Peace…a Good Deeds post

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breathe tnhThis word peace has been troubling me lately. I’ve tried it out with lots of different verbs; I want peace (that wanting in itself doesn’t feel very peaceful) I’m searching for peace (ok, but do I have a map, and am I aware it doesn’t come wrapped with a label on so I know when I’ve found it?) I am peace (ok, that’s certainly not true right now, I don’t feel it leaking out of my every pore, I don’t notice people noticing how very peaceful I am ) or…peace is. OK, now we’re getting somewhere. Take out the ‘I’ and perhaps we’re getting somewhere closer to the truth.I went for a walk yesterday, in a small wood close to my mother’s home. It wasn’t long before I felt a huge feeling of presence and freedom, of breathing, of being very alive and in awe of the life around me. There was something very simple and nourishing about feeling like I needed nothing in that moment other than to be quiet, to observe, to breathe. It came on so quick I was surprised, not having been aware how long it’d been since I had had that chance to just take the time to rest my palm on the trunk of a tree and watch a tiny spider build a web in the cracks of the bark. My being was so hungry for this empty time it gulped at it voraciously and there were tears in my eyes as I sat on a tree stump to catch my breath. Surrounded by life and death and everything in between, I met wonder again. Wow, where’ve you been wonder –  I missed you:-)And then writer me showed how hungry she was too and images and phrases and thoughts ran at me full tilt making me laugh out loud and dive into my handbag where I had a pencil and a letter from a friend in my purse…yes!…she’d only written on one side. I began to write on the back in tiny writing, eventually turning over and writing in the spaces in between my friend’s loving lines…I used to have this idea that peace was something very quiet, gentle and still…and sure, that might still come into it, but now I’m beginning to get a sense of something else. Peace is something very momentary, and raw, and challenging, and courageous and…it’s a deliberate and conscious choice which has to be made again and again with every step and breath. It’s not a destination, and it’s not an aim, it’s not conditional on dispeace disappearing and it’s not guaranteed pain free…it’s about being so responsive and expansive that, and I can’t find the direct quote, but it’s something like, if life is throwing paint around it only makes a mess if you have walls for that paint to splatter against. If there are no walls, there is nothing for the paint to stick to…

Good Deeds Received

Received a lovely email from my ‘boss’ at the language school I’d been working at, updating me on some of the students and saying I was missed.

My dad cooked a wonderful meal, and my sister and her partner came over to join us. We played darts and backgammon and just generally, laughed, caught up and enjoyed each others company. It was a wonderful evening.

Dad and I went for a walk on the morning of the day I was to leave England. We found a beautiful abundance of blackberries and began to gather. Dad laughed and I asked him why. He replied that he was enjoying how happy I was. Thank you nature, and thank you Dad:-)

Mum picked me up from the station and brought me home to a house she’d filled with delicious things to eat and drink, leaving me to arrive and rest while she went to work.

A colleague and friend sent me an email, the day after I got back, inviting me to hold a creative writing session with a group she leads…what a welcome home:-)

A friend I haven’t heard from in a while sent me a lovely email catching me up on her life.

Was gifted one of those deep, nourishing conversations that affirm life and my place in it, which ended with lots of laugher as we went from profound philosophy to dancing stupidly to the salsa music that was playing in the background.

 

Good Deeds Done

I took three plastic bags full of stuff to recycle with me when I left where I’d been teaching, as I hadn’t found anywhere nearby to recycle them which I could get to without a car. I passed some of the students on my way out, who gave me some funny looks. It looked like I was traveling with all my rubbish. Truth is, it was merely symbolic I know, that amount wasn’t going to make a big difference, but I had to do it.

Sent a text massage to my niece, wishing her luck with, and later congratulating her on, her ‘A’ Level results.

Drove my mum to the airport and am covering her shifts at the cafe this weekend while she’s away visiting her brother for his 70th birthday.

Carefully chose and lovingly wrote a card for my Uncle, for Mum to take with her.

A man was paying for something and dropped a ten pound note on the floor, which I don’t think he’d noticed. I picked it up and gave it to him, and he smiled.

