In search of red squirrels – Ladybank woods walk – Sun 26th May 2019 11am-1pm

A mindful walk through Heatherhall Woods by Ladybank in search of the elusive red squirrels! We’ll meet at the southern end of the woods, and walk through the woodland quietly and patiently, looking for squirrels and birds. We’ll then return to the car park, with an optional visit to a nearby cafe for refreshments to discuss our findings. Cost is £10 per person. Event will last approx 2 hours (though longer if we go for refreshments), and run at 11am – 1pm. To book, please message Craig on this page, text 07846 399594 or e-mail: info@craig-gilbert.com. Thank you.

Kinghorn Labyrinth Troll Walk – Saturday May 4th, 1pm-3pm

Join us on World Labyrinth Day to enjoy a mindful walk around the Life Labyrinth at Kinghorn Loch’s Earthship Centre, before walking through the glorious woodland to reach the Troll bridge. We will give the troll our problems and issues in life and ‘let go’ of our thoughts to reach the present moment, and then proceed up to an old ruin at the top of the troll path. We will then finish by returning to the Barn at the Loch cafe for refreshments. 2 hour event, from 1pm-3pm. Cost is £10 per person. Please let me know if you want to book, either by text: 07846 399594, or e-mail: info@craig-gilbert.com.

The troll under the bridge

Perspectives of unseen paths

The Bonnet Stane, near Falkland

As part of my ScotWays volunteering duties, I walk areas of Fife monitoring rights of way; checking if they’re still passable and doing spots of maintenance here and there.

A few years back, I had visited a route to ensure we had it mapped correctly: it was one of the many routes in the Lomond Hills Regional Park. I decided to retrace my steps, only this time in reverse, as I wanted to see the path from a different perspective. Sometimes it’s a good thing to walk routes both ways.

The route began this time for me at the Pillars of Hercules organic cafe (as do most walks in and around the Falkland area!) and then proceeding along the road towards Drumdreel Wood (just adjacent to Strathmiglo). From here, I wanted to reach the rock formation known as The Bonnet Stane via a new method, following fields at the feet of the Lomond Hills, with the immense slopes of rock to my left. I thought this time, in reverse, the route to the Bonnet Stane would start off nice and easy, as I would be traversing a flatter, simpler route.

After a fascinating time walking between large chunks of fallen stones (one was twice as tall as me and three times as wide!) and discovery of a multitude of bones (I can only imagine why, perhaps this was a buzzard feeding ground), I realised that walking in from this way was neither flat nor simple – in fact I felt like I was walking in the distant past, with nobody around, only the calls of buzzards flying above and the desolation of scattered bones and rocks for company.

However, it was all worthwhile, as I came across a small reservoir, and beyond that, the Bonnet Stane. It sits upon a group of rocks made out of calciferous sandstone, and was made over thousands of years by natural weathering in its exposed position. There is also a cave here, called Maiden’s Bower. The interpretation panel here tells of a story of a young maiden who fell in love with a rival family’s son. On one day, he came to meet her at the cave, and was ambushed by her father’s men and killed. She refused to go home, and spent the remainder of her life in the cave, becoming a locally known saint in the process.

Saying goodbye to the area, I climbed the slope behind and then walked an uphill route towards the ridge between East and West Lomond. I then carried on towards East Lomond, but instead of reaching the hill, turned left and made my way through woodland paths to reach The temple of decision, which bears the inscription ‘Perspective is the temple of decision’. This had been built for Falkland Estate back in 1849, now in ruins, and yet still serves a wonderful view across the landscape to Falkland and beyond.

I then walked to the Tyndall Bruce monument, another feature on the Lomond Hills. From here, having been struck with the synchronicity of walking my route from a different perspective, and then seeing this reflected back at me via the inscription at the temple; I decided to walk down directly behind the Tyndall Bruce monument and onto new paths I’ve never used before. The last part of my walk was truly magical, following unseen paths and finding interesting places to sit, with the sunshine piercing through the trees down on me, before reuniting with familiar ground later on.

