Happy Choose-Day

Apparently 13 million people watched the Blue Planet 2 series. I was one of them on Sunday evening. Over the last three years, the Barrier Reef has had an exponential increase in the amount of dying coral. Where before there was a beautiful smorgasbord of colour, life and movement, now there is just the bones of bleached and dead coral. I was horrified. The cause? High levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere which turns into carbonic acid in the sea and dissolves the coral. And the main cause of high levels of carbon dioxide? Burning fossil fuels. I looked guiltily at the open fire and the coal burning in it. Yesterday evening, I declared an amnesty on my guilt as I could either hold on to feeling guilty and do nothing, or forgive myself, change my actions and do something positive. I looked up carbon neutral wood as a solid fuel alternative. Interestingly, many of the sawdust briquettes I looked at had the word Eco attached to them. I emailed one of the suppliers and asked were they produced in Ireland? The answer was no. So I wonder how environmentally friendly an Eco log or briquette is if it involves much burning of diesel while being transported across Europe. Anyway, today I found an Irish version. And the news gets better. There is no VAT tax on sawdust briquettes, and they also produce low amounts of ash. This means less weight in the dustbin. The ash can in fact be used as a fertiliser.

The second thing in the program that horrified me was that 8 million tonnes of plastic finds its way into the sea every year. It breaks down into microplastic beads, which is eaten by plankton. The plankton and the plastic makes its way up the food chain and may be responsible for the death of young dolphins, poisoned by their mother’s milk. The program didn’t say it, but obviously the same plastic is in the human food chain. Those who eat fish may well have toxic plastic residue in their systems. Who knows the effect of such pollution? Who knows how much cancer or infertility it causes? In any case, all I can think of to contribute towards a solution for the plastic problem is to share with you about Prill Beads. Years ago I used to use a water filter, then went through a phase of buying bottled water – until I discovered Prill Beads. They are made from magnesium oxide and you put them in a large glass jar, then top it up with tap water. One hour later, you have great tasting water to drink. They last forever, although you may need to change the small net bag they often come in. I’m still using beads I bought nearly five years ago. No plastic bottles involved, which is better for the planet. No more buying of plastic bottles of water, which is good for your pocket (and your back, with the weight of said bottles!) So today has been a Good Choose-Day for me. Hopefully I will continue to find new ways to be kind to this beautiful planet of ours. We are all connected. What we choose to do, or not do, makes a difference. Imagine if 13 million of us all make one small change!

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Animal Teachers

Cats know how to be still. We have a lot to learn from them. Outer stillness can give rise to inner stillness, with practice. The outer stillness is a necessary first step. Then comes the lion-taming bit (learning from bigger cats) where we try to practice becoming a witness to our thoughts. It’s where we try to imagine that we are the blue sky and our thoughts are the clouds. Another analogy is trying to keep a puppy or a toddler on a blanket. They keep wandering off, and our job is to stay calm and gently bring them back. That’s all. This is a process that we practice, not a goal to meet. The benefit of such practice is being able to respond instead of reacting, being able to be patient when previously you wanted to knock someone’s block off. The cause of suffering is our reaction to what happens, not what actually happens. I was walking a golden Labrador on the seafront this morning. He was full of the joys of life. Dogs are so enthusiastic! I had one of those bendy sticks. The plan was that if I was going one direction, I would throw the ball back behind me to increase his exercise. Well, that was Plan A. What actually happened is that the first few times, he didn’t see where the ball went so I had to show him. Then I had some abortive attempts at throwing the ball at all because I had jammed it too hard into the end of the throwing stick. Hmm. What’s the lesson here, I wondered? Might it be about holding on too hard and then not being able to let go? Quite possibly. Also about being out of practice with said stick. So Plan B involved me burning more calories than I expected to (good news) and eventually using a two-handed approach that would have put Tiger Woods (more cat references!) to shame. So it didn’t quite go to plan, but the important thing was that the dog was happy. Me too, considering that (a) it was cold but dry unlike Wednesday morning and (b) my serotonin levels were up with all the extra throwing and walking. A good time had by all.

Tai Chi Lessons

I have always believed that you can change by starting at either a physical or psychological level. I have been studying Taoist Tai Chi for a year now and it confirms my belief. I have noticed myself becoming more able to let go as I do even five minutes of practice a day. The teacher we had on Saturday explained how a slight change in posture made all the difference. “So we are aiming for lightness, ease and letting go of struggle?” I asked. “Exactly,” she said, as one of the lads giggled and said, “You should put that on a T shirt!” I had already known that at times I put too much effort into trying to make things happen as opposed to doing my best and then letting go. Tai Chi is teaching me how to use minimum effort to achieve the same result. It takes a “Head” understanding down into the body and effects transformation easily and subtly, once you continue practising. I have also finally learned in the last year or so that simply going to a class once a week is not enough for me to actually learn a new skill. Doing a small bit each day is the key. For me, the best thing about Tai Chi is knowing that it really doesn’t matter whether I get it right or wrong. It feels good, it feels relaxing and enjoyable. It requires focused concentration to get the “form” or sequence of movements correct, and because you have to focus, the mind quietens down. Meditation in motion. How peaceful is that.

