Poetry IS mindfulness – so soothe the mind & feed the soul…

images (7)Earlier this week, The Huffington Post published a Daily Meditation – it was entitled Poetry of the Earth and featured a poem by John Keats  – On the grasshopper and cricket. It got us thinking about how closely poetry is connected to mindfulness and meditation practice. For to read a good poem, that speaks to your heart and resonates with your soul is truly to be living in the moment. It is a moment of pure emotion, stillness and intensity.

We have posted articles which include a poem to illustrate a point, or to encourage mindfulness, on this blog a number of times. We hope that at least one of them has struck a chord with you, especially as we have tried to choose works that distill what it is to be still in just a few lines. We recommend that you read the poem through a couple of times, then read it aloud (or mutter it under your breath if you feel more comfortable, or are in a public place) feeling the words in your mouth. How often do we actually concentrate on what we are saying? The way the syllables feel on our tongue, in our throat, on our lips? To read a poem is to be mindful, don’t you think?

So today we have chosen another favourite by the poet Wendell Berry, who has featured on ‘Let’s talk!’ before. In What We Need is Here, Berry expresses what many of us sense in the fast paced world most of us live in. We aren’t asking for more, or new or exciting. We are asking for quiet and to find a calm place where we can really see what is important……

What We Need Is Here

Wendell Berry

Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye,
clear. What we need is here.

What do you think? Do you have any favourite poems that you turn to in times of worry, or crisis, in order to reduce your anxiety and focus the mind? Perhaps you write poetry, in which case we would love to hear from you and find out a little about why you feel it is an important way to express yourself. Do get in touch!

An introduction to Mindfulness – the first of a new series on ‘let’s talk!’

miranda

Miranda Bevis

Miranda Bevis, our expert Mindfulness practitioner has prepared some articles on how we can all take advantage of the benefits the practice of Mindfulness offers. As she will make clear in teh coming weeks, it does take practice, it is no quick fix. But that is what it is all about – taking that time to add it, gradually, into our lives….

Mindfulness is very much in the news these days, as means of finding a bit of tranquillity in our increasingly stressful world.  We are all subjected to pressures from many different sources, including work, relationships, family, money worries and information overload. Often the strain may prove too much, and problems arise. A high proportion of illnesses are now thought to be stress related, and there are no ‘quick fix’ medical answers.

Many people struggle with anxiety, panic attacks and depression. Social isolation, lack of confidence and low self esteem are common and they may leave us feeling exhausted, trying to find solutions in our lives, and feeling powerless to change things. A lot of time is spent wishing we were somewhere, or someone, else. Energy may be invested in ruminating over unwanted thoughts.

The idea behind mindfulness is very simple. It is just to be fully in the present, moment by moment. We learn to focus on what is happening right now, and cultivate a kind and non- judgmental attitude to ourselves. This is not an intellectual exercise, but requires a fair amount of practice. Over time, we develop a different relationship with what distresses us. What exactly are we focussing on? It is often the breath, an anchor for our attention. It may be our body sensations, or what we can hear or see. We learn to be aware of what we are doing, while we are doing it. We observe thoughts and emotions, and learn to let them pass by, instead of getting hooked into them. Gradually, we realize there are different and more constructive ways of responding to difficulties, instead of reacting in old, often unhelpful, automatic patterns.

The approach was developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn in the late 1970’s. It draws from ancient eastern philosophies, but is delivered in an entirely secular way. Research, over three decades, supports Mindfulness, and it mindfulness_oneday_6_1_1_1_1_1_1_2_1_1has been shown to increase feelings of well being, and decrease the impact of living in a stressful world. It is now taught widely in many different settings including schools, the mental health services, hospitals and hospices, prisons and government agencies

Over the next few weeks I am going to explore what we mean by Mindfulness, and how we can use it to navigate whatever stresses may come our way, not be blown away. I will also include some wonderful poetry, which can help focus our minds and support our practice.

“It may be that when we no longer know what to do,

we have come to our real work,

and when we no longer know which way to go,

we have begun our real journey.”

Wendell Berry

Miranda has some new Mindfulness workshops and courses starting in the New Year. Follow us on Facebook to find out more or see www.the-terrace.co.uk

‘let’s talk!’ about ‘parity of esteem’ in mental health

esteemOver the past few weeks we have heard the term ‘parity of esteem’ used a lot, in relation to mental and physical health. It is an important phrase with an important meaning, but how many of us really know what it means? And would parity of esteem actually improve the way mental health services are delivered?
The NHS defines the term as meaning:

“My family and I all have access to services which enable us to maintain both our mental and physical wellbeing.”
“If I become unwell I use services which assess and treat mental health disorders or conditions on a par with physical health illnesses.”

