How the seasons come and go without a backward glance. Autumn for many is a time of welcome relief from the frenetic pace of summer and a time to pause for restoration. We may reflect on where we have come from, even going so far as to notice who we used to be and who we are now. What has changed and what remains ever and always the same about us? One thing I’ve been struck by lately is how some of us, over time and perhaps through no small amount of grief, become more compassionate and courageous about giving our true selves a voice. Where could that voice be heard while we were figuring all this out? Perhaps there’s somewhere…
It is a brave thing to let someone in to your personal space, into the space that shows up your true nature, with its inherent strengths and less strong spots (or, more precisely, massive faults). We may be drawn to hide our true selves at times (some of us more than others), but one place that I cannot hide my true self is at my desk. Fortunately few people ever see it. On my desk you’ll find an array of odd things that symbolise the world to me but make no sense to anyone else, quotations stuck haphazardly on post-its, photos and postcards overlying a Big Lebowski poster, piles of books, research papers, notes and (usually) my laptop. In addition there is a complex amount of work-life related mess. Piles of it. I do clear it up (sort of) once or twice a year. This tolerated chaos appears to be quite a contradiction as I do like order and clarity everywhere else (not that I achieve it very often).
What does my desk have to say to me, or to anyone for that matter? Literally, nothing, of course. But my desk is where I am me, for better or for worse (or rather, for better and for worse), and the words that adorn my desk have always had a lot to say.
A few months ago I stumbled on some quotations that I had pinned around my desk when I was writing up my PhD in Cambridge in 2006-2007. It was a time that deeply challenged my mind, body and soul. By way of reflection, I’ll share some of this eclectic mix here. Perhaps some of these words may make you smile, or speak to you if you share with me a tendency to perfectionism, over-thinking, stubborn idealism and even more stubborn romanticism:
One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important. – Bertrand Russel
Hardly a law has been established in science, hardly a fact ascertained, which was not first sought after, often with sweat and blood, to gratify an inner need. – William James, The Will To Believe
In a higher world it is otherwise; but here below to live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often. – John H. Newman
The best scientist is open to experience and begins with romance – the idea that anything is possible. – Ray Bradbury
I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work. – T. A. Edison
Better done than good. – Gabriel B. Paquette
Life is good. Remember that. – Lukas, Munich Paramedic
These words remind me of the blood, sweat and tears of the inner and outer battle of turning several years of PhD research into a written offering of validation before the scientific community. The inner battle showed up at various points along the way as perfectionism, procrastination, illness and fatigue (CFS). Tough times were ameliorated by many wonderful friendships, adventures, happy moments with zoology cricket and a growing dedication to physical therapy and NLP coaching. The seeds of Reflexation Therapy seem to have been sown back then!
What does my desk have to say now? I’ll be brave and share some of the words that inspire me as I sit at my desk today. Most of them have been there a while, speaking to me through the joys and trials of becoming a parent, establishing myself as a therapist and finding myself in Cornwall, where a few extraordinary people continue, in their different ways, to challenge me more deeply than ever before.
Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. – Dr Seuss
The grass is greenest where you water it most – A note from my friend Jackie
Let there be trouble in my day, that may child may have peace – Thomas Paine quoted by John Perkins, in Confessions of an Economic Hit Man
It’s only when we achieve the impossible that we realise we were misinformed. – Phil Parker (Designer of the Lightning Process)
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence therefore is not an action, but a habit.- Aristotle
Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate; it’s that we are powerful beyond all measure. – Nelson Mandela
Without knowing who you are, happiness cannot come to you. – Yogi tea
I suppose we are all on a journey of a kind, as the seasons hurtle past. What we notice on the journey, and how we allow ourselves to be changed, is up to us. Inspiring Wonder (Reflexation Therapy) is here to support you as you move your own mountains and find your own way to be well, be fit and be you. No matter how messy your desk is.
This blog was published first at Reflexation Therapy, the mind-body therapy element of Inspiring Wonder.
Reflexation Therapy is delighted to be offering therapeutic treatments at the Penryn Campus Sports Centre, with appointments available 5 days a week (daytimes and some evenings). I’m enjoying being up at the University campus, present there as a scientist turned therapist, delivering specialised techniques for pain relief, injury recovery and improved mind-body wellness. At the excellent Sports Centre clinic space I offer reflexology and soft tissue therapy (a blend of clinical massage, manual physical therapy and advanced sports & remedial massage) as well as Swedish massage and aromatherapy massage.
Discounts are available for FXPlus Staff and Students (10% off all treatments) and some Reflexation Therapy treatments can be claimed via the Simply Health benefit scheme. Keep an eye on the Reflexation Therapy website for details of seasonal offers and get £5 off with the refer-a-friend discount scheme.
Explore further following these links if you’d like to learn more about Reflexation Therapy treatments and Chloë’s approach to mental and physical health and well-being. She has special interests in nerve reflex therapy and connections between mind and body systems. Chloë likes to combine nerve reflexology with manual therapy and massage, applying these powerful techniques both compassionately and clinically to help relieve pain, enhance injury recovery and promote emotional restoration for those affected by stress, anxiety, grief or depression.
Whether you’ve got a sports injury or are simply burnt out from work-life stress, Reflexation Therapy is here for you. Appointments are available 5 days a week, daytimes and some evenings. Contact Chloë on 07780 665 404 or at email@example.com.
This blog first appeared on my Reflexation Therapy page, but as winter turns to spring (in Cornwall at least) I thought it worth sharing here, for Inspiring Wonder readers.