I held open the door for a mother with two young children, one of whom was crying. I caught his eye and started smiling and pulling silly faces and he immediately stopped crying. I kept this up for several minutes while we were all waiting there in the bank.

Helped two couples who were a little lost find there way to the campsite they were looking for.

OK folks, have a great week:-)

Plastic bag

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heart in treeimage credit: http://www.shutterstock.com/video/clip-2441279-stock-footage-a-heart-carved-on-a-tree-trunk.html

 

I took a walk
through a maternity ward
that incorporated
an open cemetery
strewn with the litter
of past lives
and unconsummated potential

where human hearts
were worn on sleeves
of bark
and my fingers read
the scars of love
to find a pulse
and failed

and a man walked by
with his floppy dog
who dug and sniffed
in the carpet of corpses
and assumed the position

an angry owner’s clap
fails to interrupt
a most natural
and necessary act
cue embarrassed hand
thrust into pocket
in search of a green plastic bag

Doors…a Good Deeds post

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open doorEndings and beginnings are really just two sides of the same door, and although some of the doors are heavier, and bigger and might even require a complex set of keys to open, others are so momentary and effortlessly open as to be almost ephemeral.

What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.

 - T S ELIOT

I’ve used Eliot’s quote before but it’s so wise that I find it bears repeating, for it ignites hope in me when I have to face difficult endings and goodbyes, and even acts as a muse it seems…

Warm drops running down

cheeks and windowsills absorbed

by love’s porous heart

I write this as heavy rain falls, and students with red puffy tear stained eyes get into taxis bearing them to the airport, and home. I’ve cleaned my classroom, said goodbye to my colleagues and washed up a few final cups in the staff room. I’ve sincerely ‘carded and chocolated’ the smiling, warm-hearted women who’ve served us in the dining room, and now I’m waiting for my own transport through the door back to beginning…

Good Deeds Received

Was treated to a fabulous evening of music, blue skies and pies by my Dad last Sunday, as he, my brother and I went to an open air folk concert nearby in the Cotswolds – fabulous!

One of my new students referred to be as ‘the best teacher’ when she introduced me to a man working int he shop she was buying souvenirs from during our recent trip to London.

A colleague who’s continuing to teach here for another two weeks said sincerely that I’d be missed, and also laughed at some pretty bad jokes of mine which touched me more than I expected – being intentionally funny isn’t my forte!

Another colleague made a point of finding me in my classroom yesterday to say goodbye, before he left for a weekend in London.

I got a lovely email from a friend who shared that the thank you card I’d sent her just happened to arrive on her birthday, which I’d been totally unaware of – what delicious serendipity:-)

One of my colleagues discovered a patch of ripe blackberries on a run, and brought back several bowls full to share with us at dinner.

Another colleague took a good chunk of time to read and comment on my blog. I really appreciated the genuine interest…and the humourous feedback:-)

Good Deeds Done

Sent a belated thank you card to a friend who had been very supportive in helping my Rwandan friend, Beatha.

Went to wake one of my students who seems to struggle to be on time, to make sure she didn’t miss out o the London trip, which was an early start.

Got up early on my final day of teaching (yesterday) to plunder my creativity to plan for one final lesson of fun. One part I’d planned was for each student to teach the rest of the class a little of their own language (Hungarian, Japanese, Russian, Italian and Arabic). When I arrived back at the classroom after breakfast, having no idea what I was planning, one of the students had begun to write basic words and phrases in Hungarian with an English translation next to it – they’re mind readers!

Bought an ice-cream for a student who had spent all their money on souvenirs in the first ten minutes of a 2 hour free time shopping break.

Bought a couple of bottles of wine and some munchies for a mini thank you and goodbye in the teachers’ kitchen last night.

Sent a text to my sister to make sure we caught up again before I go back up to Scotland. Looking forward to seeing her later today:-)

Sent a birthday text to a friend who’s celebrating by going off on her holiday with the family today – have fun guys!

