Beating the blueprint (or how not to manage your life in some not-so-easy steps)

I always thought I was a master at managing my expectations.

Since my teenage years, I worked hard to calculate the expected outcome of any big change or life event and how this would affect me and my life . On the outside this was a defensive mechanism; allowing me to prepare for the worst and impliment any damage control. Inside there is a slimier, more self-satisfied purpose: allowing me to revel in all the expected greatness and good that said event would surely achieve.

My carefully constructed expectations helped me build a path towards enlightenment; ticking off the steps to being the ‘best’ version of me I could possibly be.

At least, that’s what I thought I was building.

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In fact I was creating a cage; its bars made of polished pessimism and perpetual dissapointment. I was planning out the shape of my future and leaving no room for actual creativity and growth. All the magic moments likely passed me by because I was too busy bemoaning the loss of my carefuly constructed blueprint. There’s little room for happiness in a life so very ‘well’ managed.

It is so easy to forget that we are not seperate beings but an active part of Nature’s cycles and as such there is no amount of ‘managing’ that can be do a better job than She. That the term exists in our language – ‘man-aging’ – is a testament to our Human arrogance and a profound disconnection from (and some might say fear of) Her.

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It is little surprise then that when I tried to apply such foolhardy notions of control to two of the most natural experiences in my life – Birth and Spirituality – I came away baffled, bamboozled and downright disappointed; about ready to shred the blueprint and go banging on the door of some metaphysical middle manager who had apparently read it all wrong and royally screwed up all my gloriously well-crafted expectations.

But I didn’t*. Instead I took a breath, took a big, big step back and did that thing that I realise I’ve been shy and wary of my whole life… I looked at me, as I am, in the moment. Just me; with no blueprint, no scale to measure up against.

And what do I see?

I see confidence where once there was constant concern for how I was percieved, whether I was understood. And not that cheap, oily, plastic brand of confidence that they write about in teen magazines, but the real, soul-deep certainty that you are who you are and damn if that isn’t someone worth the oxygen and floor space they’ve been assigned.

I see strength, displayed in ways I could never have predicted. It may not have been strength enough to push out my well-fed 9lb baby, after 15hrs active labour, without a little medical assistance… but it is a strength that has allowed me to keep him well-fed, to hold him close and watch him thrive and to feed, feed, feed for entire days on less than 4 hours sleep.

And somehow still love him at the end of it.

I see determination in my rabid-dog readiness to fling a heavy vase at that skeevy stranger’s head if he goes near my husband or my boy one more time.

This coming from the girl who has never said boo to a goose (or any other wildfowl for that matter).

Above all I see truth; that elusive benchmark I have always reached for but often felt unable to hold on to in the face of peer-pressure or the unforgiving harshness of modern reality.

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I live a life brightened every day by my commitment to a spiritual path, walking the Wheel and holding an awareness of the awe and beauty of it all close to my heart. You’d be hard pressed to fit me into a box or under a label (even Pagan doesn’t feel quite right anymore) but that no londer feels like a lack. I wear my green spirit proudly and kindly and I do my best to let it colour all the moments of my day. It’s then that I realise that me, my life and this World are so, so beautiful.

Of course sometimes I fail. I find myself reaching for the blueprint over and over again; nervous habit. But there is a steadiness in me now that is perhaps age, wisdom, woman-ness or motherhood – or a combination of them all -that allows me to see past the supposed-sacredness of those expectations. To meet the gaze of Mother Nature head on (seeing a glimmer of my self there in those fathomless eyes) and to keep tearing strips from it until one day it will be gone. Then there will be no plan, nothing to manage, just a handful of confetti to throw in celebration.

Free at last.

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*Okay, maybe I did, for a little while but I’m over it now and feeling the good flowing ju-ju. I’m enlightened I tell ya!

Photo credits:
1) culturedecanted.com
2) Jokeroo
3) K.Tomlin
4) K.Tomlin

Flow

It has taken me a long time (and rather a lot of unfinished draft posts) to finally get this one written. I’ve promised it for a while and referenced it a few times already but today I can finally begin to explain the concept of FLOW and what it means to me.

To do so I’m going to share a couple of excerpts from my life; the first from a few years ago, the second this week just gone. I don’t always go into great details about my personal life but I hope that by sharing these stories, the reader might gain a more visceral understanding of what I’m getting at. Because at its heart Flow is a felt thing and I can only assume that other people feel it too.

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Story 1

Living in London had grown difficult for us both. My partner and I were unhappy and desperately seeking the space and freedom of the great outdoors. In our spare time we’d begun reading books and articles about sacred landscapes, archaeology and the Land on which our ancestors lived. This inspired us to watch TV shows about similar topics, to expose ourselves to views and vistas of the rolling English countryside, bleak craggy moors and cities full of beautiful architecture. Suddenly – despite training and working in the creative industry for 5 years – we were feeling truly inspired for the first time.

