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Archive for the ‘narrative’ Category

The pine forest at the “Côte Sauvage” in the Charente Maritime, the “Foret des Cedres” in Provence, the deciduous forest around the Bracklinn Falls in Central Scotland, the maple forests around Kyoto……these are some of my most memorable forests. They delight me.

It’s many years since I learned about the Japanese practice of “forest bathing” – which simply means spending some time in a forest – well, actually, not so much just passing some time there, but immersing yourself in it, really engaging with it, listening to the sounds of birds calling, of the branches swaying in the wind, breathing deep the scents of pine, cedar, and other trees, watching the play of sunlight through the leaves as together they create whole performances of light and shade, of shape and shadow – you get the idea.

We have learned a lot about forest bathing in recent years. We’ve learned of the benefits it brings to everything from a sense of well-being to a boost in some of the chemicals and cells involved in our immune system, to a calming of the harmful chronic inflammatory activities inside our bodies which occur as a result of stress. It’s just GOOD for you! And that’s a sweet spot for me – finding what is BOTH good for me and just utterly enjoyable – health boosting and happiness boosting – result!

We’ve also learned a lot about the lives of trees and forests in recent years. We’ve learned that trees don’t live in isolation, that they are in constant communication with each other, sending out warnings when they are attacked or vulnerable, sharing nutrients, and supporting each other. They do this both by sending out chemicals through the air, and by an astonishingly complex network of root systems intertwined with microfibres of fungi creating what has been termed “the wood wide web”.

Here are some of the main books I’ve read which have taught me what I know about how trees and forest demonstrate inter-dependency, how they communicate with each other, and how they behave as one complex adaptive organism. “The Hidden Life of Trees“, by Peter Wohlleben, subtitled, “What they feel, how they communicate: discoveries from a secret world”; “Gossip from the Forest” by Sara Maitland, subtitled, “The tangled roots of our forests and fairytales”; “Braiding Sweetgrass” by Robin Wall Kimmerer, which blends “indigenous wisdom” with “science and teachings of plants”; and, the novel, “Overstory“, by Richard Powers. You can probably add your own favourites to that list, but if this is something you want to explore, you could do worse than start with any of those books.

This fairly new knowledge of forests is part of a much wider trend in science – the attempt to understand connections. I think this is a radical, and much needed, shift. The reductionist science of understanding parts has led to an explosion of knowledge, but too often, we fail to really understand the real world because we fail to see that every single part only exists as an embedded, inextricable element of the whole. The fabulous improvement in that approach mirrors a shift in the use of the left hemisphere of the brain which engages with the world by separating it into parts to analyse and categorise, towards the use of the right hemisphere with engages with the world as a whole, and focuses our attention on connections and relationships.

We are now looking much more at whole environments, whole webs of inter-relationships. We see such networks everywhere, from the activity of micro-organisms in our guts (the “microbiome”), to the “neural networks” within the brain, the inter-relationships of species within ecological “niches”, or “biomes”, and in world wide cycles of movement of water, gases, and other molecules.

One concept which is useful in all these areas is the one of the “connectome” – this is the activity of mapping out the interactions and relationships within whatever we are studying. In terms of the brain it can be helpful to imagine that every single thought has the “neural correlate” of a “connectome” of nerve cells. Apparently we have so many neurones in our brain, and each of them is so massively interconnected, that if you were to consider all the potential permutations of activity of little networks within the greater network, then that number would be greater than the number of atoms in the universe! Well, I don’t know how anyone works out something like that, but suffice it to say, the potential for our imagination, for our cognition, for our memory, for our ability to visualise, conceptualise, analyse, synthesise and create, is pretty damn close to infinite!

There’s something else interesting about all these “connectomes” – they are related to each other. Each one is nested into several others, and each one of them sets up resonances and harmonies with other ones. Perhaps that partly explains how we feel what other people feel, how we come to think what other people think, and, maybe even how our inner environments are affected by our external ones.

Amazing what a walk a forest can do for us, huh?

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Before there was Life on Earth, the Sun shone down on the surface, baking the entire planet. A big step forward in evolution was the emergence of plant life. Plants developed the ability to use the Sun’s energy to capture carbon dioxide and water from the atmosphere, and turn those two molecules into sugars. In a way, plants learned how to tap into the vast, seemingly infinite, reserves of energy which were produced by the furnace of the Sun. As they transformed those two abundant molecules into sugars which they could use to survive and thrive, they produced oxygen almost as a by-product.

