Mindful Walking

Modern life is so incredibly hectic. Squeezing in time for ourselves between work, family, and social commitments has become an increasing narrow to invisible line. We are led to believe that being busy is good, where as idleness is bad. We must always be somewhere, doing something, and yet some still complain of being bored!

Last summer, my dad and a good friend passed away, and my mum had a hip replacement. I became overwhelmed with life to the extent that I couldn’t begin to process my losses, I knew I was not coping with life, and realised I had to go back to enjoying simple pleasures, which would allow me space to grieve alone, and help me to de-stress, such as a peaceful walk through the countryside.

I recently read that on average, we spend only three minutes out of every hour fully focused on the present moment. Who wants to go through life feeling trapped in a busy mind 95% of the time? Whilst it’s impossible to flick the brain’s off switch, perhaps we can at least press pause now and again.

You have probably heard and seen the word ‘Mindfulness’, as seems to be the latest buzz and trend, but is similar to many existing and older practises, including that of stoicism. Stoicism is at its root, a philosophy for minimising the negative emotions in our lives and maximising our gratitude and joy.

Marcus Aurelius was a stoic philosopher and Roman emperor said: “Every hour focus your mind attentively…on the performance of the task in hand, with dignity, human sympathy, benevolence and freedom, and leave aside all other thoughts. You will achieve this, if you perform each action as if it were your last…”

Within stoicism, the most important feature to maintain was noted by Epictetus is prosoche, which can be translated as ‘attention’ [Discourses 4.12]: ‘Do you not realize that when once you have let your mind go wandering, it is no longer in your power to recall it, to bring it back to what is right, to self-respect, to moderation?’ 

So what is Mindfulness? Essentially, mindfulness is about using some straightforward techniques to help let go of stress and live in the present moment, free of judgement, and ultimately find more peace and fulfilment. I try find myself enjoying the moment by taking in a scene with every sense such as paying closer attention to the texture, appearance and taste of the food that I eat, to simply closing my eyes and tuning into the sounds around me when around water, just to find a moment of calm. Then bringing my attention back to the deep inhale and slow exhale of my breath when my mind inevitably starts to wander.

Life is not an ‘one size fits all, so what works for me may not work for you. It’s about working out what feels right for you. For me I find it best when I am out walking, whether in a forest or walking down the street to work, concentrating on the world around me and try to let it hold my attention, while I gently push away any unwelcome thoughts. I equally listen to birds singing to sheep bleating, and imagining it was a conversation I was eavesdropping in on. What are they gossiping about? Has the baby lamb lost his mummy…AGAIN!?

Equally, we can write, draw, paint, and/or dance what it is we’re experiencing. I love sitting with a pot of tea writing that moment, looking up images on the internet or out my window and letting my senses paint the scene, to photographing a scene to remember the experiences I felt in that moment later, and even gardening imagining the lives the ladybirds live that I see as I weed around them.

So why not try it for yourself? Put on your shoes or boots and go exploring, there is no right or wrong way to experience the world around us, but by putting away our mobile phones or switching off our televisions to see what lies beyond the black mirror and box can be life changing. Making time for ourselves and wanting to take time out should not be seen as bad things, but good things to maintain good mental health and wellbeing.

© Fi S. J. Brown

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Earth: The Movie

Lilly of the valley ring out all along the river bank as the daffodils nod their heads like jaded heavy metal fans to a new beat but young tree branches sway back and forth like teenagers at their first gig. The sun shines and paints the sky in a blue of 50 shades and clouds gather like sheep in the fields. River waters run past hearing stories and songs from the birds to bees as it goes by but never stop long enough for the endings. Generation after generation this is the way the movie went, well until now that is.

Ragged men and plastic women walk on by oblivious to the songs and stories around them. For theirs are not those of their ancestors but ones repeated from words and pictures seen and heard on black boxes; as false as a rabbit laying chocolate eggs and lies spinning in quicksand. As young cyborgs cling to handheld blocks with screens to create their own tales and music that are just as false and fake as those from the black boxes. Creating new worlds but do not know the script of fate is already written.

How long until the songs of nature are replaced forever with auto tuned cover versions by the cyborgs and will anyone notice in a decade or more? Pictures of their ancestors are mere images stored in clouds in cyberspace but nobody dares look at the sky’s clouds as chemicals fell poisoned many. Stories that nobody alive now remembers how as it was before, rewritten and spun so many times now so are accepted as truths and history of this planet but not the one many fought and died to try to preserve for them.

