The mirrorball

What I marvelled at today 2

I did ask myself yesterday whether I would be able to find something to marvel at every day… It’s all very well to decide to start a new ritual, one has to embed it in one’s life carefully! And that takes attention, time and commitment. And…I am realising that finding something good, pleasing and, even, wonder-ful is relatively easy when one approaches life’s mountain from this specific side. The positive side.

So, success here requires a plan, and especially, a firmed intention.

What I also realised yesterday is how much our current world is in need of attention, hope, positivity, appreciation and  well, good care. More of us seem to be drowning in tumultuous and fast currents with little time to slow down, breathe and take stock on the river side. And well, marvel at how beautifully easily the river flows, whether we are in it or not!

I’m lucky. I was working at my home office today. And I noticed, as always, that I am much more productive when I am positive or nurture positive responses to whatever kind of call, e-mail or visit I receive. It changes everything. And it mostly changes the response I get in return. It doesn’t matter how steep the mountain to climb ahead is, it always turns out to be easier and much more pleasurable than initially thought when the climb is initiated in a collaborative spirit and from a positive, supportive and constructive mindset.

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What did you marvel at today?

What I marvelled at today

So, yes, I am starting again. After an interruption of nine months or what, I realise, I might now regard as a ‘pregnant’ pause. The duration is clearly symbolic and the image of pregnancy most relevant – although I have clearly passed that possibility physically! Ha ha. No, I will not be a Janet Jackson follower!

And it’s good to be writing again. I have missed it. I have missed talking to the other, you, the ether, whatever is out there – MI5, CIA, colleagues, friends, strangers and all those connecting, universal sounds I hear once in a while.

The idea came to me yesterday. I don’t know why as I had not thought about continuing or starting a blog again after the couple of social media experiments of the last few years. I was on my way to town and had decided to walk down the hill to the station. And I noticed that tree that was so gloriously huge, sitting innocently in that garden on the way down. It felt so good to see it, and I found myself marvelling at its casual way of being so regal. Then, I continued noticing: people working together on a new fence with a shared focus and commitment, the smile of a young Muslim man packing rubbish away from his van thanking me for walking around it, the names of the two busses that passed me going down the hill – one was called ‘Peter’ and the other ‘Fred’ – and the smile of the Asian woman climbing up the stairs with difficulty, as our gazes crossed in that little, dirty and sombre, urban gully leading to the station car park. I wished I had taken a picture each time, from the moment I saw that tree – to share and rejoice with others. And, then, I kept noticing as I was walking. And it created an ever growing sense of wonder that filled me with peace and well, I am actually weary of using the word but I will, joy.

That’s when I thought, wow, there is something to marvel at every day. When I am open, when I listen and when I pay attention. When I simply commit to notice, to being with the present, with what life is bringing me, from moment to moment. Most of the time, it’s good, and beautiful, even if sometimes it also seems hard, and painful – at least in parts. I guess the nature of life is one based on paradoxes.

So, this morning, I wasn’t surprised when something bright and yellow started waving at me in the corner of my eye. I had settled on my sofa with coffee and toast and had been doing my early morning e-mails. I knew that the sun was going to rise based on what I had seen in the sky out of my bedroom window earlier on. I was engrossed in the composing of a thoughtful and caring response to a coachee, when I suddenly noticed that the sun had finally reached the point in its ascent where it hits the left-hand side of the fireplace in my living room. The thing is, it wasn’t just sunny outside, it was also windy, quite windy. And I found myself marvelling at the dancing shadows on the wall, the shadows of the leaves from the rose bush and the tree standing between the sun and my window. I saw them, marvelled at them, and thought, this is it. I’ve got to share what I marvel at each day.

What did you marvel at today?

Endings and beginnings

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You know what they say: when something ends, something else begins…

And of course, it’s true. It’s the way things continuously evolve, change and transform. Whether we like it or not. 

And things don’t always end brutally, in spite of the tolling sound echoing in the back of my mind, as I am typing the word “end”. Sometimes things end naturally. A week ago, I realised that the end of this year would be the end of this blog. Just as I decided to stop my daily Facebook posting at the end of last year, that time after two years of daily posting.

