Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Belonging

Sometimes, when you're a person who wanders off the beaten track a lot, you get lost. Sometimes you realise, thanks to the numerous signs that suddenly start to pop up bearing names you recognise, that you've found the exact route you were searching for.

That's happened to me this last few days.

Last Friday I wondered what it would be that I'd regret not doing when I'm nearly 90 and know that even if I can still touch my toes, I'm not going to be around here that much longer. Travel? Nope. My mind finds it stimulating but my body, not so much. It wasn't made to travel the surface of the earth that much. Work? Yeah right. Risk-taking? Noooo. Love? Got as much of that as I need because I am damn lucky. More to help others? L'il bit, yeah actually. But number one, the thought that got the mind-body-spirit trio all excited, was time spent feeling what it is to be alive. That's what I want to make sure I have time for. Reaching the ability to tune in my body so I can feel Life. Running through my meridians, my blood vessels, my nervous system, my soul. I want to know the essence and soak it up.

Over the last few days I've become really quite determined to make this happen. Because I tend to be an anxious, spinny-headed, overly cerebral person I need to work on being at home in my body and making sure it's at peace. This was already a plan for 2013, now it has a reason beyond just, y'know, being a good idea. I know that when I use my 15 minutes mindfully, my body relaxes, my stomach unknots, my jaw releases, my fists unclench, I take deep breaths and forget about my to do list. I am as still as I can be and it is deeply healing. Stress hormones fade, inflammation (boo, hiss) eases and feelgood stuff fills the gap.

I believe that if I can learn to do this in a situation that is supportive of being still and quiet, then I can develop the ability to do it anywhere. I can just flick that switch. So far, the trials are going well. And, because it feels so damn good, I'm positively reinforcing the habit every single time. Didn't even use a clicker (dog joke).

So then, the signs that popped up...

I talked about this with Charlie on the Friday night and last weekend our power went out. We spent Sunday daytime and evening with no heating, lighting, phones or internet. We stayed together in the living room with the wood stove going. Because it's a functional stove not a pretty one, we cooked on and in it. It was fun. We had candles everywhere. We played I-Spy (E won with H for 'Hopeless Mum and Dad, because you two are SO rubbish at this game!'). We laughed and we moved slowly. It was cold and wet outdoors so that wasn't really much of an option. We were comfortable, relaxed, unpressured, not overstimulated and it felt like we were where we belonged. I felt alive and I felt the Life. I got a taste of what I asked for.

Over the last couple of days things have fallen into my path that have all joined up to tell me I'm on the right track. Rather than write it all out I'm just going to list some links. This is my story, my truth and yours may be different but hey...something might make those shoulders drop down an inch or two and that, my friends, is healing.

Back on 3 January I wrote about my new tattoo and how it had re-connected me with my body. 
'The few intentions I have for 2013 are about becoming more connected to my body and the body of the earth. For me this tattoo is part of that. It makes me feel more 'here'. The needle has sewn me back into my body and imprinted me with my wolf, crow and tree companions. Ink is a powerful magic.' 
So I completely loved this piece on magical tattooing. I'm already planning my next.

Favourite bit:
'The Mentawai of Siberut Island also wear intricate bead tattoos on the backs of their hands. One man told me that these permanent beads “tied-in” his soul to the body but that they also made him more skillful whenever he needed to use his hands to perform various tasks. It should be noted that the Mentawai people are one the most profusely tattooed people living today. The reason for this, they say, is that their beautifully adorned bodies keep their souls “close” because they are pleased by beautiful things like beads, flowers, sharpened teeth, facial paint, and above all tattoos (titi).'
I am totally okay with identifying my self as a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP). This is not some affectation, it is a horrible name but it is also A Real Thing. No really. I'm reading this book and almost weeping. I have also been researching, properly, migraine. Because seriously, it rules my life and I just pill pop and trample all over it and that is not clever or peaceful and absolutely not anti-inflammatory. So now I'm a regular visitor to the Migraine Trust. The most recent research (into what is a very personal, variable condition) is that migraine is a result of having a supersensitive brain.

