Ring of Fire

By Kristine Enger

On a recent trip to Bali, Indonesia with my daughter we felt the earth move, literally, in the form of several earthquakes. My daughter, a geography student, found it quite fascinating and I, after quake no 3, not so. It was deeply unsettling and frightening to me.

Our lives were never in any danger, and I intuitively knew that. I, therefore, allowed myself to sink deeply into the experience of what was happening in the moment.

Indonesia is located on the Ring of Fire, a major horseshoe-shaped seismically active area in the basin of the Pacific Ocean, where most of the earth’s earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur. Due to the unpredictable nature of earthquakes, there is no warning, they can suddenly occur at any time.  First, you hear the deep (terrifying!) rumbling sound, then the swaying and shaking starts, and after about 10-15 seconds of what feels like an eternity, it’s over.

I quickly discovered I was afraid of what might happen next, and not so much the actual event itself. I was afraid to hear that sound and kept listening for it. Skittish and jumpy, yet at the same time trusting, and knowing full well it was my thinking mind playing tricks. I needed to take great care to allow space for these anxious feelings, and when I did, they subsided.

When we teach in mindfulness how we are hardwired for flight, fight or freeze, it was interesting to experience this first hand. In one split second – you can scan a scene, notice the placements of objects and people, look for ways out, feeling the adrenaline pumping, and at the same time realising you are completely powerless to what is happening. You are simply fully in it. Then afterwards, you become obsessed with analysing your experience, finding meaning and trying to explain why this happened. Checking websites, speaking to the locals, exchanging information with fellow travellers.

The metaphor of how this mirrors life itself crystallized, all whilst finding yourself in a location that can only be described as being in paradise. Life becomes accentuated, everything is deeply felt, your senses heightened. Profound compassion is felt for the plight of the people on the neighbouring island of Lombok, which experienced the most loss of lives and damage. Every cell in your body is felt, as you have been so deeply shaken. The colours, the textures and beauty of it all is seen in a profound, more appreciative way. The love is ever present, spontaneity rules the day, and life continues to happen.

Sometimes our lives are rocked beyond belief, and we feel powerless. However, there seems to be a natural order to it all. It will shake for a while, as adjustments are being made.

Then, the tectonic plates settle, and somehow a new order is restored as peace once more returns.

A Beginner’s Mind

By Kirsty Heaton

Escaping the summer heat in Dubai – I have swapped sandals and sand for walking boots and rolling countryside in the UK. Our summer holidays wouldn’t be complete without a day trip to Castle Howard for a picnic in the grounds, followed by walks through the estate and woodlands. I have been coming here for as long as I can remember, and I wouldn’t miss it for the world!

From the moment we turn the corner into the parking I feel a sense of nostalgia, I still have the familiar flutter in my tummy as I did as a child, impending adventure and curiosity, excitement and amazement at the stunning beauty that surrounds us. Yes, our picnics may have changed and I no longer head to the playgrounds to swing and slide as I did as a little girl, the excitement is just the same…but different.

Our first adventure is into the woods, away from the hustle and bustle of the playgrounds. The trees are hundreds of years old and the silence you experience here is intoxicating. Walking through this woodland is healing for the soul, it’s as if nature gives us a giant hug, soothing and calming our nerves. I notice how we tend to whisper to each other in the woods; as if anything loud would disturb the sacred silence.

As we emerge from the woods, the views are breathtaking…I am always overwhelmed as I stand and take it all in. I feel a deep sense of gratitude and take a moment to stand and just breathe it all in…hoping I can keep this picture in my mind forever.

A stroll through the rose garden brings back memories of collecting rose petals with my Grandma to make “rose perfume” I smile to myself, my heart warmed by these memories as I relay the stories to my own daughter. 

Our day comes to an end with homemade ice creams and cups of tea, enjoyed in the castle courtyard. Our legs are tired but our hearts are warmed by the memories both old and new.

As my Mindfulness journey continues, I am so grateful that I am able to experience these special traditions and so many other moments on a much deeper level. When we make the choice to see everything with a Beginners Mind, the world opens up and even an Englishman’s castle, visited yearly for over 30 years can become a place of wonder all over again. 