The walk made me wonder how many of us just tread our paths in the same way, following marked routes, without seeing the other paths nearby.  The ones that are more hidden can be just as rich in scenery and even more enticing. I certainly had an adventure, and discovered way more than I had set out to, which for me, is the beauty and wonder of living in such an amazing country. I shall return, and always with a view to walk from a different perspective!

A day of mindfulness – 7th April, 9am-5pm

Come and join us for a restful day of mindfulness in the lovely setting of Old Lathrisk house, near Newton of Falkland.

Driveway to Old Lathrisk

The day will run for 7 hours, and we’ll aim to be as mindful as we can in that time, beginning at 9am and finishing at 5pm.

Programme:
9am – Mindful Meditation
10am – Mindful Tea Ceremony
11am-2pm – Mindful Walk and Lunch
3pm – Mindful sitting/journalling
4pm – Mindful sharing

Please bring a packed lunch with you. Tea/coffee will be served at the mindful tea ceremony and also there will be home baking on offer, and again at the mindful sharing.

For further information and/or to book, please contact Craig Gilbert either by private message here at Zen Life Fife, or e-mail: info@craig-gilbert.com, or text mobile: 07846 399594.

Cost for the day is £40 per person.

Mindful Walk at Newburgh 24th March 11am-1pm

A gentle mindful walk along the coastal path at Newburgh, before heading back to the high street for cafe refreshment. Duration is 2 hours, and costs £10 per person. Craig will guide you through some simple mindfulness practices to get to the present moment to fully immerse ourselves in the walk. We’ll also keep an eye out for Bearded Tits in the rushes along the coastline (one of the only places in Scotland to potentially see these). If you’re interested in attending, please private message Craig on the contact page, text 07846 399594 or e-mail info@craig-gilbert.com to book.

Being vulnerable is OK…

I’m realising, as I reach my 46th year, that showing one’s vulnerability is OK. In fact, I think it’s necessary!

Having had a lifetime of being told what to do by others, (‘oh you mustn’t cry’, ‘be a man’ etc.) I finally observe that all of this diatribe aimed at what I can and can’t do has had a profound influence on my health, my mind and my conditioning. It has made me who I am. Initially, it made me a depressed, anxious human being. I had in the past even been suicidal, not seeing beyond my disturbed thoughts at that time.

It’s only in recent years, through the practice of mindfulness, that I’m beginning to tease these edges and understand my old subconscious patterns, and choosing to let go of them.

I now have gratitude (rather than grudges) for all the paths I’ve trod to reach here. All the people, jobs, events and influences in my life have pushed me onto the thread of mindfulness, which is now my true lifeline in this life. It’s a rope to safety, a cord that I hang on to whenever I can. With the ever increasing ‘threats’ of our world’s sustainability, politics, environment and fear-mongering among media, it has kept me sane and kept me from becoming angry at the state of the world.

I’m currently taking part in a workshop called ‘Active Hope’, which looks at the ‘crazy’ of the world and how we can deal with it as a species. It has three stories of this world: the business as usual model, the great unravelling, and the great turning. Business as usual is more of the same: more money, more profit, more work, more doing, doing, doing and not caring where are resources come from. This is no longer sustainable. We are already seeing much of the great unravelling, the breakdown in society and the fear that we’re all living in…the threat of climate change and war always prominent: just how do we cope? Then there’s the great turning, something organisations and people are doing already, a way forward, even if it’s just buying local food or watching where our fuel comes from, or using less plastic packaging.

The trick with the great turning is to start talking about this vulnerable world, and that includes our own fears and despairs. Only when we see our pain can we honour it and do something different. Only when we share our vulnerability can we learn compassion for others. This is the essence of mindfulness, and I believe in it so strongly I’m writing a book about it. I believe so strongly that I’m writing this blog to let you all know that there have been times I’ve NOT had it together.

By looking clearly at ourselves, and all our anguish, only then will an insight come to show us the way. I’m taking great steps to let go of watching the news, consuming that which I believe to be the ‘right’ thing to consume, and working on myself so I can become more resilient in the years ahead. If I can work with my own vulnerabilities and anxieties, then I am well served as one of the members of ‘the great turning’. We can all do this, if we choose to look and practice on ourselves.