We started talking about silly things first; going to live in a commune or backpacking around the World on all that money we didn’t have. Then one day I found a website about campervans and we spent evenings discussing the logistics of managing and affording a year long road trip around the British Isles, using blogs and advertising and bad poetry to pay our way.

A lot of these ideas felt mythic, dream-like, a little too big for reality. But at there heart was a seed of somthing that had settled in both of our imaginations and wouldn’t let us go. In fact it grew until our friends grew sick of hearing us talk about living on farms and in fields and returning to our roots and suddenly we were finding harder to find reasons to stay in London than reasons to go.

So we went. I can’t remember now what sparked the actual decision but we’d already been journeying down the path to our departure for some months. We quit our jobs, gave up our flat and spent the last of our savings on a tent, two big back packs and train tickets to get us to our first destination.

What followed was three months of seeing Britain on foot, by bus and by train, visiting so many sacred and beautiful places we couldn’t help but be overcome by a love for the Land itself. Three months of living in a tent, laughing and crying and sweating and soaking and always, always having the time of our lives.

By the time we returned home (to my parents until we’d re-established ourselves) we were already talking about moving to the Peak District. My partner knew he wanted to marry me and would ask me just a few months later. A few months we would be living in our current home and the first notions of Walk The Wheel were stirring in my mind.

We were already walking down the path towards the life we are living now. We were happy, blissful. We were living in Flow.

 

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Me, on the road with Flow

Story 2

After some rather exciting news in May, the Hubby and I have been coming to terms with the idea that our family is growing. News of a Baby has sparked an onslaught emotional upheavals as well as many more practical questions. Primarily: Do we have the space? and How will we afford all this?

Space has a large impact on my health and wellbeing; if I am living somewhere cluttered or crowded I quickly feel stifled and deflated. So I immediately decided that in order for us to survive the upheaval of a new life in our family and still maintain some sense of who I am and what I want to do I needed a new space to live in.

So we started looking at houses. Although the rental market is currently less than inspiring and we lack both the time and finance to really commit to a search, I have spent almost 5 months doggedly searching websites, booking viewings and complaining to anyone who would listen about how damn hard it was all proving! I have run the gauntlet of emotions; from hope to excitement, to disappointment to anger to fear till recently I reached a point of utter exhaustion and utter desperation.

The warning signs were clear: something wasn’t right about all this, it was too strenuous, too difficult. We were totally out of Flow. So iInstead of being consumed with thoughts of “We need a new house!” I focused on thoughts of “We need to trust the Flow. We will get what we need.”

And then something amazing happened.

We were offered a possibility by a loving family member; something that in 6-12 months might give us the chance of a space and future that feels more ours than any of the possibilites we’ve entertained so far.

And then just this weekend, after a few seemingly innocuous conversations with family and friends, both the Hubby and I reached a startling decision, pretty much silmulataneously:

What is we stay where we are? What if we trust that the house we are in and our desire to create a nurturing family home will blossom into something new and sustainable? What is we allow ourselves to stay safe financially and trust that we will find what we needed within the means we already have?

Suddenly, where we had been running out of possibilites for change, the ideas were flowing. With the ideas came energy and we spent the weekend organising, decluttering and making adjustements that could be the start of this space’s transformation for us; and with that energy we drew more energy from other sources; offers of help, items of furniture, ways and means to make this house viable began to pour in from all sides.

All we have done is put aside the wanting and the thinking and the deciding we knew what was best and instead trusted in what we have and our ability to make it better.

The result: We have come back into line with Flow.

 

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Back where we should be

 

So What Is Flow?

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Flow is the driving force that allows our needs to be met in the most necessary and wholesome way possible.

Flow is the path that life seeks to place you on so that you might make the most of your unique situation.

Flow is the ease with which something happens when it is right, when it is meant, when it is necessary.

I have never been one to believe in Fate. I don’t think there is a book anywhere with our life all spelled out inside it and we are not simply characters acting out a tale that already has a beginning, middle and end.

But as I’ve grown older I have found myself in more and more situations where happiness and contentment have been born of listening to life, trusting its messages and following the path down which it leads you. And I have often found this path the be the one of least resistance. Not because Flow means no work hard and no obstacles, but because Flow calls you to approach these things in a less resisting way.

To be in Flow, to truly feel its benifits, you need to flow yourself. When obstacles appear you don’t fight, but allow them to shape and inform your decisions, making them part and parcel of your experience. When the going is demanding you don’t grow desperate but flow steadily, doing what you can, trusting that it will all be enough to see you through.

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Chalice Well - the perfect place to find and honour Flow

As you flow within the Flow you feel content, satisfied and enthused; all of which serve to energise you futher, feed your creativity and keep your spirits high. In this state anything is possible and I believe that what will manifest is not what you think you want but what you truly need. By fulfilling our true needs we can live in a state of harmony with both our emotional selves and our practical reality.

