Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Up Beat

Cheeky li'l honey!

I am ever amused by how negative drafts, written when emotions are high can, with time evolve into much more positive beasts.  The draft for this post was so woe is me and undoubtedly this initial getting things out when feeling blue is therapeutic.  But, it is even more so to leave these beasts a while and come back to them once the fog has cleared.  Sometimes I re-read where I was at and in contemplation and hindsight see a fuller, more objective, more positive picture and start replacing words, phrases and paragraphs with more sunny similes.  Other times I'm so over it all and remembering the flavour of what I've written hit delete right away and start again.

I guess this is one thing they were teaching us on the MBSR course - how current mood and head state dictates how you react to a situation or mental event.  Alternatively if you give yourself space - be that ten purposefully counted breaths, a 40 minute meditation or a couple of days - weeks even, away from thinking about said event it gives you the choice of how you respond rather than react. 

Honestly, I've been low at times these last two weeks.  Working nights isn't nice.  It's getting easier though as I work out the best rhythms whilst there for my body clock.  I always have a 5 a.m low when I am pining to be tucked up in my warm nest usually awaiting the early awakening of my bears.  I don't like the 24 lag my body clock has the next day and I am going a 36 hour period on only a few hours sleep.  Before I started the night shifts, the job in general I asked myself is this noble, brave or just plain's madness I tell you.

But my good friends (where would I be without them) are reminding me that I made a positive decision to change my life - to get myself out of where I was at.  It is going to get easier but it's not ideal. 

So after giving myself that space to breath, meditate and think (or not) I conclude that it's transitory.  I have to keep earning so it will do for now and I can hope that something more ideal comes along.  It is a little annoying that it's a sacrifice I've had to make but then motherhood is all about constantly readdressing the balance in your life isn't it.  I deliberatly hesitate to use the word sacrifice in conjunction with the word motherhood because, trying though it might be at times, gaining two bright little buttons like Zander and Gaia can barely be seen as sacrifice can it now!  And lets face it readdressing the balance will be on going - the this's and that's will change as our children grow, I think the key must be in remembering this and not resisting it, sitting with it and letting it be.  Whatever happens it is finite, if all my kids remember is that one or two mornings a week mummy got home after they had breakfast then I can dig that.

Can't stay blue for long, there is so much joy springing forth in our house right now with the countdown to Solstice and Christmas ... yes the winter festival has officially landed, starting to call it in!  The Christmas CD is on constant rotation, Cliff will just have to suffer it this year though I did go and buy the crooners collection to accommodate him!  It's all Elvis and Bing, Frank, Louis and Ella in our house and I'm loving this vintage feel.
There has been much dancing to said crooners, the kids love that vintage jazz feel too and my boy is practising his own songs for the winter concert at school next week ... Mama here can hardly wait!

1st December hails a crafting frenzy.  Sewing machine is out there much to be made - bunting, popcorn and cranberries threaded, cinammon bundles, bird food cakes (which were partially eaten by Gaia!)  Mince pies, strings of salt dough decorations, cakes, puddings, those ever elusive scarves I promise the children year after year?!

The advent calendar I made last year came out, though I had been working the previous night and totally forgotten I needed to source treats for the pockets.  I blamed it on the Elves running late and they arrived shame faced just before Zander got back from school with promises of punctual deliveries for the next 24 days!  

Since I stopped working day times it has opened up a window for me to just hang out with our dear childminder Lorraine in the country park, how beautiful it was last Thursday with icy clear blue skies ...

I was a shy honoured guest stepping into my little girls world, she knows many people who regularly walk their dogs through the woods, she was at home, I was the outsider but I beamed watching her in her element learning of the joy her smile brings to others too.

We've enjoyed another fire in the garden (it was necessary I started to fall asleep whilst 'supervising' scissors after a night shift!)

I have a thing for pictures of feet and fires!

and there were many pleas to shuffle a little closer so to warm toes just a little more .... ever enthralled by the warmth issuing forth as if 'twere magic ... isn't it though?!

Feel that Mama, he said as he placed his toastie little hand on my chilly cheek.

On Saturday we made a special trip to the country park to visit Santa.  Zander wrote a wish list and sat clutching it barely containing his shy excitement.  I should know better than to give these two 24 hours notice of such things, it was torturous for them to have to wait!

