Saturday, 19 December 2009

Do we deserve our leaders?

We need to realise that Climate Change isn't about the weather it is about life, the ability to have one.

Spot the difference:

All it takes for scenes like this to be more commonplace, for the greedy to have more while the list of 'have nots' gets longer is for good people to do nothing

With the Climate Change summit in Copenhagen ending with a weak agreement to do something rather than a strong legally binding agreement with specific objectives (you know - all the things we are taught at management school 101, SMART goals, specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time framed - all the things we haven't got!), we have to ask do we have weak leaders because our own commitment is weak? Can we be bothered or would we rather keep spending, consuming until the resources run out? Until our cosy world is overturned by people looking for food and water?

Start taking control of the message you want to give - go to

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Mindfulness of stuff?

Had two walks this morning, one as the sun came up over Gummer's How near Windemere the other through the town centre where the market is taking place. One walk was full of new things to see, the other the same old stuff. One required some effort to get there, the other some effort to stay there. One had people looking cold and miserable the other no-one else for miles. Why is it that we often fail to remember the restorative power of nature? Watching the sun come up (or go down), seeing the bigger view, observing life going on without having to spend more money, noticing how everything changes even as we stand still and look. But being mindful needs effort, to look, listen, feel, use all our senses doesn't happen by accident. But if we can make an effort to go shopping for some momentary pleasure (often followed by the post purchase remorse - should I have bought/eaten/done that?) then maybe we can learn to engage our senses more with the real life going on around us rather than the false life in the marketing promise. We are part of nature not part of someone's business plan.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Let's make a difference

If we care about our environment, whether because we want to protect areas like this or because we are concerned about the future our children will be dealing with then we need to act. This year, thousands of individuals and organisations from across the country are putting aside their differences to help write the first chapter of 21st Century’s biggest story. The idea is simple: we work together to achieve a 10% cut in the UK’s carbon emissions in 2010. From village post offices to City skyscrapers, everyone’s invited.

Cutting 10% in one year is a bold target, but for most of us it’s an achievable one, and is in line with what scientists say we need right now. And by signing up to a 10% target we’re not just supporting 10:10 - we’re making it happen. The success of 10:10 depends on getting everyone involved, and the 10:10 website has all the tools you need to pass the message on far and wide. We need to start spreading the word to every corner of the country, inviting our friends, family, colleagues, customers, competitors – everyone we know – to take part.

It’s easy to feel powerless in the face of a huge problem like climate change, but by uniting large numbers of people and institutions around immediate, effective and achievable action, 10:10 enables all of us to make a meaningful difference.

It’s the perfect opportunity to find out what’s possible when we work together. 10:10 is about putting aside our differences to tackle the defining challenge of our age. 10:10 is about working together.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

5th IATC - Edinburgh

I've just returned from the 5th International Adventure Therapy Conference in Edinburgh. This gathering of psychologists, therapists, counsellors mindfulness and outdoor practitioners takes place every three years. This event had participants from more than 21 countries ranging from Australia to Greenland, Britain to Singapore, all with the common aim of sharing best practice, looking at how we can help people and the planet.

As well as the numerous speakers and workshop leaders, there was the opportunity to take part in discussions and activities, including a worthwhile visit to the Labyrinth at Edinburgh University (see photo). The difference between a labyrinth and a maze? A maze is a place to get lost, a labyrinth a place to find yourself, an opportunity to focus, try one and see!

Therapy in the outdoors (whether called by Adventure, Wilderness, or any other prefix) means engaging with nature, using the outdoors as a therapeutic component in our lives, recognising our connection and place in nature and our impact on the planet as a whole as well as our local society. It is a way of engaging with the full spectrum of life that could make a massive difference to our personal and planetary well-being.

