Archive for November, 2014


In the second part of the A to Z of Becoming, V stands for the verb “vary”.

I found this photo of an old barometer in my collection and it really captures something about the natural function of variation. A barometer is pretty constantly moving, responding continuously to the rising or falling of the atmospheric pressure. I’ve always thought it quite funny that one of the words on these old barometers is “variable” because I tend to think, when it comes to weather, when is anything other than “variable”?! But then, that’s probably down to my experience of living in Scotland for 60 years! I’ve never lived in a country where the weather is the same, day in, day out.

The truth is Nature is constantly varying because all of Nature is a dynamic phenomenon. And the Universe so loves diversity!

But there’s an interesting aspect of human experience, which is “tolerance”. All of our sensory systems have a tendency to tolerance. That is, when something new comes along we notice it, but once its been there for a bit, we stop noticing it. How often have you had the experience of suddenly becoming aware of a noise just when it stops?

Not quite the same as tolerance, but in some ways related, we also tend to move to the “back of our minds” the routines of our lives. This can lead to living on auto-pilot (or as I say in this blog, living like a zombie).

It’s good that a lot of things are dealt with on auto-pilot. What on earth would life be like if we had to think about every breath we take, if we had to initiate every beat of our hearts, if we had to actively, consciously digest all our food, and so on…..? What on earth would life be life if we had to be consciously aware all the time of every single sensory signal our body picks up, second by second?

But the problems come when we default our whole lives to auto-pilot. What happens then is that we tend to just keep repeating the same behaviours, having the same thoughts, feeling the same feelings, and, ultimately, neither making choices, nor creating any life anew.

So, it’s also good to disrupt the default, to break the routines, and raise our conscious level to higher state of awareness.

One way to do that is to vary something.

Walk a different way to work. Choose something different for breakfast. Read a different newspaper. Deliberately introduce a variation to your “normal” habits.

Go on, try it. Vary some things this week and see what that feels like.

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As I was raking up the leaves from the grass……this one caught my eye.

A moment of becoming

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Morning grass

From yesterday’s fog, the rain in the evening and this morning’s dew, all these little water droplets gathered on the blades of grass and were just waiting for the sun to sparkle them.

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window view

We engage with the world from our own, unique perspectives.

Whatever we see, hear, experience, is influenced by our personal past (memories, previous choices etc), our imaginations, our beliefs, and our values. Everything which has happened in our lives up till now has influenced the physical connections within our brains, and between our brains and the rest of our bodies.

Whatever we see, hear or experience is also influenced by our current state – our current physical, emotional and mental state.

All of this creates a kind of frame through which we experience the world.

We all have a unique, personal world view – have you considered what’s influencing yours?

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One of the most striking characteristics of living organisms is change.

These little leaves I photographed in the garden at the weekend are gone now. (which reminds me of the importance of taking a camera everywhere and not hesitating to use it!)

I’m particularly conscious of change just now because I’ve just moved country. Maybe you’ve done that before, maybe even many times, but it’s a first for me. I don’t mean simply travel and holidays, I mean to actually relocate, to go and live in another country entirely, maybe especially in a country where the language is different.

But change has always fascinated me. The byline of this blog is “becoming not being”, not just because I have always resisted being pigeon-holed, or categorised, but because I really don’t think any human being can be understood as an object frozen in time.

That’s just not reality.

The more there is change within a system or organisation, the more we recognise it as “dynamic”, and is there any more dynamic phenomenon in the Universe than a conscious human being? Not only are all of our cells constantly changing, not only is our heart constantly beating, our lungs constantly filling and emptying, our complex immune systems and endocrine systems altering moment by moment, but our minds are never still.

It feels to me there is a constant flow of a life force through me. It never ceases. When it moves on, this physical me will have moved on, but the me of ideas, of thoughts, of creative expression, of ebb and flow between me and the others who share, or have shared, parts of this life with me, that will, in some ways, continue to flow.

Human beings live in both a constantly changing physical universe (some parts of which change very slowly indeed), and in a rapidly changing, shimmering, universe of consciousness. Really, is there anything in the Universe which changes as much (as constantly) as a human being?

As Heraclitus said so long ago, you really can’t step in the same river twice.