But so worth it.  Loving the rustic scene.

He kindly made the visit in aid of a little girl, Supatra, who was looked after by our childminder at the same time as Zander a few years back. At the beginning of the year she was diagnosed with a rare and terminal brain tumour and at that point her life expectancy was no more than 9 months. Her local community have rallied around raising money for the one and only treatment that will extend her life a bit longer. Lorraine thunk this particular fund raising event up and it was just beautiful. 
At a time of year when we are all high on life it is another sobering reminder to give thanks for what I have - my family and our health. Nothing more sobering and humbling than to read one tag left by a child on the wishing tree in Fairy Woods. In amongst wishes for bikes, lego and other myriad Christmas presents one child had simply written 'I wish that Supatra gets better'.  I'm choking just thinking about it, I cannot begin to imagine what her and her parents must be going through right now. Holding them in my heart.

There is so much tragedy in the world, happening to people I know right now, it seems cruel, this is reality though.

The dark and light of it all ... one of lifes dualities.  In this the darkest month we will soon celebrate the light returning as the days grow longer from the 21st.  So much to be done in between now and then, so much excitement to breath into the house and my children's dreams yet.  I'm taking fabric and yarn to work tonight so that in quieter moments I can keep this drum of excitement beating.

Love and Light x x x

Thursday, 24 November 2011

The End Of The Beginning

Wanting to catch this moment ....

I hold a yellowy green glass pebble between two fingers.  I mindfully turn it as I did a raisin this night eight weeks ago.  I hold it in different lights.  First it looks translucent and green, then yellow then I swear it could be opaque and pinky blue.  It could be a cats eye ..... but now there is more in there; this humble object is full of the faces of those of us who sat together for 8 weeks, sharing our demons, experiences, wishes and insights.  It is full of our stories and the lessons we have learnt and hope to be reminded of every time we fish for our glass pebble in the bottom of our pockets.

The love that was present in the Buddhist Centre last night was humbling.  The course poignantly finished the same way it began but this time around there was camaraderie, laughter and positive reflection as we've got to know each other and have come to feel like this truly has been a collective journey.  We did not want to leave our final night together.  We subconsciously found all the excuses we could to stay together just another minute longer.  Hugs and email addresses were exchanged and wishes to stay connected to each other and this peaceful sanctuary we all came to.

I am full of head cold this morning but the sky is clear for the first time in days and I hesitantly think I can feel that ember in my soul glowing a little warmer and a little brighter than it has for a long time, something feels more like home.  A wave of that loving energy and an inaudible sonic boom still ripples through my world now.

We came to the course feeling alone, like the rest of the world could cope so why couldn't we?  But we left knowing that we walked through fire together, that we are never alone and it is OK not to feel OK sometimes.

So what have I most noticeably gained from this last 8 weeks?  I have gained the present moment and a legitimate reason to meditate every day.  I have gained hope, better perspective and many useful tools to use often.  And you know the only thing I've sacrificed to fit all this self care in?  Housework.

In the coming days, weeks, months and years I will continue this daily practice and have faith that in time the teachings of mindfulness will permeate my life on many levels.  The commitment doesn't stop now I have my Wednesday evenings back and I'm not sure what I have 'got back' in any case.  We almost felt bereft as we said our goodbyes and yes there were tears in my eyes as I did the guided breathing space meditation this morning knowing I would not meditate with those people again, for a while at least.  But last night we were encouraged to celebrate what it has been, still is and will be.  We were wished not a wonderful week, but a wonderful rest of our lives.  This is only the end of the beginning perhaps the journey truly begins now.

Blessings, love and luck to everyone I've shared the last eight weeks with.  Parting is such sweet sorrow, I hope we meet again.


Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Mama Love

What treasures of the season have I found in my garden!

It keeps on giving colour even in the latter half of November ...

In my head I am slowly gathering an image.  Metaphorical and personal.  It's a porch, a raised wooden decked porch, maybe more like a veranda leading from a timber house in the woods.  There's a cliched rocking chair, low Moroccan daybeds covered in myriad rainbow throws and cushions.  Little steps that run down into an imaginary garden. There are tea lights strung in glass jars all around, wind chimes twinkle on the breeze and it's warm with the scent of Jasmine in the air.  It's my sanctuary.

