The delight of foxes

On January 1st, I did a wonderful mindful walk with my wife Caren. We had stayed the night at a friend’s house in Ladybank for Hogmanay, and as there were no buses back on Jan 1st, took it upon ourselves to have a leisurely, slow walk through the Fife countryside from Ladybank to Falkland, via Kingskettle and Freuchie.

Mindfully walking is an amazing thing, because it concentrates your mind and body to act as one. Rather than thinking about past or future issues in our lives, we focus in the present at our surroundings: the feel of the ground under our feet, the ever changing weather, the sights and sounds of wildlife. We use our awareness of the moment to keep coming back, again and again, when our mind wanders off.

We decided, also, to explore some woods we’d walked many times before, but moving off the track and through the trees, just out of curiosity. In doing this, we had to walk ever slower, stepping over root, lowering under branch, and generally watching our footing.

Portals in the woods…

This slowness made us more quiet, and then, lo and behold! We spotted five deer. Nature wasn’t content to leave us with that; we then heard sounds above, looked up, and spied a red squirrel munching at the top of a tree. Amazing what can be seen when one slows, leaves public paths, and ventures into the land.

We rejoined the main track, heading through woods towards the village of Newton of Falkland. We had stopped to inspect some strange markings on a tree, when Caren grabbed my shoulder and turned me around. She’d heard a noise behind, and then had spotted it first. I turned and before us, thundering down a track just opposite to the one we were standing on, was a fox.

I’ve never seen a fox do such a thing before: it plunged through the undergrowth, not quietly (as I felt foxes did), but with rapturous presence. It stopped briefly just up a slight rise in the path, looked back at us as if to say: ‘Did you see me?’ then plunged into its lair.

An amazing walk, not to mention all the birds we saw, and the ever changing cloud formations on a windy day. This highlights to me that when we take our time to slow down, to just be, to not fill our head with incessant thinking, we begin to see more visually what is happening on the ground. In fact, I’d go as far to say that we’re not sending out brain waves into the landscape; we’re calmer, and so wildlife tends to be less afraid and comes more into view. This is speculation on my part, but in the current state of being I’m in, I’m curious about such matters. Certainly, what we think can manifest into reality. Perhaps by being calmer, we’re influencing the world around us into being more calm.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Honouring the magic

The miracle of each moment; that we are here at all,

Fully conscious elementals of light;

as pure as stars, as hot as suns,

we feel and touch each strand of time,

we follow a journey with purpose,

each seed in us is watered every day,

and we transform:

we become different to our past,

we evolve, rising to the stream of collective thoughts

and dance into our new, effortless wizardry.

As we end 2019, I felt this new poem fitted my current views. It has been an incredible year, full of change and portent for the future. I keep coming back to how the end of the year feels very different to the beginning of it; how things have transformed for me, for others and for our planet.

2020, the start of a new decade, will see all the efforts of humanity continue to tackle climate change and old ‘fear based’ processes, with our consciousness re-awakening to knowledge of what’s going on and how to face these challenges. No longer are we content to sit in the shadows, watching things unfold without action – I firmly believe we are changing as a species, rising up to awaken to all the issues we face on Earth, with continuing movement towards kindness, compassion and insight.

This then, feels like the magic – the blossoming, new energy, this collective view that is starting to pervade everything and everyone. I can feel this change in my body; there’s a moment of pause, before we plunge into something very exciting. I wonder if others feel this way too?

Often the news can give us depressing items, or fuel our fear through the fears of others, but I’m believing our self-reliance and inner wisdom is filtering these stories, unearthing what is really true and what is really helpful for us going forward. There’s always hope, and I feel 2020 will provide us with even more for us to feel hopeful and grateful for.

I am truly glad to be alive, in this ever changing climate, with a degree of excitement to what is in store. Next year will see changes in where I live, what I do and how I continue my practice of mindfulness. I plan to write a lot more, and am hopeful for five book projects to be released. There’s like a build-up of creativity just waiting to be unleashed.

The time to start, as always, is now…

Wishing everyone a peaceful Christmas and a very happy New Year.

Letting things be, the insight of splinters

Splinters…

I received a splinter the other week, which neatly embedded itself in a finger just under the nail. It was quite small, but it pushed deep enough that any amount of trying to extract it with tweezers just couldn’t work; the nail was in the way and I couldn’t quite get a hold of it. So, I did the only thing I could do – I left it.