Professor Sir Simon Wesseley, incoming president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, has highlighted this issue in The Guardian recently, as he took up his post, challenging Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt on his pledge to ensure mental health services achieve the same level of provision as physical health services . He believes the gap is already so great that finances will never be able to close the gap. If less than a third of people with cancer received any treatment at all, wouldn’t we be up in arms? What if they had to wait 6 months for a scan? These are the figures for those suffering with depression, a condition that can worsen, result in life-threatening illnesses and at its most severe, death.

On the Radio 4 programme ‘All in the Mind’ yesterday, Clinical Psychologist Martin Seager, who spoke so eloquently at the Taunton Association for Psychotherapy Conference in 2013, said that the well-known statistic that 1 in 4 of us will experience mental ill-health is misleading, and could even increase stigma. He feels that this discussion on parity of esteem hides the real issue – that we all experience mental and physical health or ill-health. There is a mental health aspect to physical health, and vice versa. Looking at those two NHS definitions above therefore, the first seems more appropriate, and is one that many therapists would endorse.

Simon Wesseley continued:

Professor Simon Wesseley

Professor Simon Wesseley

“The whole of our healthcare system is about separating mental and physical. You couldn’t devise a system better suited to separating the mental and the physical if you tried……..Most people have quite complicated views of their illness anyway…….They are not resistant to doctors offering cardiac tests and counselling for a recent divorce at the same time.” He has seen psychiatrists on general medical wards work with great success.

“But we know people with physical health problems who also have mental health problems cost about 45% more than those who don’t. That’s absolutely and unequivocally clear. The cost of their care goes up. They comply less with treatment, they come back more often, they have lower satisfaction and they have more complications.”

So the President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists is calling for more holistic treatment across the health service, which could achieve significant savings if implemented. Parity of esteem is surely all about keeping physical and mental health separate, thereby perpetuating the myth that we can be mentally ill but physically healthy, or physically ill but without mental health needs. Doesn’t this, as Seager suggests, increase the possibility that mental ill-health will remain stigmatised and disconnected from, and in competition with (for resources, time etc) with other health services?

We would love to know your views!

Philotimo – ‘let’s talk!’ about a Greek word for our times…

thalesLast week we watched a video that really spoke to us here at The Terrace. Released by the Washington OxiDay Foundation it takes just 15 minutes to explain the Greek concept of Philotimo – something considered to be the highest of all Greek virtues and which determines and regulates how someone should behave in their family and social groups. It is a word that Greek children are still brought up to understand and an idea that they are taught to respect and use as a guide when making choices in their lives.

It is difficult to translate literally, but the very famous faces in the video describe how for the Greek people it means, broadly, ‘friend and honour’. It means duty, compassion, sacrifice. Doing what is right, even if it not in your own best interests. It means something larger than yourself and is about opening your heart and doing things for the good of your community. It has been credited with some of the greatest advances in culture, but with no direct English word to encapsulate its meaning the sens of the word has been lost to all but Greek speakers.

Here at The Terrace we would like to find a way to support what the Foundation seeks to achieve with this video. At a time when we seem to see nothing but horror and injustice in the world, this is a message to take forward to show how humanity can come together for the greater good. Do take a look and let us know how you feel when you have heard what everyone on this film has to say about ‘philotimo’. Since ancient times the Greeks have always been a very special people and despite recent economic struggles this concept remains a strength as the country rebuilds. Is this the time to learn from Greek philosophy once more?

A ‘let’s talk!’ book recommendation: Emotional Geology by Linda Gillard

download (4)Occasionally, here at The Terrace, we like to suggest books, films or programmes that we have enjoyed and which we think you will find interesting and thought-provoking. So today we have a review of Emotional Geology, written by Linda Gillard and available in paperback or on Kindle.

Following the lead character, Rose Leonard, as she runs from events in her troubled past to take refuge in  a small cottage on the island of North Uist in the Outer Hebrides, the book is described as a  ‘passionate, off-beat love story’, but it is much more than that. It deals, in forthright terms, with the terrors of mental ill-health and Rose’s struggle to come to terms with her past. It examines the power of memory; discusses with great honesty what it means to be ‘mad’ and takes you to the very edge, literally, with descriptions of mountaineering that would put any non-adrenaline junky off the idea of climbing for life. In fact, mountaineering is a metaphor for Rose’s life in many respects, as she too has a tenuous hold on on the solidity of what passes for ‘normal’  life.

