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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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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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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Is ‘Sweating the Small Stuff’ Really a Problem?

‘Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you’ll look back and realise they were the big things’.

I was thinking about how we go through our days, months and years; how we cope with life and the pressures we bear at times. We try to be diligent and concern ourselves with the rights and wrongs going on the world; what will happen about Brexit – how will the actions of President Trump impact upon us – what about global warming – the economy – the NHS – slipping standards in behaviour – the gloomy news we listen to everyday? I could keep adding to this never ending list…..

Throughout the day or week, your routine is most likely set and the little things happening during that time are the ones that are making a difference.

Last Sunday, I was invited to a service of  remembrance at the local church. This was held in the early evening – and although it was Remembrance Sunday this was an additional service held for all those who had lost someone close to them in the last year. It was a way of honouring the memory of a loved one recently departed, and a chance to give thanks for their life: ‘A gentle service to remember loved ones no longer with us.’

The service was very moving and conducted by the ministers with love and grace. It gave everyone time. Time to reflect and think about those we loved and lost, in a calm and peaceful environment. Towards the end of the service we were invited up to the altar to add a flower to the cross laid at the front, together with a lighted candle. As we returned to our seats and the lights were dimmed we sat quietly in contemplation for a while, before saying goodbye and going out into the dark night.

The service was beautiful for so many reason. As I had watched everyone walking up to lay a flower for their loved ones, I realised again, that all we really want in this life is to love and be loved. Just as the flowers thrive with the warmth of the sun and the gentle rain, so we thrive when we are loved. We may feel bereft when we lose someone very dear to us, but we can reflect on all the love we shared with that person and be glad. Love is at times, responsible for causing us heartbreak and pain as well as great joy, but without it we are lost. And when we show love and receive love we don‘t really need to worry about the bigger picture – the big wide world; it is the small things in life that matter.

I watch cookery programmes often; with each new series of Masterchef or The Great British Bake-Off I get drawn back into the show and get to ‘know’ the latest contestants and their particular way of doing things. I watch as they sometimes dissolve into tears when a soufflé sinks or a casserole burns  and it is easy to get into a cynical way of thinking and judging, and then I wonder why? It’s good to get passionate about cake! It may not change the world but a good slice of cake can make someone’s day!

We are all striving to be the best we can be – to make something of ourselves and our lives and there is nothing wrong with that. If we feel bound to make a difference to the world then we should go for it! Where would we be without explorers and pioneers in every field; those who work relentlessly and discover new drugs and new ways of healing? There are so many people struggling tirelessly to help people and to care for those who need it most. They are often the people too, who still find time to stop and enjoy the small things in life.

So when we focus on the small things, the little things that concern us, I don’t think it is a bad thing. Of course, we don’t want to get stressed particularly, about blocked drains (me at the moment) or being cut up on the motorway or any of the daily annoyances that beset us all from time to time. But stopping to study the new shoots on the trees or listen to the birds can only ever do us good.  Throughout the day or week, your routine is most likely set and the little things happening during the time are the ones that are making a difference.

It’s worth noting that the good feeling we get from taking some freshly baked bread from the oven or watching a child jump and play, is far more heartening than studying a politician arguing in a debate on the news, no matter how important the topic!

The good small things for me:  

Waking up and feeling good – making porridge the Cornish way.

Good hair days! A cup of tea in my favourite angel mug. My sister’s dog, Willow Writing a poem I am happy with. Going to the beach. Cooking a chocolate cake. Listening to Clifford T. Ward – listen to ‘Home Thoughts From Abroad’it’s beautiful. Laughing with friends. Messages from my sons. ❤️❤️ Christmas movies. Looking at photos of my mum and dad. Listening to my husband singing along to ‘Sounds of the sixties.’ 🎼 Reading to my grandchildren 📖   Life is made up of moments. Collect them and keep them in your heart.    

The magic of starting to focus on these little, but important things, is that you will gradually change from focusing on what is missing in your life, to what is there. And when we feel grateful for what we have, we gradually add to our happiness levels, bit by bit.

      IMG_0071 What small things make you happy? I would love to hear from you.  

What REALLY matters to us?

This week has been full of mixed emotions for me. There have been stresses and strains, worries, ups and downs, highs and lows and most importantly, good times. Times catching up with good friends, happy phone calls from family members, important birthdays, and pleasant interactions with kindly strangers.

Sitting watching the early evening news a few days ago I started reflecting on some of the headlines and felt immense sadness when thinking of some of the terrible things decent ordinary people were going through or had had inflicted on them, sometimes with devastating results for themselves and their families. Many times I have written about the pain we feel as we watch the news and have to deal with often unfathomable occurrences and unspeakably dreadful actions, the results of which are beamed into our living rooms.  Then there are times we sit dumfounded as we witness the latest political debacle and the seemingly unfair systems that seem to make the rich richer and the poor poorer.

And yet still we find ourselves sweating the small stuff when we go about our daily lives.

We may meditate, read every self help book we can, listen to all the podcasts about positivity we can get our hands on to help us cope with an ever tumultuous world. We may chant, commune with nature, speak to our angels and watch our diet. All these things help at times and give us nuggets of information and inspiration that many times prove to be invaluable. Trust me, I believe. I believe in trying every sensible (and sometimes not so sensible) path to acceptance and understanding. That path that shows us there is a reason for everything and an explanation for everything even when we cannot see it and rail against it. But there are days when it is really hard to stay focused and remind ourselves of all the ways of coping we have learned. These are the days when I guess we just need to go back to basics and remind ourselves of all the things in our lives that are important and reaffirm them.

I remind myself that the people I love and admire for their strength and the way they cope with life did not get that way because their lives always worked out. They got that way because stuff went wrong and they handled it. They handled it in many different ways and at different times, and they got through. I look up to them for sure.

We need to keep our lives in order. Of course we do. Most of us need to work and earn money to support our families. We need to cook, clean and keep our house tidy(ish) We need to keep ourselves in shape and look reasonable. We need to offer support to those that need it and need us. But I for one, need to tell myself in stressful times that the everyday petty trials and tribulations just don’t matter and will be mainly forgotten by next week. Even what we perceive to be major problems will fade to insignificance over the years.

I’m aware of getting older and my thinking is changing with the years. I see it more clearly when people around me are struggling. I can visualise possible outcomes and weigh up situations in a more balanced way than when I did when I was younger. This is both good and bad. On the one hand it is sensible to be prepared and to be empathetic but at the same time the buoyancy of youth is gone: the feeling of being invincible.  But life follows patterns, we change and learn as we go. Some of us learn more quickly  than others. Some young people have a wise head on young shoulders. Some older people never really grow up. This is all part of life’s rich pattern.

The question to ask ourselves, whoever we are, is what really matters to us, what makes us happy, what keeps us sane? Once we remember who we are and remember to reach out to those we love, and once we enjoy the simple things in life while we can, we will at least find it easier to reconnect to what is good.

But if I cannot change the world, I can bend when the storm appears; Do great things in smaller ways, Dry another’s tears.’

Good Thoughts – Good Actions = Good Results…

How do we feel when we receive negative comments?

I was reading a Facebook post today from someone that I have followed for a while. I enjoy the delightful mix of posts from her page and blog which include quirky mixes of shabby chic interior design,  and pretty pictures of a bygone age. I like anything which involves a bit of escapism and give an insight into someone else’s dream so it was sad to read recently that she had received some negative posts totally out of the blue. This got me thinking about how we spend our valuable leisure time and why sometimes some people find the need to comment negatively and sometimes even rudely on another persons endeavours. Innocent , well-meaning posts about all manner of subjects seem to find a way of provoking some untoward remarks from strangers who need to vent their anger somewhere. Constructive criticism is one thing but unpleasant and unfounded comments leave me perplexed.

I guess those of us who put ourselves out there and write about various subjects will have to be prepared to take the rough with the smooth but that said, how much more uplifted do we all feel when we receive a comment from someone who has enjoyed reading our musings or found some of our advice to be helpful? We write for all sorts of reasons; some of us find it a release for anxiety, a chance to put our thoughts into words and reach out to others, to be creative and to send out some sort of message to the world.  The written word is, and always will be a valuable and immensely informative, often moving way of connecting us to the past, to feelings and emotions felt since time began; and words laid down now will be a comfort those who will go after us.

So maybe if we could all concentrate on what is good  – leave encouraging comments and keep negative thoughts to our selves, how much better social media would be!

Sometimes actions speak louder than words.  There is a description in one of my favourite books ‘In Tune with the Infinite’ by Ralph Waldo Infinite, about 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 the days 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.

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