That’s why, as a doctor, it didn’t make sense to me to try to categorise patients. It didn’t make sense to me to reduce a person to a diagnosis. A person is a constantly changing, flowing, growing, developing phenomenon, not an object to fitted into a category, to be measured and classified.

Becoming not being………it’s about the reality of constant change.


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In the second part of the A to Z of Becoming, U stands for the verb Unwind.


I’m sure you’ll be familiar with the idea of unwinding, but how do you actually do it?

What does it mean “to unwind”?

For me, it’s about addressing that tendency to become too tightly coiled – not just where you feel stressed, but that almost background, or default, state of a higher tension, where your muscles, your neurones, your whole system contains a build up of energy…..where everything gets tighter, stiffer, less flexible, less flowing.

I think we often don’t even notice it happening. Like with breathing. We can breathe using our diaphragm, taking big, slow, even, conscious breaths, of we can breathe using the muscles of our chest wall, the muscles between our ribs. This latter breathing is largely unconscious. It tends to be shallow and quite fast. The more tightly wound we are, the more likely we are to be breathing with our chest muscles, and the more we breathe with our chest muscles, the more tightly wound we become.

Unwind is a verb. It’s an action. It might happen unconsciously, but, probably, it requires a deliberate choice.

Choose to unwind.

Choose to let go of the tension.

Easier said than done? Try a simple focus on the breath. Deliberately breathing with your diaphragm for a few breaths can produce a quick unwind.

But I think unwinding should be for more than just a moment. One of the rhythms I’ve discovered since moving to the French countryside is that of Sundays. I’m sure there was that rhythm in my life when I was a child, and it’s a good feeling to rediscover it. Sunday becomes a different day. Not just another day.

The thought that provokes is that we can create the habits, the rituals, or even the environments which induce unwinding. So, here’s your challenge for this week…..how do you unwind? What helps you to unwind? What conditions or habits can you create which will encourage unwinding?

Try some different ideas, some different options, and find when and where is the best time for you to unwind. Then…………….unwind.

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Pond life

My monthly theme for November is reflection, so I thought I’d share a photo I took a couple of days ago.

Sometimes, you just turn a corner, and there in front of you, is a spectacular reflection.

Seen any striking ones this month?

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I’ve taken a lot of autumn photos over the years, mostly in Scotland and Japan. But now I’ve moved to an area of France which is full of vineyards. Have you ever seen a vineyard in the autumn? Isn’t it beautiful?

So, these autumn views got me thinking again about why I love this season so much. It’s not just about the colours. It’s that it, like Spring, feels a season which is abundant with becoming not being. The changes in the countryside are not only striking but they are constant at this time of year.

It’s great to feel in the full flow of change, to be living a life of daily becoming…..

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Sunburst sunset

Every single day I encounter something which amazes me, inspires me, or thrills me.

Every single day is unique.

This is the first time I have experienced today.

This will be the last time I experience today.

In France there is a phrase for this approach to life – l’√©merveillement du quotidien. (the every day marvel or amazement)

I’m sharing this particular photo of a sunset, taken from my garden a couple of days ago, because I’ve never seen this actual phenomenon before. That burst of sunbeams or reflections in the cloud, above the setting sun…..like the spreading folds of a fan.



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In the second part of the A to Z of Becoming, T stands for Trust.



Trust in the Universe, God, another person? Trust that, as the sign above declares “everything is going to be alright”?

Trust will mean something different to different people, but for me, it’s about a mixture of confidence, hope and experience in the processes of resilience and adaptability.

I don’t trust predictions. I don’t trust outcomes. I don’t trust politicians’ promises, drug companies’ claims, the certainties of the arrogant.

What I trust is that as I live this life I learn and develop skills which enable me to cope with what comes my way. More than that, I learn to trust that it is worthwhile thinking the best of people, and expecting them to be friendly or helpful. Expecting, at least, that the next person I meet will not wish me harm. That doesn’t mean that they won’t harm me. What I trust, is that I will cope if they do, that I’ll learn something from the experience, and that I’ll learn something about them.

Trust for me involves hope, and it does involve a kind of faith….the faith that the Universe is developing consistently towards ever greater complexity, ever greater integration, and ever deeper consciousness. Trust in the growth of diversity, uniqueness, and the extending network of links and bonds.

I trust that every day I will be amazed, or surprised, or inspired by something….and I am!

What does trust mean in your life? How do you experience trust? And what does trusting add to your life?

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