Category: wellbeing

The vine and branches

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I’m currently reading a little book by a monk – Finding your Hidden Treasure by Benignus O’Rourke, an Augustinian friar. The book is about silent prayer and meditation and discovering ourselves and God in the process. The chapters are very short, which make it ideal as a sort of daily reading book. Here’s today’s thoughts:

Jesus told his disciples: ‘I am the vine and you are the branches.’ (John:15:5). In our time of silent waiting we are allowing the sap, the life that flows in the vine, to flow through the branches. We are not seeking union with God. We already have that. Our task is to remain close to him and enjoy that union. ‘It’s not that God comes to us, as if he were absent,’ Augustine reminds us. ‘or even that we “go” to him. God is always present to us but we, like blind people, do not have the eyes to see him.’ In order to see God we have to enter a new relationship with him, enter into a new place. ‘It was in my inmost heart,’ wrote Augustine, ‘it was there, Lord, that you made me begin to love you, and you made me glad at heart’ (Confessions 9.4). The awareness of our union with the life-giving vine, the unknown sweetness that we find in our inmost heart, is not achieved without a struggle. It is a struggle between our surface-self, the person on show to the world, and our deeper self.
Benignus O’Rourke
Finding your Hidden Treasure

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I’ve walked the entire length of the London Underground!

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Miles walked: 253/1,000

Things have calmed down a bit since last week and the trip to Iceland, to see the youngest, and then the London Landmarks Half Marathon, to support the eldest.

Although the temperature has increased a bit and the snow is a fading memory, Spring is struggling to arrive.

The week has been very wet but I have managed to get a few miles of walking in each day.

I’m gradually eating away at the 1,000 mile target for this year.

There are various encouraging milestones along the way but this weekend, I passed 250 miles.

That’s equivalent to the whole length of the London Underground!

In comparison, it’s 204 miles overground from Hull to London – so 250 miles of Underground Rail network is impressive for the Capital City.

Also, 250 miles is a quarter of my 1,000 mile target, so as the first quarter of the year comes to a close, I’m on target to complete the 1,000 miles by the end of December.

Walkies!

London Landmarks Half Marathon

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Miles walked: 237 of 1,000 target for 2018

No. I didn’t run it! Sunday morning was an early start driving to Redbridge tube station to go into London, where our eldest daughter, Beckie, was running the London Landmarks Half Marathon. We’d lost an hour’s sleep as the clocks had gone forward for British Summer Time the night before.

There was an app that tracked each runner so we looked up Beckie and had a live visual on the map of where she was.

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We wanted to cheer her on at several points so we spent the day walking briskly between various points on the track to catch up with her.

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A great day, with a fantastic atmosphere. Beckie was running to raise money for Great Ormond Street Hospital (G.O.S.H.), where our son, her little brother, had died in 1987. She’d been to visit the house where we lived in London the night before, and memories of her little brother flooded back, making it an emotional time.

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As we chased about, we passed some of the bus stops and train stations we used to use when we took him on hospital visits when we lived in London in the 1980s. Quite and emotional day.

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Beckie exceeded her target and raised about £600 for G.O.S.H.

We clocked up 7 miles of our own chasing Beckie around the 13+ mile track!

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A lovely atmosphere and lots of £ raised for many charities. Great day.

Walk 1,000 miles in a year!

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‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.’

Chinese philosopher Laozi, Tao Te Ching, chapter 64

I’ve decided to challenge myself to walk 1,000 miles in a year – by 31st December 2018. It only amounts to an average of 2.7 miles a day, so it’s achievable. But it will require commitment.

By yesterday I’d completed 53 miles. I’d have got further but my decision to attempt the 1,000 miles in a year coincided with my right knee playing up. Nothing too serious but sometimes a bit too painful to walk very far.

I only made the decision to walk 1,000 miles a few days ago but fortunately my Apple Watch has been tracking my walking distances since the first day of the year.

As you can see from the table below, some days I fell short of the 2.7 daily target but other days did more.

As the days get longer they’ll be more opportunities to walk further.

I’ll be posting pictures and thoughts about my journey through this year.

