Wonderful Workshop York Yoga Studio

Today a most inspiring group of people attended my Writing for Wellbeing workshop York Yoga Studio Signat York Yoga Studio. Everyone came with an openness and enthusiasm to try new ways of approaching wellness and writing. There was such positive energy in the room that we easily wrote our way through quite a number of activities, and it was most gratifying to hear that many people intended to continue practicing the activities at home to see what new ideas and insights they can find. At the end we all felt a little more mindful, a little more calm, and had spent good time together.

It is groups like this that make my work as a teacher of Writing for Wellbeing so worthwhile. I also learn something from every workshop, and it is a joy to meet people and come together in our journeys to wellbeing. I am most grateful to everyone who participated. There was such positive response to the idea of future workshops, we are planning to hold another one there in the early autumn. Watch this website for details, or follow my postings on Twitter @write4wellbeing.

I would also like to give a big thank you to Laurie at York Yoga Studio for providing the wonderful venue (and the tea and biscuits!), and for welcoming us all with her innate friendliness and energy.

The Worst Thing?

upset-characterEveryone of us has had difficult things happen in our lives, for some people very difficult things. And one of those things will live in our memory as being the worst thing that ever happened to us. But then, if you are like me, I remind myself that there are many other people all over the world in many situations who have had – and are having – much worse things happen. This can be a useful way to gain a bit of perspective but, at the same time, it can so easily result in beating yourself for being self-indulgent and self-pitying. The truth is, that if something at a particular time has taken all the strength you have just to bear it, then that is indeed the worst thing that has ever happened to you.

I am reminded of some lines in the poem ‘Things’ by Fleur Adcock:
‘There are worse things than having behaved foolishly in public.
There are worse things than these minor betrayals,
committed or endured or suspected; there are worse things
than not being able to sleep for thinking about them.
It is 5 a.m. All the worse things come stalking in
and stand icily about the bed looking worse and worse and worse.’

But if I ask myself right now: ‘What is the worst thing that has happened to me?’, the only answer I can give is ‘I don’t know yet’. I don’t mean that I am anticipating even worse things in my future. What I mean is that I don’t yet know the outcome of all the events in my life. With every year, if I be truthful with myself instead of just replaying past griefs, I come to understand that some of the most difficult things that happened were the turning points to change. And out of that change something wonderful grew, and I became more than I had been before. Sometimes something has to end, or you have to be shocked out of your old way of being, in order for new opportunities to begin.

So it may be that I will find, after all, that whatever I had believed to be the ‘worst thing’ in my life, was actually the best thing of all.

The Importance of Downtime

crazy_clockIn this virtual computer-tech world we live in, the word ‘downtime’ often elicits groans of frustration. When our email or some other web server has an outage for maintenance or technical problems, we feel annoyed and stressed because we are losing time. How dare this technology waste our time!

This thought reminds me of something C.S. Lewis wrote in his brilliant Screwtape Letters, that the idea of “My time is my own” is a curious assumption. “Nothing throws him into a passion so easily as to find a tract of time which he reckoned on having at his own disposal unexpectedly taken from him.” Does that sound familiar? I know how often I feel this way, and not just in respect to IT difficulties.

C.S. Lewis goes on to say: “The man can neither make, nor retain, one moment of time; it all comes to him by pure gift; he might as well regard the sun and moon as his chattels.”

Thinking about this, I realize that downtime is a gift, and that there is more than one kind of downtime. From one perspective, a few minutes or hours of lack of access to websites gives us a chance to break our reliance on IT for a little while and remember what we used to do before computers. (And for those too young to remember this, they can imagine!) But it is also essential for us to schedule our own ‘downtime’ for personal maintenance of our emotional and spiritual selves. I’ve just spent a few days on a self-catering holiday on a farm in Yorkshire, with no computer, no television, no telephone – just books to read, my notebooks for writing, and the sound of sheep, goats and chickens. I went for long walks, found rural tearooms for a cuppa and cake, and spent time in lovely places without feeling that I should be doing something else. I found an ancient Saxon church, a haven of peace which reminded me of the depth of time before I was even born.Kirkdale church I stopped to touch the budding leaves of trees and listen to the birdsong, which reminded me of all the new life growing into the future. I made the farm dog the happiest creature in the world by finding a stick to throw for him to retrieve, which reminded me that the present moment is the only moment we have to enjoy.

In stepping out of the current of demands, in abandoning the technology for a few days, I found that TIME is a much bigger thing than I had been perceiving it to be when caught up in my own daily occupations. It encompasses every living thing and time passes without any help from me. But time includes me as well, and it is a fine thing to take a few moments of that time to rejoice in this gift that is freely given to us each and every day.