On trust

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Trust is the foundation of life, the beginning of harmonious living with yourself, with family and community. We’re born trusting deeply, our first breath an act of surrender to our carers and loved ones. As we grow, we come to know the complex connection between trust and vulnerability, intimacy and expansiveness, joy and serenity. We experience a chain of positive feelings, all dependent on one initial leap of faith: trust.

Yet, trust is a subtle gift. Sometimes we lose our capacity to trust through trauma or heart break. Other times, we have to withdraw it for our own protection and survival. These breakdowns are like snapping the emotional chain of our lives. If the chain gets broken, all the links need to be mended before it functions again. This repair work can ask great courage of us as we confront deeply held fears and beliefs about the world around us.

Sometimes, what holds us back is the idea that others are responsible for our feelings. Yet feelings only exist inside of us, a combination of sensations, thoughts, emotions, memories. If we witness the rich tapestry of our mind in our actions and reactions, we start the process of healing the breakdowns in the chain. We see the conditioning that stops us from trusting others and ourselves. We remember that we’re all flawed human beings trying to deal with an imperfect world.

How would your world change if you treated everyone as a friend? Perhaps you’d make spontaneous connections that bring new experiences into your life. You might feel happier and more relaxed in your mind. What would it be like to trust your feelings, intuition and judgement? Do you dare to trust yourself to navigate life just the way you need it?

Trusting is a leap of faith yet if you take it, it’s like filling your lungs with oxygen. You thrive. As Goethe said, ‘As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live’.

Life gives you what you need to grow

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How do you make a decision? This is what my daughter asked me this week. She wanted some advice because she felt afraid to make a mistake. She’s a smart, wise 24-year-old and very able to create her own future. Yet I wanted to help her think through the choices she is making. When I thought about it, it struck me that there are very few decisions in life that are ‘wrong’ in the same way that there is no ‘right’ way to live. We have to find out what works for each of us .. and the only way to do that is by trying things out. If we decide to quit a job, move to a new city, leave a relationship or commit to something new, however it works out, the process of change will teach us something. The new life situation we create may work out fantastically well. Or it may be full of conflict and challenge. However it goes, we will learn – about ourselves, about life, about other people and our relationships and about how we make decisions. So whatever decision we make in our lives will actually be the right one.

And then, I remembered what an old teacher of mine once said about life giving us what we need to grow. I think this is a way of seeing everything in life as a gift that can show us how to develop self-awareness and a deep connection to our inner world if we choose to accept the gift. When we have a choice to make, we can see this as life presenting us with an opportunity to become more of who we are. There isn’t a perfect life that we are supposed to lead, only the life that we choose with all its twists and turns, triumphs and stumbling blocks. And it’s in those moments when things go wrong that we realise we can handle a crisis, or that we have fantastic friends who support us when we need it or perhaps we find a deep strength and really know our own resilience. For sure, there’s no better feeling than riding the crest of the wave of life. Yet sometimes we might learn more from falling off our own surfboard and being turned upside down. Next time we’re out on the sea waiting for the perfect wave, maybe we’ll watch the surf more closely or perhaps take more of a risk. Whatever happens, it will be what we need.

Wildflowers in the desert

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Photographs of the California super blooms caught my eye this week. The colour and movement in these images feels like an invitation into life – past, present and future all contained in a single moment. Each stem, each petal, each leaf sings hurrah for life, yes to be here, yes to be alive, yes to be seeing, touching, feeling, tasting, smelling, thinking, hearing. I wanted to feast my eyes on the colours, to drink them in and then roll down the hillsides. I imagined those flowers swaying in the gentle wind and their fragrance exploded in my senses. Who knew the shot of wild joy to be experienced at the simple thought of nature’s remote exuberance?

These small moments have the potential to invite us into the sacred. Mary Oliver’s words for a summer’s day came to mind ..

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.

Then my attention came to the world as it is today, at capacity with senseless violence, habitat destruction, deepening inequality and the prospect of ever more climate events devastating homes and livelihoods across continents. Is it reckless to think and write about yellow and purple flowers when we live surrounded by so much that needs to change? What is our response to beauty and the sensory encounter it brings when we are simultaneously horrified and full of grief at world events?  Perhaps these exquisite, fleeting glimpses of carefreeness are the very things that enable us to carry on, to believe in a better future and to work towards it. Perhaps this sense of aliveness is itself what’s needed … I wonder what is incumbent on those who see and feel this? What does the world ask of each of us right now?







If we want to change the world


‘The world we have created is a product of our thinking; it cannot be changed without changing our thinking. If we want to change the world we have to change our thinking…no problem can be solved from the same consciousness that created it. We must learn to see the world anew’.

Albert Einstein

We start to create our own world from the moment we are born. We build our identity and sense of self , first in relation to the caregivers around us and then in relationship to the wider world we encounter. We develop our own sense of direction and moral compass. We learn quickly what behaviour receives approval from our family members, social groups, institutions and communities. Sometimes our world undergoes a radical rethink as we navigate our adult lives.

