Thich Nhat Hanh (2008) The Miracle of Mindfulness. London: Rider

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140 pages, a very manageable length. I felt that this would be an interesting follow-up to an 8 week MBSR course. This book was borrowed from the fabulous Devon Recovery Learning Community library ūüėÄ

A major focus was on using the breath to anchor our mindfulness practice and if this is something you are struggling this may provide some helpful ideas. Similarly with mindfulness of thoughts and thinking. There are also some practical ideas on sitting positions and a suggestion for how to structure a day of mindful practice very simply at home.

I grappled with Chapter 5 and the concept of the five aggregates and to be honest failed to grasp this. Undeterred I carried on reading.

The chapter on exercises in mindfulness has a number of suggestions and some ideas for contemplations, akin to loving kindness or compassionate meditations. There may be a reason why I had to smile when I reached “Compassion for the person you hate or despise the most” – no, really, yep afraid so.

I particularly liked the image in Chapter 4 of a pebble dropping into a river, sinking through the water and settling in the sand at the bottom of the river as you settle into your practice and into your body. As the pebble rests on the sand it is neither pushed nor pulled by the river. This is something that really caught me and I will integrate into my own practice.

Overall an interesting read that you can skim, dip in and dip out of or as I did and read cover to cover. Definitely a helpful supplement after a taught mindfulness course.

 

 

An object with special meaning for me

The pen

My object from home is one of my free hotel pens designed to advertise a local four star hotel as a conference venue.  It represents a new stage in my life and the start of the path to a new career. I had recently been made redundant after more than 20 years as a scientist, home life was pretty tumultuous and I trained as a volunteer lay tutor working with people with long-term health conditions and then specifically people living with depression. That was such a great course offering people a safe space to learn more about depression, to learn from each other and to regain control over their lives.

It also represents my slight obsession with stationery. I wouldn’t admit to hoarding stationery exactly (and I have less than my husband) but there will be plenty to leave to the children.

I like the see through mechanism and the neon orange. I don’t usually like orange but I like this.

It is something to fiddle with, it’s tactile and reassuring.

The line it produces is a permanent fine black line, compared with the easily changed writing with a pencil. At school graduating from a pencil to a pen was a landmark in the development of your handwriting.

My kids think I grew up with slate and chalk, apologies to anyone who did, but I am the “pen and paper” generation. Even my University project was hand written and subsequently typed by a typist and this was how we produced reports for several years after I started work. Even this piece of text is produced from my handwritten notes and only then so I can blog it. It also reminds me of how much I enjoy learning and as I get older how I need to write things down to remember them.

A more recent use of my pen has been when working as an auxiliary. As an auxiliary you are pretty much sunk without a black pen and I would always take one to work to make sure I could recognise it if I was forced to lend it out – if you lend your pen to a patient with the best will in the world you might not get it back and never lend your pen to a doctor, you’ll never get it back.

I can hear you wondering “How many of these pens do you have?” A few :D, the day when I’m down to my last one I might just have to keep it to look at.

A contrasting object chosen from the museum collection, a gravestone sculpture

Gravestone sculpture

 This came from St. Lawrence church in Exeter and dates from 1600-1700.

  Instantly recognizable, the skull is the work of a skilled craftsman, an expression of his creativity. Watching over the dead, the stone has weathered and blended into its environment. The empty eye sockets draw us in, contrasting the impermanence of our lives with this rough stone.

The interpretation reads “During a troubled period [the skull and winged cherub] reminded people of their mortality and hopeful flight to heaven.”

My response to my pen

I’m imagining my orange pen is my boat, sailing on an ocean of ink. The contrast between the man-made neon hull and the changing colours of the sea and sky. The ocean stretches out ahead, in which if I let them, thoughts like waves ebb and flow. The waves break against the sleek smooth exterior of that boat, I can observe them through the transparent walls but I steer my own course. In any moment there is always the potential for creativity to arise and be caught in the net of my attention.

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 Similarities

  • Both have a distinct historical context, objects popular in their own time period
  • Say something about impermanence – the skull reminds us that this is what we come to when our life runs out and the pen is not refillable and therefore to be disposed of when the ink runs out.
  • Democratic – we all have a skull inside us. The pen is in theory accessible to all of us having been mass produced cheaply to be distributed to promote the hotel.
  • ¬†Drawn to both
  • Tactile
  • Instantly recognisable
  • Potential revealed by the light
  • Created

Gravestone sculptureSomething of mine

Contrasts

  • Old New
  • Decorative Functional
  • Natural materials Man-made materials
  • Solid Transparent
  • Natural colour to blend with environment Neon to stand out and catch our attention
  • Ugly Beautiful
  • Unique Mass produced
  • Fixed Portable
  • Valuable Negligible value
  • Marks an ending Represents potential to create
  • Crafted Mass produced
  • The sculpture is an expression of someone’s vision. The pen is an object which allows for creative expression.
  • In 2015 we recognise both the sculpture and the pen but in the 17th century the pen did not exist and would have been unrecognisable.

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Glenys O‚ÄôConnell (2011)¬†Post-traumatic Stress Disorder – The Essential Guide. Peterborough: Need2Know Books

Front cover

Front cover

Back cover

Back cover


This book was well laid out and easy to read. Each chapter has a summary of the key information and the end of the book has a list of other sources of information, inc the NICE guidelines, and resources. 

Increasingly we recognise that people who have suffered extreme and life threatening situations can develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, PTSD can also develop following less extreme events, for example, serious car accidents, sexual abuse and bullying.

This book covers what PTSD is, the different forms of PTSD and the potential causes, diagnosis, PTSD in children and living with a person who has PTSD. 

Other chapters address the treatments available – here the key message is to get help, starting with your GP – and some of the language used to talk about symptoms e.g. flashbacks, numbing and hyper vigilance. Ways in which a person can help themselves are suggested as “a sense of empowerment is important in an illness that leaves a person feeling helpless”.

I was looking for a book on PTSD and this was one of the two titles in the Devon libraries’ stock. It seemed like a good place to start for an overview, published in 2011, so fairly current.

I would recommend this as an introduction to the subject for anyone who thinks they or a loved one may be struggling with PTSD or who has had a recent diagnosis and wants further information.

Exploring collections and identities at the museum

How do museum collections relate to how we identify ourselves?

I’ve never thought about this before, here are my first thoughts:

  • It gives us a sense that we have a historical and geographical context.
  • We can see examples of how others have expressed themselves e.g. Through painting & sculpture 
  • What we are drawn to and how we respondtells us something about ourselves – I am drawn to the intricate and I’m one of those people who likes to read the labels, I want to understand & know why.

I should add that a museum curator was one of the things I wanted to be when I grew up!

Our historical context

Our geographical context

  

The quirky

    

The intricate

  

The spiritual

          

Start of a new week

Who would have thought that looking forward to a session on learning to blog could lift your mood so much, even when that means being up at 7am on a Monday morning.

Initially skeptical, I’ve had some really positive experiences engaging with the Devon Recovery Learning Community opportunities. “Blogging as a means of recovery” has been great, we are on week 3 of 4. Working with a tutor with lived experience of long-term health conditions is great¬†and the enthusiasm is really infectious.

Got a Gravatar now – created him on the train this morning!

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Loads to learn and some of it putting me on the edge of my comfort zone, e.g. learning to add links. Hoping to publish something today rather than¬†saving to drafts…