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Last night with the moon just a night away from being full, it shone so very brightly in a clear sky.

Instead of taking a photo of the moon this time, I decided to take a photo of the silver birch tree in the garden which, just at that moment, had the moon shining through its branches.

But what I didn’t expect was the colour.

Look at it! Look at the colours produced by the moonlight!

I’ve never seen that before – it’s a magical, beautiful creative act by the moon and the silver birch tree (and me!) 

The Atlantic

People crave certainty.

We want to know, for sure, what the results will be of our actions. We want to be able to predict what is going to happen in the world, and in our lives.

Don’t we?

Two examples spring to my mind.

1. The daily weather forecast.

Every day millions of people listen to, watch or read the weather forecast. We want to predict what the weather will be like tomorrow, in a few days time, next week or the week after even……

2. The focus on “outcomes”.

Knowing for sure the results of our actions – in Medicine, we want to know for sure what will happen if we have treatment X, and we want to know for sure what diseases we will get and what effects they will have on us. In Economics, we want to know for sure that if we introduce this particular policy then it will have the results we desire. In engineering we want to know for sure that the machines we make will consistently and reliably do the job we design them to do.

That’s how it is for us humans. We’re afraid. We know that none of us live for ever but that’s a terrible knowledge to have. We want power over the unpredictable. We want to control the present in order to control the future.

But does the world work like that? Is Life like that?

I don’t believe those who predict futures, but I’ll listen to what they have to say, and make some choices all the same. If the weather forecast says it’s going to pour with rain tomorrow but has a good chance of being sunny in a couple of days time, I might choose to put off my trip to the beach tomorrow, and, instead, to plan to go in a couple of days time.

But do you know what I find most satisfying of all?

To “seize the day”.

If I wake up tomorrow and the forecast is wrong…..there’s bright sunshine and clear blue skies, then it’s great to set off to the coast, and not wait for a “better day” a couple of days ahead.

And what about control – of diseases, of economies, of machines and so on? We don’t control any of that.

Look at that lighthouse in the image above.

Does it control the Atlantic Ocean?

Does it ensure that shipping will not hit rocks?

No, neither of those things.

It gives us the opportunity to be aware, and so let’s us make adaptive choices. (In the case of the lighthouse, to be aware of the rocky coast and to change direction)

But if the opposite of control and prediction is “out of control” and unpredictable, then I don’t know any human beings who can manage to live that way.

So, for me, it’s not about trying to be out of control or to relish unpredictability. Despite the fact that the delusions of control and fallibility of predictability will always be unsatisfying, disappointing or frustrating.

I do think there is another way.

The other way has something to do with awareness, with resilience, and with living in the present moment, but I think I’ll take the time to explore that in more detail in future posts.

Dragon

A few years ago I wondered why the twelve months of the year have the names they do, and around the same time I was thinking, for many of us, there is a lack of awareness of rhythm and ritual in our lives, so I put the two ideas together and came up with a theme for each month of the year.

I use the theme as a touchstone of a kind. It’s a reminder, a meditation focus, a thought to return to each day….

March, the month which is named after Mars, has become, for me, the month to focus on strength.

There are two aspects of that which have come up for me this year as I reflect on this theme.

The first has been prompted by my reading of an article by Richard Sennett about “open cities”. He focuses on the issues which arise from us trying to live together – as we do as human beings, clustering together and building huge cities. That reminds me of T S Eliot’s Choruses from the Rock –

When the Stranger says: “What is the meaning of this city?

Do you huddle close together because you love each other?”

What will you answer? “We all dwell together

To make money from each other”? or “This is a community”?

And the Stranger will depart and return to the desert.

О my soul, be prepared for the coming of the Stranger,

Be prepared for him who knows how to ask questions.

Before I wander too far off topic, one of the key points Richard Sennett makes is about boundaries and borders. He says

The boundary is an edge where things end; the border is an edge where difference groups interact. At borders, organisms become more inter-active, due to the meeting of different species or physical conditions; for instance, where the shoreline of a lake meets solid land is an active zone of exchange where organisms find and feed off other organisms. Not surprisingly, it is also at the borderline where the work of natural selection is the most intense. Whereas the boundary is a guarded territory, as established by prides of lions or packs of wolves. No transgression at the boundary: Keep Out! Which means the edge itself is dead.

That’s a pretty new idea for me, but I’ve long since known the importance of healthy borders. In thinking about health, we need healthy boundaries which are maintained by our immune systems, but we also need healthy borders where we meet and interact with what is “other”.