A metaphorical visualisation is unique - mine alone, totally peaceful and safe.  I need this space to run to in my head sometimes to process stuff.  Happily it seems that with mindfulness I have stopped procrastinating so obsessively over everything and started inquiring more gently into the thoughts that pass through my sky on clouds.  I am finding that to acknowledge them and accept their presence is far more productive than to resist them or chase them incessantly.  Once acknowledged they are happy to hover on the periphery and this gives me the space to process them in a more objective way.  Sometimes instantly, sometimes it might be days before I think of them again and then maybe with a conclusion or resolution, or I might find that having acknowledged them and created space they seem quite ridiculous and not at all worth pursuing. 

I'm re-learning that there are other ways I can make myself feel better outside of metaphorical flights of fantasy.  Life, motherhood is at times anything but easy.  We can't run on tanks that are empty, we need an element of self care in our days, as a happy mama = happy children, or rather this is true by it's paradox: an unhappy mama = unhappy children.  It is so hard to put ourselves first, but there are ways of doing it subtly and I was rather happy to discover this week on my mindfulness course that chocolate, yes chocolate, if eaten the right way with the right intention, can very much count as Mama love!  Let me explain ...

If instead of reaching for that bar of G & B I keep hidden and proceed to scoff most of in a crazed manor, when I am feeling exasperated down or just lacking generally, I slowly deliberately consciously take 2 or 3 strips of the magic stuff and actually eat at a pace that I can properly enjoy it at, then I have mindfully treated myself to chocolate.  It's a helpful distraction.

Mulling this over I realise there are myriad things I could do that are not too disruptive even with kids nipping at my ankles.  I could escape outside, the garden will do or if I'm feeling more adventurous we could all skip down to the meadows together.
I could make a fresh juice from whatever fruit and veg lurks unsuspectingly in the fridge, or make a cup of tea and enjoy it in an appreciative way.  I could indulge in music - a favourite CD, I could do my 3 minute breathing space meditation - even whilst standing in the kitchen I can pretend I can't hear the kids or put ear phones in so I actually can't. 
I could go apply a face mask and then make jokes with the kids about how my face might crack if they make me laugh or smile too much; a sure way to get some giggles generated! 

I don't have to reach for chocolate, I could make an ever-so-healthy snack that's going to feel virtuous just to look at.  I could stop and take time to utter a few lines in my head ...

                                                        may I be well, may I be happy, may I be free from suffering, may I grow and develop...

... or read a poem and depending on the time of day pour a glass of wine and attentively sip enjoy.   And when it feels like nothing on that 'all important' to-do list ever gets done I could write a Ta-Da! list ... a list of everything, however small, that has been done so far that day.  Today's would look like this ...

... fed cats, fed kids, dressed kids, dressed myself, washed kids, washed myself, made packed lunches, got to school on time, got to childminders, had cup of tea, did driving test revision, wrote, meditated, had lunch, contemplated dinner, made dinner, did school run ...

Look what I have achieved!  Self care is also not beating myself up for what is not achieved or falling short of my own expectations.  I do not pretend to be a master of this art of self care, but I do think it makes sense.  And it is a valuable skill I want my kids to observe, accept as part of life and learn for themselves.

This MBSR course has taken more commitment and time than any of these small yet significant things.    But it's one of the biggest self care gifts my family and I could have recieved.  I'm not done yet, no sir'ee.  I understand this is a lifelong journey not a quick fix.  It has permeated some levels of my daily life already.  Others where I wish it had, it has not yet.  I have faith though.

A highlight of last week was a whole day of meditation practice at the Buddhist centre on Saturday....

I am here
In this musical silence
These timeless moments.
With this breath
I drink up the energy of common purpose.
Though my mind still wanders off
As all minds do
I wish myself well.

That is mine, but below, this is Oriah Mountain Dreamer's.  It was read to us as the day finished and as I heard it the corners of my mouth curled upwards, my eyes stung a little and something was hard to swallow in my throat ... that be the truth then!

What if there is no need to change?
No need to try and transform yourself
Into someone who is more compassionate, more present, more loving, more wise?
How would this affect all the places in your life where you are endlessly trying to be better?

