the mutual realisation of a collective stillness

I have now added more to this original post.

something to tell


“Silence is not the only aid to the stillness. There is another, and that, ironically, is speech”.

Someone once said, “don’t speak unless you can improve on the silence” and I found that to be truly profound for many reasons. First of all I find that it is feels true and rings right. We don’t always need to speak and this follows on from my previous post that sometimes not all things need to be said.

Collective silence is however quite different to meditation.  Outwardly it may seem similar and even look similar but from the inside of the room where this collective silence is taking place, it is entirely distinct.  Sometimes someone within the collective silence circle may be moved to speak.  And when they do they tend to speak from a deep, unfamiliar place inside them. I think as long as there is no personal agenda or self-regard…

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what i’m left with following the twenty-fourth and twenty-seventh of december

Over Christmas I was at the shelter, working with those who are without a home and/or lonely and isolated.  There were many at the shelter, I’d say mostly 95% of them male and the rest single females.  There were two couples.  And many four-legged friends all about, tails wagging, obediently following the one they love and protect with fierce loyalty.

It was my first voluntary experience with this particular organisation and I would say it was probably one of the best I have worked with.  They were superbly organised and overflowing with kindness, abundance of wholesome and tasty food to eat and take-away if needed, clothing, shower and laundry facilities, food bank,  mental health support, medical team and even a chiropodist! Most importantly there were beds for those who needed them for the night.  The overnight team of volunteers looked after those sleeping and prepared breakfast and packed lunches for the next day.

I worked with the clothing team, being the “runner” which basically meant I had to collect two guests at a time, brought them upstairs where the clothing was neatly laid out, helped them to select what they needed, packed their stuff and then took them back downstairs once they had all they needed.  The clothes were all clean in excellent condition and some brand new.  There were  shoes and socks available too.  We even had doggie treats and clothing which went down a treat!

These are some of the precious fragments of my experience; what I’m left with following the twenty-fourth and twenty-seventh of December (names have been changed to protect their true identity):

Jonny and his friendly dog, Lucky, who according to Jonny, is “very popular”

And a Russian gentleman who isn’t so hungry nowadays and forces himself to eat for the sake of. He misses the time he used to cook for ten others and eat as a group. “The food just melts in your mouth”, he says. He misses the time he had with them. “It’s not the same anymore”.

Mary who wanted a coat but had to think about the practicality and laundry. “Need to keep it simple so no high maintenance coats”.

The man who felt claustrophobic like he was in prison with guards watching him as he selected his clothes. “I just wanted to get what I needed and get out of there”.

Yezad a gentleman, polite, almost painfully polite, and who kept calling me “Miss”.  Had he been inside I wondered? I remember him later, smoking outside, and backed up close to the wall later as I walked past him acknowledging me with another “Miss”…He was happy to have clean clothes to wear after his shower in the morning.

The food cottage pie and vegetables.

Chicken curry and chickpeas. The aroma of food cooking, the warmth of the entire room – almost too warm at times!

Apple crumble and custard.

The couple who took many bags of clothing.  She was pregnant.  They seemed very close.

A friendly old chap, who was a regular at the shelter over the years, carrying his comforts with him in a carrier bag.  I warmed to him for some reason. Meena, who needed my elbow to hold on to as she couldn’t see very well as we went up the stairs.  She was happy with her soft peach blanket and many warm fleeces.


this is water

There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “What the hell is water?

The Kindness Blog (my first follower – how exciting!) captures David Foster Wallace’s words perfectly.  You can read more by clicking on the link below:


the mutual realisation of a collective stillness


“Silence is not the only aid to the stillness. There is another, and that, ironically, is speech”.

Someone once said, “don’t speak unless you can improve on the silence” and I found that to be truly profound for many reasons. First of all I find that it is feels true and rings right. We don’t always need to speak and this follows on from my previous post that sometimes not all things need to be said.

Collective silence is however quite different to meditation.  Outwardly it may seem similar and even look similar but from the inside of the room where this collective silence is taking place, it is entirely distinct.  Sometimes someone within the collective silence circle may be moved to speak.  And when they do they tend to speak from a deep, unfamiliar place inside them. I think as long as there is no personal agenda or self-regard, then what this person says will go to contribute to the communal stillness.  An insight is unlikely to make a difference to all those listening if it means something only to the person who has said it.