So, this is the last post, the 50th post.

I have always said that I am a collector. A collector of experiences, of stories, and now, of posts…

The mirrorball was another creative experiment, another exploration of how thoughts, feelings, conversations and events link up, connect and can bring up new insights that so easily turn into stories. And how my personal stories can resonate with other people’s stories, your stories.

And, yeah, it’s been fun. It’s been a good experiment. I’ve enjoyed writing every single post. Mostly never knowing what the post was going to be, when sitting on a Thursday evening or early Friday morning to write it. Well, there were often themes floating in my head, coloured by a few vivid memories. And when I stayed with it all, something often emerged, and often, it turned into a meaningful story – at least to me. That is how it’s gone for me each week for the last year.

And I thank you for reading this post and maybe other posts, and maybe, even, all of my posts – I know some of you did. I am very grateful for your time, appreciation and feedback. And for your virtual companionship in this creative endeavour.

And no, I don’t really know what is beginning. I have ideas floating around. Just need to let it all emerge properly and let it unfold as it needs to…

For now, this is just the end.

 

The Christmas tree

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I don’t know about your own, ancestral heritage, when it comes to Christmas. Mine was coloured by candles and green rituals. German rituals mostly. And there was always the music, and my father’s singing. And the Adventkrantz with the one additional candle we lit each Sunday prior to Christmas. And then, there was the setting up of the Christmas tree. The Christmas tree was always huge. We lived in the country and my father helped many farmers who gifted him with a great tree each year – until he started buying land and growing his own. And the best, was always, always, when we lit the candles on the tree. Yeah, you read it right. Real, lovely, small and white candles that would be artistically positioned on the tree branches and lit frequently throughout the Christmas period.

Lighting the Christmas tree wasn’t about the story of the switch of a button. It was difficult – the tree was tall – and dangerous – the candles needed to sit straight and not to threaten any branches above. So, as children, we were always called down to sit around the tree and would marvel at my father going round the tree with a live flame and quickly sitting down with us, in awe at the picture of the tree all lit up for us, for Christmas.

People often ask me why I never, ever have electric, flashing lights in my Christmas tree. That’s the main reason why.

And setting up the tree for Christmas became a ritual that became more and more important with the years going by. I made – sew and embroidered – Christmas decorations when I didn’t have any, when living abroad. Then started buying one or two everywhere my travels took me. And as my old friend told me recently: it’s the handling of that bauble that has such a story in your mind and heart, the memories attached to the way you acquired it and the joy it has brought you every single time you have sought a place for it on that new tree.

My best Christmas tree was the one I had in Michigan, each year, for a few years, some time ago now. It was magnificent. I could even imagine real, live candles burning on it. And we collected it in the woods in the most traditional fashion. I remember my son’s jaw dropping several times over his lifetime with me so far, and this was one of them: when we went to pick and choose our tree on a horse-drawn carriage in the depth of the snowy Michigan woods. With the traces of jet lag still hovering around our minds, it felt like a dream or being in one of those old, American films.

My Christmas decorations continued to live in Michigan for a few years, even though I was no longer there. So, during that time, we did “pretend” Christmas trees here, back home, or we didn’t have one. I also went “sustainable” and bought a synthetic tree which sat in the attic for the rest of the time it wasn’t Christmas.  And then, the decorations were all returned this year. And many got damaged or broken on their return to me. And I realised that it didn’t really matter, as long as we had had the beautiful experiences and we still had the magical memories.

And now that my son is at a stage in his life where “Christmas tree” simply echoes with a lot of noisy “to and fro” on the attic ladder, there is always the question whether we should set the tree up… The answer from him is always “no”, of course. And I always end up thinking that there are rituals one should not stop when they are linked to so many loved people, so many enchanting places and so many ancestral memories.

And I swear, my hand on my heart, that this year’s tree is turning out to be the best I ever had. Synthetic. With no lights. And with all the surviving decorations of a very rich and changing life.

