It takes longer than usual
to reach the place
where there is just
and spring sunshine.
The calm beneath
It takes longer than usual
to reach the place
where there is just
and spring sunshine.
The calm beneath
Today I knelt on cold concrete, bowed my head,
breathed the perfume of the first spring iris
as if I was praying.
Damp grey winter tightens his grip.
I struggle within
I’ve been thinking about that moment when we take control of something in our lives. Perhaps something we’ve dreamed about for years. The shift in perspective that occurs when we go from thinking, for example, ‘one day I’d like to write a novel’ to actually sitting down to write the first page. And the one after that, and the one after that.
The moment when we realise….
‘If I want to make that thing happen then I have to DO something!’
I’m sure this is easy for many people, but for me, I like to dream and think about what I might like to do but I get stuck in the realities of life (earning a living etc) and often I don’t get round to doing what I want to do!
Also I have to write about creating a shift in perspective for one of my coaching assignments, so this is also me mulling over some ideas. I’d love to know your thoughts.
To drift: to move slowly, especially as a result of outside forces, with no control over direction.
Sometimes we drift through our lives, at the mercy of the currents and winds. Sharp rocks and shipwrecks may await, or, less dramatically but potentially as serious, a lifetime of drifting into unsatisfactory jobs, or not quite ever getting around to doing what we really want to do. We follow the currents of other people’s beliefs and values, other people’s ‘shoulds’, never quite getting where we really want to go. Perhaps not even aware of where we really want to go.
And often we drift with a head full of dreams. Our body is sitting in an open plan office in front of a computer, our head is filled with possibilities. ‘Perhaps I’ll become an artist’. ‘Maybe I could go self-employed’. ‘Maybe I’ll pack it all in and go and live on a desert island’. But we never do.
So much of our energy is focused on dreaming, on thinking, on imagining, on future possibilities, but these thoughts don’t turn into action. Looking inward, looking to something that only exists in our minds, talking about it maybe (perhaps talking about it endlessly!) but never doing. Never changing, never growing, just…stuck in our heads. And drifting.
And sometimes we drift with no dreams at all. We plod along a course that we haven’t chosen, frustrated. Drifting on the currents of life, we see no way out.
And then something happens. Maybe we get too close to those dangerous rocks. Perhaps a storm brings a clarifying splash of icy cold water.
Maybe we just can’t face another day at that job. A significant birthday. A death. A birth. A deadline.
A shift in perspective.
This is the moment when we realise….
‘If I want to make change happen then I have to DO something. Now!’
This is when we take control.
Now we are not drifting, we are steering.
We take the helm. We take responsibility.
We take our boredom with our current lives seriously.
We take our dreams seriously.
We commit to change.
We take action.
To steer a course or path: to take a series of actions, usually of a particular type, carefully and intentionally.
At first, steering may look just like drifting to the outside observer. Outwardly, nothing may change. We may still be at the boring job, but unseen by the world we are now making plans, researching, taking action.
We question. Is this really want I want to do? What is it that I believe? Where do I really want to be in 5 years’ time? What does success look like to me…not to my mother or my work colleagues or society….to me?
We may appear to drift around for a while, trying out new ideas, but the difference is that our movement is purposeful to us. We are deliberately choosing our direction.
We make goals and we take the steps that we need to make those goals happen.
We go from saying ‘maybe I could do xyz’, or ‘I’d love to do xyz but it’s not possible because….’ To ‘it is possible and I will take the steps I need to take to make it happen.
It might not be easy. It will probably take courage and determination to make changes. We might want to give up. We might need support.
But now we know. If we want change, we need to take action.
How does this shift in perspective happen?
So often the thing that shifts us from drifting to steering comes from outside of us. For example, a deadline, a divorce, redundancy. How do we move ourselves from drifting to steering without one of these external influences?
I think there are several ways, including becoming aware that we are drifting through life, that we are doing something we don’t really want to be doing and not taking our dreams seriously. We could explore our own beliefs and values, to see if they match the life we are living. A powerful excercise can be to explore our dreams and create a vision of the future that motivates us to make it happen. We can structure our lives so we can more easily do the thing we want to do (eg set aside time each day to write, if writing a novel is the dream).
What about you?
I’m really interested to know what has moved you from drifting to steering.
Have you had the experience of having some dream that you wanted to do ‘one day’, but that you didn’t ever get round to doing, perhaps because you were too busy, or you didn’t think it was possible? And then you did start to do it? What was the thing that made you take action?
Or are you stuck right now, wondering how to steer a course towards your dreams?
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The most important thing
is to relax.
Everything else is a distraction.
I write these words as a reminder to myself.
I had forgotten recently. Caught up in a whirl of ‘what ifs’. What if my contract at work is extended? Should I stay? Should I leave? How / when do I build up a coaching practice if I’m still working? But what if my contract is not extended? I’ll be out of work…blah…blah…blah. Well, I won’t bore you with all the details but I’m sure you know the kind of thing I mean! Repetitive circular thinking, as if running through the various options again and again is going to make a decision easier.
I’ve not written much here recently as I’ve been busy with work (we’ve just published formal proposals for a section of the England Coast Path and are publishing another section in March), and also coach training. My coaching course assessment is getting closer (also March).
This week, in an observed coaching class, I was nervous. I didn’t perform well. I am usually fairly relaxed when I’m working with clients one on one, but when I’m being observed it makes me self conscious and tense. I started to wonder if I’m actually ready for the final assessment.