What if the task is simply to unfold?
To become who you already are in your essential nature:
Gentle, compassionate and capable of living fully and passionately present?

What if the question is not
‘Why am I so infrequently the person I really want to be?‘
But ‘Why do I so infrequently want to be the person I really am?‘
How would this change what you think you have to learn?

What if becoming who and what we truly are happens not through striving and trying but by recognizing and receiving the people and places and practises that offer us the warmth of encouragement we need to unfold?
How would this shape the choices you have to make about how to spend today?

What if you knew that the impulse to move in a way that creates beauty in the world will arise from deep within and guide you every time you simply pay attention and wait?
How would this shape your stillness, your movement, your willingness to follow this impulse, to just let go and dance? 

It is as my dearest friend told me then 'You will find the answers are inside Rose'.

My Kids warm my heart these colder more wintry days...

I love how Gaia wanted to cuddle up with the cat when we got home from an unexpected sleepover in hospital last Monday night.  She tucked her in so attentively ...

We heard that signature seal bark of croup as we crept to bed so we got everyone up and drove double time up to A & E.  It was scary but I managed to find calm, reassurance and a matter-of-fact manor as I rushed her into the children's cubicles where nurses and doctors pounced on us and medicated her immediately.

More severe than previously she needed 20 mins of adrenalin on the nebuliser as well as oral steroids. And despite my own holistic inclinations, when your kid can't breathe you thank the gods for the wonders of modern medicine and the NHS.  Within an hour the symptoms had all but gone, leaving her exhausted so they kept us in.  We did not sleep  much but she was safe and observed.

Zander is mastering several skills all at once ... drawing...
Writing... He wrote his Christmas list this morning...

Star Wars featured heavily!

Reading ... ok so here he is recounting the story he knows to his sister.  But I was astonished that when I said after much tomfoolery, squabbling and tears, that they were to sit down and read a book and not move whilst I made final school preparations that this is what I found ...

Making people feel good ... he tells me 'Mummy, I have tears in my eyes because you are so beautiful' and at dinner yesterday he beckoned for me to lean over and he whispered in my ear 'Mummy I think I have fallen in love with you' !!!!

In a Star Wars state of mind we created worlds, staged battle training and had bonfire sleepovers...

Countdown has begun, I have started to make winter decorations with salt dough and have started to hang fairy lights to create that grotto feeling required for this time of year as we start to call in the season.

And I am again grateful for what I have, as others who least deserve it suffer so.  Standing in the fire with them isn't easy but it's the best I can do.

Blessings X

Friday, 11 November 2011

The Edge and the Cake of Challenge

I'm working it ... the edge I mean.  We all step out of our comfort zones at times, intentionally and unintentionally too.  Sometimes we are forced by the actions of others, sometimes by our own, sometimes by the mere nature of evolving and growing and sometimes we place ourselves there on purpose for an extra slice of the challenge and self improvement cake.

The edge by definition is uncomfortable - you know, like the one that you find when you get back into yoga for the first time in months and feel the pull of tight calf muscles as you challenge yourself to stay in the downward dog pose for just eight more counts, see if those heals will touch the floor, then another eight .... it's tight, it pulls, it invariably hurts, you try to convince yourself you can't do it you're going to have to give up, but the other half of you insists you can.

Well I got greedy for a a slice of that cake, again.  Two weeks into working with people who have profound learning and physical disabilities and I'm pondering on the blade one uses to cut this cake.  One side shiny and smooth - it gleams with altruism, humility, gratitude and job satisfaction - all the reasons I wanted to step onto this edge in the first place.  The other side though is quite rough and jagged, a little rusty perhaps.  This side is the background information I am gathering about the people I am supporting; how their lives are affected by their conditions and disabilities, what they can and can't do for themselves and how this makes them feel and react. It is learning the enormity of the responsibility I will shoulder and all the worst case scenarios of the job. Naturally my soul sighs in sadness somewhat.  But I put myself here, to learn. 
Much like with motherhood.  I put myself here on purpose and I well remember finding out I was pregnant both times; I felt the ecstasy and mirth bubbling over.  But in quieter moments as dusk drew near I would doubt a little to think of the vast responsibility I was also taking on.  Bringing helpless dependant beings into the world, protecting them at all costs and teaching them until eventually they would be safe to fly alone. 