This combination of both silence and speech makes each Quaker meeting unique as I have found.  There are meetings which are completely silence with only the sounds of birds piercing the silence.  These meetings have their own magic for me. And the times when people do speak I feel that there is always something in it for me and I believe for most people in the room.

In a magazine article quoted in Quaker faith and practice, Thomas R. Bodine wrote:

As a meeting ‘gathers’ … there gradually develops a feeling of belonging to a group who are together seeking a sense of the Presence.  The ‘I’ in us beings to feel like ‘we.  At some point – it may be early in the meeting or it may be later, or it may never occur at all – we suddenly feel a sense of unity, a sense of togetherness with one another and with that something outside ourselves…

a new beginning, 2015

January 1

I Choose to Begin

I love all beginnings, despite their anxiousness and their uncertainty, which belong to every commencement.  If I have earned a pleasure or a reward, or if I wish that something had not happened; if I doubt the worth of an experience and remain in my past – then I choose to begin at this very second.

Begin what? I begin.  I have already thus begun a thousand lives.

Early Journals, A Year with Rilke
Daily readings from this book

Rilke has always been a favourite of mine ever since I read his book, Letters to a Young Poet, many years ago.  It’s funny how some things change over time and some just remain the same.  I got a Kindle recently and Rilke’s book, A Year with Rilke, was the main inspiration for my purchase.  I wanted something I could look at daily, a few words that could perhaps accompany me throughout the day and offer me some food for thought.

Like many book lovers I resisted going all electronic so a Kindle was out of the question for a long time because of all the aesthetic pleasures that books afford — the sweet scent of a new book; the feel of the crisp pages between my fingers; the impressive colours of a book cover and its pride of place on the book shelf.  But then something happened……

I bought a smaller bag! And books were beginning to not be as convenient to lug round on the tube and back.  I guess for the last couple of years this really did not matter as I wasn’t in the frame of mind to read.  I couldn’t concentrate on a magazine let alone a novel.  But Murakami rekindled my old love, my former joy for books.  Colorless Tsukuru was an easy read and an enjoyable one.  It reminded me of what I had been missing — the sheer joy of positive escapism!   And I knew I had to continue reading.  And now with my new shiny Kindle, reading is so much easier and more accessible.  I can even read in bed, snug under the duvet, with all the lights off!

My writing workshop facilitator would be very pleased as I’m now taking her advice and “reading, reading and reading“. There was also something else I learned from that workshop.  Someone in the group mentioned as we were reading through some poems, that an author sometimes “shows but not tells”. And that stayed with me for some reason. How often we do it too in our lives, to ourselves, to each other, I wonder?  We say things, in blogs, in letters, in conversations but there is so much that goes unsaid and the things we do not say (and maybe subtly show instead) are equally important as what is said.  Maybe they are even more important as they may imply and suggest the secrets and messages within us that we rather keep in the dark? What have you not said and why?

Then again not every dark place needs the light and therefore not every single thing needs to be said, or revealed. Some things are best left residing in the darkness, where they safely belong. Just with you. And only you.

Be kind to yourselves.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite

this thing called Christmas…

Today is my final day at work for the year before I return in January 2015.  In the recent weeks I have been reminded of the nightmare and madness of the so-called ‘festive’ period, this thing called Christmas. I work in the heart of London so am surrounded on a daily basis by the lovely delights of shoppers, tourists and those who insist on walking and kept mesmerised by their mobile/tablet/kindle at the same time paying no heed whatsoever to the traffic behind them.  At the best of times, these folk test my somewhat limited patience but over the last few weeks they’ve drained every last every bit of it away from me.  I cannot wait for the madness of Christmas to be over with and for normality to resume. At the moment it’s impossible to just nip into your local M&S to get a sandwich for lunch if you want to do so in the usual 15 minutes or so.  No. Be prepared to be standing behind hoards of people in a queue with trolleys and baskets piled high with food.  For lest we forget, the shops will be closed for all of ONE day.  We will starve if we do NOT stock up. People.  You will not starve.  Have you heard of the thousands living in poverty and facing poverty during Christmas?  Young adults?  Children??

Perspective, please.

