Kirtan – what’s it all about?

Music and songs have a strong emotive effect on us. To comfort or facilitate tears to flow; to uplift and re-energise; to calm and soothe. We need only bring to mind images of thousands of sports fans chanting their team’s ‘mantra’ during a game, or concert goers singing along with their favourite band, in order to recognise the euphoric effect that chanting can have on the human psyche. But Kirtan is on a whole other level!

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Misty mornings

I was trying to sleep one afternoon, but the beginning of this piece kept repeating itself in my mind, a sure sign that I should get up and write the words down lest I lose them as quickly as they had arrived. I am entranced by early morning, the quiet time just before all the chaotic ‘human’ action begins. Here are today’s musings:

    “The mist hangs low across the field this early morn: an ethereal backdrop to the grand play of life; a silken web of silence spun by Nature’s thread. All the supporting characters are already in place. The trees stand stock still, a verdant frame if you will to the enfolding picture, with their delicate branches trailing to touch those of their neighbors, as if wishing to hold hands. A couple of roe deer graze in their usual spot in the far corner of the field, ears, head and tail popping up at the slightest sound. And the birds—both garden and woodland―are rousing, taking their roll call, yet still too drowsy to venture out for food.

    There linger a few man-made traces in the pink-smeared sky – evidence of recent holidays abroad and business trips. Life in the fast lane. If only it were as easy for us to fly as it is for our avian friends! The swallows who dart and swoon so gracefully and in perfect unison, or the woodpecker with his comical bounce, seeming as if he will tumble out of the sky at any moment, or finally the great majestic buzzard who languidly circles in the blue. His eerie call echoes through the treetops, attracting families of crows to rise in ambush of this dangerous intruder.

    My neighbor, (some 20 years my senior and hardier than a lifelong North Sea fisherman) is walking his dogs. Rico, the soppy Rottweiler, who sits on your feet and leans into your legs for a cuddle, and little tiny Rosie, a fawn-colored terrier, barrel-round and waddling, with the cutest face to bring a smile to the gloomiest of hearts. I wave to them through the glass. “Well now,” I turn and say to my own two dogs, “let’s take our places girls. Today’s play has begun!”

    TODAY: Try not to let the drama of life’s ups and downs get to you. Just treat them like scenes in a play or movie. Keep yourself a little more detached from the action. This helps to balance your mood and steady your emotions, leading to a calmer, happier you! □

The above was an excerpt from my new book, Soul Murmurs, out July 26th.

Self-Realization of the awakened soul

What is self-realization?

Well, it’s many things to many people.  For some, it’s simply the fulfilment of our character, our dreams, our place in the world.  Often the first thing people ask us when we meet for the first time is, “And what do you do?”  We are identified with the position we hold in our community, aren’t we? 

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I remember with such clarity the time in my life when I had to retire on medical grounds.  Pretty soon thereafter, I was left feeling distraught and completely lacking in purpose. This was the exact opposite of self-realization as I envisaged it at the time.

For others, self-realization is a deeper knowing of our role in the universe, of being awake to and aware of all our infinite capabilities, inextricably linked to Source (God, the Creator).  We realize that we are not this body-mind; we simply inhabit it temporarily.  It took trauma and crisis in my life to open my eyes to this eternal truth, and I’m forever grateful for it!

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Read the full post on Bellesprit magazine, here.

Have a wonderful week. Much love, Anita. Send me your thoughts. I love to connect!! 😊❤

Summer heat rising

Well, we are being blessed in Scotland with summer heat for a few days and it made me think back on childhood summers which seemed to go on FOREVER. School had finished and now it was time to explore the natural world around us and play games with our friends.

We loved to make daisy chain necklaces, play “Six white horses in a stable, pick one out and call it Mabel” with two balls up against a wall- if anyone remembers this please let me know as I have forgotten the rest- or hopscotch on the pavement outside. Then of course we had farmland and meadows to run through, and two seaside beaches to visit only after the heat of the day had burnt away. My goodness, how blessed and lucky were we to grow up in such an environment. And didn’t I take it for granted!

"Summer heat rising:  
shimmering nebula
of movement and sound
a symphonic concerto
playing in my mind
."