DATE DAILY MILES YEAR TOTAL
01/01/2018 3.4 3.4
02/01/2018 1.6 5.0
03/01/2018 2.8 7.8
04/01/2018 2.0 9.8
05/01/2018 3.3 13.1
06/01/2018 3.6 16.7
07/01/2018 1.7 18.4
08/01/2018 1.4 19.8
09/01/2018 3.4 23.2
10/01/2018 5.1 28.3
11/01/2018 2.9 31.2
12/01/2018 2.8 34.0
13/01/2018 2.9 36.9
14/01/2018 0.9 37.8
15/01/2018 2.7 40.5
16/01/2018 1.9 42.4
17/01/2018 3.9 46.3
18/01/2018 2.0 48.3
19/01/2018 2.4 50.7
20/01/2018 2.9 53.6

 

Tomato & Basil Sauce – sugar free!

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In any supermarket the shelves are stacked high with ready mixed cooking sauces in jars. They are very convenient and that’s why millions of jars are sold every day.

The downside? Many of them have a high sugar-content when really most of us are trying to cut down on sugar intake.

When it comes to Tomato and Basil Sauce, not only does it not need sugar – it actually tastes loads better without it!

This sauce is REALLY easy to make in a couple of minutes.

You will need:

  • 2 tomatoes
  • Small carton of passata
  • Rapeseed oil
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • Dried basil
  • Stock cube
  • Black Pepper
  • Salt

Method:

Put all the ingredients in the pan, as follows, before putting on heat.

  1. Pour a glug of rapeseed oil in a saucepan.
  2. Crush and finely chop the garlic clove and add to oil
  3. Chop the tomatoes and add to pan.
  4. Pour on the passata.
  5. Add a stock cube – chicken or veg cube are fine.
  6. Sprinkle over with the dried basil.
  7. Add a few twists of ground black pepper.
  8. Add a pinch or two of salt.
  9. Put the pan on the heat and let it start to bubble.
  10. Turn down to a very low simmer for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.
  11. Pour over chicken breasts or pasta for a great taste – sugar free!

Have a banana!

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Over the last couple of years of intentionally trying to improve my diet, one simple habit stands out as the easiest and possibly the most effective change I made. A daily dose of banana.

A banana gives an instant, sustained and substantial boost of energy. Bananas contain three natural sugars – sucrose, fructose and glucose combined with fiber.

There is no question that bananas give us a great energy boost, that’s why they are popular with athletes.

But bananas also help protect us from several illnesses. Blood pressure, anemia, constipation, nerves, and ulcers are all often eased by eating a banana.

According to a recent survey undertaken by MIND, those suffering from depression felt much better after eating a banana. This is because bananas contain tryptophan, a type of protein that the body converts into serotonin, known to make you relax, improve your mood and generally make you feel happier.

The old saying, ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’ should be updated to a banana a day.

I prefer mine when they are nice and ripe, with a few brown dots on the skin. I have one chopped into my porridge every morning for breakfast, with a spoonful of honey.

I also use them in my fruit smoothie recipe.

Go on. Have a banana!

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The Flat Rabbit

flatrabbit2 Yesterday I was quite moved by an article I read about a children’s book that deals with grief. The Flat Rabbit is by Scandinavian children’s book author and artist Bárður Oskarsson. A dog is taking a walk when he discovers a rabbit lying completely flattened in the road. He is quite disturbed by the find and is soon joined by his friend the rat. flatrabbit3

“She is totally flat,” said the rat. For a while they just stood there looking at her. “Do you know her?” “Well,” said the dog, “I think she’s from number 34. I’ve never talked to her, but I peed on the gate a couple of times, so we’ve definitely met.”

They imagine lying flattened in the road is no fun so they think they should do something for the poor rabbit. But they are not sure what. They go to the park for a while to sit and think. The dog finally has an idea and they return and collect the rabbit from the road. flatrabbit9 They work all night in the dog’s workshop and build a kite. They lovingly attach the rabbit to the kite and then, after many failed attempts they get the kite and the rabbit flying. flatrabbit95

Once the kite was flying, they watched it in silence for a long time. “Do you think she is having a good time?” the rat finally asked, without looking at the dog. The dog tried to imagine what the world would look like from up there. “I don’t know…” he replied slowly. “I don’t know.”