As plants proliferated and spread across the Earth’s surface, they changed the atmosphere, enabling a new kind of life to appear….cells which needed oxygen. Actually, before there were plants, there were single celled bacteria which developed this capability to capture carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. One theory of evolution is that all multi-celled organisms evolved from the collaborative and integrative behaviours of single-celled organisms. I find that a pretty convincing story.

Animals evolved later. And we humans belong in the Animal Kingdom. So, without our ancestors of the Plant Kingdom, none of us would exist. It’s not just that none of us would exist because humans wouldn’t have evolved, but none of us could exist now, because without the Plant Kingdom, no animals would have access to the Sun’s energy. It’s only the plants which have learned how to capture the Sun’s energy directly. The rest of us live further along a food chain, getting our energy from the other creatures (plants and animals) which we eat.

This beautiful photo has a lovely symmetry…..the sunbeams are echoed in the rows of the vineyard….and that phenomenon of symmetry, of echo, of resonance, reveals some of the intricate inter-connectedness of all that exists.

In this one image, I can lose my boundaries, and find myself as a unique, embedded, transient part of a vast web of Life.

I find transcendent experiences in the natural, everyday world. It’s in the vineyards, the forest, at the shore beside the crashing waves of the ocean, in my garden as the different birds call and pass through……..It’s no surprise to me that spending time outside, in natural habitats, lowers stress, lowers the human stress hormones, stirs our spirits, nurtures our souls, and is good for our bodies. It’s one of the best things we can do to stay healthy…..connect to the natural world.

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I’ve seen this only once.

One day, three years ago, I looked up and saw this sort of rainbow. I say “sort of rainbow” because it isn’t actually an arch. From time to time, in different places, I have noticed various rainbow-type phenomena. I’ve seen them in the spray of water in a fountain, in short almost square patches in the sky, and even in long thin strips once. But this particular one looks different from all the other ones I’ve seen elsewhere.

I don’t expect I’ll see another one the same.

What caught my attention? Was it the sudden appearance of colours in the sky? Perhaps. But I don’t think it was all down to the colours. The shape, the size and the location were equally important. What really caught my attention was its uniqueness. It appeared strange, rare and peculiar.

Some of you may recognise that triad of terms – strange, rare and peculiar. It’s one which was at the heart of my medical practice for several decades. I found that every single patient who came to see me was unique. I was never able to, nor ever wished to, reduce them to a diagnostic category. Naming their disease was one small step towards understanding them. Listening non-judgementally, with genuine curiosity and interest allowed them to unfurl their stories. Every story was strange, rare and peculiar. In every story I would be struck by something. Something would provoke a question, stir a sense of awe or amazement, in me, move me, suggest to me that here was a story of a unique life, a life where particular (peculiar) events occurred, and which had unusual (rare) effects. Every story would strike me as having something distinct, something “not normal” (strange) about it. Because that’s how life is.

Every single one of us is “strange, rare and peculiar”. We cannot be understood as “data sets”, spreadsheets full of “variables”, “averages”, “norms” or “typical features”.

And so, I learned, this is true, not only of patients in a consulting room. It is true of life.

Iain McGilchrist’s “The Master and His Emissary” remains one of the key texts of my life. His description and exploration of the asymmetry of the two halves of our brain (our two cerebral hemispheres) has helped me make sense of things in so many circumstances. Our left hemisphere is great for picking bits out of what we perceive, matching them up against our memory banks of what we know already, ascribing labels to them, and filing them away as further examples of familiar categories. Our right hemisphere, however, is continually on the lookout for what’s new, what’s different. It engages with the world as a whole, not as a collection of bits. It sees whatever we are looking at in its contexts, understands it in its vast web of connections and relationships with everything else.

In short, I think, our right hemisphere is terrific for finding the “strange, rare and peculiar”.

So what? you might ask. Well, look again at this photo. I find that the colours and shapes together are beautiful. I love the way light has been prised apart into these bands of colour, in two clouds, one above the other. I love how this phenomenon hangs on a setting sun orange sky, how the silhouettes of the trees form the lower border of the image, and how flocks of birds scatter across the entire sky.

It’s all very beautiful. Enchanting. Entrancing, even. It amazes and delights. It makes me feel good to be alive, and humbles me with the awareness that I will never know all that can be know. I will never cease to encounter what I’ve never encountered before. And neither will “we”, we humans together. I love the feeling of wonder and curiosity that these events create. I love the sense of mystery.

