As deep as you can,
even the robin, singing.
spotted with fire
like a fallen sun.
Take it lightly, lightly,
weightless as a cloud, drifting
apricot white in a pale blue sky.
Say these words. Speak them out loud.
Soothe the old lizard darkly crouching.
Let her bask in the warmth of the sun.
These are old fears, not new ones
come to haunt you, to trick you.
Listen. Listen; outside,
a fluttering of wings
and a blackbird, singing.
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
This morning’s sky
a lesson in boldness
makes me want to fling open
windows, doors, thoughts,
and be astonished, suddenly.
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 prefer to 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.)