Observations on a Dog Walk.

 

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Mindfulness doodles are relaxing and when your mind is open and attentive you can see sketches like this one just finished.

This is not meant to be talent in an artistic sense. To try to achieve this is to miss the point. This is about creative observation in a random and spontaneous sense- just to let your pencil move quickly across the page but capturing the Now.

It was a revelation. Summer with the broad beans decaying in the field represented the recent past, with the beckoning colours of the blackberries to my left beckoning a future as yet unripe. Fruits to come of a new season. This was what I saw for the first time because my mind is more in tune with the present.

The Now is straight ahead. It feels both powerful and purposeful and in my control. I can choose the path I walk. The arrow is bold and strong. I can turn back and avoid the now but it’s still there. It’s how I choose to confront it, or run away that determines who I want to be, or not.

So you see, it’s the message here that is the real art form. You can just enjoy the moment. The picture is not identifiable as successful or not. It does not have to pass a critique or approving eye. It has no objective merit or value because the value is subjective with each persons’ interpretation.

What ever your circumstances are now we move towards our thoughts. You might feel loss, joy, pain, love, sorrow or anxiety but the autumn is coming and what you do Now is everything as far as picking the fruit to your left is concerned in the imment future.

Be brave but stay present and focused. You will find power in making the right decisions.

Try it yourself. You might find some surprises. I will be interested to hear of your experiences.

The Argument for Grammar Schools?

If I had taken the 11 plus I would have failed and it would have only reinforced my belief that I was a failure.



So, the wheel may well be turning a full circle. Theresa May and her plans to introduce the grammar school model ( wholesale) is naturally causing debate and controversy.The principle of higher quality education being a provision for all with ability, to create maximum chances of life-time achievements are being questioned and challenged yet again. The Them and Us scenario being created is already being denounced by opponents, who argue that this is a backward step which will do nothing to eradicate social inequality,if anything quite the opposite.

For me, my intial reaction was to say: thank goodness, I was spared the 11 plus examination. If I had taken the 11 plus I would have failed and it would have reinforced my belief that I was a failure. I am aware that the Prime Minster is not thinking of restoring this exam but a process of selection of the best is sending shudders down my spine.

In my previous post, I talked about fear and how early childhood fears transfer into adult thinking and actions. The fear to take risks and to stay within comfort zones of behaviour. Interesting, I recently completed a questionnaire to assess my number one success blocker. The answer was that I feared failure and that one thing alone was holding me back.

Back to the grammar school debate and I do want to admit one thing. I would have loved the chance of a grammar school education and I have had two conversations with friends who attended one. Both have been highly successful people, and both individuals told me the positive experience that being immersed in a culture of excellent education and high aspiration ( with great role models of the teachers ) had a hugely positive impact for them. In these cases, perhaps, I wish I could have taken such an exam and passed it. I think I would have achieved more, whereas for me success has been hard fought. Even now I am still fighting to achieve my full potential- hence my curiosity in doing an online questionnaire to find out what is stopping me.

So part of me thinks, let’s celebrate the return of such schools and yet, part of me feels equally appalled. Having thought about this a lot and considered the advantages and disadvantages, and with the insight now of one who works in a school, this is my personal conclusion NOT endorsed by any one person or institution.

We need schools where all children can be individually nurtured and encouraged to be the best they can be, but where they can explore who they want to be. We want teachers who are passionate in delivering both the quality and inspiration in the lessons they prepare and with the drive and energy to say that learning is awesome.However, to demonstrate that this learning can take on many forms and shapes and that our ability to learn will change and be unique to us all.

We need to say it’s OK that not all can, or that everyone will want to be brain surgeons or lawyers and that genius and intelligence can be demonstrated by practical abilities, creative qualities and unique skills. We need to give children confidence so that they can take set backs, failure and be given the tools to get back on the horse and have another go. We need children to feel safe and emotionally secure so that they can grow and develop into well adjusted human beings who can debate, make friends, trust people, handle instructions and respect that sometimes you need to follow rules. We call the later examples emotional intelligence.

What DO we have though in reality, and will the opportunity to go to a grammar school ensure that both children and teachers can achieve this?

What we HAVE, at the moment, is stressed out, exhausted teachers having to meet the following: stats, Ofsted, mountains of paper trails, exam prep, plans and more paper, and figures to comply with this Government’s obsession with performance management and targets. To just live to get to the end of the week, then start all over again. Teachers who are counting the years left before they can retire. I have heard comments about schools being exam factories-NOTE, not anyone past or present in my school has said this but in general conversation this has been aired.

Nationally,we have children who are experiencing more mental health instability than ever before within the last generation. We see examples of bullying, anxiety, childhood depression and increase in behaviour problems. Of children medicated with ADHD pills and the creation of more pastoral care support services; with a acknowledge need of more specialised counselling support required in main stream schools.We see reception children who come into school at four needing toilet training and who clearly do not know how to use a knife and fork. Some of these very young children clearly do not possess the maturity needed to start formal education, even though most will have attended pre-school nursery.