What happened over the following days was a revelation to me. First, my finger swelled slightly, and went red. Then it appeared that a circle had formed around the splinter. Then this circle went black, then rough to the touch (like dry skin), then this healed away…and there was no splinter.

My body had consumed the splinter, eradicated it, and left me with a lovely healed finger.

Don’t we just force things in life, sometimes? Don’t we try and fix things, especially body illnesses, with buying lots of pills/tablets, or getting expensive therapies done on us, in an effort to ‘be over there nicely healed’ instead of accepting ‘we are currently ill, need rest, and we’ll heal naturally’. The body is miraculous, it truly is. I was astonished when there was no splinter. I suppose it makes sense the body would do this, it heals a cut finger after all with no need for us to think about it.

This, for me, is another mindfulness insight. That just by ‘letting things be as they are’ the universe incites the change anyway. Of course, I was conscious of the splinter, and I think that’s the key: being aware of what’s occurring, that’s when the healing starts.

So, knowing we have a cold, for example, causes us to reconsider, to pause, to rest, or have a hot lemon/ginger drink to help our sore throat. If we ignore it, or fight it, or force it to go away (normally in our thoughts: i.e. ‘I wish I didn’t have this cold’, ‘I’m fed up that I get ill all the time’, ‘My body is rubbish’, ‘I just wish I was better’) this tends to make the thing last all the more. Why? Because we’re getting in the way of the natural healing process.

Moreover, by going into our head like that, we’re triggering the ‘stress response’, the bit of us that goes on fight/flight mode when there’s a threat nearby. Our thoughts are making things like a cold a threat. So our body is on high alert, and diverts the healing energy into keeping us alert, ready to run at a moment’s notice. This slows down the healing.

So, if we’re calm, relaxed, mindful, and letting things be just as they are, we’re not in the ‘stress response’. So our body can do its job of healing the areas it needs to heal. A cold, if welcomed, accepted and given love and friendship, will leave pretty quickly.

So, it all comes down to ‘letting things go’ or ‘letting things be as they are’. If we can accept everything that is thrown our way, with kindness, without thinking it’s a threat to our life, without wishing it away, then it’ll go away once we’ve seen it. Try this with your emotions too. Try it when you get anxious. Don’t fight it. Don’t tell your anxiety to ‘do one’. Breathe with it, accept it, be curious about it, be a friend to it. You’ll find your anxiety leaves you a lot quicker.

My insight is that our thoughts make illnesses worse. Of course, if you’ve got something painful or life-threatening, then getting treatment is recommended/essential! But what I’m saying is that by accepting what is, you might find things begin to heal quicker. At worst, you’ll find you’ll be happier – because you’re not dwelling on the past or wishing for a better future. You are present! You are concentrating on the moment. That is a source of huge happiness for us all.

A year in…how goes it?

Ladybank woods

I’ve been running mindfulness groups, classes and one to ones now for over a year as my main income stream, so felt it was a worthy topic to reflect upon. How has it gone?

People who know me well, know that the practice of mindfulness has transformed my life. In the five or so years since starting this journey, I have changed my personality (who knew that was possible!), become more peaceful and continue to learn, learn, learn. When I think of who I was five years ago, I blink bleary-eyed at that past, wondering in abject awe how things have changed in me and for me. If I’d been able to look into the future back then, I might have practised mindfulness even more diligently! Still, mindfulness is all about letting go, non-judging and coming back to the moment, so in that way, everything has flowed perfectly. I am enough, each and every day.

I’m not an ‘expert’ in mindfulness; what does that even mean? I’m not striving for becoming any more important, or impressive, or anything as it goes – my main aim, and has always been, is to know myself better so I can ease my suffering, and to know others better so I can help ease theirs. Being able to ease my own pain in life has led me to deeper connections with so many people. I’ve learned in this year not to try and force change in people, and accept people as they are. Any forcing on my part was just more learning – I’m also trying to stop ‘preaching’ about mindfulness as this amazing cure for everything in an effort to change other peoples’ views on it. If I preach too much, then I’m judging those who don’t do this practice, and that in itself stops my own mindfulness. Acceptance; letting be, these are the ways. So I continue to work on myself.