I was quite moved by the story because it gently explores the real messiness of grief and loss. Those left behind seldom know what to do, yet feel they must do something. Grief has been a huge part of my story and, watching the dog and the rat struggle to know what to do with the rabbit, I see a reflection of my own confusion about what to do with grief. I’ll be thinking about the flat rabbit and her friends trying to cope with their loss for weeks to come, I think. flatrabbit0 The Flat Rabbit is available on Amazon here.

Looking for seagulls

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The three short years of my son’s troubled life were torture. I thought the bad days would never end. His deformed heart would suddenly cause his blood pressure to drop and he’d pass out. He was in and out of hospital all the time.

Various medicines had to be taken several times a day to keep him alive. When we went out as a family we took a whole pharmacy with us wherever we went.

After he died, shortly before his third birthday, I entered a dark place of not coping that, thirty years later, is only just coming to an end.

When you are going through something frightening or unpleasant, it sometimes feels that this bad period of your life will never be over. Often it feels like the good times play out too fast and the bad times play in slow motion. Life doesn’t have a fast forward button.

Sometimes it feels like our ship has sunk and we are cast adrift, swimming in an endless ocean with no sight of dry land. How long can we go on? But I have learned to look for seagulls.

We may not see the dry land of hope yet, but seagulls never fly too far from the shore. Even a lone seagull can give us hope. Then a few more appear in the sky. Land must be near. Our trial will soon be over and we will stand on solid ground once more.

I don’t know what trials you may be facing today. But don’t give up. Look for the seagulls. Look for a small sign that something is changing for the better.

You may not yet have what you hope for but the seagull means you’re not far off. Hang in there. Dry land is coming soon.

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Who validates you?

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We all want to be a ‘valid person’. But most of us have some little (or large) secret insecurities. These can make us nervous about being ourselves. So there is a human tendency to seek validation from others. Comedians seek laughter. Actors seek applause. Craftsmen seek appreciation. And so on.

I think for most of us this seeking of validation starts when we are small. Do we fit in? Are we popular? Or are we on the edge of the crowd? Are we sometimes shunned?

I remember when I was at primary school and we’d have a medical check. When they did the hearing test I tried really hard to hear the quietest sounds. I was always hoping the nurse would say, ‘You have incredible hearing. I think you’re unique.’ I hope she’d tell others and officials would come and visit me at school and say, ‘Your hearing ability is so amazing, the Prime Minister wants to meet you.’

Needless to say that never happened.

But seeking validation can be very dangerous. Sometimes we give the power of validation to the wrong person – the overbearing parent, the judgemental friend, the unsupportive spouse.

And that’s what we need to understand – we hold the power of our own validation and we choose who to give it to. Be careful.

Many men suffer because they gave the power of validation to their father but he never validated them, never said well done.

In Paul Merton’s autobiography he tells how he sought his Father’s approval but it never came… until his Father was dying. At the last moment in the hospital he tells him how proud he has been of him. After his death, when the family are clearing his Father’s house, they find a scrapbook with every newspaper article about Paul Merton. His Father had been a secret admirer all along.

Many men and women give the power of validation to one parent or other and sometimes the approval never comes.

In some ways we are all seeking a mini-validation by getting the thumbs up ‘like’ on Facebook, or the favourite star – or even better a RT – on Twitter. I’m hoping for a few on this article! But if not, I’m not bothered.

I sometimes get people giving me the benefit of their opinion on my life or work. Here’s a news flash for them all – I haven’t given you the power to validate or invalidate me.

I choose to let history / God / the Universe validate me or not.

The group of people that irritates me the most is those who think they are something special when they’re just like the rest of us. They assume that their opinion is of more value than mine. They spout their opinion as though it was an inarguable fact, when it is just an opinion.

People told me I couldn’t go to the Third-World to help the poor. People told me I couldn’t write a book. They told me I couldn’t start a Charity, or buy my own house.

So I did.

Be careful of those who try to hold you back. They may be trying to keep you down in order to lift themselves up.

You have the power to validate yourself.

While it is always helpful to have a few wise counsellors around you, you need to be true to yourself.

We are all looking for someone to believe in us but be very careful about letting others validate you, because one day they may decide to invalidate you.

You are unique.

Go and be amazing today!