With autumn turning wintry already I’ve done my best to rekindle some spacious, summery vibes in this latest post…
In August I went on a short camping trip to the rugged island of St Agnes in the Isles of Scilly. I arrived at the end of my kids’ school summer holidays with an ‘introvert headache’. I left with a sense of gratitude for the healing power of solitude and taking a pause from the layers of complex thinking and doing that I can get tangled up in at home. St Agnes is a place to escape to: balm to the soul for introverts and a healthy reboot even for the most extroverted!
I had been longing to go to the Isles of Scilly since I moved to Cornwall in 2012. I love the idea of being near my Cornwall and at the same time cut off from everything, save for rocks that make geologists sigh, scenery that makes artists swoon and simplicity that makes frazzled parents heave a sigh of relief and smile.
In St Agnes I recaptured a felt sense of how powerful it can be to walk away from everything and just stare at the sea, wander in nature to nowhere in particular or sit and draw the wilderness without interruption. With the freedom to pause, mental space opens up and with it a feeling of compassionate perspective about the challenges of life. I work hard on my relationships, on my work, on everything really. It took being stranded on a rocky island with nowhere to go to remind me that the whole point of life is simply this moment, right now. To be who I am as truthfully as I can and then… let go.
How can I take this realisation into my every day? How can I keep learning what I have learned? The nearest thing I equate to the St Agnes Effect is what I find through ‘taking space’ in daily meditation. I meditate often at home, but in the Isles of Scilly, just being there was so meditative that I didn’t feel the need to stop and “do” meditation at all.
Meditation has become vital to me in the last year or so. It keeps me (relatively) sane, grounded and able to think clearly amid a chaotic life with small children, complex work conditions and demanding relationships to navigate. I’d like to say that I decided to get into meditation because all the evidence suggests it is a good thing for mental resilience and physical well-being. I have meditated on and off for those reasons, but I was virtually forced into a daily practice, as is so often the case, by reaching a breaking point. I started meditating regularly following emotional loss and turmoil that seemed beyond my ability to cope with using yoga, traditional relaxation or other methods that I value greatly such the Lightning Process (or BodyMind Programme) and NLP coaching. Early on, Headspace provided an accessible immersion in simple, effective daily meditation techniques, allowing me to recover a sense of wholeness, inner strength and clarity. These days I have a more settled practice, founded on meditation (with and without lovely Headspace), yoga nidra and restorative/yin yoga.
I recently re-read Kamal Sarma’s book Mental Resilience: The Power of Clarity, on “how to develop the focus of a warrior and and peace of a monk”. It includes a wonderful metaphor for what mediation give us. Imagine you are holding a box of chocolates in one hand with your arm outstretched. Over time it starts to feel really heavy and gives you all kinds of unbearable discomfort. If you let yourself put it down and take a pause, your arm rests, recovers and when you pick up the box again it is back to feeling light and easy. The box of chocolates is your thoughts. I like this idea. Sometimes our thoughts go round and round getting heavier and heavier, and all we may need to get perspective and clarity is to take a pause. Sam Thorogood of TinyPause promotes this same idea, wishing us all high quality rest and “a moment for you today”.
Another meditative book that makes me smile is Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh. Hanh charmingly explains how we can be more present in each moment if we allow our lives just as they are, from red traffic lights to beeping phones, to call us back to ourselves; to breath and to being.
Maybe there really is hope that we can live in the moment without having to live in blissful isolation on a rock in the middle of the sea. I will keep meditating with that in mind… but I will also hope to see St Agnes again. I think a piece of me may still be there.