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Tag: reflection

All at sea…

This morning I went for a walk with our beagle Cosmo. My husband does most of the morning walks during the week, but on Sunday’s he gets a lie-in and I get up early instead to walk with the dog.

We’re in that hazy time of year in the UK when summer has started to fade and autumn is getting into her stride – a wonderful mixture of warm sunny days, alongside the hint of crisp leaves and glowing colours, as the trees begin their slow hibernation process. (We also get days of deep, grey skies and sudden torrential downpours – usually just in time for the school run at about 3:15pm, but today was a good day!)

As it was nearly high tide, I decided to walk down by Whale Island, also known as HMS Excellent. The island is man-made resulting from historic dredging in the Solent, to make room for ever-larger Naval vessels. In-between Whale Island and Portsea Island is a narrow tidal inlet,  which I tend to think of as the remains of Stamshaw Bay. This small strip of water eventually links round to the Solent, further up the coast. There are a small cluster of fishing boats which appear and disappear depending on the tide and the type of fishing they do.

As my dog and I ambled along the path, I noticed a small, yellow fishing boat right up close to the shore line. I remembered that my husband had commented that he’d seen a fishing boat which had drifted up to the beach, so I went to have a look.

The little boat looked to be in good shape; the usual collection of barnacles and seaweed along its hull, but the bow was clean and clear and the mast and sails tidy and straight. Through the water I could clearly see the keel resting on the pebbles underneath and then I realised…

The boat wasn’t drifting. It was grounded.

The little boat was in good condition. It was perfectly able to sail. But for some reason, it had ended up on the beach, and now the water wasn’t deep enough to float it. Everything about it spoke about its purpose – it ought to have been sailing, gliding effortlessly on that smooth expanse of water. But instead it was motionless, grounded on a shallow bank of pebbles and rocks, which although small, had somehow trapped this vessel and made escape seem impossible. And that got me thinking:

How many of us are living seaworthy lives? 

How many of us are like that boat: fully equipped and able to sail, yet somehow grounded in our situations and circumstances, not because we can’t set sail but because we don’t believe we can.

In this photo, the tide hadn’t yet risen to its highest point. Another half a metre might be all it would need to get this little boat off the beach and back out to sea. How many of us are stuck in a place where we think we need an entire ocean to change things, when in reality it’s just half a metres worth?

Our perceptions affect our reality.

What we believe can have such a powerful effect on the choices we make. Those beliefs can stop us from applying for that job we really want, or standing up to that demanding boss. They can make us feel trapped and frustrated, when actually all we really need to change our circumstances, is a bit of a push to get us off the beach. Not an entire ocean. Just a bit of hard work.

The things is, for the sailor on the boat, it’s hard to see what the obstruction is, because it’s underneath the hull. That’s why we need friends and family to come alongside us.

Friends and family might have a different perspective. They can see through the water surrounding us and help identify what the problem is.

So what is it that keeps you beached at the moment? Are you so convinced that your situation can’t change that you can’t hear the voices of your friends and family? You’re a seaworthy vessel – what’s really stopping you from exploring your potential and heading out to sea?

 

Pay attention: life lessons from nature

Connections

I am the world’s worst person to go on a walk with.

You see, one of my hobbies is photography, and even if I’ve only got my mobile phone with me, I still want to stop and take pictures – my family often feel exasperated when they have to wait for me, as I’ve gotten distracted by something which caught my eye. I notice things and I wonder and I ask questions…

We hear a lot about mindfulness these days. In case you’ve been stranded on a desert island and haven’t heard of it, mindfulness is the practice of choosing to be more aware of your environment and yourself, in order to promote wellbeing. Some of the oldest world religions have been practising mindfulness for some time – Buddhism, Judaism and Christianity among them, encouraging followers to set aside time aside for quiet reflection and meditation.

It’s become a very popular trend over the last couple of years. As a society, we’re told we are experiencing more stress than previous generations, and the consequences of not dealing with stress properly – anxiety, depression, anger and other manifestations of poor mental health can be considerable. Looking after yourself and your mental health is important and mindfulness can be a healthy part of that, but I try and use it in a slightly different way…

As a Christian, I operate on the assumption that God can and does speak to us and that he has things to say. The challenge is not whether God can communicate as much as whether we’re actually listening! For me, mindfulness – that intentional act of stopping to pause, reflect and listen, is a key part of how I hear from God when I pray and I will often look to the natural world for inspiration.

Variety

For example, some time ago I was taking our dog for a walk, and I felt God say I should pay attention to the leaves I saw along the walk. To be honest, I’m usually paying most attention to the dog as he’s a beagle and has a habit of getting into spaces he’s not supposed to, or eating things he shouldn’t. The route was a familiar one and I didn’t expect to see anything special…but I was wrong.

Scale

 

I have included some photos I took on that walk and some observations and questions it raised for me:

Connections (top of the page): where are you connected in? Who or what do you connect to? Are there some connections which need nurturing, or some which need pruning back?

Variety (middle of the page): each leaf is different, unique. They have their own version of the variegation which makes the whole plant  distinctive. That difference is what makes the plant stand out. Do you celebrate your uniqueness, or do you try and hide it? Do you feel uncomfortable with being different to other people, or are you content to be yourself?

Scale (towards the bottom of the page): some of the ivy leaves in this photo are small, others are huge! Yet each one is necessary to the plant. Each leaf’s ability to function and contribute to the life of the plant is not determined by it’s size, but rather it’s ability to access the sun. Do you value the contribution you make? What would be missing if you weren’t there?

I think that whether or not you hold a faith, these questions would still resonate with you, and invite you to reflect on aspects of your life which you might want to change or value differently.

This year’s theme at Portsmouth Cathedral is all about ecology and the environment and it’s called All Things Bright and Beautiful. I’m involved in the planning and management of the project, and will be running some sessions, writing blog articles etc. My aspiration is to create a series of mindfulness reflection activities, based on things found in nature and along the coast, which can be shared during the year. Ultimately, I’d like to compile them all into a little book and have it properly printed – watch this space for further updates!

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