Z is for…

20160502_172133Zentangle.

This is NOT to be confused with the countless array of ‘adult’ colouring books that the magazine shelves of every supermarket have been flooded with. The ‘Mindful Market’ is booming and throughout this great nation, homes and offices (and, yes! Even restaurants!) are equipped with colouring pencils and pages of intricate, monochromatic, woodlands; underwater worlds with paisley patterned fish and mysterious mandalas. I’m not saying that this “in the moment” stuff doesn’t have therapeutic value… On the contrary, I think it’s an invaluable tool for relaxation and improved mental health… What I will say, is that I’m really, REALLY over the colouring thing! (I know… I’m sort of getting close to ranting now… )  But whilst we’re on the topic… those red signs, bearing a crown and the words “Keep Calm and Colour In”… Please ‘mindful market’! Give us a break!

Zentangle feels different. I like to be the one doing the designing… and it really does focus my mind on something other than the madness. (The word Zen puts me off and I normally refer to this sort of creative activity as ‘tangling’. I make cards and gift tags, incorporating words and pieces of map).

If you’ve never had a go, I really recommend just doing a Google search. It’s ever so slightly  addictive and it really does give you a complete break from the world around you, as well as the stuff within.

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Sanity over the demands on my time!

 

 

 

T is for…

Taizé. For me, one of the most beautiful and sacred places I have ever been.

Although an ecumenical community, Taizé seems to be best know within the Roman Catholic church. I suppose because its founder, Brother Roger was Catholic.

It would be very difficult for me to explain the experience that Taizé offers without sounding a little strange, so I am hesitant to even attempt to articulate a post about it. However, taking the risk, I’m going to use a combination of pictures and words to describe this awesome place.

First and foremost, Taizé is a monastic community nestled in the beautiful hills of Burgundy, France. Just as the second world war was breaking out, a 25 year old man from Switzerland crossed the border and bought a house in the hills. Feeling the call to set up a community, he bought a small house in the area, which also happened to be quite close to the demarcation line dividing France in two: it was well situated for sheltering refugees fleeing the war. Friends from Lyon started giving the address of Taizé to people in need of a place of safety.

After the war, a young lawyer set up an association to look after children whose parents were killed in the war. Joined by a number of other ‘brothers’ and sisters, the community began to care for these children and also German prisoners of war.

And so a religious community began… More and more young men heard about this place and came along to test their vocation and begin a lifelong commitment to serving Christ.

Today, over a hundred brothers from 30 different nations, both Catholic and Protestant make up the community, founded by the late, humble and beautifully gentle ‘Frere Roger’ and now led by his successor, Brother Alois .

Taize has become a place where thousands of young people come on a weeks retreat, following the monastic rhythm of the day and seeking God through prayer, meditation, song and fellowship. It is the one place where I have found true peace and indescribable friendships, laughter and fun!

taize2

Never, in all my life, could I imagine a church, with over 6,000 young people, in total silence for ten whole minutes everyday. Never could I imagine a place where, three times a day, young people from ALL over the world, sing in one language, together, regardless of their native tongue.

Taize_Candele_6k

The songs are simple ‘chants’ and are written in almost every language imaginable! For one minute you may be singing in English, the next in Czech, followed by a Spanish one. It is beautiful and prayerful in the deepest sense I know.

Taize cleaning

A group of young people assigned a cleaning task for the week!

Taize serving meal

How they manage it I don’t know, but with the aid of each young visitor, thousands are fed and watered three times a day, and then two snack times, every day of every week.An amazing feat of organisation!

taize-bells

Young people sit around after lunch.

I would recommend this place to anybody who is seeking peace; anyone who wants to find a sense of meaning; anyone who wants a break from the rat race; anyone who feels trapped in the crazy material, consumer society.

Go and experience something different!

http://www.taize.fr/en

M is for…

…Mentoring.A2Z-BADGE-2016

It’s what I’m good at, and you honestly won’t hear me use that phrase very often.

