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Showing posts from March, 2012

Children can be our greatest teachers

It never ceases to amaze me how much I learn about myself from my children. They are, in so many ways, among my greatest teachers. They have pushed buttons I never knew I had and have extended the limits of my patience; they have re-opened my eyes to life’s ordinary wonders, and awoken within me something I never really believed existed: unconditional love.
I was awoken from my mostly selfish sleepwalk through life first by my (now) stepdaughter – and our first magical outing together to Great Yarmouth. We spent the day exploring the seafront and our relationship as potential (step)father and daughter. I felt hugely privileged to have that opportunity and still do. Watching her grow from a timid young girl, through confused and troubled teenager to kind and confident young woman has been one of the great periods in my life.
The next wake-up call was the birth of my son. I remember melting as I held him in my arms and he spoke his first words (or what sounded like words - in a foreign…

Let nature put a spring in your step

Our garden has come alive in the last week or two and in recent days it has felt like the earth has emerged from her winter sleep. Mythologically speaking, Persephone (daughter of sky god Zeus and Demeter, goddess of agricultural fertility) has returned from the cold underworld and all of nature is celebrating.
Daffodils have been blooming for a couple of weeks now, their golden trumpets heralding the spring, young buds are unfurling on some of the trees, and birds are swooping and diving, and rummaging among last autumn’s fallen leaves. The garden is buzzing with activity.
One weekend, my son and I went exploring and we discovered tiny ladybirds, a primrose basking in the afternoon sun, a queen bee replenishing her energy after emerging from hibernation, magnolia flowers breaking out of their confinement, and starbursts of red flowers peeping out on the cobnut tree. My appreciation of spring has been helped, I think, by our gentle bike rides down quiet country lanes.
Tuesday’s sprin…

Re-balancing ourselves on life’s roundabout

Have you ever spun round and round, arms out-stretched, like a spinning top, or whizzed round on a roundabout – then tried to walk in a straight line? It’s a wonderfully wibbly-wobbly experience – the world seems to keep spinning around us, even though we’ve stopped. And in the confusion we flounder around, maybe bump into things and probably end up collapsed on the floor – possibly crumpled up in tears of laughter. It’s great fun as a game.
The problem comes when everyday life is like that, whirling from one thing to another, our thoughts and emotions confused and out of kilter. We bump into people’s feelings with clumsily-spoken words, crash through their aspirations and shatter our dreams, ending up in a crumpled heap – but the tears may not come from laughter.
We have just celebrated the spring equinox – when day and night are equal: a perfect opportunity to stop for a moment, take a deep breath, and re-balance our lives. Making the time to do this is, I believe, becoming even mo…

Let’s celebrate all the mothers in our lives

There is to me no doubt that mothers – good, bad, indifferent, absent, or surrogate – play a vital and life-shaping role in the physical and emotional development of us all. 
To a baby, of course, mothers are little short of goddesses. It is primarily, though not solely, through mothers that children learn how to love (or how not to love, if their mothers have yet to heal wounds they suffered in their own childhood and lash out in pain).
When we are younger, we all need a mother figure – someone to look up to, learn from, and maybe even run to when we’re hurt or need someone to talk to. That is perhaps the greatest gift a mother can offer a child: a safe space to be, to grow, to open their hearts.
I am eternally grateful to my mother, and my appreciation has only increased as I have aged – and become a parent myself. Among my many fond memories is coming home from school, sitting down with her with a cup of tea and a wedge of cake fresh from the oven... and talking. I probably did most o…

It’s so much easier to see at night

I’ve always loved the night: it leaves so much to the imagination. It’s like a blank canvas, or a dot-to-dot where we can draw our own patterns. The stars, in a sense, can tell us something about ourselves and where we are heading – by the patterns of hopes and dreams we weave into the night sky, our minds free from the colourful distractions of busy days.
As a boy I used to disappear over the fields with my dog for hours, feeling the drumbeat of my feet on the earth and bathing in the glow of the moon beneath god-like stars. The senses are keener at night, the earthy smells richer. During the day, we can see only to the limits of the earth’s atmosphere; on a clear night, it feels like we can see into eternity – gazing back in time at stars whose light has taken so long to reach us that they may no longer even exist.
I remember fondly when my father first showed me the patterns others had made in the night sky: the Great Bear, Cassiopeia and Orion (the easy ones for a first-timer). Ev…

There’s far more to us than meets the eye

I’d like to share with you a game I picked up on my journeys: Find the Mind. If you already know it, I hope you find the reminder beneficial.
Simply ask yourself the following questions and look for the answer. But don’t just settle for what first comes to mind, keep asking: Who am I? Where is that person I think I am?
Our bodies are changing all the time, second by second. There is always some digestive, respiratory or circulatory process going on, nutrients being absorbed and excreted, in-breaths, out-breaths, hair growing, muscles tensing and relaxing – and our minds are in constant motion. You just have to sit quietly to discover the mind is soon populated with thoughts flying around. It’s not that they suddenly appear – they are there all the time; it’s just that in our everyday lives we tend, through habit or conditioning, to cling to certain thoughts and feelings and let others pass by unnoticed.
We are not so much ‘human beings’ but rather ‘human becomings’, constantly evolv…

The world does not need saints

“My country is the world, and my religion is to do good.”
These words by the Norfolk-born political writer Thomas Paine are as relevant today, I believe, as they were when written more than 200 years ago.
It has long been a source of sadness for me that “do-gooder” exists as a term of derision – and I fear it puts otherwise well-meaning people off doing good (such as the “do-gooder” who wants to clear snow from outside her home but fears being criticised for it, or the teacher who wants to put a reassuring arm round a distraught pupil but fears for his job).
We need brave people whose ability to care is set free from the straitjacket of personal, corporate, religious, political or national concerns, and embraces all of humanity.
We seem to have a mixed relationship with doing good: if an action is well-meant, but fails, the “do-gooder” is vilified; if it turns out well, they are heroes. The result is that too many people, who do not see themselves as heroes, do nothing for fear of being …