What I know most surely is that Flow does not abide with logic or reason, it does not conform to a pattern of events and often it does not seem sensible or safe. But it feels good, it feels right, it feels possible and it will happen with surprising ease if you simply allow it.

In recent years Flow has become my guide to live by. I can sense when I am not flowing and when I am making choices that are purely logical and not in line with the Flow. Sometimes I am too overcome with other feeligns and stuff (often fear or self-doubt) to see this clearly or to do anything about it. If I’m lucky I will recognise opportunities to come back to a more flowing state and thus come to see the path of Flow more clearly.

 

I have certainly been lucky this past week or so.

And (as is rather appropriate for this Harvest time) I am incredibly, powerfuly and humbly grateful for that.



Photo Credits:
1) Huffingtonpost.com
2) Me
3) Jon Rouston
4) 3drecursions.com
5) Me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Growth

It’s been a long time since my life has so closely matched the energetic pulse and turn of the seasons, as it has so far this year. right now I’m consciously channelling all that bright, busy been energy into my work and into Walk The Wheel as a whole.

In the early months of the year, around Imbolc, I had itchings and stirrings to do something more with what I’d already established in the previous cycle.  The Hadfield events have gone from strength to strength since their conception over 18 months ago and it was time to start letting the community and energy at its heart, grow.

Fast forward to Beltane when, surrounded by the fires of creativity and fertility, I set down intentions to run a second Walk The Wheel event in New Mills – a lovely Derbyshire town about 20 minutes drive from where I live. This would be a chance to see whether the success of these seasonal celebrations was determined by the people I’d already met or whether it was something I could carry inside me and share further afield, with others.

As well as the New Mills venture I had just started a new job at a local cafe, which immediately opened doors to work right at the heart of my town and community. I trialled a few Mindful Mornings* in April and am offering a third (yep, third!) Midsummer event at the case this weekend; one specifically aimed at families, hoping to share seasonal celebration and wonder with a range of age groups and peer groups.

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Alongside all these things I have been aiming to blog regularly, keep my hand in the social medias and somewhere in amongst all that find time to raise a kitten, go on a brief holiday, support the hubby in his new job (which he’s loving by the way) and have a first wedding anniversary.

Needless to say that now, at Midsummer, life feels a little hectic!

Some things have gotten lost along the way… but I’m glad to say those are mostly things like dishes, the hoovering and any real sense of space in our already tiny house; all things that – while important – can be lived with, and don’t directly impact too heavily on my creativity and well being. Although I will admit that going for long walks in the uncluttered countryside has become more and more necessary and not just because of the glorious Summer weather we’ve been having.

All the important things still seem to be here and somehow I’m keeping on top of them. I have another weekend of celebrant training coming up in a couple of weeks which I am ecstatic about. I have been able to visit my family, see some friends and enjoy a few joyful days in the park and out on the hills. Midsummer in New Mills went really well and seems ready to continue rolling, growing as people start to mention it to friends and co-workers. And this weekend (if the weather holds) I feel confident that there will be two more joyful and inspiring Midsummer celebrations in my home town.

And I’m here, now, blogging for you. Still writing, still thinking and still growing…

And I have no doubt that at the root of it all is the same powerful energetic buzz that is making the rest of the World so bright, so busy and so vibrant too.

Who knows what the dark half of the year will bring?

 

With you in Midsummer energy…. buzz… buzz… buzz…

 

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Photo credits:
1) Facebook
2) Shutterstock

The Importance of Sharing

I just wanted to say thank you to all the folks who reached out to me after my last post.

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I am a rather private person by nature and also somewhat obsessed with appearing cool, calm and in control. So the thought of putting my worries, fears and inadequacies (as I see them) out into the public sphere feels frightening and somewhat crazy to my ‘logical’ head. However my heart knows that sharing is the only way we learn and grow and so I did, I shared and… voila! I have learned and I have grown.

Since then I have managed to pin down some rather illusive decisions and for the first time in a while I have what feels like a solid dream to be reaching for. Don’t worry, it’s still fuzzy enough around the edges to the Flow carry it and shape it as it will, but it is also clear enough that I can actually reach for it without feeling like I’m kidding myself.

 

I have been gifted with some rather precious gifts too, as a result of my sharing; gifts I never would have received if I hadn’t opened up and spoken my worries and woes:

 

* a very kind friend has given me her old laptop to use for work and stuff; this means I don’t have to wait 20 mins for a document to download (my current laptop is slooooooow!) and can actually get back to things like Twitter and blogging, safe in the knowledge that I won’t lose an hour to one tiny task. I can make progress!

* another friend offered me kind words when she shared some of her notions of me and (as they often do when coming from the outside) they lifted my spirit and gave me a confidence I struggle to find within myself.

* another friend shared her presence at an event I had organised that wasn’t as well attended as I’d have liked. She stayed with me through the allotted time and allowed me to test and grow and talk through my ideas without once pitying me or being embarrassed for me. A gift of strength, truly.

