the cool north wind,
I share this bench,
and the last rays
of summer sun,
with a dragonfly.
the cool north wind,
I share this bench,
and the last rays
of summer sun,
with a dragonfly.
No need to remember a technique,
fire up an app
or take a class.
Just go into the garden
and do what needs to be done.
A bit of weeding,
tidying the greenhouse,
watering tomatoes and cucumbers,
(there is always something
that needs attention).
Simply do the work,
at its own pace.
When the time is right,
find a spot to rest,
perhaps with a cup of tea.
(summer fresh butterflies dance between flowers)
(there are a lot of dewy cobwebs around)
(the asters are starting to flower)
(I can still hear the swallows).
For a few mesmerising moments,
as the sun sets behind the beech tree,
leaf shadows dance on the wall.
It takes longer than usual
to reach the place
where there is just
and spring sunshine.
The calm beneath
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!
At the end of the garden
the bench in early evening sun
I read a new book,
Chinese mountain poetry,
a subject about which
I know little.
it seems we write
about the same things.
Then a sparrow chirps
in the hedge,
pulls me fully
into the present moment.
Always, and only,
Boredom sits heavy.
don’t drive it away
with endless scrolling
or unnecessary busyness.
Let it be.
Feel a little fed up.
Just when you think
you can’t take any more,
you will notice something.
Within the boredom,
a little seed of creativity
Give it space.
Wait, then watch it blossom
An empty holiday cottage on the Dorset coast. Everyone else has gone out. At first, the peace is bliss, then I get bored.
Then eventually the boredom transforms into the wish to draw. But all my sketchbooks, pencils and paints are at home.
My eyes fall on my nephews’ drawing book and gel pens.
My fingers itch to draw.
I have an idea.
I go and find their favourite toys, scattered around the house.
I draw each one, 2 monkeys and 2 cats, on random pages.
Tomorrow we all go home.
Sometime in the future, when my nephews look for a clean sheet of drawing paper, they will find my drawings.
And when I get home I will get my paints out. And maybe add some gel pens to my ever expanding range of art materials.
Thank you boredom!
The moment I accept the reality of what is, is the moment I relax.
Saturday morning, 4.30am. Jet lag kicks in and I’m not sleeping. I should sleep. I need to be refreshed. I’ve crossed an ocean for the annual tai chi workshop and I want to be rested, relaxed. So I worry about not sleeping.
Every year that I attend this workshop I arrive with a suitcase of worries. Will it be too hot? Am I good enough at tai chi to be here? What if the travel plans go wrong? Did I do everything I needed to do before I left work, before I left home? What if I don’t feel well and miss some of the workshop? What if, what if.
And every year, I love it. I have the most amazing time. I learn, I reconnect with friends, I make new friends. I relax, deeply. I gain insights in my practice. Yes, sometimes it’s too hot, occasionally I’ve felt a bit unwell, but I still have a great time.
4.30 am, Saturday morning. I must go back to sleep. I am anxiously awake.
Then a thought pops into my head. Should I really be asleep? Really? Is that true? No. I am awake. That is the reality.
What would happen if I just accepted that I’m awake? That it’s OK to be awake at 4.30 in the morning and it won’t ruin my whole week?
So I did. And suddenly I’m just lying awake, relaxed, in a comfortable bed. I just enjoy lying there in the darkness, listening to the first tentative notes of the foreign dawn chorus.
And all the other things I am worrying about just dissolve in the dawn.
There is such ease to be found in living life this way, accepting what is instead of fighting reality.
This is my new practice.
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I’ve been feeling a little frazzled today; working, preparing for house guests who arrive tomorrow and getting ready to go on a tai chi workshop next Wednesday in the US. All good things, just they have given me a rather long to-do list!
So, I spent some time reading old blog posts instead, turning to some relaxing poems to calm me down.
And then I decided to quickly turn them into a little ebook, for you to download.
Poems to bring a little calm and relaxation to your day.
And now I’m off to do some tai chi in the garden.
I have loved this haiku ever since I first read it. Twenty-five years ago I wrote it out on a piece of card and stuck it over my desk when I was revising for my final exams at university.
I felt instinctively that the words were true, yet I was stuck in a life where I had to strive to make things happen; work, and work some more, worry, then work harder, in order to get a qualification, so that I could get a job, so that I could carry on working hard.
The end was never in sight, just a life of effort and busyness.
I longed for a life where I was like the grass, biding my time and then growing when the conditions were right.
Or a life where I was just sitting, observing, not worrying or striving to control the grass (a pointless task!). Just relaxing, waiting for it to grow in its own sweet time and trusting that everything would unfold as it should.
Neither of these were true for me at the time, instead I was full of anxiety about the future. But I always felt that Basho was speaking across the centuaries to me, pointing out a better way to live.
I’ve been drawn to the haiku again recently as I talk to friends and coaching clients and think about my own life.
The idea of something happening, growing, reaching fruition in its own time and when the conditions are right. Of not knowing what the outcome will be, just letting life evolve and grow.
So often I’ve asked the question ‘now what should I do with my life?’ or ‘what should I do next?’ and expected an answer, fully formed and shiny, a new goal.
What happens when no goal appears, when I’m not sure what to do next? Can I allow my life to unfold naturally, following my interests and passions to see where they take me, without expectations?
My biologist self looks at the grass growing by itself and knows that it is only growing because of the coming together of the right conditions for grass to grow; warmth, sunlight, rain, suitable soil, the right numbers of grazing animals, strong roots that have survived the winter, viable grass seed.
So how can we create the right conditions in our own lives?
Sit quietly, do nothing. Or go for a walk, or whatever allows us the space and time to listen. We need the equivalent of sun, rain and sweet time to let us grow.
An idea nudges us in the quietness, whispers in a small voice ‘this is what I want’.
More ideas emerge, possibilities reveal themselves, action unfolds because it feels effortless, the right thing to do.
It takes faith and courage to let things evolve, to see where your path of life leads. Sometimes it can be a lonely road, it seems that not many others are taking it. But they are.
And eventually a goal emerges, a path appears in the undergrowth. There is a map and someone has been that way before. It might take some effort, risk and persistence to follow the path, but it feels right.
You just have to start walking through the grass, which is growing all by itself.