So, here’s the first thing I’m going to reflect on this month, the month of strength – how are my boundaries and how are my borders? How healthy are they, and how might I make them healthier?

I think the answers to those questions are unique for each of us, but if you are inspired by this, why not reflect on boundaries and borders in your own life? See what you come up with?

The second aspect which has come up for me is Seligman’s idea of strengths. If you’ve never done it, or it’s some time since you did it, go and take the free questionnaire on his site and find out what your own core strengths are.

Just as I reflected on the difference between positive and negative hope, I think we can build our strengths by paying attention to them – not by beating ourselves up over our weaknesses!

So, there you are – March – the month of strength. What does that mean for you?

Plant feet

In the A to Z of Becoming, I’ve reached the letter “H” again, and one verb which begins with “H” is “hope”.

So I’ve been thinking about hope, but recently I’ve also been thinking a lot about negativity and how frequently we come across people who are against something. There are so many “anti-s” about and I often wonder what exactly an “anti” would say they are “pro”. What are they for, as opposed to what are they against.

When I bring those thoughts to the action of hoping I can see that on many occasions people are practising a kind of “negative hope” – “I hope I don’t fail at….” “I hope I don’t miss my train”, “I hope I don’t…..” – it’s about fear.

And fear is used a lot to control people so we are often sold messages on the basis of what might be avoided, rather than what might be achieved.

The positive psychology movement grew out of the understanding that whatever we focus on gets bigger. So if you try to treat someone’s fear by focusing on reducing that fear, you still end up focusing on the problem, not the solution.

It might seem there is a subtle difference between hoping for something and hoping that the opposite does not happen, but I think that difference is significant, because the focus of the hope has an influence on us.

If we spend our lives hoping that this or that does not happen, then we are living from a standpoint of fear, and our behaviours become avoidance behaviours.

If we spend our lives actively hoping for this or that, then we can live engaged with the creative efforts which can lead us to the fulfilment of those hopes.

Maybe the universe really does conspire to bring about what we focus on…..and if that is true, then ask yourself what you hope for, not what you hope you can avoid.

The vine in the photograph at the beginning of this post is actively seeking out and creating opportunities to grow. It is sending its out its tendrils to support itself in growing bigger, climbing higher, and spreading further. I like to see this as a positive behaviour focused on enriching and developing Life.

 

 

The reality we create

Seb

How do we perceive the world?

Do you think we are the passive observers of reality?

Or do we bring our prior values, beliefs and habits to the every day co-creation of reality?

I think it’s the latter.

I think we make our world, but we don’t make it from nothing. We co-create our world.

What I create changes the world you experience. What you create changes the world I experience.

Every day your experiences are unique.

Whatever you experience today, remember this will be the very first time you experience exactly this. And, remember too, that this will be the very last time you will experience exactly this. Today will not come back again.

Can you be aware of that?

As you live today can you notice, sometimes, what kind of world you are creating? Can you notice what kind of world we are creating?

Cognac

This image is one of the ones which makes me very aware of the quality of light. It’s a simple shot of a street in Cognac around mid-day, but I find the light quite magical.

Isn’t it interesting how different the light appears depending on the time and place? I’m a great fan of diversity, so here are some very different examples, all taken in early afternoon light, but all on different days and in different places.

First up, here’s the Saint-Eutrope crypt in the town of Saintes.

The crypt

 

Then, the Charente river as it flows through Saintes.

The Charente in Saintes

 

The bridge to Île-de-Ré, with the oyster beds in the foreground.

 

 

From the Ile-de-Re

Spooked

The dark observer

When I loaded this image up onto my Mac, and looked at it, I jumped.

I was taking a photo of the seeds hanging from the tree, but when I looked at it now I could see a skinny dark figure watching me.

The figure looked cloaked and hooded to me and had seemed to step right into my field of vision, even though I had not seen him when I was taking the photograph.

What was this?

Was it a spirit or ghost of some kind? Out in broad daylight? What was it doing there watching me? Was it watching with good will, or evil intent?

I shuddered.

Then I looked again and saw the out of focus foreground twig which must have been sticking up in front of my lens.

But when I look again, the first thing I see, every time, is the dark, shadowy figure.

We bring our active imaginations into our every day perceptions. It happens automatically. Then, when we pause, stand back, and look again, everything changes.

Doesn’t it?

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