Sunday, May 03, 2015

Words and plants

Tomaland Farm from the orchard with geese

Sunlight streaming through morello cherry blosssom

Lady's Smock or Cuckoo Flower

Dandelion seedhead Taraxacum officinale

Alexanders by the sea at Portwrinkle or Finnygook
Two words to sum up a week relaxing down in Cornwall at my Mum and Dad's slice of lovely. Three and bit novels inhaled - probably more reading than the rest of the year combined. Lots of gentle meandering walks in their garden and by hedgerows, enjoying the abundance of the plant world springing forth. Coming back in for cups of tea, treats with clotted cream and diving in to reference books to identify the more mysterious of the plants observed.

Every day I feel like I learned so much and filled up the space in my brain that normally churns over the work dilemmas du jour with little gems of knowledge. One of my favourite learnings: the Latin name officinalis comes from the word officina, used for the storeroom of a medieval monastery where medicines were kept. This is why it is given to many plants from which drugs can be obtained, such as for the beauty Taraxacum officinale or Dandelion pictured above. Letting that information dance around my brain it feels like a gift, it does wonders to anchor the knowledge as it fires my imagination, conjuring up images of ancient stores of herbs and wisdom. It excites me to learn just a drop of that.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The clearing

Brené Brown and me in the garden
"If we stop long enough to create a quiet emotional clearing, the truth of our lives will inevitably catch up with us." Brené Brown - The Gifts of Imperfection

I read those words a couple of weeks ago now and it was one of those beautiful moments in life when your mind and body understand something together. There was a deep exhale and a huge sense of gratitude and relief that not only had I found another person out there who really gets it and is eloquent enough to express it but praise be - the crowning glory - she's written a guidebook to aid me on the next stage of my voyage, sailing through the swamp.

As much as I have worked on letting go of 'why?' it's a relief to have someone validate why things have been the way they have for the last 18 months, why that hasn't looked or felt anything like I imagined it might, why moving out of survivial mode has been hesitant, full of ups and downs, fumbles and stumbles. If you're running from yourself, trying to be what you think you should be then when you stop running you need to be patient and strong to not sprint away again. I guess I knew on the deepest level that it was time, so I've resisted the urge to try and shut Pandora's Box, knowing that I couldn't stuff the issues back in again and that there was a reason I flung it open in the first place.

It's not that I just found Brené's work. I scribbled down notes from one of Brené's Ted talks last spring, I've watched her on Oprah since and felt the truth of what she was talking about which is why I asked for the book for Christmas. Yet it wasn't until this month that I felt the urge to read it; I dove in and it scooped me up from the start of a spiral down and has delivered me again to a clearing. I love how the right book can find you at the right moment. Here with all the experiences and explorations of the past years within me I am resting a while, enjoying the abundance of spring and reading this book for a second time. I have new language for this next phase of development and a huge hit more love for myself as I consciously start to practice integrating courage, compassion and connection.  Last year I think I could grasp the ideas intellectually but I wasn't ready to start to embody them.

So one tiny step at a time I am opening up and embracing all of me. Just writing this post and particularly that sentence makes me want to hit backspace, does it sound too self indulgent, too hippy, too raw? And so it goes, I have become adept at hiding in plain sight but with Brené to hand I can see that feeling the awkwardness, feeling that vulnerability is a sure sign that I am going in the right direction for me right now. The sentence stays and with each seemingly tiny act of courage I take a step further in to my wholehearted life.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

What makes you walk on a rainy day?

View from Wytham Woods on rainy day April 3rd 2015
Yesterday was a day full of potential and no plans, and honestly, a day I really wanted to be sunny so that we would be inspired to go for a rambly, up close with the fresh air and nature walk. By lunchtime it was clear that it was not going to be a clear sky day, the grey was set. Low, mizzly when it wasn't actively throwing down the rain. There were other ways to enjoy our time but the woods were calling me and more unusually my body was asking to go.

I'm starting to feel the love for stretching and moving my body, sparks of energy that are building in to flames in glorious danger of setting fires. Desires to move that come from deep within rather than thinking that I should do some exercise. It is a huge sign of increasing health and all but alien to me.

I used to hear friends talk about going for a run/to an exercise class/playing a match because they wanted to and could only translate that in to them having more willpower, more drive to exercise than me. I could often enjoy whatever activity I cajoled myself in to but I never got there without a mental stick and carrot approach.