And so many people close to me, including the Hubby and family and friends, have gifted me things like hugs and smiles and moments of utter normality that made me laugh and helped me remember that no matter how big my struggles feel they are all just part of the Flow that is Life and will never be the be all and end all;  just a strip, a strand, a tributary that will eventually re-merge with the whole.

 

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Harakeke River Flow by Philly Hall

Sharing my fears has brought me to this place where – for the first time in a while – I feel like I might be in (some semblance) of control over where I’m going and what I’m creating. I have no doubt that Life has a curve ball lined up for me sometime soon but for now its enough to count my blessings and to revel in the magic of sharing; something which was at the foundation of this blog and all my personal work but has become a little lost under the pile of ‘other’ ideas and fancies.

 

It’s good to come back to what you know. And to be reminded that at our core, in our very deepest heart, we know exactly what we need to do. We just need to remember it…

 

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Or if in doubt, listen to Mr Spock 🙂



Photo credits:
1) Helga Wigandt
2) Philly Hall
3) pintrest

 

Heart vs. Head

As Walk The Wheel starts to spiral into bigger and more exciting things I find myself struggling with an unexpected quandary.

Our seasonal events started because I wanted to reacquaint myself with group celebrations and at the time they didn’t exist in my new home town. It also seemed like a good way to get out and about and meet new, possibly like-minded, people. It was a risk I grant you; I had only been around town for a little over 6 months and I was asking unknown people to come along and celebrate the seasons with me and share their own creativity and inspiration in the process. A big ask indeed but it felt right and as it turns out it was exactly what I needed to do, where the Flow* needed to go.

Many of the people that gathered around me in those early days have since become friends, colleagues and regular contributors to our events. We are also blessed with new faces at almost each event, which is very exciting and gives me hope that pursuing the path of seasonal celebration and related activities is what I need to be doing right now.

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This belief is, without doubt, based entirely on my heart and my intuition as opposed to solid, rational research; I haven’t been standing on the High Street with a clipboard I can assure you! This is both good and bad. I have learned over the past few years to trust these feelings and instinct with far more commitment than my mental logic and reason. The more I’ve done so the better things have turned out. But my inner pessimist, the one who used to make most of my decisions and still lurks around in the shadier corners of my brain, is just waiting for the first time my gut instinct leads me false, so it can crow and shame and cry ‘I told you so!’

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So what should I do?

Ignore the pesky pessimist and keep taking those risky leaps into the unknown? Or take a step back now the events and the scale are getting a little bigger (and a  little more serious) and start applying some hard logic and reason to cover my bases?

Reason dictates I should be spending my personal work days (as opposed to my paid work days at the cafe) focusing on marketing, funding, planning and networking; all the incredibly serious but vital things that events like mine need to take that step away from ‘a hobby’ and into ‘a living’. These are all things I have limited experience in so I should also be seeking out advice and help (and there’s a terrified part of me that fears that’s going to cost money I don’t have!).

But my heart, my gut, my instinct is reluctant. It would rather I spend my time outdoors, soaking in the sunshine and feeling the buzz of green flutter under my skin. It wants me to go for long walks and keep building on the relationship I’m building with this Land, through footsteps and song. It wants me to wake slowly in the mornings, ease myself into the day and follow my impulses to the tasks that most stir my attention; sometimes this is writing, sometimes it’s reading, sometimes it’s washing the pots! And it also wants me to take the time to craft and create ceremony, for myself and others; to fill my life with little moments of celebration, gratitude and mindful awareness.

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Is this enough? Will any of this help me craft a living or am I destined to be a hobby horse, eventually living off my Hubby’s hard work? Those shady shadows are trying to convince me that that way madness lies, madness and selfishness and lethargy… but my heart won’t have any of it! It is determined to drive me towards joyful, inspiring, exciting things; trusting that the other necessities will come.

 

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And I guess that’s what it comes down to; as much as I have experienced the power of trust and Flow I am still wary of doing something I enjoy and calling it work. I feel like I’m cheating the game, fudging my turn, about to be caught out at any moment. And not just by those around me, but by that shady character who dominates my darker thoughts; the one just waiting to catch me out and lord over my failure.

 

What do you think World? Is there an answer to this dichotomy or have I stumbled into the perpetual paradox of the self-employed? Answers in the comment box…

 

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(* I will get up a post on Flow; I promise! I’ve been meaning to for a good while now and there’s at least two drafts of it in my draft folder but.. the words just haven’t quite coalesced yet. I guess – ironically – I just have to wait for it to… flow…)

 

Picture credits:
1) quoteswave.com
2) somegyuindc.blogspot.com
3) godisheart.blogspot.co.uk
4) kaljamahalady.blogspot.com
5) datingasociopath.com

When April Feels Like Christmas

I’ve just made my third cup of tea of the day.

