A Buddhist breakdown

Hello again! How are you doing? I hope the world is treating you well on this glorious summer evening.

Life on our square patch is lively at the moment, in a hurry-up-and-wait sorta way. We’re still a bit up in the air with house sale/purchase shenanigans. We’ve had a bit of a plot twist when our seller pulled out…but it’ll all work out fine. Visualise, visualise, visualise. We’ll be in a better place before long, in every sense.

Today I’m going to share a story from a few weeks ago. I was privileged to attend a few days’ sessions by Gen Kelsang Dornying, a Buddhist monk living in Australia who travels and teaches. It was a really profound and humbling time for me and turned a lot of my preconceptions about my mind around. Turned my head on its head, you might say…

After the final teaching had finished, I drove home along a fast-moving busy dual carriageway. My car began to lose power intermittently. Odd, I thought, it hasn’t done that before. Then it lost power completely. A lay-by was in sight and I prayed I’d be able to coast that far. Please, please, just a little further. My little car just made it. Firstly, I was safely off the main carriageway. Secondly, it was much less obvious once I was parked that I was a lone woman with an engine issue. Grateful.

I don’t mind admitting that I would normally expect to have a bit of a wobble about now. I don’t know a lot about cars. My fiance’s car was in the garage so I couldn’t call him out. I could phone the breakdown people and sit for an indeterminate amount of time in the hot sun waiting, hoping nobody ill-intentioned approached me. What did I do? I breathed. I sat and I breathed and I summoned the same feeling I’d had in the meditations and teachings. I opened my eyes, I noticed that the temperature gauge was in the red. I looked in my coolant reservoir (empty). I read the manual, mixed some water and coolant, waited for the engine to cool, filled it up, and…I got home absolutely fine. Not only that, because I was taking my time to avoid overheating, I let three people onto the dual carriageway and told a guy in town that his petrol cap was undone, so my trip basically consisted of people thanking me. I walking into the house giggling.

So what they say is true. A difficulty doesn’t have a problem; just remember to breathe…slow down to avoid overheating. You might even make someone happy along the way.

(It turns out my car had a hole in the hose, by the way. We’re all good now.)

 

Lessons I’ve Learned This Year

I can’t change what is in other people’s heads. I can, however, do quite a lot about what is in mine.

Do not place your expectations on others: to be trustworthy, or to trust you; to be gracious, understanding, tolerant, fair or open-minded. Sometimes, they’re just not.

When people are losing face or favour, they’ll throw anything they can at you. Let them. Grownups don’t make themselves look good by trying to make other people look bad.

Calmness is a superpower.

Hold your centre, keep your balance, listen to your inner voice. Don’t betray yourself. No exceptions.

Do not be a rescuer.

The wheel keeps turning. Sometimes you’re face down in the mud, sometimes you’re bathing in sunlight. Let it turn.

Breathe.

Love is stronger than fear, pain, anger, resentment and despair. Friendship will lift you to the surface when you’ve lost the will to kick. There is nothing more precious than a good heart that believes in you, and a warm hug.

Do not underestimate the power of visualisation.

Never. Lose. Hope.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fallow January and the fruits of Imbolc

Hey! How’s life treating you?

We’re settling into a routine after all the hoo-hah last month with builders and pipes and other unappealing problems, I’m happy to say. In hindsight, I think it was a good time to implement Fallow January.

What’s Fallow January? Exactly what it says on the tin. It’s my decision to have a month off from normal life, from now until forever. I used to be swept up in the New Year, New You, make some resolutions, get cracking, sort out your life kinda talk. Well, it just doesn’t work in the long run (for me anyway) so I’ve decided to take my lead from the trees, this January and every one from now on. Get off the merry-go-round, allow ideas to percolate, wrap up warm, read, drink tea and talk to friends. I still have to go to work and we have all the usual household business to attend to, but the non-essentials? Let them wait. Rest. While I’m at it, I’m cancelling most of December too. With the best will in the world, I always get behind with Christmas and birthday preparations so we might as well be realistic. December is now officially about baking, giftwrap, festive films and sparkle. Excellent. A ten month year has a certain pleasing quality, wouldn’t you say?

The close of Fallow January falls in line with Imbolc. The pagan new year comes in early February, when the sap is rising and we are starting to feel the first surges of light and growth. I think it makes much more sense to start the year as the earth wakes. We had a beautiful little celebration; candles and evergreens, salt and incense, water and written intentions that we planted in the garden. And so the next cycle begins, and I feel clear-headed and ready for it. Plans are afoot. Let’s get to work. Starting with a new wardrobe for these guys…

 

Wicksteed Park Punch And Judy Puppets

 

…because I’ve started volunteering at Wicksteed Park, where it’s not just about litter picking and directing traffic. Oh, no. There’s a world of adventures there for my creative development, in a land full of trees (which I truly love) and a programme to develop local and traditional craft skills (which I truly love). Watch this space! It’s going to be a fascinating year!

