The Nervous System and Meditation

Have you ever wondered about the role the nervous system has on our overall well-being?

What happens when it is under stress and what can support it? According to science, meditation is one of the ways of re-balancing the network of fibres that form the nervous system.

Some of the science-based benefits of meditation include strengthening areas of the brain responsible for memory, self-awareness, attention and self-regulation. Due to its wide usability in the area of mental health, mindfulness has been one of the most studied and researched meditation types.

As simple as it may sound, this practice is about bringing a quality of non-judgemental awareness to the present moment. When the natural tendency of the mind to jump from thought to thought under the influence of internal and external stimuli is consciously met by the intention to be more present and attentive, meditation happens in that space between nature and nurture. This is often the space where spiralling up to wellness begins.

Consistent practice of meditation has been scientifically proven to benefit the autonomic nervous system by calming down the sympathetic branch responsible for the fight or flight responses, and turning on the parasympathetic branch, which brings the body back to its normal functioning after the perceived threat has passed.  

Whether choosing mindfulness or a different type of meditative or contemplative practice, providing a space for the mind and the body to relax and recharge, invites also a possibility to connect to a wider field of Universal energy.

Easy mindfulness practice to soothe the nervous system

One of the distinguishing features of mindfulness is the non-judgemental witnessing aspect of the practice. Unlike other types of meditation, here the practitioner is encouraged to embody an active receptivity towards the unfolding experience: staying awake and aware as far as possible. Abiding with what arises supports emotional resilience, creates a space for working with any tendency towards reactivity, and increases the ability to centre oneself when feeling ungrounded.

The meditation instructions below offer a simple map to follow. The map is not the territory, and so, taking this journey will uncover your natural steps leading to increased awareness of where you may be at internally, what may be needed to go further, or becoming familiar with your physical, emotional or mental boundaries at a given time.


Creating a quiet space and putting aside some time for the exercise invites a good start. Begin by setting an intention for your practice and noticing what expectations might be there in your mind, whatever they may be today. Allowing yourself to be with this unfolding experience as best you can.

Step 1

Settling into a sitting or another comfortable position of your choice, bringing the attention on the body by feeling the soles of the feet on the ground and sensing the weight of the body being held by the chair or the ground. Being receptive to the presence or absence of sensations in your body.

Take a few moments to shift the focus of your attention to your inner experience. Noticing what might be happening in your thoughts. Watching the thoughts as they come and go like clouds on the sky. Are there any particular feelings there? Any mood or mental state on the surface of your awareness?

If you find yourself getting drawn into any thoughts, feelings or internal chatter, remember to gently escort your attention back to just witnessing your experience.

Step 2

Redirecting your full attention to the breath by finding a spot in the body where the breath is felt most clearly. Following the breath flow all the way in and all the way out.

Taking a few conscious breaths, bringing the attention to the belly and how the breath is flowing naturally. What do you notice about it? Whatever its pace, quality, strength, or the sensations felt where it passes, make a point to be present with its ever-changing flow.

Knowing when you are breathing in……. and when breathing out…….. 

Step 3

Expand the field of your present attention to incorporate a sense of your body as a whole, and sensations in certain areas. Including an awareness of your facial expression and posture and other things that may come to your attention, such as smells or sounds.


Returning your attention to just being here now, noticing your breath, the body and your general state of mind. In your own time, opening the eyes and noting where you are, and, with your full attention returning to being here.

Other meditation options:

For a quick pick-me-up, here’s a guided mindful breathing practice from Mindfulness in Real Life:

If feeling more adventurous to experience a taste of another kind of meditation, please click the link below to watch the video of a brief introduction to meditation techniques from Edgar Cayce’s A.R.E.:

When the eye contact lenses are falling out…

The transition from social separation to connection seems like a “road less travelled”. The freedom of movement and connection with the outside world is finally allowed to happen, yet, the subtle and less subtle effects of the lockdown on people’s minds are less obvious or talked about. In the middle of trying to break out of the imposed separation, it may be easy to miss out some psychological aspects.

If it is possible to search your memory for experiences you have been having during the lockdown, that have moved or changed you in any way, apart from maybe being physically away from other people, services, facilities, hobbies, or other things that used to be part of your life, then why not look at some of the new layers that have been added during that time to the person you knew yourself to be in the past.

In case you were fortunate to avail of some quiet time during those days, weeks and months that seemed to have no end in sight since the beginning of 2020, you may have noticed not only what was changing or missing in the external world, but also something that was happening inside you. Maybe it was fear, worry, doubt, loneliness, disconnection, loss, some emotional churning, past mental content being dug up, or perhaps also some joy, peace and acceptance.