 

 

Service…a Good Deeds post

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Do you have a job or a calling? Do you work or do you serve? I share these questions here because they’re nagging me at the moment. Personally, I don’t have answers yet, but some observations from my own experiences are beginning to crystallize into some kind of new understanding.

working

One of the first images that came up when I did a quick

google image search on the word ‘working’

One aspect of these questions is ‘space’. I notice that when my being is in what I will call ‘work’ mode I am task oriented, looking for the finish line. My vision is limited, and shrunken to a small picture which shows me what I have to do and I do it. It’s not a responsive or creative mode, but it’s a societal default and therefore familiar, which brings some sense of comfort and security. Generally I know when my work is complete, and there are defined criteria by which I, or indeed others, can judge whether or not I’ve done it well. To me this can feel tight and claustrophobic, epitomized by clock watching.

servingOne of the first images that came up when I did a quick

google image search on the word ‘serving’

When I’m in service mode, something entirely different happens. I’m not task oriented but people oriented. I’m not seeing the finish line, I’m enjoying the current view and taking it in fully, basking in the beauty and complexity of the bigger picture and the depths of experience in everyone and everything around me. There’s a sense of spaciousness and possibility, the boundless and the unknown.

These good deeds posts provide me with a wonderful opportunity to look back on my week and see how much spaciousness I’ve found, and what movement there has been along the work/service scale. I notice that ‘service’ nourishes me in a way that ‘work’ does not AND my life is such that I am still bound by a need to earn money. I know these two, earning money and serving, are not intrinsically mutually exclusive AND there are all kinds of dances to be danced, and balances to be found to find the perfect combination which allows me to contribute my very best. Searching for this mix seems to be the journey of this year…and it’s proving to be quite an adventure!

Good Deeds Received

Last weekend a dear friend from my college days picked me up to spend the day with her and her gorgeous family. We spent a wonderful day in her new house laughing, playing games and drinking cups of tea while we generally caught up. Her eight year old son was kind enough to entertain me with games of cricket, table football and darts…all of which I lost!!! (Ok, the darts was a close one…) It was worth it though to watch him do the most hilarious victory dance…

Yesterday there was a wonderful ‘what goes around comes around’ moment. It was the last lesson for several students, so I asked each person to write their name in the centre of a piece of paper and we all went round writing things we appreciated about each other. I wrote on my student’s paper, ‘thank you for helping me when I forget things’ as she is always on the ball. Less than two hours later is was lunch time and as I walked away I heard someone calling my name. I turned and saw this student pointing at my bag, which I was about to leave behind…

Spoke to a very helpful and friendly customer service agent for our telephone company, and thanks to him very quickly managed to sort out an issue with a recent bill.

Had a fun chat with a teaching colleague over dinner one evening which included us sharing ideas for potential activities with each other. As a result, it only took me an hour to plan the next day’s lesson:-)

Received lots of free chocolate on a trip with the students to Cadbury World – delicious!

Not sure if this counts but I certainly felt very grateful. I got a coach ticket from London to Inverness (that’s a journey of about 12 hours) for 15 pounds! I return to bonnie Scotland in less that two weeks:-)

When I went to pick up my packed lunch for our outing I couldn’t find anything other than ham or tuna (apparently the kids had been complaining because they don’t like cheese or egg mayonnaise)..until I saw a single bag labelled ‘vegetarian’ which they’d made especially for me:-)

Good Deeds Done

I spoke to my Rwandan friend Beatha to check up on her following her recent scan. One lung is already clear, but there is still some fluid on the other. Still, a good start to what I’m sure will be a full recovery:-)

I spent quite a lot of time preparing an evening drama workshop for the students. This included consciously shifting myself into the right energy and attitude, as I wasn’t really in the mood. In the end it went well, better than expected, despite the fact that I had to adapt and change some of the activities when 55 students turned up, instead of the 35 – 40 I had been told to expect!

Picked up litter at various times, in various places over the week.

Washed up a bunch of used coffee mugs that were gathering in our staff room.

