Campground kindness

As she lay at dusk
on the gas bottle cupboard
over near the swings
my teenage daughter was approached

by a small girl on a scooter.
“Are you okay?” the younger asked.

“Yes,” the teen answered. Telling me later
I heard tenderness as she pondered:
“Maybe she was lonely too”.

Meta-mindfulness

Recording a new meditation on the beach

every wave and chirp
was acute around me.

Meditating on meditating
offering this space to others
heightened the presence of every pore.

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A son’s pace at sunset

Walking on the headland with my son
the sunset was smudged in surprising places:

apricot and rose smeared across grey clouds,
then lacey in the rocks below
and glowing in spheres on the shoreline.

He wanted me to walk faster.

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A daughter’s advice for darkness

Next,
walking along the beach in darkness with my daughter
our phone batteries ran out.

No flashlight. Okay on the shoreline
where a crescent of moon lit our way.

But how to get back?
Through the scrubby path
in pitch black
with thick shadows looming
branches creaking
on either side.

“Why are you sprinting, mum?”
my daughter asked. Then gave me her tip:

“Slow down in the dark.
When you walk fast
your heart pounds
and the people with you walk faster
and their heart pounds.

“Walk slow
your heart rate slows. And then
you both begin to know
you’re not in any real danger
at all.”

It’s just darkness.

 — These are days 3 & 4 of my camping journal. I experienced such a shift as I journalled today, I feel moved to share my take on keeping a gratitude journal. I think you’ll find it’s a bit different to other approaches.

How to keep a “genuine gratitude” journal

Sometimes, when I hear people talking about how important it is to practice gratitude, I feel tense.

I guess it’s important to me to be genuine with myself about how I’m feeling. In my experience, acknowleding emotions or sensations I’m not enjoying such as worry or sadness or tension can be transformative because they connect me with my deeper needs and new options.

Also, telling myself that I “must” write or draw every day is an instant turn off. There’s a part of me that remains passionate about independence and choice, and I find it tiring to have a “should” nagging at the back of my mind.

That said, I do find that having a visual journal near my bed to use at morning or night often ends up becoming a time of gratitude. Like these pages did.

I want to offer you this technique on how to use visual journalling for peaceful, unforced gratitude and honest learning from my regrets.

Would you like to explore it further?

I woke up feeling restless this morning. After sitting on the beach, doing some self-empathy for the volume of chocolate and chips I’d consumed yesterday, then trying to read a book, I felt more settled.

But I was still longing for some kind of easy, relaxed self-expression. Then I remembered this journal. And a pen. All there. Just a little page, no pressure to fill it with words and images or a complete record of yesterday’s happenings.

I just let a few memories from the past few days flow out, then came a splash of colour.

I feel so much more settled after spending some time doodling, reflecting and writing this morning. I guess it’s helped me savour memories, store them up as nourishment in my soul.

I enjoy the practice that Marshall Rosenberg offered in his book and teachings about Nonviolent Communication — connecting memories and thoughts I’m having in this present moment with my feelings and needs.

So after writing a short memory, I ask myself: what feelings am I having right now as I remember? And what are the life-serving needs that are alive in me right now?

I see feelings as body sensations or emotions – basically, my body’s dashboard, letting me know whether or not I’m enjoying an experience. (For more info: http://www.cnvc.org)

Those needs might be something I’m wanting more of (eg: if I notice loneliness, I might be connected to the need that all humans share for company or belonging).

Or my memories might connect me to the energising experience of gratitude – something my body really wants me to savour and appreciate because it feels good, and also because I think that makes me more naturally open to seeing and appreciating more of those qualities in my day today as well.

I see needs as universal qualities that all humans require to thrive in life. There are survival needs of course like food and comfort and shelter. However our feelings also indicate we have other needs such as affection, reassurance, belonging, understanding, peace, order. The key concept which creates peace within me and towards others is that I don’t need any one action from myself or others in order to meet my needs. There are endless ways to meet a need. For example, if I’m wanting understanding I can seek that from myself via journalling or walking, or I might phone a friend or a family member. I don’t give up on my needs. But I don’t demand any one particular person meets them either. If they’re not available right now, I can find another way. This takes lifelong practice to absorb into my mindset, especially since we often have more than one need “up” at any one time. However I find it so empowering and fun. You can learn more at http://www.cnvc.org or on NVC Academy.

For example, in my visual journal, as I recalled the walks with my kids, I shifted from restlessness and self-blame. I started to experience natural gratitude for connection with my kids, for being so close to nature as we’re camping. I was even celebrating the actions I’d taken yesterday to nurture their wellbeing as well as mine (ie: by having a “walk and talk”).

Do you find it soothing sometimes to grab some paper, doodle and let a few moments that come to mind flow out onto the page?

You don’t have to pressure yourself to make them “gratitude”.

Even if my needs aren’t being met as much as I’d like, simply becoming aware of what qualities of life are especially important to me right now helps me to feel calmer and opens up new possibilities. (For more info: http://www.cnvc.org)

Just draw whatever comes up and see what happens. As you remember things you saw or heard, gently notice your body sensations right. Gently ask yourself what feelings and needs you might be particularly aware of in this present moment. Feelings and needs lists are available at http://www.cnvc.org or on NVC Academy.

Does this relaxed journalling make sense to you? I’d love hearing your feedback. If you have any questions or tips of your own, please post a reply.