The kitchen is in a state of organised disarray.
There’s dishes to be washed and put away and there’s not a lot of surface space left to actually make tea in the first place, but I managed.

It’s sunny outside.

Lots of cloud but no sign of snow; just a wind as brisk as the Arctic (especially at the top of rather tall Peaks) that makes you all the more grateful for the totally-seasonally-appropriate weather today.

The shadows are lengthening across the laminate floor and the light brushing our living room ceiling is golden and warm.

It makes the tea, the sofa and my mood in general as soft and sweet as maple syrup (which incidentally I had on my breakfast this morning).

 

It’s a Bank Holiday Weekend here in England and for the first time in a long time I’m not working during it.

A long time ago Bank Holidays and weekends would not be spent at work; they were enforced periods of time spent with family and friends, in the house or out and about, depending on your circumstance. The idea of going to work on these public holidays was (mostly) unheard of.

When I was younger, Bank Holidays were starting to be used by shops and pubs and public services as extra working days; which suited the people not working as it meant more leisure services were available for use. For the employees they were something of a bonus because working a Bank Holiday meant ‘Double time’; so, yes, you’d spend the day at work, away from family and friends (which lets be honest is sometimes preferable!) but your wage packet would be that much heavier. Okay then. Tit for tat.

Nowadays that incentive has been mostly taken away. Most places (even offices and businesses) are open all day, every day and employers no longer have the funds or the desire to reward their staff for missing out on valuable rest time. ‘Double time’ became ‘Time and a half’ became ‘a day in lieu’. Today, most people are lucky to receive even that for working a Bank Holiday weekend.

 

For my entire working life (until now) I have worked for companies who have expected me to work weekends, evenings and Bank Holidays as par for the course. No incentives (financial or otherwise) and no chance to decline them. No chance to put your family and leisure time first. I didn’t realise how much I missed having free weekends and Bank Hols until today, until right now even; sitting here, drinking tea on the sunny sofa and practically purring under my breath with peace and satisfaction.

It’s like Christmas come early.*

 

I spent yesterday evening in front of a blazing fire, eating good food, drinking the health of those I love and gazing at the beauty of the stars. 

Today I went walking up two of the three Peaks (Bleaklow and Higher Shelf Stones if you’e wondering) and caught my breath at the beauty and majesty of this Land that is my home.

I came home and cooked another meal for my Husband and friends, which we ate with gusto and polished off with thickly buttered bread and wedges of intriguing and exciting cheese (beer cheese, people, beer cheese!).

And now (as I’ve said) I am on the sofa; sated, softened and full.
The boys are playing a board game and we women are reclining in mutual silence.

The air is warm and easy, we are comfortably bubbled in joy.

And the kitchen is clean enough and the kettle is full and the cheeses have been gathered and wrapped in cling film in a way that only my mother could have done, surely.

And work and wages and time and incentives are all a million miles away.

 

I am more blessed than I know.

 

Bank Holiday Greetings everyone!

 

 

 

* And there is likely some irony there, what with Christmas being the other big Christian holiday alongside Easter (which is also this weekend)… but I’m too blissed out to find it.

 

Words Are Enough

A large part of my lifestyle and the ethos of Walk The Wheel is devoted to encouraging and deepening soulful connections to Life and the World we live in. My first instruction will always be to get out into the Natural World; there aren’t enough words to describe the positive and inspirational effects it has on our hearts and minds but I will never stop trying. That’s why I follow the Wheel in the first place and why I choose to live somewhere as close to the wild Land as I can.

That being said there are other ways we can experience that same sense of wholeness from within the (relative) comfort of our homes; and in a World where we are often overworked, underpaid and living in the midst of a concrete jungle being able to find moments of connection within our restricted circumstances is a vital part of survival.

 

You might think I am going to start declaiming the benefits of meditation or yoga-in-your-living-room or the latest health food craze? Well, I’m not. My suggestion is much simpler and requires far less time, money and has no requirements for your living room space. While all these popular holistic practices (and others like them) can and do have enormous benefits and act as instigators towards an all-round more mindful way of life,  they also carry something of a stigma. For some they are part of a ‘New-Age’ lifestyle full of crystals and fairies in which they are (quite frankly) not interested. For others who already have elements of holistic practice in their lives (fairies notwithstanding) they can sometimes feel too much like hard work when we need their gifts the most*.

Sometimes you want to feel whole and connected without having to exert a great amount of energy. Perhaps you’re exhausted and simply don’t have the reserves or perhaps you have a scant few minutes before you will  be called back into the line of duty and you simply don’t have time for a 15 minute mega-meditation.

 

If that’s the case I have a suggestion for you…

 

Read a book.

 

I know, I know, not particularly original right?