Prepared a fun lesson on the five senses involving lots of silly games which the students thanked me for:-)

I managed to help a former student, who is returning to Scotland for a few weeks, to find an alternative English teacher (as I will still be away for most of her visit).

I paid back some money to a friend as soon as my wages were paid.

 

OK folks, have a great week:-)

At the centre of…a Good Deeds post

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red shoesThere have been elements of chaos and inner storms this week, to add to the wild summer storms, times when I wished I had been wearing Dorothy’s red shoes so I could just click my heels and ask to be taken ‘home’. What I did at those moments is what I’d like to briefly share with you as an intro.

This is a tool I created a while ago, and involves drawing a spiral on a piece of paper, from the outside in (left to right). The idea then is to take two full breaths, in and out, with eyes closed, and write down the word or phrase which comes – then repeat – two full breaths, write the word/phrase into the spiral, beginning at the outside and gradually working your way inwards into the centre. Once you reach the centre take a few meditative moments to pay attention to what you’re finding/feeling there and then free write for five minutes.

sspiralI most recently did this on Friday morning. I actually sat in my classroom an hour before class, postponing printing my materials and setting up my computer, and I breathed and wrote. And what did I get? Stop being a teacher, just be Harula. I’d allowed myself to get to stuck in my role/position as teacher and all that that implies, and it wasn’t helping me connect with some of my teenage students. So that morning, I let that go, I dared to just be me, even if that me might not be cool/interesting/funny/entertaining etc to the students in my class. The lesson turned out to be one of the best of this course, at least from my perspective.

Good Deeds Received

I received a very sweet email form a friend who I haven’t heard from in a while, just letting me know that I remained in her heart.

My mother sent me a parcel full of post that’s been arriving while I’ve been away.

Went on another beautiful long walk with my Dad, returning to a delicious feast he’d prepared earlier.

One of my students stayed to help me clean up the classroom a bit, without even being asked.

A colleague unexpectedly shared that she too writes poems, has been published in fact, and was very enthusiastic about us getting together on Monday so we can share our work with each other. I’m really looking forward to that:-)

Our centre manager here made a point of thanking us for our hard work.

The father of an old school friend, who runs a cafe in town, said hi and hugged me warmly, saying I should come in for a coffee some time.

Good Deeds Done

Gave generously to two brilliant street performers I saw in Covent Garden, London, while we were there taking our students on an excursion.

Sent more of the money donated by friend and family to Beatha, my friend in Rwanda who’s been unwell. She will have another scan tomorrow (Monday) to see if the treatment has been successful in removing all the fluid on her lungs – fingers and everything else crossed…

Picked up litter while I was walking and later reading by the river yesterday on my afternoon off.

Bought treats and prizes for my students to make Saturday morning’s lesson fun.

Made some woven coasters from the brown paper bags we get our packed lunches in to remind myself (and the person I gifted them to…) that there is beauty everywhere, if you only take a little time to ‘dig’ for it:-)

Caught up with some emails this morning before writing this – I seem to have received lots of lovely messages in the last week.

Offered to complete my contract here after 6 weeks instead of 8, as we are not all needed for the last two weeks. This is both a good deed to those who want and need the work of those last two weeks, and a kindness to myself, in acknowledging that this job is much more challenging that I expected, and I’ve given it my best, but I don’t need to push it…

 

then you nod and smile

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beauty…a Good Deeds post

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I had an afternoon to myself yesterday, and took my under exercised body swimming to help ease and distract my over exercised brain, and then my heart realised I had some space to listen and said, ‘You’re missing beauty’.

I realise how much I have taken for granted the beauty of the environment I live in in Scotland. Here, on a concrete college campus, I am surrounded by cheap plastic furniture and plastic cutlery with which we eat off polystyrene plates; outside is littered with discarded cigarette buts and chewing gum amidst an almost complete lack of greenery…and I realised that all this has been bothering me quite deeply. The invitation it seems is to try to find beauty in the apparently unbeautiful. More on this later, but for now, here’s a list of Good Deeds for this week, followed by some poems I wrote a while ago about beauty and a link to a wonderful TED talk about the value of beauty in creating an environment for a true education that brings out the best in everyone – enjoy:-)

 

Good Deeds Received

My father cooked me a really delicious meal, and shared with me a letter he’s written nearly 40 years ago to his mother about meeting my mother. It was an incredible read.

