Opening up to your Full Potential

Image of lavender flowers in a small vase

Lavender (image author’s own)

Over the past few weeks the garden has shed much of its glory and I have been doing a few odd jobs around there, clearing leaves from the patio and into the hedgerow  where decay will, in the long term, produce new life. I do love this time of year though, around Halloween, when everything feels very elemental.

In all aspects of life, plant or animal, including the human kind, each season has its own unique charm and beauty and Autumn is for me a time of peace and contemplation. I was, therefore, delighted to find Mary O’Connor’s beautiful image this morning on her blog Life Is Full of Sweet Spots, 

A book I read recently also inspired me a great deal. By Eoin McCabe, ‘Open: How Learning to Live from the Heart Changed Everything’ is a treasure for anyone struggling with anxiety, depression or just plain bewilderment. Through his own life experiences and a kind of trial and error process, the author shares ideas and techniques that helped him deal with upheavals and crises, with loss and change. I couldn’t put it down and I know it is one of those books I’ll keep going back to again and again, probably for life! Highly recommended. So, until next time, believe in yourself, stay focused on your goals, keep creating your dreams and hang on in there!

The Inspirational Ruby Wax

SANE NEW WORLD is a wonderful book image of book cover, Sane New World by Ruby Wax, 2013by Ruby Wax, a gift to us all. In a previous article by Ms Wax in The Guardian  she openly describes her experiences and insights into mental health difficulties and recoveries, specifically with depressive episodes. Here she is in her inimitable gripping, ironic prose, ‘depression isn’t about having a bad hair day. In actuality it feels like your old personality has left town and you’ve been replaced by a block of cement; indifferent if you win the lottery or fall off a cliff.’ Ms Wax goes on to reflect that shame sets in alongside well-meaning but ill-informed advice to ‘perk up’, that is until you discover fellow sufferers with whom you identify and both give and get empathy – social support in action. But that support should be more widely available and built into society, she argues, in the form of walk-in centres and the regular availability of places to meet and mentor on the AA model. Her vision resonates well with the central thesis of my upcoming book entitled Creativity and Social Support in Mental Health: Service Users’ Perspectives (Palgrave). My main findings with day centre clients were the importance of having  somewhere to go and something to do every day, as well as routine and reliable social support. There is such a lot going on, awareness is growing, stigma is dissolving (slowly, we must keep at it). This blog will join the groundswell and hopefully contribute useful ideas and observations or at least help to bring voices together. Please feel free to add comments and suggestions. Thanks for looking in and until next time, look after your mental health 🙂

Magical MacNeice

BBC Northern Ireland recently ran a lovely series of tributes to the life and work of Irish poet Louis MacNeice. Fortunately I was able to attend three of the events and to hear tributes and readings from MacNeice afficionados such as Poet Michael Longley and Professor Edna Longley. As a confirmed MacNeice fan already, these happenings were a tremendous treat. My love for this poet’s work was triggered by the poem ‘The Sunlight on the Garden’, written in 1937.  Although referring to the tension in Europe during the build up to war, the symbolism and sentiment of the poem is just as relevant today. The poem talks about the transience of pleasure and happiness, of life in fact. Yet it also celebrates togetherness, weathering the storm and at least having some ‘sunlight on the garden’. There is a zen-like feeling in the line ‘we cannot cage the minute’ but we can be IN it. I find the poem moving and ultimately uplifting. I hope you find something in it too.

The Sunlight on the Garden by

Louis MacNeiceimage of hedgerow with gossamer lit up by early morning winter sun

The sunlight on the garden
Hardens and grows cold,
We cannot cage the minute
Within its nets of gold,
When all is told
We cannot beg for pardon.

Our freedom as free lances
Advances towards its end;
The earth compels, upon it
Sonnets and birds descend;
And soon, my friend,
We shall have no time for dances.image of sunlight on gossamer and leaf

The sky was good for flying
Defying the church bells
And every evil iron
Siren and what it tells:
The earth compels,
We are dying, Egypt, dying.

And not expecting pardon,
Hardened in heart anew,
But glad to have sat under
Thunder and rain with you,
And grateful too
For sunlight on the garden.

Sources:

Louis MacNeice, Selected Poems, edited by Michael Longley, 2nd edition (2007: 38)

publisher: faber and faber

Original Images by Roberta McDonnell

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