*blink*

Yeah. Sometimes you just don't see the wood for the trees.

Anyway...I'm enjoying Dr Elaine Aron's work and also that of Dr Ted Zeff. I'm feeling very smug and grown-up about the fact that I have already, without knowing his work, set up all of his Daily Routine coping strategies and many of the others. Again with the feeling of belonging.

Belonging. In a field this morning I knew that was the word. When I reach the state of ease I'm trying to achieve, I feel as if I belong in my body, my head, my heart and my soul. And belonging makes you feel good. You have space inside you to feel Life and after spending time out in the fields and woods, I came back and this was in front of me: Shinrin-Yoku Forest Therapy.

I love the mystic-meets-science stuff, which is actually just me loving the science stuff and supplying the mystic angle myself. And so it was on Sunday evening, when the power returned in time for us to have Brian Cox (yeah I know, me too) bring us Wonders of Life. What's the strap line on the BBC site? Oh yes: Professor Brian Cox discovers how the laws of nature drive the most diverse and complex phenomena in the universe: life.

They made me a show! Bless.

Not a physicist, obviously, but here's his summing up. In my words. So not as good.

Living things take ordered energy from the universe and send it out in a disordered, lesser form. But the ordered/disordered ratio is such that Life continues, despite the constant decay.

And I wondered, is it that ordered energy that I seek? It is. I want to feel it running through me. I want to experience it in the way that only a physical, animal body will allow and so I need to be at home in my body, to belong. 

I think that, if we're able to learn/remember how, we can feel that ordered energy and channel it. Sending it back out maybe a little less disordered than we would in a mindless state. And if we pass on that more ordered energy to another being, a place, a situation, an intention...is that what healing is? My break with Reiki was all about my belief that we don't need the song and dance and expensive courses to be healers. I have missed the energy work, it's true, but whenever I look back at Reiki I know I don't belong there. But Life, that fundamental creative energy and the feel of it, is what I long for. So thanks Brian, maybe not what you were hoping for in a takeaway concept, but it's good for me.

He finished up by saying, in so many words, that you don't need 'a mystical spark' (his phrase) to explain Life because the laws of physics and nature explain it and that is equally as awe-inspiring.

What grabbed me (apart from: but where did those laws come from? What creative energy and intention had that 'thought'?) was that everything in his film would still be true if you switched that statement. In fact you can choose between:
A) you don't need a mystical spark to explain Life because the laws of physics and nature explain it and that is equally as awe-inspiring
B) You don't need the laws of physics and nature to explain Life because a mystical spark explains it and that is equally awe-inspiring
C) The laws of physics and nature, coupled with a mystical spark, explain Life. That is awe-inspiring. 
Extra awesomeness points: choosing any one of these to believe makes no difference to anything except your personal experience of Life.


I choose C, because it's where I belong.









Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Go ahead..blink

The weekend brought plenty of time to think.





Yesterday, Sas said,"Sometimes I worry that I spend so much time dreaming of the future life I am building, that I miss out on the magic of right now." That struck a chord with me because I have been in the opposite position. So embedded in the non-magical right now that I was incapable of visualising a better future. Just wouldn't happen and I'm good at this stuff.  So I've had to deconstruct the obstacle brick by brick. I am still doing it. Here's what I'm learning:

Balance - in the 50/50 equality sense I have looked for - is a myth. Struggling for that is as futile as trying to get your child to eat every meal with ideal quantities of vegetables, protein and carbs. See the big picture (this, by the way, is what a buzzard/hawk always reminds me). She may eat only pasta every meal but she snacks on fruit, veg and nuts. You may have months of stress and anxiety and you may feel like crap but try to find time to spend in the presence of good even if you are so locked up you feel impermeable to it. Even just 15 minutes. A quarter of an hour without attention will not enable your problems, like some Whovian weeping angel, to sneak up and DESTROY YOU AND WIPE YOU FROM TIME. A little peace, even a really little bit, will give you space and in that space you will see new options and you will feel better. Stop feeling guilty and ashamed that you don't have balance. Light is so much more powerful than the dark that a pinch of it brightens years of darkness.

