What we may be

In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Ophelia says “Lord, we know what we are, but not what we may be.” This quote points to future possibilities and potential being unknown. For Ophelia and Hamlet, whose lives were written by someone else, namely Shakespeare, they didn’t get much say over how things turned out for them. However, we can create our own narrative in life. Piero Furrucci took forward a passion, believing that visualisation and imagination can change and determine our situations; that through, love, kindness and creativity, lives may be transformed. In this week’s group we used one of Ferrucci’s visualisation exercises together. The exercise allowed us to meet a part of ourselves (as we all have many parts, for example, the part that wants to go for an early morning walk each day and the part that wants to sleep in). Ferucci’s exercise allowed us to meet a part and find out a bit more about it.

Our group experiences included finding perfectionist parts, and seeing that perhaps things did not always have to be exact. Some found parts that were looking for nurture and care and realised the ways this could be achieved, some realised the part that would like to just relax and be, and others found a hope in future possibilities.

When we find a part of ourselves, and what it might need and start to be kind to it, this will hopefully help us to be less critical towards the parts of ourselves that we feel uncomfortable with and try to avoid. If we find out what the part needs, we can transform that part through our understanding of it.

Photo by La Miko on Pexels.com

More lighthearted jokes from group members!

Fun is an important part of our well-being

“Don’t buy anything with velcro, it’s a total rip off!”
“Hedgehogs eh? Why don’t they just share the hedge?!” 
“I’m not doing this stay at home thing for the good of my health you know!”
“Don’t buy a spider from the pet shop, you can get one cheaper from the web!”
“So without telling her, I swapped our bed for a trampoline, my wife hit the roof!”
“Today I built an electric fence around my house, my neighbour is dead against it!”
“I Wish I could get a job cleaning Mirrors, it’s just something I can see myself doing!” 
“Russian dolls eh? They’re so full of themselves!” 
I bought my friends an elephant for their room. They said “Thank you” I said ” Don’t mention it”!
“There’s no real training if you’re a bin man … you just have to pick up things as you go along!”
“I just wrote a song about a tortilla…well its more of a rap really!” 
“People are making apocalypse jokes…like there’s no tomorrow!” 

Enjoying Nature During Lockdown

In last week’s meeting online we discussed where we had been for walks during lockdown and what we had discovered or rediscovered and enjoyed during this time. Some had stayed quite close to home and in doing so discovered a great deal more about their locality than they had previously noticed. People had found new pathways, historical sites and places which brought peace and pleasure. Those who had ventured a little further had seen some more unusual wildlife, whilst others had become familiar with the birds which visited their garden. Wherever we had been it seemed that everyone had a bigger awareness of natural spaces and places of peacefulness.

Walking and getting out into nature are good for us in a myriad of ways. Physically walking increases heart rate, decreases blood pressure, boosts immunity, strengthens bones and aids sleep. Socially, walking allows us to have connection with our fellow human beings as we say hello, point to a beautiful sunset, comment on the wind or say hello to a waggy tailed dog. Group members commented that during lockdown people were more likely to say hello to each other on their daily walks, and hoped that this would be a feature that continues as restrictions are eased. Walking with another person facilitates open conversation and a mutual appreciation of the landscape and allows a physical rhythm of walking together. Walking is good for our mental health, it improves mood due to the release of endorphins.

If we are unable to physically go out walking, looking a picture of a calming natural scene reduces stress. Activities like looking at pictures, looking out of a window, going for a drive in nice scenery or virtual tours, sitting in a garden or growing flowers in a window box or feeding the birds are all beneficial.

Walking is also good for our brain health, as we walk and navigate we increase brain activity in different brain regions which helps us to problem solve and get creative.

Black Lives Matter Discussion

As a local group meeting in Edinburgh, separated by Lockdown, we have been delighted these last few weeks to connect again online. This has challenged some to the very edges of their technological abilities but we are very pleased with our achievements to have everyone up and running online. Well done!

Facing a computer screen with a myriad of buttons can be quite daunting when you don’t know what worldwide implications lie at the end of it. Pressing ‘send’, ‘post’, ‘agree’, ‘buy’, ‘leave’ can all hold a bit of anxiety.

Last week we took time to consider the impact of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement which has been very significant during this time. Group members spoke of their rising awareness of racism in society, both explicit and implicit and expressed feelings of sadness and of anger upon learning more about the everyday injustices and suffering which people face in our society based on skin colour.

People spoke about the efforts they had gone to to find out more about people’s stories and experiences, and some had taken on the task of examining and becoming aware of unconscious biases passed down through family or society. We agreed that awareness and education are key, and just listening to how it is for people.

