When I told one of my best friends I was going on a meditation retreat in France with my five month old daughter, she said, “wow, you’ll have to let me know how that works out with a little one!” I know it’s not everyone’s idea of fun to take a young baby on retreat, but for me it was a brilliant experience (mostly!), and I’d like to share some of the highlights – and low points – here, on my long-neglected blog. Continue reading “It Takes a (Mindful) Village: On Retreat with my Baby Daughter”
For the past few weeks I’ve been living with a dear group of friends in a community called The Monkies, which is based in a beautiful house in Schiedam (near Rotterdam) in the Netherlands. I’ve enjoyed the experience so much and feel very grateful for the lessons I’ve learned (and re-learned) while being there, so I thought I’d share some of these here. Continue reading “Making Room for Joy Everyday: Life at The Monkies”
“It’s all about balance.” This is a phrase I find myself thinking or saying often. There are those common types of balance we are all supposedly seeking, such as work-life balance. But I have a long list of other apparently competing priorities that I often find myself trying to balance, such as:
- Alone time vs. time with others
- Travel vs. feeling settled in one place
- Freedom vs. commitment
- Enough time vs. enough money
- Time for reflection vs. taking action
- Planning vs. spontaneity
- And the list goes on…!
As summer draws to a close with the unwelcome return of cold and torrential rain, my heart has been warmed by re-connecting with my sangha in Rotterdam (or more specifically in Schiedam, in the Netherlands). Sangha is a Buddhist term broadly meaning community of practice. In Buddhism, there are said to be ‘three jewels’: “Buddha, the awakened one; Dharma, the way of understanding and loving; and Sangha, the community that lives in harmony and awareness.” I have experienced many benefits from practicing mindfulness together with others in my local sangha. I have also been lucky to experience the same deep connection practicing mindfulness with other groups. Plus, I see that this need for community clearly extends beyond Buddhism or mindfulness, and is something we all need to access in our own way. Continue reading “Sangha and the Importance of Community”
We all feel a pressure to be ‘normal’ at times: to live up to societal expectations, to fit neatly into a category, to be clearly understandable by others. But what does it really mean to be normal? And is it actually a desirable state to be in? Through practicing mindfulness, I’ve been able to gain confidence in embracing the ‘abnormal’ aspects of myself and those around me. I have come to realise: that which is out of the ordinary can at times offer us the most beauty, joy and wisdom in life.
Allowing room for difference
The pressures we feel not to divert too far from mainstream behaviors can come in response to different choices, large and small: from what you eat, wear and spend money on, to who you choose to love and how you choose to spend your life. Unfortunately, these pressures can cause a feeling of quiet desperation in those who feel that they just don’t fit in. Continue reading “What is ‘Normal’ Anyway?”
In economics, human beings are often viewed as caricatures, based on an exaggeration of certain identity traits: a desire for personal wealth and hedonistic luxury, a resistance to work and being motivated by personal gain alone. Yet in reality we are both more messy and more beautiful than this image of homo economicus allows.
Recently, I’ve been reading Doughnut Economics by Kate Raworth. She explains in detail that in order to update economics for the 21st century, we need to move away from perceiving ourselves as ‘rational economic man,’ and acknowledge that we are in fact socially adaptable, holistic humans.
Rather than isolated and selfish, we are interdependent and reliant on each other and upon nature. Rather than being motivated by personal gain alone, we often get satisfaction from helping others and having a deeper sense of purpose. Continue reading “Who Are We: Economic Man or Holistic Human?”
“Happiness is another kind of inner resource for people seeking social and political change. I don’t see how we can keep giving when we feel depleted and exhausted, when generosity is trying to come out of nothing.” Sharon Salzburg
We live in a rapidly changing society filled with huge challenges; the norms of governance and the stability of the natural world seem to be shaking beneath our feet. We all undoubtedly experience stresses and strains in our daily lives linked to these wider societal challenges, as well as those of a more personal nature too. Against this backdrop of suffering, caring for ourselves can feel deeply selfish. Yet through practicing mindfulness I am learning about self-care as a potentially radical act, which can connect to the wider changes we would like to see in the world. Continue reading “Self-Care as a Radical Act”
I love reaching my stretch point; just outside of my comfort zone, but just before I step into the panic zone. That point at which I really feel like I’m extending myself beyond my usual limits, testing my abilities and hopefully growing as a person. This point can be reached in the actions and choices I make in my life. Plus, as a result of practicing mindfulness, I’ve regularly experienced stretch points in the way I communicate with myself and with others too.
What creates a stretch point?
I experience a stretch point when I push myself to achieve something I’ve long dreamed about. It is often something that makes me nervous and excited at the same time (there’s no English word for this, but in Dutch the word is “spannend”). Continue reading “Vulnerability is a Strength: An Ode to Stretch Points”
In Bhutan, I gained a deeper understanding of the importance of connection, interdependence and community. We need each other, and there is a real beauty in that.
I wrote the above words after completing the Slow Change Experience course in Bhutan in November 2016. Applications for the Slow Change Experience 2017 were recently open and this has inspired me to reflect again on the time I spent in Bhutan last year. Continue reading “Slow Change, Big Impact: Experiencing Bhutan”