Archive for June, 2015
Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015
On my way into work this morning I wandered around the largely deserted cobbled streets around Borough Market at London Bridge.
I enjoyed pausing and clicking away on my iphone capturing colours and images offset through the huge net of my sensory imagination.
I see these early morning wanderings often placed at the start of a crowded day as my own kind of creative meditation. After all there are as many different ways to meditate as there are to tell a story.
Building creative encounters into my day has a number of benefits, all productive and useful.
- It clears my head.
- It’s calming and relaxing.
- Without even realizing it my stress lowers as does anxiety and worry.
- For around forty minutes I got lost in London city delighting in its architecture and all that it offered and gave myself breathing space.
Slowing down impacts on the quality of your thinking. These last few months have been very stressful, more than I care to admit. Taking time out in my day allows me to really see and take in my surroundings. It stimulates and ignites other creative portals. And again almost as a by-product this clear sight translates into other areas of life and work and allows you to see more clearly in those areas too.
This was the first image that captured my attention as I entered the market hall a blackboard posing this question … Before I die I want to …
This is a question well worth taking to your journal. I’d love to know what your answer to the question would be?
What follows is a series of organically snapped images taken as I wandered looking for an early morning quiet spot to write in.
I didn’t find a quiet spot, that seems to be like gold dust here in the city but I did manage to get a bit of quiet headspace before the morning commuters clogged the air space.
Feeding myself creatively in this way sets up my day in the best possible way. Things get done because of giving myself this time in this way.
If you would like to experience a spot of what it feels like to be a Slow Creative in the city come and join me and photographer Sarah Hickson http://www.nowliveevents.org/sarah-hickson/ at the Slow Creative workshop part of the Switch On Now Festival at Deptford Lounge a @nowliveevents on Wednesday 8th July 4pm-6pm.
To find out more about the Slow Creative workshop and to book click here (£6 full price/£4 Concessions/Deptford Residents £3): http://www.nowliveevents.org/deptford-lounge-2015/
Tweet #Creativity #SwitchonNOW @Deptford Lounge @nowliveevents
Sunday, June 14th, 2015
In today’s blog post I’m delighted to share Nicole Moore’s favourite tree a Banyan tree which she posted on my twitter feed using the hastag #treesonyourtravels
Nicole Moore’s love of trees started in childhood, in Highbury, North London, which has a lot of lovely tree-lined roads. Her favourite school art lessons were when she was given the freedom to paint whatever she liked. It was always a tree.
Nicole found painting trees soothing. This photo of Nicole sitting on a Banyan tree was taken in August 1988 in the most exciting, enchanting and beautiful Oratava Acclimatisation Gardens, on the edge of Puerto de la Cruz in the second most major town in Tenerife.
Nicole penned a pantoum poem about her favourite tree.
So what’s a pantoum poem I hear you ask?
Well according to Nicole the pantoum is a poem of any length composed of four-line stanzas. In each stanza, the second and fourth lines serve as the first and third lines of the next stanza.
The last line of a pantoum is generally the same as the first line. Nicole really likes this form of poetry because it removes certain elements of choice for you as a poet, and that can be kind of freeing.
Still a Tree
It’s hard to believe
The Banyan tree
Started its life as an epiphyte
Yet still, beauty lies deep
The Banyan tree remains
Strong, eloquent, solid, still tree
Yet still, its beauty lies deep
Gracious and grounded
Strong eloquent, solid, still a tree
Over 200 years old
Its majestic presence is irresistible
Voiceless it speaks
Started its life as an epiphyte
Connecting roots directly and indirectly to its central trunk
It’s hard to believe
© Nicole Moore May 2015
Nicole Moore is a freelance writer and editor with experience in magazines, newspapers, blogs and poetry anthologies. She writes non-fiction in the form of personal essays, memoir and poetry.
Nicole is the author of Brown Eyes, Sexual Attraction Revealed and Hair Power Skin Revolution.
If you would like to tell us about a favourite tree or a tree from childhood please feel free to send it into:firstname.lastname@example.org or share it on my twitter feed @jackeeholder using the hastag #treesonyourtravels
Another beautiful Banyan tree for you to meditate on.
Sunday, June 14th, 2015
I’ve just listened to this podcast interview with Dominique Browning former editor-in-chief of House & Garden magazine on the Debbie Millman, Design Matters podcast series and her words really resonated with me.
The entire interview reinforced why the message in my work as a coach and trainer working with leaders and coaches I go on and on about finding quiet pockets in our day to get still so you can connect in with you. I know this sometimes comes across as soft and fluffy but really it isn’t. Slowing down and becoming more mindful really is a serious antidote to depression, to stress, to combating mental health issues and burnout to finding a way of working and living that is based on wholeheartedness, that is meaningful and a gateway to productivity.
It’s why I continue to communicate this message over and over again with coaches and leaders I work with even when I get the look like ‘really’, or ‘this is so boring, tell me stuff I can do that is quick and will fix my problems now.’ It still surprises me just how many coaches, leaders, executives and professionals across a range of industries who work with people find it difficult to look within and resist working consciously and pro-actively on their own inner lives.
