Them And Us: Connection And Kindness Against The Odds

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It sometimes seems we live in a culture that cultivates suspicion and mistrust Continue reading

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Luna Reflection – Generosity, Interdependence and Abundance

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Surfing I Surf Isle of Wight

For the last year or so, we’ve hosted travellers from all over the world, offering the use of the garden as a campsite, a warm shower or a spare bed if there happens to be one. It’s a kind of touring cyclist version of couch surfing – a reciprocal arrangement where you are invited to act as both host and guest, giver and recipient. Continue reading

Lunar Reflection – Love is Being There

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The Hive – Wolfgang Buttress

 

It’s interesting to notice that the stereotypical US military hero – he of the Top Gun aviator shades and sharp, preppy haircut, almost always has his eyes covered. Continue reading

If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things: This Body

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In times past she was beautiful. A serious, naive, other worldly child, elfin bodied with eyes of a she wolf.

“She looks right into me” the adults would say.

Perhaps they were right.

Time passed and at a certain moment, when childhood was not quite past but adulthood not fully begun, soft curves  started gently draping the body’s slight angular frame. Just as subtly, insidiously, the battle commenced. There was not one single moment in time where the general shouted:

“Let there be war!”

But instead a slowly seeping script of propaganda was wrought, a personal mantra running in the background of life, which proclaimed or whispered, in a language of “should””must””unworthy””shameful”. This tyrannical voice demanded change – the physical form that was evolving required controlling. Thus begun the long and bloody battle.

Inside my head there developed, running as a mental  screensaver, a pervasive critique of the way I looked. “The Voice” that demanded I take charge of my body. I spent a large part of my life chiselling my strong athletic body into something leaner, more angular, shaping something that was less woman, harder, less real.

This body became and was – for the greater part of my life, the enemy. An inanimate object viewed through bank camera eyes, to be constantly monitored, weighed and measured. With hindsight it’s astonishing, as someone who tries to treat others with kindness and respect, just how excrutatingly cruel I was to myself in this quest for physical “perfection” – as if torturing myself enough would lead to a differnt form and thus a different life. I exercised obsessively but worse I tormented my body with “diets”  – based on the unspoken fear that I was a madwoman, a lunatic that needed controlling, unable to make the correct choices about how, what and when to eat. More shocking still, I was not alone in this preocupation – the way that I ate and experienced food, the never ending neuroses surrounding body image, seemed to be pretty much the norm amongst my peer group.

eating disorder
noun
any of a range of psychological disorders characterized by abnormal or disturbed eating habits (such as anorexia nervosa).

Were we, in our distorted relationship with food, in our obsession with “paleo””gluten” free””I quit sugar” sufferring from an eating disorder as such? I am not sure – but disordered eating certainly.

Strangely, change has come in the past few years, largely through loss – through the awareness that life is transient, the mourning of friends and family who have died and others whose lives have been limited by physical or emotional illness. Perhaps the loss of my own youth has been a catalyst too. At some point along the road the struggling, suffering, pushing and pulling seemed pointless and exhausting and treating myself with kindness became more important than anything else.

These days I feel immense grattitude to this human machine that carries with it  the battle scars of six new lives sheltered within. Inumerable falls from horses and bicycles indelibly inprinted are no longer a source of shame but instead of pride. This body is truly – as all bodies are – a miracle. It has carried me unfailing through countless city’s dusty streets, up mountains, pounded inumerable miles of rough terrain. It has survived my neglect and torment – fuelled irregularly and harshly – fed coffee and sugar to keep my mind high and semi starved when self loathing required that I disappear into a gaunt bony frame. It spoke – a quiet voice barely a whisper above the minds raucous wailings and in those days I failed to listen.

It spoke – I now know, of kindness, of a wish to be treated gently and to be heard.

Now I listen to its whisperings and I marvel at its wisdom, its ability to keep the untamed and wild mind at bay and form firmly rooted into the stable earth. With age has come  tolerance and compassion.This body is a gift I now see and one which in the meaness of my youth I failed to recognise and thus set about changing, forever discontent, controlling and regulating in a way that I would never dream of imposing on another human.

Kindness has brought eating without rules, taking time to recognise and experience physical pleasures:  the joys of movement; sensation; feeling the strength and the elements against skin. It means resting when tiredness sets in and silencing the ever chattering mind when it “The Voice” begins it’s mutterings.

The last words from poet Galway Kinnell “Sometimes it is neccessary to reteach a thing its loveliness”. Absolutely.

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/171395

 

 

Parenting Paddington

It’s been a remarkably peaceful few days in my household and without too much statistical analysis, I’ll hazard a guess that this is as a result of the absence of one of the smallest members of the tribe who I shall refer to as Paddington Bear.

I’m not a huge fan of children’s films – they are usually too loud, too vibrant and too overwhelmingly active for me and result in me leaving the cinema in a state of frenetic exhaustion. A couple of weeks ago however, I found myself unwittingly in front of Paddington The Movie. I enjoyed it – but perhaps more importantly something resonated with me which took a while to recognise. I realised that somehow, completely apparently by chance, Paddington himself, he of the marmalade sandwich and hard stare – or at least one of his relatives, had taken up residence in my house a few years ago…..

The curious brown furry creature is one of the most endearing children you could imagine – but also one of the most exhausting, infuriating and exasperating. A wonderful mixture of affection, curiosity, individuality, logic and persistence with an insatiable appetite for almost everything food related, a special interest in the footpaths of Southern England and a hugely exuberant need to express himself physically and in words to pretty much everyone he meets.

I veer between immense reverence for his individuality and his sunny life view and complete despair at the task of bringing up one so at odds with the conventional quiet well behaved child. I have to admit that when things get really tough, almost always because I’m tired or some other life event has interceded to put the pressure on, I do end up rolling down the familiar victimhood root, why me? Life would be so easy if he was “normal”…. you get the picture.

The realisation that Paddington had taken up residence has had some interesting consequences, not least, there has been a shift from myself and the other younger members of the clan, in the treatment of our errant one. It’s as though our judgement of him has softened. Instead of interpreting his chaotic often clumsy disruptive behaviour as a problem we are tending to see it more as part of the idiosyncrasies of a large and furry mammal trying to make sense of a chaotic world not really designed for creatures like him. Instead of constantly chastising him for his eating habits – which incidentally closely resemble that of a particularly hungry chocolate labrador, we are more gentle, reminding him now and then with a half smile, that knives and forks are laid by the side of his plate for a reason.

So what to learn from this.

The biggest lesson is that it is a choice to see someone in a particular light. All too often an unconscious choice made as a result of hundreds of past encounters which have shaped our reality. A slight shift in perception can have dramatic results in terms of the quality of our lives and in particular in terms of our relationships with others. If we view life as inherently positive and people as trustworthy we will certainly have a very different experience from people who view life as a dangerous jungle inhabited by savages who are out to get them. Of course the reality in this situation is probably somewhere in between – but by looking on somebody as a problem, in your own reality this is what they become and since we suffer when we want things to be different from the way they really are, we then seek to solve the problem or suffer in our desire by wishing what is, was not.

As for my own personal Paddington. He has become less of a problem and more of a pleasure. The films underlying messages about tolerance and acceptance and the dry British wit with which it was delivered made it an unexpected favourite in my book.

I’ll leave the last words to the films eponymous hero:

“I’m not a criminal” said Paddington hotly. “I’m a bear” – Michael Bond. A Bear Called Paddington