I think the same applies to Now and Future Life.

To use Martha Beck's terminology (Hello, my name is Jo and I'm a Martha Beck Fan Girl), imagining and forming your future is powerful magic. It's concentrated goodness. (Are you seeing a teeny tiny glass phial with drops of a glowing liquid in it? Me too. Heh.) If I manage to find 15 minutes a day to dedicate to that magic it somehow heals the rest of my tumultuous, chaotic, busy day and I am better able to see the magic that also exists there. Finding 15 minutes is not always easy and that's not because my life is so packed, it's because I am a disorganised, impulsive person who doesn't really plan and I'm learning to be okay with that because trying to change it makes me sick, the way sitting still makes my sensory-seeking daughter sick. Whole other post. See how I impulsively went off on a tangent? Yeah, that.

Where was I? Fifteen minutes. I have found I can have that in the morning as I get ready for work. I can have that and more by locking the bathroom door and lying in a hot bath. I can have it as I fall asleep at night. I can have it as I drive to and from the office. I can have it as I walk with my dogs. I'm surrounded by blocks of 15 minutes. This is a new thing for me. Realising I have what I need. I have lots of it. Who knew? (Shut up.) And that in itself causes a positive shift. So in that time I'm playing with future magic. I'm building it. I'm meditating, sitting in peace and awareness, tapping (pow.er.ful.) or dreaming. I think dreaming is the best because it's fun. It's art. And a little hit of it will carry me way further than I'd believed.

This is not news to most people. It's a no-brainer for many but I think it will be an ongoing lesson for me. I have to be prepared to practise and be a little bit disciplined about it. I am about the all or nothing. If I can't have it all then what's the point? Why would I stop after a little bit of anything? Because - here's my new mantra - a little bit of light clears a whole lot of darkness. A teeny bit of considered, disciplined, devoted 15 minute practise - hell, even five minutes - is a wonderful, efficient, positive thing to do for myself. It makes me feel better and it makes my future better.

It's creation, baby. Creation.


Monday, 14 January 2013

Peace



I picked out the words Love and Life for 2013 but a third was pushing to come through. Over the last couple of weeks I've learnt that to activate the first two I need to face the fear and anxiety that I can spin into with such ease. This called for Word Three.

I dismissed Courage and Brave because they are not the opposite of fear, they exist despite it.
I rolled Faith around for a while. Nope, too many unwanted connotations.
Believe? Cher.
And then the word made itself heard and that was it.

Peace.

In the last week I have stopped my news consumption. I was a BBC Radio 4 fan so the Today Programme would go on first thing. More on the way home. Newspapers read online. TV news in the evening. Charlie is a news junkie and has BBC 5 Live on all day so there's been some juggling there and fast exits from rooms.

Here's the thing: the news is largely split into two sections. First there's international political and business news and then there's the (allegedly) human interest stories. The former I cannot realistically influence as I'm not a political activist, banker or any other kind of person who gets listened to. Don't give me that 'but the political is personal we all need to be involved and have our voice heard' stuff. I know and I agree and I vote. You know what I'm saying here. The power is not in my hands. This stuff stresses me out, I shout at the TV and I shout at the radio. I get mad and wound up and nothing changes. It's just information overload and our brains have not evolved to deal with it.

Peace.

As for human interest stories...okay you got me started. Somebody and their two kids get killed in a fire started by a jealous ex partner in a town 500 miles from where I live. A young man crashes his car and kills himself and an elderly lady pedestrian. A teenage girl and her dog are washed away by flood waters and never seen again. For them and the people who knew and loved them this is a heart-breaking tragedy beyond anything I can imagine. For the rest of us it is voyeurism and gossip. Why do these poor souls have to have their death used as filler for the national media? It disgusts me. And fills me with anxiety and feelings of powerlessness because guess what - in the face of that stuff we ARE powerless. Bad stuff happens to good people and the news will remind you of that on the hour, every hour, just in case you ever damn well forget.

