Archive for April, 2015
Sunday, April 26th, 2015
© Robert Bush
For a few months now on Twitter I’ve been encouraging people to capture photographs of trees on their travels #treesonyourtravels. One tree that caught my eye last week as I took a short walk to post a letter was an Olive tree taking centre stage of a front garden.
In the view finder of my iphone the tree appeared to be an ordinary specimen. But this really is a gross mis-representation of the beauty of the tree that stood before me. The difference between the trees I viewed through the viewfinder of my camera lens and the tree viewed with my human eyes was poles apart.
To the human eye the tree came alive in glorious detail from it’s shortened trunk, walnut grey in colour worn with gnarled ridges and wrinkles that glistened against the sun’s rays.
The tree in question is one that would enchant young children and adults alike. There’s no doubt in my mind that the human eye is the best camera to drink in the wonders of a tree.
With the human eye we can see more deeply than the surface view of an image or an object captured on a digital camera. Within the viewfinder of the iphone camera so much of the intricacies of the tree were lost.
I believe that if more of us knew the history and the cultural legacy of the trees in our local habitat I believe we would not take trees for granted in the way we do.
Going back to the Olive tree in question. Don’t be fooled by the short height of this tree. Mature and old Olive trees are generally small even though some can grow to a good height. After all this small Olive tree is a descendant of the ancient Olives of the past some, which were reputed to have lived to between 2,000 to 5,000 years old.
Olive trees have grown as far afield as Africa, the Canary Islands and the Mediterranean Basin. The sacred legends surrounding the Olive tree are many including how the ancient Egyptians sealed gold carvings of them into the pyramids.
I located many of these wonderful facts in a beautiful book gifted to me at Christmas by my daughter, Ancient Trees: Trees that live for a thousand years by photographer and writer Edward Parker and ethno botanist and writer Anna Lewington click here to purchase:
The next time you’re out walking take a moment to really take in the physical characteristics of a tree in your neighbourhood or even one in your own back yard.
Tweet your image with a few words about your tree and its location with the hash tag: #treesonyourtravels
On May 29th I’ll be in Greece for one week with a small, intimate group of writers who will experience a week long writing intensive with me in the company and aromatic presence of several hundred olive trees.
There’s still room to join us and put your 2015 writing goals into action. For more details and to sign up click here:
Or email us with your questions or for more information direct at: email@example.com
Friday, April 10th, 2015
Recently I was invited to offer my resignation from a board I had served on a voluntary basis for several years. I had been planning my exit for months but was still hanging in there despite several of my close and trusted colleagues advising me it was time to leave.
A newly appointed chair (voted in during my absence at one of the board meetings) had taken over the reins and had decided along with other board members that the services of myself and two other members of the board were no longer required.
They had a point, to an extent but from my perspective the way the letting go was done was shabby. For years I have been bringing up the shadow themes about our board, pointing out the toxic dynamics in our relationships and overall management of the paid staff team. My ideas and suggestions had repeatedly fallen on deaf ears. And in one way it seemed unfair that someone new was given air space, showered with respect in a way that contradicted my experience of increasingly feeling I often felt overlooked and ignored. There were other factors I could mention but that would really be taking me off the point.
What was most important was the recognition on my part that there was something different about me at that last board meeting. I sat in my chair with an open heart knowing a storm was brewing up around me. I had arrived with an inner knowing that had been revealed to me in my journal entries several months before. The message that came through my words scattered throughout the various journal entries was repetitive and clear.
I was no longer enjoying my time on the board. I loved other parts of my work and time with the organisation but membership on the board felt draining and depleting. Every morning before the board meeting a slow sense of dread would fill me and my body signals could not have been clearer about signaling its dis-content as I pushed myself to sit and be with individuals I had little in common with and for whom I felt little or no connection to.
On many levels even though I knew the truth (and my journal entries evidenced this), and the body signals were loud and clear, I didn’t fully listen to my own inner wisdom. Part of me is forever hopeful, which sometimes works out and other times it doesn’t. But even so as I sat and listened to the request I realized that in that moment, I was ready, that it was the right thing to do and that by leaving I was creating the space for something new and better.
The thing is, bad things happen to good people every second of our waking lives. The people and innocent children on the recent French plane allegedly bought down by its co-pilot were I imagine all ‘good people’. The reality is as much as we would like to we really fully protect ourselves from injustice or unfair treatment we cannot fully insulate ourselves or our lives from bad things happening to us. But what we do have to hand is a choice about how we choose to respond.