Ultimately we wish to see a world which does not divide itself according to race or colour, or for that matter, gender, age or sexuality, or football team or religion!

What is it going to be like coming out of lockdown?

We acknowledged there could be a lot of anxiety going into lockdown, time was required to settle in and readjust. And, maybe after a while we got used to the safety, the quiet and the spaciousness, or maybe not. As restrictions begin to ease, what may be facing us and what can help our transition?

Are there going to be new social politics to navigate? How do we feel when people get closer than 2 metres or start meeting up in large groups? During lockdown some people have felt very anxious about the behaviours of others, while for some the guidelines have felt too restrictive and have chosen not to follow them.

Perhaps we carry apprehension about how other people will behave as restrictions lift, or maybe we are ready to flick the switch and go out and hug the world again, or somewhere in between? How will we respond to other people’s behaviour and etiquette? The truth is that we can only be responsible for the way we behave and cannot control the behaviours of others no matter the injustice we may feel.

The hope is we can all learn from our lockdown experiences and have even more of an appreciation for our world and fellow human beings.

Acceptance and kindness are perhaps the way forward

Thinking of Places We Love to be together, while space is between us

This week through poetry we are considering a feature of Lockdown where we are together by telephone or online but we are missing our physical spaces where we meet together. The following poems remind us that we are still emotionally connected even though we are physically separated.

‘Places We Love’ by Ivan V. Lalic (extract)

Places we love exist only through us,
Space destroyed is only illusion in the constancy of time,
Places we love we can never leave,
Places we love together, together, together,
And is this room really a room or an embrace,
And what is beneath the window: a street or years?
And the window is only the imprint left by
The first rain we understood, returning endlessly,
And this wall does not define the room,
And this door leads into an afternoon
Which outlives it, forever peopled
With your casual movements as you stepped,
Like fire into copper, into my only memory;
When you go, space closes over like water behind you,
Do not look back: there is nothing outside you,
Space is only time visible in a different way,
Places we love we can never leave.

Scottish poet and former Makar, Liz Lochhead has written a poem specifically about Lockdown. It is called The Spaces Between.

To hear Liz explain the background to writing this poem and read her poem you can download the Radio 4 podcast here.

Be Kind

Kindness makes you the most beautiful person in the world no matter what you look like

Kindness is a subject we talk about often in the group. In fact we published a blog on this two weeks ago so we are delighted that it is the focus of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week. We couldn’t agree more.

The smallest acts of kindness can have a profound impact such as a smile, a thank-you, saying ‘hello’ or ‘sorry’.
As Francis of Assisi notes: “A kind face is a precious gift”.

Maya Angelou observed “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

The following is a story sent by a group member illustrating how even in correction the greatest lessons are delivered kindly:

An old man meets a young man. The young man asks: “Do you remember me”?

The old man says no. The young man tells him he was his student, and the teacher asks: “What do you do now in life?”

“I became a teacher ” said the young man.
“Good” said the old man “like me”. 
I became a teacher because you inspired me to be like you “.

The old man asks the young man what had inspired him. The student told him this story:

“One day,  a friend of mine,  also a student, came in with a new watch, and I decided I wanted it and I stole it, I took it out of his pocket.

When my friend noticed that his watch was gone he immediately complained to the teacher.  As that teacher you said: ” This student’s watch was stolen today. Whoever stole it, please return it”.

I didn’t return the watch because I didn’t want to. You told us you were going to search our pockets, one by one until the watch was found. 

You would only look for this watch if we had our eyes closed. You went from pocket to pocket. When finding the watch in my pocket you took it. You continued searching everyone’s pockets. When finished you said.  “Open your eyes, we have the watch”. 

You never told who stole the watch.  That day you saved my dignity. This could have been the most shameful day of my life. But because of your kindness I decided not to become a thief.

You did not shame me, scold me or moralise me. Through kindness I received your message clearly. 

Thanks to you, I understand what a real educator needs to do. 
Do you remember this episode Professor? The Professor answers: “I remember the situation, the stolen watch, I didn’t remember you,  because I also closed my eyes while searching. This is the essence of teaching, if to correct you must humiliate; you don’t know how teach. 

Light-hearted humour during lockdown

Throughout this challenging period of time in which we have all had to deal with so much fear and uncertainty, one thing that has been really helpful for some has been the use of humour. The memes and jokes people have received have provided some welcome respite, raising spirits and maintaining a connection with others. This however does not in anyway disrespect or take anything away from the devastating impact this virus has had on the world, It merely provides a sense of escapism. In light of this we have included some light-hearted jokes below that we hope you will like and provide you with some respite!!

“If a child refuses to sleep during nap time, are they guilty of resisting a rest?!”

“What did the pirate say on his 80th birthday? AYE MATEY!”

“Did you know the first French fries weren’t actually cooked in France? They were cooked in Greece!”

“My new shoes are very smart and they can dance all by themselves, clever clogs!”

“I put one of my jokes on someone else’s Facebook threads the other day and got no response… must have been lost in the post!” 

“These new invisible tennis balls are fantastic, you just cannie whack ’em!”

“Not happy that my dog has only the one leg, It doesn’t sit well with me at all!”

“My mistake, I bought shaving foam instead of deodorant, I will take that on the chin!”

“What do you call a dog that can do magic? A Labracadabrador!”

“Why couldn’t the bike stand up by itself? It was two tired!”

“What’s Forrest Gump’s password? 1forrest1!”

“I used to have a job at a calendar factory but I got the sack because I took a couple of days off!”

“Two guys walk into a bar, the third one ducks!”

“What did the buffalo say to his son when he dropped him off at school? Bison!”

“Two peanuts were walking down the street one was a salted!”

What did the horse say after it tripped? “Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t giddyup!”

“You know what the loudest pet you can get is? A trumpet!”

“What do sprinters eat before a race? Nothing, they fast!

“Why do melons have weddings? Because they cantaloupe!”

“What happens when you go to the bathroom in France? European!”

“How does a penguin build its house? Igloos it together”

“What’s the difference between Bing Crosby and Walt Disney? Bing sings and Walt Disney!”

Be kind to yourself during Covid-19 Lockdown

The current social distancing guidelines and living in self isolation means that many of us will have had to meet with ourselves in these times.  Where ordinarily we would be with others we may now be alone, where we would find distraction and comfort in going to other places we are now at home.  Where we may be in a difficult relationship at home it may now feel like there is no escape or relief and feeling very alone in the presence of another person who may not understand, care or connect with you.

Building the quality of our self to self relationship is very important in these times.  There are a lot of terms around to describe our self relationship; self-worth, self-esteem, self-help, self-confidence, self-criticism, self-compassion, self-support, the list goes on.  Some parts of the self to self relationship are helpful and others are not.  Today it might be useful to grow those parts which will best sustain us in this difficult time.

It is useful to find those things within ourselves which can give us a sense of feeling safe, secure and reassured. Kindness, compassion and gratitude are helpful tools for this.

Speak kindly to yourself when you are struggling; it is understandable you would feel like this, it is a time of suffering in many different forms, many people are feeling sad, scared, lonely and many are grieving. Here are 10 self-compassion exercises by Kristin Neff to try being kind and reassuring with yourself when you have moments of struggle, overwhelm and upset.

Kindness, compassion and gratitude have emotional, physical, psychological, relational and societal benefits for the giver and receiver, it’s a win win!

‘Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle’, (Philo of Alexandria). This includes being kind to yourself in your own battles. Kind words diffuse negative situations and grow confidence, kind acts show love.

Gratitude focuses us on what we do have, when we are struggling it can help to re-calibrate us onto an upward spiral. We get the opportunity at the moment to say thank-you together as a society on Thursday nights at 8pm. If you haven’t tried this try, join in with the clapping for our NHS, care workers, shop keepers, refuse collectors, if you really want to go for it you can bang saucepans, if you have a ship, blow your horn.

Collect grateful thoughts in the morning to start the day well and at night-you might find you sleep better. When we meet together as a group we have a weekly ‘Good Notice Board’ where we each think of one good thing in the week-even if it was a tough week. Can you think of one good thing that has happened this week?

Compassion recognises the suffering of ourselves or others and desires to relieve that suffering. What do you need right now to feel cared for?

If we learn to find our own care, compassion and kindness to self we will fill our well from which these attributes will automatically flow to others. If we are trying to fulfil the second but not the first we will feel empty and worn out.

What was good about today? What went well? What was hard today-what kind words do you need to hear? What moved you-how can you reach out?

Paul Gilbert, one of the founders of Compassion Focused Therapy explains that we have a tricky brain, we didn’t choose for our brain to react like this, it’s not your fault you feel scared and anxious, and now we find ourselves here, in isolation. Because our brains have the capacity to imagine and create, in frightening times they can ruminate and worry which is how our brains have developed to protect us, we are shaped by the circumstances we were born into and did not choose this. So it is not our fault that our brains can sometimes loop round lots of anxious and depressive thoughts. Instead of putting yourself down for feeling anxious, learn more self-compassion and remember that you did not choose this brain. The good news is that by learning about applying compassion to ourselves we can feel more safe and secure and less anxious.

