Archive for April, 2022

Now that pretty much every mobile phone has a camera, many of us are constantly equipped with the means to take photos. And now that publishing photos onto the net is so, so easy, we are all much more able to share those photos with others. We are able to share photos directly with friends, family or colleagues. And we’re able, if we choose, to share them much more widely.

These two young women are sharing the experience of noticing, one taking a photo of some blossom while the other looks at it too. The camera can raise our awareness so that we notice more in the here and now and it can direct both our attention and that of others.

I’ve been writing this blog for many years now and some time back I developed the habit of basing every single post on a photo I’d taken. I do that for several reasons. It allows me to revisit photos I’ve taken over the years, as well as to linger a while over individual photos, enjoying them, contemplating them, and letting them set off whole threads of thought in me.

It also let’s me share.

I enjoy sharing both the photos and the words they inspire and my hope is that they set off ripples of delight, wonder and awareness which can travel through the four dimensions of space and time.

These are two different everyday acts and I recommend them both. Consciously noticing by deliberately taking photos. And choosing to share, whether with one other person, a handful of friends, or more widely.

Read Full Post »

Change and memory

Charles Babbage is often referred to as the father of the computer. He invented both the “Difference Engine” and the “Analytic Engine”, probably the first computing devices.

He also wrote about how change propagates throughout the world, suggesting that the air, the oceans and the rocks act like vast libraries.

In a paper he published in 1837, he describes how every word we utter creates movement in the molecules of the air (that’s how others can hear us) and every molecule which moves changes the position of other molecules.

The air itself is one vast library, on whose pages are forever written all that man has ever said or even whispered.

He wrote that the same principle applies to water and rock, but there it is actions which produce the changes. He gives examples of the wake caused by passing ships. And I wondered about how often you can find fossil sea shells high up in land far, far above sea level. I also wondered about the changes to landscapes, forests and rivers produced by the actions of Industrial society over the last couple of hundred years.

Whilst the atmosphere we breathe is the ever-living witness of the sentiments we have uttered, the waters, and more solid materials of the globe, bear equally enduring testimony of the acts we have committed.

All this also reminded me of the way our bodies remember, of how memories of events and experiences remain in our cells because they are changed by the words and actions which impact on them.

I love that such a clear, and even imagination inspiring, idea was published almost two hundred years ago, but I wonder how much longer it will be until we live according to this discovery that everything is connected.

Read Full Post »

There are many meditation practices and I’m no expert but many, if not most, involve training your attention, whether it’s attending to your breath, or watching your thoughts, images and feelings arise and fade away.

Iain McGilchrist, in The Master and His Emissary, shows how each of our cerebral hemispheres enable us to pay attention to the world in different ways. The right hemisphere uses a broad attention to be aware of our circumstances, our contexts, the unanalysed flow of feelings and sensations. It allows us to see connections and to keep an eye open to novelty. The left hemisphere on the other hand uses a narrow, even laser like, focus, to pick out details from whatever we encounter, to re-cognise, re-present, analyse and classify.

We use both all the time. We need both. Having both is our super power.

But we have to learn to become aware of what each kind of attention is most active at any moment. And we can choose. We can choose to focus in on a detail, to drill down and analyse it. Or we can choose to appreciate the here and now as a whole, undivided, unclassified, an every changing flow of new connections.

Iain’s contention is that we’ve become unbalanced and that we need to re-balance by re-integrating the work of the left into the right.

Here’s three things I find strengthen the right and support re-integration – music, poetry and a conscious attitude of wonder.

Try it for yourself. Allow yourself more music, more poetry and more everyday wonder.

Read Full Post »

Taking a moment

It’s too easy to let life be so busy that it flies past, mostly unnoticed, from one day to the next.

I often remember the line from the Simpsons where Bart says “I’m a human being, not a human doing”!

On the other hand I’ve read biologists say that all of life is movement – no movement, no life.

I guess we’re back to “and not or”. It’s true that the living body is constantly moving, adapting, growing, respiring and metabolising, but it’s also true that we have to rest, take a break.

It’s in the moments where we don’t fill the minutes with busyness and tasks that we give ourselves the chance to be more aware and to reflect.

Conscious beings need to devote some time to allow awareness to rise to the surface. Time to just be. Time to relish our existence.

Read Full Post »


You can never have too many umbrellas!

I can’t tell you how many umbrellas I’ve had flip inside out terminally in a Glasgow winter. I even brought a super strong one back from Tokyo where I saw people using umbrellas to try and protect themselves in the middle of a cyclone out in the streets, but it only lasted a couple of seasons.

I was surprised to see people walking about with umbrellas up in the middle of summer in several Asian countries until I realised they were protecting themselves from the Sun. Not a concept I, a Scot, was previously familiar with.

I’ve long had a habit of keeping a small collapsible umbrella in my bag no matter the weather when I leave my house because, well, you just never know….

Shelter, is right at the base of Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs. So why don’t we organise our world to provide shelter to everyone? Is that beyond our imagination and genius?

Of course, I don’t mean why don’t we make sure everyone has an umbrella!! Ha! Ha! I mean why not make it a priority and a political and economic goal to enable everyone to have a decent, well insulated, sustainable home?

Just for starters anyway……..

Read Full Post »

Hope and gratitude

Prayer is a pretty universal human activity. Even if you don’t pray formally I’m sure you’re very familiar with prayers in places of worship, or in peoples homes. You’ve probably seen athletes whispering prayers and turning their eyes up to the heavens at the start line, or holding their hands high in thanks after crossing the finishing line first.