Recently, the school someone close to me taught at for many years and where she was in a senior leadership position (and was a brilliant assistant head) was taken over by a young, ambitious super head. Suddenly her career and the careers of several other individuals in the school who spoke out against many of his decisions and actions were jeopardized and with the click of a finger these stunning teachers were either forced to leave the school or left of their own accord because they could not stand for what was going on any more.
The episode prompted many of the group to re-evaluate their lives and careers. Relationships have been deepened with loved ones. Many of the group discovered whom they could turn to during the difficult times that followed. They learnt amongst many things that there was life beyond the career and the school they were forced to leave or quit. Each one of them in their own resilient way bounced back.
It struck me that when these tough times call, and call they will what is most valuable is not that we try and shield ourselves from what is happening. Our most valuable weapon to pull us through is in fact resilience.
Resilience is the ability to adapt and respond well in the face of stress and adversity. I’ve learnt both from personal experience and from many of the individuals and groups I work with that a potent surge in creativity and inspiration is often close behind periods of loss, trauma and adversity in our lives.
If you would like time out to think about your life right now and where your resilience may be called for, or perhaps you have just lived through a life or career challenge, then have a listen to an interview with with one of the world leading experts on resilience, Mark Matousek. Click here to listen
In the interview Mark discusses his take on resilience and adversity. Discover what he’s learned about resilience from the many people he’s interviewed on his website and in his book, When You’re Falling Dive. Listen out for tips on what gets you back on your feet after you’ve been knocked down and how trauma, crisis and loss are spiritual opportunities for us to evolve into richer human beings.
If you want to take this work further or perhaps you work as a practitioner and would value more learning and training in this area then Mark will be in the UK at the end of May teaching a three-day intensive, When You’re Falling Dive course at the wonderful Schumacher College in Devon, May 26th-May 29th
Click here for more details of the course
I’ve worked with Mark before and know that his work is deeply transformative and offers both a psychological and spiritual approach to building and nurturing resilience in our lives using therapeutic writing.
Tuesday, April 7th, 2015
When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.
When great trees fall
small things recoil into silence,
eroded beyond fear.
When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
gnaws on kind words
Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
dependent upon their
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of dark, cold
And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.”
― Maya Angelou
- What line or lines are you taken by in the poem?
- Why do you think this is?
- What does this poem mean to you?
- How would you prescribe this poem if someone requested a poem to soothe an ailment that speaks the language of what they might be feeling or experiencing but find difficult to put into words?
- Choose a line from the poem and use it as a 5 minute writing prompt. See where it takes you?
After deciding to post this poem today I went in search of an image of a fallen tree and found the above image courtesy of Google Wallpaper here
Scrolling further down I discovered that Teresa had also posted the poem I was just about to post!
I love synchronicity.
In support of creative license I decided to go ahead and post the poem as well as share this link back to Teresa’s blog
Now you can enjoy is both.
The Inside Out Writers Retreat May 29th-June 5th 2015
If trees are your thing then you will enjoy the beautiful olive trees that surround the retreat centre in Greece where our second annual retreat takes place on May 29th-June 5th 2015. Click here for more details
Whether you want to write about nature, business, a creative craft, get going with blog posts or find your writing voice this is a week of deep immersion into the creative writing process.
I just love teaching this retreat.
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Thursday, April 2nd, 2015
I’ve decided to post lots more photo’s of the trees I come across on my daily travels. I love noticing the trees around me as I go about my daily business and nothing delights me more than stopping to capture a tree with my iphone camera.
Yesterday on my early morning walk this young Cherry Blossom tree waved at me from across the street swaying in the breeze reminding me that spring is here. There might have been a chill in the air but the sight of this young one made me happy, if only for a moment.
I’d love to see images of trees you encounter on your travels. If you’re on Twitter how about sharing them on my twitter feed @jackeeholder or Tweet #treesonmytravels or email over your pics to firstname.lastname@example.org
This weekend keep an eye out for the Cherry Blossom trees in your neighbourhood as they prepare for full bloom in a couple of weeks time. Savour moments in your day by giving yourself a Cherry Blossom visual treat as you move around.
