Tag Archives: Glasgow

Samhain: what will we find in the dark this Winter?

It’s 6.30 am here in dark, rainy, leaf-strewn post-Hallowe’en Glasgow, Scotland – and I have been catching up on one of my favourite blogs: Linda Leinen’s “The Task at Hand: a writer’s ongoing search for just the right word”.  Her latest post is The Sandburg Season, a meditation on the American poet Sandburg’s prescient commentary on the state of America in the 1920s, Four Preludes on Playthings of the Wind”. She, like the poet, contemplates the state of the nation in the aftermath of the ravages of the latest devastating hurricane to hit the USA – at this time in USA’s history a grim prelude to the upcoming election on 6th November, a mere six days away.

Samhain Blessings!

Samhain Blessings!

magickalgraphics.com

Reading this deep, rich post and the wonderful range of replies has put me in a meditative mood. It’s now 1st November – Samhain – Samhain has been celebrated in Britain for centuries and has its origin in Pagan Celtic traditions. It was the time of year when the veils between this world and the Otherworld were believed to be at their thinnest: when the spirits of the dead could most readily mingle with the living once again. It is a contemplative time; a time for honouring the renewing power of darkness, and for facing the humbling fact that everything passes, including us….

Later, when the festival was adopted by Christians, they celebrated it as All Hallows’ Eve, followed by All Saints Day, though it still retained elements of remembering and honouring the dead.

The core sentiments of the Sandburg poem recalled for me Shelley’s “Ozymandias”. (So out of tune was I with my early secondary education that, having been sent home from school to learn Wordsworth‘s “Daffodils” by heart, instead I learned “Ozymandias” …..I should have realised then that I was in for a complicated life!) Both poets comment on the vanity of human endeavour in the face of the irresistible forces of Nature and of Time. So I was very struck by Shelley’s great poem appearing via one of Linda Leinem’s commentators, Steve Schwartzman. I sense a community of reflection out there, as we descend into the dark: ready for our symbolic death into Winter, knowing the rebirth into Spring will also come.

We need the dark, as this festival of Samhain reminds us. Within the year’s natural cycle, the diurnal alternation of light and dark brings restful silence at night and the restorative power of sleep, without which all creatures including us would burn out and die before their time. We are in danger of forgetting this – at our peril – as an increasingly technology-driven culture sweeps the world, creating the illusion that we can live sustainably and healthily in defiance of the ancient rhythms set by the great cycles of nature. The Great Round of  conception, birth, maturation, decline, death and rebirth applies to everything, from gnats to galaxies. Human endeavour is not exempt.

Perhaps our whole culture/civilisation is in its Winter phase – the signs of descent are everywhere, should we care to look…….and in the meantime, I am with Linda Leinen: “Most of the time, I just try to do what I can.” Renewal, whether we live to see it or not, is always round the corner….

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What are YOUR thoughts and feelings regarding the Descent into winter? It would be interesting to have them!

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500 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2012
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

“If you go down to the woods today….

….you’ll sure get a big surprise….” as the old children’s song, ‘Teddy Bears’ Picnic’, goes.

Think globally, act locally urges people to consider the health of the entire planet and to take action in their own communities and cities. Long before governments began enforcing environmental laws, individuals were coming together to protect habitats and the organisms that live within them. These efforts are referred to as grassroots efforts. They occur on a local level and are primarily run by volunteers and helpers…..” ( Wikipedia ) ….and they are surely taking great shape in our local neighbourhood, North Kelvin, Glasgow, Scotland, UK.

May 2012 saw the start of The Children’ Wood – an offshoot of the sterling efforts of the North Kelvin Meadow Campaign, for the last few years the latest in several local initiatives, whose objective over a long period of time now has been to save a patch of local waste ground for community green space use, as opposed to its hosting yet another set of newbuild flats  – in an already built up area –  if Glasgow City Council’s plan for the space goes ahead.