Finding those small pockets in my day whether I am writing in my journal, going for a walk or sitting quietly in my car for a few minutes before my next appointment helps me tremendously. This approach personally marks the difference between surviving and thriving. It can be so easy to thread water through our day multi tasking and going at a break neck speed. In my world stopping in this way is a form of healthy insulation, a welcome breathing space allowing me to absorb and respond without being knocked for six when the inevitable challenges, dramas and dilemma’s present themselves.
Here’s what Dominique had to say in the interview with Debbie Millman,
“You can get an enormous amount of nurturing out of connecting with the world around you in small moments throughout everyday and I began I realize that even as my life was beginning to speed up again I needed to carve out a few minutes of just meditative times for myself. When I would just connect with something beautiful, interesting, troubling, whatever it was but something everyday that made me stop and think and be very, very still.”
Listen to the full interview here: https://soundcloud.com/designmatters/design-matters-with-debbie-105
Dominique Browning former editor in-chief of House & Garden in an interview with Debbie Millman from Design Matters discussing slowing down and her life after House and Garden magazine closed down and she lost her job as editor-in-chief.
Dominique Browning is the author of Slow Love: How I Lost My Job, Put On My Pajamas & Found Happiness and blogs at: http://www.slowlovelife.com/
Tuesday, June 9th, 2015
I’m sharing a selection of a few of the photo’s captured on my iphone during our Greece Inside Writer’s retreat last week.
Images tell their own stories.
Already I’m missing the long days and light, the sunshine (even though it was cold the first two nights and we had to light a fire), the amazing view of the Aegan Sea, the lovely company of the writers on retreat, the retreat staff and the energy to write, write write.
The photo’s are a combination of our environment, images of the creative writing activities the group engaged in.
Our time away on retreat was rich and a lovely mixture of long stretches of writing, conversations in the group about the writing process and craft of writing, walks down Mount Pelion to the sea and beach, the full moon and the most gorgeous food made mostly with fresh, local produce.
I’m already thinking about when my next retreat will be. Time away from my everyday worked wonders for my productivity. I drafted several blog posts by hand in a continuous, highly charged flow. Let’s say looking in from the outside I probably had the look of someone working fast and furious.
We’re already booked to return in 2016, first week in June, so do email us if you are interested in joining us next year.
Thursday, June 4th, 2015
Halfway into our retreat we entered into a twenty-four period of silence. It’s my most treasured and revered part of our time here in Greece.
That’s not to say that there isn’t resistance. Whether it’s voiced out loud or not, it’s there. It shows up in a range of ways. Like having anxious feelings about having to spend 24 hours in silence. Needing clarity about what was allowed and what wasn’t allowed during the silence. Questioning whether the time would be fruitful or not?
The one thing I know from past experience is that the silence will weave her magic over each of us in her own special way once the silence begins. I arrived at the start of the silence with a long list of writing projects, many needing completion. I knew this was a valuable time and space to make traction in my work.
I knew the silence would clear a space for me. With the distraction of speaking removed the long stretch of time would give me that much needed space to work without interruption. In normal everyday life our inner voice is distant and then by the time we find and make space to sit down and write we have to spend more time coaxing that voice from deep recesses inside ourselves. That’s why retreats offer the space to not just find our voice but also use our voice. In the silence we get to listen, we get to hear what it is we want to say, what it is we want to write.
I like what UK coach, Ken Barnes has to say about the word silent, ‘When you move the words silent around you get the word listen.’
Right now I’m writing this blog post sitting in a shaded olive groove in the middle of Mount Pelion, which in Greek mythology is the birthplace of the greek god Chiron, half man, half beast.
In the background I can distinguish the different sounds of calls of birds native to Greece. If I fine tune my hearing even more I can dip beneath the sounds on the surface and hear the honey coated humming of the honey bees who live in their thousands in hives on the mountain side not far from where I’m seated.
Silence can be gold to a writer. Whilst we don’t need it all of the time we need it a lot of the time. We need the silence to create. Right now the silence finds me in a creative flow, unleashed by the opportunity to indulge in the rarity of silence. Tonight I plan to write some more under the gaze of the full moon, late into the night after supper. There is so much to appreciate about the silence for example noticing how the flavours of food become more accentuated when we eat in silence.
There’s a lot to learn from the silence – the staff at the retreat centre are also observing the silence but for some it is hard and frequently they resort back to speaking using the volume of their everyday voices.
The parallel process between the staff breaking the silence is also a challenge for us as writers. Many writers despite wanting to write find themselves avoiding silence, afraid of what the silence might tell or show you. I found the silence breath takingly productive. On my last count I had drafted four new pieces of work, uploaded a new blog post, written a poem that emerged as I sat on the bedroom balcony with the full moon gazing down on me. The stretch of silence was like running a marathon. I had a distance to go but no idea of what the journey would be like.
As I expected a couple of hours away from breaking the silence and already I wish we could be in the silence for another two, three days. I’m already thinking how I could have more of this in my life back home. London is a busy city. I live next door to two sets of neighbours who are very noisy. My partner does not require the levels of silence and quiet I’m in constant need of.
