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!

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.

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.