There is a learning within me to loathe organised exercise which came from having ME/CFS as an adolescent; there is probably nothing more likely to incur the wrath of a PE teacher than the chubby, seemingly well child that has a note from her mummy to get her out of the cross country run. Then of course when you haven't got a note you still don't have any stamina or understand the rules of hockey.... anyway I can definitely remember the joy of realising that when I did A-levels PE was no longer on my timetable! In the last year or so I've found two local classes (T'ai Chi and Pilates) which are rewriting that story and building up my body and it's wonderful to see that contributing to other activities.

A walk of any length at all was something that used to require more than a call of the woods, as my body so often had nothing to contribute to the conversation. It would have to be a sunny day or a group activity or some sort of extra impetus to get my tired, sore body up and going yet again. I see now that if you want to do something physical purely because you feel you should it is always going to be a battle of wills. I'm really enjoying finding that working with my body sometimes brings me the things I thought I should be doing, not because I tell myself I have to but because I find them delightful. Even on a rainy day.

Friday, March 27, 2015


Acceptance images
The more there is, the more there is. The more I accept where I am right now the more that I can see is wonderful and awesome right now. Making progress in so many ways.

Acceptance and I found a new peace when I read the following in my Mindfulness course text: "Acceptance doesn't mean merely putting up with, or resignation, or even stoic endurance. It's more positive than any of these. It's also more active. Acceptance comes from the Latin capere, which means to touch... a willingness to have the experience, to feel it."

I've always been afraid to accept, I understood it as passive, as settling. That fear still creeps in at the edges of trusting and surrendering but I see it now for what it is just as I understand better the immense power in acceptance.

In reality it's not about saying oh well, that's the way it is, nothing that can be done. It's about making space and time to feel it, to inhabit it fully and let it move on. Accepting and releasing are more interwoven than I ever saw.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Vinegar and a new motto

Vinegar Hair Rinse and letting go of do your best
At the weekend I poured dilute vinegar over my head and I really rather liked it.

For the last year or two I've been gradually trying to detox our house and beauty products in a consistent way.  Replacing potentially environmentally, or human, harsh products with commercially available or home-made friendlier alternatives. Home-made is definitely where I'm happiest in principle - because of the economics, the reduction in packaging impact and the control. It is also where I find it hardest to get to in practice. Gathering ingredients and then taking the time to make something in sync with when a product needs replacing has been more than I've had energy for so often. Particularly because I often get stuck in the research phase: reading the books, the articles, pinning all the pins. I want to take advantage of the shared experience to try and get things 'right' and yet the more I read, often the more complicated I make something essentially simple.

Like my weekend shampoo and rinse - just dilute castille soap to shampoo with and dilute vinegar to rinse. There are approximately seventy two billion blog articles about this and a whole raft of variations on this theme and I think I have read most of them trying somehow to think out if it would be for me. Given I have had the ingredients on hand for months it really was getting slightly idiotic to not just try it. My hair was not going to fall out, the worst that might happen was that I might look and smell like I'd just finished a shift at the chip shop.

Preparing for perfection is somewhere I often get stuck in the non-essentials of life. In the must get done to get paid/fed/to bed essentials I've found a not very cordial entente that allows me to look like a functional being whilst generally feeling a bit dissatisfied with what I'm getting done. I've lived for too long with 'do your best' as a guiding rule. The insidious demands I create from those three little words that can never be lived up to have gradually become clearer over the years with a particularly enlightening CBT session last week finally making me face that it needed to go. I know these deep imbedded rules are buggers to rewire around as our minds are so attached to them, the pathways burned deep through the brain and there will be tricks to try and keep it in place as my mind fears the coming change.

In trying to release it I stumbled upon a realisation that as much as I might feel like I can never do enough preparation, never consider a situation from every angle and always reflect on what else I could have done - do your best is basically a limitation, a hastily drawn estimate of what I think I might be capable of, a line in the sand at which I can justify giving up on something or having a go whatever the consequences.

So I'm easing away from it - not by doing my best to ignore it, my best to collect evidence of why something is good enough or my best to be pleased with what I have achieved but by feeling my way. Just considering what each next step feels like  - be it some research, an experiment or a blog post about vinegar. It's not about measuring up to anything, it's about relieving my mind of the job of running my life because it's not the right job for it. As the awesome Lisa Esile says "Letting your mind rule your life is like asking your inner eight year old to organize the next presidential campaign; she doesn’t know how and spends most of her time trying to look good in front of her friends." 
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