More poetry for Mindfulness – Horses at Midnight without a Moon – by Jack Gilbert

Jack Gilbert

Jack Gilbert

In the next few weeks we are migrating this blog over to our new website, so we have kept posts to a minimum. But as we head into our summer breaks  we are looking forward to taking time out, relaxing and working to ensure our energy levels are topped up for our autumn schedule.

To that end we thought we should address some of the issues we are facing at the moment, as human beings in a world that seems to present us with a new challenge, a new doubt or anxiety each day. David J Beauman, who blogs at the terrific The Dad Poet, posted a poem last week to offer some solace in these difficult times and we agree with him, this one is a poem to encourage mindfulness. We have written on the subject and posted poems previously and many people have enjoyed the opportunity to find words that support them after they have taken the first steps to mindfulness Take a breath, learn to be at peace with the world and enjoy those things immediately around you. It isn’t easy and it requires dedicated practice, something many of us find difficult in a world where the expectation is increasingly immediate gratification and instant fixes. But there is beauty in the smallest things and the most unlikely situations.

David J Beauman reads the poem here, with the full text available HERE and below :

Our heart wanders lost in the dark woods.
Our dream wrestles in the castle of doubt.
But there’s music in us. Hope is pushed down
but the angel flies up again taking us with her.
The summer mornings begin inch by inch
while we sleep, and walk with us later
as long-legged beauty through
the dirty streets. It is no surprise
that danger and suffering surround us.
What astonishes is the singing.
We know the horses are there in the dark
meadow because we can smell them,
can hear them breathing.
Our spirit persists like a man struggling
through the frozen valley
who suddenly smells flowers
and realizes the snow is melting
out of sight on top of the mountain,
knows that spring has begun.

From Collected Poems by Jack Gilbert. Copyright © 2012

To find out more about mindfulness at The Terrace, see our website HERE 

5 fabulous exam tips for the final push…

Nearly there – the exam period is in full swing and all that revision should be paying off. Well, we hope so. It is a tough time for anyone finishing a school or college year; whilst others can relax and enjoy the early summer sun, there is last minute revision to be done and the inevitable nerves to deal with.

So, we thought we would share the exam tips we have been posting over the past few weeks on an ‘omnibus’ blog post, offering you the opportunity to remind yourself of all those things that are important over the coming weeks as the exams end and the results come in…

Exams1

Find a revision buddy

Exam stress is tough- Try not to compare

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This final tip is very important. It is easy to forget, when under such tremendous pressure, that the results of the exams you are sweating over will not define the rest of your life. It might be difficult, but try a little mindfulness meditation and remember, whatever happens there is still a way forward.

Exam tip 5

And after those exams are over, read our post on dealing with those post-exam feelings that can be surprisingly difficult to cope with.

Good luck – we have everything crossed for you!

 

More poetry as therapy- Autobiography in Five Short Chapters

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Image: Joe Ism (see below)

In therapy, many counsellors work with clients who perhaps feel ‘stuck’ in a pattern of recurring behaviours that prevent them from fulfilling dreams, pursuing healthy relationships, or coping with challenges and developing resilience. Reading inspirational quotes on social media highlights how many famous sayings there are on the subject of living a mindful life, of noticing and recognising the world around you and working to free yourself from a past that can hold you back, or a future you are fearful of.

However, there is one poem that seems to sum up this process in a way that perhaps only poetry can, in its ability to distil feelings to the minimum number of words necessary to express them. We have written quite a few ‘poetry for mindfulness pieces on ‘let’s talk’ – do take a look as you may find another that suits your mindfulness practice perfectly – but this popular piece, by Portia Nelson is one that requires little explanation.

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Portia nelson

Nelson was a popular singer, songwriter, actress, and author; a cancer survivor who  wrote a very popular  book called There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk: The Romance of Self-Discovery, which she later turned into a musical that played off Broadway. From it comes this poem, Autobiography in Five Short Chapters, which has been adopted by many as a as a self-help text. Its clear message is one of learning to take notice, recognise when you are repeating harmful behaviour and learn to move forward on to new paths of discovery…

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters by Portia Nelson

Chapter I
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost … I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes me forever to find a way out.

Chapter II
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place.
But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter III
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in … it’s a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

Chapter IV
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter V
I walk down another street.

We would love to know of any poetry that you find particularly inspirational, or especially helpful when you are practising mindfulness. Get in touch!

Image: Joe Ism on Flickr  Open Manhole Cover

More poetry for mindfulness: Rainy days..

