Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Standing by the Thames

Standing by the Thames,
watching the river flow.
My teacher says
you can sit on the bank of the river of the mind
and watch the thoughts, feelings and emotions
pass by,
or you can be immersed in the water,
carried away by the earnestness of thoughts,
believing them to be real.

The thoughts are only leaves,
pieces of grass
or small branches
being carried along in the wash.

Out in the centre
the river flows quickly and smoothly,
and what comes into the vision
quickly passes on by.
Here at the riverbank,
movement is slow and slothful,
almost unmoving.
Here, the debris carried on top of the water barely moves,
it hangs around once it has come into the vision,
refusing to go.
Looking carefully, there is movement
though it may be sluggish,
even these thoughts,
up close and personal,
are passing on by
if you look.

Be like the fast-flowing stream,
watching what arises
but letting it go,
letting it float on by.
Don't be like the riverbank,
muddy, thick and clinging,
reluctant to let go.

Sit on the bank of the river,
and let them float on by.

© 26 June 2013

Friday, 21 June 2013

Retreat flyers

 I am happy to bring you the flyers from retreats I will be running or involved with, in the UK, this year. These are the culmination of discussions between myself and York MBSR over the last three years and at last we have come to this point of being able to offer a variety of retreats. Finding a suitable retreat centre was something of a challenge, and we are currently using two, one in the Yorkshire Dales and one in Whitby. I think they will both prove to be comfortable and useful for our needs.
Each retreat has something special to offer;

  • the five-day one in August is an alternative holiday suggestion and a chance to really relax and shake off the built-up stresses that can accumulate over time in our daily lives or through work. 
  • the weekend retreat in September is open to those new to mindfulness as well as those wanting to deepen their practice, and will be a gentle introduction to mindful practices and meditations that can be incorporated into our daily routine.
  • the MBSR Intensive (at which I will be assisting Rob) is a chance for those who are interested in the 8-week course but cannot commit to that length of time. It combines the main elements of the 8-week course into 5 days.
  • and finally Mindfulness and Creativity, combining my two great loves. This weekend gives us a chance to explore any creative pursuit that interests you from a foundation of mindfulness. It offers the opportunity to deepen our understanding of our chosen art form by approaching it from a perspective of mindfulness.

If you are interested in any of these retreats please explore further on the York MBSR website, where you will find all the details of each retreat and booking forms.
Thank you for reading!

Thursday, 20 June 2013

The Summer of ‘76

A huge wave of nostalgia hits me,
for the lanes and the fields
we played in as children.
Trap Lane,
Ivy Cottage Lane,
Common Lane,
Hangram Lane,
Ringinglow Road
leading out to Ringinglow Village and the quirky Round House.

Whitley Wood Road leading down to Wire Mill Dam,
where the trees were so tall
I felt they would abandon their static-ness,
leave their roots and jump on our heads!
When we had survived those seemingly menacing trees
we wandered by the river to Forge Dam
with its death-defying playground;
the wild swinging horse and the slide built into the hillside,
twice as long as any I had ever seen.
Later, we took our children there,
to the café for fried egg sandwiches,
and the dam where our daughter fed herself to the ducks, forgetting to let go of the bread in her hand!

Trap Lane, with its secret ending through woods and past the farm
where hopefully there would be horses.
Pretending to be horses, we cantered down Huntley Road to school.

The riding school where we spent many a Saturday, despite being thrown on my very first lesson!
It was a shabby, unkempt place, which mattered not because it had horses,
until one day we arrived to find it empty.
The horses had gone and the people had gone, all that was left abandoned was a few odd bits of tack, stirrup leathers that we gladly plundered.

Hangram Lane and over the fields
was another way down to the Dams, with its breath-taking views from the hill.

Common Lane with its real fairy ring of trees, and the field we camped in as Girl Guides.
We once took a picnic to Common Lane, intending to make a day of it.
By 11am everything had been eaten and, bored, we wandered down to the Co-op
where my friend’s Mum worked, to see what we could scavenge.

And the most magical place, although a drive rather than a walk from home,
was to keep going up the straight, Roman, Ringinglow Road and out to Burbage Rocks.
And when we were older and had friends who drove, onward out over the moors into irresistible Derbyshire and the magnificent Peak District.