Students who were leaving asked me if they could take a photograph with me – it was very sweet.

Had a really good chat with my Mum on the phone – we laughed a lot:-)

Had a super quick response form a colleague who had taken the scissors for a craft project the night before. She brought them directly to my classroom within 15 minutes of my sending a text message and the activity I’d planned wasn’t delayed at all.

Had a very enthusiastic text message from an old school friend I want to catch up with while I’m in the area. We’re going to meet up next week and she offered to pick me up, as I don’t have my own transport here. Can’t wait to see her!

Received genuinely friendly, smiley service from a woman working int he coffee shop I went to yesterday, despite the fact that it was incredibly busy as it had just begun to rain and everyone had decided it was time for a coffee break!

Good Deeds Done

Paid my father back some money I owed him:-)

Sent a birthday card to a dear friend – on time!

Contributed to buying a milkshake for one of our students who’d run out of money.

Spent nearly two hours on my afternoon off tidying, cleaning and re-arranging my classroom which, though not ‘beautiful’ yet, is certainly now more welcoming. I also recycled or collected for re-use, piles and piles of paper… I’m not sure what this job is doing to my long term relationship with trees. I hope they will forgive me…

Made time to have a lovely talk with one student who hadn’t said much and chose the fifteen minute before class began to really open up and get chatty.

Made sure I was on time this morning to wave off and hug those who were leaving.

Decided to investigate ways of recycling the paper bags we give to all students for pack lunches on trips and found a wonderful list of craft ideas. Haven’t made any of these yet – but I will.

http://savedbylovecreations.com/2012/10/50-things-to-make-from-paper-bags.html

And here are three short poems I wrote on the subject of Beauty. Hmm, on re-reading sure, I’ve written better, but these do make some of the points of juggling in my heart and mind right now…

Beauty is…? I ask

silently you look around

then you nod and smile

looking at me directly

I understand and blush

*************

Sure, the eye can see

but it’s only one witness

to life’s true beauty

close your eyes for a moment

bow to the beauty within

**************

Birdsong before dawn

promises beauty hiding

beneath a dark sky

I won’t believe in ugly -

the sun hasn’t risen yet

 

http://www.ted.com/talks/bill_strickland_makes_change_with_a_slide_show

 

 

 

I bow to you…a Good Deeds post

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tnh bowingimage credit: http://www.oprah.com/spirit/A-Conversation-with-Thich-Nhat-Hanh-About-Savor

It feels good to hug

but now please step back a bit

I want to bow to you

I wrote this Haiku whilst on my three week retreat, in response to my beginning to explore my understanding of what it means to be spacious in my expression of love and care – to take away the grasping and attachment of it, and make way for something more universal and profound. I may share more another time, but it felt like a fitting way to introduce this post.

Life has sped by these last two weeks and I’ve not been keeping a daily track on Good Deeds, so rather than try to date them, I’m simply going to make a list of seven received and seven done. Blessings on your week dear friends – love, hugs and bows (!)

Harula xxx

Good Deeds received

* I was given a beautiful bunch of hand made tissue paper flowers, made by some of my students for a drama performance I had helped them create. I wasn’t expecting it at all – really brightened my morning, and my classroom, yesterday:-)

* Several friends and family members have been INCREDIBLY generous as I have continued to appeal to them for help in supporting my Rwandan friend, Beatha, who is still suffering from water on the lungs, but is, thanks to the generosity received, beginning to recover as a result of daily hospital treatment.

* Soooo thoughtful, a new colleague of mine noticed I was sitting alone at dinner because the ‘teacher’s table’ was full, so she left it to join me saying, ‘Nobody should eat alone!’ She’s from Spain. I was so touched.