 

Beautiful photos by Kirsty Heaton

If you would like to set up an appointment to learn more about a Beginner’s Mind and Mindfulness practice with Kirsty please contact us here

Retrospective Happiness

by Kristine Enger

It’s sweltering in Dubai now. Escaping the heat, my daughter, who’s home from university, decided to dig out a box of old home movies, which we’ve been watching lately with cups of tea, biscuits and rolled down blinds.

With three daughters, there seems to be an endless stream of birthday parties. I catch flickering images of myself offering an assortment of Barney cakes, princess cakes, cakes with numbers on them, organising musical chairs, standing guard at the bouncy castle, or pushing someone, now fully grown, on a swing.

The hairstyles, dresses, living rooms change but my face is always beaming. I look so happy, carefree and wrinkle free! Our family still intact, what did I know about life!

When we look back on things the way they were before, we inevitably measure the experience up against where we are now, and somehow draw the conclusion we were happier then. Can we only be happy in retrospect, looking back on events?

We might ask ourselves, “when is happiness really going to catch on for me, or” I had happiness before, even though I didn’t see it at the time.”

Does that indicate that we cannot be happy now, only realise it later that we should have been? Or does it mean that we have evolved and raised the bar of our own internal happiness barometer for where we are in this moment?

Does it take more now, or perhaps less?

We might argue we are just being sentimental looking back, in fact, if we look more closely, we recall there was a truckload of issues, waiting, disguised as high drama, parked just off the camera lens.

Mindfulness teaches us that happiness is an inside job.

Over time, we will indeed experience a feeling of happiness, sense a deeper level of contentment arise from deep within, as we become more mindful and expand our awareness of the present moment, and ourselves in it, through our daily practices.

More so when we decide to call a truce with the thinking mind.

Nevertheless, we cannot help but be mesmerised by looking at old photographs or footage of ourselves, as younger carefree beings.

They remind us of something precious, hidden, glorious even.

Hopeful and playful, innocent and free. Is that who we truly are?

 

The Simplicity of Mindfulness Practice

By Helen Williams

Mindfulness helps us to pay attention to our thoughts, to the impulses that come from them.

In our daily lives we are learning to notice what our thoughts are creating. For example, when we become aware that our work is difficult we can notice our thinking becomes “I’m going to stop now because this is too hard” and if we just observe that thought is becomes, “Oh my thinking is pushing me to stop what I’m doing because it’s hard”.  We don’t have to obey the impulse to stop working. We can simply notice that is what our thinking is doing, take some steady mindful breaths and quietly, with awareness, make a choice about following the impulse, or not.

A few moments of focussed quiet awareness can be all it takes for us to choose to continue to push through, mastering a difficult moment instead of giving in to it.

It’s like learning to disobey ourselves!! It’s such a simple act of clarity, insight and freedom! Have you ever stopped to see it like that? You are not your thoughts.  You don’t have to obey the voice of self-sabotage, of taking the easy way out.  Instead, harness the power of inner awareness and disobey your thoughts!

Wonderful outcomes can occur from the simplicity of this insight.

Marathons, Mindfulness and Love

by Helen Williams

Recently I spent several days exploring the absolute beauty of the city of Prague, walking the old streets, attending recitals and concerts in the stunning beauty of historic churches and cathedrals, and enjoying excellent and abundant food!  However, what actually moved me to tears and encourages me now to write was the lived experience of ‘stumbling’ by accident upon thousands of runners participating in the Prague Marathon.

I stopped to watch and simply couldn’t tear myself away.  Found myself moved to tears and wondered why?  I don’t run!!  Not even to the nearest lamp post!  And yet here I was completely absorbed by the energy of it all, watching these runners labouring hard, intent on their next step, aware of their bodies, the noticeable pain on some faces, their heaving chests and sweating bodies, all present in the moment.

I wandered on and found myself at the 32 km mark, hordes of people cheering, yelling, clapping and encouraging the runners – multitudes of languages spoken, but all in the language of enthusiasm, support, caring and encouragement.

And then it struck me!  I am feeling so deeply touched by all the caring that surrounds me on all sides.  People sending loving, considered encouragement to each other, all at one with the purpose in front of them – to run their best for themselves and for their teams.

Such a spirit of unity and connectedness is deeply moving to be a part of.  I stood there for nearly 2 hours and enjoyed every moment of it.

This is Mindful awareness at its best.