It was nice to have a different kind of day from the one we expected – courtesy of the weather gods.
The UK has been lashed by rain and storms since before Christmas, but there came a point about 10.30 this morning, New Year’s Day, when the cabin fever was stronger than (my) dislike of getting wet. Sure I must have been a cat in a former life. Garbed in waterproofs, gloves and scarves, we set out for the stunningly beautiful tree-fringed beach at Highcliffe (as above) with the general expectation that we’d get a good soaking, but what the hell – we were desperate to get out. The air smelt beautifully fresh, and as we got closer to the beach the rain turned into a gentle drizzle which then disappeared completely. By the time we got there the sun was out and we felt completely overdressed and very hot. Ha! When will I learn? Well, I think I am, funnily enough.
I’m working my way through a fabulous book called Time Surfing: The Zen Approach to Keeping Time on Your Side by a Zen monk called Paul Loomans – he’s pure genius and the cartoon pictures are gorgeous. (You can find it on the book blog here) I started absorbing books on Buddhism in general and mindfulness in particular to help me stay sane during chemo and the ensuing stem cell transplant in 2013, and I’m still going strong, mainly because I’m so not nearly there yet. It is still such a challenge to stay in the moment and not allow my thoughts to go wandering off every which way so I’m always up for new ideas to help me.
Then I came across Paul’s book, and he’s genuinely helped me make a breakthrough. He makes it SO simple (the sign of a good teacher methinks) and suddenly I can see really clearly exactly what is happening when I’m off extrapolating out into the future, worrying about what might/might not happen and what I should/shouldn’t do about it. It’s exhausting and it’s also a complete waste of time as me worrying or not worrying doesn’t change the outcome. In fact in the course of worrying or being all control-freaky I’m also probably missing the good things that are happening. And funnily enough this relates completely to something as simple as our walk to the beach. After the usual agonising decisions about how many layers of what kind of clothing to take/wear (me, not Stephen, obvs) I suddenly realised what I was doing and shouted STOP very loudly to myself inside my head. And having stopped the internal commotion, I pulled on my boots, grabbed a warm, waterproof coat, stuffed gloves into my pocket and I was ready. Just like that. And then we were out, and the rain stopped and we saw a rainbow and the sea smelt amazing and the sun came out to welcome us into the first day of 2018. And I absolutely know I enjoyed it more, because in line with his teaching, I was just enjoying this moment and this moment and this moment as they followed on one from another, and in each moment there was something precious. I came back from the walk some time later tired, but more refreshed by the experience than ever before.
There’s such richness in his simplicity, and the proof of the (Christmas) pudding came when I realised I’m taking his advice to heart without really trying. His teaching extends very helpfully to areas such as procrastination, which I am definitely guilty of. His approach is novel. Instead of telling you to set a time and GET ON WITH IT he suggests you have a good look at what’s stopping you and possibly even befriend it. Yes. Because apart from the usual ‘because I don’t want to’ there’s always something else. In the UK we have until the 31st January to get our tax returns in. Along with many, many other people, despite having had a whole year to get it done, I too will be scrabbling to get it submitted before the deadline. But now, having investigated my reluctance – I mean who likes doing tax returns (apart from accountants obvs)? – I realise it’s because I need to get some facts together first. Once I’ve got the info I can do the form. And yes, I hate doing forms, but there’s a tax advice line I can call if I need to, so I’m really not on my own.
And the other truly magnificent part of the teaching is to ditch the To-Do list. YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS! He is totally in my camp when he says that a list just increases the pressure and emphasizes all the things you have yet to do. Countless supportive and well-meaning folk have tried to get me to keep To-Do lists and I just end up not looking at them or losing them, such is my level of disinterest. Yes, of course you need to write down something that’s important and Must Not Be Forgotten, holiday packing lists are an obvious one, but he suggests ways of developing your intuition so that you naturally work your way through what needs to be done at the time it needs doing. Ah-hem, obviously didn’t quite manage that with the tax return.
So this particular blog is the result of me practising what Paul Loomans teaches. I realised a long while back that there were bigger gaps between blogs than I would have liked. Although I’m thankfully no longer in treatment, there are people who follow the blog that are, and it’s nice to keep in touch. Historically I’ve always written long blogs which take a lot more time and much more thought to string together, so I quite often missed the boat and didn’t end up writing about something that’s important to me because I was waiting for enough time to write a few thousand words.
Solution: write shorter blogs. Yay! This is the first of many :-)
I’ve wanted to replace the picture on the header for a long time, but wanted it to coincide with something special. I’d say that our lovely and unexpectedly sunny walk to the beach counts as something special, coming as it did on New Year’s Day. I took the pic towards the end of our walk when it was getting seriously warm inside my snuggly waterproof coat. Job done on that one then.
And finally, having missed out on posting at Christmas (onslaught of Norovirus, sorry), New Year’s Eve (erm, procrastination?), what could be better than posting a new blog on New Year’s Day? Sorry for the long delay folks, but I really think I’m getting it cracked, thanks to Paul Loomans. Go and look at his book, you won’t regret it.
Wishing you all a happy and healthy 2018.
P.S. Many thanks to Herman Oldenburger for bringing this TED talk by Tim Urban to my attention. If you don’t know what procrastination is, watch this :-)