* This morning several students who are leaving after two weeks here came to find me at breakfast to offer hugs and appreciation, and to say goodbye. Apparently I’m a ‘beautiful teacher’…perhaps I haven’t accurately taught the meaning of that word:-) I need to give them some more adjectives…

* Two other new colleagues, a couple from the Czech Republic, gave me the afternoon off one day this week, saying they could do without me for the sports activities because they saw I was tired. Bless!!!

* A friend emailed me to offer me a place to stay when I’m back in Scotland, saying she had had an intuition that she should invite me to share with her! Actually, I had had a similar thought recently about asking her, but hadn’t yet followed up – how cool is that?!

* I had a really great Sunday morning debate with one of the other teacher’s here which I found really inspiring. We covered everything from assisted suicide to the rights and wrongs of capitalism while eating cantine baked beans and cardboard toast:-)

Good Deeds done

* I offered to lead two three hour drama sessions last week in the evenings, as our activity leaders didn’t have much background theatre stuff and it was already timetabled. It was really fun to be back in that role again – haven’t done much drama for a while, but it’s what I did my degree in, and the focus of my first volunteer job in South Africa…

* I spent at least an additional 1.5 hours preparing my classroom and my lesson yesterday morning because it was the last day for some of the students, and I wanted the activities to be really fun.

* I bought sweet treats for the kids yesterday as prizes for a quiz.

* I helped organize a birthday celebration for one of the other teachers here, choosing a card and a cake, as well as some wine and munchies, along with two colleagues.

* I spent a while chatting with a local artist at a craft fair, and bought one of his beautiful cards.

* I picked up some litter as I walked in the park.

* I helped one of my younger students set up his mobile phone and went with him to the local supermarket to buy a sim card and top up voucher.

Soar

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white featherimage credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/andy_p_m/5069098614/

I reach

for the lost feather

large, white

and made for flight

with such natural perfection

that when it falls

even gravity is in awe

and calls it towards the earth

with patient respect

***

casually discarded

and unwittingly

throwing down the gauntlet

to aerospace engineers

hungry for superlatives

lightest, strongest, most flexible

in the hope that their profits

too may soar

***

has evolution

been generous to a fault

sharing nature’s knowledge

without tying it to intention

through a built in release clause

‘first, do no harm’

 

Remember the river

For anything I’ve ever

said or done

that’s left cause for you to doubt

even for a moment

that I love you

forgive me

***

Though it may be hard to hear

much less believe

what’s real in me knows

I have never stopped loving you -

not for a moment,

not for a single breath

of this precious life

has my love for you

been anything but fierce and true

***

I may have been tired or angry

hurt or sad

scared or ashamed

but all the above

were just so much rain

they were not the river

***

Rain comes and goes

and we may curse it

but the river flows constantly

welcoming the rain

with reckless abandon

that it may broaden

or even break its banks

and so the course may change

but the destination never does

***

And so my love for you

in its wisdom knows

it has harvested the hard times

swollen from them

and grown into a heart

more capable of holding

the pain of this world,

for no love less deep or true

would have dared to ask

to push and say,

‘come now, just a little more’

***

Yes, I have found my Nos

and voiced them

but those Nos were the little more

you asked for,

those were the words

for which I dug deepest

for I knew they came with pain

and yet love has but one door

and in coming through

I had to bring all of me

for nothing less raw or free

would have given you the chance

to see the all I am

and decide

for your part

if you love me

Trails

Well dear friends, I’m back from my retreat (finished yesterday) and – in a coupla hours I start a new job (!!!) teaching an 8 week English Language summer school…so this is just a quick share of a poem, and a hearty hello and hope you’re all well:-) Hugs, H xxx

Nothing stays

but the trails

left behind

by what once was

may linger

tenderly and unashamed

like the tear

still making its journey

down the landscape of a face

whose mind has already moved on

from the thought that was the source

***

sometimes this physical world

is slow

not lazy

just patient and indulging

like the scent on a loved one’s scarf

that draws their being

so close

you feel them

until you open your eyes

and re-know they’ve died

- but trails linger

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