Do not stand at my grave and weep,

I am not there; I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow,

I am the diamond glints on snow,

I am the sunlight on ripened grain,

I am the gentle autumn rain.

When you awaken in the morning’s hush

I am the swift uplifting rush

Of quiet birds in circled flight.

I am the soft stars that shine at night.

Do not stand at my grave and cry,

I am not there;

I did not die.

Mary Elizabeth Fry

I saw an image today that said: “Remember the dead, but fight hard as hell for the living

My Dad says to me every now again “Enjoy yourself for God’s sake. You’re a long time dead

On this, Remembrance Sunday in the UK, I will, along with millions of others, fall silent at 11 am and remember.

I will honour the people lost to me, smile quietly at what they offered me, thank them humbly for how they touched my life and feel the sadness of their loss.

Then I will begin again to be thankful for all that I have.

For being able to move and be in the world on a freezing, crisp November day.

I will remember that  it’s good to be alive.

Lest We Forget

Today in the UK it is Remembrance Day – a day to reflect on and remember the men and women who serve their country in the Armed Forces.

This morning, just before 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month, someone in our village was playing bagpipes. On a clear, cold, crisp November morning, the sound carried beautifully and mournfully outwards and then quieted….. silenced for 2 minutes inviting people to take time to Stop. Think. Remember.

I sat for the time, with the window wide open in FBHQ at the top of the house and in those moments I sent out quiet thoughts and thanks to my family, friends, colleagues, peers. I thought of people I have loved & lost and those lost to others. I thought of people who are very present. The people who shaped me. The people who messed with my shape. The people I’ve lost connection with.…. I thought of the awfulness and inevitability of loss and how that irrevocably shifts us, whether or not we choose.

Then the bagpipes struck up again and I was shaken from my reverie and went about my day.

Yet I find myself sitting tonight with a sense of privilege that I’m here and I am lucky enough to stand firmly in the world… and I sense that I can always strive to be more and better to honour those who crossed my mind when I took time to remember.

And I leave it to Mary Oliver to best sum up the question that drives me as I remember and reflect:

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

The Manic and the Mellow

Until last year, I never really thought about creative energy.

If I woke up at 3 am, with ideas whirling around my head, I believed myself to be stressed, out-of-control, that sort of thing. There would then follow much duvet-battling and inevitably, I’d try deep breaths & clearing my mind of busy-ness.  After at least an hour of this messing around I might eventually get back to sleep & wake feeling knackered, beleaguered, fatigued. To me, it was destructive – never generative.

At some point, toward the end of last year, I gave up fighting.

If I woke up and all the world was circling around me – tasks, notions, plans, past, schemes, guilt, niggles whatever – I started getting up and taking them for a cup of tea.

I’d wrap myself up in a soft patchwork quilt, take myself up to my desk-and-thinking-space at FBHQ, switch on the heater, sip my tea and say “Right then. What IS it?” (usually with a good chunk of attitude – I figure the least I can do is let the demons know I am unimpressed by their 3 arrival. Hey –  I’m not a push over)

And stuff would come up and come out – I’d start to sift through what was important, what was not. What needed to be said, what needed to be dealt with…  Often I would write, sometimes I’d draw and map, sometimes I’d stare into space in a vaguely disturbing manner….then stuff would crystalise a little, I’d get sleepy & then I’d rest deeply.

It sort of links to the Rumi poem a few blogs back – Welcoming the crazy as it sweeps through your head; trusting that sometimes stuff comes up- not to push you down, but to push you forward… if it’s there – if it’s going nowhere.. well, surely it’s asking (demanding?) to be dealt with. .. what if it’s there for good-not-harm?

Over the last week, I’ve had four nights bringing in the wee small hours, clasping a cuppa and asking “Right then, WHAT?” in a seriously chippy fashion. Turns out I have an idea which wants some full-on 3D form in the world… It is demanding my attention and even though I have begged it to bugger off  “Dude, seriously. You’re making me look like a bag lady”  this idea is bigger than me – it needs to be heard.

I told one friend I’d been riding the 4am bleary bus to Resolutions-ville & she said “oh.. I love it when that happens. It’s creative. ” Another two friends are now worried about my stress levels and pointing me to meditation & Bach Rescue Remedy.. or wine…  It kind of makes me not want to ‘fess up my manic to them- they will worry about me… think me strange….

My confession is this. I kind of like 4am. It’s quiet and spacious and precious. If that makes me manic, then I can live with that. I believe it also makes me mellow.

The photo is of the beech tree  on the little hillock I pause under every morning on the dog-walk. If I’m ever manic – this is the where I start to mellow my day.

Gentle Learning?

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

 A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor. 

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,

still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out

for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

meet them at the door laughing,

and invite them in. 

Be grateful for whoever comes,

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.

~ Rumi ~

It’s odd how things circle and loop sometimes.  I was first introduced to this poem two years ago whilst on Pause for Breath ( and I remember hearing it read very beautifully by someone and loving it. At the time, however, I’m not sure I fully “got” it.

In recent weeks I have been exploring the Nature of my Practice for the MSc at Ashridge. The path I’ve taken is to ask peers, colleagues, clients and a few close friends how they experience working with me. The poem was offered to me by a colleague during this period of inquiry – and this time, it landed beautifully and well…. Because MAN I can be tough on myself.

My story of late is I’ve found myself at times in some weird introspective, introverted, critically reflexive bubble. I’m not saying I’ve had a full-on crowd of sorrows violently sweeping my house, but I’ve not been picnicking with Teddy Bears,either. While this is not wholly comfortable or familiar territory, I’m kind of learning that this is my process. I’m action orientated – so in order to truly learn, I need to go out and do stuff; seek widely, absorb loads, go through a period of playing & poking & battering into the information – leading to sense-making (the exhausting part, I’m learning) and ultimately I’ll have some deeply-fought for understanding and take-aways…

..and yes. I get that there is fighty- battle language in the above. If I were coaching me, I’d have a word!

This process is exhausting at times –I could seriously do with a gentler one…. And I’m figuring that in order to create a new, kinder process, it might be useful to understand the battlefield I currently seem to occupy when I’m learning.

So Rumi’s poem reminds me to laugh and smile and be a little wry in the face of HUGE new learning. Watching the inspiring Brené Brown in Her TED talk Listening to Shame: reminds me that my inner critic is louder and harsher than anything offered to me by those who have been generous enough to share their thoughts, time and words to enable my learning. She asks us to “dare greatly” – and to do this with empathy and vulnerability – not to battle ourselves into submission.

So I’m looking to not hang out in the introspective, existential room for the next few weeks. Looking to lighten up and show myself some kindness and empathy – in the hope that looking after myself thus will allow me to look after others better. I’m looking to do this and I will forget at times… and I’ll need to be kind to myself when I forget. Ah well… this being human is a guest house.

I’ll end on my favourite quote from Caitlin Moran in the excellent How to Be A Woman, because I use it often: “But the problem with battling yourself is that even if you win, you lose”

Yup. I concur.