In August I went on a short camping trip to the rugged island of St Agnes in the Isles of Scilly. I arrived at the end of my kids’ school summer holidays with an ‘introvert headache’. I left with a sense of gratitude for the healing power of solitude and taking a pause from the layers of complex thinking and doing that I can get tangled up in at home. St Agnes is a place to escape to: balm to the soul for introverts and a healthy reboot even for the most extroverted!
I had been longing to go to the Isles of Scilly since I moved to Cornwall in 2012. I love the idea of being near my Cornwall and at the same time cut off from everything, save for rocks that make geologists sigh, scenery that makes artists swoon and simplicity that makes frazzled parents heave a sigh of relief and smile.
In St Agnes I recaptured a felt sense of how powerful it can be to walk away from everything and just stare at the sea, wander in nature to nowhere in particular or sit and draw the wilderness without interruption. With the freedom to pause, mental space opens up and with it a feeling of compassionate perspective about the challenges of life. I work hard on my relationships, on my work, on everything really. It took being stranded on a rocky island with nowhere to go to remind me that the whole point of life is simply this moment, right now. To be who I am as truthfully as I can and then… let go.
How can I take this realisation into my every day? How can I keep learning what I have learned? The nearest thing I equate to the St Agnes Effect is what I find through ‘taking space’ in daily meditation. I meditate often at home, but in the Isles of Scilly, just being there was so meditative that I didn’t feel the need to stop and “do” meditation at all.
Meditation has become vital to me in the last year or so. It keeps me (relatively) sane, grounded and able to think clearly amid a chaotic life with small children, complex work conditions and demanding relationships to navigate. I’d like to say that I decided to get into meditation because all the evidence suggests it is a good thing for mental resilience and physical well-being. I have meditated on and off for those reasons, but I was virtually forced into a daily practice, as is so often the case, by reaching a breaking point. I started meditating regularly following emotional loss and turmoil that seemed beyond my ability to cope with using yoga, traditional relaxation or other methods that I value greatly such the Lightning Process (or BodyMind Programme) and NLP coaching. Early on, Headspace provided an accessible immersion in simple, effective daily meditation techniques, allowing me to recover a sense of wholeness, inner strength and clarity. These days I have a more settled practice, founded on meditation (with and without lovely Headspace), yoga nidra and restorative/yin yoga.
I recently re-read Kamal Sarma’s book Mental Resilience: The Power of Clarity, on “how to develop the focus of a warrior and and peace of a monk”. It includes a wonderful metaphor for what mediation give us. Imagine you are holding a box of chocolates in one hand with your arm outstretched. Over time it starts to feel really heavy and gives you all kinds of unbearable discomfort. If you let yourself put it down and take a pause, your arm rests, recovers and when you pick up the box again it is back to feeling light and easy. The box of chocolates is your thoughts. I like this idea. Sometimes our thoughts go round and round getting heavier and heavier, and all we may need to get perspective and clarity is to take a pause. Sam Thorogood of TinyPause promotes this same idea, wishing us all high quality rest and “a moment for you today”.
Another meditative book that makes me smile is Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh. Hanh charmingly explains how we can be more present in each moment if we allow our lives just as they are, from red traffic lights to beeping phones, to call us back to ourselves; to breath and to being.
Maybe there really is hope that we can live in the moment without having to live in blissful isolation on a rock in the middle of the sea. I will keep meditating with that in mind… but I will also hope to see St Agnes again. I think a piece of me may still be there.
Time to Change is a campaign that aims to end mental health discrimination in all its forms. Thursday 7th February2019 is Time to Talk Day, part of an initiative to get us talking more openly about our mental health, even if that just means a few minutes of honest talking and listening over a cup of tea with a friend or colleague.
While one in fourof us are estimated to experience mental health problems at some point, many of us still find it taboo to talk about issues such as depression, anxiety & panic disorders and addiction. This can make it hard for those affected to recognise what is happening, reach out for support and engage with the many effective solutions that exist to help them get well and stay well. Talking more openly about how we think, feel and what we do is a key way to turn the tide.
Good mental health and well-being are core to our sense of connection, motivation to be who we are and drive to make a positive impact in the world. As a therapist and scientist with an interest in mind and body fitness and wellbeing I can see how valuable it is to look after and listen not only to the body but also the mind. My own passion for yoga, circus and meditation stem from this, much as I adore physical therapy and endless studying as well!
It struck me that the Five Ways to Wellbeing*, simple strategies to enhance mental and physical wellbeing, fit well with the Time to Change campaign and help show why Time to Talk is such a beneficial idea. The Five Ways to Wellbeing include:
Connectingand Givingto ourselves and to others can make a world of difference, especially when it comes to our mental health. This February 7th how about marking Time to Talk Day and joining the move towards better mental health awareness for all? There are plenty of ideas for how to bring Time to Talk Day to your workplace, sports club or communityat the Time to Change website here.
May you find many ways to your own personal best mental and physical health!
* In 2008 the New Economics Foundation (NEF) on behalf of Foresight set out 5 strategies to improve personal wellbeing. These became known in the UK and other countries as the Five Ways to Wellbeing. Evidence suggests that small improvements in wellbeing can help decrease some mental health problems (e.g. anxiety and depression) and help people flourish, performing at their best.
Today I was struck afresh by the poem ‘Leisure’, written by William Henry Davies:
What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
Inspiring Wonder is here to help you find the inner and outer spaciousness you need to feel free to stand and stare. If wonder has dropped off your agenda lately, we are in your corner with a listening ear and lots of creative solutions!