I have been transformed by the practices I’m now doing, and I’m being much more hopeful and active – in fact, I’m enjoying life! I have more self-compassion and kindness for myself, and I have eternal thanks for everyone who’s supported me (which includes you, as you’re reading this).

So, yes, I’ve been vulnerable. I’m still vulnerable at times, but I smile and know that I can get through it, and I know I can trust in each moment to unfold as it should. I know this suffering has provided me the compassion to see the pain in others, and to be able to offer kindness when I can.

So, keep smiling, keep breathing, and let’s work together to make this world, our home, be at peace.

Mindful Walk – Kirkcaldy to Kinghorn Coastal Path – Sunday 24th February 2019

Our first mindful walk of 2019. Starting from Seafield beach car park (behind Morrisons), we will walk along the coastal path, past Seafield tower and along to Kinghorn. From Kinghorn there will be an option to either return the same way back to your car, or getting a bus. Craig will guide you to be mindful of your surroundings and to just being. The walk is approx 2 miles long (4 miles if returning by foot), and will last approx 2 hours. Cost is £10 per person. If you would like to book on this event, please contact Craig directly, either through a private message to this page, e-mail: info@craig-gilbert.com or text mobile: 07846 399594.

Runs from 1pm – 3pm on Sunday 24th February 2019.

Seafield Tower, Kirkcaldy

An hour of concentrated mindfulness

Lines on Kirkcaldy beach
Lines on Kirkcaldy Beach

This week I took it upon myself to do a solid hour of mindful walking along Kirkcaldy Esplanade.

A mile long, normally the walk takes about 15 minutes. I made a point of taking a whole hour. I decided to really focus on the movement of my walking, noticing every time I lifted my foot and placing it back on the ground. I walked slowly, feeling the movement of my body’s muscles as each part of my foot connected with the ground – slightly leaning forward at toe, slightly leaning back at heel. I visualised my muscles and tendons of my legs moving as I walked, imagining them getting stronger, fitter, healthier with each step.

Every so often I would stop, and gaze across at the sea, watching the waves hitting the beach, white froth moving along the edge of the sand. I listened to the seabirds, and watched the seagulls swooping. I felt the wind on my face.

As it was dusk, and descending into night at the time I walked, I began to notice the stars appearing in the evening sky. Across the water, lights shone from the coastline opposite, and twinkling lights of boats and lighthouses became clear. I also spotted the lights of planes crossing over to Edinburgh airport in the distance.

Every time my mind wandered to another topic, or thought, or ‘thing to do’, I brought it back to my breath, concentrating on that, breathing in and out as I walked, coming back to the Esplanade – to the here and now.

A full hour of mindfulness does not need to be sitting on a cushion doing meditation. After the hour I felt refreshed, nourished, and fitter. My mind felt calmer. I had arrived, back once again with my body, in the present moment.

The walk gave me an idea to run events on an ‘hour of concentrated mindfulness’. It’s good practice, and will form part of a series of ‘deepening’ events this year.

In the right circles

This has been a year in three distinct parts for me.

The right circles

The first part, up until May, was business as usual – going to work, paying the bills, practicing mindfulness and running my groups part-time, yet from a visit to the Isle of Bute in May I received a message saying I just had to let go of this routine and become a full-time mindfulness practitioner. I also needed to regroup on my writing projects and change my approach, which was haphazard at best and not regular enough for the creativity spark that runs through me. However, “not regular enough” was obviously a story-line (see later).

The period from June to August was making this transition happen: handing in my notice, striving to write every Monday to continue my book projects and devising my plans to be able to survive through being self-employed. I realised by the end of August that the universe had provided some surprising means for me to be able to survive and seemed to guide me through. My heart’s intentions had been seen and honoured. I am filled with gratitude for all the ways things have happened.