By the way Cherry Blossoms are estimated to peak around April 11-14th hence why my two favourite Cherry Blossoms in front of Honor Oak Park station in South London have not yet bloomed. There’s still time I tell myself.
Here’s what we can expect to see over the next week or so when these two lovely Cherry Blossoms bloom.
Thursday, April 2nd, 2015
You’d love to write or start a blog, draft the content for your website or even write a book someday? But perhaps you just can’t seem to find your groove? Well nothing happens without doing the work, as Steven Pressfield would say, rolling up your sleeves and getting on with the practice. With more than four books published I’ve had over twenty years of writing practice under my belt. So today I’m sharing the five things I do on a regular basis that are guaranteed to get me to the page and to keep me there.
Remember these are my personal tips and whilst some might work for you others might not. Writers and creative’s (yes that does include you) are as different as we are the similar. What works for you are bound to be a No, No for someone else? So I invite you to borrow some or all of the tips below and add ones that make more sense for you. Your job, find what works and do more of it.
Writing Tip Number 1
Walk often and as regularly as you can. That’s right take a walk (ideally first thing in your day as often as you can). Walking clears your head and stimulates creative ideas. I’ve never returned from a walk thinking, ‘Gosh I wish I hadn’t gone for a walk,’ in fact more than not the opposite happens. As soon as I’m back home or arriving at my destination without fail I always find myself heading for the pages of my notebook to get my ideas down as fast as I can.
Writing Tip Number 2
Write as early as you can in the day (after or before your walk. I know this may take a little bit of organising). I know this tip might not work for everyone especially if you like your sleep but this is one that really does it for me. I’m someone whose easily distracted, so the moment I open my laptop the vices of social media lure me in and within nano seconds I’m hooked and the writing goes from centre stage to back stage. Writing first thing in the morning guarantees fewer distractions and means that before the day is underway I’ve met my writing objectives for the day. Now how good is that?
Writing Tip Number 3
Writing first thing not only sets up my day it also boosts my confidence and well being. Now when I say writing I don’t mean a perfectly published piece ready to be published. No, what I’m talking about here is anything from your to do list, a journal entry to the first draft of a blog post, a handout for training, a work report or a chapter for a new book. By the way, I consider all of the above and more as writing. It is not a matter of what you write. It matters most that you write. Summed up perfectly by writer Dorothy West, ‘I love writing. I hate not having written.’
Writing Tip Number 4
I never turn up to write an article and expect it to come out polished first time. In fact most articles start out pretty much the way writer Anne Lamott describes them as, ‘shitty first drafts.’ When writing a first draft concentrate on laying down the bones of your idea then go back and add the meat. I do this sometimes a good few times before I hit send. What you are doing it getting into the habit to build and refine, build and refine. I visualise building up from this base line and it turns out to be a very satisfying feeling.
Confidence grows from knowing that you don’t have to be perfect the first time, the second or even the third. Actually you need never be perfect. That’s the reality there will always be more to edit on anything you write. Your job is to know when good enough is enough, which is often for you recovering perfectionists a good few steps before you considered it was good enough in the first place to go public. Cut your self some slack. Think completion not perfection. As one of my former coaches, Lynda Field, wisely put it, ‘Confidence comes after the act not before.’
Writing Tip Number 5
Less really is more. This has been one of my steepest learning curve balls of my writing life. I prided myself on providing both quantity and quality. On the surface these were great values to have but they carried a shadow side. They weighed me down with the levels and degrees of high standards and expectations, which were rarely met, and which resulted in me really holding myself back.
The breakthrough came with the realisation that I don’t need to cram everything into one post, article, feature or book. Have you seen the attention span of modern society? It isn’t long. Instead it’s wise to spread your content over a series of posts. Instead of writing one book ask yourself is there enough content for two or even three? Think of how impressive four posts look compared to one?
These are my five favourite tips that support and grow my writing life.
- Which tips do you relate to?
- What tips would you add to your own lists that are more on your wavelength?
If removing distractions is on your list so you can get on with the business of writing then why not join me at the end of May 2015 (May 29th-June 5th 2015) for the second annual Inside Out Writers Retreat in Greece? In the idyllic surroundings of sea and mountains you’ll have plenty of time and space to write, learn and craft your writing during scheduled classes with me, gain valuable feedback on your writing and generate publishable content.
Click here for more details: