Friday, 22 June 2018

London Interrupted Part Three


We were blessed with a beautiful Spring day when we visited Baker Street, Regent's Park and London Zoo, earlier in the year.



It is a bit of a walk, it took us over half an hour to walk from the tube station to the zoo, but Regent's Park is worth spending some time in, with its beautiful fountains, flower beds, grassy areas and old trees. It was easy to linger and nearly forget that we needed to head north-by-north-west.


Once inside the zoo, we spent a good time appreciating not just the wildlife but also the Victorian and post-war architecture, which happily sat side by side of each other. The animals were lovely; I remember the cuddly looking Llamas and penguins, the intriguing bats, the reptile house, the aquarium and the fascinating insects, particularly the stick and leaf insects and the praying mantis.




The main purpose of our visit was for Amy to take part in the Friendly Spider Programme. She spent the afternoon learning about spiders and the fear of them, doing gentle relaxation exercises and undergoing light hypnosis. Finally she and her fellow participants arrived in the bug house where they practised humanely catching house spiders and also had the opportunity to befriend a lovely tarantula called Carol.


Sunday, 17 June 2018

The 13th Craft Stall



I held my thirteenth craft stall on the 16th June 2018. My daughter came to help out which was very gracious of her.


The morning was in aid of the London Church's Refugee Fund, it was slow and quiet, but a couple of people bought brooch cards and someone bought a knitted purse.



It was quite sad as I found out that the URC in Eastcote was going to close soon, to be replaced by a Hindu temple.


In the last couple of years I have become more interested in philosophy, mindfulness and Buddhism, rather than church and crafts, so I'm not sure what the future holds for my craft stall. However to have got a craft stall together and put it on public display on thirteen different occasions since 2013 has been a bit of an achievement for me.


Saturday, 16 June 2018

Summer Crafts for St Mary's

 
 I've not had so much to do with the church, or my crafts, this year, but I still wanted to donate some of my lingering makes for the 2018 St Mary's Summer Fete.





On her 50th birthday my friend set me a craft challenge, to turn these three items into a selection of knitted purses and pouches. I'll see how I get on; watch this space, but don't hold your breath.

Friday, 15 June 2018

Webflower Graphics

I was working on Webflower graphics back in 2006, after the demise of my Web One project; SubVerse. The time was a bit of a creative wilderness for me. Social Media for me began in 2008 when I started putting animation on YouTube and then in 2010 I joined FaceBook, which I used to post about my creative endeavours until I started my blog in 2013.

In Webflowers I used to design web pages around six coloured flower ideas, a green crysanthemum, beige (or orange) lilly, pink rose, blue pansy, yellow daisy and purple tulip. I have used the six colour flower idea in my designs for ALF creations @ the Star Heart Cafe, for my cards, dolls, lavender scenters and fabric brooches. Webflowers were inspired by beautiful web sets like Pat's graphics and Moyra's Web jewels, that sort of web design died and my Webflower webpages never saw the light of day, however they did give me ideas I could build on in the real world. Below are a few of the web pages I created at this time.





Friday, 1 June 2018

Mindful ACT : favourite resources

I began an impromptu and DIY 'Eight-weeks-plus mindful-ACT course' on 23rd March 2018, it was intended to help me, my family and in particular my daughter. These are some of the resources I have been using to help us on our Mindful-ACT journey.


Mindful ACT - Books

ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy)


The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris

This is my favourite book on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. In the middle of it is a very important exercise on Breathing to Connect, this exercise is the core foundation of mindfulness. ACT is really important in my opinion as it offers a Yin and Yang sort of therapy, Acceptance being Yin and Commitment being Yang. I don't think other therapies are so good as they aren't balanced between the positive and the negative so well. In positive psychology it's mostly Yang, not enough attention is paid to accepting the negative, you could end up in the happiness trap. In Mindfulness and Acceptance which seems to be a new thing, it may be too Yin orientated without the positive committed action bit. Anyway they are my views and this is a good book to read about my favourite therapy: ACT.

The Reality Slap by Russ Harris

I enjoyed reading the happiness trap so much I decided to read the sequel too. It took me a while to get into it, but it was worth the wait. I found the most useful thing in the book was the practical mindful meditations, I hadn't noticed how useful the mindful meditations were before, but find when they are done as part of ACT, they are a lot more useful than the positive affirmations of positive psychology, when, likely as not, you'll end up arguing with yourself.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for Dummies
By Brown and Gillard

The best bit about this book are the useful exercises. It took me a while to realise but one of the most important things about ACT is that it is very practical as it focuses on being and doing. It treats thoughts and feelings as if they are an interesting side show you watch and listen to, but don't need to worry about too much, they could even be enjoyable like watching horror shows and listening to ghost stories. My favourite exercises are the visualisation one, standing in the garden, the body scan, the breathing exercise for overcoming anxiety and the ten exercises for living more mindfully.

Mindfulness


A beginner's guide to mindfulness by Bohlmeyer and Hulsbergen

This book revolves around an eight week course on mindfulness; it explains about living in the moment and also about Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, about accepting mental pain and living a satisfying life. It includes the essential mindfulness techniques of breath connection and body scan. It tells you how to live in the now, rather than be full of regrets about the past and trapped in hopes and fears about the future. Other good exercises are making space for difficult emotions and observing your thoughts. There are also ideas on how to make your everyday life more mindful.

Mindfulness: a practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world 
By Williams and Penman

This book also features an eight week mindfulness course at its heart. It includes many useful exercises such as the beginner's one-minute meditation. Throughout the book we are encouraged to take notice of everyday stuff we do on autopilot like brushing our teeth or drinking a cup of tea. The cornerstone of mindfulness itself is to really pay attention to two aspects of everyday life, many of us take for granted; breathing and our bodies. In each of the Mindful ACT books I have read, doing the breathing and body scan practices are of utmost importance to leading a more manageable, joyful and meaningful life. The book also features habit releasers; my favourites are going for a walk and valuing the TV. The book also introduces a bit of gentle yoga, also something about exploring and accepting life's difficulties, very much in keeping with ACT. One of the best things is the 'weaving your own mindful parachute' exercise which is explored in week eight. It also includes a very helpful accompanying CD.


Practical Spiritual Exercises

The Book of Joy by Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu

The Book of Joy is a big book about the week when the Dalai Lama met his friend Archbishop Desmond Tutu, to celebrate a big birthday. The book starts with a reflection on human fragility and moves on to exploring negative feelings that mask joy; these are fear, anger, sadness, despair, loneliness, envy, suffering, mortality. The book then goes on to discuss the eight pillars of joy which are perspective, humility, humour, acceptance, forgiveness, gratitude, compassion, generosity. The three most practical things I got from this book were the Breathing Practice, Tonglen Practice and Acceptance Meditation. The book is written in a simplistic, friendly way. The Buddhist books I have been reading by Thich Nhat Hanh and Pema Chodron have been a lot more in-depth.

The Art of Living by Thich Naht Hanh

There are a few practical exercises in this book about breathing, walking and relaxation among others. It is based around seven Buddhist ideas of emptiness, signlessness, aimlessness, impermanence, non-craving, letting go and Nirvana. I have been interested in philosophy, stoicism, psychology and mindfulness for years, but was bypassing Buddhism. I thought as a church going Christian Westerner I might find it a bit inaccessible. I needn't have worried. I have found Thich Nhat Hanh's 'Art of living' a wonderful introduction to Buddhism, which is very accessible and full of wisdom, he even talks about Jesus quite a bit.



Mindful ACT - CDs

I began to collect and use Mindfulness and Meditation CDs because I found the playlists I had created on YouTube (MindfulMeditation and MindfulnessPlus) can be quite distracting, as YouTube itself is quite distracting. The standalone Audio CDs allow you to listen purely to the meditation, without a screen getting in the way.

Mindfulness by Williams and Penman

This is the accompanying CD to the Mindfulness book by Williams and Penman. I have found it to be the most useful. The longest meditation is fourteen minutes long and the shortest is three minutes long, most of them are around eight to ten minutes long. My daughter has been listening to the eight minutes breath and body meditations, before school or any other stressful venture, I think they have made her feel more calm. I think all these meditations are very helpful. My favourites are 'Meditation six : exploring difficulty' which is about acceptance and 'Meditation seven : befriending' which is about loving-kindness and compassion towards yourself and others.

Guided mindful meditation : series one by Jon Kabat-Zinn

Jon Kabat-Zinn has a wonderfully deep, masculine, American voice. There are 4 CDs each containing a 45 minutes meditation; CD1 is the body scan, CD3 is the sitting meditation, CDs 2 and 4 are yoga. I bought the book 'Full Catastrophe Living' mostly for the yoga pages. The book is huge and gives me a headache just thinking about it, although it does contain some helpful exercises, it concerns another third wave CBT mindfulness-based psychotherapy MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction). I am intrigued by JKZ's series three CD, which contains meditations entitled Mindscape, Soundscape and Nowscape among others. However the size of the accompanying book 'Coming to our senses' has put me off a bit.

Body Scan by Breath Works

The main voice here is female, the woman's voice has grown on me a bit and the body scan is a good way of bringing you back to yourself, but I don't enjoy the body scan on this CD anywhere near as much as the one on the first CD.

