Relax

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 glimpse of the wild

A snipe walks

between

sleeping ducks,

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.

Message from a fieldfare

The clocks have changed.
Office hours equal daylight hours,
pretty much.
Work finishes and it is dark.

Why did we create
work rhythms
that lock us away
from the light?

To make sure I observe
this day,

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,
half here,
half elsewhere,
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
silently
up the trunk
probing for insects.

The blog post I was composing
will have to wait for another day.
The fieldfare sent this, instead.


Listen to a fieldfare here.

It’s raining hazelnuts!

With each gust,

a deluge

of hazelnuts.

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!

Gone canoeing

It’s the August bank holiday here in England. This is a note I left in the kitchen on Saturday.

Going canoeing reminded me of a poem I wrote on May Day bank holiday 2018. Reposting it here:


A click of the shutter

I don’t have a waterproof camera

and my phone is wrapped in plastic, safe in a drybag,

for emergencies only.

And so I have no photos to share

to say I was here,

to try to convey the meaning of a moment.

But how often does a photograph really do that?

After all, there are other senses than sight.

So.

Bank holiday monday,

Coniston Water

the end of a scorching weekend.

Paddling south (first time in my canoe this year)

away from the crowds,

my arms remember how good it feels,

burn of working muscle

taking me further from the voices and barbecue smoke.

Past open water swimmers towing orange floats

who stop for a chat in the middle of the lake

unfazed by the deeps,

complaining of the cold water.

Past moored boats, and pine tree promentaries,

shingle beaches overhung with oaks,

until, at the south end of the lake

as yellow reeds narrow to reveal the start of a river,

I turn around to head back north and see

spread before me the calm lake

bordered by woods in the first flush of spring green,

low bracken-covered hills glowing

in the early evening sunshine,

the Coniston fells beyond, blue and slightly misty.

That is the moment I would have pressed the shutter.

But could that photograph record

the pleasant ache of shoulders and arms,

the gentle forward motion of the canoe,

the sound of water lapping,

a mind quietened to contentment?

One moment, containing

a sense of returning, of welcome,

a glimpse of childhood,

a farewell to winter,

and the seed of all the summers to come.

Walking in summer rain

I walk on,

aware of grey storm clouds

gathering,

darkening,

first few spots of rain.

The estuary beckons.

I walk on.

The clouds open,

rain pounding on my

waterproof jacket,

pouring streams down

my legs, drenching

my cotton trousers,

filling my shoes.

I walk on,

the estuary misty

shades of silver.

For the raindrops

bouncing off my head,

running down my legs,

I am simply a detour

between the clouds

and the sea.

I walk home,

feet surprisingly warm

as my body heats

the rain in my shoes.

This is what it is

to be

alive.