Sunday, 25 September 2016

Begin just exactly where you are

The present moment is the only moment available to us, 
and it is the door to all moments. 
~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Teaching mindfulness always gives me more than it takes.  Whilst I may fret about the preparation of a class or workshop, once it's under way, the rewards are mine for the taking.  

Practising alongside others is always a pleasure, and never more so than when I find myself guiding a group, some of whom may be meeting the practice for the first time.  

Yesterday's workshop was no exception.  A group of us gathered and got onto mats with blocks and bolsters (and, in some cases, chairs) and practised mindfulness together - first sitting, then walking, before doing some more mindful movement in the form of long held yin yoga poses, concluding our two hours together with a seated reflection.  

Whilst a few faces were familiar, many of us were meeting for the first time.  Curiosity and open mindedness were our friends as we met one another and the formal practice.  Here, the beginner has a distinct advantage, unencumbered by the handicaps of previous association, and expectation led comparison.  

As I found my way round a venue I had not taught in before, the group settled into the practice and claimed the space as their own.  I am looking forward to welcoming some of them, and others, back on 22 October.  

Mindfulness is the observing of things as they are, 
without laying any of our projections or expectations onto what is happening.
~ Frank Jude Boccio

For more information about forthcoming workshops please visit my website

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Goodbye, dear friend

I suspect it might well be the first and last time that Lady Gaga will be played at the crematorium.  Charlotte's funeral was always going to be a memorable occasion.  I will never forget our final goodbye, close to the river that she loved so much, and accompanied by 'Bad Romance' played, we all agreed, at an appropriate volume and, pleasingly, in its entirety.   

Remember me when I am gone away,

Gone far away into the silent land;

When you can no more hold me by the hand,

Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.

Remember me when no more day by day

You tell me of our future that you plann'd:

Only remember me; you understand

It will be late to counsel then or pray.

Yet if you should forget me for a while

And afterwards remember, do not grieve:

For if the darkness and corruption leave

A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,

Better by far you should forget and smile

Than that you should remember and be sad.

~ Christina Rossetti

Friday, 2 September 2016

Swimming through life and beyond it

And so, she is gone.  We have said goodbye to one another in this life.  Sitting beside her in hospital with lines trailing from both her hands, I realised that all that needed to be said had been said.  

Death gives clarity to life.  Suddenly all is so wonderfully clear.  Meaning, purpose and passion are everything.

Charlotte has always shown me what it is that really matters.  These are the lessons I get to keep for life:  Do what matters.  Every day.  Forget everything else.

Life's too short to rush through it.  Pause awhile to stand in the awe of its beauty and get to know those spirits who make the world a beautiful place.

I have had the great privilege of getting to know one such woman.

Hours after she passed away, swimming came naturally.  Her effortless grace got me to the poolside far earlier that morning than normal.  The water was peaceful and calm.  Those within it, perhaps less so.  Those who get there en route to work are mostly there on a mission.  My own was to enjoy my swim and feel the camaraderie.  

There is no need to be alone.  Though I would probably recognise only a handful of those I was surrounded by, I drew comfort from being amongst my own as life does what life does:  continue to unfold in all its strangeness, and all its wonder.

Charlotte's spirit shall continue to give me strength, and inspiration.  I have so much to tap into.  I feel so humbled by the grace with which she lived and am dedicated to honouring her and our precious friendship as best I can.  

A life lived well.  A life filled with love.  A life full of laughter.  A life full of fun.  A life lived to the last.  

Charlotte Easton  2 Dec 79 - 1 Sept 16

Monday, 18 July 2016

Pausing in the sunshine

And so, chemo is over.  My best friend's diary has been chocker...  Line cleans, blood tests, scans and 18 weekly doses of the gruelling treatment itself.  Summer seems at last to have arrived and with it, we hope, some time, peace and space.

She is, we acknowledged over a rather yummy luncheon served to us beneath the beautiful canopy of creepers and climbers at Petersham Nurseries, an inspiration.

A small group of us gathered to celebrate her forthcoming marriage.  The sun's rays joined the warmth we all have for this very special woman.  Warmth and, in my case at least, pride.

It is the greatest privilege to call this woman my best friend.  She continues to epitomise my understanding of grace.  Our bodies are fragile things.  Our minds are frailer still.  In her composure and wisdom, she possesses an outlook I can only aspire to adopt.  From you, dear Charlotte, I learn and I learn and I learn.  

The only person who is educated is the one who has learned 
how to learn and how to change.  
Carl Rogers


Friday, 1 July 2016

Disturbing the peace? Not mine.

