· Spring,Change,Nature,Mindfulness,Compassion

”The mind I love must still have wild places, a tangled orchard where dark damsons drop in the heavy grass, an overgrown little wood, the chance of a snake or two (real snakes), a pool that nobody’s fathomed the depth of – and paths threaded with those little flowers planted by the mind.” – Katherine Mansfield

The light level is rising as I sit here and write, in the quiet solitude at the start of the day. Only a few weeks ago I was still sitting in the dark for my too oft sporadic morning scribbling but now it is April and we are in British Summertime now. The winter has felt long and never ending this year, it just kept rearing its head again. Even now, the days are quite cool and wet and the nights are still cold (as my children discovered when they decided to sleep in the tent in the garden last night). I have the window ajar, my link to the outdoors, and have just been treated to the sound of a green woodpecker going about its business - that loud laughing noise, frequently called a ‘yaffle’, it sounds like it's having fun. On recent walks I have delighted in seeing the first bluebells; collected wild garlic to pack into practically every meal; and enjoyed the confetti like white blackthorn flowers. The seasons are twisting on their axis again, tilting toward summer. I find that I long for those warm, sunny days but I also discover sadness for the passing of winter. No more hygge round the fire, no more thick cosy jumpers, no more hearty root vegetable stews. As humans we can find change a challenge, I know I do, and yet everything changes. We are young, until we are not. We have loved ones, until we do not. We have our health, until we do not.

Through my life, until recently, I have been lucky to enjoy good health, was fit and threw myself into a wide range of physical activities....until I found one day that I could do nothing but lie down, eventually discovering it was due to two slipped discs in my neck. Although I am considerably better than I was, I am still in the shadow of that health challenge. Pain is a constant presence in my daily life, and it is something that I have to factor in to everything that I do. I wish it wasn’t so, if I am honest, but it is a reality of my life at the moment. I started this blog last year, as a way of connecting with others to create a space to talk about issues that are just not talked about enough. I had a sense that I was not alone in the difficulties I faced in life, no matter what the content of that difficulty is, and the wonderful array of feedback that I have received bears that out. As H. Jackson Brown said, “Remember that everyone you meet is afraid of something, loves something and has lost something.” We are not alone, though it can so often feel this way when we are in that place of suffering. Right now there will be thousands of people experiencing exactly the same feelings as you – and me - at any one moment on the globe.

To know this, to feel the universal truths that we all experience difficulty, pain and suffering, can be in the words of Tony Brady “a catalyst for compassion.” There is no shame in finding life hard, we all do, even if we do not always show it. It can help to have a measure of difficulty or suffering in our lives to signpost the way to be empathetic with our fellow humans. I have found that it doesn’t help to start weighing our difficulty against others thinking mine is of lesser importance. In our lives if it is hurting...it is hurting, plain and simple. The best path through is to acknowledge that, bear witness to the pain, and hold our own hands with kindness as we move through it. This is something I am learning to do. I haven't always been kind to myself; I discovered a tough, berating inner voice calling myself ‘slacker’ when I was most ill and kicking myself for not healing quicker. As you can imagine this did nothing to move me forward, in fact it paralysed me for a bit. I know that I am not alone in this either, we all have an inner critic or judge; sometimes a whole kangaroo courtroom full. What is actually needed in difficult times is gentle kindness, so that we can move through and be ok, maybe even discovering some treasure along the way, realising that things have changed and spring has at last arrived.

Rick Hanson talks about the mind as a garden, which I find a beautiful way to think of it. There are three approaches which we can employ: we can simply observe the mind and see what’s going on in the garden right now; we can pull weeds and compost negative thoughts; and/or we can sow colourful and radiant flowers. Creating a garden doesn’t happen overnight and this is true too of our minds; it is a constant daily work in progress. There will always be challenges in the form of next door's cat crapping all over it or an unwelcome invasion of slugs, but there will be beauty there too, especially if you take the time to tend and recognise the positives - even amongst the crap. We can observe it and enjoy it no matter what is growing there. My garden has resembled Sleeping Beauty’s overgrown one, where we spent last year in survival mode with no gardening taking place at all – though I did observe it a great deal through the window from my bed. Life is hard for all of us, so perhaps we find we can walk a mile in someone else’s shoes before we judge them, be easier on each other and most importantly on ourselves. Let’s tend our wild gardens, enjoy the new spring growth and ensure we can live sustainably. Where we dwell in our minds translates to our hearts and ultimately into who we are.

Wishing you an easefilled and peaceful week, Clare x

P.S. I read the following in on an online mindfulness newsletter and I include it here as it links with this week's theme, as you'll see, and my Mum says I need more laughs in my blog. This one's for you Mum ;-)

"I think there's 4 important things in life. Compassion for self and others. Recognising that others have difficulties in life, just like you, and to treat them as you treat yourself. Allowing and accepting things to be as they are in this present moment. Peace of mind is the highest happiness.... Or just remember the acronym CRAP for short" by Shamash Alidina.

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