Well I know it already.

Peace.

I wasn't convinced that avoiding the news would make much difference but it has. It's not just the absence of the angst, it's the space that's left behind. Space that has been filled with good stuff. I understand that humans are social animals and feel the need to communicate. It builds and maintains our sense of connection and that supposedly keeps our society safe. This last week, as Jackson's health deteriorated, I felt compelled to update people I have never met/will never meet with tweets on his condition. In return I received sympathy and support and that helped me enormously. I was so touched. But I include Twitter as part of 'my world' now. Other people who know about Jackson are people who know him in real life and people who read my blogs. These are the people in my Village. In return I listen to and read their news eagerly, thankful for our connection. This is what our brains are good at. This is what nourishes our minds, hearts and souls.

Global connection? Over-rated. That kind of universal link has led to invasion, war, disease, poverty, environmental and human rape, violence of all kinds and fear of Mr/Mrs & Mr/Mrs Other that reaches genocidal levels.

Head in the sand? Maybe. Will it make any difference to the situation in Afghanistan if I decide to protect myself from the horror? Not a jot. I trust that there are stronger souls out there doing what they feel they can to help.

Selfish? No, no, a thousand times no. I'm doing this not just for myself but for my family, my friends and for the little bits of my world on which I can be a positive influence if I'm sleeping at night.

Peace.

Last night I lay in a hot bath and began my peace mantra. I was instantly overwhelmed with thankfulness for this weekend. Jackson's return to the best health possible. Rain-free, sunny weather that let us function and touch the future just for a few hours. Evie*. Good, plain, healthy food. Dry logs. My mother and the way she wears a coat like her mother's and walks like her father, reminding me that despite the fact she drives me insane, she is their little girl and I adored them so I adore her (and their younger daughter). And for the loving arms of the man with whom I share the Great Big Messy Love that has hung on by its fingernails through better and worse, not much richer and a whole lot poorer, in sickness and in health.

*I spent Saturday sorting out Evie's bedroom with her. We've chucked out all the old, nowhere else it fits furniture and she got new stuff from my Argos deal - a desk and chair, a shelving unit and a new colourful rug. We built a flat-pack together (yay us) and covered her walls with posters for the first time. She was beside herself with excitement. So now she has a Big Girl room and of course, it required a Grand Opening. Charlie was working so, to an audience of one in darkened room, she outdid Danny Boyle. To the sound of Jeff Buckley and Liz Fraser she performed a sort of ballet/tai chi fusion while holding a light in each hand. Solely her creation.

Suddenly, with the lights fleetingly passing in front of her face as she dipped and span and focused oh so hard on the patterns, I saw her. Really saw her for the extraordinary creature she is. My heart started to pound as, like all proud mamas, I burst into tears of wonder.

Peace.

x






Friday, 11 January 2013

Into the woods v.3 - no really this time

I am sitting here in the woods. No really. I can't remember the last time I walked alone but my usual companions are sick, soaking wet and at school. Not all three, you understand. One each.

I am sitting and considering the nature of peace. And connection. And how those two can work together instead of one destroying the other. Yes I'm distracting myself from thinking about Jackson's imminent passing and my role in it but my heart beats with nothing else.

Sitting here, all I can hear is bird calls and the stream at my feet. And then, on cue, the crowscarer in a nearby field fires off like a bomb. So often man's role in nature is Destroyer.

The wildlife either ignore it or startle, run and then settle again. This seems like a good plan. The only plan.

Today I am past startled, past running (almost) and ready to settle, preparing to do what needs to be done and be proud to do so.

