Archive for August, 2015

Sundial Saint-Savin

//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.jsI don’t have an Apple watch. In fact, I don’t routinely wear a watch. Years ago, a Dutch friend of mine who I’d invited to Scotland to teach, told me on the train on the way to the venue that he’d taken his watch off several years ago, because he’d realised that the more often he checked his watch, the more anxious he felt. (We were on a delayed train and I was anxious we were going to be late, but he told me why worry, we’re not driving the train, and worrying won’t make it go any faster) However, these days with the smartphones, (I do have an iPhone), it’s never difficult to check the time. But if you are out and about I bet you’ll find some kind of timekeeper isn’t far away – whether it’s a digital clock outside a pharmacy, or a beautiful clock on some building.   Les Macarons de Montmorillon//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

So, I’ve been wondering, what do you look at when you want to know the time?

And do you think that where you look influences how you feel about time? Do you like the precision of digital, the analogue of old clocks…..or sundials and calendars?!

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circle of seeds//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

There is something very beautiful about seeds, maybe especially the ones which disperse in the wind.

There’s something so delicate, light and insubstantial about them. Maybe that’s why children often think these are fairies when they float past in the wind.

Yet, they are bursting with potential. Full of promise and possibility, just waiting for a helping hand from a passing breeze to leap into the unknown, and hopefully find fertile ground somewhere.

This particular seed head seems even more delicate than most. And doesn’t that delicacy, that fragile impermanence make it all the more beautiful?

It does for me.

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I saw this fresco on the ceiling in l’Abbaye de Saint-Savin. This is God creating night and day. What completely fascinates me is the plant – what is it? Do you know? Do tell me if you think you do.

If you look carefully it seems there is the faded remnant of another one just to the left. I’m assuming that the fact there are three heads to the flower is significant, but does this flower usually grow in such a manner?

Can anyone shed any light on this?

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Bench with tree or tree with bench

When did you last just sit? And where was that?

Do you have a favourite place to sit? And what do you do while you are sitting?

When I was a busy GP in Edinburgh I’d often drive through Holyrood Park on the way from one house call to another, or one clinic to another, and if I saw someone sitting on one of the park benches….just sitting….I’d get a sudden longing. I’d think “How great to be able to just sit”.

In our busy lives, we’re always doing. In the midst of that we are encouraged to “live in the present moment”, to learn to be “mindful”, learn how to meditate, learn to “soyez zen” (as I’ve heard it said so often in this part of France).

I know it’s important to be active but I also know it’s important to slow down sometimes (I have a whole series of posts on verbs…. Here’s one on slowing down) . Yes, maybe to meditate. Maybe to focus on my breathing. Maybe to day dream even.

Sometimes I go outside and sit down under the mulberry tree, listen to the birdsongs around me, look at the blues and greens and other colours in the world around me, breathe deeply and fill my lungs with the clear air, close my eyes and feel the warmth of the sun on my skin.

Sometimes I practice some form of meditation, sometimes Heartmath, sometimes I just let my consciousness flow, drifting from a sensation to a feeling to a thought.

I find some of my best ideas arise in those moments and I’m reminded of David Lynch talking about TM and diving for the big fish….

ideas are like fish. If you want to catch little fish, you can stay in the shallow water. But if you want to catch the big fish, you’ve got to go deeper. Down deep, the fish are more powerful and more pure. They’re huge and abstract. And they’re beautiful. Everything, anything that is a thing, comes up from the deepest level. Modern physics calls that level the Unified Field. The more your consciousness – your awareness – is expanded, the deeper you go toward this source, and the bigger fish you can catch.

(from David Lynch’s “Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness and Creativity”)

Seriously, if you are busy doing all the time, you aren’t going to catch the big fish! Pull up a chair, sit on that bench, and “take a moment”. Who’d have thought it? Moments are there for the taking!


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out there

The skies above this part of the world are often very clear so I’ve taken to star gazing at night when I can. Wherever I point the telescope it shows me more stars than I ever knew existed. It’s hard not to be humbled by the immensity of it all. But what struck me last night as I looked at the stars was how much I didn’t know.

It’s not a new thing for me to wonder about what I don’t know. I remember years ago reading an article in the British Medical Journal about medical education saying that all the best ongoing education starts with saying “I don’t know” – yet that was the one phrase we were all terrified to say as we our teachers singled us out to ask us questions on teaching ward rounds or in the lecture theatre. It’s a phrase which brought shame and condemnation. If you didn’t feel an idiot before you said it, you sure did afterwards! So, it was refreshing to read the opposite – to read the idea that only if you could say “I don’t know” could you open up the chance to learn something.

Many, many years later I came across the works of Montaigne, and was delighted to find that one of his most used phrases was “Que sais-je?” (not exactly I don’t know, but “what do I know” – still a humble admission of the limits of personal knowledge).

Throughout my career, although I practiced as a holistic doctor and was fortunate enough to work for much of my life in a service which prioritised time spent with patients, I often found myself saying to patients that even if they’d told me things they’d never told another soul (and that was a common remark made by patients), I thought it took a lifetime to try to really know yourself, let alone another person, so although I was about to share some insights with them about what was happening in their life, those insights were limited by the small amount I knew about them. You see, how much you know is always a relative term, but it surely is always (in the bigger scheme of things) a small amount.

When I posted yesterday about the Japanese lantern I had to check out on wikipedia just what those lanterns were and yet again I was faced by having to say to myself that I didn’t know enough about botany.

Strange that that awareness and the sharing of it is still something which comes with a discomfort, because, really, I believe that the world would be a much better place if we were all more aware of the fact that what we don’t know is always so much more than what we do know.

While I was writing this, Hilary (who didn’t know what I was writing about) read out a quote to me –

The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence.

……Charles Bukowski

Earlier today, what provoked me to write this post was reading the following quotation from Parker Palmer on the Brainpickings site

What I really mean … is be passionate, fall madly in love with life. Be passionate about some part of the natural and/or human worlds and take risks on its behalf, no matter how vulnerable they make you. No one ever died saying, “I’m sure glad for the self-centered, self-serving and self-protective life I lived.”

Offer yourself to the world – your energies, your gifts, your visions, your heart – with open-hearted generosity. But understand that when you live that way you will soon learn how little you know and how easy it is to fail.

To grow in love and service, you – I, all of us – must value ignorance as much as knowledge and failure as much as success… Clinging to what you already know and do well is the path to an unlived life. So, cultivate beginner’s mind, walk straight into your not-knowing, and take the risk of failing and falling again and again, then getting up again and again to learn – that’s the path to a life lived large, in service of love, truth, and justice.

I couldn’t agree more.

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What do you call this plant? Japanese lantern? Chinese lantern? Physalis? Whatever name you know it by, isn’t it extraordinary?

I mean, what is this? Is it a fruit? Are these petals? Or leaves? Or what?

Well, turns out these are sepals forming a calyx – the sepals of a flower are a form of protection, but whilst they are usually green, and you probably don’t normally really notice them, in this particular flower they form this papery orange lantern.

Sometimes protection is just so beautiful!

By the way, I’m no botanist, so in Montaigne’s famous words “Que sais-je?” (“What do I know?”) – if you know more about this please share in the comments…..

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catching colour in a web

Webs are great for….catching things, right?

Like the colours of the evening sunlight…..

(Just another reason to stay aware and notice the amazing everyday)

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