Inverkeithing to Aberdour Mindful Walk, Sun 25th Aug 1pm-4pm

A mindful walk, meeting at Inverkeithing Train Station, to Aberdour along the Fife Coastal Path. We’ll take our time, enjoying the views across the Firth of Forth to Edinburgh and the Forth Bridges, looking out for seals and wildlife along the route. We’ll take a stop at St Brigit’s Kirk (pictured), to sit for a while and soak up the atmosphere, before continuing on to Aberdour where we’ll stop for refreshments along the High St. To return, there are buses or trains to Inverkeithing. Distance is approx 6 miles. Cost is £10 per person. If you’d like to book on this walk, please contact Craig Gilbert via text: 07846 399594, e-mail: info@craig-gilbert.com or direct message this page. Thank you, Craig

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 🙂

Coastal walk from Leven beach to Lundin Links: Sun July 14th, 1pm-3pm.

Starting opposite the bus station in Leven, we’ll take a mindful walk along Leven Beach towards Lundin Links, with optional visit to the standing stones on the Lady’s golf course at Lundin Links. We will finish at a cafe for refreshments. From there, there’s a bus option to return to Leven or a walk back. Approx 2 miles (4 miles if walking back). Cost £10 per person. If you’d like to book on this event, please contact Craig Gilbert via text on 07846 399594, e-mail: info@craig-gilbert.com or private message on this page.

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 🙂

Falkland Summer Walk – 30th June 10am-1pm

A mindful walk starting from Pillars of Hercules organic cafe, through the magical Falkland Estate up to the Tyndall Bruce monument and the Temple of Decision. We will have just past the Summer Solstice, so this is a time of celebration and renewal of our energy at the mid point through the year. Everything is in full abundance, so we will delight in looking at the trees and wildlife in full swing as we walk up to the monument, with stunning views across the Howe of Fife. We’ll then proceed to the Temple of Decision, for a period of quiet reflection, before returning once more to the cafe for refreshments. Approx time 3 hours. Cost is £10 per person. Please book via this page, or text 07846 399594, or e-mail info@craig-gilbert.com

Burntisland to Aberdour coastal path walk: Saturday 8th June 1pm-3pm

A slow meander along the Burntisland to Aberdour coastal path. We’ll take our time, enjoying the moment and the sights, looking at wildlife and stopping to view the sea, before finishing in Aberdour Silver Sands cafe for refreshments. There will then be an option to walk back, or get the number 7 bus back to Burntisland from Aberdour High St. Cost £10 per person. If interested in attending, please contact Craig via this page, text: 07846 399594 or e-mail info@craig-gilbert.com to book your place.

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.

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!