To find out more about the The Children’s Wood click HERE.

Meadow in the City

Meadow in the City

photo: Anne Whitaker

You will see from checking out the above site that there have been a whole series of  imaginative outdoor activities at The Children’s Wood this summer and autumn. These have captured the imagination of  parents and children alike, as well as local residents whose own children by now have grown up and moved elsewhere. More events are planned!

The most recent event, yet again organised by local mum and community activist, Emily Cutts, was terrific fun and really well attended. Sunday 23 September 2012 saw a world music premiere!

The Little House of La – the children’s version of Indie pop group House of La gave its first live performance at The Children’ Wood.Three band members were originally members of the well-known and popular Scottish Indie pop band Aberfeldy. Fortunately, one of their lively and catchy numbers, The Ape Man by The Kinks was captured on video and posted on YouTube.

View it  HERE  –   to see community action, participation – and sheer FUN!!

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NOTE: Blog/Twitter followers, community activists and enthusiasts, please do what you can to pass this post around your networks. Thanks!

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400 words copyright Emily Cutts/Anne Whitaker 2012
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

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A day for spreading Sunshine!

On my Twitter biog I describe myself as a ‘Glasgow weather survivor’. With good reason. Last Thursday it was unremittingly wet all day. I even had to apply blotting paper to my eyebrows when I got home. However, good news awaited. I found that one of my blog followers, emariaenterprises, had nominated me for a Sunshine award for my most recent post “Holy Dharma with Heron”. Many thanks, emaria! Your award certainly cheered up a lousy day.

There are a few rules to follow on being nominated for a Sunshine award. I am complying – most unlike me!

1) Include the award’s logo in a post or on your blog.

2) Answer 10 questions about yourself.

3) Nominate other fabulous bloggers.

4) Link your nominees to this post and comment on their blogs, letting them know they have been nominated.

5) Share the love and link the person who nominated you.

sunshine-award-logo

sunshine-award-logo

Here are seven answers – more than enough! And you, dear Reader, have to work out what the questions are….

1. I have far too many planets in Leo. 2. Just as well they’re in the Twelfth House! 3. I was actually born in the 12th House – 12, Plantation Road – on the street in which my parents were living at that time 4. My birth was so premature and I was so tiny that I was anointed in olive oil, wrapped carefully and placed in a drawer – too small for a cot – and not expected to live. Wrong!!! 5. I have my Honourable Discharge Papers from the British Merchant Navy 6. At a time when I was utterly dismissive of astrology, an astrologer I met by accident in a launderette drew up my chart and predicted that I would become an astrologer in my early thirties. Right!!! 7. I am still asking the same question I started asking when I first opened my eyes to the world: “Why are we here?”

(answers, under a plain wrapper, to this site. Reward for most original response)

Here are six great blogs,  in no particular order, whose writers can always be relied upon to inspire, inform, move, provoke and amuse. Check them out!

http://selmainthecity.wordpress.com/ – Holding on to hard won hopefulness

http://shoreacres.wordpress.com/ – The Task at Hand: a writer’s on-going search for just the right word

http://blankieandgoatie.wordpress.com/ – Reflections on parenting….

http://prettyfeetpoptoe.com/ – It’s just my point of view. Love it or hate it.

http://mountainastrologer.com/tma/tma-this-week – Your gateway to understanding the cosmos

And last but not least, with my thanks, the blogger who nominated me:

http://emariaenterprises.wordpress.com/2012/09/20/oh-how-sweet-is-this/ – Musings on life, love, politics, and the nature of happiness

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400 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2012
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

Holy Dharma with Heron

Thanks to Linda Leinen over at Shoreacres, for providing the inspiration – via her wonderful piece on herons and poetry – for re-publishing this post. Enjoy!

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I love herons. Their elegance: long, lean, streamlined curves over water, poised, waiting. Their focus: totally in the moment, poised, waiting….to strike sharp and swift. I love their languid flight: long wings lazily beating, slow concentrated strength and grace.