Opening ourselves up to what’s strange, rare and peculiar, turns out to be a great way to live.

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“Special” – there’s a difficult word – when someone claims they are special they might be claiming that they are the exception which should be respected – that they don’t need to follow the same rules as the rest of the community. This “exceptionalism” is the root of a lot of trouble in the world. The danger with “special” is that others are seen as “not special”.

But I am a great fan of this word, and I think we fail to grasp it enough. This Robin is special to me. He lives in “my garden”. I see him almost every day. We know that Robins are territorial birds and I don’t ever, ever see a flock of Robins in my garden. I can’t be sure that the Robin I see today is the exact same Robin that I saw yesterday, but I assume he is. There are other birds like this near me. There’s a “Little Owl” who lives under the roof of my neighbour’s barn. He often sits on the roof at dusk and watches me as I close the wooden shutters over the windows of the house. He doesn’t fly away when he sees me. I’ve become familiar to him. You could say that we have become special to each other. There’s also a Redstart which returns to this garden every Spring and flies away for the Winter. We have had several back and forth whistling conversations together, the Redstart and I, and when I hear his call again in the Spring I know that Winter is over. When my grand-daughter hears him she says “There’s your friend, grandpa”.

In “The Little Prince”, the boy claims that his rose is “special”, that she is different from all the other roses. He cares for her more than he does for all the other roses. And there’s the key – what makes that one rose special is the attention and time he has invested in her, watering her, protecting her from the grazing sheep, and so on. It’s the time, attention, and emotional investment which makes this rose genuinely “special” for him.

I think everyone is “special”, and contrary to what I wrote above about exceptionalism, in my experience, in the consulting room, one to one, with patient after patient, I found that it was way, way too common for people to fail to realise just how special they are. In fact, they might have been bombarded with messages which have said the exact opposite for years – “you are nothing”, “you are worthless”, “you don’t matter”.

Those messages are cruel and they are wrong.

Every single human being is special, in the sense that they are unique. There are no two of us with identical bodies and minds, no two of us born in identical places, at identical times, to identical families. There are no two of us with identical life stories. In all my four decades of work as a doctor I never heard the same life story twice.

“Special” works when we embrace the paradox of “special” with humility. But there’s something else, and it comes back to what makes us unique – what makes us unique is our connections. Not our differences. I am not special because I am different from everyone else. I am special because of the particular, vast, complex web of connections and relationships that I have, that I’ve had, and that I will have.

One more thing to add here – love.

It’s not just our relationships which make both you and I special. It’s the relationships which we invest with love and care which make both you and I special.

Have you ever noticed that? Just like The Little Prince, the more we care, the more we love, the more compassion we have, the more special others become.

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We change all the time. The world changes all the time. Nothing is fixed or, so called, “permanent”. I thought about that when I received my residency card here in France recently. I’ve been given what is called a “Carte de Sejour Permanente” – a permanent residency card. That’s me sorted, you might think. Then I notice that it expires in ten years time. Do they know something I don’t? Well, no, thank goodness, it’s just that permanent seems to last ten years in this instance.

That did get me thinking about the whole concept of permanent. Which isn’t something I’ve explored all that much. I have wondered for a long time about the concept of “now” – which is a period of time when we instantly recognise but is devilishly difficult to pin down or define. I mean the moment you think “this is now”, that moment has slipped away into the past and been replaced by an entirely new “now”! But back to “permanent” – I guess we just use this wonder to mean a fairly longish piece of time – in relation to geology we might be talking thousands of years, and in relation to the universe perhaps billions, but, in every single case, we discover that nothing is fixed, nothing really does retain the same, exact features and characteristics (cripes, even the same molecules!) for ever. It’s just the speed of change which alters.

Yet, in our own lives, things happen, and after they’ve happened nothing ever seems the same again. Like you can see in this image of a tree that I’ve shared above. This tree has the most dramatic change of direction which has completely changed its shape forever….ok, for the rest of its life then. And when I see a “lesion” like this I immediately wonder “What happened?” I used to have the same approach with patients in the consulting room. They might come with a problem which had gone on for decades and I always asked them to think back to the time when they felt completely well, then to tell me about the appearance of the first symptoms. That naturally led on to a discussion about what was happening in their life around the time of the big change. I don’t think there’s any way to prove cause and effect in such a scenario but I found it helpful to take the position of “Let’s imagine that what was happening then was significant in bringing about what happened next” That seemed to open the way to a new understanding of illness, it’s significance and possible meaning, which gave a patient the opportunity to change their way of dealing with it to something more helpful, something which might even open the doors to growth and development.