Another key theme is Rose’s love for textiles, and the stories that are woven in the fabric of the landscape translated into poetry and into her art works. Her art reflects her life and the new love offered by Calum, a fragile younger man. He is a poet who struggles with his own demons, and  their relationship, along with the difficulties Rose experiences in her role as mother to a troubled daughter, are central to the story.  But there is a real warmth at the heart of the book, as the community of North Uist embraces Rose and her work, and without giving too much away, offer her healing and a way forward.

Linda is the author of seven novels, but Emotional Geology is her first. She lives in the Scottish Highlands, and in Emotional Geology, the landscape of the Scottish island of North Uist is a key character in the story. She has a website www.lindagillard.co.uk and an author page on Facebook  at www.facebook.com/LindaGillardAuthor.

So do take a look. Emotional Geology is a book that will stay with you long after the final page is turned.

 

The language of life: how simple words can change relationships…

SingThey-3As we read press reports of conflict across the world, or of disputes on home soil about who is responsible for the current state of the country’s finances, or apparent breakdown of society; it is easy to get caught up in that language of blame. This week on our Facebook page we have posted a few short status updates about how certain words, apparently simple and used all the time in general conversation, can have the power to change our perception of the world around us. We are also preparing to talk a little more about anger, and how we manage it, and the words we choose to use in our relationships with others can have a significant impact on the level of frustration we feel when we just can’t seem to get our point across.

Think about these simple words:

I

You

They

It

But

Yes

No

Always

Never

Should

We use these all the time, but they can be the cause of regular misunderstandings.  If we think about it – how often do we use ‘they say’. Who is your ‘they’? World renowned therapist Virginia Satir says:

The use of they is often an indirect way of talking about ‘you’……..How many times do we hear ‘They won’t let me’. ‘They will be upset’. ‘They don’t like what I am doing’. ‘They say’. ….

As she says, ‘they’ are nebulous and can seem threatening. Newspapers talk of a ‘they’ who come here and take ‘our’ jobs or a ‘they’ who will use technology to hack into our computers. And if we are honest, we also use this undefined ‘they’ as an excuse – ‘I am sorry I couldn’t make it for that drink after work, they wouldn’t let me leave before 6pm’.

On the world stage these ‘others,’ the ‘they’ of major conflicts, offer governments the opportunity to scapegoat whole communities. The language of blame and the refusal to take responsibility for our own part in any decision is essentially dishonest and can lead to unwanted repercussions as inaccurate information is passed on.

So identify your ‘they’ next time you are tempted to use the word in conversation. It can be difficult, but honesty is valued, and leads to greater security in all our relationships.

 

 

Taking time out; taking charge

jk_timeout2Sometimes one wonders how we ever managed without social media. The new contacts we make; the opportunities to share our experience and to tell the world about things that are important to us; the learning experience and access to information that keeps us up to date with what is going on in the world and the speed with which this can be achieved – it is nothing short of a revolution.

But with the revolution must come the revelation – that we must ensure we make time for ourselves and to take charge of our involvement on the world wide web, rather than letting it take control of us. Twitter, Facebook, blogging etc etc can all become addictive. We fear we will miss something on one or other of our timelines. Perhaps, if we don’t post anything for a few days, people will think we have given up or gone out of business. Companies who write on using social media stress how much, how often and when you should post. God forbid you miss the right time slot, when all your potential readers are online!

Of course it doesn’t have to be like this, and more and more people and businesses are recognising that this 24/7 availability can be draining, and counter-productive. You must engage and offer people something they want to read – how can you do that when it becomes harder and harder and keep up with this mad virtual social whirl?

So here at The Terrace we are giving ourselves some ‘time out’. We will be quiet for a while, recharging, restoring and replenishing our stores of energy. A two week break is all we need to ensure we are here to offer interesting insights and content over the summer months. There are exciting things to talk about on our return, featuring film, poetry and reports on our well-being and mindfulness sessions and we will continue with our determination to highlight the dangers to our children and young people, and FGM. We appreciate those who read our blog and want to make sure our posts are informative and interesting.

Do let us know how and when you have ‘taken a break’ from social media. Many more are taking a break and taking charge and perhaps it is an option we should all consider.