We live in Glasgow, Scotland UK city with the most green space. Our flat overlooks the river Kelvin which flows through the West End’s Botanic Gardens. On the riverbank, throughout the Gardens, all kinds of wildlife abound: amongst the over-fed pigeons and importunate grey squirrels the occasional kingfisher, an otter once seen on Boxing Day, sometimes a cormorant or two – and several herons taking up favourite positions along the river bank. The fish ladder by the weir is a choice spot of theirs. Another pitch is partly concealed by vegetation, right below the Humpbacked Bridge leading to steep steps rising to the upper, more cultivated part of the Botanic Gardens.

Most days, I take a well-travelled route down from our house – crossing the Humpbacked Bridge, up the steps, through the Botanics past the newly-refurbished Kibble Palace. This splendid circular, domed Victorian glass house hosts fine sculptures, elegant glass panels, a well-stocked pond – with some very old fishy friends adept at dodging the coins and wishes raining down on them on a regular basis – and a wonderfully displayed selection of plants and flowers from many parts of the world. It is a local jewel.

Grey Heron

Grey Heron

Strolling around those familiar, well-loved landmarks, I always enjoy occasional sightings of the heron. We can never decide how many herons there are of the same age and appearance. Maybe we are seeing the same one, over and over? Conversations like this weave together a very disparate, loose group of park regulars of all ages with a variety of views and opinions about the Botanic Gardens’ wild creatures. But the heron is a favourite; we always report sightings to one another.

We are inured to plentiful rain and bad weather as the default position for our local climate; stepping out into a pleasant, crisp, sunny morning  is therefore an immediate delight, especially with the Botanics in full autumn colours, carpets of leaves everywhere – if you get out early enough, before the park attendants with their noisy leaf-blowing machines get going!

Whilst appreciating this beautiful autumnal morning, my head was also full of the usual thought traffic as I contemplated the day ahead. The Buddhists speak the truth: we are only ever partly here. In each waking moment of our short, precious lives, we are usually distracted by something or other from being fully present. Thus we rarely savour fully the Holy Dharma of this very moment which will never come again.

Suddenly, my attention was totally focused on a sight I had never seen before. The heron was perched in full view, half way along the left-hand side of the Humpbacked Bridge!

I  stopped dead. Most unusually at half past nine on a weekday morning, there was no-one in sight.  “Should I stay watching right here, or try to creep closer?” I wondered, full of excitement and apprehension. Deciding on the latter option, I tiptoed very very slowly onto the eight-foot wide bridge, veering to the right in order to edge along the opposite side of the bridge to the heron.

The wild creature seemed absorbed in his own surveillance operation, long elegant neck moving slowly from side to side, eyes glinting in the morning light reflected off the quietly flowing river. Whether he had spotted me or not, he was paying me no attention. Barely able to believe my luck, I inched along  extremely quietly until – to my great amazement – I was level. We were only a bridge width apart. Never in my life before had I been so close to such a large wild bird.

The morning was still. The heron, briefly, was still. I was still. The Holy Dharma moved with the air currents across the bridge, the heron and me. All was One.

Japanese Heron Painting

Japanese Heron Painting

Hours might have passed. It was probably less than a minute. I caught a flicker of movement out of the corner of my left eye. A slender young man dressed all in black, carrying a rucksack, i-pods in his ears, was rapidly approaching the bridge. Stealthily, I crept forward a couple of feet, heading off the bridge toward the steps, still hugging the side opposite the heron. He still didn’t budge. For a fleeting moment I thought “Anne, that wild creature is tuned to you. He can feel your goodwill….” Then the rationalist dismissed such a thought. Still….

The young man was about to step through the gate onto the bridge. I held my finger to my lips, indicating silence; with my other hand palm up,  I signalled to stop, waving him over to my side of the bridge – hoping this unknown young man might share a rare experience. But he ignored me. As he marched past us the heron took off, winging his lazy languid way downriver. Waving goodbye, I stood for a moment – partly watching the heron, partly watching the young man’s back as he tramped up the stairs.