In that sense I think that the events of our lives change us. The most significant events change us dramatically and for the rest of our lives. Death of a loved one, giving birth, serious trauma……you know the kind of thing. All of that, for the individual concerned leaves a permanent change – it can’t be erased. But the way forward with that is learning to create different responses from the ones which have trapped us in suffering. In other words, we can’t change the past, but we can change the way the past impacts on us by choosing to respond differently.

This pandemic is going to change us all……has already changed us all. There won’t be any “return to normal” even if many people desire that…..and nor should there be. Because this event is an opportunity for us, individually and collectively, to reflect, ask ourselves what we were doing that might have contributed to the particular experiences of the pandemic and what we might do differently now to not end up in the same place again.

We have a chance now to reassess our values, our beliefs and our behaviours. To change our priorities, to demand change in our economic, political and social systems. I hope we do that. We’ll all remember 2020. I hope we remember it as the year which led the world to take a different direction.

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I took this photo of a path in a Japanese garden because I’d never seen wavy tiles like this before. In fact, having seen this one, I then came across several more. Although, many years on, I’ve never seen paving tiles, or stones, like this, for sale anywhere in Europe.

Maybe some of you will look at this and feel a bit unsteady, or dizzy, because they give the impression of flowing water, and you know how it is when you stand at the edge of the ocean and after crashing onto the sand, the water runs back between your feet, back to where it came from. It can feel quite destabilising. So, I think these wave forms have the power to communicate the sensation of movement, of flow, of change, and, yes, even of direction.

But I didn’t find them at all destabilising when I walked on them, rather I felt like I was walking/surfing/skiing/sailing over the surface of the Earth…..or maybe, rather, over the surface of the oceans. I love how this simple shape laid out in this repeating pattern captures the sense of life and movement. It felt completely different from walking over a pretty featureless tarmac, or over square, right angled, hard edged, separate slabs.

The other thing I thought of as I walked along this path was the story that Susan Jeffers tells in her famous “Feel the Fear” book, where she describes how a plane traveling from A to B spends only a tiny percentage of its time actually heading in the exact direction which would be a straight line between the two points. Rather the pilot is constantly adjusting the direction of the flight of the plane, a little bit to the right, then a “correction”, to the left, then back again, and so on. It’s a lovely metaphor for the need to be flexible and adaptable. It shows us how we need to proceed by going a little bit this way, then a little bit that way, all the time. It’s a counsel against so called “perfection” – as if there is “only one right way”. There never is.

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Apparently we are the only creatures on the planet to create works of art. I know, you’ll have seen some painting done by a chimpanzee or an elephant, but they aren’t exactly spontaneous acts of self expression or interpretation are they? No, Art is something unique to being human. There are many examples of “wall art” or “cave art” in France, discovered in recent years but painted some tens of thousands of years ago. It seems that even way back when our ancestors were nomadic hunter gatherers supposedly spending most of their days on the survival needs of food, water and shelter, they still had time to create astonishingly complex art, and, for some reason, often carried them out in the most difficult locations deep underground.

I’m using the term “art” here as broadly as I can, but I mean the kind of art which included drawing and painting. I’m not excluding the fabulous arts of sculpture, of music, of storytelling, poetry, dance, and so on, but, for today, I’m focused on visual art.

For me, Art is an experience. I don’t regard Art as an object, or a collection of objects. It’s an event. It’s an engagement. It’s a moment where we connect to what is greater than ourselves. It stirs our emotions, sparks our imaginations, and stimulates our empathy……we connect to the artist and/or the world as experienced by that artist.

Every work of art was created in a particular place at a particular time, and I mean that not just in the externals of geography and history, but in the internals of a personal life story, an individual, subjective, lived experience. So when we encounter that work of art at some other time, in some other place, we experience a (sometimes) powerful connection with the artist, with the life of the artist. I put “sometimes” in brackets there because it’s certainly not the case that all art has a powerful effect, and I’m not even clear about what it is that makes the difference. I do know, however, that the power of art is dependant on both the person creating the art, and the person experiencing it.