I am well aware I’m not breaking any new ground here, but coming off the back of a busy few weeks I have found myself firmly in the midst of a classic dilemma; I want to feel better, to reconnect to my heart and to Life but I just don’t have the spoons to get out there and be proactive about it! The thought of walking to my nearest park or Peak makes my tired body quiver. My brain can’t bear the pressure of meditating or holding any sort of solid concentration. My nerves are so shot that all they want is soothing but I don’t have the money to go see a film or an exhibition or even to go see friends down the pub.

So what do I do?

 

I read.

 

Yes it is partly a distraction technique. I am lucky enough to be one of those people who can lose herself in a book at remarkable speed; hours will disappear around me, hours that feel like days or weeks or years depending on the story I’m living inside my head, and reading can be a welcome escape when you’re tired and aching and life seems a little much to bear.

I have often wondered whether this truth makes reading as bad as TV or junk food; is it merely escapism, nothing more? Does it prevent me from connecting and living fully by instead allowing me to sink into a world that is not my own?

 

I don’t think so. In fact, this very morning I decided to let myself off the hook and put that criticism to bed forever. Because it occurred to me that the beauty of books is that they are immersing you in a world that might not be exactly your own but will (in some ways) be modeled upon it. As products of a human mind and soul books are expressions of our lived experience; even the most fantastical of novels with the most outrageous of characters will echo our societies, our relationships, our truths. Books take us on journeys in our mind just as our feet take us on journeys in the great outdoors and the experiences we have within both environments offer us countless opportunities to explore and experience and expand our heart and soul.

 

I imagine everyone will find different authors and different genres that do this for them; just as some prefer to walk in a park whilst others seek windy clifftops above the beach.

At University I was briefly introduced to some French female authors, a couple of whom have stayed with me for many years. Marguerite Duras was the first and the floating lyricism of her language is enough to lull me into peaceful sleep if I am not careful. The other is Anna Gavalda who is decidedly more grounded and (for me) more inspirational.

Gavalda’s books are all about human connections, meetings, relations. What makes them so evocative and inspiring for me is the stripped back nature of her words in direct contrast to the rich and sometimes unexpected meanderings of her characters. She often writes conversations without any ‘he said’ ‘she said’,  just the words in scripts or lists, as they would come from the mouth of any real person. But she will also spend pages giving extensive commentary on the seemingly random thought processes that our hero or heroine flits through as he/she walks down the street. Her characters are often dealing with happenings that are not hugely dramatic (on the outside) but that stir a tumult of memories and feelings and healing within each unique person’s heart.

I’m currently reading Hunting and Gathering (for the second time) and I would heartily recommend it; particularly to anyone who (like me at the moment) wants desperately to feel and to be connected but just can’t summon the energy to risk it in the big wide world. Yes it serves those usual escapist joys; sending me out there to a different land, experiencing new places, new people and new adventures. But I also find that my heart has opened, that I can breathe a little easier and can feel a little more, thanks to the introspection and honesty of her characters. The beautiful way she paints the ordinary has the same healing effect as the green currently painting the landscape; it inspires new life, new energy and an encouraging desire to find one’s place in it all.

 

And that is very much what my life and what the ethos of Walk The Wheel is all about.

 

What are you reading at the moment? Do books lift your spirit? If so, which?

* I spoke about this in my last post. You can also see another wonderfully articulate explanation of a very similar feeling here at Nimue Brown’s blog, Druid Life.

 

In Flow

It’s been a little quiet around the blog recently; my apologies to all, especially those folk who have kindly chosen to follow me over recent days. Until recently I had been posting quite regularly (which surprised me too!) then life semed to stand up, shake itself about and go a bit crazy. But hey: it’s Spring time, it happens.

 

All that green and growing energy buzzing across the Land has given  things a real stir. Both the hubby and I have new jobs and we are both making tentative but determined steps towards spending our days doing things we love and believe in rather than things that simply make us money.

The whole work/life balance has always proved an interesting (and infuriating) concept for me. Being of the firm belief that we should only have to work for and at things we truly love and believe in makes stability in this society (financial and energetic) both difficult and dangerous.

One way I try to mitigate this is by trusting my instincts and trying to remain ‘in the flow’ as much as possible. I’m planning a longer, more elaborate post on what I mean by ‘flow’ for later; for now, know that it is simply my way of describing the path of least resistance. Far from being the ‘lazy’ route, this path is where you should be, where Life wants you to go and where your actions are in harmony with your Self, you needs and the needs of all other things.

A lofty ideal? Yes; but one grounded in my own experience and heart-felt truth. Truting the flow is what keeps me from going completley batty when I lose the thread of my own intentions and dreams.

 

This Spring the flow has really made itself felt in our lives. The repercussions of choices we have made in the past based on instinct and trust rather than logic and ‘sense’ have proved to be joyful and promising. I now have more time to spend on creating work of my own devising, walking the Wheel with more determination and sharing it with others (including here in the blogosphere!). I have been able to attend classes and workshops that inspire me, meeting inspirational people along the way. And when I am earning money I am doing so in an environment that promotes the things I believe strongly in: community, sustainability and good health.