What’s your Christmas tree like this year?

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How to forgive…

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It’s happened several times over the last few weeks. You know, that moment when someone says something about you or does something towards you that is simply unforgivable. At least in the moment. I am quite clear that every time it has happened, I didn’t deserve their harmful words and action; that it wasn’t actually about me. Yet, the words tumbled down straight into that well of pain I know so well.

It’s been some kind of a wake-up call for me. After a very “rich”, personal and professional life,  life is now largely peaceful, respectful and joyful. I don’t spend much time with people – friends or clients – who are stuck in negativity or blame. It’s a conscious choice, and a good and healthy one. I don’t encounter anger the way I have come across it in personal and professional fields in the past. It’s rare that someone gets angry for no reason – as in they get angry only because they feel anger for their own reasons…

What I have been struck by is the amount of courage it takes to let the words drown at the bottom of the well and look up again with a loving smile on my face. It takes courage, wisdom and emotional maturity to forgive someone who has just hurt you. I never thought I would ever get there. Well, I didn’t, and then I did. And I am sure I won’t again at some point – let us hope this will not be too soon! What I have learnt is that it is worth trying. Each time.

My prison visits over the last four years have taught me much about forgiveness and I am particularly grateful today for what I have learnt from the guys there about how hard it is not only to ask for forgiveness, and obtain it – or deal with the fact that we didn’t -, but also about how complicated it also is to actually forgive ourselves. It requires us to love ourselves in spite of, beyond our darkness. And how do you find love for who you are when you have murdered your best friend in an alcohol infused bar brawl ten years ago? And when his mother you knew well at the time won’t forgive you for taking her son away so early? How do you accept what you have done or what has been done to you, and let go of the resentment, bitterness, anger or hatred?

And at the risk of upsetting my religiously inclined friends, I still think it’s somewhat of a cop-out to enter a confessional in a Catholic church and expect to be “cleansed” of any unforgivable words or actions – I somewhat grew up there, so I know. It’s not the same thing as actually working through the impact of one’s words and actions and finding ways to be kind to oneself and well, truly forgive oneself.

I believe that life often challenges us in the ways we need the most. I got challenged these past few weeks about my ability to forgive. And well, I didn’t do so well first time round in that I was able to reach forgiveness for myself – I reacted to my friend’s harmful words with my own harmful words – and to reach forgiveness for the other. But my friend wasn’t able to do the same. So, I guess I lost a friend, or maybe he wasn’t really a friend. I forgave him but he can’t forgive me. And I am fine with that, because I did everything I could to get his forgiveness and have forgiven myself. A good lesson, and one I am very grateful for right now.

Second time round, I did better. It still hurt like hell though. So I retreated for a while, and then invited my friend for a drink and a chat. I had the chat this week and it was marvellous – that forgiveness thing can really work sometimes…

And third time round, I surprised myself. After the initial shock of the swelling pain, I moved away and after a brief moment, turned back and asked my friend for a hug. She smiled and relaxed immediately – there was clear relief on her face. It was a done deal, within a few minutes.

What I noticed is that in all three occasions, I said how sorry I was about the situation – and I was the one being hurt initially – and none of them could find it in themselves to return the apology. That’s how hard it is to say sorry, or thank you, for some, sometimes. And maybe that is another thing to learn to  forgive: when you particularly feel you need the thank you or the apology and it simply isn’t coming…

So, there you go, I am feeling a little shaken after that series of unusual events, and deeply grateful for them. That is how life goes. It’s not about what is good or what is bad but how I ultimately respond to whatever happens to me.

And I got dragged into the cinema this week to watch this great film – one of those you know will become a classic. It’s called “Bridge of spies”. And Tom Hanks plays the main honourable character. I loved the film, and one verbal exchange has captured my imagination since. Tom Hanks character saves this young American pilot from further Russian investigations – this is a story about spies in the Cold War era – and the latter asks around about who he can thank for his freedom, who he can be grateful to. No one responds to him – they don’t know whether his rescue was worthwhile yet. So, he turns to Tom Hanks – who is actually the one he could express gratitude to – and says to him that “he didn’t tell them anything”. The thing is that in the spying business, no one really knows who is telling the truth… So Tom Hank character looks at him – here is the key line – and he says: “It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what they think: you know what you did”.