14300922917_ef36d68a0b_mThe weather in Britain in the past two months has been extraordinary. Talk of climate change was once more to the fore as we waited in vain for the crisp, cold days of winter. Instead of a white Christmas we had the warmest December on record, record rainfall and the consequent horrors of flooding, and now January is throwing everything at us.

Winter is often a time for reflection, but it can be a time when the black dog of depression and deep sadness comes over us. Relationships are vulnerable, the world seems drab after the light and sparkle of the festive season and spring can feel a long way off.

We are great advocates of mindfulness here at The Terrace, and it is at times like this that the practice of being mindful can come into its own. As we are paying attention to the present moment, meditating on our environment, and focusing on our breathing, we are more aware of our feelings, and can let painful and frustrating thoughts go with greater ease. Emptying our minds is difficult, but as Wendell Berry (a great exponent of poetry appropriate for mindfulness practice) maintains in this poem, it is only as we let things go, and cease to be distracted by indecision, that our mind becomes a space in which we can appreciate the ‘clear days’…

The Clear Days by Wendell Berry

The dogs of indecision
Cross and cross the field of vision.
A cloud, a buzzing fly
Distract the lover’s eye.
Until the heart has found
Its native piece of ground
The day withholds its light,
The eye must stray unlit.
The ground’s the body’s bride,
Who will not be denied.
Not until all is given
Comes the thought of heaven.
When the mind’s an empty room
The clear days come.

Do you have any poetry that helps still your mind and enables you to focus? We would love to hear your ideas.

Miranda Bevis, our Mindfulness expert, is offering new 8 week courses this month. 
Starting Tuesday January 26th 6.30- 8.45pm
Starting Wednesday January 27th 9.15- 11.30am

Optional half day for both courses: Sunday 6th March

Contact us at post@the-terrace.co.uk or on 01823 338968 for more details

Image courtesy of Phillippe Gillotte on Flickr Creative Commons

A Mindful New Year…..

new yearWell we are a week into 2016, so we thought we would repost a great piece by our own mindfulness expert, Miranda Bevis. How many of us are still keeping to those new year’s resolutions? Should we even be trying – adding additional pressures to our already stressful days? 

In days gone by, as the old year departed, I would enthusiastically construct a huge list of New Year’s Resolutions. This was it! I was at last going to get in control! Become thin and fit and popular, well read, up to date with current affairs and so, so organized. And for the first few days, I’d get up early, go for a run, read improving books and eat improving food. Hoover under the sofa, tidy my sock drawer and open brown envelopes immediately.

If I’d managed to carry all these good intentions through, by now I would be lean and fit, living a life that worked like clockwork, fluent in a number of foreign languages, with an In tray that was always empty, and an Out smugly full. But happier? I’m not so sure.

Anyway, not surprisingly, I rarely got beyond week one with any of them; certainly they never made it to February. Very quickly, exhaustion, apathy and chocolate would take over, and I would be back where I started.

Why do we do this? I suspect it’s got something to do with wanting getting to grips with life, and to feel more in control. Perhaps coming from a feeling of not really being in control.

And while there’s nothing wrong with wanting to improve aspects of our lives, perhaps we need to hold on to these goals lightly, and understand that even if we achieved them, it wouldn’t necessarily make us happy or help us to navigate the pitfalls of life.

The truth is that we just aren’t fully in control of our lives. Difficult things are always going to happen. Mindfulness offers the possibility of being “in control of not being in control”. It helps us embrace both the pleasant and the unpleasant, the joys and the tragedies of life with equanimity. It’s not about trying to change things, but simply learning to be OK with being exactly where we are.

So these days, there’s only one item on the list, and that is to do as much Mindfulness as I possibly can. Over and over to come back to the present, to the simple breath, to an awareness of what I’m doing , while I’m doing it.

And strangely, the more I practice, I find that some of the things on the original list begin to come more naturally. By developing a kindly awareness towards myself, it becomes much easier to give myself what I truly need.

Still not great with brown envelopes though.

Miranda Bevis Mindfulness GroupsMiranda is offering mindfulness taster sessions at The Terrace, Taunton in January 2016:


Taster Sessions:
Tuesday January 12th 6.30- 8.00pm
Wednesday January 13th 9.30- 11.00am
Cost £5

Eight week Mindfulness Courses
Starting Tuesday January 26th 6.30- 8.45pm
Starting Wednesday January 27th 9.15- 11.30am

Optional half day for both courses: Sunday 6th March See the Events page of The Terrace website for full details.