So what does my idealised home town look like now? Here are a few images. I no longer live there but it still stirs the emotions when I see photos or visit:

Have a great day everyone whatever you are doing. Much love, Anita.😏🌻

Don’t wobble!

When you are walking, walk. When you are sitting, sit. Don’t wobble. Gautama Buddha.

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I love this quote. Especially the “don’t wobble” part. In my case, I interpret this as “don’t fidget”! But it’s really all to do with mindfulness, isn’t it? In this crazy frantic world we are so accustomed to doing things unmindfully. We cannot do just one thing at a time, nor are we able to give it our full attention. Our thoughts flit about; our senses experience the world and stimulate memories or thoughts of the future. As the wonderful spiritual teacher, Eknath Easwaran put it,

When we do things with only part of the mind, we are just skimming the surface of life. Nothing sinks in; nothing has real impact. It leads to an empty feeling inside. (from Take your Time)

I know this is definitely the case with me. HOWEVER, I’m fighting back. I don’t want to live that way any longer. It makes me feel “wired but tired”. So this morning was Day 1 of the new, mindful me.

an example of one-pointed attention

My usual morning routine goes something like this. Perhaps it will sound familiar to some of you:

I stagger a little bleary-eyed into the kitchen, with our Labrador nipping at my heels, desperate for her breakfast. As if I would forget to feed her! (Well, I did once. 😏 I wonder if dogs have memories?). I put on the kettle to boil water for tea. As it’s doing so, I’m measuring out her breakfast feed. As I do this, I notice some laundry in the dryer and open the door to check if it’s dry. Before I know it, (and the kettle has boiled by now!), I’m sorting laundry, feeding the dog, checking the weather on my mobile phone, flicking the switch on the kettle again, and putting away any dishes left on the drainer from the night before. Isn’t this exhausting, but many of us function in this way, ALL DAY! And then we wonder why we can’t relax; why we don’t find lasting enjoyment in life. Function is a good word to describe this way of living. It’s not based on enjoyment. Rather, it seems to originate from a relentless need for efficiency and good time-management!!

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Here’s how I changed things up this morning:

I lay in bed for a few extra minutes until I felt okay to begin the day. Amber the Labrador was firmly told to stay in her bed while I made her breakfast. When distracting thoughts came into my head, I brushed them aside again and again to concentrate on the task in hand. Once I had fed the dog, I made myself a cup of tea. After I had made my tea, I put on a slice of toast. I forced myself to do just one thing at a time and to fully concentrate on it. When my mind was saying to me, “Wouldn’t you like to check your fb page while you wait?” or “Why not put away some dishes or plan the menu for next week?” I said to it, as firmly as I told Amber to go to her bed, “No.”

The most difficult thing to do was to eat mindfully!

I found it very strange not to switch on the tv, or complete the crossword I had started yesterday, or put on some music, or sit and look out of the window, or watch the birds at the feeder. All of these are distraction habits. They make us “skim the surface of life” where nothing really sinks in, not even eating. And so, I sat with eyes closed and concentrated all my senses on just having breakfast. Here’s what I found:

  • the sense of touch: holding a warm mug of tea in both hands is so comforting, especially on a cold morning.
  • the sense of sight: I purposefully kept my eyes closed while eating so that I would not be distracted by things going on around me. Although I did notice that I like my tea to be a certain colour (with not too much or too little soya milk). This adds to my enjoyment of it.
  • the sense of smell: melting soya spread on wholemeal toast. What an amazing aroma! Concentrating on this really enhanced the experience.
  • the sense of hearing: I tried to block out any external noises and niggling internal thoughts and kept bringing myself back to concentrate fully on breakfast.
  • the sense of taste: I enjoyed experiencing hot and cold on the tongue, chewing slowly and mindfully. I was hyper aware of the physical process of swallowing food. This is usually automatic, but you know, when you slow down and take notice of it, the alimentary system in the body is really quite amazing and beautiful in its simple complexity.

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I hope you find some of these suggestions useful and that you manage to have less “wobbles” in your day. Why not try to have a mindful breakfast tomorrow? Let me know how you get on! Much love, Anita.😊