I was on retreat last weekend, spending many happy hours contemplating one bluebell dell after another as far as the eye could see. I basked in nature’s wonders where nothing is asked of me. I could body-feel deep interconnectedness – the trees absorb my out-breath, providing a rich supply of oxygen for my in-breath. I listened to the birds, saw a fox and muntjac deer, it was all naturally delicious.

It’s in this environment that I can most easily rest in to the felt sense of the eternal questions “who am I?” and “how am I?” It’s in this environment that I can truly relax, loosening the customary tightness of “am I safe? did I get it right? do they like me?” We are so hard on ourselves, aren’t we? Your version of thoughts and bodily constriction may be different, but I’m guessing you experience something similar, whether in the foreground or background.

I’m reminded of one of my favourite poems, Rumi’s The Guesthouse:


This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honourably.
He may be clearing you out
For some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Jalaluddin Rumi

from Rumi: Selected Poems, trans Coleman Barks with John Moynce, A. J. Arberry, Reynold Nicholson (Penguin Books, 2004)

Parts like the critic, the sad discouraged doomsdayer, the siblings guilt and shame, the angry one, etc. are familiar when they show up each day. (Sometimes the hopeful, generative one may show up, now there’s something to celebrate). Each has its own purpose – however much we might prefer to soundly reject them – and I appreciate Rumi’s suggestion of greeting them all. It’s hard. And yet, I’ve learned over time that there is huge value in saying hello, acknowledging their presence, that from their point of view they’re doing a fine job, and somehow that process loosens their grip, just a little.

[My private practice has a waiting list at the moment, but you’re always welcome to reach out and enquire if anything has changed].

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