Thursday, 16 March 2017

Natural Mindfulness

Natural Mindfulness is 'letting Nature in' 
but what does this mean exactly?

  To me, it means look, listen and feel. It's March so we're used to looking out for the first flowers that appear in spring: lesser celandines:

and Coltsfoot

I can't switch off my thinking but I can diorect it to the spontaneous events that are happening all around me while walking in nature. Like the emergence of a Comma butterfly from hibernation.

I find listening especially helpful. So I walk slowly, I pause but not in a self-conscious way; I listen for ten seconds and I'm constantly asking myself: 
    "What's special and different today?"
I can't see them but I can hear nuthatches and jackdaws, a buzzard flies overhead. These are the kind of things that make me glad to be alive.
Seasons change imperceptibly but every day reveals more preparations for the season ahead.
Today I heard fieldfares and song thrushes together. These two members of the thrush family overlap but soon the fieldfares will be migrating back to Norway and Sweden to nest.

  So today I heard woodpeckers drumming, a typical sound that belongs to British springtime:

That greater spotted woodpecker has found a particularly resonant tree which he's using to announce his presence to females and other males.
Look, listen and feel and it's different every day.


Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Massacre of the Innocents: Breughel's painting defaced

An interesting item on Radio 4 explores Matthew's New Testament account of Herod murdering thousands of innocent children three days after Christmas

Once celebrated on December 28th as Childmas, it was the occasion for anarchy unleashed by a 'child bishops' chosen by the choirboys who wore the bishop's robes and allowed children to order the adults about for one day. Without this outlet, the feudal underclass might have become unruly. 
  After the Reformation Calvinist parents took it upon themselves to beat their children to remind them of original sin [?]
  Breughel's painting: 'The Massacre of the Innocents' once showed the incident in graphic detail but has been painted over later with the children replaced by animals.
Historians are doubtful about whether the supposed massacre ever took place because the population of Bethlehem at the time was tiny and records of Herod's crimes do not refer to it.
The story of Herod's pogrom points to the failure of the birth of Christ to bring peace and justice. 
It hints that the innocent may continue to die.


Thursday, 3 November 2016

High Court Judgement [with no ads]

Today's High Court judgement in full

Here is the decision by the Lord Chief Justice (Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd), the Master of the Rolls (Sir Terence Etherton) and Lord Justice Sales in full.

UK Govt  is due to appeal the decision.
  Origin: The Daily Express

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Communicating mindfully in dementia

Talking to a friend or relative with dementia can be frustrating:
are there any tips that help?
My comments on ideas from the 'a place for mom' website
  1. Recognize what you’re up against. Dementia advances gradually, strategies may need to change with time
  2. Avoid distractions. If talking is effortful, find a quiet time and place to communicate.
  3. Speak clearly and naturally in a warm and calm voice. Avoid patronising tones as if you were talking to a child.
  4. Refer to people by their names. Use their name and your own name, be prepared to recap.
  5. Talk about one thing at a time. Keep the conversation simple.
  6. Use nonverbal cues. Look at the person while you're talking and use gestures if needed.
  7. Listen actively. Try not to agree with what they say if you haven't understood; though asking for clarification can be hard.
  8. Don’t quibble. Let delusions and missatatments go; constantly challenging can shift the mood.
  9. Have patience. Be calm, keep a warm tone when you repeat things.
  10. Understand there will be good days and bad days. Tiredness, anxiety and discomfort can all disrupt concentration.
I have sometimes noticed people looking bored or embarrassed when visiting an elderly relative. For that reason, I would add four more rules:
  1. Make statements whenever you can: 'You look well today' may be more useful than 'How are you today?' Give the person time to qualify a statement.
  2. Leave pauses: the spontaneous words may be much more valuable than responses to questions or statements.
  3. Try reading aloud: poems, stories or novels. Even people with incoherent speech may respond.
  4. Keep a communication book which any visitors or staff can write in so information is shared.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Anthropoid: something to enjoy?

Some enjoyable features of the film Anthropoid:

Special agents parachuted into Czech territory are human; they're not that well prepared for the operation: [the attempted assasination of Reinhard Heydrich]. We see supplies caught in the trees, equipment that isn't kept clean and a delayed response to betrayal.

Also adding to the realist feel are the extensive sets evoking wartime Prague with trams, vintage cars, sepia-tinted buildings and military vehicles. The period costumes look convincing and well-researched, the cinematography is smooth, the lighting was dramatic and overall the mood and colour of the film is consistent.