Each day is a gift, a new learning, a new approach, a curiosity that needs adventuring. Any sign of ego, the voice in my head that thinks too much, the emotions that come from that kind of thinking, ALL of it goes into the melting pot of conscious learning. What comes out is something I could never have conceived of. This something feels inherently more peaceful. Of course, sometimes I miss the gift, sometimes I still hurt, or have strong feelings about something – but in it goes, into that melting pot. Sometimes it takes a while to come out of the other side in its alchemy. I sometimes want it to be a bit quicker, to ‘get somewhere’, but again, that’s just not the point!

So, how’s the year gone? Incredibly rich, diverse, learning. Insight after insight! More kindness, joy and happiness; more able to stand on my own two feet and just be without too much emotional disturbance. A constant, changing, flowing journey – with no goal other than to survive, to be, to actually enjoy this precious life. In these challenging times of climate change and systems beginning to fall apart, mindfulness is my torch, carrying me onward, to give me permission to have joy when so many people are without it. Joy generates more joy, peace generates more peace. In this way, by changing my own personality, I become a practising ‘peaceful warrior’ to gain wisdom to ‘do the right thing’ for everyone in my world (including myself).

What’s next? Well, a book on mindfulness and some mindfulness practice cards will become props when they’re ready; more groups, courses and one to ones with people, and working with organisations to bring more mindfulness to Fife (and beyond) should it be asked for. I’m even contemplating doing a series of online videos – I might need some help with the technical aspects of this – but it’s all in that melting pot…

Can one person make a difference?

Wooden panel on Fife Coastal Path

I really liked this phrase etched into a wooden panel on Fife’s coastal path (just by Dalgety Bay) following a recent mindful walk there. It made me think of the difference that just one person can do to make a place beautiful.

In mindfulness, we start with ourselves. How can we start anywhere else? Through the practice, I’ve seen clearly what’s been in my mind, what’s made me my own ‘unique blend’ of life, and I see that my life has gone through lots of suffering: I’ve had illnesses, I’ve been mentally depressed, I’ve gone through anxious times, I’ve had relationship break-ups and numerous other human interactions that have wounded me or caused me pain. These, have, over the years, manifested in me as anger, frustration, shyness, nervousness, anxiety, sadness, loneliness…you name it, I’ve had it.

With the wonder that is mindfulness, all of these things are treated without judgment. So, whatever I’ve endured, whatever I’ve done, I can wipe the slate clean and look at how I’m doing right now. In fact, every time I get challenged or feel an emotion, I look at it with the light of mindfulness, bathing each challenge/feeling with loving-kindness for myself. Once I accept these things are part of me, have been part of me, and are continuing to be a part of me, then I start to change.

No longer beating myself up, or judging what comes, I let it be, give it warm affection and it passes (as does everything). In doing so, I transform my mind from a head filled with suffering, hurt, anguish etc. (all related to thoughts and memories from the past that no longer exist except in the mind/body) to simply being with what is happening now. My mind starts to ease its thinking, its patterns, its holding on to the past, its judgments. Freedom starts to coalesce and form. This is truly beautiful, and joy ensues as a result.

Then, because I’m in more a place of joy, a place of stillness and calmness through my mindful practice, I start looking outward, away from just myself, into the situation of other people, events, even the planet.

Yesterday, I saw thousands upon thousand of people, young and old alike, take to the streets to demonstrate about the Climate Emergency we’re all facing, and the whole thing gave me huge hope for the future: that we’re not restricted by our own, internal mind chatter, but that we’re working together as a community to help save ourselves. We are the planet.

So, this echoes for me the path with mindfulness at its core. If we are all joyful, happy humans, letting go of our past suffering, learning from the past to enable peace in the present, then we can have peace in our future. If we were all living in such a way that we took away OUR THINKING of how awful we are, how horrible we are as a species, how corrupt and despicable we all are, but came back to what’s going on now and how we can help solve that, then we will solve it without all the anger, sorrow and blame that we inflict on each other (and especially, ourselves).

And a world without anger, blame and judgment? That is truly, truly beautiful. By making ourselves beautiful, we make the place beautiful too. In this way, one little action we do for ourselves – letting go of an old thought pattern, letting go of blaming someone, letting go of our own internal struggle, is an act of real courage and brings us closer to our real self – a being of love and understanding. That is making a huge difference not only to our own life, but to those in our circles.