As the official leader of The Society of Burnt Out Teachers, I nowadays realise that although my passion for teaching English and English Literature will never waver, the transference of my enthusiasm doesn’t have to be within a classroom. No. In some ways, it’s easier to deliver it within a mentoring relationship. Because, as most good teachers will agree, at a certain age, its RELATIONSHIP which is the single most important factor in the delivery of successful teaching.

Mentoring allows a relationship to flourish (hopefully) and then, once established, it’s an open landscape on which, as a trusted mentor, you can help to build whatever scene and whichever structure, will most benefit and satisfy the mentee.

I’ve mentored a lot of your people, before and during my teaching career. Nothing sparks me like being able to nurture an ambition in someone. I love to help breathe hope into other people’s hearts. Nothing gives me a renewed sense of purpose like showing someone else their purpose.

Anybody else get this?

New Leaves

Okay folks! I’m going to level with you and you’re probably not going to agree with me…

You know all those beautifully crafted books on the ‘inspiration and motivation’ table in your bookshop? The ones which, somewhat irritatingly for those who are OCD enough to care, won’t sit right on your bookshelf at home because they’re too small, or too square, or too thin?

The soothing, matte cover entices you to pick it up and slide your palm across it… and when you open it, you’re met with a spectacular array of orange sunsets and waterfalls and extreme close ups of droplets sitting heavy on thick green  leaves.

Each photo is laced with wise words we see stitched on cushions, coasters, coffee cups and small, extortionately priced pebbles and metal tokens.

I’m being facetious. But I hope you get the idea that I’m really not the kind of girl who buys into the ‘little book of calm’ culture.

Now I’ve prefaced my post with a stinging crit, I’m going to contradict myself royally by admitting that I saw one such little book in a charity shop and, having been quite moved by words I’d never heard before, I bought it!

One of the things that I believe about life is that every one of us, without exception, needs to believe in new leaves. No matter how good or bad we are, no matter what our race, creed, culture, we all have areas of our lives in which we need to turn over a new leaf.

Arnold Bennett inspired this reflection by putting it like this:

The chief beauty about time

is that you cannot waste it in advance.

The next year, the next day, the next hour
are lying ready for you,
as perfect, as unspoiled,
as if you had never wasted or misapplied
a single moment in all your life.
You can turn over a new leaf every hour
if you choose.

Arnold Bennett

I love the idea that at any given moment,  I can turn over a new leaf.

It doesn’t matter about the charred mass of rubble behind me, it doesn’t matter about the blotted page I’m standing on now, the next step is onto an unspoilt canvas.

God put it like this:

“I–yes, I alone–will blot out your sins for my own sake and will never think of them again”.

(Isaiah 43:25)

New Living Translation

And so it is, that I have to swallow my cynicism, and allow hope, once again, to permeate my soul.

I hope you can too.

The Impossible Dream: We all have one!

I came across this quote today and have to admit, it’s tempting to take it on face value. As I read it, I can imagine the rush of warmth from the sense of  triumph as it pours from my head into the rest of my body!

Ah! the satisfaction of achieving something someone has branded, ‘impossible’! Nothing quite like it!

The idea that you can’t do something can be a negative thing. What’s the point in trying? No point in reaching for that goal, no point in even taking the steps that might just lead to the foot of the stairs you haven’t the heart to climb. How many dreams have I turned the extinguisher on before they even properly caught..? I daren’t think!

On the other hand, being told you CAN’T do something, may strengthen your determination! It might make you grit your teeth and set out to prove them all wrong! Achieving the seemingly impossible, can often be the result of sheer grit and perseverance.

Today I continue to strive for something that seems impossible.

I have been given mixed opinions on how realistic it is. Some have said ‘yes’, some say ‘no’. A lot have said I’d need to settle for less.

I hazard a guess that most impossible, implausible and unrealistic achievements have been battles hard fought and won by people who refused to listen to anyone but that inner drive. The hunger inside that won’t be deterred. And when it gets too tiring, they’ve stopped for a rest, but then they’ve got back up and carried on.

I want to be one of those who keeps focussed on the end prize and not on the whispers of others’ opinions. I want to be motivated by the impossible, not defeated.

Anyone with me? Are you fighting too? If so, it can really help to remember a time where you’ve had that feeling of triumph!