In that moment I truly felt the force of life’s duality: on the one hand, such gratitude and joy that the heron and I had shared a pure, holy moment of Oneness. On the other, deep sadness that the young man, shut in with his technology, had missed it. Carl Jung’s comment, which comes to me often, came to me then: “Our task in this life is to reconcile the opposites”…..

….and a ps to this story….a couple of weeks later, I was strolling home through the Botanics by the river Kelvin on my way home, having spent the afternoon at my office writing the first draft of this article which was in my bag.There on the riverbank, in  places where I had never seen them before, were – to my amazement and delight – two herons….

1000 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2008/12
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

“Silence in the City” – from tomorrow!

Have you ever been to St Mary’s Cathedral, 300 Great Western Road, Glasgow G4?

Led by Provost Kelvin Holdsworth, the community at St Mary’s – open, inclusive, welcoming to people of all faiths and all spiritual seekers – is   offering a programme of times for reflection – silence in the city – during this autumn 2012. The programme is free, and open to anyone needing some time of peace and silence.

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The Open Silence operates to a rhythm of two one-hour slots per month, lunchtime and evening, available on the following dates:

Sunday August 19th from 8-9 pm, then Thursday August 23rd from 12.30-1.30pm

Sunday September 16th from 8-9 pm, then Thursday September 20th from 12.30-1.30pm

Sunday October 21st from 8-9 pm, then Thursday October 25th from 12.30-1.30pm

Sunday November 18th from  8-9 pm, then Thursday November 22nd from 12.30-1.30pm

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These drop-in hours are free, although any donations to St Mary’s Cathedral funds are always welcome! Anyone can come along, for as long as feels comfortable – you don’t have to stay for the whole hour, but please do leave quietly. You can sit anywhere you wish in the Cathedral during your visit. Gentle music and a brief introduction from Vice-Provost Cedric Blakey begins the hour, music again draws the hour to a close. Candles are lit throughout to help you to connect to your time of peace.

Silence, prayer, peace....

Silence, prayer, peace….

Could any readers who would like to promote this valuable local event be kind enough to pass on the link to this post to anyone on their networks who might be interested? Thanks!!

NOTE

A major inspiration for setting up St Mary’s Cathedral’s The Open Silence was provided by the series of programmes presented by Christopher Jamison, Abbot of Worth Abbey, in 2010,  ‘The Big Silence’, in which five participants  were “……invited to take the wisdom of silence found in the monastery……” and carry it back into their everyday lives.

Father Jamison is convinced that everyone – atheist, agnostic, lapsed, uncertain, seeking – can benefit from sustained, regular periods of silence. “When we enter into periods of silence, we start to see things with greater clarity. We come to know ourselves, and come in touch with that deepest part of ourselves. That is our soul.”

If  readers are interested in reading more about this project, which I – and many others I spoke to – found moving, challenging and inspiring – click HERE.

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500 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2012

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

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Action in the Meadow/Silence in the City

We don’t need astrologers to tell us we are living in a period of remarkable turbulence and change. The evidence is all around us: from our teetering and corrupt banking systems, to the declining health of Planet Earth whose dominant species, humans, at current rates of consumption require the resources of three and a half planet earths to sustain us. Amongst many problems greatly on the increase against this backdrop are obesity, social inequality, the social and economic burdens of an ageing population – and fast rising anxiety and depression rates.

Apparently the overall index of increased happiness as material prosperity grew, peaked in the mid-seventies, then declined. The rot, it seems, set in in 1976….

However, humans have always been incredibly adaptable creatures and there is plenty of room for optimism in the midst of the current gloom. We are poised collectively on an interesting cusp, which many people see as the pivotal point of recognition that the materialist project which has so dominated all life since the rise of Age of Reason in the 18th Century is crumbling, and a new world order or paradigm is emerging. Materialism has brought us incredible advances, but is bringing our planet and the systems governing our collective lives, to a dangerous edge.