As hard as feeling imprisoned can feel, literally and metaphorically, there is also a benefit in having a chance to consciously or unconsciously turn towards one’s own mental and emotional content which can surface more especially during periods of pausing from the habitual movement and activity. This reminds me of being on a meditation retreat, when the pausing from the daily routine can bring up many new discoveries.

Then, what happened during the never-ending lockdown that led to this new kind of separation created by the differing views and beliefs about how fast to move forward “back to the past”? I wonder, is experiencing separation a new road to creating new connection? Whatever connection means for each of us. Fortunately, life is naturally moving forward rather than backward, and some old layers of our beliefs and values are unavoidably falling off during this process. The flow of life cannot be forced return to the past, no matter how comfortable the past used to be. That is a view, of course.

And so the contact lenses are falling out, symbolically speaking, when we begin to see our perceptions of the reality through own eyes, and maybe borrowing less other people’s views, that may be useful for them to hold. And it can be almost earth-shattering sometimes, when you discover that there are other ways to live life than the ones you were used to.

Ajahn Sucitto, Buddhist monk and author calls these beliefs ‘programs’ that people end up adopting based on upbringing, experiences, past or existing social values, and other influences. And these factors are useful, too, in helping discover and shape a person’s natural inclinations and aspirations. We cannot but influence each other all the time, and perhaps we are constantly changed through relational interactions, yet, sometimes the differing views can cause conflict and thus create divisions, internally and externally.

Writing about “Floods of Views and Ignorance”, Ajahn Sucitto unpacks the meaning of views and looks at their effects on human mind:

“ ’Views’ refers to the instinct we have to hold beliefs, opinions and dogmas in order to gain a standpoint. […] There are several salient features to the flood of views. One is that it puts life into the abstract, sums people into groups, and makes a ‘something’ that we can stand back from. From this perspective the mind can form neat divisions: between my party and the others. The flood of views therefore isolates; and more tellingly it draws a dividing boundary across which negotiation, empathy and at times even ethical standards, do not cross. […] With the adopting of views, empathy and ethics are under threat.” (p.19, 20, 21)

The discussion on views goes on to suggest ways of engaging with the challenge:

“A remedy that is recommended then is to note a view as a starting place from which to investigate or enter a dialogue with others. In this we acknowledge that we have a personal perspective and can’t avoid having one. This is already a breakthrough, because the fallacy that supports the flood is that any individual can have an all-encompassing view – whereas the very act of holding a view immediately places the viewer in a state of isolation from scrutiny. To acknowledge subjectivity may lead to the recognition that ‘my’ position isn’t really mine, but one that is conditioned by the information I’ve received or an experience I’ve had, and is therefore capable of being reviewed and moderated. […] Thus we overcome the sense of division, and specific kindness gets established.” (p. 21, 22)

In case you are wondering what the word ‘floods’ refers to in the above context, the author describes them as follows:

“The term ‘floods’ speaks for itself: the overwhelmed, swept-along feeling that comes as we get plunged into stress and suffering.” (p.16)

The mouth is covered literally and perhaps symbolically, too, in whatever way one wishes to perceive it. Whether the mouth covering is experienced as a necessary measure of self-protection and protection of others, an object limiting self-expression or sharing through verbal communication, or maybe as something else, it is up to you. Now, having an experience with the covering, one can really begin to question one’s views on other types of face coverings, such as the hijab worn by women in certain cultures.

The eyes, though, are not covered, unless done intentionally. What can be seen when, so to speak, the eye contact lenses are falling out? To pause for a moment and watch one’s own “flood of views” in relationship to others’ may be a starting point in an ongoing conversation about how to move forward into the future.


Sucitto, A. (2012). Parami. Ways to Cross Life’s Floods. Amaravati Publications, Amaravati, UK.

Ajahn Sucitto is a Buddhist monk born in the UK, who writes on life topics and travels internationally on teaching engagements. His book, “Parami, Ways to Cross Life’s Floods”, is available for free download from

Blossoming through a broken place

An online mindfulness meditation retreat attended earlier this month was an event that came at a good time of the year and brought with it renewed space for reflection, kindness and connection. Practicing meditation in a group can be one of the most enriching experiences. The Retreat was organised by the Passaddhi Meditation Centre,, and taught by Marjó Oosterhof, Meditation Teacher. Something from this experience I would like to share about here.

An exercise, we, as a group, were invited to do in our own physical space was to do mindful walking meditation and notice three aspects of the walk that brought joy to each of us. Off I went on my walk. The sun was shining outside and its light pierced through any leftover thoughts that were there internally before beginning the walk.