Thursday, 20 August 2009


Today I listened to the Scottish Justice Minister being interviewed on BBC Radio 4 about the decision to send back to Libya the terrorist guilty of the Pan Am bombing. Regardless of his decision which I know many will disagree with, it was a pleasure to hear a politician actually prepared to stand by his decision, to be prepared to defend it, to talk about principles at a time when many politicians are displaying their lack of them. To hear a politician finally talking about civilised society demonstrating compassion and humanity, instead of acting with equal or greater brutality was heart warming. The reporter unable to break through the statements about acting with compassion went on to challenge the statement that the terrorist was now under sentence of a higher power. Despite the efforts of the reporter to draw out whether he meant God or Allah (aren't they the same God - both abrahamic religions?) or Gaia or some other power, he stuck to his principles simply stating that the man was dying, something that not court or opinion can stop therefore entitled under Scottish Law to release on compassionate grounds. Great to hear, other politicians please take note, we want politicians we feel will stand up for what is right, not for who contributes the most, the biggest profit or headline. Even better to see that despite massive outside pressure, especially from the US (remember the compassionate country that challenges healthcare for all as been a 'social' construct, a country where states retain the death penalty, where people live in tent cities, and don't get federal help in a disaster because they are the wrong colour - the land of the free as long as you contribute to profitability, where international aid is given as long as you agree to trade restrictions, to rules on contraception, and of course that the world has only existed for a few thousand years, etc. The obvious experts on compassion!!) the Scottish stick to their principles - well done!

Sunday, 26 July 2009

End of the recession

Apparently the end of the recession is at least five years away, only then will we have returned to the financial situation of early 2008! Just think five years before we are back to a reliance on credit which we can't repay. Five years before the greed of the city institutions is restored. Five years before our elected representatives have stopped worrying about us and gone back to the expenses gravy train. Five years before we stop listening to the people saying it is good to slow down our consumption, good for the planet, good for our health, good for our society.

Wouldn't it be nice to think we could say ENOUGH. We don't want to return to the cycle of boom and bust, endless and pointless celebrity, corporate social irresponsibility, pollution and profligate use of limited resources.

Maybe now is the time to say enough, I don't want to be part of that culture, that society. Maybe it is time to look again at the inconvenient truth, the 11th hour, the teachings of any of the world's great traditions. Time to think about peace, caring, each other rather than corporations and profits. Time to remember that actions have consequences, that maybe the recession can have positive consequences, helping us change for the better. But only if enough of us say ENOUGH. Only if we are engaged, are living for the sake of all beings, human or otherwise, and for the sake of the world we are part of.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Mindfulness in later years

At 4 in the morning, lightning streaking across the sky, thunder crashing, raining as if it was a monsoon and Jess our dog hiding under the bed. Then the phone rings, there is a rescue on, the team have been called out to support a search of Scafell, England's highest mountain. Quickly getting dressed grabbing the rucsac which sits ready to go and down to the base to collect the Land Rover Ambulance, soaking wet before getting much beyond the door.

Then an hours drive to the search area, meet other teams involved, get a briefing and watch the sky brighten as the sun comes out. Two ladies, one in her eighties and the other her 60 yr old daughter, reported missing by the manager of their campsite. The teams deploy in support of the local area team who have been searching all night. A few hours later the message comes through to stand down, they are safe and well and back at their tent!

But the thing is the press are very quick to criticise and yet these ladies were mindful. They had been walking in the area for a few days (along with their three dogs). They were carrying the right equipment so had been mindful of risks. They realised it was getting dark so took the decision to stop and take shelter, mindful of avoiding injury or getting lost trying to get down from the mountain in the dark. They slept in their shelter, along with the dogs until it was light and made their way back, not knowing what had happened in the meantime, that the campsite manager, mindful of two people not returning had taken action.

The rescue teams are made up of people (all unpaid volunteers) who are mindful of others. Mindful of the dangers we all face, that things can go wrong and in practising mindfulness exhibit compassion for the well being of others, that's why as volunteers they turn out in a storm and the dark, to go to the aid of others less fortunate. So the whole episode involved mindfulness practice. The only thing the ladies could perhaps have done was left a route card with someone so the teams knew where to start looking.

But let's not forget that these ladies were also practicing being mindful of nature, that's why they were walking in the area. Mindful of their health, while some over 60's sit at home watching daytime TV these ladies were mindfully working on their fitness, protecting their health. Mindful of each other and others, that's why they stopped, had the right gear etc.

And as for the teams, anyone safe is always a good result!

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Urban Nature!