And this is it for me: “It doesn’t matter what they think: you know what you did”.

And maybe that is where forgiveness starts: acknowledging our integrity – or lack of -, accepting our response to the great challenges life decided to confront us with, whether it was honourable or not. After all, it doesn’t matter what you say or do, what matters is how you face and deal with the impact your words and actions have on those you have targeted with them. And it doesn’t matter what others think in the end, because you know what you did…

So, how to forgive?

Saying sorry is the first challenge – see my earlier blog on that if you like…

Then embracing oneself, hugging oneself whether the victim or the perpetrator is the next challenge. The greatest challenge.

Because it requires that we acknowledge we are sometimes weak, fragile and well, unkind. And that is ok, provided we realise and acknowledge it wasn’t ok at the time.

Then, it offers opportunities to hug or have a cup of tea and a chat, as it happened this week, on separate occasions.

Worth a try. Any time. It’s boosted my confidence in practising forgiveness more effectively – I’ve got to keep positive!

So, it’s been a good week. All about how to forgive…

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How simple is your life?

 

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I looked up and checked the TomTom briefly. I had been waiting patiently at that famous and difficult, local roundabout. It was the usual early morning automobile mayhem. And what struck me immediately was that the route ahead was the only road that wasn’t jammed that morning. And I didn’t really feel lucky. It mostly triggered the thought that maybe life had surreptitiously turned out a little bit like this open route ahead of me; and remained so, provided I honoured my desire for a simpler life, that I stuck to simple choices, to the simple route.

One of the Quaker values is “simplicity”. And a few years ago, I decided to live and embody it. If you know me well, then you will know how complex a decision that was. And I believe I got there. Yeah, ok, I am still getting there: it’s like everything else, once you have set the intention for change and you are sticking to it, it just happens, just slowly – much more slowly than what we got ourselves used to, when stuck on the merry-go-round of the consumerist life. I got to the point recently when walking through my local shopping centre felt like a completely new adventure – that is how long I hadn’t walked through it.

And it’s not easy to lead a simple life in today’s world.

However, the simple life has many hidden gifts. I have finally realised that my simple life is often filled with time, beauty and love. Yeah, I know, this will probably come across as grossly idealistic. Yet, it is consistently true for me. And that’s because the best of life – to my mind these days – does not actually cost anything or demands any kind of purchase from me. The best of a simple life is free.

I recently started volunteering at a horse sanctuary in Surrey. Check it out, it’s a great place to be and well, it’s the place to pick up horse poo too… That’s what they do, every morning. And picking up horse poo is an interesting process. It’s physically hard – I promise you that pushing a wheelbarrow full of horse poo up a hill is something you remember for a while…  And it’s also emotionally healing. There is something intrinsically good in cleaning something off the surface of the earth. And well, psychologically, it connects you with nature in unexpected ways.

There are the worms you uncover whilst raking the poo into the skid, and the different poo shapes you notice as you walk along looking for the next cluster of poo mounds – yeah, I know… I also keep noticing how the horses always look at us when we march onto their land, with our cleaning ammunitions.

I often think they know we care. We clean behind them because they can’t do it themselves. Then, sometimes, they come along and say hello.

I often think they have come along to say thanks. Unless they are some of those horses who have been beaten and ill-treated and who are still learning to trust good human intentions. And there are many of those horses, I have discovered.

This week, I met a couple of new horses. They had been abandoned by local gypsies. After a short time for assessment and reassurance, they approached us and stayed with us throughout the cleaning of their field. A beautiful Shetty horse took a liking to me and kept following me around. I got engrossed in the poo picking activity that was required from us at the time and momentarily ignored her. Until she came right behind me and nudged me up my backside with her nose. Everyone laughed. I turned around and gave her the big hug she needed. There were smiles all around. We all felt connected, to everyone else and everything around us – and to that cheeky Shetty horse in particular. Our bodies ached. Our minds were free. Our hearts were light. Everything was simple.