In mindfulness meditation, whatever comes to the attention of the meditator, is part of the landscape of awareness: no need to add or take away anything. The practice can bring up some pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral parts of life, and it is worth taking the risk to let all of it in. And this time, being asked to notice things that brought joy, was something like being invited to dip into the jar of honey, for those who love honey.

Walking by a line of trees along the road, the first thing coming to the attention was that they looked so young; the same trees, dry and brown, and that had no leaves on them just two months before. Such a transformation! Then, the mind found an explanation for what was seen, and it said quietly: “It is spring, after all”.

Being close to the trees felt like a privilege. So, the next natural step was to come even closer to them. They seemed quiet and grounded, enjoying the peace around, and as if nothing was able to move them. The tree closest to me was just like the others, the same type and hight, yet, something was different about it. On one of its branches, a twig looked almost ready to fall. Half split from its branch at a lower angle, it gave the impression that it was broken but still hanging in there, yet, a bud was blossoming from it, like from all the other twigs on the tree. Quite confusing. Moving in closer, I could see that the broken place had already healed and the twig was now securely attached to the branch although it did not look like it from a distance. Then I “twigged” that it was healed enough for the life energy to travel from the roots of the tree, to its branches, to the twig and into the bud. It felt joyful to see how life found its way in.

Can a twig that had been previously broken become securely attached to its tree again? This one did. Nature has such a quiet way of practicing being alive! Had I not moved in closer, the truth of the twig would not have been seen. And, who knows, how many other twigs share the same story? Who knows how many minds are tempted to judge things as they seem, only to discover that there is something else hiding behind the surface? Or, could it be that it is in human nature not to give up on hope for life even when the reality appears to be broken at the surface?

“Under a cherry tree, there are no strangers”. (Kobayashi Issa, Japanese poet)

From Responsibility to Control

There is a lot of talking about ways of managing the current situation regarding safety, health and wellbeing, locally and internationally. Depending on what Life is giving each of us to deal with, in terms of day to day experiences and relationships, there are certain values, beliefs and expectations around caring and being cared for that we are all holding, whether being aware or not.

Watching the current events, as they unfold and are presented in the media, one can notice many different initiatives, reactions and decisions on the Responsibility-Control spectrum, taken in the name of caring.

So, how does the intention to care for oneself and others, in dealing with real life challenges, may start in the mind and manifest in the practical reality, when one does their best to live and enjoy life?

Thinking about responsibility and control, my thoughts went to the ideas of Virginia Satir, American author and psychotherapist, known for her contribution to family systems therapy, and whose book “Peoplemaking” written in the 1970s, describes fully human but problematic patterns of communication between people. These patterns were derived from her family therapy work, and in summary they consist of four stances:

Placate: always agreeing for the sake of peace, submissive.

Blame: finding fault, pointing the finger at somebody else, dictating.

Compute (Super reasonable): say the right words, coming across as a machine, being correct, show no feeling.

Distract (Irrelevant): words do not connect, being on the move, the response is off the point.

Satir suggests that a 5th stance, which she calls “Levelling response”, would add ease to relationships, it is honest and free of blame.

“In this response, all parts of the message are going in the same direction. The voice says words that match the facial expression, the body position and the voice tone. […] The levelling response is real for whatever is. […] The message is single and straight.”(p. 72-73)

“So when you are leveling, you apologise in reality when you realize you’ve done something you didn’t intend. You are apologising for an act, not for your existence. There are times when you need to criticize and evaluate. When you do this in a leveling way, you are evaluating an act, not blaming the person, and there is usually a new direction you have to offer. “(p. 73).

The link below shows Satir leading a role-play of the four communication stances in a family, with their potential implications on the mind – body and the other people involved. It shows the effects on the group dynamic and on the individual, when people “fall” in certain roles.  

In our times, the above classification of patterns of communication may seem to the reader somewhat clinical and focused on pathology. In the same book though, Satir also wrote about the family of the future and how she imagined and wished the world to be a place where acceptance of diversity and more conscious communication between people would be practiced more freely.

It is interesting that in the 1970s she wrote that the family of the future “[…] would be people coming together, trying to make life richer for each other and at the same time for themselves, with the kind of understanding that variation is an important adjunct to the stimulation of life.” (p. 302)

“[…] In the light of this, what do we seem to be heading for? A more responsible human being who can make choices, who can plan according to his needs, and not according to someone else’s plan for him; someone who will recognise that there are differences concerning people as well as predictable similarities.” (p. 303)

Another writer who comes to mind, touching on psychological and spiritual ideas regarding roles in communication, is James Redfield. Many years ago, a friend introduced me to The Celestine Prophecy, a best-selling novel written by James Redfield in 1993. Recently I picked it up again and was surprised to find new meanings on the same old pages.