Happily, at this edge and even in these early days I've found a cross over ... the skills of caring for the vulnerable are already showing me where I lack in my parenting.  For instance where I may become exasperated with my kids and outwardly show annoyance I simply cannot with those in my care at work.  This is good, for I feel like patience grows again where it had lain dormant in my heart a while. 

The basic principals of parenting are standing me in good stead for caring for the vulnerable.  I know how to care for someone who is dependant and helpless; I raised two newborns.  I know how to listen intensively for the words that are not uttered clearly; because I watched and encouraged my bairns to learn to talk.  I know how to inspire interest with the world around and pick up on an individuals specific interests; because I'm raising two individuals at home.  Ah, the hope that this symbiosis is filled with; and fills me with.

I will in a matter of weeks work, quite literally, the unknown edge of night shifts ... I shudder slightly whilst simultaneously the other half of my consciousness is convinced it'll be a doodle. It's unknown, unfamiliar but conceptually and rationally possible. I'll work it and see where it takes me.

I forge ahead, working the edge of mindfulness and this weeks homework/challenge (yes more cake!) was to move towards and sit with unwanted thoughts, feelings and mental events as they occured instead of habitually resisting them and inflaming them in so doing.  So life handed me this slice on a plate when my boy showed an adverse reaction to some new found calmness of mine.  It was agonising, heartbreaking even as he tried to create drama where for once there was none.  He did not feel secure, things weren't 'normal'.  I felt vindicated, ganged up on, stung and heartbroken in the seeming conviction of his words.  But I sat with it, through subtle tears and a burning heart, in letting it be, not trying to change it I saw it for what it was, I wrote it down, matter of factually and later I meditated on it.  It passed and he still loves me it's just part of the journey, I'm sure it will happen again because the rest of my world is on a lag.  They are so used to my isms and schisms and not as aware of my inner changings as I am, they need time to catch up and accept.

 I'm working the edge of sharing my kids education with school.  I'm supporting what they do in practicing skills at home, yet I'm questioning, challenging, seeking explanation and further information when things seem amiss. 
I'm working my creative edge; happily indulging in writing exercises never letting myself be fooled that this is my full potential.

My kids work theirs as well.  Firework making ...

and their individual interpretations fascinate me.

I'm working the edge of being a good friend.  Working out what it is I must do to help one grieving.  Charging myself to make bold decisions to offer my company and create opportunities to talk and distract rather than shying away assuming their knowing I'm here for them is enough.

And there are always things warming my heart ...

I renovated the teepee for winter with big old sheets of camo from the loft so now our garden is almost as good as Auntie Fi's ... if only Daddy would build a cool tree house den like uncle Steve did!

My boy is working his edge of growth and evolution.  He observes and shares the symmetry he finds in nature; as in the spots on a ladybirds back.  He points out repeating patterns all around him; as in the stripes on his jumper.  And he reads beautifully.  His ability to retain information is astonishing.  He draws ever more detailed and beautiful pictures.  My favourites, of course, are of me and him together - I always have this crazy hair and look slightly mad.  In his book of dreams that we are making together he drew us all on my bike under the sunshine amongst the dandelions!
My girl works her edge too.  We danced more this week ...

She peels potatoes studiously

And is convinced the cats enjoy these cuddles.  Lets just say they are very tolerant and she means so well...

Zander writes me lists (of letters in no particular order) ... today's included being safe on my bike, not forgetting to eat lunch, not forgetting to pick Gaia up, not forgetting to go to work ... do you think he thinks I'm forgetful?! 


And today's palindromic date.  The Mayans believed it a portal of new awakening and I am certain the auspiciousness of yesterdays full moon, the alignment of Jupiter by her side and the portal date today gives every single one of us yet another opportunity to try and connect with values we wish to walk forwards with.  I found this quote in the Los Angeles Times online ...

'... no matter where you are, look for the most positive, beneficial solution and take it.  Be aware of your breath, of your kindness and the gentleness of your own nature.'

So I make this the focus of my meditation today and why not every other day as well.  And whilst I'm at it perhaps it would serve well to be a mantra at the core of the values I teach to my children.  I know I must first embody it myself ... but then you know me, any excuse for a slice of that cake!

