Monday, 22 December 2014

Nearly there

The papers and the internet are awash at the moment with words of wisdom on why Christmas is so awful: the queues, the excess, Black Friday, Cyber Monday and new kid on the block Panic Saturday. Just as much has been written about why Christmas is brilliant: the giving and receiving of gifts, the socialising and the spiritual aspects.

I have sympathy with elements of both camps. I hate cooking, for instance, but I love a well-heeled mince pie, and I don’t enjoy shopping but love wrapping presents. Then, of course, there is ample opportunity for one of my favourite pastimes: writing lists.

But one of the best things about the festive season is that we have implicit permission to do things that we don’t do at any other time of the year – and I don’t only mean kissing secret crushes under the mistletoe. For me, it means ignoring the clock, sleeping until I wake and going to bed when I’m tired; and eating when I’m hungry, whether or not it is an official mealtime. It means watching cheesy films and TV specials without feeling guilty; playing boardgames and cards with my children, even though they’re both in their twenties, just because it’s fun and no one has to worry about being cool at Christmas; and putting our heads together over a jumbo crossword or 1,000-piece jigsaw. I’m talking about reading and listening to the radio, adding to a scrapbook or rediscovering the joys of a colouring book.

Most of all, though, I love being able to sit and do nothing, even if just for an hour or so. At this time of year, instead of rushing around in the bright lights of retail, we should be turning inwards and if not exactly hibernating at least slowing down and making time for reflection and contemplation.

Oh, and for Quality Street.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

The joy of shared space

I think I've told you before that on a Tuesday afternoon, when I'm teaching yoga in an upstairs room in the Methodist Church, downstairs the Ladies' Group meets for tea and chat, and quite often a guest speaker. At this time of year, our bending and stretching is often accompanied by carols and such like provided by a visiting choir.

This afternoon was our last session of the year, so I'd planned to include a meditation on winter - reflection and contemplation on seasonal stillness and silence: you get the idea. OK, maybe silence was unlikely, but I felt sure we'd have nothing more disruptive than choral accompaniment.

The lesson went well. As the end approached, we eased ourselves into a comfortable position, put our socks back on and wrapped up for the final quiet moments.

Of all the music I thought we might be treated to, I never for one moment anticipated boisterous Songs From The Shows. As we guided ourselves towards stillness, from the floor below came the unmistakable sound of 'June Is Bustin' Out All Over!' I silently sent the musicians peace and blessings, while encouraging my students to 'turn your focus inwards'. Hey ho.

Luckily, I had a bag of chocolate Santas on hand, so everyone went home smiling.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Working from home

Not for the first time, my principal celebration this week is that I work from home. Yes, I go out and about with my yoga teaching, but my writing and editorial work is done from the comfort of a room overlooking my garden. Yesterday, however, I ventured out to teach some office-workers a few meditation techniques and restorative yoga stretches. They were a lovely bunch of people and I enjoyed my time with them, but it meant I was driving across town as all the businesses were chucking out their workforces. Nightmare!

I went to see The Who on Sunday. Yes, they're still going (well, two of 'em). They had Zack Starkey on drums, aka Ringo's boy, and he was amazing. It was a great evening. The venue was the former NIA in Birmingham, what we must now call the Barclaycard Arena. It's been done up and is very swish and shiny. Still took us 40 minutes to get out of the car park though. Mustn't grumble.

Have a great weekend, folks.
'Celebrate the small things' is a bloghop instigated by VikLit on her blog Scribblings of an Aspiring Author and co-hosted by Diana Wilder, LG Keltner @ Writing Off the Edge, Cyborg Mom (Katie) and CaffeMaggieato @ mscoffeehouse. Details are here.  

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Feeling philosophical

A conversation with friends recently found us discussing the horrors of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Did you see the cartoon that mirrored the hordes waiting to claim their TV from Tesco with those folk lining up for the Food Bank? It makes you ashamed to be human. You don't have to be a committed Christian to wonder, as one of us did: 'So where's the Prince of Peace?' Maybe, we mused, we need a Minister of Peace in the Cabinet.

Well, it turns out that there is an All-Party Parliamentary Group on Conflict Issues, with the stated aim: 'To encourage dialogue, on the basis of expert information and opinion from across the political spectrum, on issues relating to conflict; especially on the practical means to prevent, transform and resolve violent conflict.' There is also a Foundation For Peace, which works nationally and internationally to promote peace and non-violent conflict resolution.

No doubt there are other organisations working hard to find ways for us all to get along. I can't help thinking, though, that we should start small: you know, by not smacking a stranger in the face with a cut-price Xbox. My Minister of Peace would be a gentle soul who would sort out local disputes over a cup of a tea and a biscuit

Om shanti.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Catch the pigeon

Just a quick thought for you on a chilly Wednesday evening: are you the cat or the pigeon?

Are you, like this cat, poised for action? She lives next door, but often hops over the wall to see what tasty morsels are on offer in my garden. She held this posture for a full five minutes (obviously a yin yoga cat), perfectly still but tense and ready to pounce, with her eyes on the prize.

Or are you like the relaxed pigeon, who sat in the tree a few feet from this would-be assassin, chowing down on sunflower seeds? He was seemingly oblivious to the danger - until the cat made her move, at which point the pigeon took off, very much of the flight not fight school of survival.