I see the trepidation rising around me at the arrival of Christmas and feel increasingly good at the prospect of another simple Christmas. After being the queen of gifts all these years, I stopped buying presents four years ago. My friends and family are still getting used to the idea – that’s how good a present gifter I was, I guess. And what I have noticed is that my friends now praise me for my generosity rather than for the creative presents I used to gift them with. It feels somewhat contradictory. And that is what, in my experience, a simpler life brings.

Now I buy things for others when I know they need them or that it will improve or change their life for the better. It’s a different perspective on gifting.

And that’s what it’s like to have a simple life. The choices are easy. You opt for less, rather than more. You learn to welcome the different rather then stick to the familiar. You learn to notice what is needed, rather than wanted.

Most of all, the simple life is teaching me to keep open.

So, how simple is your life?

 

 

How much time do you have?

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I knew he was quite shy so I smiled at him, and asked him how he was. Loud enough, so that he would know that I was asking him – and not the other guy on my left. I turned my body towards him to indicate that I was here to talk with him, that I had time for him. He quickly looked at me sideways and smiled faintly and immediately proceeded to tell me that he had said a little prayer for me the week previously, for my family and for my friends. He’d remembered from my last visit that I had just been to Paris and that I was French… I looked stunned at him. I knew he was speaking the truth. I believed him. This young man had prayed for my world when he hardly knew me. And I hardly knew him. I had noticed how he had been sitting on the periphery of the chats I had had with the guys during my last couple of prison visits. He had never really engaged in conversation with us. This time, though, I had noticed how he had willingly taken the seat on my right.

So I thanked him, for his prayer. I told him that – as far as I knew – no one I loved and knew had been directly affected by the tragedy that had enfolded so violently in Paris, only a week after my visit there. Then, we chatted. I learnt later, on my way out of the prison, that he rarely talked and that he had attempted to end his life several weeks previously. When I heard this, I only felt gladness and gratitude for having had the opportunity to talk with him, to share that moment with him. I hugged him in my mind. It was my turn to pray for him, for his well being, for his peace of mind, for time to be lighter. I was out of the prison, he wasn’t. He still had to do more time there.

And his story is nothing special or unusual. After many years of sexual abuse as a child, drugs had flooded his world and taken him straight into prison. He was still a teenager. I don’t know what he did to spend the last twenty years of his life in prison. I don’t need to know. What I know is that he has paid for it all in time.

We talked about art, and history. And how much he would like to find a job – one day, when he has done his time – where he would be in contact with nature. He told me about the sights from the first floor of the prison wing he was currently in. The beautiful landscapes ahead. The misty mornings. The rising suns.

I told him about the moon I watched rising into the darkness of the sky all the way on the motorway that evening. It was a full moon that day. And it was very beautiful. That’s when he said that he often wondered who else famous before him, across eras and centuries, had looked at that very same moon. I looked at him in awe and thanked him for the insight. I had never thought of the moon in this way. That the moon was one thing that we had not really been able to control and damage yet. That it was now, as it was seen by Buddha, Nefertiti, St Francis, George Fox, Hermann Hesse, John O’ Donoghue and all other past heroes of mine. I was very much looking at the same moon as them – well, ok, with the abstraction of the remnants of that flag and set of footprints left on it of course. Yes. There was no time, when I, when we all looked at the moon.

And that’s when he said that the last five years in prison had gone past really fast.

I looked at him without saying anything. I was stuck with the thought that it had actually been quite the opposite for me.

The last five years have been really slow, challenging, painful, healing, mesmerising and blissful. And never quite in that order. I feel I can remember every moment of them. The very good moments and the very difficult moments. Equally. I stopped wearing a watch about five years ago. I didn’t need to know about time.

And it’s been four years to this time this year that I went all the way to Boston – Cape Cod to be more exact – to attend the residential foundation course in Theory U with Otto Scharmer and his crew. I had done their online course three years prior to that and had been on the waiting list for two years… I was ecstatic, when I realised my turn had finally come.