We have parents who are clearly struggling with the many complex issues of living in the world of today. Of family breakdown, of isolation, addiction and within their own world struggling to read with their children, to talk, to listen, to be an effective role model. We are also up against parental apathy and a feeling that schools should do this job. I am not trying to generalise or judge here. I am not blaming or condemning teachers, parents or any school nationally but what I am asking is this: Will the creation of new grammar schools really address these issues?

No, is my answer. Certainly, I believe in one thing. That until any Government stops treating its children like canon fodder, a unit of production, a process, so that the Government can meet its national targets ( to give itself a pat on the back, brownie points and the endorsement of re-election ) then I fear nothing will change. 

Overall, until children can be allowed to be children again, to play, fall over, get dirty and not be ‘Performing Monkeys’then we shall continue to lag in the international league tables of education. Only yesterday was I reading about Finish children starting school at seven, where they have the opposite of everything that makes up our educational Think Tank. Perhaps, it’s high time we stop this nonsense and take a leave out of their book. You might think,Theresa May, that a new dawn of grammar schools will really do the trick. Will it reverse all the damage of Gove, plus other educational policies so called experts have introduced, with the dire results for our children as a nation? If so think again. As Steven Covey ( author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People ) puts it. You are walking up the wrong road.

What do you think?

Fear

My daughter, who is currently staying in Disney world, Florida, text me to say she had been scuba diving with baby sharks and fish. I thought what a marvellous experience for her and it left me thinking how wonderful that any possible fear to do that had been overcome. I immediately thought that I would not have had the nerve to do that at 21; that the thought of it would have frightened the life out of me. It was then that I thought about fear which has prompted me to write this post.

Fear is a subject which has come up a lot in my reading of late. Eckhart Tolle and The Power of Now talks about fear as a focal aspect of his book, and it has brought with it some deep revelations for me. To be conditioned to feel fear starts early in childhood which manifests itself into anxiety in adult life.This is very true for me who has identified the many causes and triggers of this process. I do not need to list them here, but like for many, parenting, peers and schooling formed a central part of being constantly on the alert for danger.This has carried on into adult life, even when there is no immediate threat. I can certainly see why I could never engage in sport or doing anything that put me in any threat of danger and to have a go. So sadly, I realise I have missed out on a lot of things.

In a subconscious way, my personal strategy to overcome this was to achieve in a different way and I have spent a lifetime pursuing work and pushing my head and not my body. This has been rewarding and to some degree life-affirming.I certainly don’t feel I have wasted my life, but it does leave a void for adventure, excitement and it has not even begun to address the deep rooted rumble of anxiety that often fills my head, even if it feels for a large part on a superficial level. 

One thing is for certain, that while it is tough to admit that fear has rulled me for most of my adult life, I will not make myself a victim or seek sympathy. What I am asking myself though is: can I really change given this has gone on for so long?

In my journey towards more mindfulness living and being in the present, I have taken the first step in wanting to achieve this. It is not an easy road and when you try to clear your head of thoughts, reactions, ruminations of the past and predictions of the future (as your mind races back and forwards in time ) inevitably more rocks are hurled onto the road. The rock of fear of failing and being made a fool of is my biggest boulder and it’s a struggle to even begin to shift it.It is too big and heavy, as the layers of events have shaped this and has been built up over the years. It needs to be chipped away at, in baby bite size pieces. How I am going to achieve that is yet to be decided upon.

I have always thought the quote:

Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway is bit silly for those of us with deep-seated,long-term anxiety. If we could, we would but we can’t and it hurts! Anxieties can turn into phobias and I know that too well with trying to swim.

For now, I am simply not going to beat myself as to why I can’t. I now know why and that’s Ok for the present time.However, at the beginning of this year, I gave myself a little mantra: I can, I can, I will. I didn’t connect this action to fear then. I understand it more now. Deep down I know I was seeking change.

Over time, I shall continue this discussion. For now, it is sufficient just for me to acknowledge it.

How much of this post resonates with you? Have a think about it. You might be quite surprised. Any comments as to how it can be overcome would be very welcome.

Thanks for stopping by…..

The Pillars of the Earth

A review of the book The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett.

The friend who recommended this excellent novel to me can not access Goodreads- hence I am writing this post here for her specifically, as well as for anyone else who might be interested. This will also be shared on Goodreads as well.

I have never read a book with nearly 1100 pages before but this book was so easy; the plot and its characters engaged me so much, I read over 200 pages in one night.

What was the power of this book? For me, it was the muscle of suspense and the sometimes almost unbearable tension, as well as the way the author weaved the characters in and out of scenes and years in such a seamless way. I wanted to cry for Aliena, crush William Hamleigh with my bare hands and respected the character of Philip, the Prior of Kingsbridge. You simply had to find out what was happening next to these people you had formed such at attachment with, and the skill of Follett to write about historical facts with fictious characters with such convincing realism was genius.

