Time to Stand and Stare

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The image of the Japanese lady taking time to appreciate nature is actually from a book about Japan – title and author unfortunately long forgotten! – that I bought on Marylebone High Street when I first arrived in London over ten years ago.

I gave the book to charity during a clear out  just a few years back, but before I did so, I made sure to take a photograph of the image – it was strikingly beautiful and serene and said so much to me about the importance of appreciating nature.

Why do we find it so difficult to just stop and stare? Must we always be moving? It is not just a 21st Century problem – William Henry Davies highlighted his concern almost 100 years ago in his poem ‘Leisure’ as you can read below.

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

Mindfully Challenged

“Everyone of us has our own goals, but in the hurried, endlessly repeating cycles and rhythms of work, how much time and space do we have to pay attention to our inner heart?  The part of ourselves that performs a social role is plainly visible, but often we muffle the voice of our own spirit” Yu Dan – Confucius From The Heart

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Concrete dominates at Staples Corner.

Powerful intimidating beast. Gruesome!

Yet perhaps I should give thanks.

It did secure my safe arrival after all.

But you are so grey and dreary concrete.

Why can’t you be more colourful?

You are a bully concrete!

The leaves are quivering and there is not even a wind today.

Shame on you.

But perhaps you are tired and weary concrete.

Perhaps you silently scream from your own pain.







Walking Curiously

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I live in central London. I love living in central London! Why? I hear you ask, when there are so many people, so much noise, so much traffic. Well yes there is all of that, and there was a period of time when okay, I felt the need to escape. So I did for a while. But pre and post my time out of London – which was only for a couple of months in any case – I love walking around the city. There is so much to see.

Again it comes back to the mindfulness practice, which is about opening up our awareness and noticing things, small or large, that can really give us joy, calm us down, and quite simply help us to feel good. Just try even slowing down your normal walking pace a little, and see the difference it makes to what you can actually notice and also the difference to how you feel on the inside. You are going to improve your day….trust me!

You don’t have to, but for me sometimes also listening to some music as I walk really lifts my spirits. Sometimes its good to not listen to anything, so that we can learn to embrace the sounds of the city, rather than rejecting them by muffling up our ears. Mindfulness is about acceptance. Do what you enjoy. That’s the main thing. If you seriously enjoy phrenetically stomping around the city then I am not going to stop you – though your batteries are likely to wear out at some point. Personally, I am more into longevity.

Nature Works

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In his podcast – How Nature Boosts Brain Power – Jay Kumar emphasizes the importance of connecting to nature, to help our poor overstimulated brains recover from brain fatigue. On a daily basis, the average person apparently receives the same volume of information as contained in 170 newspapers. Given that the podcast is from 2013, and now some 5 years later everyone is practically glued to their smart phone 24/7, it must surely be something like 1,000 newspapers – and then some!

Having tried and tested Jay Kumar’s theory over the past 5 years – I am a convert. I can’t walk past one tree without noticing the bark in detail – which is always beautiful by the way – and taking a moment to notice it calms my own inner bark. Woof! Just because we city dwellers are surrounded by a mass of concrete does not mean that we cannot connect to the nature interspersed amongst the brick work.

In fact , it is because we are city dwellers that we should and must connect to nature. My own walking in the city is truly meditative. One thing I would say, is that if your state of mind is such that you have steam coming out of your ears and hashtags foaming out of your mouth, as you make haste to catch your tube connection; then that’s going to need to change. You need to move slowly, and you need to notice your breath. It takes practice. But even just 5 minutes of connecting to nature pays dividends. And no Jay, looking at a palm tree on your screen is not the same thing! Go out and walk!

Image: Yellow Flower – Princess Louise Close, London, 07 November 2018