I am immeasurably grateful for all these changes taking place in both myself and the hubby’s lives but they do come with provisos. The house is currently in disaray as we both adjust to new schedules and I find it almost impossible to work in a cluttered space. There are also new ideas and opportunities popping up all over the place provoking excitement but also nerves, anxiety and no small amount of administration! So things may be a little shaky around here for a few weeks yet, with posts not being as regular or as well planned as I might like. That said I learned right back at the beginning of this blog that sometimes a little wildness can make for an interesting read. 

I will however do my very best to get back on top of things as soon as possible, to keep offering ideas and insights into how the Wheel is turning for me and how it might be turning for you, wherever you are in the World.

 

So a big warm welcome to all newcomers to the blog and a hearty hail and thanks to those sticking with me. You are all part of the flow that I am following as diligently as I can and I look forward to seeing where you and it are taking me.

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Shelf Brook
Image from Wikipedia

Smile

When were you last gifted with a smile?

Not a white-washed, Colgate-bright celebrity smile that screams at you from the cover of glossy magazines and sets your teeth on edge, but a genuine smile given person to person, in real time.

Sitting behind the plexiglass window at my day-job I look out at the customers as they file past me and try to smile as much as I can. Adults usually return the smile in a blank, soul-less kind of way that means they have a million other things on their mind right now and yes, they might be speaking to you but they don’t really see you. To be honest I probably give out that smile too; on a busy day when hundreds of people walk past me, shucking their clothes in the foyer to get themselves in the pool even quicker, I frankly don’t have the time or patience to meet everyone’s eye.

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But it’s different with the kids.

My desk sits quite low and puts me on a level with the children who come along to the pool; usually with their parents, sometimes (if they’re older) alone. It is a nice place to be because, when they’re not screaming down the customer microphone and deafening me with feedback, they look at and really see me.

I know this because as they stare through the glass, their expression is often one of intense concentration; the young mind processing who or what they are seeing and whether it is interesting or funny or a threat. I always try to smile at these kids – yes, because its my job – but also because I remember how overwhelming the world of Grown Ups can be at a young age.

Some of them see my smile and turn away; that familiar gesture on a stranger’s face is just too much to bear. They seek comfort in their Mum’s arms or behind Dad’s leg. Then, as they walk away, they often look back to see if my smile is still there. It is and I like to think that that constancy gives them hope that the Big Wide World might not be such a scary place.

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Others take my smile as a cue to strike up a conversation; mainly one-sided as they regale me with tales of who they are with, why they are here and what they had for lunch that day. I know I don’t have to use words to take part in this interaction, just keep smiling and maybe make the occasional nod or wide-eyes to give the kid confidence in their own voice, their own words. My smile is to tell them that they matter, that someone is hearing them speak and knows the things they simply had to say.

 

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Then there are my favourite kids: the ones who are somewhere in between the chronically shy and the helplessly confident, the kids who smile back. They don’t speak and their eyes are usually quite intense; checking me out, checking the smile I’m offering is real. When they realise that it is their gaze opens up, their eyes shine and their mouth curves into a smile: unique, utterly theirs and so genuine, loving and heartful that for a brief second I forget I am looking at a child. They are simply human, another being, another soul travelling through this life and connecting with me for a brief, beautiful instant.

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I hope that somewhere, in thoughts that they may not have fully developed yet, they recognise that moment too. That gradually they come to know the power of a smile and sharing of a moment; the need to truly be seen by another person. It happens so rarely in our super-fast, self-service society that those moments are a precious gift to be treasured.

And if we received this gift more often perhaps there’d be less need for plexiglass windows and perhaps we’d all wear a real smile more often.

Who has lifted your heart with a smile recently?

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The Endurance Trap

December may be the most festive time of the year but it is also a test of endurance for many of us. Mental, physical, spiritual; we all struggle to keep our energy up and our spirits high in the face of an endless excess of people, places and expectation.

This year my desire to escape it all has been stronger than usual, yet I’ve still managed to rope myself into an awful lot of socialising, travelling and entertaining. I am grateful for the opportunities to be with loved ones and to be blessed with gifts and food and comfort, but I’m also exhausted just thinking about it!

And that got me thinking about endurance and how the ability to endure has become an expected part of modern living. We’re all being sold on the merits of endurance at every turn: from energy drinks to extreme sports, from personal trainers to parental advice. Last year London was chock full of athletes who all seemed to prove that pushing the body beyond its limits will result in something spectacular and certainly something to be proud of.

 

Yet despite the buzz of the Olympics and my hardy Northern upbringing, my attitude towards endurance remains rather skeptical. I don’t have much of it, to be honest. I’m not a huge fan of physical exertion or discomfort. I like to sleep, I like to eat, I like to sit and ponder and stare out of the window and spend time with my head in the clouds or in a good book. Then I like to sleep a little more. When I’m tired I want to rest. When I’m in pain I want to stop or seek comfort. And I have learned that meeting these needs allows me to be energetic and capable when I’m doing a job or being with people. If I force my body to do without I start to flake.