But paradoxically there maybe some mileage that silence is becoming harder and harder to access whatever part of the world you’re in. It’s a challenge because even in this lovely, quiet spot in Greece we could not control the continuous sound of a barking dog echoing across the hillside for most of the day and night.
We cannot always control the level of silence we experience in the outside world. But when we hunker down and give the page or our computer screen our full attention we’re less likely to require absolute silence.
A question I’d like to leave you with is:
What can you hear in the silence and what can the silence bring to your writing?
Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015
I cannot explain the deliciousness of the gorgeous, healthy food we’re being fed here at Kalikalos here in Greece. We’ve been fortunate to have the well-loved chef, James from Findhorn cooking the most divine food for us. We’re all complaining of putting on too much weight and returning home heavier than when we arrived. Hopefully emptying some of our stories onto the page will help with that. However that doesn’t seem to be stopping us, myself included going up for seconds, even thirds. His cooking is so good.
Staying on the subject of food the business of writing is hard work, both mentally and physically and thinking about how you eat or in my case snack (I had to hastily deposit the snacks in my bedroom that I seemed to be demolishing at a frightening rate downstairs into our workshop space as I was in danger of finishing everything). When you’re in the process of thinking and writing snacking can become a dangerous pursuit. I’m determined tomorrow to eat less and spend more time admiring the delicious dishes that James will no doubt have in store for us.
Our check in yesterday morning using a beautiful white and brown sand coloured talking stone I found on the beach went wide and deep. Our themes included:
The importance of establishing boundaries to protect and make time and space for writing. Different writers in the group identified what they personally needed to get themselves into the writing flow. Some needed to stay in the centre and write for the afternoon, others needed to get off site and spend some time by the beach or wander through the town.
I spent the afternoon wandering on site, something I like to do back home where I kind off let myself just hang out and go with the flow. We are in the most stunning location on Mount Pelion surrounded by grooves of Olive trees and a picture postcard view of the sea framed by the mountain ranges.
With everyone gone in different directions for the afternoon the quietness that descended on the centre felt like a sedative. I felt drunk on the peace and stillness that wrapped itself around the space. In the distance I could hear the comforting humming of the bees from their hives half way down the mountain, which I could barely hear when in the company of others.
I walked a little, sat down a lot, finished reading a book I had brought with me, (The Skeleton Cupboard by psychologist, Tanya Byron) curled up in bed, went on a short walk, took some photo’s, tidied up a bit and ate an apricot, peach and banana (in that order) rather than stuff down another chocolate finger for the day. I have no idea what possessed me to buy a whole load of chocolates from the pound shop and bring with me? I guess I was after some kind of comfort.
And that’s the thing about writing. We often want to write close to home, to stay in our comfort zone and not give ourselves that stretch that brings the writing alive. This is something I’ve been thinking a lot about in my own writing and wondering if for too long I’ve stayed writing what feels comfortable and familiar. This week I purposely invited the writers to stretch when it came to setting themselves a writing challenge. However I’ve realized I’d not really done that with myself so watch this space for tomorrow.
The second theme we touched on was the good old inner critic. We moved into how exploring how we really accept and digest positive feedback about our writing from our peers. One way we’re nurturing this on the retreat is to give feedback after a writer reads aloud, in writing. Already one of the writer’s in the group has expressed how affirming it was to sit and read the feedback afterwards.
The third theme was recognition that writers need support whether it’s people support, practical support, food support, etc and it’s our job to work out what support we need and to organize getting the support in place.
We wrapped up the morning with the Travel Therapy writing exercise. We discussed the importance of making sure the destinations we travel to match the therapeutic needs of our inner journeys. We used maps and letter writing stationary (thanks to Paper Chase) as writing prompts as well as the Travel Therapy prompts from my Paper Therapy workbook.
We finished up with a one-hour writing practice session and then closed the morning with one member of the group sharing their writing and receiving feedback.
Tonight before going to sleep and sorry to rub it in after another delicious meal of spinach parcels, gorgeous, ruby purple beetroot, tarasamalta, a green salad with a dressing to die for, a Cajun style Greek bread and lemon, and rosemary baked, crispy potato chips, I ended the evening sitting on the balcony of my room, meditating under the gaze of a full moon. I lit and burnt charcoal with Frankincense and totally drunk in the full moon sky.
By the time I’d finished I’d so much energy I couldn’t sleep so decided to write this blog post instead.
I love it here. I love teaching on this retreat. I love working and supporting writers in this wholehearted and wholesome way. It’s a joy and creatively enriching pulling together all the exercises and writing activities that act as inspiration and creative stimulus for the writing to emerge. I can’t think of a better way to spend my day doing work I love.
Tomorrow is my favourite part of the retreat when we enter into twenty hours of silence offering writers a much-needed space to deepen into writing without the distractions of verbal human contact. The staff at Kalikalos join in as well and we create a blanket of silence across the retreat centre for twenty-four hours. See you back here tomorrow.