Moving house mindfully?

Heavy thoughts about the future?

I’m in a house move process. For the first time in my life, I’ve got mindfulness to help me with such a thing.

It is acutely aware to me of our need to rush, of our need to make sure we have a concrete buyer so we can move quickly, efficiently and with as much ease as possible.

Only, this is often not the reality of it. So, how do we help ourselves in a labelled ‘difficult’ time?

I’d been doing very well, up until the last few days, where I was anticipating a call from someone who had been interested in the house. I became aware of losing my power, of going into my head and repeating phrases like: ‘why haven’t they rang me yet?’, ‘please ring, phone’, ‘sigh – they’re not ringing, they don’t want the house’ etc etc etc. In fact, it became such that my mobile phone became a thing of derision; a thing I didn’t want to keep staring at, but stare at it for long moments, I did. Until my mindfulness kicked in. It took longer than normal to come in, which I found interesting in itself.

However, there we have it – mindfulness: being aware of the present moment without judgment – has saved me once more from all these tenacious thought patterns we find ourselves in. There I was, thinking about an outcome. There I was was, thinking about the future. There I was, with anticipation, expectation and hopes. All of this made me feel on edge, nervous, frustrated, even a bit sad. All. Started. With. Thoughts.

Once I’d realised I was in these thought patterns, it was time to let go of them. It was time to tune back in to what is, where I am right now, which is sitting in the house. I’m not ‘awaiting a phone call’, I’m just sitting. Then I’m reading. Then I’m typing on a computer. Then I’m drinking my tea. That’s it. This simplicity immediately relieved the tension.

From there, curiosity has taken me beyond the need for a quick sale of my house. It does not matter one jot when I move house. I’m still sheltered, I still have food on the table, I still have a place to sleep etc. It matters not which roof I’m under. What matters is I’ve made a conscious decision to move. It’s trusting the universe to make it happen. Trusting means not thinking about the future. It’s all going to be OK, but the when of it, the time (which is just a construct anyway), is irrelevant. When I’m meant to go, that’s what I’m meant to go.

So no amount of worrying, fussing, hoping or even coercing the future from me. As always with mindfulness, we’re tested every day to remember to arrive back at each moment, because these are the moments that are truly real and existing. These are ALL we have.

I’m meant to be where I’m meant to be, and that’s OK.

Be kind, and watch your happiness grow

Are you struggling with life? Do you worry endlessly about things; do you suffer physically and emotionally to the events that happen to you? Are you constantly beating yourself up, blaming yourself and blaming others for your lack of happiness? Are you unhappy, bored, lonely, tired, grouchy, or just generally slogging through life?

Here is your answer.

Be kind to yourself and to others.

That’s it. Only, it’s more than that, of course. But by offering kindness, we are looking outward at others, we are looking outward at the world and our place in it, and it changes our mindset from thinking about ourselves so much (self-thinking:ego) to thinking about easing suffering in others by being kind (non-self-thinking:non-ego). The result is that our ego is lessened, and therefore our worries lessen. We don’t THINK as much about ‘woe is me’, ‘if only I’d done that better’, ‘if only they’d been kind to me’, ‘I can’t believe that person said those things to me’ etc. These types of thoughts are ego mind, they are thoughts based on perceived threats to our well-being. Note the word ‘perceived’ here; many things we think are happening, of what people think of us etc, are mere assumptions and conjecture – not actual truth.

Only, the ‘threat’ situation has happened. It’s gone into the maelstrom of the past. Saying ‘woe is me’ isn’t going to change what’s happened. It’ll only feed our ego mind, make our worries stronger, because we’re thinking about being worried about it.

Change your mindset. Instead of thinking about me, me, me all the time – see if you can ease suffering in others. Can you be kind? Can you offer to help when someone is struggling (for no reward – to help just to help)? Can you let go of your ego-mind when it whines and screams at you that ‘you are not happy’? Can you come back to the present moment in those situations, breathe, smile, and ask yourself: ‘How do I ease suffering in this world’?