I've just finished leading a week long Urban Retreat. A retreat in which the participants did not retire to some idyllic venue in the countryside but instead developed practices which helped them be mindful as they went about their daily lives at home and work. Although the retreat started with a full day of practice and discussion and ended the same way (what one participant referred to as bookended), the main practice was engaging with the days in between. One really powerful practice which all appreciated was a daily dedication ceremony. In this participants pledged to practice amongst other things developing their awareness, their sense of connectedness, tranquillity, harmony and contentment; dedicating themselves to the practice for the benefit of all beings. What a powerful activity, imaging committing your life everyday, to be for the benefit of others, human and non human, our green and open spaces, nature and the wider environment. Working to create a better place. Not getting depressed when things don't happen in a manner or as quickly as we'd like, instead recognising the beauty that is there, sharing what we have in common, our hopes, fears, pain and joy even the air that we breathe. The other key area, other powerful practice was to have a reminder to be mindful. Have something natural to look at, a flower, plant, view, pet; something to remind you of the beauty all around if only you take the trouble to look.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Little things

I'm taking part in an 'Urban Retreat' this week. Which might sound strange, after all don't we normally go on retreat to somewhere in the countryside - away from urban? But the idea of being on this retreat is to maintain a retreat like practice while getting on with daily life! Putting into our daily routine some of the things we do when on retreat. For me this includes extra meditation, trying to eat together at a table rather than food on the go (or on my knee!). No TV (though I'd already taken this step). Practicing with my partner and friends rather than in isolation.

But I've noticed it is 'little things' that are making a difference. I'm wearing a string around my wrist which constantly reminds me I'm on a retreat, reminds me to stop and think about what I'm doing and why. I'm ringing a friend to see how she is getting on with her Urban Retreat this week (there are thousands on the same retreat, some virtually, reporting in on the internet, others actually, we met at the start and will do so again when the retreat finishes). I start each day with a dedication ceremony, a commitment to getting the most out of the day, to engage with life. I've realised the value of having small reminders to keep practicing, whether it is a timer to say 'you're sitting at the computer for too long' or a small sticker that says 'take a deep breath' it doesn't matter, they are a reminder to press the 'pause' button, realise you're dropping back into a state of rush and do something to reengage with being mindful. Look at the view, hug a partner, have a walk, stroke the dog.

Thursday, 25 June 2009


I'm in the fortunate position that I sleep underneath a skylight without curtains. When I wake in the morning the first thing I see is the sky, how blue it is, how cloudy or grey it is, no other thoughts just the sky. I can search, go deeper. Be amazed at the depth of the blue or on other days the grey tumbling clouds fighting with each other, the birds soaring, crows squabbling with each other, the sound of pigeons scratching around on the roof tiles, the rhythmic drumming of rain drops on the window. Only then do other thoughts creep in. The contract to be signed today, a brother who is ill, family relationships, more work stuff and it occurs to me that being mindful of the morning sky and specifically that going deeper with the search kept out the other thoughts, the more difficult thoughts, and at first the feeling was great if I'm mindful the other stuff doesn't get in!

But (a) that's not true; and (b) it's missing the point.. The point about mindfulness is that by being aware, in this present moment, the one with the blue sky, birds, raindrops, I can also be aware of all the other stuff going on in my life. Importantly and especially when thinking of Mindfulness in Nature, the awareness of all the 'outside' stuff, birds, grass, laughter of children whatever, helps me to hold all the 'inside' stuff, worries, thoughts and feelings, more gently. By holding them more gently (what breathworks trainers refer to as equanimity) I'm able to respond to them more effectively. Rather than recoiling thinking not again! I can engage more fully. My mindfulness in nature practice helps me with my mindfulness of everyday life practice.

Seeking out the wonderful each day, no matter how small (hence the snail!), recognising the life around me and my connectedness to it, helps me live my own life more effectively.

Mindfulness in Nature and Ecotherapy

Mindfulness in Nature and Ecotherapy are closely linked. I regard the key difference as being one of guidance. Mindfulness in Nature can be undertaken by anyone, anywhere, anytime - yes even in a city at night! It is a matter of being awake to what is going on around you, being aware of yourself and your connection to the bigger world that we are all part of. Ecotherapy can be a way of developing this mindfulness, certainly the ecotherapist would be encouraging you to become mindful in (and of) nature. The ecotherapist shouldn't be using the natural environment as simply a 'bigger office' but should be highlighting the therapeutic effects of engaging with and supporting nature.

