The last time it snowed in the manner of enormity of recent days, was ‘a while back’. I took the above photograph at that time. When? No idea of date or year. It made me start to think why some people, myself included, don’t, or cannot, hang on to dates of significance. OK, you remember images and scenarios and those times in your life when you have profound and life changing events, sights, experiences that embellish and enhance the pages of your book of memories inside the mind. I say book, not diary or progressive journal. Those memories are plucked at random with unlooked for purpose. A smell of wood shavings from a pencil, makes no impression. You use the Kum Masterpiece sharpener Mindfully to create a pencil lead point to die for, and then get on with the little scribblings. And you scribble. Then, another day, you pick up another pencil, make the first turn in the preparation of ‘getting the point’, smell cedar wood powerfully and then you get a different ‘point’. Transportation to a point in time where:
‘It’s a school day when you were about 5 or 7, sitting in a sun filled room and a huge arched and multiple paned window exists which enables you to look out onto a field with an iron fence with spiked tops and George B. climbed up them, slipped, and the spike went into his armpit’.
Yes, this is one of mine. It is profound. However……It’s a technique that can be enhanced and not a simple, powerful, unlooked for, unintended experience, performing itself in the memory banks by revealing itself at the drop of a hat.
Myself and two colleague nurses present a 4 week course called ‘Activate your Life’ (ACT). I am a General Adult Nurse, not a Mental Health Nurse. But the NHS have adopted the ideas of Complementary Therapies in a few fields of evidence based sound practices. ACT is a course presented to our local community by the three of us. It is well attended and soon will be it’s fourth time of delivery. It brings us insights into how people are hugely affected from life’s experiences. The central message is ‘You are not your mind?’ It is based in the principles and philosophy of Mindfulness. But, in actuality is a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy based course with it’s roots in Mindfulness. The practice of Mindfulness is the therapy adopted to address how to continue with your life in a more positive way. You can’t change the past, you can’t truly determine how the future will ultimately develop. So, now is how you begin to enrich the experience of life. This given moment. Please don’t groan. I’m not a fan of shallow self analysis. But….I am a fan of Mindfulness. I enjoy it’s simplicity, yet hard to adopt, principles. It’s simplicity is the main reason I am in awe of this thousands of years old philosophy. And I have Buddhist idealism inherent. The first step of the journey is……now.
Deeper self analysis? Difficulties arise. I recently received my weekly periodical email from the ‘Art of Manliness’ site. Love it’s content, especially when it provides the historical perspective of gentler times and how to act like a true gent, or master old fashioned ideals and activities of lifestyle. How to tie a tie in four ways, shave properly with a double edged razor, tie knots that may save your life in the wilds, how to start a fire with a piece of chewing gum, aluminium foil and a pine needle, the art of using a fountain pen, take your hat off to a lady, etc. It also tackles more serious subjects too re: health matters and being worldly wise.
Why mention Art of Manliness? Because it can go into areas of how to self analyse. This week has a 31 day programme of ‘What it really means to be self reliant’. A question a day, which are so deep they require days/weeks of thoughts in each one. And that’s the rub. How on Earth have you that ability. It’s like taking a leap into the unknown.
Where do you find the most meaning in life and feel the most fully alive? Is there something you’d love to do but don’t because the world thinks it’s silly or worthless or wrong? Is there anything you do that you consider virtuous yet the world looks down on? How do you handle the tension?
And gives a quote:
“The virtue in most request is conformity.” ―Emerson
“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.” ―Joseph Campbell
So deep it is a non-starter really.
So, back to ACT.
It seeks the past and how it can absolutely destroy your whole life. Such profound events which begin the experiences of, impact on and go on to enhance stress, anxiety, depression, pain, OCD or, more recently, awareness of ‘MeToo’ and similar movements. It seeks to use Mindfulness as a tool to diminish traumatic events by focusing on the here and now. It’s something that needs a blog of its own. So I’ll stop. But it serves as an example that memory can be a life destroyer. A niggling, wriggling worm deep in the psyche of either deeper or lighter impact.