Light and Dark

Some of you may know that I am an animal healer as well as a therapist for humans. I go to a rescue centre called Dog’s Aid once a week to offer some healing to whichever animals need it. I’ve been doing this for seven years, and I can honestly say that I have never seen a cent go astray in that time – all resources go on the animals. Maggie, who runs the place, is an amazing character. I greatly admire her. She’s been rescuing animals for over thirty years. I don’t know how she keeps going. I simply wouldn’t have the physical or emotional stamina to do what she does. So at the moment, she and I have been trying to help a grey African parrot who is nearly bald as he is plucking his feathers out. I started offering him healing a few weeks ago. Then I did some research online, and Maggie changed the location of his cage. Then I got some Chamomilla homeopathic remedy for him. Some of his feathers grew back. Then I made up a remedy of Crab Apple, Cherry Plum and Rescue Remedy, from the Bach Flower remedies. He started on that last week and when I went in to work with him yesterday, I could immediately see an improvement. His energy field was brighter. He had more feathers. Maggie had asked two volunteers to extend his cage by linking it to another one and they had done a great job. I had gleaned more information from the internet and I put in a branch of silver birch (apparently silver birch and willow are two wood types safe to use with grey African parrots) and some pine cones, to amuse him. Yesterday, for the first time, he came right over to me, and put one claw on one side of the cage and the other on the other corner, exposing his chest feathers to me. He stayed like that for about fifteen minutes, soaking up the healing as I sang lullabies to him. He must be deaf because my singing voice would clear a pub after a lock-in!! Maggie always says that whatever ailment humans can get or experience, animals are the same. So when he was introduced to his new extended cage, he wouldn’t go into it. Fear of more freedom and addiction to the safe routine afflicts us all, I guess. Exasperated, Maggie said to him, “Well, you’re supposed to be intelligent – you figure it out!” He did, eventually. Later she told me that an eighteen year old dog called Lukie had died the day before from a massive stroke. Lukie came into the shelter five years ago. Her owner had another, bigger dog. Lukie was the size of a cat so that wouldn’t have been difficult. The big dog chased Lukie under the jeep and – get this – the owner deliberately ran over Lukie to “teach her a lesson.” I woke at 4am this morning thinking about this. What sort of heart of darkness would you need to have to do such a thing? I’m not naive. I’ve heard many horrific stories of humans abusing humans in my eighteen years as a therapist. But some stories cut right to your heart, don’t they? So what can we do to offset such barbarity? Look to our own inner demons first, and make sure we face them so that we don’t project them out onto a hapless dog or human. Intend to be kind and act in a kind way to all sentient beings and the earth itself. Clearly the world needs all the light we can bring into it. And now is the only time we have.

Grace Bringing Favours

It’s been a rough year, and it’s only May. I won’t go into the gory details of why, except to say that an elderly mother is part of the equation. For those of you caring for an elderly parent, enough said. So I have needed to regroup. Part of what I have done in the last few months was to take a sabbatical from writing anything other than my Morning Pages (from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way.) It has been a time of paring down commitments in order to give myself time to recover. One of the great things that has supported me is the Tai Chi class I started going to last October. I love it. It requires total attention to detail so the thinking mind has to go on holiday. It’s also very graceful and flowing, like a slow dance. We do the form, or practice of the 108 moves, in total silence. I find it incredibly peaceful. Mobile phone off, quietness, and moving meditation. It teaches you patience, because you practice and practice and then one day, you find that you know a bit of it, and gradually add a little more to what you know. It can’t be rushed. I know about the first eight moves and the two snake movements, that’s all. I bought a bamboo plant and put it in a pot in the back garden. The bamboo is on one side of me and the shed is on the other in a very small space as I try to practice the little I know out of sight of the neighbours, so that they won’t call for a strait jacket for me. The second string of my regaining my equilibrium has been my daily meditation practice, a godsend in tough times. It’s a lovely rest for the mind and helps me focus on all my blessings, of which there are many. Of course the cats are a great help too. Felicity leaped on a sheet hanging over the stairs last week, and slid down the bannister with claws stuck in the fabric, a look of total shock on her face. It was the funniest thing I have seen all year and gave me a much-needed belly laugh. So I am grateful for all mercies, large and small, and especially the way the Universe responded when I asked for help in regaining my joie de vivre. Try it. Sure what have you got to lose?! 🙂