For whatever reason – and I am working through it, as I write this – my experience of the course and of my time there has suddenly come alive again in my mind over the last couple of weeks, through different visuals, feelings and memories. This was a very mind-opening course for me, in more ways than words can really share. One of those transformational moments, when your life tips out of time, when you know nothing will ever be the same again, after such moment.

Generative dialogue had become a passion, even an obsession. And being immersed with more than one hundred delegates from many different countries in the world, willing to take on the challenge of sharing from the heart – and to transcend the usual fear triggered by such prospect – and of listening to others – without judgement and cynicism – was well, enchanting. I spent five days there opening my mind, heart and will and learning to accept that this process was tipping me into the unknown. And time neither matters nor counts, when you don’t know, when you accept and surrender to whatever is and whatever is emerging.

On one of our early dialogue walks on the beach, I came across the sight pictured below. Someone walking ahead of us had decided to go “naked”. They’d left their shoes, their words and their drink behind. They didn’t want to think or recollect, or carry anything. Only walk on the sand with bare feet. I could feel the touch of the sand under my own feet, when I saw the footprints they had left behind.  The picture epitomised freedom to me in that moment. Stepping out of one’s shoes, stepping out of one’s life, stepping out of one’s – often invisible – prison.

I smiled with envy then. And I kindly smile now.  It’s not so easy to step out of one’s established choices, plans and routines. Especially when there is the likelihood of pain involved. And maybe, sometimes it’s easier to stay in one’s prison. Even at the risk of losing hope and dying prematurely there.

How much time do you think you have?

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How might I be more gentle?

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Exactly a week before the terrorist attacks in Paris, I was roaming around the same area of cafes and restaurants that was so badly affected. I had chosen it because it was a new area to walk through, each day, to and from my work there that week – I was on a long assignment. Over the years of working in Paris, I have developed my Parisian visitor’s habits. Depending on where I need to work, I would pick a familiar place to stay with a nice place to eat at nearby. And I really liked this new area –  the 10th and 11th arrondissements – because of its multi-ethnic and diverse feel. It was interesting to walk around and, most importantly, there was a sense of safety and respect in the street which I rarely experience in Paris.

People always, always ask me why I wouldn’t prefer to return to France, or Paris, rather than live in the UK, near London. And the answer for me is always, always the same. As soon as I step out of the Eurostar, I find myself shielding myself from potential and, very likely, social aggressions. Sadly here, for once, I am not exaggerating. People are not spontaneously kind towards one another in Paris but indifferent, wary, defensive or often aggressive. I can never, ever relax on the tube in Paris for example… Whilst in London, I feel implicitly accepted. That’s my experience. And it’s been consistent over the years, and sadly, getting worst in France, each time I go there.

What happened a week later was devastating. There are no words for the enormity of the horror and suffering created by nine individuals in the name of an ideology that is so extremist in its inhumanity. I reflected on how Paris would never be the same again after this, no matter what. How distrust and racism was likely to rise further – as it has done after the last atrocity at the Charlie Hebdo offices in January this year. As Quakers say, I held the deceased in the light and I thought of the injured, the families…and for anyone with dark skin living in Paris or elsewhere.

And my attention returned to the nine individuals.

I am not angry and I don’t feel hatred. I would just like to know what I could do to help the next potential generation of terrorists re-integrate the society they clearly feel so excluded from. How can such young men feel the need to kill their own people on their own land? None of this makes sense. Unless you have no sense of belonging, no bond with the land you grow on and with the people you walk on it with.

I took part in a beautiful open listening session at the St Ethelburga’s centre for reconciliation and peace this week. The theme was “The terrorist events of the last year”. There were many expressions of sadness and, also, of anger. And something happened for me when I was there. I had been strongly aware of how emotionally unsettled I had been all week. And it is only when I left the centre and made my way back through the city that I realised that the heaviness that had accompanied me for so many days had suddenly lifted. Peace had retuned in my heart, and hope.