“The little theatre of control” presented in the novel’s “Manuscript” consists of “four dramas” or main roles, and anything in between, that people take in communication in order to gain attention or energy:

The Intimidator: behaving aggressively or threatening

The Interrogator: showing subtle aggression, questioning, looking for weaknesses and slowly undermining somebody else’s world

The Aloof: attract energy to themselves by behaving withdrawn and being reserved

The Poor me: seeking help from somebody else in a passive way, their message may be intended at making you feel guilty or responsible for their troubles.

According to James Redfield’s novel, the theatre of control begins in one’s family of origin and is perpetuated by repeating the patterns one has grown up with.

It needs to be said here that, while it may be easy for anybody to recognise themselves in certain roles at certain times, fortunately, there are also useful and constructive patterns of communication that one learns from their family or other relationships. It is not about placing people and their behaviours in boxes with labels on them. Yet, slowly sorting between the constructive and less constructive roles, one finds help to figure their way through the realtionship maze, over and over again. Anything can get entangled from time to time in the flow of life.

As a way to move forward from the power struggles that people experience in relationships, the book introduces the reader to 9 Insights, which the main character experiences and understands during his journey in Peru. You will find the Insights presented in the film, which can be watched by clicking the link at the end of the blog.

It is much easier to point at the shortcomings of another person, a group, a system or social structure, as they appear to us, although those shortcomings might be real, than to look in our own minds and hearts,. And even pointing the finger can lead to new understandings. The reflection that appears does not fail to show the truth of the matter, in the eyes of the one who points, if they are also looking inside, not only outside. After all, according to science, approximately 60% of the human body is water.

Without suggesting that either Satir’s 5th stance or Redfield’s roles in communication and Insights are the answers to the questions around the caring theme, their ideas are presented here to generate reflection.

Often there is a fine line between responsibility and control, depending on each specific context, and sometimes taking control may be necessary. On the other side, it can be hard to get it always right for everyone involved or those affected by the decisions.

And if you have not yet read the Celestine Prophecy book and would like to know more about the Insights, there is a film released in 2006 and based on the best-selling novel of the same name; the link below is available through the generosity of the person who shared it online.

Let’s imagine that you have a gas heater and you switch it on and off from the Control knob when needed. Suppose taking Responsibility was at the Cool end of the heater’s thermostat, taking Control was at the Hot end, and the Medium was everything in between. If you found yourself having to make decisions and choices in the name of caring, where would you place them on the Responsibility-Control spectrum on the thermostat?

Warm Easter wishes!


Satir, V. (1978). Peoplemaking. UK: The Guernsey Press Co. Ltd, Guernsey, Channel Islands.

Redfield, J. (1993). The Celestine Prophecy: An Adventure. New York: Warner Books

‘Off-grid’ thinking

Early this year, before spring was officially on its way to the external world, inside the Earth there must have been a lot of activity going on, unheard and unseen. From my window, on one surprising morning I could see the raised head of a little crocus flower just beside some dog’s waste on the grass.

A very strange site to look at. With one eye closed, just letting the crocus only into my visual field, I could see beauty. Leaving the crocus out, only the dog’s waste was visible in an unexpected place. And with both eyes, the objects together created a mixed feeling.

It is interesting that nature made us with two eyes, and we can see the beautiful and the ugly at the same time, if we choose to. Is that why we have two eyes? To be able to learn how to balance it all out, and not get too carried away with one way or the other? That surely happens in real life, too, it is not just a window view.

Then I suddenly remembered the time two years ago when deciding to plant a small crocus bulb into that very spot, and hope for the best. The new flower was my hope blooming two years later!

There was something else that was more metaphorical, to see from the window view. Minds, too, can offer similar perspectives. One part of the mind holding on to some waste thoughts and beliefs, while there will also be other parts like flowers blooming in just the right places where new life and beauty is needed. And, even if not being a pleasant view, the dog’s waste can enrich the soil for plants to grow stronger.

Hmmm, Nature has its magic solutions. And, I guess, a new perspective was there to be taken in by anybody walking mindfully by the site. A thousand words would not have spelt the message better than Nature itself. Sometimes nobody has to lift a finger for this to happen. A planted seed will be taken care of.

