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Archive for August, 2015

Colour Your Life

Saturday, August 1st, 2015

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I’ve fond memories as a child of lost time spent doodling and colouring in colouring books. Colouring books were a regular feature in my family of origin. They’d find their way into bags and the back seats of cars on our way to church on Sundays and keep us children occupied as the hours of the church service clocked up and our energies waned.   Colouring blunted the boredom of the ranting church minister and I loved the focus and concentration that colouring offered and the resulting colour explosion was always delightful.

At an early age a certain kind of confidence emerged from taking a black and white illustration and becoming the curator and creator of its new colour makeover. Years later when I was mother to a young child colouring books became a staple play activity. As soon as her tiny fingers could hold a crayon and pencil securely my daughter learnt to colour. Aida would spend countless hours on our living room floor colouring away to her hearts content. And it was this same child some twenty something years later who handed me an exquisite colouring book at Christmas last year called, The Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt by Johanna Basford 

Secret_Garden

Turns out that Colouring books are back on the market aimed at adults in a big way. Remembering my own memories about colouring what I loved most was the simplicity surrounding the activity. It’s a relatively cost effective activity. It requires little instruction and no one telling you what colours to use whilst it gives the child or adult permission and freedom to pick and have their way with colours they personally want to work with.

There’s something grounding and calming about colouring inside the lines but also a certain wildness and liberation when we stray outside the lines. A positive colouring experience becomes an even more enjoyable activity once you have the right tools, which are minimum: a good, solid illustration to colour in and your pack of colouring pencils, crayons or felt tips.

JH Wheel_Of_Life_Tree_Badge_FINAL

In 2011 I used this concept of colouring to design a coaching template designed to measure your overall satisfaction with your work and personal life. The Wheel of Life Tree Audit uses colouring to rate your levels of satisfaction across core life and work areas and then set goals to extend and improve satisfaction in key areas. I designed an activity that would engage both the right and left brains, one that would provide a colour snapshot of your life through the lens of colour. You can download the Wheel Of Life template here or the Wheel of Life Tree Playbook & Life Audit here or find a copy in my book Be Your Own Best Life Coach

Research is now bringing to light the many benefits of colouring already known in the alternative medicine world of colour therapy. Colouring reduces stress, the activity conjures up an almost Zen like mindfulness and working with certain colours can be soothing and calming.

Colouring is kinesthetic, a creative activity that moves the body and ignites the intricate and exploratory nature of the creative mind. I like the slow, gradual build up colouring brings to the page or an illustration. I enjoy the repetitive rhythm and the gradual, slow release of energy

Personally I’m drawn to the primal nature of colouring. Before most children experiment and learn to draw, they colour. Colouring predates drawing and writing. I use colouring now as a form of stress release but also as a working meditation. In a recent blog post creativity coach Jamie Ridler wrote about the additional benefits she derives from colouring and being creative, “Don’t be surprised if a sudden moment of clarity arrives while you’re colouring, doodling or beading.”

Being a writer I sit using words all day so an activity like colouring gets me to use my hands in a different kind of way. It breaks up routine patterns and ways of thinking. It gives my mind and thoughts breathing space to go in new and different directions. It’s possible to generate hits of dopamine when colouring in the same way we get that initial surge when we land on Facebook or other forms of social media or reach for that bar of chocolate.

Have fun with colouring. Notice that colours generated onto the page can extend into colours you wear, colours you notice other people wear and becoming more aware and present to the colours alive and visible in your environment and in nature.

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Crayons are my favourite colouring instruments and have a smooth, effortless like movement across the page. Pencils are great but require greater pressure and attending to so make sure you have a sharpener to hand. Also be aware that pencil colour can sometimes be faint and watery like and not as bold and robust as the colour tones of crayons.

There are many different ways to have fun with colouring. From colouring books, to collages to taking photo’s of scenes with similar colours and tones. Having a range of great colours to hand helps when colouring. Using one colour can be extremely gratifying and helps to order the mind. And it’s worth remembering that colouring just for the sake of it can be a worthwhile reward and satisfying way of passing time.