There are many types of prayer, some learned by heart and recited, others personal and spontaneous. However I think there are at least two genres of prayer which most of us engage with, and both have been shown in many studies to have beneficial effects on health and quality of life.

The two are hope and gratitude.

Without hope life shrivels up. When all hope is lost people collapse, disintegrate or even die. I think hope is an essential aspect of a healthy life. We all need a reason to get up in the morning, a belief that our children and grandchildren can live healthy flourishing lives.

Gratitude and the practice of writing a gratitude journal is a powerful way to improve quality of life. It focuses us on what’s positive, makes us pay attention to the daily small wonders and delights. It’s an antidote to frustration and discontent.

Read Full Post »


Sometimes something catches my eye and makes me smile. Usually it’s an unexpected juxtaposition of two things. I guess that’s how jokes work…they bring together two apparently unconnected things and they surprise you.

I had just stepped off this tram in Kyoto when I noticed the black and white photo on the wall. I couldn’t help seeing it as a virtual queue of people making their way onto the empty tram which would then depart, taking them with it.

I did wonder for a moment if I looked away, waited a moment, then looked back, whether I’d see a space where the tram had been and a photo of a landscape with no people visible.

I like these serendipities.

Read Full Post »

The garden of the house we’ve bought is pretty large and it has a wooded area at the top. The whole garden is somewhat neglected and the wooded area in particular is a dense thicket of vines, massive brambles and the biggest creepers I’ve ever seen in my life.

I’ve written about integration a number of times on this blog describing how it involves both chaos and order, or, as some would say, wildness and discipline. Well this woodland area is a great example of too much wildness. I have a feeling that if I ever make it all the way through the thicket to the back of the garden I might discover Sleeping Beauty in her glass case!

I’ve read a bit about the concept of a forest garden where various plants, including some edible ones, are planted amongst the trees, and I fancy trying that idea. But I’m also very aware of the benefits and delights of “forest bathing” so just want to be able to enjoy spending some time amongst the trees.

Here’s my plan – start by creating some simple paths. This involves cutting down and removing enough brambles, creepers and climbers to create a passageway through the trees. Then I set the lawnmower to its highest setting and ran it over the ground covering vines to make a path. The next step is clearing the floor of the path of roots and creepers and the edges of the path of thorns, dead trees and saplings.

The photo at the beginning of today’s post is of a part of the first path I’ve made.

All this work, and it’s a lot of work, is immensely satisfying. I can now see the sun shining through the trees and clearings. It’s like seeing the woodland breathe again. I’m walking the path a few times a day to establish it, but also to enjoy the experience of being surrounded by birdsong in amongst the trees.

So, I’ve arrived at the next stage and have planted a fern, a blueberry bush and some hostas along the margins of the path.

This is all new to me. I haven’t been a gardener before moving to France and I haven’t even lived somewhere with a garden for many years. So I’m exploring, reading and learning. It could be a bit daunting to try to introduce some order into the wild areas but I’ve decided to take it a little bit at a time. I’ve scoped out the rough direction of the next path but this first one is already bringing me a lot of joy.

I’ve known for many years that spending time in natural environments is good for body, mind and soul, as is gardening, but it’s only now that I’m experiencing the reality of that knowledge for myself.

I’ll bring you updates in the weeks and months ahead and I’m very open to advice and recommendations.

Gardening as integrative practice!

Read Full Post »

Many threaded

People aren’t simple. Any attempt to reduce a person to a single category dehumanises them. You can’t see, can’t hear, can’t understand someone if you put them into one or even several boxes.

To reduce a human being to a statistic or a particular characteristic does exactly that. It reduces them.

I had a habit of beginning a consultation with a new patient by saying “tell me your story”. They would then tell me a unique narrative, constructed from an endless variety of threads.

I stumbled across a Twitter spat the other day about Covid deaths. The U.K. government publishes the number of people reported each day to have died with a positive Covid test in the last 28 days. The argument was along the lines “but did these people actually die from Covid or something else?” And was this over-reporting or under-reporting.

One argument was the measure was absurd because someone might have died from walking in front of a bus but have had Covid recently. Others said such trauma cases were excluded. I thought “what a strange argument. On the one hand, death from a road accident is surely not a death from Covid, but on the other hand covid is known to seriously impair cognitive function so maybe if they hadn’t had Covid they wouldn’t have walked in front of a bus”.

One thing we know about Covid is it’s more likely to kill you if you have “co-morbidities”, if you’re elderly, frail and/or poor. All of which highlights the fact that neither life nor death are simple. Trying to categorise or label them is fraught with difficulties and misunderstandings.

So my preference is to avoid reductionism as much as possible. All deaths are multifactorial. All lives are multifaceted. Our individual stories are rich tapestries of multiple, probably countless, threads, some of which can be known, many of which never will be.

Read Full Post »


I never cease to be amazed by the transition from a bud to a flower. That tight knot of petals unfurling by growing and opening up at the same time is a wonder to behold.

I think it’s the opening up aspect which appeals to me so much. There’s a sense of revelation there. I see the tight little bud as a container of a secret, and the unfolding of the petals as a revelation.

In French there’s a wonderful word – épanouissement – which translates as blossoming, growing, maturing – used to describe this stage of a plant’s life, but also used to describe a feature of human personal growth and development.

The idea of an unfolding of potential, of growing into one’s own uniqueness, of flourishing and blossoming, delights me.

There is so much beauty and wonder in this “normal” phenomenon. I’d include this idea of épanouissement in my concept of health now.

Health is much more than the absence of disease. It’s a state of flourishing which involves revelation, opening up to the world and to others, and the expression of uniqueness.

It’s beautiful.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »