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When I look at this photo, at first I’m slightly confused. What is this? I see rocks and water but the rocks look like waves. Then it seems that the black area in the middle of the photo is a gaping mouth with rocky lips around it.

Actually you can see similar patterns in almost any fast flowing rock strewn stream amongst the Scottish hills.

What I’m looking at here is co-creation. The water is shaping the rocks and the rocks are shaping the water. Together they create this natural work of art, a constantly changing, fast flowing scene of beauty and power.

No plants, no animals visible but simply rock and water. Two of the four ancient elements. But together they convey an image, and an experience, of Life, of energy, and of creation.

They reveal a core truth about reality – all that exists is a result of co-creation. We don’t make ourselves. Rather we grow and develop in constant exchange and relationship with others, other people, other creatures, other forces and phenomena in Nature.

We are not alone. We are not separate. We co-create, co-habit, co-exist, co-evolve.

Is that a good enough reason to convince us to take care of this one small planet, and to treat others with the creative energies of love and kindness?

I think so.

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I’m always keen to hear someone’s story. As a doctor I never felt satisfied with a mere description of symptoms. I remember one junior doctor presenting a patient’s “case” to me. They’d spent a long time with the patient and had meticulously recorded every symptom which was described. After about three A4 pages of this I had to say, “I hear all these descriptions but I can’t see the patient. Who is this person?” It wasn’t possible to understand them without enabling them to tell a narrative. I was lost in their forest of symptoms and so were they.

One of the commonest questions I’d ask was “When did you last feel completely well?” You’d be surprised how that would turn a story of a symptom which had been present for a month or two into a life story stretching back several years. From that “beginning”, we’d piece together a narrative, following one connection after another.

Only those stories enabled me and the patient to make sense of their illness, to understand them and to help them move forward.

When I look at the trees in this photo today I always wonder – how did they get together? When did they connect like this? What we’re the circumstances? I’d love them to be able to tell me their stories.

By the way, we might tell our stories in quite a linear, chronological way, but that’s only one way to tell them. Our lives are complex, cause and effect is neither linear, nor simple, but the factors, the themes and the patterns still appear within our stories.

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Chance discoveries

The garden of the house I’ve moved to hasn’t had much attention for years. Some parts need serious reclamation work, clearing some real thickets of climbers and thorns. But even in the more open areas I’m finding lots of surprises.

I don’t think much has been planted here deliberately for many years so most of the plants arrived here by natural means (probably not least thanks to all the birds which live around here and surround me with their songs all day long).

I’m not very knowledgeable about plants but with the help of the internet and neighbours I’m managing to identify a few flowers which are brand new to me.

This photo is of one of the most recent ones. We’ve got maybe half a dozen or so spread around the garden. Turns out it is a “lizard orchid”……see what appears to be a long tongue, which is one of the petals?

Isn’t it amazing?

I love these unexpected treats. Have you had any such good surprises around where you live?

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Chosen habits

You’ll know that I have a thing about conscious living. My blog’s title, heroes not zombies, is a call to step out of autopilot and get involved in the conscious creation of the unique story of your one precious life.

Habits and routines can easily allow us to switch off and just keep doing what we’ve always done. However, they can be both useful and enjoyable.

They can connect us to certain rhythms and cycles in life. We can relax into them, basking in feelings of familiarity. They can be the unchallenging, comfortable stepping stones across ever changing, even threatening rivers of everyday existence.

This photo represents one of my favourite habits, or routines. It’s a Saturday. Market day. I’ve stopped off at a boulangerie, picked up a croissant or chocolatine, and I’ve ordered a “grande crème” at a little cafe or bistro where I’ve chosen a seat in the sun.

Now, this isn’t going to happen every Saturday. It’s a good weather choice. (I’ll sit inside if it’s cold and wet!). And some Saturdays I’ll do something else. But it’s still a pleasing, comfortable routine.

I think that’s the trick with good habits and routines – becoming aware of them, and choosing them consciously.

Do you have some particular habits or routines which you’re happy to keep choosing? And are there some which, now you think about them, have become constraints which you’d rather shake off?

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A well named street

I wandered around the nearby village of Saint Savinien at the weekend. It’s an incredibly pretty little town nestled along a curve of the slow moving Charente. It has a few narrow streets climbing the hill up to the church, and I took this photo in one of them.

I often wonder about the naming of streets. Some are descriptive, indicating what lies, or used to lie, in a particular direction. Rue de la Gare, for instance (station street), or Rue de la Moulin (mill street). However many are named after famous people or events, maybe connected to that locality, or maybe National characters, battles, or historical dates.

This street, the one in this photograph, has a descriptive name. What do you think it is?

I’ll make it clearer for you with this photo ….

The street name is on a plaque just above that no waiting sign. Can you see it?

Isn’t that lovely?

What a well named street! “Rose Street”.

Are there any streets near you which you think are especially well named?

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Look at this little plant. I don’t know how it got there but somehow a little seed landed on this stone step at the side of this wall.

To you and me it seems there’s nothing there to support survival, let alone growth and flourishing. There’s no obvious soil, surely little in the way of nutrients and it’s an exposed, sunny, stone alleyway.

Yet that little seed found enough to germinate, enough to survive, and grow, and, most amazingly, to flourish.

Épanouissement is the French word for this.

Yet again I’m astonished at the capacity which Life has to find what’s necessary to survive and flourish in this Earth. It amazes me everyday.

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I moved house in December, and there’s a wisteria plant in the garden here. I was really looking forward to it blooming in the Spring but in South West France the beginning of the year was abnormally warm. That resulted in various plants and trees, including the wisteria, producing their early blossom. Then, the temperatures plummeted, with minus 2 one night, minus 3 the next, and minus 4 the final night before the place started to warm up again.

All around the village, pretty blossoms turned brown. Disaster.

Well here we are a couple of months on and the wisteria has started to produce some flowers. Here’s a photo of some of them. Aren’t they glorious?

Yet again I’m amazed to witness the power of plants. Their resilience, adaptability and opportunism means they surprise you again and again.

Aren’t these great qualities for us all? The ability to spot opportunities and grasp them, the ability to adapt, and the self-healing, self-repairing power of resilience.

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Taking a pause

I’ve got a bit of a thing about taking photos of benches! I think it comes from the days when I was working as a GP and my days were super busy. Sometimes I’d pass a park bench as I drove from one house call to the next and the thought of being able to sit there and just do nothing for a wee while was tantalising but impossible!

Benches say to me “sit down, take the weight off your feet and your mind” and that is SUCH good advice. We all need to pause from time to time, even if only for a few moments.

We need those pauses to catch our breath, break out of vicious cycles of over-busyness, and give us opportunities to reflect, take stock and see the bigger picture.

Have you got any favourite places to enjoy a pause?

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Ten years ago this month I took this photo from my bedroom window. The mountain is Ben Ledi and what amazed me was that every day it looked different. The mountain itself probably changed so slowly that it looked exactly the same one day after another but the light, the clouds, the mists…..they combined to create a brand new scene, not just daily, but every time I looked.

On this particular day, two things struck me. Firstly, the colour of the sky as the sun lit the clear area below the dark grey cloud. Secondly, the wisps of constantly changing mist, or low clouds, which slid along the surface of the mountain, closely following its slopes and curves.

One patch of mist, towards the right of this image, curled up towards the sky, circled around, and headed back down towards the Earth. It seemed to me I was watching mist become cloud, and cloud become mist.

Absolutely beautiful. Take a moment to enjoy the dance.

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Isn’t this window beautiful?

There are some windows which are simply beautiful even when you can’t see through them to what lies beyond. I think I find round, or arched, windows especially appealing. Can you think of any windows which you really like?

What this image does for me is set off a train of thought about how we frame our views of reality. Is that a big leap for you? Stick with me for a moment…..

Have you ever noticed how your mood or mindset seems to influence what you see on a particular day. If you’re feeling a bit sad, you might notice other sad people, come across sad scenes, or feel that everything around you is bleak and grey. On the other hand, when you’re feeling happy, it can seem the world is full of delights and smiling people. You get the idea…

But it’s more than mood that creates a frame of mind. Our beliefs do that too. I think you can see that with luck. People who feel lucky, get lucky. People who consider themselves unlucky, get plenty of opportunities to confirm that. Which raises an important point….what beliefs are you carrying around with you – about yourself, about others, about the world?

My daily experience is that people are kind and friendly. I’m sure that’s partly because I believe that, at heart, most people are indeed kind and friendly. Of course I come across some people who are quite the opposite. I know they exist. But, in my life, they are by far the minority.

So here’s my question to you….do you believe the universe is a friendly place?

Actually, it was Einstein who first posed that question.

For if we decide that the universe is an unfriendly place, then we will use our technology, our scientific discoveries and our natural resources to achieve safety and power by creating bigger walls to keep out the unfriendliness and bigger weapons to destroy all that which is unfriendly and I believe that we are getting to a place where technology is powerful enough that we may either completely isolate or destroy ourselves as well in this process.

“If we decide that the universe is neither friendly nor unfriendly and that God is essentially ‘playing dice with the universe’, then we are simply victims to the random toss of the dice and our lives have no real purpose or meaning.

“But if we decide that the universe is a friendly place, then we will use our technology, our scientific discoveries and our natural resources to create tools and models for understanding that universe. Because power and safety will come through understanding its workings and its motives.”

“God does not play dice with the universe,”

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