And it’s not just my mood that suffers, although that can be one of the first things to go. I lose the colour in my cheeks, I lose clarity in my vision and it feels like my body starts to lose its substance. I become light, a little blurred around the edges and although this can be an interesting state to experience (from a purely creative point of view) it makes functioning in the world a real struggle.

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Ever had one of those days…

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Now just writing that I feel a little uncomfortable. A struggle? What do I know about struggle? Talk about a #firstworldproblem! It carries the same guilt as whinging about having a busy holiday season; it makes you sound ungrateful.

But it’s true! Life feels inordinately difficult – physically and emotionally – when I am lacking in my basic needs. And I would like to be honest about it but I don’t feel like this is something I can say out loud. Not to my family, not to my friends. Sometimes not even to the hubby.

 

Why? Because in the past I have been taught (by people and by presumption) that to find life difficult is the norm and to bear it with anything less than a stoic stare and a stiff upper lip is simply unacceptable. We are prompted from an early age to cultivate and practice endurance; to find ways of convincing our bodies and minds to do more and give more than they are capable.

There is of course a precedent for this kind of advice being very useful, if we think back to those Olympic athletes: none of those gold medal winners would have reached their podium without pushing themselves beyond their comfort zones. But there is a difference between breaking out of our comfort zone and breaking past our ability that I think has become blurred.

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This guy knows he’s reached a limit.

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If an Olympic weight lifter decides to endure the strain of lifting a few extra pounds when his or her body is screaming to stop, back off and wait till it is better prepared, then they might severely injure themselves and perhaps scupper their chances of winning gold or ever lifting weights again. So they do what they can and stop when they have reached their absolute limit. Now, we may not all be potential Olympians but our bodies can and do tell us when we are going too far; but because we aren’t lifting weights or moving mountains, just going about our ordinary lives, we assume that the same fail-safes need not apply.

We think it’s okay to work those extra few hours, to miss that evening meal or to go out for that important social engagement despite the fact that we are dripping snot, feeling nauseous and haven’t slept for three days. We endure.

And why do we do it? Because we believe it is expected.

It doesn’t help that we define the act of endurance as follows:

 

ENDURE. (verb)

1) to suffer (something painful or difficult) patiently

(found at OED online)

 

I can understand why those who choose to “suffer patiently” through life must find those of us less inclined to do so to be lacking. We seem to demonstrate no determination or strength and a poor commitment to making it through the battle that is life. Worse than that, we undermine their suffering by proving that there is another way. Their suffrage is often a source of great pride and pomposity for them and comes with the inevitable slogan:

“You just have to get on with it!”

They are often also good people, kind people who don’t actually want to suffer at all but have never considered endurance could mean anything else.

But there is another meaning, which the OED also offers if we keep reading:

 

ENDURE. (verb)

2) remain in existence; last

If life is a struggle then subconsciously we’re probably wanting it over as quickly as possible. But if we are aiming for longevity, to last, then we open ourselves up to the idea that life is actually enjoyable and something we wish to experience as much as we possibly can. To do that we will need endurance but not the kind involving suffering; otherwise we will fall into survival mode and actually experience very little. Instead we endure by nurturing and feeding our body and mind, respecting our needs and limits; thus ensuring we have the resources to survive the tough times and appreciate the good with equal enthusiasm.

This kind of endurance involves far less pain and discomfort but it doesn’t discount them. Rather it encourages us to recognise and acknowledge them as indicators of a need which our body or mind has and is trying to inform us about. An increased knowledge of the delicate balance within each of us allows us to develop and grow our abilities in a safe and sustained way, rather than dashing for the gold and then burning out.

One might argue that being able to listen to and be honest about our needs and then allowing ourselves to act upon them (despite outside pressures and incentives encouraging us to do otherwise) is a brave act itself and shows a stronger personal endurance than simply allowing our life to become a state of endless battle, resistance and struggle.

 

What do you think? A weak excuse? Or an intuitive alternative?

 

Of course we are all capable of both types of endurance, though it is likely that we’ll favour one. I’m hoping to see a shift in society towards the lasting kind that currently comes most naturally to me; to see endurance cultivated as an act of kindness and compassion towards ourselves and others. I don’t pretend to know what affect that would have on other people or our species as whole but I’d like to think it would give us the chance to experience life and those we love more fully and with more energy than our current social and cultural structures allow.

 

It would also be nice to express my need for a nap, out loud, without being called lazy.

I’m not lazy. I’m just in it for the long haul.

 

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Sometimes we all need a cat nap

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Copyright

All written materials and images, unless otherwise stated, are property of Kelly Tomlin 2016.
We gather together to Walk the Wheel; to share with one another and be inspired.