This time of year brings everyone together.  And we congregate at the Pool.  Some of us lie outstretched, towels upon concrete, others dip toes into the water whilst sipping something cool (soft drinks only, though) whilst others of us do what we do all year-round.

Summer swimming is both a pleasure and a privilege.  But it involves the recruitment of some different qualities to those practised in the cold, dark winter months:  as the weather gets warmer tolerance and equanimity are the order of the day.

It came up in conversation earlier today and she was of course right:  there is space for everybody.  Plenty, in fact. Yet, somewhere between June and July, something changes; suddenly it somehow feel like it comes at a premium. 

Letting go of expectations and taking an open mind with me into the water is always helpful.  I'm not there to prove anything.  I'm just getting on with it, and getting another swim in.  I tend to get down there 3 or 4 times a week and, as I'm not likely to be going anywhere too far away any time soon, there really is no pressure for any one swim to count for anything. 

Swimming is, for me, not just a form of exercise.  It is an important component in my self-care and maintenance.  It is capable of changing how I relate to myself and to the world.  And always for the better.  Swimming is how I connect to a sense that there is order in chaos, and a picture far bigger than that which I could ever conceive of.  Swimming is my solace.  Swimming is my refuge.  Swimming is my serenity.  When I let stop counting lengths they really count.  Effortless swimming makes all the effort I put in everywhere else worthwhile.    

©Swimmer, Carol Peace (2007)

©Swimmer, Carol Peace (2007)

Folks will do what folks will do.  Strangely enough, not everyone who comes to the Lido is a swimmer.  And not all those who identify as swimmers are, in fact, that interested in actually swimming.  After all, if the sun is out, the pool is a good place to catch some rays.  I just wish folks would look before they jump, and take their litter home with them...

What goes around comes around, just like a flip turn.

Friday, 10 June 2016

The eternal student

At school, I was hopeless at physics.  I have a younger sister whose aptitude for the mathematical sciences shone bright and quickly eclipsed my own.  We've both grown up.  School grades and exam marks matter very little to either of us now.  Today she uses her talents for the benefits of her patients.  And I endeavour to use my own for those I work with.

Physics notwithstanding, I was ever an enthusiastic learner.  And in this respect, I am well suited to my profession.  As a therapist, it is both a pleasure and a duty to continue to learn.  Einstein is said to have been the first to say that the more we learn, the less we know.  This is certainly my experience.  And, in the therapy room at least, not knowing is important.  

What know what we are but not what we may be. 
 ~ Ophelia, in Hamlet

My clients are my teachers, as well as their own.  Whilst I have skills, and training at my disposal, I am anything but the expert.  Therapy is the dedicated opportunity to explore one's own experience.  

I stand alongside my clients, and offer them a lens through which to observe that which they describe, but herein lies an often misunderstood fact:  a therapist serves the client by creating and holding the space in which they do their own work.

As a therapist, it is my responsibility to continue to work on myself.  This is where ongoing training comes into play, alongside my own therapy and supervision.  I doubt I will ever develop a mastery for physics.  Beyond the swimming pool, it has little relevance for me today.  The things that I will continue to explore, and keep abreast of are those things that I find most useful in the therapy room.  

Much learning does not teach us understanding. 
~ Heraclitus

Monday, 9 May 2016

Attitude adjustment

The sun had put its hat on. And it was as though everyone came out to play. The Lido was hectic. I'm not sure why this took me by surprise. It was the first Saturday morning that the temperature could lure out even the most part time of swimmers.

I am anything but a part time aquatic enthusiast. But I mistimed this swim by a mile. As I surveyed the chaos, two other regulars (already sensibly swum out) greeted me and we remarked upon the influx of wetsuit clad 'seals' who have most likely only now emerged from warmer climes (indoor heated pools). 

I almost talked myself out of the swim. I'm so glad I didn't; I exited the chatter rather abruptly and quickly got changed. Before getting in, I checked in with a friendly lifeguard I have come to know over the less clement months during which I've swum length after length, week in week out. She observed how little 'etiquette' was on display in the water, and I resolved to simply see how it went, committing to coming back later if it all proved too much.

The pool was busy. But there was plenty enough room for us all. Somehow, I found a channel through the crowd. I breathed into my stroke, got into a comfortable steady rhythm and relaxed into the lengths in spite of the now rather choppy water. 

I thought about very little to do with my fellow swimmers. Most of them were easy enough to spot: clad in black neoprene visibility is little effort. I renewed my intention to enjoy my sunny swim, and to swim for only as long as I was enjoying myself. 

3.7k or 2¼ miles later I got out feeling replete and complete.  Another swim, and another reminder...  Besides a good breakfast, I attribute the progress of my long swim to the attitude with which it was commenced and continued.  

Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.