The beginning of a book is usually a litmus paper that either burns brightly or fizzles out, as far as knowing whether the story has fire and momentum. I was hooked from the opening scenes and it had all the flavour of the grim realities of C12th English Norman life. I thought that Ellen was going to be the main female in this book but I was mistaken. It was Aliena, who Follett cleverly made into a model business woman and survivor of rape and unjust male dominance that was the heroine.

Like Ellen, I thought Tom Builder was going to be the focal man in this plot but again Follett surprised me. No, he had two people up his sleeve. Prior Philip and the unlikely Jack soon both became centre stage and their characters were beacons of honesty, good and integrity. You both wanted them to win in life, to triumph over the evil before them and to succeed where Tom had left off with his sudden death.

The main fascination of wanting to read this book, at first, was the building of Kingsbridge cathedral. A lover of buildings and especially churches, that I love to photograph, Follett’s knowledge of the building of cathedrals was fabulous, even if I did get confused. However,  it did helped me generally to understand more about the construction of large stone buildings of worship in this period.

Sometimes, I did think the author went into two much detail, especially at the start, to get to the main thrust of the story and certainly the first 300 pages could have been made more concise and the story accelerated. But I can see why he did this, in part, to set the scene in a detailed way and to bring everything together so well at the end.

The villans of the story: Bishop Waleran Bigod and the Earl William Hamleigh, both whom  were enemies, seeking power and prestige in their own ways was an interesting observation. I liked the way that both did not meet a sudden and predictable end but that both lived but lingered and were slowly destroyed by their own evil, vice, violence, greed and human depravity – one in the name of God and one in the name of Ego. William’s end was especially fitting and just, and Aliena to witness it, appealed to my fierce belief of justice. Ken depicted this as awfully as possible. I think he hated his character as much as I did.

There was only one anomaly to the story that did not fit or feel authentic for me. This was the way Elizabeth ( Hamleigh’s wife) was extricated out of the story. I don’t think for one moment that she could have committed what she did and get away with it – to be able to return home to her Mother. For a wife to betray her husband in the way she did would certainly had more ramifications that the character of Hamleigh would allow. There was a strange silence. Follett had his story covered in every way, apart from this for me. However, this was such a minor detail that I still scored this book five stars and once completed I immediately bought the sequel ‘ World without End.’

I can see why this book is considered Ken’s masterpiece and it certainly is one of the finest books I have ever read. Anyone who enjoys an absorbing historical read will not be disappointed. For me, it was outstanding in both execution and content.

Thanks Annie for the recommendation!

 

 

 

 

 

Change and New Directions

I have been writing on and off for awhile now but not much of it has landed on here. So, l decided a few changes were in order. Firstly, I needed the technology to make writing and publishing to my blog sites faster, hence, the purchase of a large screen tablet. Writing on a small smartphone is not easy when you are on the move and most of what I do is when l  am not at home- the few minutes on the train, or sometimes when I am waiting for things. Home is busy and too often things get understandably in the way.

This blog site was created for my serious side but I didn’t feel it was ever really that successful. The stats were small and I had to stop reading about the subjects that saw the creation of this blog- it was just too upsetting. At the same time, I also had to stop working for Tareto Maa- a Kenyan refuge for girls fleeing FGM/early marriage ( sadly for personal reasons), but over the past year, I have been able to take up the reins again. A lot of my friends know that is one of the most important subjects to me.

My other blog site ( onethoughtulwoman ) has been used for some health posts related to food, though not many for the same reasons outlined. I really want this to continue. Above all, I need meaning and purpose as to why I am writing with some clear sense of direction.

So, this site is going to be for general postings and Tareto Maa updates, human rights and any women’s issues, just like before.  My onethoughtulwoman site will continue to be for my health posts, including psychological health ( I am now a big fan of Mindfulness), plus the occasional poem and any other creative work.

Writing takes practice and you can become better and quicker the more times you try. Writing is also about the attention to detail, in the form of editing. Fluent writing takes time for me, as I was not blessed with a fine command of English early on in my life. I have to work harder than some but that’s OK and gives me the determination and the drive to succeed in what ever I put my mind to.

To conclude, I just want to write about things that matter, to help people think and to give them information to inform them in their own decision making in their lives. I just want to see more happy people who feel a greater sense of well-being. This is who I am. Come and browse when ever you want to with me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nelson

  A  name of power who defeated more than the just the waves of oppression. He rode above the tide of racism that was ugly and dark, as black as the stormy sees submerging a continent.

The guns may sound towards the vast ocean of prejudice but the voice rang out and was undeterred, and the fight was fierce as it was humble, towards the onward journey towards freedom and peace.
And the shoreline came against the backdrop of the sun, shinning upon a people who were blinded by the whiteness of their neighbours. But the white merged with the black, as the shore merges with the sea, because of the name of Nelson. Not Lord Admiral Horatio Nelson but Nelson Mandela. A man of our time that has championed the human rights of a nation and transformed the lives of so many. Who has achieved so much with the sacrifice of his freedom for so long, for the victory of the many he served.
We remember him.
Nelson Mandela. RIP 5th  December 2013.