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.
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.
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?! 🙂
Many moons ago, I had a boyfriend who was into electronics. His parents were renovating a house and we lived there rent-free in return for keeping it safe while his uncle worked on it. The uncle was a nice man but fond of the drink so living conditions were a bit unpredictable. There might be water or electricity, or not. The boyfriend had more oven timers than you could shake a stick at. These days he’d be arrested for terrorism but he was only interested in automating the music playing. He wired up the record player to an oven timer so that you could wake up to hear Louis Armstrong or Tom Waits. Another oven timer switched on the coffee maker. It was like living with Wallace and Grommit. I think he liked inventing electrical circuits to relieve the boredom of his job. Anyway, some of the gadgetry must have rubbed off because I have a vintage amplifier to which I had attached a dvd player to play cds. The dvd player coughed and died so off I went to Curry’s last week to get a new replacement dvd player. Two young male assistants were hovering around a man who wanted to buy headphones. I hovered myself, hoping to detach one of them to get me what I had chosen, but no joy. I approached a girl and asked “Do you work here?” She pointed to a badge and said “I’m on work experience. Why, what’s wrong with you?” I assured her it was okay and went on my way, musing that there is a big difference between “What’s wrong with you?” and “How can I help you?” I wondered what the likelihood was of her getting an actual paid job. Not that there are many of those for all those young people who have gone through years of college only to end up doing “internships.” Yeah, right. The last I heard, having to work for free was called slavery. Anyway, I eventually located the item, paid and then went to another shop to look for a roller blind. “What size do you need?” asked the assistant. A reasonable question. I had cunningly written down the measurements and forgotten to bring them with me thanks to the Brainopause. I decided to chance buying one anyway, and on my way to the till, I heard a girl saying to another assistant “….so I said to her, that’s my facecloth, why is there a guinea pig sitting on it?” At that point, I thought it was time to go home and rest my ears.
There are so many demands on our time these days. All the technology means we are constantly available unless we call a halt. In my therapy work, many clients baulk at the idea of turning off their phone even if it allows them to sleep better. If we want to find time to be creative, we need to be creative to find that time. In order to write the novel/create the piece of art/write the poem, we need to be clear and prioritise it so that it gets done. If it’s not scheduled in, it gets scheduled out. One way to create more time is to stop watching television or watch less of it. Same with mindless surfing of the web. How many cat videos do we need to watch anyway?! Another option is to get up earlier or stay up later. Of course we need to balance our activities so that we get rest, interact with our loved ones, walk the dog, and do what needs to be done to keep things ticking over. Trying to write in the last couple of years has taught me the value of tenacity. Having a mindfulness practice has trained me to be able to focus my attention and bring myself back from whatever distraction the monkey mind is after now. Last night, for instance, I really, really wanted to go to the library to collect a book I had reserved which had become available. I was very tempted. I wanted to do anything except sit at the computer and re-edit two short eBooks I am working on. But I just made myself do it, whether I wanted to or not. I have discovered that there is no substitute for perseverance if I want to write, to improve my writing, to publish and to have others read my work. I hope you strengthen your perseverance muscles every day, and find a creative way to live your life creatively. By the way, my Goodreads competition is still open until 22/03/17 Win a copy of How to Love Yourself in Less Than 50 Years
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