Easing suffering can be as simple as breathing with your emotion and not blaming anyone else for it. Easing suffering can be as simple as letting go of beating yourself up for ‘what you said’ and affirming you’re doing your best, and will continue to do your best. Easing suffering in others can be as simple as complimenting them, or deep listening to them – offering your full presence to someone is a gift, an act of kindness. Can you offer someone deep listening? Or are you trying to continually talk about your issues, your life, your problems??

Letting go of the need to talk about your own problems is key to a happy mind. Helping others is the path to selflessness – and that opens the doors to non-judgment, to genuine compassionate energy building up inside of you. People always respond to people who are kind and compassionate. You’ll find, without the need to THINK or TALK about YOU, you’ll get your needs met anyway. Start with being kind. This, as they say, is it.

Of course, it’s easy for me to say ‘let go of your thoughts’. It’s not easy. It’s a practice. It’s a discipline that is needed every single day you think the way you think. You have to try and catch these thoughts, let them go, and come back to the moment. Every. Single. Day. This is why we have the practice of mindfulness. This is why every moment of the day can be seen, if you concentrate on it, with your aware, waking mind, your non-ego mind, your non-thinking mind. Only when you encounter the present moment more and more will you ease your suffering and build joy. It’s an act of kindness in itself to ‘be in the moment’. Being is so much more important than doing. But when you do inevitably ‘do’, do it with kindness. Start with yourself, and work out to others. I guarantee it will change the way you are with the world, and the way the world works with you 🙂

Who makes the tea? A mindful guide.

For many years, when I worked in an office, the lingering question: who makes the tea? caused interesting ripples. Some people didn’t drink much, others drank a lot. Some people were engrossed in their work commitments, or rushing about in meetings/busyness, that at times tea was never made.

In some offices, we had a rota system of who went to make the tea. In others, it was a free-for-all; just go when you need a cuppa and make one for yourself. In another office again, were people who just decided they wanted a cup of tea, and so would ask everyone else if they did also (the response often being affirmative).

At the time, none of these methods seemed satisfactory to me. I certainly drink a lot of tea, so my need for tea (so I thought) was greater than others. The rota system just produced some very grudging, grumpy cups of tea when the person who worked hard didn’t really want to make the tea and did so with mutterings and tuts. The free-for-all option seemed the best for a while, but that caused feelings of guilt, when seeing others working flat out without refreshment, why should I be allowed? This also interrupted the ‘rule’ of ‘going solo’ because other people would eye up the tea, or even interject and ask if I’d make one for them too. The other option, too, was not without its dilemmas. The responses to asking people about tea varied from ‘no’ with a stern look for even being talked to, to people demanding extra things, like more milk, or more sugar. And if there was no milk, the person making the tea had to go out and buy more milk.

Each possible route, then, all caused a bit of tension in each office. Some people, in some situations, NEVER made the tea, and were considered selfish oafs. Others felt they were took advantage of because of their need for tea. Do you see how a simple process of making cups of tea for a group of people can descend into all sorts of problems and thought patterns? Not to mention the emotions: guilt, shame, grief, anger…an unending stream of frustrations of not having tea, of having too much tea, or too little – and rifts extending between work ‘colleagues’.

Life is like this whenever people have a difference of opinion. Dissension and strife: the essence of suffering. Only, now I’m a bit older, I look back and examine that all of these contests of will were all run by the Ego mothership.

Ego – the bit of us that thinks only about ourselves. The thing that tries to separate us from everyone and everything. The thing that says ‘we are right and you are wrong’.

So, we come to the power of mindfulness: the practice of non-judgment, noticing what is occurring in the here and now with our awareness. I decided to adopt this mindful attitude from now on concerning who makes the tea.

So, without judgment, I let go of the ego thoughts about ‘why is it always me who makes the tea’, or ‘why can’t he get up and just do it?!’ or ‘I need a system here so everything is fair and just’. These are all mental formations based on what I believe to be good or bad (more judgments). Mindfulness isn’t like that. It’s not using the past experiences to label the present or affect the future. We don’t label at all. We just see what is going on in the moment. So what is going on in the moment? I’m thirsty. I have a craving for tea. Nobody else seems to be worried, but I don’t know for sure. So I get up and make tea. However, this time, I make tea for everyone. I don’t ask. I go and brew a bit pot of it, and I take what I need, and then I leave the rest on a tray in the office kitchen.

