I’m sitting in my father’s old house, sorting through piles of papers. I’ve just come across a copy of deeds from when the house changed hands on 18 October 1892.The house was on a 1000-year lease going back to the reign of Queen Elisabeth I, and every leaseholder from that time on is recorded in the document. The lease-holders in 1892 are Harriet and William Martin. Harriet has painstakingly signed her name. Her husband William has produced a shaky inky cross, traced over a pencilled cross.
For some reason, that stops me in my tracks. I’m suddenly struck by the contrast between these familiar rooms in 2016 and during the years of this earlier inhabitant, William. How different our lives… He can’t read or write – so books, newspapers, computers, phones, all reading material lies outside his awareness. His range of movement is much smaller than mine – maybe he has a horse and cart and travels the few miles to Guildford or Farnham. He could then travel by train, but probably didn’t. No cars or planes. He certainly walks: the house is almost two miles from the village, the common for grazing extends quite a few miles around. In the house, lighting is provided by candles and maybe an oil lamp; heat is the flame of an open fire. No electricity signifies no kettle, no central heating, no fridge, washing machine, electric mixer, coffee maker, toothbrush – the list sounds faintly ridiculous.
What really grabs hold of me as I reflect on this, here and now? He has much more physical work to do than I have, but he too uses his brain. From where does he acquire knowledge though? I think of how I am willingly bombarded by knowledge and information, always consulting the internet, catching up with items on Facebook, reading news, books, on-line articles, listening to radio, watching TV; navigating my way through life by means of signs, papers, bills, invoices … often reading at table, reading in bed, falling asleep over book or Ipad, waking up in the early hours and making note of something …
Whereas William? Maybe he talks to Harriet after a day’s labour. He meets a neighbour on the common and picks up some news or gossip. Maybe he walks the couple of miles down to the village pub, maybe shares thoughts on life, work. religion? Someone sings a song; tells a story. The likely paucity of information is staggering.
But most of his knowledge comes from observation. He looks at the sky and assesses the weather. He checks his garden vegetables for drought or blight. He examines his tools and sees what repairs are required. He listens to the calls of the birds, spots a deer on the common, succeeds in catching a pigeon or a rabbit. He hears a cart trundle down the road. He smells his bread in the oven and knows it’s ready.
Sitting on the floor of the bedroom, my legs have become stiff. I’m left feeling my life’s too complicated. I spent at least 5 hours in the past week grappling with the complexity and aggravation of changing my phone and sim. I constantly manipulate information and spend much less time using my five senses directly on the outside world. Okay, I’m living now, not then, and I mostly appreciate the wonder of having instant access to communication and information. But there’s a part of me that’s tired – that needs something simpler.
I suddenly want to laugh as my information-grabbing mind instantly starts to create solutions for myself: meditate! Resume yoga, tai chi, chi gung! Practise mindfulness! Learn how to breathe! Organise a new relaxation schedule! Get more disciplined about it! Oh dear, William of the simple X, are you laughing too?
Then I think of the advice an old and valued friend gave me twenty plus years ago. “Make time for a cup of tea,” he said. “Just sit down for a few minutes, and just drink your tea.” Best advice I ever had.
I think that’s right. If you walk too far your legs get stiff; if you carry too many heavy things your shoulders ache; if you over-eat your stomach complains. But when you use your brain too frantically, it’s easy to miss the signs.
So make a cup of tea, sit down and – without actually labelling it – there’s a surrender. Your body relaxes and your rigid hold on yourself lets go. Letting go may release as yet unacknowledged emotions, and these, once recognised are experienced and dissipate, or are recognised and can be dealt with. Then, emotional blocks quietened, you access once again good thinking, creativity and intuition. And the joy of being back in flow.
But that’s my mind making sense of it again. What about you? Maybe you’re giving your brain a rest this month – in the country or by the sea? Whatever you’re doing, I hope that you too are able to let go of busy-ness for a while and take time to laze …
I’ve just discovered the magnificent word ‘lollygag’. If we can this summer, let’s all lollygag for a while.
Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.
Coaching with Compassion – Sun. 9 Oct – a date for your diary
Another great event in the Spirit of Coaching series, hosted by the Brahma Kumaris in London – 2.00-5.30pm.
An opportunity to explore the meaning and depth of compassion and the important role it can play in the coaching process for both coach and coachee. For all coaches and anyone interested in personal growth and development.
It’s free, but you need to register. Registration details will be posted very soon on http://www.brahmakumaris.org/uk/london.
Do things sometimes go round and around in your brain without resolution? How do you become more confident? How can you stop that negative inner voice? How can you sort out your life? How can you be the person you want to be?
Coaching helps you to make more sense of your life, and take positive steps to create the life you want. Don’t underestimate the power of a simple coaching conversation to create change.
Email me or call me on 01306 886114 if you want an initial conversation about what coaching might do for you.
Great little chunks of learning – gifts to download from my website. Just sign up to the ones you want (I never share your email with anyone) Choose from:
My latest book, The Art of Conversation, is appearing all over the place – my daughter spotted a copy on display in a bookshop at Kuala Lumpur airport last week! No one ever taught us the art of conversation – no wonder many of us struggle. Change your life with confident communication.
Butterflies and Sweaty Palms is the practical answer to the fears and anxieties of presenting, speaking in meetings and expressing yourself when the going gets tough. 25 brilliant strategies for speaking and presenting with confidence.
Voice and Speaking Skills for Dummies will help you discover the power of your voice, understand how it works, and use your voice like a professional whether in meetings, addressing an audience, or standing in front of a classroom.
Voice of Influence – “The body language of sound”. Like body language, your voice gives you away. Find your authentic voice, speak powerfully and influentially, and reach people on a deeper level.
A Poem on Taking a Moment
Here is Rumi on letting go of insistence.
Don’t insist on going
where you think you want to go
Ask the way to the spring.
Your living pieces
will form a harmony.
There is a moving palace
that floats in the air
with balconies and
clear water flowing through,
yet contained under a single tent.
Have a look too at Mary Oliver’s famous poem, The Journey, which talks of the necessity sometimes of withdrawing “from the cares which will not withdraw from us.”
Happy summer, friends,