The world is always changing as the Earth spins on its axis with few prepared to pole dance at the north or south. Human song is a symphony by a group of composers but not the only one on the planet. cats and dogs, flowers and forests, sing too, just listen. There are stories written down by the birds and bees to the trees and mountains engraved in an ink that is not invisible. Humans stop trying to direct and act this movie, it’s not the role for us, grab the popcorn and enjoy the journey to the fullest.

© Fi S. J. Brown

A message to all on Planet Earth

Take away these our tears hidden deep from within,

Let them rain down on our faces like drops on leaves.

Please release their power, pain, fear and sadness,

From pains past that leave scars that only we know.

Stop the endless wars with streams of bloody hate,

Replace with rivers of love to flow between us all.

Note it is not to some divine being we ask this of,

But each other across the world, wherever we are.

Here is our white flag and hear our united words,

Enough, peace on Earth, to life that calls it home.

© Fi S. J. Brown

The black box

I am looking out of my window, watching metallic animals charging through the concrete jungle, tamed like wild animals in a circus by the self-proclaimed kings of this jungle, like all other living things in this world they want to control and own them. They are self-proclaimed as their egos are so big; the shelters they build for rest are grand and fill with objects that serve no purpose other than they feel the necessity to own them. One such object is a black box that sits in a room meant for living, which is ironic as the black box means they do not live but worship it like a false god giving it praise each day rather than see what is outside the concrete jungle they’ve created and the walls that block the daylight from shining.

This false god they believe what it tells them, when in reality it is all carefully orchestrated to appeal to their egos and desires as much as their love and empathy, making sure they invest their emotions again and again in this false god as believe informs educates and entertains them. They react not with their fellow kings with conversation but reach for smaller boxes to complain and praise, under a false belief they can change the future despite the fact the script is already written, all was planned years before, and they are merely players in a movie themselves. Some remove the false god, knocking down the walls of concrete to rediscover the multi-coloured and multi-sensory it hides; like Neo in the move “The Matrix” it feels like they have taken the red pill and awoken from deep sleep. Where as many continue unknowingly or unwanting to acknowledge what they see take the blue pill as rather have the comfort the false god brings.

I have had enough concrete jungle, I prefer to sit among the autumn leaves listening to their stories and songs than listen to the autotuned songs and false stories that the kings of the concrete jungle tell. This world is incredible, the trees of different shades with birds singing 101 songs as the wind tickles their branches and rivers do not run but massage the wounds of the mountains and forests. Take a hammer to break down the wall of concrete or smash the glass of the window in the room of living to begin to live. Pick up the telephone or write a letter, create something new, be it a pot of lentil soup or cakes with butterflies on them to a painting of the view from the broken glass to a song celebrating your love for another.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Material world

We live in a material world but seems like at times we forget what sort of fabric it is made from. It is not about how much money we do or do not have, the phones or computers we use, whether we own or rent our property, the cars we drive. Money may open doors but can lead us down blind alleys not wide open spaces to create something distinctly new and unique.

The real material of this world is in its diversity; a patchwork quilt of different races, religions, sexualities and abilities. However, these make up but one square. The forests, hills and rivers with the birds, insects and animals with their diversity make up the other squares. Also we are not the stitching that holds this quilt together, it is the love that all things on Earth share and runs through us all that does.

Instead of trying to undo the stitching and/or add more human squares to it, is it not time we looked at our square, seeing what it really represents not tarnish it with bloodstains and hateful words? Also why do we hurt our own kind or get jealous of others? We cannot trade squares with nature but seems many think that we can and make the quilt to suit our skewed view of the world. Please stop.

© Fi S. J. Brown

 

Earthly Ponders (for Earth Day 2014)

These days it feels like humanity lives in an artificial world of our own creation. We take comfort in a world of concrete and clay, rather than with rivers and mountains. We have become drunk with our own superiority, toasting our successes with egos the size of forests, rather than content to be a bird in the tree. 

Equally, we are living, or should that be sleepwalking, in a virtual world to escape the realities and responsibilities of the world we can touch and feel. We are hooked on technology and gadgets like drugs to pacify and sedate us from seeing the true impact our greed and actions are having on the real world around us.

Furthermore, we want more and more, put a price on everything from hummus to hippos, hills and humans; will we ever learn to say stop before it is to late? Sadly there is no way to go back, as we are already stationary in our progress. We fill our lives material and disposable goods, losing originality, creativity and love.

So, what can we do. Focus on what matters, the people we love do not need to be showered with gifts for our love comes from our daily thoughts and actions. Stop the hate of others who are different to ourselves, respect and empathise. Finally, extend that to all other living species seen and unseen on Planet Earth.

© Fi S. J. Brown

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