I am looking for peace and connection.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Beginning

Attempting a new routine is dodgy ground for me as almost immediately something will happen to scupper it. The usual chaos descends, I fall into,'Oh FFS, why do I even bother?' and the old resentments start bubbling up and whispering evils in my ear.

So no, I do not have a new routine for my mornings because that would be tempting fate and recalcitrant children and flat car batteries and lost lunch boxes and people who 'don't do morning' to get all up in my face and make me spit.

Which sadly, is  something of a routine.

However, when it's possible I intend to spend some time in the morning - just 15-20 minutes or so - experiencing peace. Even if that means simply repeating the word as my mantra and remembering to breathe. Deep.

This morning was a good morning. I got 20 minutes, alone, in silence bar the incredible birdsong outside and the sound of next door's ducks. I turned off the lamp so only the breaking morning brought light, I threw on a warm woollen shawl given to me by a loved one, opened the window and just sat.

Back in December, during a guided meditation in the company of friends, I was given another gift. This time - either from spirit or in the language of my heart - I met a deer, with antlers and a small crown. Despite the antlers, she was female. She gave me a small box and inside it was the letter A. What that meant wasn't clear to me so I let it sit.

This morning, as I gazed out at the tree people, loving the sense of starting my day at a natural pace with no pressure and no clock-watching, I saw her again. This time in the here and now. And the A? Start at the beginning. Begin again.


Monday, 7 January 2013

Into the woods v.2


Following my traditional 'loss of the light', new year plunge into darkness I am looking at a new path out. As blah as it was at the time, ending the year sleeping 15 hours a day while my aching body tried to repair itself was actually the right way to go. Christmas hoop-la was downsized almost out of existence and I got time to take a good look at where I am and where I actually belong.

I came face-to-face with an inconvenient truth. A truth that I can avoid to gold medal standard, that I can ignore by staring at Pinterest and other forms of self-sedation, that I can convince myself I'm addressing by making petty things seem important.

The truth is that I really struggle with being open and vulnerable with the people closest to me. Here on the internet I can be all touchy-feely, emotional, creative, in touch with my power and all the rest of that good stuff. In the real world with my loved ones, I am uptight, neurotic, hung-up, defensive and prone to withdrawal. I am not emotionally eloquent. I am overly insular. The closer I am to you, the further I will push you from my bunker. And that hurts people. It hurts me.

I'm not always this way, sometimes Happy Me gets to play but we live under a cloud of financial insecurity that terrifies me and I am ashamed that this is a big deal for me. Should I not be above such things? Should I not believe in universal abundance? It seems I can only believe those things when my bills are paid and we have a safety net to protect us, our animals and our home. I know this is because I am afraid and fear is a liar who invades all aspects of your life.

The great thing about the internet is that here I can see my own potential. I know a strong, loving, powerful woman exists because, at a safe distance from anyone who may call me a fake, I am her. I am. What I write here is true and authentic and comes from my heart and soul but somehow, in the daily mess, I fall into a place of fear and I deal with that fear in ways that have been passed down through my family for generations. I build a wall and behind it I either a) hide or b) throw spears. I would have been awesome in the middle ages. Middle-aged? Not so much.

Remember when the menopausal years used to be known as The Change? I do. It was always said in a stage whisper. I'm going to rehabilitate The Change and it will be positive. It will be my chance to truly change my old habits and become the person I am on the inside. Because it's new territory I'm going to take it slow. I'm going to make the change in real time in the real world with the people who don't care about my blog and my instagram feed; they care about me.

It's going to be extremely hard. These habits have saved me from pain, rejection and discomfort all my life. They have also saved me from fulfilment, joy, power, love and life. I no longer accept that deal. I am not renewing my contract with fear. And yet honestly... I'm already scared.

Tracie's new year post - a manifesto if ever I saw one - speaks loudly to me. I need to build strong new foundations slowly. I know I'll run and hide a lot. I know I'll hyperventilate a lot. I know I'll probably be extremely defensive and shouty because just writing this is tightening my chest. But I will be trying and succeeding. Nature, my family, meditation, my beliefs, my friends and the love that is waiting for me will surely help.