September to December has been a curious state of affairs – seeing how “the plan” has played out, and again I’ve come to another insight: striving does not work (or only in part)!

My future plans had to change, something that has occurred more “in the moment” than on paper and in response to differing circumstances from month to month. I smile from this lesson, because one of the mindfulness attitudes is all about “non-striving”, not trying to force change by ‘needing to be over there in the future’, but by doing what is in front of me in the present. Once I harnessed my energy into focusing on the here and now, I realised I could cope with what came up, and often new ways came clear that I couldn’t have planned or foreseen. The future basically takes care of itself. Taking the pedal off slightly; removing that ‘need’ for change, actually created all the change I wanted anyway.

So, I end 2018 in a kind of blissed out awareness of the present moment, more and more as I dip into it through mindfulness, and always try to “deal with what’s going on now”. I am treading in the right circles! I have had plenty of eureka moments and ideas for deepening mindful practices next year, which I’ve jotted down: yet all of these will happen naturally when the time is ready for them. Also, with writing, I write more when I’m in the mood, rather than forcing it out every Monday. This approach is working well and I’m writing more regardless of that former rigidity. It is interesting to me that this approach had failed to work before (as mentioned at the start of this blog), but I believe my thoughts got in the way (thoughts lead to procrastination after all). Just write to write, I keep saying to myself. Enjoy the art of writing. What comes up, well, is what comes up!

I wish everyone a happy Christmas and peaceful New Year. I’ll see you soon.

Space to breathe

20181108_110543Everyone needs a space to breathe. My place is very simple; just a couple of large cushions, resting on a storage heater, with a frame above and a piece of fabric to the left.  It doesn’t need to be ostentatious. I’m only breathing, after all.

But, aren’t we breathing all the time? Yes, we are, but are we focusing on it? Are we giving ourselves that space, that permission, to just sit and focus on our breath? Even just a few minutes of doing this can be calming. We begin to notice our difficulty in doing nothing, or rather, just being – just breathing, and knowing we’re breathing.

We want to be anywhere but in the breathing space. We fidget, we sigh, we get bored, we want action…and yet, that’s the point. By practicing on the breathing like this, we begin to expand our calm self, our calm mind, and thus our body becomes calmer. We can sit for longer periods, even begin to enjoy the sitting, with nothing else to do but to breathe.

The benefits of this are forever reaching, and I’ve still not tapped into the huge mystery of it. I’ve barely scratched the surface. I’m noticing my thoughts, distracting myself from my breath. I’m noticing aches and pains in my body, or emotions and feelings coming up that are lurking inside, somewhere. I’m just accepting all of these, not getting rid of them, just observing them in my awareness, and then I’m gently coming back to my breathing.

The longer I do this, the more I sink into a deeper sense of being. This is invaluable training for when I’m out and about in real life; I begin to notice my thoughts, my emotions, my feelings and my body in a much more tuned in way. So, when I notice an irritation, I can relax into it there and then, in the moment, by just returning to my breath. This is the practice.

I’m now using my breathing space to sit, especially when I feel something – like anxiety, or sadness, or something that’s not comfortable in my life, and I breathe with the emotion. I accept I’ve got it, I welcome it in, and I breathe. I breathe without trying to breathe deeply, or change my breath in any way, I just focus on the breath. That’s it.

What I’ve discovered is a wealth of calmness, a huge bottomless pit of serenity, a deep well of peace that can be brought forth whenever life decides to throw a curve ball at me.

Welcome to mindfulness.  Welcome to your breathing space.

I think we all need a breathing space.  Just setting aside a few minutes, to interrupt the flow of the rush of the day, the constant stream of thoughts, of doing this and doing that. Just be. Just breathe. I find as a result I’m a lot calmer, able to react better, and more consciously, than before. The breathing space is particularly useful when we’re judging all the time, blaming something (or someone) for our troubles. Let go of the judgment, focus on the breath. This continued practice always brings the solution to all my problems, and most of the time, I find the problems are made up in my head from past experiences anyway.

So, try it, see what you think (literally). You might be surprised at what concentrating on your breath can do for you.