Our complete life experience contributes to the shape and colour of the lenses through which we see the world. These lenses determine how connected we feel, how much we care and how much we want to change things. This is our consciousness, our subjective experience of being ‘me’. And each lens is different, giving each of us a unique perspective on how the world looks and feels and what it is to be human.

There can be no doubt that our human activity is damaging the beautiful, abundant and medicinal environment that planet Earth provides us. Yet how can we mobilise each and every human on the planet into having an awareness of equitable and sustainable living? What will it take for that level of change to take place?

We need to change the lenses we wear to see the world differently. Instead of those trendy tortoiseshell frames, why not try a pair that are recycled or sustainably-sourced? How does the world appear when you see it from a different viewpoint?

This shift in consciousness is how we start to perceive the world anew. And if enough people commit to changing the way they see the world, if Einstein got it right, we can shift the consciousness of the entire Earth community.

For everyone – from politicians and corporate leaders to individuals in towns, cities and villages – the journey of conscious transformation begins with a change in understanding at the most personal level. Only then is wider transformation possible.

Learning to see the world anew takes courage, commitment and community. Yet if we can shift our thinking – or alter the lens through which we observe life – if only by a tiny degree, we can reap unimaginable benefits.

The miracle of the humble bee


‘There is one masterpiece, the hexagonal cell, that touches perfection – a perfection that all the geniuses in the world, were they to meet in conclave, could in no way enhance. No living creature .. has achieved, in the centre of her sphere, what the bee has achieved in her own: and were someone from another world to descend and ask of the earth the most perfect creation of the logic of life, we should needs have to offer the humble comb of honey’.

Maurice Maeterlinck, The Life Of The Bee

The brain of a bee is the size of a sesame seed and yet these tiny creatures are capable of incredible things. For over 100 million years, they have been working together in community, tirelessly pollinating the earth and producing that great elixir of life – honey. Faster than any human-built technology, these miniature minds navigate the most efficient routes for their nectar-gathering as they travel from flower to flower.

Whilst most of their compatriots are solitary, the honey bee lives harmoniously in hives of up to 80,000. Existing in such densely populated conditions could prove problematic to many species, but honey bees work together as a team. Their lives, set out before they are even born, are of work and dedication to the cause of the collective. They are agile – willing and able to swap roles within the hive, according to its needs.

When threatened, bees act selflessly, coming together as a swarm to give their own lives to protect the hive and save the queen. If a wasp gets into the hive, for example, the bees surround it to suffocate or ‘thermoball’ it. By vibrating their muscles, a group of bees raise the temperature so dramatically around the intruder that it can no longer survive the heat and becomes asphyxiated.

Honey itself is something of a miracle product – the only substance produced by insects that human beings can eat. Containing , vitamins, minerals and enzymes, it’s a complete food and yet is also known for its healing properties. Its use as a dressing on the wounds of soldiers in the First World War is just one example

Plus, it’s resilient – archaeologists excavating the ancient Egyptian pyramids found honey in sealed jars which, apparently, still tasted great. And it was 3,000 years old. No other food product is able to remain in this perfectly edible form for so long. This tiny,  ingenious and generous creature reminds us of the miracle of nature every time she flies by.


What nature can teach us about renewal

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“I should not count on outside help. Survival had to start with me.”

Yann Martel, Life of Pi

Waking up to sunshine, as most of Britain has done since May, is a beautiful way to start the day. Yet having had no rain for almost two months, our green and pleasant lands have become scorched and without colour. London’s Royal Parks look like African plains, as resident herds of deer wander slowly through acres of parched, yellow grasses.

Now that water is scarce, plants and grasses dry out if not watered by human hands. Shrinking in size and putting on hold their usual exuberant mid-summer growth,  flowers and shrubs are forced to find new ways of survival as their environment fails to offer support. In these harsh, unusual conditions, flora and fauna alike have to prosper or perish – drawing on the last of their resources deep within their roots. Some adapt with newfound resilience while others change form.

In the same way, we sometimes find ourselves without the conditions to flourish. We might shrink in size like many of our British grasses and plants have done in the heat – or  we may stop flowering altogether. We stop sending colour out into the world around us. We dig deep into our stored resources and learn how to survive – come what may. We become familiar with what it means for us to be resilient when the conditions around us cannot give us what we need.

When rain finally did come last week, nature bursts back to life, announcing her return with even more vibrant colours and greenery. What was dried is now alive again and humming with bees and butterflies.

Just as with nature, our environment will surely change. What we need to thrive will return, whether in a day, a week, months and years. And so we will return to vibrancy –  perhaps it will be in a changed form or with more enthusiasm and zest than before. But it will be trusting in the process of renewal that enables us to get through the seemingly endless drought …