At other times we wandered down Highcliffe Road, past the Roughs and the allotments and through the field where I had my sledging accident.
Playing in the Roughs was a deliciously scary place to be, with the supposed ‘mental hospital’ on the far side, and the time my brother and his friends set fire to a tree.

Down to the river.
One summer we paddled in the river, ruining our sandals, much to the later horror of our Mums, all the way to Endcliffe Park.

These memories seem to fill a vast space of endless summer days, but was it all just one summer?
The summer of ’76, with its heat wave, and drought and standpipes to collect water from.
That summer we had left Junior School and were about to enter the terrifying walls of Senior School,
and have to grow up and stop playing.

Trap Lane was special because of a boy who lived there.
Ivy Cottage sounded like something from a fairy-tale,
and Common Lane was far from common.

We could look across the valley from our windows and see the hospital, which became tinged with sadness as the place Mum spent months recovering from debilitating bouts of MS.
A place we both longed to be and dreaded, as she looked so frail and vulnerable lying there.

As I reminisce I am looking at these places on the Internet,
the safe and secure lanes and fields,
the playground of my childhood.

© 20 June 2013.

Monday, 17 June 2013

The heart has its own language

The heart has its own language
that is often muffled, indistinct, or buried
beneath the noise and hubbub of everyday living.

The heart has its own language
that can be heard when the yearning,
and craving and desiring and striving stop.

The heart has its own language
that whispers through our dreams,
and beckons to us unseen in the
dullness of being mortal.

The heart has its own language
that tiptoes through our rooms unnoticed
until we have the sense to put down the
mundane and recognise the great gift of being human.

The heart has its own language
that dances through our own and
weaves and criss-crosses and plays games with
our ordinary, day-to-day speech.

The heart has its own language
that resonates in the space between
who I am and who I think I am.

The heart has its own language,
unheard in many quarters, but resounding in
the peaceful, silent moments
when the mind is still.

© 17 June 2013

Thursday, 13 June 2013

When ...

When did the scaffold I built
to touch the moon and realise my dreams
become a corset,
restricting, binding and suffocating?
When did the flimsy willow structure I used
to help me define who I am
become a rigid, unyielding brick wall
to hold me in, instead of a
stepping stone to lead me on?
When did the tree whose branches I climbed
to go beyond my expectations
become the cloven pine
whose knotty entrails have imprisoned me?

When I started believing the thoughts,
whirling, murky, incessant whisperings
that smile and hide a knife beneath the cloak.
When I started accepting 'good enough'
and stopped believing it is possible
to achieve the highest, most improbable dream.
When I took to be real the safety net
of doubt and narrowness
and let go of the bright, shiny balloon
of my dreams
that told me I could fly.

When the scaffold topples over,
and the brick wall falls down,
and the tree branches break
I shall breathe freely,
not certain of where I am going
but sure that the path I take
will be full of wonder, and adventure and new beginnings,
because I have stopped believing in the small
and have once again caught hold of the
tail of the balloon which will help me to fly.

© 14 June 2013

Sunday, 9 June 2013

The mindfulness bell chimes

The mindfulness bell chimes
and movement stops to appreciate
what is here, now.
Notice, notice
what do you see,
hear, smell, touch, taste?
Where is the mind,
what story is it concocting?
Body on the chair,
ticking of the clock,
fly on the windowsill
a soft, warm breeze making
the flowers and leaves dance,
a stillness and quiet in the afternoon sun.

All in a moment
the mind stops chasing
and notices what is here, now.
All in a moment
the mind stops chasing
and appreciates the fullness of life
bursting out of every corner and crevice.
All in a moment
the mind stops chasing
and lets life be.

© 9 June 2013

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Naming and unnaming

"For that which is looking, the Knower called I,
pure awareness without any form"*
and that which is singing
and that which is producing a rich, honeyed scent
and that which is sustaining new growth and flowering
and that which is steady, offering shade and cool
and that which is laughing as it bumps and bubbles
over stones beneath
and that which has vibrancy and colour as its essence
and that which is solid
and that which is moving
and that which is dancing through all these natural forms
and that which is over-arching them all,
the brilliant blue backdrop against which we are set,
pure awareness without any name.

© 2 June 2013

* taken from a poem written by a friend of mine and set to music by another friend. The words were with me as I went on a walk this morning.