Tell me, what edges are you working?

Blessings X

Thursday, 3 November 2011

A New Year State Of Mind

I came down Tuesday morning to my ancestors sitting at our breakfast table.  Not literally, I had left out the photo's from the previous night, Samhain, and what a joyful sight first thing.  It really did feel like they had joined us for the first breakfast of the new Celtic year.  And my babies, they loved those old black and white photographs - edges cut with fancy scissors, figures in clothes not recognisable these days.  They wanted to know about everyone, so I gladly shared what I knew.

Samhain was a beautifully serene night after a funny old start to the day.  I laid that extra place at the table for my Grandma who passed this year and once little ones were in bed I meditated on these wonderful photographs, imagined their stories, saw living family members in their faces and I swear I felt their peaceful humble energies.  Particularly the pictures of the women folk  ... was it a subtle yet great feminine power I felt behind me as if all their hands were placed gently on my shoulders?  I think so, I felt something.  What else could explain my calmness at another 4.30a.m start from Gaia or taking my first steps into a new career?

So in a new year state of mind there are things I wish to leave behind.  Simultaneously there are new things I want to incubate through the winter and nurture into great abundant blossoms in the spring.  I want to walk forward into my thirtieth year unafraid of myself, calmer of mind, more peaceful and loving of heart.  More accepting and allowing, less judgmental, more happy, more understanding, more sorted, more stable, more able.  I want to continue to face myself, develop myself, walk further into mindfulness and being.  I want to be a good role model for my children, I want to keep working at friendships - forging the new, keeping those of longevity burning.  I want to kindle more creativity - new skills and old.  I want to keep challenging myself to always push further forwards to never think 'thats enough'. 

I want more days like this ...

 They are the best hosts and my sis ... she makes THE best desserts!

And I'm done with being apologetic about gun play.  It never did my brother any harm ... artistic, thoughtful, peaceful - that is everything I can hope for for my boy!

 Butter WOULD not melt, I swear!

The BEST uncle in the world ...
                                     ...... ever!

 My, haven't we grown!  How did that happen!

I want us to step into new things together.

Gaia and I took part in an Imaginative Movement class together yesterday morning.  The delight on her face and in her squeals as the class began.  She raidated smiles and enthusiastic participation.  We twirled together like leaves and swayed like trees.  We froze our bodies like blots of lightening and slithered like snakes.  There was an adventure and 'popcorn making' and we stretched our wings and flew for the first time like swans to Tchaikovsky's most beautiful of symphonies.  I definitely had just as much fun as she did.  And we were there with our new friends adding kindling to that fire.

Zander is keen to start Karate so my mission is to find a class that we can both go to.  I want to show him commitment, show him enthusiasm, show him I care.  We can learn together, practice together and most importantly BE together. 

What exciting times these are as their interests start to catch alight.

Ten years have gone by somehow since Cliff and I met.  Such a lot has happened.  It is nice to have a history, yet inevitably to balance the good there have been storms we have weathered.  Love is not easy but there has always been that something about him my soul could not do without.  Along the way I have lost sight of weather it is my head or my heart that I follow and I wonder where one stops and the other begins.  Time has blended those boundaries until all that we can be certain of is that we are still together.  Our roots must run deep and strong, like an old and sturdy oak so maybe we really are made from the same clay, who can say.
Though I do not know if Cliff will remember (he rarely does) on firework night I'll remember (as I always do) the fireworks I felt inside ten years ago to that day.  Regardless of where we are right now, what difficulties we have and do face, there is still that something, that undeniable something and as ever I hope one day we will look back together and be glad we pushed on through the resistant gales, finding ourselves in a place of calm, bright sunny stillness.

And of course there are the little things that have warmed my heart this week ...

A bag of beautiful hand me downs for Gaia from our new friends from school.

The garden that doth never stop providing afternoon snacks ...

The kindness and reassurance of the online friends I have

Hearing from others about their powerful journeys back towards mindfulness

The first bowls of porridge of the season

Finding my brain hasn't completely lost it's powers of information retention.

My new book and the laughable fact I now have seven on the go at the moment!

My babies love for one another ...

Seeing Gaia look as small as a baby wrapped in Cliff's big arms ...

Warming my feet by the fire.

New Year Blessings and Light X