I am hopeful. Because people are awaking to the fact that some people are suffering, really suffering and that somehow they need to take responsibility for that suffering. And for the fact that, today, they are not connected to the people who are suffering, that many of these people have been suffering in their shadow. And the fact that they wonder and ask questions – as I do – brings rays of hope in my heart.

Facebook kindly reminded me this morning that exactly a year ago I attended the launch of “Rising Women, Rising World” at Westminster. This was a beautiful event. And the main memory from it is etched in the words of one of the only men present who rose to his feet at the end of the evening to share them: “Collective transformation happens through the marriage of compassion and collaboration“.

And compassion is a difficult concept for most people. How do I feel compassionate? What is compassion?

I have come to the realisation this week that all I need to do is nurture gentleness in me, and kindness, to see compassion rise in myself. Gentleness is the first stepping stone over the river of judgement, cynicism and fear.

And if you are as passionate a person as I am, then you will know how gentleness is often not intuitive. How you need to befriend it, daily.

And everything starts with me, as always. If I’m gentle towards myself then I am more likely to be gentle towards others, regardless of what they are doing or what they have done. Kindness may arise and then maybe, compassion. Then, I just need to work on the collaborations, and there is hope for collective transformation…

How might YOU be more gentle?

The love connection

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I had a conversation with a friend this week which nearly went awry. Mostly because he ascribed everything that had happened and was happening around him – and I guess to him also, implicitly – to “good luck” or “bad luck”.  It sounded like a dead end to me. And yeah, I noticed how that triggered a strong reaction in me. It even disrupted me for part of the day and that bothered me even more. I mean, how on earth could I live and enjoy my life, if everything was due to “good luck” or “bad luck”? It would be like playing the Russian roulette each day, I guess – ok, yeah I know, well, I do like to be dramatic once in a while….

So, I told him that I didn’t believe in luck. Only in conscious choice-making.

Of course, with conscious choice-making comes a high level of personal responsibility. And that is what, in my experience many of us – me included – prefer to shy away from, when we can. It’s always easier to blame something else or someone else than to try to learn from our mistakes or from the traumas and dramas of our lives.  For me, it’s all about choosing consciously. And not leaving it to “luck”. And to nurture the belief that each choice, however painful it turns out to be, comes with silver linings – even if it takes a while to see or find them.

I have recently become aware that I have developed a concern, ok, I’ll admit it, a real FEAR of falling into a sinkhole – I can see you smiling, check out these Google images and I guarantee you won’t be smiling long. These seem to be popping up in the news on a regular basis everywhere in the world – including not very far from where I currently live – and they’ve become quite prominent in my awareness. I know, it’s irrational. And completely unpredictable. And well, maybe having a sinkhole suddenly emerging on your doorstep – or worse – is a stroke of “bad luck”?

The point is I can’t really do much about it, if it happens. If I survive, all I can do is choose how I respond to the event. I may decide that, maybe, it is something I can learn from, grow from – ok, maybe after a lot of screaming and/or crying too. In my experience, if you believe your life is “on schedule” and you’ve got long-term plans in place, you’re bound to be in for a few surprises. Some nice surprises, and well, some unpleasant ones too – you’re likely to come across some life sinkholes on the way. And the latter are bound to disrupt your carefully designed plans for the rest of your life. And maybe a life sinkhole should be welcome because of the disruption it brings in what is often a very well ordered, and maybe, as a result, unfulfilled life.

So, I’m not sure all this – even sinkholes – have anything to do with “good luck” or “bad luck”.

My sense is that it has more to do with how connected I am with what is needed from me, with how I source the response to what life brings me or is asking of me.

And well, all I can think of is the connection to the love in me. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a religious statement. It is what I feel, and sense. It is what helps me intuit at times of confusion and errance. Without love, I have no peace. Love brings kindness and gentleness, understanding and care, compassion and service. It has also helped nurture forgiveness – for myself as much as for others -, at the worst possible times in my life. It’s the love connection that helps me thrive each day, and guides me in my conscious choices, daily. Not luck.