Achieve Mindfulness by Rachael Eccles

This is my least favourite mindful meditation CD. Rachael's voice is quite nice but quite stilted, I think it has some merit to it and I might grow to like it more given time.

Breathing into Stillness by Caroline McCready

Caroline has a light, sparkling, but still soothing voice. I enjoy listening to this feminine voice, like what she has to say and like the accompanying music. This is my favourite of the three mostly female voiced meditation CDs.


Mindful ACT - Extra Resources

Mindful Magazines

There are a smattering of mindful magazines around at the moment, these three particularly took my fancy. In issue two of Teen Breathe there were interesting articles about doing a DIY retreat, stress advice, tips about sleeping well and forgiveness, my favourite article is the teen orientated body scan. My issue of In the Moment is from March 2018. In this issue were interesting articles about becoming more understanding, exercise and creativity, the benefits of yoga and meditation. Planet Mindful's spring issue featured articles on mindful relaxation, loving kindness, reading therapy, vitamins, mindfulness in the city and the comfort of trees. These magazines are very attractive, they feature illustrated covers, one is by one of my favourite contemporary illustrators, Yelena Bryskenova, and the articles are focussed on compassion and inner life, I find that they are not shallow, gossipy or over-commercialised.

Mindful ACT - Young Adult Books

Get out of your mind and into your life for teens by Ciarrochi, Hayes and Bailey

A light book containing useful exercises about finding stillness, remaining calm through breathing practice and improving mindfulness in everyday life. I was hoping this book would be more useful for my daughter, but I have found the proper grown-up books to more accessible with more helpful, practical exercises.

Stuff that sucks by Ben Sedley

I actually found this quite a satisfying little book, however the grown-up book exercises were still more useful for my growing-up teen. Having said that there were still really useful exercises in here, in particular the  mindful exercise about music appreciation.

Meditation for Aspies by Ulrike Bolls

This book is written by an Asperger's woman who discovered the benefits of meditation when she was twenty. Particularly interesting are the parts about using visualisation, nourishing activities like mindful TV and exercise, yoga and mindful movement, walking meditation and creating mandalas.
 

Monday, 28 May 2018

Paris People

I have found Paris to be a city full of surprises and creativity. Below are just some of the people and characters who I feel have helped to build its romantic reputation.


Josephine Baker
There were two big loves in Josephine Baker's life; 'my country and Paris'. Originally from America, she made her name performing exotic dance routines in the Folies Bergere. She spied for the allies during World War Two, was prominant in the Civil Rights movement after the war and adopted twelve children from all over the world. I think she was an extraordinary woman who lived an extraordinary life.

Brigitte Bardot
I drew a lot of pictures of Brigitte Bardot when I was a teenager. She was just so beautiful and also very French and Parisian.

Jim Morrison
The Doors are mostly associated with West Coast USA; California and Los Angeles in particular. However Jim Morrison died in Paris and is buried in Pere Lachaise Cemetary with many notable European creatives such as Oscar Wilde, Theodore Gericault and Frederic Chopin.

Amelie
Amelie is one of my favourite films. The Parisians in this film are quite unglamourous and unsophisticated. I love the attention to detail and the real pleasure in small things taken by Amelie and the young man she falls in love with.

 


Christine from Phantom of the Opera
The Phantom of the Opera is a powerful story that has been told many times on stage and screen. Our way in to the strange world under the Paris Opera house is Christine Daae, the obsessive love of the deformed and masked 'opera ghost'.


Satine from Moulin Rouge
Moulin Rouge is a brilliant exhuberant musical celebrating truth, beauty, freedom and love. Nicole Kidman's portrayal of the showgirl Satine is, I feel, both sensitive and mesmerizing.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Richard's Things Notecards


One day, when I was waiting for the gas engineer to arrive, I took the opportunity to produce twenty drawings to illustrate my song 'Richard's things'. With the aid of Movie Maker I was able to put the drawings into a montage to accompany my demo recording. Recently I put my 'Richard's Things' drawings onto note-cards. I have sold a few of these cards on my 'ALF Creations @ the Star Heart Cafe' craft stall.

Monday, 7 May 2018

ALF & Audrey & Kew




My family has had a lot of connection to Kew Gardens over the years. My dad used to work here and now his ashes are scattered here, I used to work next door and visit the place in my lunch breaks, the whole family pay a visit to Kew, getting on for once a year. Now our connection feels even stronger, as my mum has had one of her pictures chosen for an exhibition celebrating the reopening of the newly restored temperate house. All in all, it was a proud and pleasing day, not to mention a gloriously sunny one.