Coping strategies

Stand still, breathe gently, now relax the knees. Such a simple activity can have an instant effect on our mood. Combine with a walk in the park, looking at plants in the garden, being mindful of something else living or simply looking at the sky and the effect multiplies.

When we set out, our mind may be full of problems, thoughts, emotions, so by picking a specific focus, whether the way you are breathing, or changes in the colour green as you look at leaves, grass, hillsides, or searching for something you haven't noticed before, the other intruding thoughts will lose prominence, we realise other things are happening, we are not trapped by the issues which so frustrated us sat in front of the computer, by the telephone or at a desk.

Give yourself permission to spend a few minutes simply noticing the breath, the view, something different and you'll start to feel better - just try it!

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Holiday breakout

It would seem from the traffic queues West towards North Wales, North to the Lake District and Scotland and East and South to the Peak District and Yorkshire Dales on Friday that the people of Greater Manchester and Merseyside do appreciate the value of getting into the countryside, especially when the extra day of a bank holiday means a longer break and more worthwhile going the extra distance. But why when they get there do they clog the streets, the shops bars and restaurants when they could be out on the hills really letting go of the frustration of the working week, connecting with open spaces and bigger views (after all the bars and restaurants are open in the evening and will seem even better after a day of fresh air). Even better would be spending time before leaving to plan the trip so that you don't walk the same paths as everyone else. This view is less than an hour from a car park on a bank holiday Sunday, not another soul in site. A real opportunity for peace and reflection, refreshing the parts other stuff cannot reach.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

blue skies, dark mood

We're in the middle of fantastic weather, with lots of sunshine, blue skies, people laughing in the park, blossom on the trees, flowers coming up everywhere and lots more. Yet I'm feeling very low. I've been full of cold for ten days now, blocked sinuses, aches, one minute too hot then too cold and because of this I've had to cancel a trip to the Scottish Highlands and taking part in a local trail race, and missing the 60th birthday party of someone important to me. So despite knowing the benefits of looking at the beauty all around I'm still struggling. I'm finding that I start to be critical of my work, I'm too ill to do it so I'm questioning whether I even want to! It seems too much effort getting absorbed by a good book or conversation, so I'm just festering. What is the point of this explanation of my misery (and other exaggerations - I'm sure some will recognise the symptoms of man-flu!!) - its simple, mindfulness isn't just sitting on a cushion and the world will be magically rosy. We have to continually work at being mindful, holding unpleasant and pleasant side by side so that we can respond positively rather than react and grump - I'm working on it!

Friday, 6 March 2009


What a fantastic day, started with a crisp frost, but we have clear blue skies, sunshine, fresh air, big skies. But how many people won't notice. They step from their box (home) in the morning, to sit in a metal box (car) before sitting in another box (office) staring at a box (computer), they get lunch from a plastic box (sandwich) drink from a paper box (juice) before repeating the sequence in the afternoon before going home to sit in front of another box (TV). For children it's even worse, many don't have a choice of boxes, with parents choosing homes, transport, food, no wonder they escape to other boxes (xbox, playstation).

But we need to get out! The plethora of modern diseases are a result of these boxes. Our warm centrally heated homes, full of boxes storing food, entertainment, traveling in boxes rather than walking, not sharing space with others. Even tourists coming to areas like the lake district don't leave their boxes for long. Three hours in traffic, now put the box in the car park, short walk (if absolutely necessary), food in a plastic box (takeaways, tourist cafes), look there's a view! quick back in the car and three hours home to our box, saying wouldn't it be nice if....!

We are humans, part of the animal kingdom, we need exercise, we thrive on challenge, we like big views (look at the sunset), we like fresh air, being away from traffic. Don't sit in boxes being controlled by others (advertisers, programme makers) get out and get a life!

Friday, 23 January 2009

An 'agenda less' team meeting

I've just come back from a few days away with a group of colleagues, friends, hard to know what to call them really as we work together and share common values but a lot more besides. We discovered that the way we work, the way we express ourselves, the way we trust each other all means we view work as a place where we feel safe to be ourselves. Not a job title, but a person who is cared about and cared for. part of this caring was reflected of course in the fact that we were meeting together in the way we did. Sharing a place in the country with good walks, peace and quiet and no 'business' agenda just a desire to be together and listen to each other. As a result of this shared space we've come back to work more confident in ourselves, our company and what we do!