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The Wisdom Of Trees

Saturday, August 1st, 2015

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I love it when my schedule allows me to retreat for the day. Recently such an opportunity occurred and I found myself hanging out in one of my favourite, green spaces in London I love to escape to, Kew Gardens.

After treating to myself to a delicious lunch I wandered into a tree exhibition before deciding I’d had enough of walking the great stretch of land that makes up this huge green space and set myself down without much thought under the canopy of an enormous Cedar tree. I appreciate that Kew cherishes trees the way I and many others do and labels most of it’s tree stock with a small metal plaque with the trees name inscribed on it.

For the last twenty or so years I’ve developed a fascination for the stories, myths and legends about the trees we live and are surrounded by. So maybe it was not coincidence but more of an intuitive urge that drove me to sit and rest for a while under this particular tree. The last few months had been really busy and I was feeling emotionally and physically spent.

The Cedrus Atlantica towering above me was regarded as the world tree and in Greek mythology is home to the god of wisdom. Energetically the tree is associated with grounding and helping one to get rooted the very quality I was in desperate need of. And perhaps in that moment my own body wisdom knew what I needed and energetically what the tree would recharge me with.

The myths and legends and very often the spiritual and energetic associations of many of the trees you walk or drive past everyday may surprise you. Through my interest and research I have learnt so much about the way in which trees are not just botanical specimens that are both of necessity for the survival of the human race, but are some of our oldest living monuments as well as beautifiers of our environments. Just imagine for a moment a street without trees and you have a landscape that feels as if something significant is missing.

I grew up in a suburb of London (West Norwood) that was once covered by the great North Wood, a natural Oak forest that covered most of the area and raised ground starting four miles south of central London. The most common association with the Oak, one of the oldest and longest, living trees after the Yew tree, is the quality of ‘strength’. This is the tree whose trunk my back longs to lean against when I need to be replenished or to connect with my own source of courage.

Sanctuary

References to the Oak tree abound throughout the Bible and the Druids revered the Oak and honoured the sacred Oak grooves that once covered the land. Because of the deep roots of the Oak it is said to support with the well-being and healing of your feet. During one particular turbulent time in my life I sought out the daily company of a huge evergreen Oak tree in my local park. Her presence eased my pain and grief and watched over me as I nursed myself back to strength.

Most people will be familiar with the image of an overhanging Willow tree. The hanging, string like branches of the Willow tree is strongly associated with water and the flow of your emotions. Many Willow trees live on riverbanks and by water and hence it’s connection with tears and it’s ability to ease the pain of deep emotions. The Willow is considered as the poets muse because of the whisper like sound of its over-hanging leaves in the breeze.

Willow branches have a long cultural tradition of being used in funerals. Branches are placed in coffins and young plants, planted on graves. Across cultural traditions in Western Europe the Willow is regarded as a sacred tree. She is aligned with the moon and the tidal cycles. In North Western Europe the Willow was the tree wise women and healers turned to for it’s medicinal ability to ease rheumatism aggravated by damp conditions of the climate. And the Willow tree is considered to be the natural source of modern day aspirin.

I experience being in the company of trees as soothing and calming. I am comforted by the very existence of trees, one of the earth oldest living plant species. I love discovering new stories and legends about the trees we know and live with. If you want to learn more about the energetic characteristics of trees and how to be more closely connected with the trees in your neighbourhood there are plenty of great publications to turn to that make great summer reads.

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One of my all time favourite books is Tree Wisdom and A Tree In Your Pocket by Jacqueline Memory Paterson. Other tree books in my collection I’d recommend include:

  • Meetings With Remarkable Trees and Remarkable Trees Of The World by Thomas Packenham
  • Ancient Trees by Edward Parker & Amanda Lewington
  • Bark: An Intimate Look At The World’s Trees by Cedric Pollet
  • Trees: The Balance & Life Of Nature by Pierre Lieutaghi
  • The Great Trees Of London by Time Out Magazine
  • The Secret Life Of Trees by Colin Tudge
  • Using The Wisdom Of Tree Oracle Card deck by Jane Struthers
  • Tree Affirmation Cards by Victoria Sofia Lewis
  • The Wisdom Of Trees by Max Adams

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