The new paradigm emerging, in essence, invites us to respect and work with the ecological balance of our home planet. It also invites us to recognise that there are many levels to “Reality” – the material level is just one of these. It is not suggesting that we should attempt to put the genie of progress back in the bottle and recreate a “Golden Age” which never existed.

It invites us to go forward into the future bearing the best that scientific and material progress has to offer, but also the best of what human civilisation has distilled over its six thousand years of social evolution which offers proven nourishment of both a physical and spiritual nature to all life on Planet Earth.

We can see evidence of this new paradigm’s emergence all over the planet in large and small ways. To give just one example, the principles of the “Slow Food” movement which began in Italy over two decades ago have taken root and flourished all over the world.

All of us, at a collective, local, and personal level have a part we can play in this paradigm shift. 

What’s happening where you are?

Do let me know! In the meantime, let’s go local to look at interesting developments promoting creative change in my home city of Glasgow, Scotland, UK. I have chosen to highlight the activities of two local communities with which I am personally involved.

They are both making small but significant contributions to reversing the upward trend towards increased unhappiness which excessive preoccupation with material goals has produced over the last thirty years. The first seeks to promote spiritually nurturing links between adults, children and Nature. The second, the spiritually nurturing cultivation of inner peace via silent contemplation…..

At this very moment my friend and colleague, psychologist, researcher, blogger and independent thinker, wife, mother of two and local activist Emily Cutts is busy mobilising us locally through her Enough’s Enough, Ditch the Stuff movement which seeks to get parents and children outdoors, away from computers and expensive gadgets and towards shared experiences in nature. We have a wonderful woodland and meadow right on our doorstep here in G20 and Emily’s efforts plus great support and enthusiasm from local volunteers, have got around a thousand parents and children out there having a terrific time in recent weeks.

A big Ditch the Stuff event is happening in North Kelvin Meadow, G20, on Sunday 15th July 2012 1-4pm. Try to be there!

 Meadow in the City

Meadow in the City

photo: Anne Whitaker

Have you ever been to St Mary’s Cathedral, 300 Great Western Road, Glasgow G4?

Led by Provost Kelvin Holdsworth, the community at St Mary’s – open, inclusive, welcoming to people of all faiths and all spiritual seekers – is also doing its bit at a local level to promote the values and practices of the new paradigm I have been describing, especially in relation to helping those who need to find some inner peace in the increasing outer noise and freneticism of our collective life.

St Mary’s offers a programme of times for reflection – silence in the city – during this autumn 2012. It operates on a drop-in basis, open to anyone needing a time of peace and silence. The Open Silence operates to a rhythm of two one-hour slots per month, lunchtime and evening, available on the following dates:

Sunday August 19th from 8-9 pm, then Thursday August 23rd from 12.30-1.30pm

Sunday September 16th from 8-9 pm, then Thursday September 20th from 12.30-1.30pm

Sunday October 21st from 8-9 pm, then Thursday October 25th from 12.30-1.30pm

Sunday November 18th from  8-9 pm, then Thursday November 22nd from 12.30-1.30pm

These drop-in hours are free, although any donations to St Mary’s Cathedral funds are always welcome! Anyone can come along, for as long as feels comfortable – you don’t have to stay for the whole hour, but please do leave quietly. You can sit anywhere you wish in the Cathedral during your visit. Gentle music and a brief introduction from Vice-Provost Cedric Blakey begins the hour, music again draws the hour to a close. Candles are lit throughout to help you to connect to your time of peace.

Silence, prayer, peace....

Silence, prayer, peace….

Could any readers who would like to promote these valuable local events be kind enough to pass on the link to this post to anyone on their networks who might be interested? Thanks!!