…………..Conversation discussing David Beckham looking great in a trilby hat, white shirt and Abercrombie and Fitch cargo shorts playing football on a beach…….. You’re impressed and seek the ‘Look’ and you go out and buy the three clothing items, and then? One of your ‘mates’ say, when you’ve been out and bought them:
“Hey! Remember when we all went to town and you paid a fortune for that hat you only wore once?”
“Yeh!” you say. “It was you guys that took the mickey out of me and told me what a dork I looked!”
Truth be known, you also bought a pair of cargo shorts when same ‘mates’ say to you “Better wait till you get those lily white legs suntanned mate, you look like…….stupid” or “Should have gone up a size in that shirt. Fits where it touches and that ain’t a great look”. And not the reality of actually wearing something. Also the assumption that what you’ll look like if you intend to wear something. For example, You buy a pair of Dr. Martens chunky Flash fisherman’s sandals and show them to your ‘mates’. ‘You ain’t intending to wear them with socks are you. Sort of thing you’d do ain’t it?’
That’s why you never wear anything in the same way again. People, or so called ‘mates!’ can say simple, or cutting statements and it can have a massively long lasting impression. Create a basis for ongoing considered “I’m useless” and have self disgust in an unhealthy way. Unwelcome scenarios that go further to provide heart breaking discomfort. They sit there and are remembered over and over because it affects the whole future of specific considerations. You hide in a shell of negative self analysis. You believe you have an inherent gene of either invisibility, ability to be continually ignored or total ostracism. You’re never truly “In” the conversation, just permanently ‘Out’ of the conversation. Below are 2 photographs. I was watching and heard the conversation. Two way, with a stumbling attempt of ‘I’m here too’ as the third person tried to become included. It pictorially says what happened. No words needed.
And that’s why Mindfulness is so important. The here and now. You are not your mind. You can remember, but you can’t change the past. The future you believe will be more of the same. No! It doesn’t have to be. This moment, this second, NOW, is the first step you will take. You can’t sit in limbo. What now? So, focus on whatever you are doing as a task/activity at that moment in time. I’m walking, then take in scenes around you……..Mindfully, and then let them pass in transient ways or marvel at the moment and store it. I’m talking, I love what is conversationally exchanged, carry on. I’m in an argument that begins to rankle and hurt. Stop the argument…..walk away……it never happened. Let it float away on a leaf down a river. It doesn’t belong in your mind. Sit, still, smell a joss stick, watch it’s spiralling smoke patterns, smell it’s Himalayan source of sandalwood and rose, make a cup of tea and consider each stage deeply, it’s Red Bush aroma, the shape of rough cubed brown sugar, hot steam rising and the touch of the stoneware mug it’s made in, the whole drinking process. Why? Is this distraction technique? No. It is creating new positive experiences that will become part of future memories.
A smell, a thought, a sound or a sight can bring back such high powered ecstatic enlightenment of a WOW memory factor, that you realise times gone can produce unlooked for treasures that have sat in the subconscious psyche for years. They are so exhilarating and can include either small or massive life enhancers or changers that, due to the power they have, can only enrich and enhance your wellbeing.
I have a plethora of photographs, look at some of them and put them instantly, after a glance, on the looked at pile. Then one appears and I can stop, look and ‘Zing, go the strings of my heart’. I’m transported to when the shutter button was pushed, the hours before and hours afterwards.
My snow photograph? I can’t begin to describe activities over those hours surrounding that morning. But recent snow never brought back that day. The photograph did. I don’t remember how frozen I felt that day or how damp got into the camera and ruined all but three of the negatives. I focus on the three I have, and that over rides all small negativities. I remember freshness, cold smacking into the inside of my nostrils, the hush, the sense of peace, the crunch of snow underneath my feet. The date? Why do I need that when I have my memory. And again…….snow. It covers everything. The most horrific landscapes and turns them into beautiful vision. The mind’s landscapes from past events? Mine? I cover them in snow.