All this came to mind when I looked at this old photo I took in Japan many years ago. It just looks like a work of art to me. It reminds me of the classic traditions of “Still Life” (which I find such an odd term because no life is still), or, as it is called in French “Nature Morte” (which translates as “Dead Nature” – nope, can’t say I like that any better!). The twig, the leaf, the petals and the stone all look as if they have been arranged in the most beautiful way.

But here’s the thing….I don’t think this was created by human hands. I just stumbled upon some fallen parts of plants, lying on a stone in a garden, crouched down, framed it, and took this shot. OK, so maybe I’m the artist. Maybe the work of art is the photograph. But what I mean is that so much of everyday Nature looks like a work of Art. Creation, the cycles of birth and death, the seasons and the weather, the light, the water and the air, the myriad of diverse lifeforms everywhere, all adds up to an infinite number of opportunities to encounter deeply moving Art.

Because this moves me, this image. Yes, I know, I have a set of memories connected the to event of taking the photograph, which you don’t have, but there’s something about the colours, shapes and nature of the elements in this arrangement which I find deeply moving……which stir in me, memory, imagination and wonder, which provokes joy and delight, which makes me amazed to be alive in this, this most astonishing, small blue planet, we call Earth.

In an image like this, the artist I connect to is Planet Earth.

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It’s interesting how we use the verb to light in English. This photo is of a full moon, but what it shows best is the foliage of the tree through which I took the photo. I like the effect very much.

The Moon has no light of its own. It’s not like the Sun. It doesn’t generate any physical light, but, rather reflects the light of the Sun. That makes the light of the moon a completely different kind of light than that from the Sun. For a start we can gaze directly at the Moon for as long as we want, but we daren’t even stare directly at the Sun for a second without running the risk of damaging our eyes. I suppose that makes it easier to contemplate the Moon than it does the Sun.

The Moon’s light is a softer, gentler light, but on a clear night with a Full Moon you can still find your way around in the dark. It’s enough to give us a hint about what is around us in the world. But the colours aren’t there, and neither is the clarity which daylight brings. So, it almost demands that we use our powers of imagination and creativity more. After all, vision is a creative process. You know that, right? Our brain doesn’t contain something like a movie screen for us to watch the moving images. In fact, light itself doesn’t even get into our heads. Instead our eyes convert the light to electrical signals which are passed along a vast network of nerve cells in the brain and the brain does the job of analysing all the signals, and somehow creating clear images for us to perceive – images without any gaps in them, despite the fact that the back of the eye has a “blind spot” where no light can be detected. We literally create the images we see moment by moment.

Creativity involves an interplay of memory and imagination with the current information being received by the sensory system. It’s a true, continuous blending of the present, the past and the possible futures.

I think that by moonlight, without the clarity of colour and forms, we demand more of the imagination and our creative powers to enable us to see our way in the world.

Moonlight also works through symbolism and story – is it possible to contemplate the Moon without thinking of Venus, of Love, of Romance, of the Divine Feminine? It is, but it’s not nearly as rich an experience when we ignore all that. We associate the Moon with the unconscious, with feelings and with rhythms of tides and hormones. We associate the Moon with a certain wildness of thought – the word “lunacy” meaning madness has the word for “moon” right in there – “luna”. I’m not going to get into a detailed description of the history of madness and psychiatry here, but let’s just say our understanding of the psyche and of “mental illness” is ever changing and we still don’t really understand the more severe forms of disturbance, the “psychoses” which come with “hallucinations” and “delusions”.

So, when I see a Full Moon, or even one of the phases of the Moon, I don’t just see the physical, reflected light of the Sun, but I see a whole world of imagination and enchantment.

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How do you grow a forest?

One seedling at time.

This beautiful little seedling is captivating. I spotted it growing from the moss covered forest floor, the seed casing with its wind driven system of flight and dispersal still intact, but the bright green of new growth clearly visible, and the beginnings of the spiral of unfolding showing us that this little seed has taken root, and is beginning the long journey to become a tree.

It makes me think about the relationship between the tree and the forest, between the particular and the general, between the individual and the group. A relationship I think we tend to get badly wrong. With the rise of statistically driven data collection and analysis, along with the development of algorithms, we reduce the unique person to a point in a set far too often. We pick one, or a handful, of observable, measurable characteristics, categorise them and use them as the be all and end all.

We define people according the group we’ve put them into. In so doing, we fail to see them as unique, individual, human beings. You just can’t know and understand a person from a data set. It’s not enough, and it’s often a fast track down the wrong cul-de-sac.