Maybe we are too driven to make things happen, bringing to an extreme the understandable need for protection of self and other from viruses, thieves, crooks, and other types of invaders. As if we did not want to find out how, if we surrender to uncertainty, life can take care of itself inside us. And yet, there are potential dangers lurking at every step.

Maybe we are too quick to return to our old ways and the lifestyles being created over time, believing they are good, true and forever lasting. At the same time, it can be hard to let go of something one has been very fond of in the past. It is only when some waste thoughts, beliefs and their resulting actions become visible, a reminder to tidy it up appears, too. It depends on which eye you are looking at it with.

Thinking as if we are the centre of the Universe, and can manipulate life energy is one way of going into the future.  Is that the only one possible, though? And yet, given the time, support and trust, life will flourish by itself anyway on its own terms, just like a plant.

Returning down–to-earth, there are plenty examples of how real life situations can be viewed in different ways, as if looking with one eye, the other, or with both. Have you noticed how you look upon things and situations? And have you been wondering how to make meaning of what is obscure, uncertain, insufficiently experienced or researched?

To invite further reflection on the question of ‘how we see what we see’, below is a link of the film, ‘One night with the King’ based on a version of the biblical story of Queen Esther.

Some see the stars, others think separation. Light and shadow, co-existing. Enjoy this journey through time and history to the end!

Befriending the “Monkey Mind”

You may have come across the expression of the “monkey mind”, which is often used to describe the way ordinary human thinking works, not too dissimilar to the jumping of a Monkey from branch to branch.

If you ever happened to see a real monkey in its natural habitat, or watched monkey’s behaviour in animal documentaries, you may remember how playful and full of tricks they can be.

The mind, with its ever changing thoughts and emotions is a landscape worth observing. Not unlike watching with fascination the stars on a night’s clear sky, the mind offers so much material to observe night and day, if you are curious. Curiosity, though, may not be the only reason for paying attention to the workings of the mind. Psychological and physical pain and suffering would be another common motivation.

The expression says it all: the mind can be as unsettled, capricious and changeable as a monkey jumping from tree to tree. Great metaphor! However, this animal’s name was chosen for the expression to describe only a fraction of its behavioural tendencies. What lies beneath the surface? Besides the above aspects, there seems to be a lot of morality in a monkey’s behaviour. Something worth looking at.

Another use of the monkeys, and not for an expression but for their bodies, is in animal testing and research. This is because monkeys are primates and biologically so similar to humans. It seems that they are still used in the creation and testing vaccines. But having the monkey’s name in an expression is probably the least harmful way that these animals are used to support humans’ life on Earth.

To connect the monkey with our current realities, the following is what I am wondering about.  There is a lot of conversation in the media these days about the trauma that the current pandemic has caused to people. Not disagreeing with this view, but adding another perspective to the ongoing conversation, motivated me to ask several questions about the involvement of our minds in how the pandemic is managed both at a collective level, and at an individual one. Perhaps the wider pandemic situation has also triggered old, un-acknowledged and un-resolved traumas that people experience in the present under the pressures of the changes.

How often do you look at your thoughts? Do you always believe them? How much do you believe from what is in the media?  Do you experience an exhausted mind that would just not relax or feel content? If any of these questions ring a bell for you, then, the monkey can come to help.

With this in mind, I am posting below the following link of a Ted Talk about monkeys and not only, which may throw some light on the idea: the presence in the monkey’s mind of more constructive tendencies.

There are a myriad of ways for tapping into the unexplored richness of our inner thinking Universe. Every day I am both challenged and fascinated by this ongoing exploration, not without suffering at times.

Meditation is one of the tools readily available to us in today’s world. It can aid the work of taming the so- called “monkey-like” aspects of the mind and cultivating those that we wish to see more in ourselves and others such as: presence, kindness, empathy, co-operation, altruism and fairness. Maybe there is hope for each of us out there. Now, what thoughts do you have about monkeys?

Lighting up your candle this Christmas

Approaching Christmas time this year running around, walking, strolling, driving, flying or just staying at home, whatever route you choose to take to arrive, is a journey in itself. This Christmas is different for most people who have been touched by the changes of 2020.

Not knowing can be as painful as knowing something that feels painful. But the not knowing how life will turn out has the surprise element added to it.

I wonder if a rose bud feels any pain in the process of opening into a rose. Does it ask itself when and how it should open? What would happen to it if it opens?

Unlike the rosebud, many of us think a lot about opening up in new and uncertain circumstances. Maybe some questions asked deep inside the mind are:

Would it be safe? Will I be protected? What would happen to me and my family? What would people think of me?

This is also the beauty of an inner creative space. A space where personal and collective choices become essential.

If you feel that this year much or some of the experiences, people or things you hoped to have in your life have been taken away from you, then it is natural to also feel grief, sadness and loss.

Yet, looking around, there are many people who seem happy and content. At least in those moments of showing themselves, they were enjoying a loving partner, satisfaying work, the support of their family, a comfortable home environment, or just appreciating nature by taking in the sight of the green grass and the birds’ joy to be alive. Is joy as contagious as sadness is?

The shaking up of our inner and outer worlds this year has led to more inequality and gaps in the outer systems and the supports needed for those most in need of care and attention. And the shaking up reaches places deep inside, too. Maybe, you too, feel deprived of something, it does not have to be material things, it may be around missing a relationship, a place, or being unable to be with those close to you. And what is it like for you when you meet or see somebody who has what you would like? Rather than getting annoyed or envious, or allowing anger to grow in your mind and heart, why not consider something different?

When you experience some of the above, it may help to let other perspectives in, to widen the narrow or dark spaces where the mind can get caught up in for too long sometimes. Meditation surely helps to widen those spaces.

Mudita is a practice originating in the Buddhist meditation tradition. A Sanskrit word meaning joy, particularly sympathetic joy or the pleasure derived from delighting in the good fortune and well-being of others. Cultivating the feeling of altruistic joy through the practice of Mudita not only helps you to experience a more peaceful state of mind, but may also transfer to whoever or whatever you come in contact with during the festive season.

Feeling happy for those who are still enjoying the blessings of material abundance, high spirits, good health, family or loving relationships may be a place to start lighting up some joy in your heart.

Create your own miracle. Light up a candle inside yourself this Christmas and be curious about what happens!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Hanuman and the Hunger for more

Back in April this year, shortly after the first lockdown started here in Ireland, our lives, the way we knew them, were beginning to change in quite unexpected ways. You may remember how you and your family were impacted by it. While it was asked of all to minimize travel and organise lives in such ways as to have limited contact with other people, I was, probably like many others, trying to slowly adjust to this new lifestyle in the best way I could.

Grouping together my essential shopping journeys, I started looking for new solutions, so that there would be less travel involved. This is the route that the Hanuman symbol came through.

One week during my food shopping, purchasing a larger quantity of fresh beetroot, the idea came to dehydrate it and use it gradually for the coming months. The plan came to life, and the fresh beetroot turned into translucent dry slices. Taking a closer look, each slice was unique in its own way. Placing them over the window glass in the sun, fine veins and subtle shades of ruby red were seen running through it. Each slice was like a unique work of art, signed by Nature.

One particular slice drew my attention; it was relatively small and the intricacy of its internal shapes asked for more attention. So I began sketching on an A4 paper. Up to a point, it was easy to follow the fine lines and curves, but when my hand arrived to the centre of the page, it started doing something different. It was as if there was a new drawing within a the drawing, happening by itself. There was a feeling of a story being hidden in the centre of that beetroot slice that waited to be discovered. From that point, with the slice beside me, I tentatively allowed my hand to keep going in its own way. If you ever tried to draw something without following a pre-conceived shape, colour or idea in your mind, you know what was happening here.

Initially the drawing looked like a cross and the body of a person on the cross. You know how the mind is, trying to put a label on everything it sees…. It is easy to guess where my thoughts went. Letting go of the image, my hand continued. Then it turned into something different. After several attempts at re-discovering the shapes that were beginning to form in the centre, something new emerged out of the lines and curves. Have a look at the attached picture of the sketch and see what you may discover in it.

Who is Hanuman, and why his symbol was chosen for this article?

Lord Hanuman is one of the central characters of Ramayana, the great Sanskrit poem of ancient India. Known as “the Hindu monkey God”, he represents the qualities of strength, perseverance and loyalty in Hindu mythology. He symbolises complete surrender and true devotion to his real self in unity.

This article and sketch honour the ancient Hanuman symbol for the purpose of connecting it with contemporary and real life questions, such as how the mind perceives the internal and external challenges that it experiences.

There are various online stories available about Hanuman’s life.  I am following versions of the story, which can be found here, and here:

A mischievous child, Hanuman flew to the sun using his special powers and tried to grab it thinking it was a ripe fruit. Punished by the King of Gods and being thrown back to the Earth, he fell and ended up with a disfigured jaw. As a consequence of the ways he made use of his divine abilities in the encounters with other people, he was later cursed to forget them unless reminded by another person. What followed throughout his adult life was a series of acts of faith, strength, and courage. Through engaging with deep compassion towards his fellow beings he remembered how to make good use of his special powers. In the end his actions led to him to being blessed with the gift of immortality by Lord Rama.

An interesting part of the Hanuman’s story in Ramayana is the episode of him visiting Mata Sita during her captivity in Valkimi’s cottage. She was happy to cook for him many delicacies but, as his hunger was insatiable, there was no more food left in the house stores. After praying to Lord Rama for advice, Mata Sita served him a morsel with a Tulsi (basil) leaf. Thus, Hanuman’s hunger was satisfied, as he, too, was a follower of Lord Rama.

Stories within stories: from the first lockdown, to the fresh beetroot, leading to the Hanuman symbol and how he dealt with the limitations.

Back to November 2020, among the string of restrictions that people have had to go through in this country and internationally, some have been more difficult than others to live with. Some of my memories of limitations belonging to past times were triggered, being pushed to consider how I engaged with them then and what patterns have been repeating in the recent times, including while this blog was imagined and created.

The topic of restrictions in our lives is an interesting one and can be considered beyond the Covid 19 restrictions imposed by any Government. Limitations related to other life aspects are possible, too; some that come to mind are weather/climate conditions, in relationships and mental or physical ability. Perhaps the topic is well worth reflecting on outside of the Covid 19 context. However, as this would go beyond the limits of this blog, here comes the full stop, but feel free to keep reflecting.

How have you engaged with the restrictions during the lockdown? Is there any part of Hanuman’s story that resonates with you?

The Earth has a fragrance

Fragrance is one of the phenomena that cannot be seen but felt and it is not limited to the smelling ability. It may be possible to look differently at this gift that humans have to perceive the fragrance of things and other living entities. Smell, aroma, scent and fragrance are only words trying to encapsulate the essence of something unseen.

A smile can have a pleasant fragrance; it may be the fragrance of that person’s state of being in the moment. Their heart may be happy. When somebody smiles sincerely towards you, they are spreading the joy of the smile all around them.

Different plants, trees, flowers and fruits have their specific scents, too. The sun light brings the scents out more into the world, and just like your smile reaching out other people’s hearts, can bring out the best in them.

There are many ways to connect with people and our surroundings. One is seeing with the eyes, then the sense of hearing with the ears, feeling by touching, tasting through the tongue and smelling through your nose. In one word, all these senses for interacting with the internal and external environment, are known as VAKGO: Visual, Auditive, Kinesthetic, Gustative and Olfactory.

It may be that there are other senses, not yet part of this list. When you feel receptive to somebody else’s joy, what sense is at work? When your friend’s sadness or reading sad news bring you down, what sense is at work? It would be interesting to explore.

Returning to the conversation about the sense of smell, there are so many opportunities to engage with what nature offers each day.

Walking by a honeysuckle plant in bloom this morning its gentle colours, sweet fragrance and rich aroma were impossible to miss when passing by it. I had to stop and look at it, its fragrance brought me right there in the moment.

If you can find at least one thing or entity with a sweet fragrance every single day, life will happen from a sweeter and more inspired space…. Or maybe there is some uplifting fragrance somewhere inside yourself that waits to be discovered.

It is up to you and me to tune into all the sights and fragrances that the Earth is generously offering each day, inwards and outwards.

From Aspirations to Living Reality, post-lockdown

As the world is now in a very different place than it was at the beginning of 2020, I feel grateful to have the opportunity of asking questions that may be connected with making a new start in life; or resuming from where it was left since the recent world changes.

For many of us may be going through endings and new beginnings. Although they are part of anybody’s life, it is not always that straight forward to sail through a stormy sea.

So, perhaps it is an appropriate time to consider wishes.

When making a new start how is it possible to actively and consciously be on the road of seeing an aspiration, a wish or a desire being transformed into living reality over time? It seems that an aspiration is the precursor of a wish. Or, it may be that you are experiencing more wishes than aspirations; each person may have a different situation. For the purpose of this blog post, aspirations and wishes were considered together in the reflections below.

Wanting or needing?

What is in a wish? Asking for what you really want or asking for what you really need, or something different? What inspires you in making a wish?

Looking at the difference between wanting and needing can be an interesting exercise these days; it seems to me, the question will never go out of fashion as long as human beings will care about the Earth and other people.

Asking for something – good relationships, good health, “the right job”, “the right partner”, fun, a beautiful house, a successful career, children, peace, whatever your heart desires- is on everybody’s mind.

In wanting certain things from life, some old ways of asking may be, for example, to mentally formulate it, to visualize it, work for it, ask for help, or pray for it.

We have individual wishes, secret and open ones, ones filled with guilt, innocent ones, and passionate ones; there are collective wishes of a couple, family, group, community and nation.

I have recently felt that wishes have a powerful relational aspect to them. Perhaps they have always been like that. I want something for me that is “in relation with” something or somebody else.

Have you ever wondered about how you ask for your wishes? What words do you tend to use? Who are they addressed to, even when you do it quietly? What is your state of mind in asking? What is the intention at the root of your wish?

A relational wish-making … with examples

An invitation to have a fresh look at wish-making

It is true that we all need each other in order to exist as people and live a life. And we usually ask for something that is believed to be outside of ourselves, and so it could be that we sometimes place pressure on our-selves or others to get it and have certain expectations of people and things out there.

These questions and reflections are formulated to include both the “wish-maker” and who or what else may be part of the wishful thinking. The questions are addressed to anybody that cares sincerely about inquiring into their own mind.

  • Wishing to rebuild life post – lockdown?

Trusting unconditionally in your vision and being prepared to generate new ideas and ideals that will serve as a new foundation for life, or for building on the existing one.

  • Asking for a loving family?

Sustaining and contributing to harmonious relationships with and within your family.

  • Asking for a good job or fulfilling work?

Carrying out the work with dignity and respect for self and others. Do you know what special gifts and talents you hold inside and which ones can be expanded on?

  • Wishing for a successful career?

What is the internal motivation that drives your wish?

  • Asking for a beautiful house?

Being ready to take good care of it in a way that fills it and the people living in it with love.

  • Asking for better experiences and kinder people around you?

Looking at the challenge of tolerating the less harmonious traits that you encounter in others. May these traits be a mirror to some of your own? Treating oneself and others with more kindness and compassion.

  • Asking for better health?

Taking more responsibility for your mind, body and spirit from the inside out and exploring the connection between them.

  • Aspiring to be more positive?

What is the smallest gesture of simple positivity that you can think of?

  • Asking for freedom from anxiety?

Exploring ways of meeting life with less tendency to have people and situations meet your   needs, wants and expectations. There will always be an element of the unknown in life.

  • Wishing for more self-empowerment?

Being willing to pay attention to how you might allow yourself or others to practice disempowerment. What is your relationship with receiving help? Re-visiting the “expert position” that you may place on others.

  • Asking to be free of anger?

It is powerfully creative emotion. It depends on what you create with it. Perhaps recognising and letting go of what you think you may be entitled to, and embracing what is given.

  • Asking to be healed, physically, mentally or emotionally?

Developing an interest in working through and letting go of some old wounds or unhelpful beliefs.

  • Asking for internal or external beauty?

Nurturing the curiosity to investigate how you use your beautiful eyes to look at yourself and others.

  • Yearning for more peace of mind?

Willing to let go of control and the need to have life going in a certain way.

  • Wishing for more abundance in life?

Perhaps being genuinely content with what you have right now and appreciating it, might be a start.  If not there yet, what would help cultivating more appreciation?

  • Wishing for more ease and calm in life?

Observing and letting go of any tendency to hold tight on beliefs, things, relationships, or whatever else that you may be a little too possessive about.

  • Do you care about healthy food?

Joining others on the journey of creating healthy food from the seed to the meal on your plate. Appreciating what nature offers locally that can be turned into nutritious food.

  • Caring about clean drinking water?

Contributing in any way towards the purification and saving of the planet’s precious water. Remaining aware that everything that you put into and on your body ends up back into the Earth, seas and oceans, and then back into the food chain and on your plate and mine.

  • Wishing for less pollution and cleaner breathing air?

How can you lead a life style that pollutes less? Trees are waiting to be planted.

  • Wishing for less destruction and devastation on this beautiful planet?

Beginning to identify and let go of anything that is destructive in your own thoughts, behaviour and actions.

  • Wishing for a more peaceful world?

How can we all cultivate more peace in our minds and contribute to same in relationships?

The endless river of wishes…. It is not so much about arriving to a fixed end point, it is more about keeping the river flowing. One can never go wrong by including a new perspective in the mind.

Asking for what we really want or need is a mysterious action taken, often unconsciously. When we inquire deeply and with kindness, new discoveries may be made, to help lead the way forward.

“Understanding of the self only arises in relationship, in watching yourself in relationship to people, ideas, and things; to trees, the earth, and the world around you and within you. Relationship is the mirror in which the self is revealed. Without self-knowledge there is no basis for right thought and action.” Jiddu Krishnamurti