Nerves and coaching don’t go together. Coaching reminds me so much of my tai chi partnerwork practice. To do both well you must be completely relaxed, completely connected to your partner / the client. Which is impossible to do if you are tense or nervous.
After a few days of thinking about it, I decided that my focus for the observed coaching sessions should be to relax and connect. To let the coaching competencies that I am supposed to be demonstrating sit lightly in the back of my mind. To give up the trying. To give up the idea that I should be doing it perfectly. To give up the habits of a lifetime. Well….I didn’t say it would be easy!
And then, as I did my evening tai chi practice the words came to me.
‘The most important thing is to relax. Everything else is a distraction.’
Thi is true for everything. The work stuff, the coaching, the future, everything.
Everything is easier if I relax. Life flows, unfolds. I follow. I know this. And I so easily forget.
Wishing you all the best for the new decade!
A snipe walks
visible against the water,
a master of camouflage
against the reeds.
The winter sun
breaks through and
lights this perfect moment.
The pintail and teal sleep on,
turning slowly with the breeze
as we watch,
fill ourselves with
their colour and movement,
and take away our own small glimpse
of the wild.
Its been a bit grey, wet and windy here recently. Today was sunnier so I visited the local nature reserve. Sunday afternoon and it was busy. I started wondering if the birds have a sense of being watched by so many people. Probably not. But I love how we all have our own experience of the birds, of the low winter sun lighting up the reeds, glinting off the water, the fresh air in our lungs. How we take the memories, the images of the birds in the sunshine, and how we carry that light within us through the dark wet grey January days. We return to our indoor weekday lives accompanied by a glimpse of the wild.
The clocks have changed.
Office hours equal daylight hours,
Work finishes and it is dark.
Why did we create
that lock us away
from the light?
To make sure I observe
I leave my desk in the afternoon,
head out through autumn colours,
the smell of wet leaves,
face misted by rain,
lungs full of fresh air.
My thoughts settle
to the rhythm
of my walking.
Words of a future blog post
roll through my mind.
A pleasant state,
until the scolding of
a fieldfare brings me back,
as if to say
‘I have travelled over seas to get here,
And you will notice me.’
I look up, into a tree full of birds.
Chastened, I remain present,
as a treecreeper darts
up the trunk
probing for insects.
The blog post I was composing
will have to wait for another day.
The fieldfare sent this, instead.
I am wrapped
in a blanket
I am slipping between seasons.
I can sense the afterglow of summer; flowers are blooming, the sun is still warm on my face. Then in another moment I am tumbling towards winter.
The darkness draws me forward.
There is still time after work to dodge the rain showers and squeeze in a walk to the estuary, yet by the time I have finished my evening meal there is blackness outside the window.
Winter guests are arriving along with the first frosts. The geese are back and countless small birds enliven the garden with their flittering flocks. I’m still waiting for a glimpse of redwing, or fieldfare. Tasty berries await their return.
Sometimes it’s still just about warm enough to take my cup of tea to the bench in the front garden, but I spend less time there now.
Of course, there is still work to do outside, weeding and pruning and such, which will build up body heat and make time spent outside feel good. But the mooching, the gazing, the simply being, the doing nothing, the outdoor tai chi practice; the season for all that is ebbing away.
And so the true owners of the garden come to the fore. The blackbirds, robins, wrens, dunnocks, tits, goldcrests, song thrushes, the mice and voles, the squirrels, the spiders and slugs, snails and countless invertebrates. All those beings who spend the entire of the day and the night outside, however cold or wet or grey it gets.
I watch a blackbird probing the lawn for insects and I suddenly realise that the garden belongs to all of them, not to me. They depend on it for survival, I just appear outside occasionally and they watch me with caution until I am gone.
The darkness approaches with relentless speed.
I fight it, just like every year. I wish it wasn’t happening. I dread the clocks changing, darkness before I even leave the office.
I’m not sure when this started. As a child winter and dark evenings just happened, that was just how life was. It didn’t bother me at all.
The winter started with our annual end of October half term Lake District family holiday, an old cottage with no central heating, roasting the chestnuts that we collected in the woods over the open fire, cold bedrooms, huddling under the sheets with hot water bottles. Probably my favourite holiday of the year. Back home, the house was usually warm, and the dark months were punctuated by brightness: Halloween, bonfire night, Christmas.
And I’ve been wondering when I learned to dislike the darkness that comes with winter, the short days, the endless grey and the damp cold.
A run of grey days can hang over me like a bad mood. Then, the sun comes out and everything is OK. Colours come to life. The world around me sparkles. This is perhaps not a good attitude to have developed given that I live in rainy, grey, beautiful north west England.
And yet. Every year there comes a point when I stop fighting the seasons, when I start to see the long dark evenings as something to treasure.
Often, there is not much to do. The working day is over. There are no little jobs to do in the garden, because it’s dark outside. I read. I binge watch tv programmes.
A little idea arrives in my head, about seasons and the approaching darkness. I go outside and reacquaint myself with the stars. Back inside it’s warm. I sit down and I start writing.
We are just at the beginning. There are months of this creative, enveloping darkness ahead. I could choose to welcome it.
What do dark evenings and approaching winter mean to you?
With each gust,
There has been a bumper crop of hazelnuts here this year. If I venture out into the woods on a windy day I almost need a hard hat!