go there in your mind when you are in a chaotic place.

So next time you feel you are anxious or jittery, put your mind to survival and find the path you lost.

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