Jamie Dornan and Cillian Murphy do their best to energise the unfolding drama: the fear of inevitable reprisals by the Nazis, doubts about the project  among members of the resistance.

So what lets it down? 

  • The accent and the dialogue. "vell?" "ve do it". It's hard enough to avoid cliches in war movies with clunky accents. Could the actors learn a few phrases of Czech to convince us [and the partisans] that they were born there? Pronunciation tests were a key method for detecting German insurgents during the war. Somehow the accents made the debates feel overlong and not convincing.
  • During the final shoot-out, the Germans became comic book Nazis with no war experience. "Schnell, los, 'raus, weiter" They never anticipate the line of fire and they jump in enthusiastically before being shot more times than I can recall. The accuracy of firing was about fifty to one in favour of our heroes. This is a common feature of Westerns and war movies but is it essential? The siege lasted several hours but this may not excuse such a prolonged exchange of fire.
  • Having enjoyed the opening scenes of ordinary human beings faced with a dangerous task, I wasn't convinced that without training all but one of them became exemplary almost superhuman killing machines in the final scene.
  • We hear some violin playing by a sensitive-looking teenager. In the cruel world of Hollywood drama this is a very sinister omen. Call me over-sensitive but torture is not my preferred watching.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

1984 the stage play: Angst und Zeitgeist

1984 presents a vivid, scary, dystopian view of the present. 

The Party sees, hears and knows everything people do through a system of screens, cameras and paid informers. People willingly submit to this invasion of privacy because of Project Fear: 

the country is at war
 terrorism threatens 
the collapse of civilisation is imminent

  'There is no alternative'  

Michael Billington's review 
The illusion is maintained through constant repetition and sinks into the world view of everyone. Though I found the play melodramatic and the scenes of torture unbearable, it did make me think about the narrative that national governments like to foster.

There is the narrative of Great Britain: the 'golden years' of a benevolent empire founded on profits from slavery and naval aggression. A transient lead in technology has endowed Brits with the illusion of supremacy, hints of which were heard in the run-up to the Brexit vote. 

It's convenient to forget that Britain is sinking into a morass of corruption and inequality; taking its place as a small nation on the edge of Europe.
In a way, our present state resembles the book group who debate Winston Smith's diary: the myths and illusions of our present day Zeitgeist are invisible to us because we all want to believe a cosy narrative.

The British Empire gave a lift-up to nations that hadn't experienced bureaucracy or prejudice on the grounds of sexual orientation. Missionaries civilised primitive peoples and their illegitimate children, rebellions, torture and starvation are not a part of this story.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

How do you cope when someone lets you down: a natural mindful approach

How do you cope when someone lets you down?

This happened to me today so I'm trying to think of mindful things I can do.

1. "There will be better days":

I like this long-suffering phrase, it reminds me that even when I'm beset by lots of problems it won't be the same tomorrow. Also that however great my angst it is, I'm not dead yet. I can always find a few tiny things I've been putting off so tomorrow really will be better, pay for the central heating, book the bike in to be serviced.

2. Tell people 
Email friends. They won't necessarily respond but some may notice and sympathise. Even more important, tell people you meet. Otherwise they might think you're being antisocial. Ask for what you need: a hug or a talk, text people, phone people, arrange to meet, light up the network of people you know.

3. Walk in Nature
Nothing works as well to restore a mindful state of mind for me as a walk outside. Watching chance happenings, birds soaring, colours in people's gardens, birdsong and the feeling of climbing a hill all help me to feel myself, maybe sad, maybe distracted. So I'm going out walking now... Nature always seems to surprise me with colours, sounds and smells, 

which brings me to:

4. Variety
More variety in food, avoid the cheapest supermarket, have regular drinks and meals, if you don't feel like baking go out and buy a treat. Beware of silently or noisily singing the same old songs, you could be wallowing in morose thoughts ie Leonard Cohen, think of different tunes. Read a poetry book like Staying Alive, mark the poems you'd choose to read aloud to someone. Baking usually helps me but today feels like a day to knit or draw. Any activities that are calming, creative or automatic, colourful. Music too, listening or playing helps me. This is a great opportunity to do things differently.

5. Notice when you forget why you're feeling sad.

This will happen increasingly as time passes but you might even notice it on the first day. It's encouraging to notice how feelings change constantly, sadness to anger, anger to fear. And even a surprising moment of humour or joy. If someone's let me down I can sometimes smile when I remember that I've let people down too. This time the boot's on the other foot.