 

On letting go, and being here…

download“If you want to fly on the sky, you need to leave the earth. If you want to move forward, you need to let go the past that drags you down.”
― Amit Ray, World Peace: The Voice of a Mountain Bird

Today we have been thinking about letting go – of people who can no longer be in our lives, of pain and hurt that can disempower you, of a dream that can’t be fulfilled or any of the myriad things that prove to be temporary in our lives, however much we wanted them with us always.

‘Letting go’ is an idea that many find difficult to understand. The idea that clinging on to things until the bitter end as a mark of strength is ingrained in many of is. We are told,’don’t give up, don’t give in’ – how can we square that with letting go? Well often the only way to move forward or come to terms with what is past is to forgive others, forgive yourself and open your mind to all the new opportunities that might present themselves. Painful, yes very. Honest, yes, always.

Here at The Terrace we love to find a poem that seems to express a thought we are grappling with. This one, by Steven Hickman, is also a poem for mindfulness. Just breathe and be in that moment. Like the hippo, half close your eyes and sit, Seeing all, both guilt and glory/Only noting.

The Hippo
By Steven Hickman

The hippo floats in swamp serene,
some emerged, but most unseen.

Seeing all and only blinking,
Who knows what this beast is thinking.

Gliding, and of judgment clear,
Letting go and being here.

Seeing all, both guilt and glory,
Only noting. But that’s MY story.

I sit here hippo-like and breathe,
While inside I storm and seethe.

Would that I were half equanimous
As that placid hippopotamus.

Don’t let your past control you. See it all, accept it for what it is and in doing so work to set yourself free.

“I eventually came to understand that in harboring the anger, the bitterness and resentment towards those that had hurt me, I was giving the reins of control over to them. Forgiving was not about accepting their words and deeds. Forgiving was about letting go and moving on with my life. In doing so, I had finally set myself free.
― Isabel Lopez, Isabel’s Hand-Me-Down Dreams

Action for Happiness – will it work? We have to try….

images (3)Two weeks ago we heard that the Dalai Lama has given his support to the Exploring What Matters course established by the Action for Happiness project, started in 2010  by Richard Layard, Geoff Mulgan and Anthony Seldon. He is  AfH’s official Patron, endorsing its key beliefs:

1. We can each affect our happiness and the happiness of those around us
2. We need to prioritise the things that cause happiness
3. Helping others is essential for a happier society

The project was proud to publicise a quote given by the Dalai Lama to the BBC:

‘I wholeheartedly support the Exploring What Matters course and hope that many thousands will benefit from it and take action to create a happier world’ ~ Dalai Lama

Now Action for Happiness wants to get the course into hundreds of communities and is running a crowdfunding campaign to back it up – it isn’t a profit making organisation so needs support (and volunteers) to get it off the ground.

It is easy to be cynical about something that seems to offer what appears to be a simple solution to the many problems in our society. Of course we affect the happiness of those around us, and it is never a bad thing to help others. But it is easy to forget those life enhancing things in a world that is so fast paced and driven towards commercial and personal success. We don’t always put the happiness of ourselves or others first.

Action for Happiness has what it calls a ‘Great Dream’ – offering 10 keys to happiness.

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No one can argue with any of those terms as a means of finding life easier to cope with and more meaningful. It is a ‘great dream’, but small steps can be taken every day to achieve greater happiness, and we have to at least applaud the attempt to get us all to take stock of what is important to us.

Amongst other things, Action for Happiness suggests we take more notice of the world around us, connect with people and keep learning new things. It supports a mindful approach to life and the course it wants to take out into the world asks big questions, such as  What really matters in life? What actually makes us happy? and How should we treat others?

We were relieved to see that the project doesn’t expect those experiencing difficult times, depression or anxiety, to ‘pick themselves up’ and move on by themselves. It acknowledges that we all need help at some time and we need to ask for it when we are ‘stuck’ and can’t find a way through. In fact, there is a whole page on their website devoted to countering arguments put forward by sceptics who feel the whole idea is too simplistic and subjective.

So do take a look at the Action for Happiness website and let us know what you think. Do you have any concerns? We would love to know what you think.

Our view is that surely we have to try? The world seems to be going to the proverbial hell in a handcart at the moment, with our global humanity being lost in political maneuvering and brutal conflict. We think we know how to be happy, but it can’t hurt to remind ourselves every so often, can it?