You do not need even half the stuff you have in your trolleys.  You know most of it will be sitting in bin bags come new year’s day. Next to your no-longer required Christmas trees.   And you’ll be back in M&S or Waitrose or wherever you shop, this time stocking up on the alcohol for seeing in 2015. I will be volunteering at a homeless overnight shelter over Christmas in the heart of London.  I am not doing this because it is seen as a ‘good’ thing to do. No act is ever truly altruistic anyway.  I am aware of my own selfish motives but they are healthy ones I tell myself as they benefit both me, the volunteer, and the ones I volunteer with.  I am reaching out because I feel that there is a lot of pain, loneliness and isolation 365 days a year. And this is felt even more acutely over the festive period.  So Christmas is exactly the time of year when a little bit of kindness towards those who have little or nothing, may save someone another year of heartbreak; of feeling alone while others seem to have  a place to go, family to be with, friends to share warmth and joy and companionship, or a Home (a concept that people who have never been homeless are so quick to dismiss).

And it is not just the homeless.

There is hidden homelessness too. And not just those who are sofa-surfing.

Think about the ones locked up, in prisons, in immigration detention centres, behind four walls that close down on a person every day. I invite you, if you can, to suspend judgment for a moment and just reflect on those separated by force and not by choice from those they love. Think about how being locked-up changes a person, how they may choose to disconnect because it may be easier for them to do so (but not necessarily for the ones affected down the line) and the ripple effects of this choice, cascading down over and over again in waterfalls of pain, to all those connected and involved.

Think about how we all are vulnerable and become products of our environment, like it or not. And the damage this does. Feel all this. Let it sink it. Don’t brush it away. It matters. So there is a lot to think about! And maybe the next time you load a trolley and your basket for things you do not need, pause and reflect?   Think about your friends who may be on their own pretending to be all OK and strong. Perhaps you could ring them? Or ask if you could come over, for a chat or a chocolate digestive? Or both?

You never know, your kindness may just save someone.

Take care.

Be kind to yourselves.

Quaker Homeless Action

Detention Action

Prisoners’ Families and Friends Service

a life once lived

Once upon a time, a long, long, while ago, there lived a woman, who appeared (to herself at least), to know what she wanted to do and be.

She was sure to an extent and secure in the knowledge of the road she was on; the course she was pursuing and the many clinical placements she found herself juggling along-side a full time job. It was all worth it, she thought.  It was all going to be so good, so worth the sacrifices. And besides, it was good to be kept busy, to BE busy.  To be occupied all the time.

It made her feel like she was living a ‘useful’ life and that perhaps life did have some meaning after all.

And so this pursuit of clinical work, clients, psychotherapy in hospitals and prisons went on for five years.  FIVE years.  Even on Saturdays.  What was this woman thinking?? What she doing to herself?  Oh yes, finding meaning. Doing her bit for others.  ‘Helping’ others help themselves.  So this woman listened to stories, to so many stories.

Stories that were never simple nor straight-forward. Stories that others chose to share with her; the funny and the sad; the simple and the intricate; stories that have been filled with light and stories that have been blacker than the darkest night. And in the listening she had her beliefs, prejudices and clichés stretched and challenged. She struggled to let them go; to dissolve, to melt, to reshape. It is easier to stay with what one knows after all.

This woman is me.  She is still me.  And she lives on, today.

But the person I am today is some one who does not know where the road is leading.  The person I am today is very different from the woman who thought she knew.

And I think I have come to accept (through much fighting and struggling) that it is OK not to know.

That life is very rarely level-headed or clear.

And plans never seem to work anyway.

So it’s OK not to have one, I think?

Sometimes nothing is clear.

I have had to let go of this need that things ‘should’ make sense for they don’t, not always at least.

Sometimes never.

Sometimes there is no meaning to why things happen the way they do.

So here I am today, at this precise point in my life in place of unknown, of uncertainty.  I know this place very well now.  The fog has become familiar.

Yet, I long for the day when the fog lifts, if only a little, to show me what’s on the other side, so that I see clearly again and am able to do what it is I need to do with my life.

I wish you all much Light, amidst the fog and darkness.

candle light

Be kind to yourselves.

the beginning of something to tell


I have wanted to start writing, be it a blog, or a journal, or scribbles on a notebook but just starting to write (or continuing to write) has seemed so difficult.  I’ve started and then I’ve fallen off the band-wagon many a time! There’s a block, a resistance perhaps a psychoanalyst may interpret! Unsure what exactly a Jungian therapist might say but I do know what an existential counsellor would!  Having said all that I am aware that writing does something for me.  I don’t know what exactly, but it does help to release, shift and stir what is within.  And in doing so, I am able to breathe better.  I don’t know exactly what this blog will contain for there are no specific themes it must or should follow.  It will be what it will be.  It will be what it is meant to be. Thank you for your company.