Studies about the effect of kindness, gratitude and compassion have shown that when engage in these towards ourselves and others it can improve our health, our immunity, slow down aging and make us feel happier.

Poems for Lockdown

This week we share poems from the group that they have either written, been amused or inspired by or are just helping us to get through. The first speaks to the all those home haircuts happening without out beauty parlours and barbers:


Today I got a haircut
And I think I’m going to cry
Seeing myself in the mirror this way
Just makes me want to die.

The top is way too short
And my ears stick out all funny
The back looks like the mangled tail
Of a mutant Easter Bunny.

My bangs look like they lost real bad
In a game of truth or dare.
A word of advice, never ever let
Your best friend cut your hair!

The second is a narrative on our changing world since the start of 2020


In Scotland on Hogmanay 2019,
The fireworks exploded, red, silver and green,
The revellers partied to celebrate New Year,
Not a care in the world, nothing to fear.

Meanwhile, in China, a new virus was born,
Sure they could contain it, they chose not to forewarn,
The virus spread fast, it was very contagious,
As cases were found in Thailand, it was getting quite dangerous.

The virus was airborne, it loved public transport,
It travelled worldwide, without needing a passport,
Us Scots, never thought it would make it here,
So much for 2020, being a lucky leap year.   

The medical experts named the virus COVID-19,
The 1st of March, when the first case in Scotland was seen,
By then, 2,900 people worldwide were dead, and nearly 88,000 sick,
In 10 days, the WHO labelled COVID-19 a pandemic.

Now it was real, it was happening to us,
The number of Scots sick and dying, increased without fuss,
We tried to keep a two metre distance, as we moved around our city or town,
Biding our time, till we went into lockdown.

The first thing that changed, was groups of 500 or more, couldn’t be assembled,
That meant spectator sports, marathons and concerts were cancelled,

Next, all holidays abroad were postponed, all other countries airports, and borders were closed,
As a result, how this virus could ruin our airlines, became exposed.
People who could, had to work from home,
Social distancing was a must, sometimes you feel so alone,

Lots of companies buckled under the strain,
Having to close and let staff go, the pandemic to blame.  
The schools all shut for the foreseeable future,
So now people work from home, and play teacher,

Everyone over 70 or with health issues,
Have to shield at home, at least 12 weeks, they don’t get to choose.   
Unemployment, has soared, people feel lost,
No-one can tell, how much this pandemic has cost,

Not just financially, but emotionally barren,
Though they have to socially distance, they need a companion.
We don’t know what the world will be like, when this pandemic is over,
Lots of people will be left with resentment and anger,

Hopefully you and everyone you love, get through this alive and well,
If anything, it’s another adventure, you’ve lived to tell.     

The third is an extract of a poem by Helen McClory which speaks to the strange times we are living through

A Charm

…A charm for the way through the days of demagogues. A charm for making a lie apparent, a truth evident, a lie scaled and upended. A charm against powerlessness. A charm against the fact that magic does not exist, a charm that has no power, but. A charm for the corner shop and all who sail in her. A charm for a plant in a window with dust on it, and a small cat who sees you and opens its mouth. A charm against consuming as feeble rejoinder to a sense of powerlessness. A charm for living. A charm for the living. A charm for all the lives that will have to resist. A charm for knowing history. A charm for seeing which side blood is buttered. A charm for autumn light. A charm for crossing the road without getting hit. A charm for all Cassandras. A charm for walking away from the end. A charm for gentleness. A charm for the fight. A charm for the air, a charm written on air, and rewritten and always needing to be rewritten. A charm for everyday. A charm against despair, and when it does come, for despair splitting like a frayed cord and sparking itself out to leave what is left, a cold feeling, less than content but fit to be retooled to better use. A charm for autumn light. A charm for the room you left. A charm against the room you left. A charm for the two worlds online and irl and more in which we live what is, and what we think it is. A charm for a lighter and a heavier heart. A charm against a hopeless future. A charm for frailty and continuing to fight. A charm for the world as it is, and your continuing to live in it.

The fourth looks at self-reflection and celebrating happy times

Before I die I will dance

Before I die I will dance There will be no tears of sadness And I will ask That all my friends Who come to say Goodbye Sing songs as they dance Throughout the day In memory of my life   Before I die I will dance To remember my younger days When I danced up a storm My feet Flying aimlessly about While I danced With all the pretty ladies Until one fateful day I danced with the one Who stole my heart Who became my wife Who danced by my side Hand in hand   I danced with the one Whose kisses were sweet Whose arms kept me warm During cold, cold nights Whose danced matched my own Step for step, heel for toe Until that day That my tears Stopped the dance When She could no longer Dance at all