I'm leaving the barricade, going into the woods.




Sunday, 6 January 2013

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Neighbours

Each morning I sit on the floor facing the bedroom window, using the light to see where mascara and eyeliner go. It's a bit slapdash. The best part of the process is the view outside.

These are the tree people I see, about 30-40 metres from where I sit. What I can't show you here is the sounds of crows, robins, blackbirds, wood pigeons, passing geese. The rushing stream below the trees, always the soundtrack to daily life. I can't show you the smell of the sage in my garden, brushed by a passing dog. Or the stillness on a day like today when - at last - it is not raining.

The tree people witness it all for us. Trust me.



Friday, 4 January 2013

Practical magic

Wayne is a big guy. He has some long hair, some shaved hair, tattoos everywhere and piercings in most of his face. He also wears a nifty pair of spectacles for close up work and adores his 'missis' and two kids. We discussed self-expression and self esteem (he was a shy kid), factory jobs, art, the age at which kids choose which hand will be dominant, technology and its effect on our perception of time, the sleep cycles of school age children, abstract watercolour tattoos, pain thresholds, the cost of sandwiches and observational comedy. I am now an expert on laser tattoo removal, including the new R20 method.

I am also the extremely proud bearer of this tattoo (it's so hard to take a good picture of your own tattoos), a christmas gift from Charlie.



The few intentions I have for 2013 are about becoming more connected to my body and the body of the earth. For me this tattoo is part of that. It makes me feel more 'here'. The needle has sewn me back into my body and imprinted me with my wolf, crow and tree companions. Ink is a powerful magic.


Tuesday, 1 January 2013

New day



A new day and some sunshine. Fresh air. A walk with my dogs while the others stay tucked up at home. Jackson is on undeniably good form. Today I think that if I can maintain this level of comfort and health for him, we have a lot more time.

During the last week or so I stayed away from the internet. Not even purposefully, it just happened. And when I crawled out of bed I thought I was over it. I didn't want tweets or instagrams or pins or any piece of it.

I spent a lot of time in 2012 reading about how you can know yourself better, how you can make your life better, how you can make your blog better, how someone else had been lost but was now better and was happy to tell you how in six weekly instalments better than someone else's six weekly instalments. A lot of it was nonsense, some of it was hypocritical and a bit of it was wonderful. At this point in my life, none of it is relevant to me. It's a big amorphous blah. I'm not saying there's no place for it, there is - for the good stuff - and I love how the internet brings people together to help each other through periods of exploration and transition. There are some loving, skillful people out there, doing their thing, helping people and I salute them.

But lately I have an inner chant of 'give up all the other worlds except the one in which you belong' and I don't belong there.

I decided to stop blogging. I tried setting up a simple Tumblr version. I toyed with the idea of just going offline completely. Then yesterday, unsettled and sad with the news of my boy's illness, I wondered around my virtual haunts finding little comfort in any of it and then I struck gold. Two blogs stirred my heart. Two blogs I loved anyway but yesterday I saw why.

Jon Katz's Bedlam Farm and Terrah's Le Howl. I read both whenever they post but yesterday they really touched me. Jon in upstate New York and Terrah in North Carolina, neither telling anyone how to do anything better, just telling the story of their day and what it means to them. Reaching out, connecting with no motive other than doing so. Both are artists, both have businesses they depend on and animals that depend on them in turn. Both connect with readers and customers through their blog but neither of them claim to be bringing The Answers, they're just sharing their lives.

It reminded me of how I used to love blogging, both as a writer and a reader. It was a world where I belonged. So I headed back here and trimmed it back to something simpler. Somewhere I can write about my days, my commitment to wildness and maybe make a connection or two.

Happy new year. I decided that I would choose words for the year after all. They are Love and Life; together or apart they make all the difference.

x