NOTE

A major inspiration for setting up St Mary’s Cathedral’s The Open Silence was provided by the series of programmes presented by Christopher Jamison, Abbot of Worth Abbey, in 2010,  ‘The Big Silence’, in which five participants  were “……invited to take the wisdom of silence found in the monastery……” and carry it back into their everyday lives.

Father Jamison is convinced that everyone – atheist, agnostic, lapsed, uncertain, seeking – can benefit from sustained, regular periods of silence. “When we enter into periods of silence, we start to see things with greater clarity. We come to know ourselves, and come in touch with that deepest part of ourselves. That is our soul.”

If  readers are interested in reading more about this project, which I – and many others I spoke to – found moving, challenging and inspiring – click HERE.

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1100 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2012

Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

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After the Night Sea Journey….

“One does not discover new land

without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time”

Andre Gide

Going through my 2001-8  “night sea journey”, to use Jung‘s terminology, took seven long years:  a nightmare experience of very slow recovery from total burnout triggered by a year-long family crisis. At several points I very nearly drowned, in darkness without any apparent navigation points. But the steadfast love of those closest held my head just above the cold dark sea, and I called for aid to that level which I have learned to trust. Every time, my call was answered, one way or another.

Every time, the deepest message was  Hold on. Try not to be afraid. Be patient. This is necessary – but it will pass. You will be all right.’

And I am all right, all right and deeply enriched.

Night Sea Journey

Night Sea Journey

http://www.flickr.com/photos/magnusvk/166233536

Perspective on a prolonged ordeal which removed me from the world shifted and changed as the journey went on. I reached the heart of my own darkness, understood it, accepted how my life had been both blighted and enriched by conditions in place from the beginning. Quite quickly after that act of acceptance, I returned to being well again.

I recognise now that a lengthy retreat from the world was requisite for the kind of person I am – it is not necessary for most people to go through a mid-life summing up of such drastic dimensions, thank goodness! Having practised as an astrologer for nearly twenty years by the time of my collapse, I could see from my horoscope, when I was well enough and brave enough to reflect on it again, that periodic bouts of retreat seem to be part of my necessity. One of the great advantages to being an older person is that one has several decades to look back on, in attempting to make sense of one’s own patterns.

Gradually regaining the strength, energy and inclination to lead a “normal” life again, along with a profound sense of gratitude that good health has returned, I am left awestruck at the sheer power, depth and mystery of the human psyche. The sense I already had of being woven into a meaningful cosmos – tiny thread though I am – has been amplified and deepened by many of the experiences I had whilst on my ‘night sea journey’. These experiences certainly challenged my rational, sceptical self. They are all recorded. The added perspective gained by wide reading in spirituality, religion, mysticism, science and cosmology enables me to sum up what I now believe in one sentence:

We live in a meaningful, multi-dimensional cosmos where anything is possible.

The last couple of years of the retreat were spent in a state which I recognised from before, which one might call liminal: not quite having emerged from one life phase, not quite having entered another. This felt uncomfortable and frustrating at one level. But at another, it offered an opportunity to practise the art of trusting to the unfolding process of life, or Spirit’s call, to put it another way; knowing that, in due course, the shape of the next phase would become more clearly defined, the time to take action become evident. As indeed it has.

Having spent four years on the Web runningWriting from the Twelfth House”, then a year as a part-time university student  – something I will continue for the sheer pleasure of learning  –  I have now just completed a two-month process of re-contextualising my former professional life. I’m happy being a writer, a teacher, an astrologer and a counsellor/mentor.  It feels good to be reaching into a lifetime of experience, to offer what modest help I can to fellow pilgrims along the road.

So – I feel full, happy,  grateful, sitting writing this post tonight in my adopted home town of Glasgow in Scotland. After months and months of interminable cold and rain, summer has at last arrived. It is a clear, balmy summer’s eve with just  a hint of a cooling breeze. We live high up, overlooking the Botanic Gardens and the river below. Leaves are rustling faintly; I can just hear the river’s flow. Luminous against the darkening blue sky, the delicate sickle of a Gemini new moon beguiles me.  I will keep on writing, of course….