We make people invisible by reducing them to examples of a group.

All my working life I saw one person at a time…..whether that was in the GP surgery, with a rhythm of one patient every ten minutes or so, or in the specialist referral centre for people with long term intractable conditions, where we’d spend an hour to an hour and half for the first visit, then about twenty minutes for each follow up. In both these settings the rhythm of my day was determined by the scheduled appointments allowing me to give full attention focus to every single individual who came to consult me. I found that a great meditation practice, a great way of continuously coming back to the present moment…..not thinking ahead to who might come next, and not hanging on to the story of the person who has just left the room….but, rather, encountering the crowds, the queues, the “lists”, one person a time.

Of course I learned a lot from all these individuals which informed me about others. But the point is, it was a practice of focusing on the individual, and gleaning the general knowledge from there……not learning the general knowledge and trying to force each person into the right pigeon hole.

I learned from the work of Iain McGilchrist that this was the result of how we use the two hemispheres of our brain. The left hemisphere focuses in, abstracts information from its contexts, labels it and categorises it. It works with sets, groups, and generalities, continuously trying to fit new information into what we’ve learned already. The right hemisphere, on the other hand, focuses on the whole, seeking what is unique and particular in every context, every relationship, every circumstance, endlessly fascinated with what’s novel and what’s particular. As he says in his “Master and His Emissary”, we’ve let the left hemisphere become the dominant one, but evolution never intended that.

It’s time to re-balance, to prioritise the approach to life driven by the right hemisphere and to reap all the potential benefits of the analytic, labelling and classifying left hemisphere by handing those insights back to the right – in other words, by putting whatever we encounter, whatever we understand, back into the contexts and environments in which we found it.

We need to re-learn how to experience life, one seedling at a time. That’s how we’ll grow a healthy forest.

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I was born and raised in the town of Stirling, in the middle of the central belt of Scotland. It’s an ancient market town, and the Old Bridge over the River Forth was one of the only crossings allowing movement between the Highlands and the Lowlands in the past. One of the nicknames of Stirling is “The Gateway to the Highlands”. Stirling is also almost equidistant between Scotland’s two biggest cities, Glasgow, to the West, and the capital, Edinburgh to the East.

There are old rivalries between the people of Glasgow and Edinburgh which persist into the present day, and the distinct sense of difference between Highlanders and Lowlanders also remains. Stirling, I always felt, sat right at the meeting point of those cultures and traditions. I’ve often wondered how much that has influenced my values and my world view.

I’m always keen to recognise, acknowledge and understand difference. I’m not competitive. I’m much more interested in building bridges, making connections and creating healthy relationships than I am at “winning” or gaining an advantage over “the other”. I am ceaselessly curious, always keen to encounter and explore “the new” – not least, new people. Maybe that’s why I enjoyed my work as a doctor so much, and why Mondays were always a day to look forward to because someone would come into my clinic that day and tell me a story I’d never heard before.

The River Forth is a very, very winding river at this point in its path towards the North Sea. The bends, turns and loops make it look like a ribbon blowing in the wind. If you look at old maps you can see where the river used to go and compare that to its current situation. It is a river which is always changing. Did that influence my world view too? Is that why I enjoy and accept constant change? Is that why I understand the reality of adaptation and flexibility which are the basis of resilience?

You can see “Wallace’s Monument” in this photo, but you can’t see behind me, “Stirling Castle”. However, those two buildings are surely the dominant characteristic ones of my home town. My grandfather used to read me the stories from Sir Walter Scott’s “Tales of a Grandfather” when I small, so I grew up with a knowledge of the stories of Bruce and Wallace, though I never aspired to be like them! However, there is one story about Robert the Bruce which I do remember, and that’s his moment of despair after suffering defeats where he hid in a cave and he watched a spider try, try and try again, to spin a web. Ultimately, the spider succeeded, and as the story goes, that inspired Bruce to carry on…..rescued him from his despair, and put him in touch again with his determination to succeed. I suspect that was an early, very formative story for me. I still put great store by my qualities of constancy, patience and persistence.

I think of all these things as I look at this lovely photo. I’d encourage you to do the same. Find a photo of the place where you were born and raised, and see what memories and thoughts arise. Maybe you’ll find the origin of some of your own personality characteristics there?

Anyway, I think starting with a strong image is a great way to reflect, and to begin to reach a greater level of self-understanding. I recommend it.

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