In a few moments
the shadows will be longer.
someone will walk by,
perhaps a robin
a flash of tawny feathers
a splash of russet red
will loop suddenly
into the picture,
and perch. Perhaps,
In a minute or two
warmed by the sun
maybe my shoulders won’t ache,
and my mind will be clear.
But my nose may be cold,
and my fingers, and
I’ll remember there’s tea
and chocolate cake,
and all my thoughts
in the space of a moment
The following is an extract from the unwritten self-help manual ‘Regulation and Maintenance of Wellbeing’
To acheive Rest Mode, the Rest Sequence should be employed. This must be initiated after a period of sustained physical or mental effort, and/or whenever tiredness is noticeable by evidence of irritability, confusion, inability to focus, and the persistent tendency to perform current tasks faster, despite resulting in increasing fatigue, lack of efficiency and rapid decline in wellbeing. Whenever the need for the sequence is recognised the protocol is obligatory and should be observed without delay or inner discussion.
To initiate the Rest Sequence:
1. Notice what’s going on, how you feel and what your body’s telling you about it. Don’t pretend it isn’t happening, because it is. Don’t think things will just get better in a minute.
2. Stop whatever you’re doing and if possible lie down. A bed is good. So is a sun-warmed patch of grass, or a soft carpet.
3. Lie with your hands on your stomach and feel the up and down motion of your breathing. Count backwards slowly from fifty to one.
4. Feel the pull of gravity and sink softly into the ground or the bed beneath you. Quietly resist the thought that there are things that need doing; this is the only thing that needs to be done for the next few minutes.
5. Go on doing this for a few minutes more.
5. If you’re not already smiling a little, smile. And notice what happens.
6. Gently stir yourself a bit at a time, and then get up slowly.
7. Return to whatever it was you were doing and do it with care, noticing everything.
Repeat the Rest Sequence at least once daily or often as needed.
When I go for a walk I preferto go alone, not because I don’t like company but because I can’t concentrate on noticing things. It requires letting go of thought, and it sounds like an odd contradiction that what we call mindfulness needs to be acheived by thoughtlessness – but it requires stepping off the endless loop of jibber-jabber that goes on and on inside my head all the time. Like leaving a room full of manic conversation and closing the door for a while.
Paying attention means noticing. Animals do it all the time, constantly. But as a species we humans have become monumentally forgetful of the way it feels to just look, and listen, and sniff, and feel – and notice. I can’t believe how often I forget to do this myself, and I need frequent reminders to bring me back to it, again and again and again.
It’s easier to do it in the presence of animals, or birds, or even insects. Words fall away. What they do, by paying attention, simply can’t be done with words.
This is the fifth post in a series of letters to myself at the beginning of the year – the first one is here. I’d thought I would post one a day until 12th Night, and I’ve reached that point – but now I find I still have more to say to myself by way of nudges and pointers and so I think there may be more to come – just not quite so frequently.
Last year I posted here only once in a while (being rather occupied with writing posts on my sketching blog) – but this space is special for me, and I’ve felt the lack of it. Writing and posting here again feels like coming home. It’s good to be back.
There’s no springing into action without first being grounded. A spirit of adventure will fizzle into nothing at the first wobbly bound. I know this by experience because I’ve tried it too often and come unstuck, simply by forgetting to pause and take a slow breath…..
A tree is such a powerful reminder of balance, strength and stillness – a flexible stillness, because on days like today when a gale is blowing, the branches that in summer stretched up motionless into the green canopy are whipped and bent and thrashed in the wind – but the tree remains. It abides.
This beech is a favourite of mine, one I pass frequently and often stand under. The simple act of standing under a tree helps me do what I try to do when I practice hesitant Tai Chi moves in the garden every morning before breakfast – an attempt to be at one with myself, and still.
There’s also a way in which this is a listening, a paying attention to what we already know deeply in our bodies, and what we can learn there. As children we were all more naturally able to do this (- just watch small children standing, running, playing) and it makes me smile just to think about it. I take a long deep breath, and remember….
This is the fourth post in a series of letters to myself. If you haven’t already read it, the first one is here)
Every now and again, something stirs me to remember the feeling at the beginning of a holiday. Setting off on a journey at sunrise or even earlier, or the very first glimpse of the sea…..
Now that I don’t go far from home, a sense of adventure is something I need to cultivate. The remarkable thing is that seemingly boring or irritating tasks become quite different when you see them as adventures. Unpacking and re-packing a carton of cardboard boxes with my husband this morning became an exploration of skills (or lack thereof) and an exercise in letting go of my desire to do everything my way and investigate his approach instead. As an adventure it was hardly bold or colourful, but it was fun. I’m nowhere near as adventurous as I’d like to be.
(Part 1 of this series of posts started here if you haven’t read it already.)
Standing at the doorway of a new year and just about to put a foot forwards, I realise there are certain words that I wish for myself during the journey through the next twelve months. Pausing and reflecting (a good time to do this, today, with a pale grey light in the window and the sound of rain on the glass) I know there are things I want to embrace and other things that I want to let go. These are not resolutions exactly, nor even intentions – they’re more in the way of senses, feelings, perhaps ways of being, and to write about them or try to explain them in anything more than a whisper would be to bring them under a harsh spotlight that will not help me remember them any better.
I don’t set goals. But I like the idea of way-markers, or torches to light a gloomy bit of path, or firesides to come home to.
So here for the next few days I’ll share a handful of these – whatever you like to call them. They’re like one-word letters addressed to myself, to carry with me on the next bit of the journey, and at the end of the year I’ll be able to spread them out and look at them, and gaze at the way I’ve come, and ponder….
The world of the imagination lies behind a door that I rarely open. Rich lands populated with who-knows-what stay hidden because I’m reluctant to go there; perhaps I’m afraid of what I might discover, but what’s to fear? Mostly I suspect it’s for fear of not wanting to come back. I stay in the real world (though what really is that?) because I would often like to escape it, and to go into that world of enchantment would be to risk getting submerged, sucked in and stuck…..
Then of course there’s always the danger I might find myself in a place that I’d very much rather not be, like the town of Bad Kettle, and so when I draw from my imagination I don’t explore. I simply interpret. And this is not imagining, at all. This is simply thinking on paper, thinking, what is a Bad Kettle, anyway?
If I dared, if I were bold enough to enter that world I’d find myself so out of practice that I’d lose my way completely, or so I tell myself. Probably get eaten by a dragon. Like Violet in Bad Kettle I assiduously avoid the path that will bring me into the unknown.
I put my pen down on the paper and draw a face, one that I’ve never seen (though I can see its provenance). This is a start.
Perhaps stories will emerge, or follow. Perhaps I’ll begin to feel more comfortable with exploring a world I’ve shut out for too long…….
Little forays into the forest from time to time begin to seem less worrying. Maybe I’ll try a few cautious explorations and see how I get on, and as long as I don’t get pulled into the dark river, or fall under the spell of rocks that open their eyes at the quiet hour of dusk – if I get back with anything interesting to report – you’ll find it here.
Author’s note: (I’ve always wanted to write that, it sounds so real).
The words Bad Kettle arose out of an accident with predictive text that my friend and fellow WordPresser at Puffofsmokepoems.com and we became so delighted with that we resolved to let it have its way. Read Violet in Bad Kettle (if you haven’t already) and you’ll see what happened. It’s amazing what can unfold when you let yourself follow a red herring….and even more so when you can share the pursuit. Here’s to happy accidents and creative collaboration!