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750 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2012
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

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Praise be! Spring is here….

 I am sure that many readers share my need for connection to the Great Round through immersion in the natural world. Today in Glasgow, Scotland, UK it is a Spring day – and the daffodils are out!

Celebrate it with me!

Fabulous Daffs

Fabulous Daffs

http://www.flickr.com/photos/46097950@N02/4482794780/

I  have a ritual which I’ve repeated for a long time now. From late February each year, I go into the Botanic Gardens in Glasgow  via the Kirklee gate entrance, stroll up the path, and have a close look at the earth border to the left. Green shoots are just appearing. I check them every week, as the stems grow taller and sturdier, and the buds fatter. There is a magic moment when, at last, I see the first daffodil of Spring. Quite often, I punch the air and go “Yes!!”

That moment provides a rush of pleasure which remains with me the whole day.  I call my ritual The Daffodil Run. You think I’m daft? I know it’s an important part of  what keeps me sane.

There are very few clear evening skies in Glasgow. If you’re rushing up Byres Road on the way home on one of those rare nights, especially when you cross the Queen Margaret Drive bridge, look out for a small woman standing still, gazing at the sky. That’ll be me, admiring the wonderful, fragile beauty of a new crescent  moon.

Even in the city, in the increasingly hurried pattern of 21st century life, it is possible to maintain a connection to the cycles of the seasons and the rhythms of nature. It’s increasingly recognised that regular contact of this kind is an important component in establishing and maintaining the kind of inner balance and peace that promotes happiness.

One of the many advantages of living in a small country like Scotland is that access to the great outdoors is not difficult – half an hour out of Glasgow, for example, it is possible to disappear into lovely countryside and forget the existence of the city very quickly. Try it ! It doesn’t matter how stressed you are, how much angst you are carrying. A couple of hours of  tramping across the hills, often in rain and wind, focusing on nothing more complex than  where you put every footstep in order to avoid disappearing up to your waist in a bog, is guaranteed to purge out at least some of it.

Over many years of  walking, I have offered the hills both my joys and my sorrows, and  have found validation for the former and solace for the latter. In homeopathic medicine, broadly speaking, you treat an ailment with a very dilute form of the toxin which caused it. I have found the homeopathic principle works very well with bleakness of the soul or spirit. That condition can be effectively treated by choosing weather and landscape to match your mood, and immersing yourself in it for a few hours. Meeting bleakness with bleakness has a powerfully cleansing effect.

Complementary to this is the powerfully life-affirming effect that natural beauty can have.

Standing on top of a favourite hill on a sunlit day, looking at stunning panoramic views, listening to the joyous song of a skylark, feeling at one with the wind and the landscape, has on numerous occasions made me feel so glad to be alive that I have wept for joy.

These experiences may fade in the face of the rigours of an average life. But if you repeat them often enough, you develop a sense of being part of the great round of nature, where joy and sorrow, youth, maturity, decline, death and rebirth all have their part. You also learn, slowly, the importance to being a happy person of being able to ” grasp the joy as it flies”, celebrate the moment, “seize the day.”

( First published ( as “Happiness and the Healing Power of Nature”)  in “Self & Society”(The Journal of Humanistic Psychology) (UK)Vol 27 No 5, November 1999, then http://www.innerself.com : Innerself Magazine (USA), and most recently – March 09 –  in ‘ The Drumlin’, the Newsletter of Glasgow Botanic Gardens. )

700 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2012
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

A Festive Kiss – with a twist!

I captured this arresting, quirky Festive image in my home city of Glasgow, Scotland, whilst strolling along by the River 
Kelvin through the tunnel under Queen Margaret Drive bridge. Snapped with my  mobile phone camera which takes great pictures, it  affirmed the famous (at times infamous!) glaswegian sense of humour. Think Billy Connolly….Who else but a Weegie would have taken the time and trouble to suspend a large clump of mistletoe just above the heads of potential passing kissers?