People get to know that I do this, every time I go and make the tea. I’m making the tea. I’m not annoyed that it’s always me that goes and makes the tea, because that’s just my judgmental ego speaking. I’ve let go of that; through constant hours of mindful practice (the practice is still on-going, I might add – that ego comes up quite often). But tea? I’ve cracked it.

Nobody suffers when there is no ego. In the present moment, just making the tea to make the tea, I get my needs met anyway without all this worry about things being ‘unfair’ or ‘unjust’. Moreover, other people who didn’t voice that they wanted tea have the choice to have some, or not. Either way is fine.

Interestingly, after time, people who see that I’m making the tea all the time will rise up and begin making the tea too. There comes a time in every human being where the real connectedness comes through, only sometimes it has to be shown and lit up. So, without my asking, or co-ercing, others start to make the tea. You might say this is a ‘guilt-trip’ for those people, and perhaps for some, it is. However, guilt is as much a lesson in mindfulness as anything else. Why do I feel guilty? Why does the ego make me feel guilty? Because deep down, we are threatened. We feel that if we don’t make the tea we’ll be labelled as ‘selfish’. So we act out this storyline in order to please others and let the spotlight move away from us.

If we can let go of this ego thought mentality, we lose our guilt also. Someone makes the tea. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less.

Imagine a life like that!

I raise my current cup of tea to you all for reading 🙂

Resilience in a modern world

Some people have asked me why I decided to quit my I.T. job and become a mindfulness practitioner. There have been many quizzical looks and eyebrows raised at my choices in life, as if I’m walking a path hidden to most, or just more threatening in some way. I have lost friends and gained new ones, all through the practice of mindfulness. It certainly at times feels like a unique path (though of course it isn’t) that many people shy away from. To have the security of that job, to make sure one’s needs are met, is a perfectly understandable and common trait in our current society.

There is an element of fear in people, that one can’t walk a certain way, or follow a heart’s whim, due to our financial economics. It rules our world, this head-space, this need to be secure, stable – our future to be planned out. It’s like we create a risk assessment for our lives, just wanting that security to live on forever. So, it can be alien and disturbing for people to look at someone like me, who has created a ‘security threat’ in not having a full-time job, in trying to follow one’s passion, and be more free.

There’s also the argument that what I’m doing is ‘selfish’, in that by practicing mindfulness, that might be OK for me, to sit on a cushion and do nothing. How lazy is that, some say! You need to work. Earn a living. You need to contribute. What the heck are you doing, just sitting there, practising your ‘being’, when there’s so much to DO?

Having been trapped in the endless stream of work, the business as usual model that – deep down – I knew wasn’t helping the planet; shredding all of the Earth’s resources so I could maintain my own interest in buying the latest gadget, or have that holiday in the sun; it actually moved me to become more mindful, to start practising the art of being. In so doing, I’m noticing what I do, why I do it, and whether I do it out of conscious choice or just old sub-conscious desire patterns that are built on ‘feeling safe’.

Yes, it’s a challenging path. I’ve chosen to earn less money, to buy less, to be more with less. It’s creating more resilience in me. It’s making me see the ‘desire’ and not give in to it. I can be happy without those cravings. I can be happy right here, right now, if I choose to be.

This then, this change in me, is something that I believe is building my resilience for whatever comes next. Yet here’s the thing. It’s also building my own compassion for everyone else, the plight people are in, the need for security, the need for safety. As a mindfulness practitioner, my need for security is lessened because I’m more and more living in the moment, where I can do something, or not. This way of living doesn’t look to the future for stability, it enjoys the present which then carves a new, more conscious future without me thinking about it. Because I’m living with less fear of the future, I’m more able to look at other people’s lives, and offer kindness and support wherever possible, which, at the heart of mindful practice, lies humanity’s true form: a being of loving-kindness. Mindfulness, in essence then, is selflessness, and being aware of what we do to ourselves, our friends and our planet.

I believe that if we all can harness the capacity for mindfulness in our own lives, we will begin to make the right choices that will save our world. We will notice, decide what’s not important, and ease our own unhappiness. This in turn will lead to happier relationships with everything.

So, people wonder why I left my job(s) in an I.T. background. This then, is my answer. I just want the world to be happy; and I’m starting with myself.

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!