 

 

 

 

 

Seedheads, swimming and chilling.

 

Hello good people! How’s your week going? I start a new term of art classes today. I am SO looking forward to it. There’s talk of seed heads, and later on a Victorian theme. Eeeeee. I don’t even know what a Victorian theme looks like…but I’m jumping in with both feet and a grin on my face. I love art class. It wakes up the excited kid in me.

 

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On the other end of the scale, Wunderlist has been broken since yesterday. This is very, very bad news. I may have to go back to a notebook. At least that usually gets returned to you if you write your name and phone number in it…

Today I thought I’d share some of my discoveries at swimming classes. (Paul and I signed up for adult improvers’ lessons because I want to extend my range of strokes and he “swims like a brick”.) For instance, no other activity is transferable to the pool, which is why I get so tired out, but everything achieved in the pool is transferable to other activities: fitness, breath capacity, stamina and co-ordination. I find that weird trade-off quite fascinating. Not fair, but fascinating.

Also, the more relaxed I become, and the more fluidly and confidently I am able to turn my body in the water to take a stroke or a breath, the easier it all becomes. And the easier it is, the more enjoyment I get, and the further I can go. Isn’t this like life? When we’re confident and flexible and unafraid to move forward freely, doors fly open to us. People are drawn to us and our relationships become  positive and energised. We are less stuck. We make things happen. It’s all about trust.

Finally, my teacher’s words, that have been bouncing around in my head for a couple of weeks:

“If you find you’re getting tired, you’re not breathing out enough.”

It’s top advice. Exhale!

Make it a beautiful day. Walk in peace.

 

Learning to swim (again)

Good sunny Sunday evening! How’s your weekend been so far?

We had a wonderful day of choosing fabric for various upcoming projects in Leicester yesterday. I love our little pilgrimages. Most of our haul came from Stuart’s Fabrics on the market (he’s still there! He’s still talking about retirement but I’m delighted to say he’s still there…that makes 24 years of buying from him…eek). We spent so long on his stall, we were too late for pizza at the Criterion. Next time. I was so tired when we got home, I went to lie down for twenty minutes and woke up six hours later. Just in time for bed. So I went to bed. I’m putting it down to a very warm day, a sleepless week, and a lot of walking and decision-making. Or maybe I’m just getting old 🙂

Today was just as exciting in a totally different way. I’ve been swimming for donkeys years, but I can’t do the face-in-the-drink stuff well. You know, where you can move through the water and breathe. Until now it’s been one or the other…not both.

So a month ago I bit the bullet and bought us some grown-ups’ lessons. I’ll be honest, I was a tiny bit scared. What if we had a class full of accomplished people and couldn’t manage? What if the horrible (fifty year old) kid dunked me? What if, what if.

I needn’t have worried. We had a lovely, funny, very able teacher who set us exercises to build our confidence and it was fun. Properly fun. The time flew by and I can’t wait for our next lesson. I’m kicking myself for waiting so long to do this. I can actually imagine doing front crawl without drowning before the year’s out.

So the moral of the story is…want it more than you are afraid of it. Whatever it is.

Have a wonderful evening!

Make no. 22: Winter birch watercolour

Well, this is a bit of a weird one to post when it’s 30 degrees outside, but never mind!

A couple of months ago our art teacher charged us with the task of reproducing a landscape picture in watercolour, using only three colours to mix from. She’s mean. And awesome. I can see where she was asking us to put our focus: framing a part of a picture, accuracy in perspective, the effect of distance and of course the concoction of our own hues, saturations and values in finding the right colours (which needn’t be those in the photograph).

 

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I had the sky and background shore completed in class, but it took me weeks to pluck up the courage to tackle the water, trees and foreground. Still, paper doesn’t go off, does it. There are a lot of things I’d do differently next time, but I’m happy I finished it.

As Thich Naht Hahn says, there can be no learning without mistakes.

Have a lovely day, however you are spending it.

20 Beliefs That I Took To Aikido (and killed with aikido)

I am weaker because I am smaller.

I don’t have much patience or perseverance.

I will never be really good at a martial art.

People will think I’m stupid if I keep getting things wrong.

At some point I am bound to be laughed at and feel humiliated.

Training in a male-dominated environment is scary.

Making mistakes is not enjoyable.

I’ll never cope without some previous experience.

A negative experience in class will set me back.

My feelings of inadequacy are a part of me.

I’ll have to do weeks of research to understand what’s being taught.

Being in the spotlight is embarrassing and uncomfortable.

I’m likely to get hurt.

I will never be part of “the gang”.

I should understand instructions immediately.

I don’t have any special abilities.

I will never have the “breakthrough moment” that people talk about.

Martial arts won’t affect the rest of my life.

I will never learn this complicated, subtle art.

I cannot change my mind.

As it turns out, every single one of these thoughts that have crossed my mind at some stage is a LIE.

Does your head lie to you?