Festive Kiss with a Twist!

Festive Kiss with a Twist!

photo: Anne Whitaker  14.12.2011

It cheered me up immensely in the midst of a difficult week. I offer it out in the hope that in the midst of this highly-charged time, when both the joys and the griefs of life come into sharp focus, it will give someone out there the laugh they need just at this moment.

Happy Christmas to all my readers!

River Kelvin Dec 2010

River Kelvin Dec 2010

200 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2011
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

“Soul is about your friends” : an encounter with writer and therapist Thomas Moore

That  brilliant Canadian writer Margaret Atwood was quoted some time ago ( in the UK’s Guardian newspaper) as remarking drily that  “wanting to meet a writer because you like their books is like wanting to meet a duck because you like pate”.

Bearing this in mind, I very tentatively approached the USA writer Thomas Moore (whose books I like….), who was giving an evening lecture in Glasgow recently on the topic of “Care of the Soul in Medicine”, his latest book. Having read and appreciated two of his other books, “Care of the Soul” and “The Soul’s Religion”, I wanted to ask him whether  an astrological perspective was part of  his broad and deep influences, rooted as they are in his studies of the world’s religions, his teaching of Jungian psychology and art therapy, and his work in music and art, as well as his practice as a therapist practising ‘care of the soul’. I suspected that it had  – which he confirmed, having in fact written another book called “The Planets Within” which I have not yet read.

I found meeting Thomas refreshing and cheering – found him humorous, laid back, wearing his erudition lightly. His very informal “lecture”, very much open to audience participation, was timeous in its theme: the importance of healing the whole person, rather than simply treating the body, within the health care system. Timeous because of revelations in the UK press, in the very week of his talk,  concerning the lack of compassion and due attention paid to individuals’ emotional needs and their dignity in too many instances in too many hospitals.

These revelations caused shock and much impassioned discussion and comment in the UK, which really values the NHS, appreciating all the good work and quality care which is also provided by hard-pressed nurses and doctors in a system increasingly squeezed by financial constraints and driven by mechanistic targets and bureaucratic box-ticking – all dehumanising.

Thomas made many important points, leaving us with much food for thought. He emphasised – as the Greek philosopher Heraclitus had done thousands of years ago – the mysterious, fathomless depth of the human soul, observing that in both his life and his work “I like to honour the mystery”.

Heraclitus by Johannes Moreelse

Heraclitus by Johannes Moreelse

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heraclitus

He pointed out that there are various simple but profound ways to nourish the soul: the key, it seems, if you distil the essence of several thousand years of cross-cultural wisdom, is friendship. “Soul is about your friends”.

He made the point that friendship can range from a twenty-second friendly exchange, eg with the man or woman looking after the toilets in the local park (my example), to deep relationships that stretch over decades. He would like to see much more of this general friendliness across the whole of our society, including between “patients” and “professionals”. His view is that one does not have to set aside necessary professional boundaries in order to have this kind of exchange, and that professionals being less guarded and more open to the common humanity which links us all, could make eg the relationship between eg “patient” and “carer” much more nurturing on both sides.

He also stressed the importance to us all of a sense of being in the right place, of feeling that where we live is “home”. (Apparently the origin of the word “home” is “I am”) Soul nurturing also lies in the deep pleasures of “ordinary” life – cooking, shared meals, music, connection with Nature – and in  his case, window shopping!

I went along to Thomas Moore’s lecture with my friend and colleague, psychology researcher Emily Cutts. We left – having met and chatted with several old friends and acquaintances who were also there – feeling cheered, refreshed and uplifted. Judging by the snatches of conversation around us, and the general atmosphere of the departing audience, it was a view shared. Thomas, haste ye back!