I guess, without love, there is only the possibility of luck, of good luck and of bad luck. And maybe a life without a love connection is bad luck – yeah, I’m smiling.

And, every day, I only need to open the door to get connected… I make that conscious choice, however hard – or maybe brave – it may sometimes be.

So, how connected are you to what life is really needing from you? Or are you just hoping for better luck?

Getting in touch again

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I don’t know about you but I was reminded lately how easy it is to lose touch. To lose touch with oneself. To lose touch with others and with whatever surrounds us. To lose touch with what is important to us, with what nourishes us.

I have been travelling over the last two weeks. And when I travel, I am always mesmerised by people wearing headphones when walking in the street, or on trains and on planes. I don’t really understand the overt choice and refusal to potentially connect with others or anything else around them. It’s not that I don’t understand the need to sometimes isolate oneself. It’s the need to do it all the time that puzzles me.

I sat in a bar in Sitges, a beautiful seaside resort near Barcelona, last weekend and discovered that there was now a TV channel for babies. It’s called “babytv“. I found myself sitting not very far from the TV screen and I must admit that I got mesmerised again pretty quickly. I was imagining myself as a baby and watching the very carefully crafted animations presented to me at a pace that was clearly adapted, calculated or designed for my stage of development – as a baby. I thought it avant-garde of the bar to keep their TV switched to that channel throughout the evening. In my younger days, bars tended to stick to MTV. And it took me a little while to realise that this was a real channel, purposefully designed to entertain babies.

Ok, I will admit to sticking the young man, when he was a baby, in front of the washing machine with a  wash on, when I needed him to fall asleep. It always worked, in spite of his clear reluctance to let himself do so naturally. I used to think that the washing machine hypnotised him. It was a good ally for a longer sleep for myself at the time. But a TV channel in front of which I could leave him for distraction and entertainment? When I could talk to him, play with him or cuddle him instead? Call me old-fashioned but I’m just very glad babyTV did not exist in my time as a young mother.

And no, I didn’t put my son as a little boy in front of cartoons to have some time for myself. I did buy all the Disney classics and sat with him. Then it was all the Westerns by the time he was seven – he probably was the only boy of his age who could visually identify John Wayne or Clint Eastwood by name. And it’s only by the time we watched “The African Queen” that I knew I had done him right. He must have been about ten by then. We were sitting together, as always, and during the scene when the mood between the two main protagonists suddenly changes, whilst they are still awkwardly conversing and dealing with each other’s presence on that boat, well , it is exactly then that my son suddenly turned to me and checked-in with me: “he’s in love with the woman, mama, isn’t he?”.

And we still sit together. We’ve got our Star War tickets booked for when he will return on his next visit from university. That is now the main activity we share together. It’s what we do together.

And yeah, it’s the same with the video games. We’ve played many together. He is the one who showed me how to “shimmy” along a wall, as Lara Croft…

All this, because I believe it matters to be in touch. It matters to be together.

Last weekend, I also built a labyrinth with construction flags for a large academic conference on sustainability – I am summarising the title which was much, much longer than that… Check it out here, if you are interested: http://www.cleanerproductionconference.com/. People came up to me asking questions, wanting explanations, needing to understand, needing to find reasons to walk the labyrinth. I found myself mesmerised by their reactions to it when I presented the labyrinth as a space for them to re-connect with themselves, to get in touch with what mattered, with what was needed from them. There was much curiosity, then puzzled looks, and sometimes anxiety, or fear. Some had the courage to walk it immediately, others delayed the prospect.

It’s hard to be in touch with one’s body and one’s heart when one is mostly living one’s life through one’s mind. And how many of us have not let our mind control our life, our choices and our decisions, at one point in time or another?

And I was helped and supported by many in the construction of the labyrinth. And I noticed how the experience changed their perceptions and expectations. How they welcomed and cherished the experience of a labyrinth walk, however odd it might have been at first on that hotel lawn.

On my return home today, I found the link to the beautiful video below in my in-box from a friend. It is what made me think how important it is to be in touch. Always.

Are you in touch?

https://vimeo.com/132657171